Friday, December 24, 2010

Every Party needs a Nut Bar!

A nut bar is great for entertaining around the holidays.  You can stock it with all different recipes and varieties of nuts according to your guests' tastes (as well as yours!)  Something salty, something sweet, and a lot of crunch!  Nuts make a great snack throughout the day before your big meal!


Try these favorites of mine!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gingered Apple-Squash Soup

It seems to be snowing everywhere- I thought I'd be leaving the snowy, winter weather when I head to Virginia from Chicago tomorrow!  However, an early morning call from my mom informed me that there is already snow on the ground waiting for us.  AND we can expect quite a bit more this weekend! 

I'm definitely looking forward to a white Christmas this year so it better be delivered!!  I can, however, deal without the subartic temperatures in the midwest. 

In the meantime, I'll be holed up inside slurping this delicious soup.  The addition of chili is a MUST!! 

Gingered Apple-Squash Soup


This is a great soup to make in large batches.  I like to make a double match and keep some extra in the freezer as a quick and easy meal over the next couple of weeks.

Get the full recipe!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Everything is better dipped in Chocolate!!!

I don't think I'll have many arguments there...  this is a super quick and easy treat to have on hand during the holiday season.  It couldn't be any easier.  From such a simple process, you have a delicious and attractive bite-sized treat to put out when friends and family stop by.

You can usually find all of these ingredients in your pantry, throw this together ahead of time, and store in the fridge until you are ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit


Ingredients: Chocolate and fruit!  Seriously!  But here's a more detailed recipe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Dish to Impress!

An elegant crown roast of pork will make a stunning centerpiece for entertaining friends and family. The butcher does most of the work and your guests will be in awe of the gorgeous meal you have created.

I chose to make my stuffing outside of the crown roast to ensure even cooking of the pork, but many people swear by cooking it inside to absorb all of those delicious juices from the pork.  Either way, you can't go wrong!

Crown Roast with Apple Sausage Stuffing



You can easiliy switch out your favorite stuffing recipe, but I'd stick with one with fruit in it.  Pork pairs so well with fruit.  

Check out the full recipe on The Recipe Diva website!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Stars

These cookies are so easy to make but are still deliciously moist and flavorful.  Kids LOVE them!  I found the dough to be quite sticky so I decided to use a cookie press.  If you don't have a cookie press, you can try refrigerating the dough for a few hours before rolling it out.


Another benefit to the cookie press is that the cookies will all come out perfectly shaped and sized.  Check on the full recipe on The Recipe Diva website!  Happy baking!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Recipe Diva website is launched!!

Thanks to everyone that has followed this blog!  I have very exciting news, The Recipe Diva website is now officially launched and open for business!!  Join now for free!!
 Enjoy these exciting features and many more:
  • Search, follow, and communicate with your fellow cooks in the Diva Network!
  • Feel the sense of community by participating in the global user forum, rating and reviewing other user’s recipes, sharing your own recipes, keeping your profile up-to-date, and even submitting yourself for Cook-of-the-Week. 
  • Browse and save delicious recipes, how-to's, and much more!
  • No more last minute trips to the grocery store! Create and manage your Grocery List in one central location, add an entire recipe in a simple click! 
  • In need of a Christmas recipe? On a Gluten-free diet? Browse and search for recipes that are conveniently categorized by occasion, cuisine, dietary restriction,  
  • Customize recipes and join in the fun by uploading your own!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Classic Basil Pesto

In my opinion, everyone's recipe box should include this easy and versatile sauce.  It takes just a few minutes to make and has so many uses.  I prefer to simply toss the pesto with some homemade pasta, but it's great on sandwiches, pizza, bruschetta, in soups, or whatever you want to use it for!

Try out different combinations of nuts, herbs and cheeses to create your own variations!  Does anyone have any interesting, tasty versions they'd like to share?

I've played around a bit with my recipe for the classic version and I find that this is my favorite combination, enjoy!

Classic Basil Pesto


Ingredients

2 cups packed basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2/3-3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Place basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until coursely chopped.  With the motor running, add oil in a thin stream until well incorporated.

2. Stir through parmesan and season generously with salt and pepper.  Be sure to taste as you season gradually.

To freeze, transfer to an airtight container, smooth the surface and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.  Thaw and stir to use. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pizza Off!!!!

I love trying out new, different, and sometimes even strange varieties of pizza.  I certainly have my favorites, but I'll always try out something new!  My fiance, on the other hand, not so much.  He grew up in Chicago, eating a lot of pizza... no, not 'Chicago-style', but the crispy thin-crust pizza that most Chicagoans prefer.  This, in his opinion, is real pizza and it's best topped with Italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, and onion.  He has very strong opinions about his pizza.  I think he might even believe pizza was invented in Chicago.

