Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iron Chef Carrot Recap

Iron Chef Carrot was more than a competition this time. We also used it as an excuse to throw a small baby shower for Cara and her future little Carit! But it turns out that carrot is actually a pretty fun (and tasty) ingredient. It's so versatile that we had a ton of variety in the types of dishes and flavors, which made the night exciting. We also had a lot of fun decorating diapers for Cara with fun sayings on them to make her laugh when she's up changing diapers in the middle of the night. Oh, I guess I shouldn't mention changing diapers in a food blog... sorry about that. Ok, let's get to the best part--the food! 

First up were our appetizers, starting with Chelyen's Carrot Tots and Curry dip. I never thought anything could make a better tot than a tater, but carrots definitely came close in this dish. And the curry yogurt dip was a great pairing to the flavors of the tot. This would be a great way to serve kids something that they would enjoy eating, but also sneak in something a little healthy as well. Heck, forget the kids-- someone make it for me! 

Next we enjoyed the night's winner (and I swear, it wasn't rigged!). Cara made a Moroccan Carrot Hummus with pita chips. She topped it with feta cheese and olives which not only made it look really professional, but also added great flavor to the hummus. I love me some feta cheese. It was a big hit and everyone kept going back for more. Congrats on another win, Cara! 

For the main course, Jen seared up some great looking scallops and served them over a carrot puree with an herbed oil drizzled on top. It looked like something you could order in a restaurant, and tasted great as well. Plus, you know I'm a sucker for scallops. They are really hard to cook well and Jen nailed it. This one was a really well-composed dish!

I had the other main and since I've been dying for an excuse to buy a spiralizer, I decided to make carrot noodles. I improvised using a sesame-peanut dressing for the noodles, combined with my own recipe for peanut butter chicken. I definitely enjoyed it, but I noticed my jaw was tired after eating a few bites. The raw carrots really stood out, and maybe not in the best way. It's not something I would make again, but I was happy with the result.

Emily served her side, a Spicy Thai Carrot and Kale Salad, with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds which were a cool visual addition. The peanutty dressing was my favorite part of her salad, and I definitely think it should go in the dressing recipe box. I think the group just wasn't a big fan of raw kale. But kudos to Emily for going healthy! We've also teased her about doing a whole Iron Chef competition with kale, so I think she was preempting us on that one.

I've made carrot fries at home before and while they aren't always as good as the real thing, they are a great, healthy alternative. But Laura's Carrot Fries with Cilantro Dip were better than any of the recipes I've tried. They have a sweet but also a bit sharp, tangy flavor, and I love the way the dip worked to cool down the tang. She also oven baked them which makes them even healthier than typical fried fries.

And finally, the desserts! Of course, you know we had to do a carrot cake! No carrot competition would be complete without one. But I like how Doan elevated the traditional dish with her Rum Carrot Cake recipe. You only got a hint of the rum but it was just the right amount. It was perfectly moist and delicious with wonderfully creamy frosting.

And lastly, our runner-up for the night, Kim's Chocolate Carrot Cake. It's a really nice twist on the classic, and yet still had that carrot cake flavor, even through the delicious chocolate. Plus it looked really beautiful (I have a soft spot for layer cakes). It made for the perfect finish for the night, and it's no wonder she got our second place prize.

Next time I promise to be more timely in my recap (but don't hold me to it). Up next is Iron Chef Potato, which should be a fantastically starchy evening. Until then!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cider-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos

I bet you thought I couldn't possibly find another taco recipe to post on this blog. Well, you were wrong! There are MILLIONS! I can go on for years! Tacos forever!!

Ok, sorry about that. I just love tacos, you guys. This recipe looked sufficiently different from the other recipes I've posted, and it is. And it looked sufficiently delicious, and it is. So here we go. It's a pretty simple recipe that I found on a blog called Half-Baked Harvest. But don't let the simplicity fool you. These pack a ton of flavor (and a good amount of heat). I also made a little psuedo-salsa to top it with, mixing some apple into some pretty normal ingredients, which brought some really nice crunch and flavor to the taco. I recommend you try it!

