Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stuffed Peppers.....the perfect side dish.

It's so cold outside! I love this kind of weather, it makes cooking just that much more pleasurable!
So most of you know that cooking is what I LOVE to do...the sad thing about cooking in my house is that nobody wants to join in on the fun, so what I do is pop a movie into my laptop, pour a glass of wine, and just start cooking! ( I guess I need the background noise)
Pepper stuffing in the making

1/2'd peppers, salt and peppered with a drizzle of olive oil

Stuffed and ready for the oven

London Broil, salt, pepper, olive oil, and high heat= nice grill marks, finished off in the oven x 10 minutes = perfection!

I am a frugal chef, so I purchased a piece of London Broil, added a little salt & pepper, and olive oil, and it was ready for the skillet.
I buy most of my produce from the local Mexican Market, so I had a lot of red and yellow peppers that were just dying to be that's what I did!

Stuffed Bell Peppers:
Slice the peppers in half, remove seeds and membranes, add salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil to peppers and roast in a 375' oven for 10 minutes. Remove, set aside.

For the Stuffing:
One large leek, washed, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cups fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
Mozzarella cheese, grated
salt and pepper
1 cup roasted tomatoes (quarter @ 10 Roma tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil, add fresh herbs, and bake @ 375' for 30 minutes)
Saute' leeks in the butter and olive oil until tender, about 7 minutes. Add fresh spinach, saute' another 5 minutes, add cooked brown rice, and mozzarella cheese, stir to incorporate. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff each pepper, bake at 375' for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

London Broil:
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add to heated grill pan. Sear on both sides, place pan in oven at 375'  for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil, let meat rest for 15-20 minutes, slice against the grain and serve with stuffed peppers.

Don't forget the Pinot Noir!

Monday, December 27, 2010


I can't believe how many people have been talking about chocolate covered bacon, and bacon with EVERYTHING.....The price of a store bought piece of  chocolate covered bacon is outrageous, so I decided to make it myself......I suggest you do the same, or if you are pressed for time, I will make it for you!
One day prior notice is all I need.

Crispy bacon

Melt chocolate in a bowl over boiling water

I found that brushing the chocolate onto the bacon worked best, then refrigerate.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Baking: It's not as bad as I thought !

I have always HATED baking! I mean, I really, really did not like to bake........

About 5 yrs ago, I mentioned this to one of the chefs I worked with at Google. He thought this would be a good time to have me bake a (very large) cake for an important event. I was so nervous, I couldn't conceive the idea of performing such a task. This is when I met Miss Shanon, the pastry chef at Google at that time. Let me tell you about Shanon, talk about "Sunshine" that's her! Always happy, and smiling, kind, and patient, and best of all non-judge mental (lucky for me.) She helped me the entire time with that cake, all the while she was baking cookies, and breads for hundreds of hungry Googlers, she was so at ease the whole day.
Although I didn't take to baking right away, she instilled a confidence in me I never knew was there. She removed the fear I had, and replaced it with "you can do it." And I did just that; but not right away.

Moving on to present time:
I recently met  Miss Becky (through Shanon of course!) Becky and I literally had an "instant connection" like nothing I have ever had. She is bright and cheery and full of energy with such wonderful, inspirational ideas. She is a natural when it comes to baking.
So because of Shanon, and Becky, I have gained not only the confidence, but the excitement to bake! Shanon took the fear out of baking, and Becky ignited the desire within me to bake, that I didn't know existed. How did I become so fortunate to have these two wonderful ladies in my life? This, I don't know. What I do know is that because of them, I no longer fear baking, and I am now passionate, excited, and proud to bake. 
The good news: I have created a "platano bread" (recipe to follow) which tastes similar to banana bread.
The bad news: I don't have a photo because each time I bake one, it's gone before I can take pictures! (Which is also good news)  :)
 Update: photos added.

Carolyn's Platano (Plantain) Bread:
2-3 black plantains (over ripe)
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 lg eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon (Kosher) salt / use less if you use table salt
10 tablespoons (room temp) butter

Cream together the plantains, sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, add the butter. Mix together with your hands until the butter is well incorporated. Add flour/butter mixture to the wet ingredients 1/3 at a time until just blended.

Pour the batter into a buttered loaf pan and bake at 350' for 1 hour and 20 min.