We have yet to ever find his magical combination in Australia so I knew how excited he would be if we re-created it at home.  I was also itching to get him to try some new varieties... this lead to the Pizza Off!!!  He was confident that there wasn't a combination out there that could beat his sausage version so I knew I had to bring out the big guns... a fancy buffalo mozzarella, is there anything better?!  I picked up a nice gorgonzola as well for a pear, gorgonzola and walnut version (which was deemed 'disgusting' when I mentioned it).

We made a big batch of pizza dough and got to work.  As we only had one pizza stone, I was selected to present my dish first.  So let's get to it..., Pizza #1:


Classic Margherita Pizza



Ingredients

1/4 pizza dough (see recipe below)
1 large ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced into rounds
10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
2 roma tomatoes sliced
1/2 cup roasted tomato sugo (see recipe below)

Directions:

1. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Flour a surface to roll out dough. Sprinkle with semolina and roll dough evenly to about 1/8 in thick. If available, place dough on a pizza pan or baking tray to slide onto pizza stone.

3. Spread tomato sugo over pizza leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Arrange toppings over pizza. 

4. Cook for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp. 

The results?  You can't go wrong with margherita pizza.  The success of the combination of tomato, basil and mozzeralla is undeniable.  We both savored every bite but had to leave room for the next contender.  A minor set back for me was getting a little too excited and putting my pizza in before the stone was hot enough, the crust could have been a bit crispier on the bottom.

Onto Pizza #2:


'Real Pizza'
(Italian Sausage, mushrooms, pepper, and onion)


Ingredients

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup roasted tomato sugo
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 Italian pork sausage (removed from casing)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

1. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Flour a surface to roll out dough. Sprinkle with semolina and roll dough evenly to about 1/8 in thick. If available, place dough on a pizza pan or baking tray to slide onto pizza stone.

3. Break sausages into small pieces and cook for 5-10 minutes or until sausage is about 3/4 cooked.

4. Spread tomato sugo over pizza leaving a 1/2 inch border.

5. Place Italian sausage pieces throughout as desired and then add chopped onions, green peppers and mushrooms in a similar manner.

6. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and oregano over top of pizza.

7. Cook for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

The verdict?  Both pizzas were fantastic, and very different which was nice!  Pizza #2 won due to it's perfect crust.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr, need to work on my patience...  I demand a rematch!  I don't think our stomachs will mind.  Here are a couple of great recipes for dough and sauce that can be used for a variety of different pizzas.  The dough is enough for 4 pizzas (or calzones) and the sauce can be made in large batches and frozen for future use.  Enjoy!


Pizza Dough

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 sachet of dried yeast
4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 1/2 lbs “00” flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tablespoons fine salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup milk

Directions
 
1. Dissolve the yeast in a couple tablespoons of water. Add remaining water and sugar and still to dissolve.

2. Put flour and salt into bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook. Turn on low and slowly add yeast mixture. Mix until dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

3. Add oil and milk to bowl and mix until smooth and elastic, 4-5 minutes.

4. Dust a work surface with flour and empty out dough onto surface, making sure to scrape any off of the dough hook. Knead for a few minutes, adding more flour if necessary and shape into ball. Dust a baking sheet with flour and place dough on the sheet under a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes to prove.

5. Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll into balls. Again, place on flour dusted baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.

6. The individual portions are now ready to be rolled out on a floured and semolina dusted work surface.


Roasted Tomato Sugo

Ingredients

1 lb tomatoes, halved
1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves (skin on)
2 sprigs basil
2 sprigs oregano
1 sprig thyme
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp baslamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Directions
 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 
2. Place tomatoes, garlic and herbs on a baking tray and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper, and arrang the tomatoes cut side up. 
 
3. Roast for 1 hour and peel tomatoes when cool enough and place in a blender.  Squeeze garlic from the skins and add to the blender.  Blend to a coarse puree and taste to adjust seasoning.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls... yummmmm....

There's nothing better than the smell of cinnamon rolls baking away on Saturday morning.  Wait... there is one thing that's better, the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls!  If you have a bit of extra time on your hands, it's so worth it to make these delicous treats from scratch rather than buying the pre-made packages.

They aren't difficult to make, but there is quite a bit of 'wait time' involved, so plan on baking something else in the meantime!  I think the waiting makes the final product even more rewarding!  Our mouths were literally watering as the rolls sat on the cooling rack!  These were perfectly gooey and delicious but to try something different, next time I think I'll skip the orange zest in the icing and add chopped pecans to the filling for a bit of a crunch!  Can't wait! 

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with
Zesty Orange Icing


Ingredients

1 cup warm low fat milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package dry yeast
3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 tsp salt
non-stick cooking spray
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablspoons cinnamon

Icing:
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp orange zest

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine milk, 1 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp butter, and yeast.  Let stand 5 minutes

2. Add egg, remaining sugar, and 1 cup of flour.  Combine and let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Add remaining flour and salt, stirring until a dough forms.