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper
1 cup beer 
1/2 cup apple cider
3/4 cup enchilada sauce 
1 jalapeno or serrano, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup diced apple
Handful of cilantro, chopped

In a small dish, mix together the spices: chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, brown sugar, cayenne and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cut your chicken into big chunks and put them in another small bowl. Pour the olive oil over and then add the garlic and chipotle chiles. Stir a little to spread the chiles and garlic around and then pour in your spice mix and mix well until the chicken is evenly covered.

Now, heat your dutch oven on high until hot, then sear the chicken about 2-4 minutes a side. It will cook more later so don't over cook it now. Also, be careful of breathing in the spices while they cook. It will definitely make you cough! Once the chicken is seared, turn down the heat and pour in the beer and apple cider, scraping the bottom of the dutch oven to deglaze it. Simmer on low for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is simmering, you can make the salsa. Just mix together the jalapeno, onion, apple and cilantro with the lime juice, and stir. Leave it in the fridge while you finish the chicken.

Once the chicken is done, shred it with two forks. Turn up the heat on the sauce in the pot and reduce it down to about 3/4 of a cup and then add the chicken back to the pot along with the enchilada sauce. Let that warm up for a few minutes and once it's hot, it's ready to serve! We used sour cream and a little cheese on our tortillas, as well as the chicken and apple salsa and the mixture was really tasty. I know the apple seems a little weird, but go ahead, be daring and give it a chance! You will be happy to find yet another taco to love. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Today we had a fun event at work. We all got together to have a potluck and play games. These types of events don't happen very often, so it's always nice to get out of the office for a bit. Well, we had a sign up sheet to determine who would bring what for today. I decided to sign up for an appetizer. Normally, I would make a dessert since that's my favorite thing to make, but I decided to sign up for an appetizer. Everyone and their brother signed up for desserts. It took me quite a while to decide what I wanted to make. Eventually, I settled on this cheese puff recipe from With Love and Cupcakes. Instead of Chipotle Cheese I used Bacon Cheddar Cheese since TJ's didn't have that option. And, I must not know how to make things smalls because my cheese puffs were quite large. What really matters is how it tasted, and these were great! I would definitely make these cheese puffs again, but smaller! And, my co-worker's must have liked them, because only 2 were left! Leftovers for the win! Enjoy!

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup grated chipotle-flavored cheddar cheese, like the one here (Or Bacon Cheddar Cheese from Trader Joe's)

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Take out a small saucepan and combine the water through mustard. Set the stove to medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted and the mixture begins to boil. Add in the flour and lower the heat to low. Stir until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook the dough and stirring for about five minutes. The mixture should start to steam. Transfer the dough to your standing mixture. Go ahead and beat for a couple minutes to help release some of the heat from the dough. Next, add in an egg one at a time. I beat the egg prior to adding to the mixture. Stir well after each addition. Fold in the cheese and combine well. Put some of the mixture into a piping bag and pie out the mixture in small amounts...1 1/2 inches side and 3/4 inches tall. Bake the puffs for about 15-20 minutes or until nice and golden in color. Remove from oven and cool completely. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apple Streusel Egg Muffins

It's been a long time since we've posted a new recipe. Sorry about that. No good excuse really other than being busy with life. This particular recipe that I'm posting today is from the 21 Day Sugar Detox Book . I did this detox back in June, and it was pretty difficult. But, I really think it helped with sugar cravings, and I lost about 8 pounds! Fortunately, the author provides plenty of wonderful recipes to choose from during the detox. This Apple Streusel Muffin was something I ate for breakfast everyday. There's absolutely no sugar in it save for the diced apples. However, it's still very good. I'm still eating this for breakfast along with a Chocolate Avocado Smoothie! Enjoy!

