Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cafe Atlantico

The wedding of a friend necessitated a trip for Chris and I- to Washington D.C.

Months in advance, I let Chris know that I wanted to try one really outstanding restaurant during our time there. I happened to be watching Martha one day, and she was showcasing a chef named Jose Andres, who has 7 highly acclaimed restaurants in the D.C. area. I looked him up and learned of Cafe Atlantico, and also the restaurant inside a restaurant, Minibar. Minibar is an exclusive dining experience, located within Cafe Atlantico, seating only 6 people a night. Reservations are taken one month in advance and the experience runs you about $120, for 20+ tasting courses.

A few things you might expect to try during the meal: cotton candied foie gras (duck liver), tumbleweed of beet, and dragon's breath popcorn (fused with liquid nitrogen causing smoke to come out your nose and mouth as you eat- so awesome!!). Chris and I (being the penny pinchers we are) opted for the Cafe Atlantico pre-theater fixed price menu ($30) and enjoyed salad, lobster bisque, braised shortribs, warm chocolate cake and passion fruit sorbet. Everything we had was delectable and we enjoyed the experience thoroughly. For me, the highlight was being seated in perfect view of Minibar and watching the food-art being served and enjoyed before our eyes... at one fourth the cost. :)

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Balsamic- roasted Potatoes & Carrots

I'm so mad I forgot to take a picture when I made this, but this is similar to what it looked like, minus the carrots. The flavor is amazing- #1 way to cook vegetables for sure!

Balsamic- roasted Potatoes and Carrots

3 lbs potatoes (whatever kind you like), cut into chunks
1 lb peeled baby cut carrots ( or 4 large carrots cut into chunks)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 onion, thinly sliced (if you must)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and place on baking sheet in a single layer. Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes, shaking the pan a few times. Remove foil and roast, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until veggies are tender and golden.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Banana Crunch Muffins

I used some of my homemade granola to make these and they are awesome. There are lots of healthy ingredients, but the taste isn't compromised. Maybe the amount of sugar and butter has something to do with it. :) I got the recipe from Barefoot Contessa and just changed it a bit. (The recipe is supposed to make 18 muffins, but I always get more like 22.)

Banana Crunch Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
  • 1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
  • 1 cup small-diced walnuts
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • Dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut, optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each 1 to the top. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Almond Granola

I'm not sure why I never thought of making my own granola until now, but this quick and easy recipe was in the latest issue of Everyday Food and it's so yummy! It also smells heavenly while baking in the oven.

Almond Granola

Makes 4 cups

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons honey
(I also added 1 Tablespoon flax seed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss oats, coconut, and almonds. In a small bowl, stir together oil and honey. Pour over oat mixture and toss. Bake, tossing occasionally, until lightly toasted, 16 to 20 minutes. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 1 month.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 26th Menu

Many-a-meal over the last couple weeks has been from a drive-thru window for us. We have had such fun travels, but are more than ready to get back to a routine which includes whole foods and homemade meals.

Sun- airplane peanuts and crackers

M- enchiladas and corn on the cob

T- chicken and veggie kabobs

W- linguine with spring veggies

Th- grilled chicken cobb salad

F- wedding reception

Sat- baked potato bar

No Mickey D's for us this week!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Apple and Goat Cheese Salad

Found this recipe at For the Love of Cooking. It called for nectarines, but they aren't in season yet so I used apples. I know I've said this about other salads, but this is really is my favorite to date.

Apple and Goat Cheese Salad

Fresh Lettuce (whatever kind you like)- I used romaine
1 apples, cored and diced
1-2 goat cheese, crumbled (Fresh and Easy has containers of already crumbled goat cheese)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, sliced
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
1/2 cup croutons

Combine all ingredients, toss and serve with Balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. mustard powder or dijon mustard
1 small shallot
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend. Taste and re-season if needed. Store in a sealed container and use throughout the week on salads and veggies.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marsala Cheese Tart with Oranges

I can't even begin to tell you how delicious this is. I left out the Marsala and added an extra Tablespoon of vanilla. I made this for alot of people so I decided to make individidual servings and used muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray- they turned out perfectly! I liked the oranges, but you could also replace the oranges with just about any fruit. I LOVE the gingersnap crust as opposed to the traditional graham cracker crust. Recipe from Martha Stewart.

Marsala Cheese Tart with Oranges

5 ounces gingersnaps
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Marsala
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 navel oranges

1. Place gingersnaps in the bowl of a food processor, and process until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, and stir until well combined. Press into bottom of 8-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (or muffin tins). Place in freezer.