4. Lightly flour a working surface and turn dough out.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Add bit of additional flour to dough if it is sticky. 


5. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the mound of dough in the bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm area for 30 minutes.  Check by pressing 2 fingers into dough, if indentation remains, dough is risen enough.  Punch the down down , cover and let rise for 30 more minutes.  Punch down again, cover and let rise for an additional 5 minutes.

6. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle (about 18 x 12 inches).

7. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon.  Brush the dough with melted butter and spread with brown sugar mixture. 


8. Roll up dough tightly beginning on the long side.  Cut dough into 1 inch slices.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and arrange rolls into baking dishes coated with cooking spray so that they just fit.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. 


9. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool in dishes on a wire rack then turn out rolls and cool for 5 more minutes. 

10.  Meanwhile, prepare icing by combining softened butter, cream and vanilla extract.  Gradually add powdered sugar until blended.  Stir in orange zest. 

11. Spread rolls with icing and serve immediately.  Should be warm, but not hot. 


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crispy Snapper over Hot & Sour Broth

With all of this 'winter weather' lately - that term has a much different meaning in Australia than in the North America - I was beginning to feel like I was coming down with a bit of cold.  Not really in the mood for a chicken noodle soup fix, I decided to make a hot and sour soup, which is known to be a remedy for the common cold.  I went with some pretty classic Thai flavors to acheive that balance of sweet, spicy, and sour. 

To  make this tasty cold medicine into a full meal, I served a fillet of crispy skin snapper over the broth and added some rice vermicelli noodles for a bit of substance.  I threw some mung beans sprouts into the broth to add a crunch and a bit more nutrition and added a garnish of fresh herbs to brighten up the dish.

I must say, I was very pleased with the result and this it was DEFINITELY the best tasting cold medicine I've ever had!  Make sure to taste your broth to ensure you've balanced the flavors nicely.  With a beautiful broth as a base, you can really add any vegetables, herbs, etc. and will have a lovely outcome.  Throw in some tomatoes, enoki mushrooms, scallions, cilantro, whatever you want! 

Crispy Snapper over Hot & Sour Broth


Ingredients

4 snapper fillets, skin on
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
4 cups chicken stock
2 Thai chillies
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 thumb ginger, peeled and sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, sliced
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
3-4 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp palm sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp mung bean sprouts
4 oz. vermicelli rice noodles

Garnish:
1 tbsp mint, sliced
1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tbsp basil, sliced and lightly fried

Directions

1. In pot or large saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer.  Slice the chillies in half lengthways, and add to sock with the garlic, ginger, lime leaves, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime juice, and pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to package instructions.

3. Taste and adjust the stock as necessary.  Strain and return to the pan, keeping warm.

4. Score the snapper skin and season the fish with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a pan over high heat, but not smoking.  Cook the fish skin side down for about 4 minutes or until golden and crispy.  Weigh the fish down with another pan while it cooks to prevent it from curling.  Turn over and cook for another minute.

5. Stir onions and sprouts into the broth. 

6. To serve, place a mound of noodles into the bowl.  Spoon broth around, and place fish on top.  Add a bit of lime juice to the herbs and mound on top of the fish.

Even if your cold doesn't go away, at least you just had an amazing meal!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Green Papaya Salad with Grilled King Prawns

I cannot get enough Thai food, I absolutely love it!  If there was one word that I would use to describe this cuisine, it would be harmonious.  Thai cooking is based on blending the five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and hot.  It's often lightly prepared but achieves a perfect balance of these flavors in each dish or in the overall meal. 

When cooking Thai food at home, your most valuable tools are your tastebuds.  I am constantly tasting to ensure that I achieve that perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, hot, and sometimes bitter.  Too sour?  Need more of kick?  Not sweet enough?  Below are a few ingredients that I find key when I am trying to balance out my dish:

         - Sweet - palm sugar, honey, fruit
         - Salty - fish sauce, soy sauce
         - Sour - lemon, lime, sour fruits
         - Hot - fresh chilli, dried chilli, pepper
         - Bitter - raw leaves, bitter fruits
         - Fresh herbs and aromatics are also key - cilantro, lemon grass, Thai basil, mint, ginger, galangal, garlic, to name a few...

Green papaya salad is a very popular dish in Thailand and it's one of my favorites as well.  I would make it more often but it's not always easy to find green, unripe papayas.  You cannot substitute a ripe papaya as both the texture and flavor will not suit the dish.  Unripe papayas have a very mild flavor but absorb flavors well.  Healthy and packed with flavor, this dinner didn't stand a chance!  I added some grilled prawns to add a bit more substance.  Needless to say, there were just a few lonely fish heads left on my plate...