1 tbsp butter, coconut oil, or ghee (I use butter)
1 1/2 cups peeled & chopped green apple
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
3 tbsp warm water
6 eggs (I use 5)
2 tbsp full-fat coconut milk
1/2 tsp  vanilla
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized skillet, sautee the diced apples in the melted butter over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 tsp of the cinnamon and stir. Add in the water. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes until the apples are the consistency of chunky applesauce or apple pie filling. Set aside to cool completely.

In a medium size bowl, add the eggs and whisk. Then, add the coconut milk and vinegar. Whisk until incorporated. Sift in the coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Add in the remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Whisk until well combined. Next, stir in the cooled apples. Prepare 6 cups of a muffin tin with parchment paper muffin cup liners. Pour the mixture into the cups. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the muffins have risen and golden in color. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shrimp Scampi with Linguini

Sometimes when you make a recipe you immediately want to post it. This is one of those recipes. I've never made a recipe by Tyler Florence, but maybe I should start making more. This Shrimp Scampi was EXCELLENT! Seriously, it tasted like a restaurant quality entree. I did make it a couple weeks ago, but it was too late to take pictures. So, I made it again tonight and it was just as good as the first time I made it. It has a ton of flavor thanks to the butter, olive oil, lemon juice, and wine. Plus, the addition of red pepper flakes gives it a nice kick. I highly, highly recommend this recipe for your next dinner. It's that good! Enjoy!

1 pound linguini
4 tbsp butter
4 extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c finely chopped parsley leaves (or basil)

Boil the linguini (or spaghetti) in a large pot of water with a bit of salt and olive oil. When the pasta is al dente drain into a colander and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil at medium-high heat. Add in the shallots and garlic and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the shrimp and add to the skillet. Once the shrimp has turned pink (after 3 minutes or so) remove from the skillet and set aside. Add the lemon juice and wine and bring to a boil. Then, add in the remaining 2 tbsp butter and olive oil. Add back the shrimp and pasta to the skillet. Sprinkle the parsley or basil into the skillet. Season with salt and pepper if needed and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Asian Fried Chicken Salad

Oh, Applebee’s. I remember in my hometown for awhile, Applebee’s was actually a decent choice for a restaurant (it was the Midwest). When my friend turned 21, it was the logical place to take her and we spent the night testing the limits of a newbie bartender (I had the the worst, and strongest, Long Island Ice Tea of my life.) But today, Applebee’s is not a place I would visit under normal circumstances. Especially since Richmond has so many great non-chain restaurant options. Still, I wanted to try this copycat salad, which I found on a blog named “Tastes Better From Scratch.” It looked good whether it came from “the neighborhood” or not.

It turned out great, surprisingly. Nice crispy chicken that could have maybe used a touch more salt. The slaw and salad mix was different, but a nice way to add crunch without going full slaw. And the dressing was really good. Sweet with an Asian flair. I liked that it was a meal salad so that was a good way to get us to eat relatively healthy (fried part aside). It was a lot of steps though, so I don’t think this would go into my “easy dinner” pile.

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs (I used Parmesan Herb crumbs)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 chicken breast
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
Bag of rainbow or broccoli slaw
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped napa cabbage
1 carrot, shredded

1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cucumber (optional)
1 Tbsp sliced almonds (optional)

3 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/8 tsp sesame oil

Start by whisking your dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, making sure they mix completely. Refrigerate this until you’re ready to use it. Get out two more small bowls (lots of dishes, sorry) and in one beat the egg and milk together. In the second mix the flour, crumbs, salt and pepper. Cut your chicken into long thin strips, as evenly as you can.

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, preheat your oil. I don’t think you need the full 3 cups of oil, just enough to make about a half inch in the pan. Heat the oil to about 350 degrees. One by one, dip your chicken strips in the egg mixture, and then the flour mixture, making sure they get completely coated, then CAREFULLY put them into the oil. Don’t just plop them in or you’ll have hot oil going everywhere and that’s a danger to everyone. I did about 4 chicken strips in each batch so I could watch them. You want to fry for about four minutes, turning over halfway through to get a good golden brown on the crust. Then set them aside on a paper towel.