2. Place cream cheese and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks and fold into cream cheese mixture. Spoon mixture into prepared crust; return to freezer at least 1 hour or until firm. Serve cheesecake garnished with orange sections.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Biscuit Chicken Potpie

I've never been a big fan of potpies; maybe because I've really only had Marie Calendar's from frozen (the crust always burned and the vegetables were still crunchy). This changed my mind completely. The biscuit recipe alone is worth trying. So so good.

Biscuit Chicken Potpie

1 rotisserie chicken, cooked and shredded
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
2 T. milk
12 herb biscuits (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat and add carrots and celery. Saute, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, while stirring, until flour is light brown, 3-4 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and bring to a low boil. Add peas. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick, 10-15 minutes. Add chicken, remove from heat, and transfer to a 9x13 baking dish. Top with biscuits. Beat egg and milk together and brush over biscuits. Bake until biscuits are golden brown and chicken mixture is bubbling around edges, 25-30 minutes.

Herb Biscuits

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture, using a pastry blender or 2 knives, until mixture is coarse and crumbly. Stir in parsley. Make a well in center of flour mixture, pour in buttermilk, and stir using a fork until dough comes together- do not overmix. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and pat dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out biscuits using a floured 2 1/2 inch round cutter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 19, 2009 Menus

Here's another shortie menu for this week:

Sun- tostadas
Mon- lemony chicken over mixed greens
Tue- chicken fajitas
Wed- spinach and ricotta ravioli
Thurs- trying a new restaurant
Fri- Danny and Linsday's wedding dinner
Sat- wedding reception

And here are a few ideas on how to best put to use those bags of lemons your neighbors keep giving you:

Lemon Bars

Lemony Chicken over Mixed Greens

Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Fusilli (amazing)

Roast Chicken with potatoes, asparagus and lemon

Lemon Blossoms

Martha's Raspberry Lemonade

I love it when life gives me lemons!
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lemon Bars

"When life gives you lemons, make LEMON BARS!!"

Our friend Kristi is the personification of this quote, and we're glad she reminded us of it. I made a batch of these this morning with lemons from her tree. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.

Lemon Bars

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 C. granulated sugar
2 C. flour
1/8 tsp. kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 C. granulated sugar
2 T. grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 C. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 C. flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

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And the winner is...

Contestant #36... JULIE FISHBECK!!

Julie, it's your lucky day. :) Send me an email at with your info and we will send your new apron on its way. Congrats!
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blackberry Bread Pudding

If you've ever had the blackberry bread pudding at Cracker's in Mesa or the raspberry version from Kneaders in Provo, then you know how unbelieveable this dessert is. And If you've never had the bread pudding at Cracker's or Kneaders, please remedy that before the sun sets today. Cracker's uses day-old cinnamon rolls to make their bread pudding, so I followed their lead. I paid a visit to the bread store on Val Vista and Southern and bought up all their day-old cinnamon rolls (50% off). Then I reduced the sugar in the recipe to even it out. (Original recipe called for 3 1/2 C. sugar. What?!?!)

Blackberry Bread Pudding

6 large day-old cinnamon rolls
1 quart heavy cream
1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
5 C. blackberries (or raspberries)

In large bowl combine cream, sugar, egg and vanilla. Cut cinnamon rolls into 1" cubes and add to cream mixture, coating well. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to allow cream to absorb completely. Layer a 9x13 baking dish 3/4 full with cinnamon roll mixture, add fruit over the top, finish with remaining rolls. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm, with ice cream and/or sweetened whipped cream (we had both). :)
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Green Beans with Almonds and Parsley

This is a Sarah Molten (Food Network) recipe, that I have loved and used many times. I love the cooking method- so interesting to one such as myself who finds those kinds of things fascinating. Delish.

Green Beans with Almonds and Parsley

1/4 C. slivered almonds
1 lb. green beans, washed and ends trimmed
1/3 c. water
2 tsp. butter, plus 2 more tsp.
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
gresh ground black pepper

Heat a pot with lid over medium low heat. Add almonds and toast, stirring til golden brown and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. In the same pot add green beans, 1/3 cup water, 2 tsp butter, and salt and cover with lid. Increase heat to med-high, and steam for about 5 minutes until beans are bright green and just tender. Remove lid and continue to cook until water evaporates and beans start to saute, 2 minutes longer. Turn off heat, stir in toasted almonds, lemon zest, parsley, remaining 2 tsp. butter, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
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April 12 Menus

My menu is hardly worth sharing this week, but I'm going for consistency.