Green Papaya Salad with Grilled King Prawns


Ingredients

12 large king prawns, deveined, head and tail on
1 chilli, minced
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Green Papaya Salad:
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tbsp coarse salt, more as needed
2 chillies, chopped
2 tbsp dried shrimp
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 green, unripe papaya, shredded or finely julienned
1 cups bean sprouts
3 green onions, sliced diagonally into thin strips
1/2 cup Thai basil, large leaves sliced into strips
1/4 cup coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, crushed (I left these out as my fiancé claims he’s allergic)

Directions

1. Combine ingredients for marinade and marinate the prawns while you make the salad.

2. Pound garlic, salt and chillies in a pestle and mortar. Add dried shrimp and sugar and pound into a coarse paste. Mix with lime juice and fish sauce.

3. Gently bruise the papaya, combine with the sprouts, onions, and herbs, and toss with the dressing.

4. Make sure to taste test to ensure the flavors are balanced. Not sweet enough - add a little honey. Not salty enough- add a little more fish sauce. Too sweet or salty - add more lime juice. Need a bit more a kick – add some minced chilli.

6. Grill the prawns for 3 minutes on each side until just cooked through.

7. Sprinkle the salad with peanuts and arrange the prawns on top.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Proof is in the Pudding

Or as the true saying goes, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

While not wildly popular in the United States, I have come to LOVE Sticky Date Pudding, an Aussie favorite.  Pudding actually refers to something quite different in the US than most of the rest of the world.  In the UK and it's Commonwealth countries, pudding refers to a combination of flour and other ingredients, and may be sweet or savory.  The name is also used loosely for desserts in general.  In the United States, pudding typically referes to a a sweet milk-based dessert with a creamy consistency.  Very different.  I've come to find a lot of those things since living in Australia.

Anyhow, as of late, especially in these chilly months, Sticky Date Pudding is my dessert of choice.  I've ordered it, or some version of it, while we were out to eat a few times recently.  I knew this was one I had to learn how to make at home.  Maybe next I will try to conquer the Sticky Date Soufflé with crème anglaise that we tried the other night.  Phew, baby steps. 

I decided to consult Australia's latest obsession, Masterchef.  They had a great basic recipe for individual puddings served with almond praline and butterscotch sauce, yum.  I surfed around a bit and looked at a few more recipes.  Luckily, they all essentially used the same techniques - break down the dates, mix the wet ingredients, add the date mixture, fold in the flour, bake, and top with a caramel or butterscotch sauce.  Easy enough.  Using these basic steps, I came up with my own version.  I must say, the results were fantastic!  The cake was perfectly moist and relatively light.  As it absorbed the butterscotch sauce, it became very rich and sweet.  The quantity of Butterscotch Sauce is probably a bit too much for this recipe, but ensures that you have some leftover for drizzling over vanilla ice cream!  Do try this at home.

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce


Ingredients

1/2 lb dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted

Butterscotch sauce:
1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line the base of a springform cake pan.

2. Bring dates and water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add baking soda and remove from heat.  Stir for a couple of minutes and set aside, stirring occasionally. 

3. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Stir through the date mixture.  Fold in flour until well combined.

5. Spoon into cake pan.  Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 5 minutes until slightly thickened and set aside.  Sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.  

7. Serve drizzled with butterscotch sauce.   

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pan-fried Snapper with Caramelized Lemons

This fish has the perfect balance of sweetness and spiciness.  In one bit you get the crisp skin followed by the juicy fish that's finished off with that tangy, syrupy glaze.  To die for!

This fish is beautiful over a handful of lightly dressed greens.  All you need to finish this dish is a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc that still has a bit sweetness to offset the heat of the glaze.

Pan-fried Snapper with Caramelized Lemons


Ingredients

4- 3 oz. skin-on Snapper fillets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Caramelized Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
3 lemons, 2 thinly sliced into rings and 1 juiced
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 red chilli, minced
1 pinch salt

Directions

1. For lemon glaze, Combine sugar and water together in a small saucepan and lightly boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer and add remaining ingredients.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until desired glaze consistency.  Set aside to infuse while you cook the fish.

2. Score fish diagonally 1/2 inch apart.   Heat oil in nonstick pan until very hot, just before, but not smoking.  Season fish and add to pan skin side down.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until skin is golden and crispy.  Flip over, cook for one more minute.

3. Serve fish drizzled with lemon ginger glaze and garnished with caramelized lemons.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spinach Stuffed Veal Rolls

Veal is the very tender meat from a young calf.  As it is very lean, you must take care to ensure that it does not become tough.  It is important to keep the meat moist as it cooks and make sure that you do not overcook it.  If cooked properly, it should have a smooth but firm texture with a very delicate flavor.

This recipe resulted from some veggies that I needed to use up and a few pantry staples.  The flavors complemented each other beautifully without overpowering the veal.  I will definitely be experimenting with dish again!

Spinach Stuffed Veal Rolls


Ingredients

3 tbsp raisins
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz fresh spinach
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb veal breast, pounded thin
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans crushed tomatoes
 
Directions
 
1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Soak raisins in hot water for 15 minutes and finely chop. 
 