Ok, that’s most of the work. Now you just have to mix together the salad ingredients, add the chicken on top and pour some of the dressing over the whole thing. It’s a great meal, and you don’t have to deal with the strange folks eating at Applebee’s to enjoy it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pizzette with Fontina, Tomato, Basil, and Proscuitto

One of our Iron Chef alum is moving to Wisconsin...boo...so we had a going away party in her honor. The theme was cheese and wine. Yum. But, I decided to bring a little appetizer to the party. After all, cheese isn't the most filling food in the world. I perused a couple of my cookbooks before settling on this recipe from Bon Appetit. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to put the prosciutto on the pizza but they still came out pretty tasty. I also used Trader Joe's pre-made pizza dough which definitely saved me some time. I also used a biscuit cutter to make little round pizza bites. Overall, I thought this was quite a tasty little appetizer. I will definitely make the next time I need to bring an appetizer to a party! Enjoy!

1 13.8 oz refridgerated pizza dough
3/4 c grated Fontina cheese (about 3 oz)
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 c thinly sliced fresh basil
1 1/2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely torn into strips

Preheat your oven to 475. Lightly sprinkle rimmed baking sheet (or pizza stone) with flour. Next, roll out the dough on a floured surface and use a 2 1/2 inch cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the dough rounds. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the Fontina cheese on the rounds. Divide equally. Next, place 2 tomato quarters on each round, pressing gently into dough. Sprinkle tomatoes with grated Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes or until the cheese is a golden color. Remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil and then top with the basil. Then, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Drape prosciutto strips over. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 22, 2014


I've been craving pancakes for a while now, and the other night I decided to satisfy that craving. I've made homemade pancakes before, and they turned out okay. But, I wanted to try a different recipe in hopes that I could find a way to make a light and fluffy yet tasty pancake. I decided to peruse the web in hopes of finding a recipe that would accomplish this. After reviewing a couple recipes I ultimately decided on this recipe by Bill Hilbrich. It received 5 stars, and people seemed to love this recipe. I decided to give it a try but tweak it a bit. I added the juice of one lemon to the milk and about 1/4 tsp of vanilla to the batter. Man, these pancakes turned out friggin awesome. I'm not even joking. They tasted like pancakes you would get at your favorite Pancake House. The pancakes were indeed light and fluffy and tasted great. I had plenty of batter left over, so I decided to freeze it. I had them again about a week later, and they still tasted great. I highly, highly recommend this recipe the next time you want pancakes. They're easy to make and sooo much better than a pancake mix. Enjoy!

1/4 cup butter, melted (1/8 of a pound)
  • tablespoons sugar
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla optional
  • Juice of one lemon added to the milk (optional)
Take out a medium bowl and combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Set aside. Take out a small bowl and add the milk and juice of one lemon. Set aside for one minute. Add the eggs to a large bowl and beat well. Then add the melted butter and the milk. Stir well. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Set aside for ten minutes. I use an ice cream scooper and scoop out the batter onto your griddle. Make sure it's set at medium-high heat. Once the pancake batter starts to have bubbles forming and has a golden color flip over to the other side. Serve warm with butter and syrup.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love a chocolate chip cookie? I mean really. I don't think I could ever date a man who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned chocolate chip cookie. Basically, I don't want to have to eat the entire batch of cookies by myself. Anyway, I found this particular recipe in my handy dandy Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. Seriously, you guys, if you don't have this cookbook you're big time missing out. It's probably my favorite cookbook out of all the cookbooks that I have. And, trust me, I own a ton. Anyway, back to these scrumptious cookies. So, what I think really makes this recipe is the brown butter. Mmm. Brown. Butter. It gives the cookie a more robust flavor, and the chocolate packs a punch. I'm definitely making these cookies again, and I think they might be my new favorite recipe. Definitely an ultimate cookie!