Sun- (OK, Sunday's dinner IS worth sharing.) Glazed ham, Mom's cheesy potatoes, an amazing salad by Maren, cream biscuits, Mom's homemade blackberry jam, strawberries, cantaloupe, and I made green beans with almonds and parsley, and blackberry bread pudding. WHOA.

M- Double-decker tacos

T- pigs in a blanket, steamed carrots and corn on the cob

W- spaghetti, steamed zucchini and yellow squash

Th-Sat- on the road!

*Disclaimer: we have a couple extra kiddies with us this week. I planned very kid-friendly dinners to please all the little mouths, as we are outnumbered for a few days. And our 5-yr-old guest has expressed nervousness that I am going to make something yucky... like green pizza! :)

Spiced Pecans

I've tried a few different methods of candying nuts, and this is my fave. It also happens to be the easiest. America's Test Kitchen hasn't failed me yet. These are great on their own, or awesome in a salad.

Spiced Pecans

2 T. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. allspice
2 C. pecan halves
2 T. sugar

Melt butter over medium-low in a non-stick skillet. Stir in salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Stir in pecans, and toast until color just starts to deepen, 6-8 minutes. Toss in a bowl with sugar and spread on a plate to cool.

The salad I like goes like this: romaine lettuce, sliced Bartlett pears, TJ's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and the spiced pecans. Give it a try- it's a great one.
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Biscuits (and Gravy)

Chris participated in a 75-mile bike race last weekend. He tells me that at the end of a long ride like that, he is ravenous and can't wait to chow down. I poured over recipes wondering what to make him upon his return, and decided upon homemade biscuits and gravy (with cottage cheese, strawberries and fresh pineapple on the side). I remember my cousin Allison telling me how easy these biscuits were to make, but I had never tried them until now. HOLY smokes, there are few things better than a hot, homemade, light crumbly biscuit. Recipe is from America's Test Kitchen. These come together in 5 minutes or less and are absolutely worth the time.

Cream Biscuits

2 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C. heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups cream and stir with a wooden spoon until dough forms, about 30 seconds. Trasnfer the dough to the countertop, leaving all dry, floury bits behind in the bowl. In 1 T. increments, add up to 1/4 C. cream to the dry bits in the bowl, mixing until moistened. Add these moistened bits to the rest of the dough and knead by hand just until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pat into a flat, 3/4 inch tall circle, and using a round drinking glass, cut out 8-10 biscuits and place on baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sausage Gravy

1 pound ground pork sausage
3 T. flour
3 C. milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spatula. Set sausage aside, leaving the drippings in the skillet (add a T. of butter if sausage didn't render enough fat). Reduce heat to medium, add flour to the drippings, and stir constantly until mixture just turns golden brown. Gradually whisk milk into skillet. When the mixture is smooth, thickened, and begins to bubble, return the sausage to skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

(Make sure you save the making and consuming of this meal for days when you burn 4000 calories on a 75-mile bike race. Fair warning.)
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Fling Giveaway

How would you like to be found creating culinary masterpieces in your kitchen wearing this hot number? Leave a comment to enter, and a winner will be chosen on Tuesday, April 14.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

They LOVED it.

The pickle Jell-O was a hit. :) I heard a few giggles and whispers from the girls but when any of them realized what it was, they didn't spoil it for the whole crowd. It was one of the dads that blurted out, halfway through the meal (in a most disgusted voice), "Is this PICKLE JELL-O!?!?". Great fun.

My menu for this week does not include pickles in any form.

Sun- Almond chicken, Parisian salad, roasted gold potatoes, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies AND chocolate chip cookie bars (I had two of each)
M- Grilled chicken, wild rice, and glazed carrots
T- Hawaiian pizza
W- BBQ chicken salad
Th- tostadas
F- family reunion (steak, potatoes, rolls and salads)
Sat- We shall see...
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pickle Jell-O

In my book, pickles are up there right after onions on the list of revolting foods. That is why I chose pickle juice to flavor the Jell-O that will be served alongside our YW dinner tonight. Can't wait!! (...To see their reactions.)

Pickle Jell-O

2 packets unflavored Knox gelatin
1 C. cold pickle juice
1 C. pickle juice and 2 C. water, heated to boiling
2 T. vinegar
green liquid food coloring

Sprinkle gelatin over cold pickle juice in large bowl. Let stand one minute. Add hot water/juice and stir til gelatin completely dissolves, about 3 minutes. Stir in vinegar and a few drops of green coloring til evenly incorporated. Pour into 9x13 glass pan. Refrigerate til set, about 4 hours. Your fridge will smell like a pickle factory.
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