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pan over medium.  Add half of the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes.  Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes until wilted.  Squeeze any excess liquid off using a sieve.  Chop and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
 
3. Lay veal flat and season with salt and pepper.  Cover with spinach mixture.  Scatter raisins and pine nuts on top.  Roll the lamb tightly encasing the filling.  Secure in several places with kitchen twine.

4. In a dutch oven or large pot, heat remaining oil over medium high.  Brown the meat and all sides and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining onion, celery, and carrot and cook for 5 minutes.  Increase the heat and add the wine to deglaze.  Continue cooking until nearly all of the wine has cooked off.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Return the veal to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

5. Remove the veal, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile increase heat to reduce the sauce.  Remove the twine and slice the veal into rounds. Serve immediately spooned with the pan sauce.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Easy & Healthy Snacks

Being that I'm working from home these days, I often find myself grazing a bit throughout the day as opposed  to eating a proper breakfast and lunch.  I love quick, healthy, and easy dishes that I can whip up and snack on over the next couple of days.  I try to combine most of the food groups in these type dishes so I can get the energy and nourishment that I need without much effort.  It's also a plus when they taste good :)  Enjoy one of my go-to 'snacks'!

Tuna, Parsley, and Potato Salad


Ingredients

1 pound gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tins of canned tuna, drained and flaked
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
12 1/2  tbsp parsley, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp french mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until tender.  Drain and rinse briefly with cold water.

2. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, parsley, and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper. 

3.  Gently combine potatoes, tuna, and tomatoes.  Add dressing and again, gently combine.  Serve at room temperature or chilled over greens.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baked Pears with Spiced Mascarpone

I used to always get confused over what exactly mascarpone was - a cheese or a cream?  It is the color and texture of a thick cream and is often used in desserts, but it is actually a cheese.  It's a very rich, triple-cream, cow's milk cheese.  I really don't care what it is, it's delicious!

Mascarpone has many uses in both sweet and savory dishes.  It can be used as a filling, a thickener to help smooth out sauces and risottos, a spread, or in this case, a dessert topping.  I added a bit of liquid and some spices to thin it out and enhance the flavor.  It was the perfect topping for these caramelized baked pears. 

Baked Pears with Spiced Mascarpone


Ingredients

Spiced mascarpone:
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 orange, juiced and zested, extra zest to garnish
1 1/2 tbsp honey

Baked Pears:
4 pears, sliced in half lengthwise, core removed
1 large glass of white wine
1 orange, juiced
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp flaked almonds, toasted, to serve

Directions

1. For the spiced mascarpone, whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate for atleast an hour before use.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Put the pears cut side down into a tight fitting pan.  In small sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, wine, vanilla extract, and orange juice and bring to the boil.  Pour over the pears and put into oven. 

3. While the pears are cooking, baste every 5-10 minutes with the cooking syrup.  Cook for about 30 minutes until the pears are tender all the way through.  Remove from the oven to cool.

4. While pears are still warm, serve with chilled spiced mascarpone.  Garnish with orange zest and flaked almonds.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roasted Squash with Chili Citrus Sauce

This is a great side dish for one of those chilly, winter nights, which we are having quite a few of lately in Melbourne.  You can use any kind of pumpkin (what we call squash in North America) for this recipe.  I used a Jap pumpkin, or kabocha which is pretty common in Australia during this season. 

Roasting the squash ensures a comforting, savory aspect to the dish while the citrus and fresh herbs really brighten it up.  And, of course, you need the chili for that extra punch.  If this doesn't warm you up, I don't know what will!

Roasted Squash with Chili Citrus Sauce



Ingredients

1/2 Jap pumpkin, cut lengthwise into wedges
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 red chilis, finely chopped, more or less to taste
1/2 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Toss squash with 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and 2 tbsp olive oil.  Place cut side down on a baking tray.

3. Roast squash until tender and cut sides are starting to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes depending on thickness.  Flip once during cooking if desired.

4. Meanwhile, combine juices, chilis, garlic, chopped cilantro and remaining salt and olive oil.  Let sit at room temperature while squash cooks. 

5. Serve squash drizzled with citrus sauce and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Perfect Roast Chicken?

I personally don't believe there is a 'perfect' method for roasting a chicken.  There are many different methods and techniques that will yield that crisp, juicy skin and succulent, tender meat.  It really depends on the result that you would like to acheive.  Are you looking for a burst of flavor?  Is presentation key?  Do you want perfectly moist chicken breasts?

I love experimenting with new approaches but I do have a few steps that I find key to getting my desired flavor and texture.  To start, I always rub butter under the skin to help keep the meat moist and add a bit of flavor.  Make sure to season your chicken well, both inside and out.  For added flavor, stuff the cavity with a combination of herbs and aromatics, not only to flavor the meat but the pan juices as well.  Take advantage of the pan juices!  There's nothing better to serve your chicken with than those juices that have been roasting away.  Look forward to a delicious, comforting dinner and leftovers for lunch!