1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 tbsp Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chip
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Next, whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Melt 10 tablespoon butter in 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer browned butter to a heat proofed large bowl. Add 4 remaining tablespoons butter and stir until completely melted. Add brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and granulated sugar to the melted butter. Whisk well. Add egg and egg yolk; whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
Using rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture until just combined. Next, stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Give dough final stir to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll the dough into balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes, and rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack, and let cookies cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Pasta with Asparagus and Ricotta

It's interesting to think about how the pasta we crave in the winter is so different from the pasta we crave in the summer. In the winter, I want a robust red sauce, braised for hours, with plenty of meat. In the summer, pasta needs to be lighter. I tend towards more lemony sauces with veggies and plenty of basil. That's probably why this recipe caught my eye when I saw it on the Willow Bird Baking blog. It's made with ricotta cheese and probably isn't all that healthy, but it's ok to splurge every once in awhile (or most of the time, in my case). It was pretty good! Bright and flavorful, like summer in a bowl.

20 ounces dried pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1/4 cup white wine
2 ounces unsalted butter
8 spears asparagus, sliced into 2-inch chunks
8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 bunch fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
12 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan as needed

You can use whatever pasta you want. The original author used fettuccine, but I prefer a thinner pasta like angel hair most of the time. Start by making an ice water bath in a small bowl for the asparagus. Bring some water to boil in a small pan, or if you're like me and love economy of pans, use the same pot you'll later use for pasta. Blanch the asparagus for just 2 minutes and then fish them out and put them in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. If you're smart like me, you now have a nice pot of boiling water for your pasta. (It's slightly green but don't be weird about it.) Cook the pasta, drain and set that aside as well. Reserve a small amount of the pasta water just in case.

Over medium heat in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil before adding the shallots. Cook them for about a minute before adding the garlic and cooking for another 30 seconds. As always, don't burn the garlic. Deglaze with white wine and then whisk in the butter until it's melted. I'm not sure what the whisk does here, but I also don't know what would happen if you didn't whisk, so just whisk!

Put in the green onions and asparagus and cook for just a minute to heat them before reducing the heat to low. Now add in the ricotta cheese and stir. Give it plenty of salt and then add in the pasta plus a little pasta water to loosen up the sauce if it needs it. Add the parsley, basil, and the rest of the olive oil and mix in well. This is where you need to start tasting. Add more salt & pepper, and some lemon juice. I probably added 3-5 tablespoons of lemon juice because I like that bit of acid. Once it's tasting great, serve with some grated Parmesan on top, and enjoy the flavors of summer! 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Balsamic Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

It's been awhile since we made chicken legs, so I reached deep into my well of recipes and pulled out this one. I do love a good balsamic recipe, and it's perfect grilling weather. These turned out ok, but not crazy flavorful. That's the problem with some marinades... they just don't get into the meat enough. I think that was the case here. The chicken was good, but the balsamic flavor was just a hint. I think this would be better if there was some sort of glaze you could brush on so that the taste would be a little more pronounced. This was very easy though, so there's that.

Chicken legs, skin on (about 2 lbs.)
1 tbsp mustard (I used Dijon)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper

Whisk all the ingredients (minus the chicken legs, of course) in a small bowl until the oil and vinegar have put aside their differences and joined together. Put the chicken legs in a large ziploc bag, pour the marinade over them, and put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. We had them in there for a few hours. Take them out about 10 minutes before you grill them. Every grill is different but remember with a bone in they need to cook longer than regular chicken breasts. About 20-30 minutes should do it. Then serve with a side of paper napkins. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Salmon with Fennel, Citrus & Chiles

Fresh salmon is so delicious that you don't even have to do much to it to make it mouth-watering. This recipe is a great example of that. You get a lot of just pure salmon flavor, bumped up a bit by citrus, fennel and some spicy chiles. I made this once before when blood oranges were in season, and although it's good with regular oranges, the blood oranges were definitely better. They have a much brighter, more tart flavor that fused with the fennel and salmon better, so if you can find blood oranges, I recommend using those. This is a really simple recipe (found in Bon Appetit) that only requires a little prep, and some slow roasting time in the oven, and before you know it you're eating some spectacular-tasting salmon. 

1-2 lb. skinless salmon filet
Salt & pepper
1 fennel bulb
1 blood orange (or navel orange)
1 lemon
1 Fresno chile or jalapeño
Fresh dill sprigs
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt

First, preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Place your salmon in a glass baking dish and season it with salt & pepper. If you have skin it's not a big deal, just put it skin-side down and make sure to remove it before serving. Now it's time to prep your fruits and veggies. Thinly slice the fennel bulb, orange, lemon and chile. You can do this with a nice sharp knife, or if you are like the Hubs and are obsessed with the mandoline, that works for the fennel and chile, not so much for the citrus. Once you've sliced everything up, arrange the fennel, chile and citrus plus four sprigs of fresh dill over the top of the salmon. The first time we made it, we followed the directions and put this on the bottom but the result was really tasty fennel, and absolutely no flavor in the salmon. We switched it around this time and that helped. Season one more time and then pour the olive oil all over the top. The original called for 3/4 cup of oil but that just seemed like a ton to us. 

Now, bake for about 30-40 minutes. We went for the full 40 this time and it was perfect. Sprinkle the salmon with sea salt before enjoying. We also found it helped to squeeze some of the citrus over the top of the salmon. Hope you enjoy the clean, simple flavor!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spice Rubbed Chicken Tacos

It's taco season! Well, for me it's always taco season, but for the rest of the world, this is the time. It's hard to try new taco recipes because I already have so many I like, but this one seemed a little different, using chicken thighs, and it was dead simple so it's perfect for weeknights. Seriously, it took under 15 minutes from start to delicious finish. I found it on a blog called Food, Fashion & Fun. It's a good mixture of spicy and sweet, with some great char thanks to cooking it on the grill. And the toppings are simple too. Of course, you can put whatever you want on it, but I enjoyed the onion & jalapeño combo (even though one of the jalapeños was extra spicy and about burned my tongue off). If you're looking for a new taco that you can make in a jiffy, this one's for you.

1 1/2 pounds Chicken thighs
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus more for grilling
1 onion, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 jalapenos, cut in half and sliced

Mix all the spices together in a small bowl, then add the olive oil to make a paste. Rub the paste onto the thighs (use gloves to keep clean). Heat up your grill and cook the chicken. Depending on how thick they are it might be 7-10 minutes or so. While the chicken is grilling, you can throw your onion and jalapeno in a pan with a little olive oil and saute them for about 5-7 minutes. You could also do them on the grill, but you might want to leave the jalapenos unsliced for that. After the chicken is done, toast up your tortillas, and then serve! I just added a little sour cream but you can put anything you want on them. That's the glory of tacos! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Giada's California Lettuce Cups

Recently, I watched an episode of Giada at Home, and it was all about California cuisine. I believe this episode was called California Dream. Sometimes, I dream about how much I would enjoy living in California...especially southern Cali. But, I remind myself how expensive it is, the earthquakes, the fires, the population, and I immediately come back down to earth. Sigh. I will just have to admire it from afar. And, enjoy recipes like this one that Giada invented. I have to say as soon as I saw her make this I knew I wanted to try it. It fits in perfectly with the sugar detox that I'm trying (4 more days people)! I saw one review posted where they gave this recipe 1 star, because they thought it was too sour. I don't know. Maybe this person got a sour grapefruit, and if so I can see how that would be true. But, I thought it tasted delicious. I love the heat the pepper gives as well as the crunch from the almonds. For me, this was fabulous. Plus, my pink grapefruit was on the sweeter side so it worked great. I will say this is a messy dish. The juice from the dressing easily seeps out from the lettuce cup, so be sure you have plenty of napkins handy. But, overall this was a hit, and I've made it two other times since! Enjoy!