Honey Roasted Chicken with Rosemary


Ingredients

1 (5 pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry
5 sprigs rosemary
3 lemons, 1 quartered, 2 juiced and zested
3 tbsp butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 onion, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup honey
Salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Chop 3 rosemary sprigs and combine with butter and lemon zest.  Use your fingers to separate breast and leg skin from the meat and rub butter mixture under the skin.

3. Stuff the chicken cavity with remaining rosemary, garlic, lemon quarters and onion and place in a roasting pan. 


4. Combine the oil, honey, and lemon juice and pour over chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

5.  Roast the chicken for 15 minutes.  Baste the chicken and add half of the broth to the pan.  Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and cover with foil.  Roast for 45 minutes. Baste the chicken again and add the remaining broth.  Roast for an additional 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 160 degrees at the thickest part of the leg.

6. Remove the chicken, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Pour the pan juices into small saucepan and spoon off fat.  Cook over medium high for 10 minutes to reduce.  You may also thicken sauce by adding a slurry of cornstarch (mixture of cornstarch with a bit of water).  Season and serve over chicken.


Any tips and tricks you'd like to share for your perfect roast chicken?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I HOPE the way to your heart is through your stomach!

I know I've been a bit MIA lately... I've been traveling for the last 5 weeks and it was hard to justify spending time on the computer rather than spending time with friends and family, playing with my neice, visiting my 90-year-old grandmother, relaxing on the beach, celebrating my future sister-in-law's wedding... and the list goes on.  Enough excuses, I'll leave it at that.  Please accept my apology and I'll attempt to make amends by offering up one heck of a recipe. 

I didn't have many opportunities to lose myself in the kitchen while I was in the States but I made sure to take advantage of the seasonal summer produce whenever I could.  There's nothing better than going shopping with an open mind and being inspired by the fresh and local produce.  On one of those rare nights that I was able to cook dinner, I was greeted by an enormous display of cherries upon walking into the grocery store.  That made for an easy decision!  Not only are cherries deliciously sweet but they also contain numerous health and healing properties.  I always make sure to look for those that are large, firm and have an even deep red coloring. 

A nice cherry and wine sauce over some browned pork came to mind.  When I hear cherries and wine, I immediately think Pinot Noir, done.  I picked up a few more items and hurried home to the tune of my stomach rumbling.  Let's get to it, I've talked enough.  Without going into any more description, it was too die for!

Spiced Pork with Pinot Noir & Cherry Sauce


Ingredients

Pinot Cherry Sauce:
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup Pinot Noir
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

For the chops:
4 bone-in pork loin chops
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. For cherry sauce, heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook for about 4 minutes or until soft.  Add remaining ingredients and increase heat.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until desired consistency. 

3. Meanwhile, mix spices for pork chops and season evenly.  Heat oil over medium high in an oven-safe pan and cook pork chops on one side for 4 minutes until browned.  Flip chops and place pan in the oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F (pork will continue to rise in temperature after removed from the oven).  Cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. 

4. Serve pork chops with sauce spooned over the top.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley.

Hmmm... what to do with the rest of that bottle of Pinot... 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grilled Tuna with Chilli Onion Salsa

Fresh, good quality tuna steaks don't really need much, just a little salt, pepper, and olive oil... but we all need a little variety in our diets right?  Whether it be fruit, or in this case, onion based, I love a tangy salsa served over tuna straight off the grill.  Tuna is so easy to grill due to it's firm texture, but be careful as it will dry out if overcooked.  It is typically served medium rare, seared on the outside and warm in the center.  Serving a sauce over the tuna does give you a bit of breathing room if it is slightly overcooked as the sauce will add moisture to your dish.

I was definitely in the mood for something with a kick, so this chilli onion salsa was just what the doctor ordered.  The tuna was perfectly cooked with a sweet crust and tender, juicy center.  Add more or less chilli but definitely don't leave it out completely!

Grilled Tuna with Chilli Onion Salsa


Ingredients

4 tuna steaks
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tablespoon caster sugar

For salsa:
1 red onion, minced
6 stalks green onion, white and light green parts only, minced
2 red chillis, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt

cilantro, to garnish
fried shallots, to garnish

Method

1. Combine lime juice, fish sauce, oil, vinegar, ginger and sugar for marinade.  Add tuna and marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients to make salsa and let sit at room temperature until your tuna is ready to grill

3. Prepare grill for cooking over medium high heat and thoroughly oil.  I like to use to tongs and rub an oil soaked paper towel over grates.

4. Grill tuna for about 2 minutes on each side until the sugars have caused the outside to slightly caramelize and the it is cooked to medium rare.  Grill more or less to your liking. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easy Entertaining: Mozzarella & Tomato Bites

While I certainly don't mind spending some time and effort cooking, sometimes it's nice to throw something together quickly.  This appetizer is so quick and easy but, thanks to a few flavors that marry together beautifully, it still tastes incredible!  The presentation is very cute and they can be eaten in one clean, easy bite, so no need for serving plates!  Feel free to prepare the tomato bites ahead of time and store them in the fridge.  Take them out 15 minutes before serving and dress them right as your guests arrive!

Mozzarella & Tomato Bites


Ingredients

8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 mini mozzarella balls, halved
8 thing slices of proscuitto, halved lengthwise
16 basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
fresh black pepper

Directions

1.  Push tomato and mozzarella halves together to make a ball.  Tuck a basil leave against the ball as your wrap it with a slice of proscuitto. Secure with a toothpick.

2. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. 

Couldn't be easier!  They'll disappear in a matter of minutes!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Berry Satisfying Breakfast

It was a Saturday morning and I was craving blueberry pancakes.  As pancakes are a little closer to the baking side of things, I needed help.  I decided to consult my good friend Ina Garten (I could only be so lucky).  She never fails me for these tried and true recipes.  She had a recipe for Banana Sour Cream Pancakes that had rave reviews.  I substituted greek yogurt for the sour cream, blueberries for the bananas, used a touch less salt and a touch more sugar, threw in a couple of my tricks, and came out with beautiful blueberry pancakes.  The greek yogurt made them very rich and moist and the subtle flavor of the lemon zest added so much.  These will definitely be on my table again.  Thank you Ina for the inspiration!  Maybe next time I'll try your banana version.

Blueberry Pancakes


Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat milk, more if needed to thin out batter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
strawberries, for serving
powdered sugar, for serving
100 % maple syrup, for serving

Directions

1. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the greek yogurt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.  Do not overmix.  If mixture is too thick, add a bit more milk to get to desired consistency.

3. Heat pan to medium low and brush with butter.


4. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Place blueberries on the pancake and push into the batter.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned.


5.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced strawberries, dust with powdered sugar and drizzle over maple syrup.

Enjoy and have a great day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spinach & Gruyère Soufflé

I must admit, I was a bit nervous to prepare a soufflé as I've heard they can be quite temperamental.  I've even heard horror stories about having to tip-toe around your kitchen or you will cause it to fall flat.  Texture is king is this dish and as it's name, which is French for "to blow up", indicates, it should be pefectly puffed. 

In short, a soufflé is base of egg yolks with a sauce and beaten egg whites.  The base provides the flavor while the egg whites give it volume.  There are both savory and dessert soufflés, and probably not too surprising, I chose to make a savory one; besides, I had spinach that I needed to use up.

The presentation of this dish is just beautiful.  Mine did not come out perfectly symmetrical by any means (thanks to my uneven cooking Australian oven) but I actually loved the quirky looking outcome.  It was fluffy with a light crust on the outside, and of course had to have that rewarding creamy center.  Make sure to season well and it will explode with flavor. 

Spinach & Gruyère Soufflé


Ingredients

1 large bunch of spinach, stemmed and finely chopped
1 tbsp parmesan, grated
3 1/2 oz butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, warm
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 oz Gruyère cheese, grated
5 eggs, separated
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).  Grease your soufflé dish or individual ramekins completely using upward strokes and sprinkle all sides with parmesan (supposedly these 2 tricks will help the soufflé rise).

2. To make your base (kind of a very thick bechamel sauce), melt the butter in a pan.  Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until you have a paste.  Gradually add warm milk while stirring to prevent lumps, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Stir through the spinach and cheese, allow to cool, then add the egg yolks.

4. Beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.  Fold the whites into the spinach mixture while you season.

5. Pour into prepared dishes.  Baking time varies greatly depending on what size dish(es) you are using.  For a large dish, cook for about 30 minutes, raise heat to 425 degrees F (220 C), and cook for 15 more minutes.  For individual ramekins, cook for 10 minutes, turn heat up and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  You want the soufflé golden and just set.  In the traditional French method, I prefer mine still moist and creamy in the center although some like it cooked all the way through. 

A couple of tips:   

1.  Make sure to be careful when separating your eggs not to break the yolk on the shell.  If there is even a trace of yolk in your egg whites, they will probably not whip up.

2. Room temperature egg whiles will foam more quickly and to a greater volume.

3. When you fold in the egg whites, be gentle.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Like I need another excuse to eat Mexican food...  In honor of my favorite Mexican holiday, we celebrated with slow cooked pork carnita tacos accompanied by avocado 3 ways.  I made my traditional guacamole, a roasted garlic and orange guacamole, and pomegranate and avocado salsa.  Yes, pomegranate salsa.  It's certainly not a salsa to be eaten with chips but went beautifully with the tacos.  The tangy pop of the pomegranate seeds was the perfect accent to the smoky pork and creamy avocado.  Thanks to our houseguest, we've been obsessed with all things pomegranate for the last month so I had to figure out a way to incorporate them. 