1/4 cup lime juice (from about 4 small or 2 large limes)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 red grapefruits
2 avocados
1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 serrano chile, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 head Boston or butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

First, take out your grapefruits and make sure you segment them and place in your bowl. I watched this video to learn how to do it, but I'm still not great at it. Anyway, just go with it and be sure to squeeze out the juice from the segmented grapefruit into your bowl before tossing in the trash (or compost). Next, add your diced avocados to the bowl. Then, add the almonds, chile pepper, and cilantro. Take out a small bowl and combine the lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour this into the bowl with the grapefruit. Toss gently. Spoon the mixture into the separated lettuce leaves, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iron Chef Garlic Recap

Alright friends, grab your breath mints, it's time for Iron Chef Garlic! We had a fun night at Shu's place, and tasted a lot of good dishes as well. Garlic is one of those ingredients that everyone loves, but it isn't usually the main ingredient in a dish, so it was a nice challenge to try and make it shine. We opted to not have a drink this time, since none of us wanted to know what a garlic-tini tastes like. But for some reason, we kept the dessert option on the table... so now we all know what garlic truffles taste like. But more on that later, first, the apps!  

We started off strong with Kim's Zucchini Fritters with Garlic Dip. They were one of my personal favorites of the night, and that's coming from someone who doesn't have zucchini high on her preferred veggies list. I got a lot of sharp garlic flavor out of the dip, and nice crunch from the fritters. It was hard not to eat a bunch of them and ruin the rest of the meal (okay, I still ate a bunch of them.)

Morgan served her Garlic Bruschetta next. It had nice big chunks of mozzarella and tomatoes flavored with balsamic vinegar served on garlic covered bread rounds. You know something is good when people are willing to look ridiculous and possibly get messy eating it, and we definitely did both. These were nice, simple appetizers that delivered some great garlic flavor.

Our third appetizer ended up being our runner up for the night. Chelyen's Garlic Risotto Balls with Butter Tomato Sauce were very delicious. I could have eaten the sauce like a soup, it was so flavorful. The risotto balls were extremely tasty too, and a great idea if you ever have leftover risotto (does anyone ever have leftover risotto?).

Garlic bread is classic for very good reason. Cara gave the classic a twist by making it as pull-apart monkey bread. It was great! The bread was nice and soft, pillowy and easy to eat, plus there was plenty of garlic flavor. And if you have kids, they are suckers for this monkey bread so I recommend you try it!

Doan earned her second win with her Garlic Chicken pizza. The white sauce was excellent, nice and creamy and of course, very garlicky in the best possible way. The crust was very crisp and flavorful as well. I'm a big pizza person and this one definitely got high marks from me. And evidently from everyone else as well. Congrats on another win, Doan!!

Emily recently unearthed a crockpot she had gotten as a wedding gift many years ago and decided to put it to good use for this battle. Her Crockpot Herb & Garlic Pork Roast wasn't over the top garlicky, but had really subtle flavor and made a great garlic main course. And gravy! Who doesn't love gravy?

Shu was brave and took on one of the garlic desserts. She made Garlic Cheesecake Chocolate Truffles with crushed graham cracker that she felt were maybe a bit too garlicky for dessert. I thought they were fine, though. I mean, garlic and cheesecake maybe should just stick to their own corners as a general rule but for something like an Iron Chef competition where we are pushing the boundaries a bit, these were a great attempt. 

I also chose to do a dessert and tried a garlic peanut brittle that I then put into chocolate chip cookies. I actually didn't think it was too bad, considering, again, that garlic dessert makes very little sense. The garlic paired with peanuts made for a savory brittle. If you were unfortunate to get a big chunk of garlic though, you definitely knew it was there. I don't think I'd ever make these cookies again, but I also ate a fair amount of them, so I consider it a valiant effort. 

That did it for the dishes for the evening, but trust me when I tell you that they stuck with us for a long while, in scent alone. I think I had garlic coming out of my pores the next day, and I definitely did not have any fear of a vampire attack. Our next Iron Chef will be in August and it looks like we've forced Doan to host just so she can't beat us all again.