We gobbled up the tacos too fast to take any pics.  It's amazing that something that takes 8 hours to cook can be eaten up in a matter of minutes! 

Avocado 3 Ways


Traditional Guacamole

Ingredients

3 avocados
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp cumin
salt

Directions

1. Cut around each avocado lengthwise and twist halves apart. Stab pit with knife and dislodge. Scoop out flesh.

2. Combine all ingredients and coarsely mash together. Season to taste with salt.


Roasted Garlic and Orange Guacamole

Ingredients

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 small oranges
1 jalapeno
1 small red onion, diced
3 ripe avocados, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin
3 tbsp mint, chopped
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
salt

Directions

1. Roast the garlic in a dry skillet over medium heat until it is soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze out garlic and chop if necessary.

2. Supreme the oranges by cutting of the ends, standing orange up and cutting off all the rind and all of the bitter white pith.  Release segments by cutting along either side of each membrane.  Chop the oranges.

3. Cut around each avocado lengthwise and twist halves apart.  Stab pit with knife and dislodge.  Scoop out flesh. 

4. Combine all ingredients and coarsely mash together.  Season to taste with salt. 

Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa

Ingredients

2 avocados, peeled and diced
1 lime, juiced
1 pomegranate, seeded
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tbsp honey
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
salt

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste with salt. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Go Dutch!

... with your carrots that is... I'd never be one to advocate going Dutch in other areas!  These sweet, baby carrots not only look but taste sensational.  They can be prepared in a variety of ways, but this steaming method is so easy and there's virtually no clean up!  Like all carrots, they are still a great source of beta carotene, so your stomach and your eyes will be thanking you!

Baby Carrots in a Pouch


Ingredients

1/2 lb. Dutch (baby) carrots
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Scrub carrots well as you won't be peeling them (there wouldn't be anything left!).  Remove leafy tops.

3. Tear off enough kitchen foil to create a pouch large enough to secure carrots and arrange on a baking tray.

4. Place carrots onto one side of the foil and sprinkle with cumin and brown sugar.  Season and add all other ingredients except the wine.

5. Fold the foil over the carrots to creat a pouch.  Fold up 2 sides to seal in carrots leaving the last end open to pour in the wine. 

6. Pour in the wine and fold the last side together to fully seal. 

7. Cook for 35 minutes or until tender.  Adjust for the size and amount of carrots.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chilli Grilled Kingfish

Kingfish, or Yellowtail Kingfish, is found off the south east coast of Australia.  It may be served cooked or raw if proper care is taken, but the most popular preparation method is probably on the barbeque.  Because the flesh tends to dry out a bit, be careful not to overcook it.  I made sure to use citrus and garlic in my marinade to help retain as much moisture as possible while it cooked.  This is a very simple recipe but the results are fantastic. 

Chilli Grilled Kingfish


Ingredients

4 kingfish fillets
3 chillis, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, minced
1/4 cup oregano, minced
salt and pepper
olive oil

Directions

1. For marinade, add chillis, garlic, zest, herbs, and seasoning to a mortar and mash with pestle.  Add just enough olive oil to make a liquidy paste.


2. Marinate the fillets in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

3. Prepare grill for cooking over medium high heat.  Grill fish for 3 minutes on each side or until almost cooked through.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roasted Zucchini & Eggplant Lasagna

Obviously fresh pasta is best, but when you're looking to throw a dinner together quickly, oven-ready lasagna noodles can be a godsend.  There is no pre-cooking required AT ALL!  They will absorb the tomato sauce as the lasagna bakes and soften. 

As an added bonus, you can also prepare this ahead of time and store in the fridge until you are ready to bake.  Feel free to use your favorite sauces and and fillings - cheese?  meat?  vegetables?  Just make sure to start with sauce, top with lasagna, alternate layers of filling and lasagna, finish off with a layer of sauce, then top with cheese.

Roasted Zucchini & Eggplant Lasagna


Ingredients

1 eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4" rounds
2 zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/4" rounds
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 24oz bottle of tomato passata
pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 1b ricotta
1 egg
3/4 cup parmesan, grated
2 tsp parsley, chopped
2 tsp basil, chopped
1 package pre-cooked lasagna noodles
1/2 cup  mozzarella, grated
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Season eggplant and zucchini and toss with 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil.  Transfer eggplant to baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, add zucchini and roast for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat and saute carrot, onion, and garlic until tender.  Add passata and and chilli flakes.  Season and simmer for 15 minutes. 

3. In a large bowl, mix ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup parmesan, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

4. In glass baking dish, spread thin layer of tomato sauce.  Arrange lasagna noodles over sauce.  Spread half of ricotta mixture and arrange half of vegetables over ricotta.  Spread with layer of tomato sauce.  Repeat layering and top with lasagna noodles.  Spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining parmesan. 

5. Bake covered for 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes until cheese begins to brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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