Tip: After the first 35 min. of baking, I cover the top with foil, and continue baking. After 1 hour and 15 min, if an inserted knife comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake another 5 min. You might have to do this a couple of times.
Serve warm, (although none of the platano breads I have made, have made it to "warm" yet!)  ;)

Thank you Shanon and Becky!

I prefer to use a sieve to sift my dry ingredients

Use your hands to blend the room temp butter with the dry ingredients

Cream together the sugar, platano (or bananas,) vanilla, and sour cream

Add the flour-butter mixture 1/3 at a time

Mix just until blended

Remember to butter bottom and sides of loaf pan

I wish you could smell this bread!

Once again, it didn't last long. I should have taken a picture of  the kids behind me!
Be sure and let me know when you try this recipe!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Day ~ No "traditions" just lots of food, family, and football!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I get so excited for Thanksgiving! I love writing the menu, the shopping list, and the prep list. I love looking through old recipes, just as much as I love looking through my latest cooking magazine for new ideas.  This year I found a couple of old, fun recipes. One is a caramelized onion dip, which goes very well with chips and /or veggies. The other one is Parmesan cheese & scallion pastry rounds,  Yummmm! 

Thanksgiving is about being thankful, and sharing a meal with loved ones.
I am very happy that my daughter's (Cristina) boyfriend, Mario will be joining us for Thanksgiving this year. Mario is from Peru, so I am adding aji amarillo to our table which is a common condiment in Peru.  

What am I thankful for? My kids. I have the best kids a mom could ever hope to have.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!

Here are some pictures from last years Thanksgiving feast. 

Roasted Turkey, stuffed with fresh herbs, citrus, onions and garlic.
 Herb rub under the skin,  as well as
 all over the bird.

My great grandma's red hot apples

Baked acorn squash, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little brown sugar. Olive oil drizzled  on top.

The works!

My grandma's broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole.

Cranberry sauce, one of my favorite dishes to make.

Simple, yet tasty......cheese, crackers, fresh and dried fruit platter

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Perfect Day ~

The perfect day for me:

It's bright and early on a Saturday morning. I wake up my 16 yr old daughter Kitty, and off we go to begin our day. Our first stop is Peet's coffee. I order my usual, "medium coffee in a large cup," Kitty orders her drink of choice, and we head to the Farmers's Market in the city.
My heart starts to pound as we get closer to the market. The sights, the sounds, the smells....where do we begin? We start off perusing the front, then make our way to the bread store. I do believe there's nothing better than having a 'fresh from the oven' cheese pastry. We wander through the building making our way to where I believe is the best part of the market....the back. The hustle and bustle of the people, the music, and the samples! (This is the only place I taste samples.) The sweetest  pears, the fresh tomatoes, herbs for days!
We pick and choose carefully, all the while my mind is spinning with excitement as the ideas of what we will prepare for dinner fill my head.
Once we get home, I put on some music, open a bottle of wine, and start cooking!
 Bon Appetit!

Roasted beet salad, with mandarin oranges, and Spring Mix, tossed  in homemade raspberry vinaigrette.
The bread, the sausage, and the sauerkraut-oh my! This was such a wonderful end to a fabulous day!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Sweet Potato Mash...Quick, Easy, and Healthy too!

Thanksgiving is fast approaching us (17 days from this post) and I am already getting requests for recipes. This one is for Courtney:

Sweet Potato Mash

Sweet Potato 2 lg
Veg or Chicken stock 1/2 - 3/4 cup
Juice and zest of one lemon
Honey or Agave 1-2 teaspoons
Freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon
s/p to taste

Add cubed, (peeled) sweet potatoes to boiling salted, water. Boil until fork tender. Drain well and return to pot. Add the remaining ingredients and mash, adding more stock if needed.
Taste/adjust seasoning as needed.
For added flavor, add your favorite herb , finely chopped and folded into mashed sweet potatoes.
Serve warm.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Quesadilla" It's not what you think...

I married into a Latin family. I love their food, and over the years I have learned how to make most of the common dishes native to Nicaragua. I learned by watching my husband's grandma cook. She didn't speak English, and I didn't speak Spanish, so I would take my pad of paper and pen to the kitchen and write down her every move. I would then go home and practice until I got it right. Luckily my husband was a willing participant, and tasted as I completed each step, telling me what it needed or didn't need.
One of the things I have "perfected" is "quesadilla." it's not a quesadilla as you know it, it's a combination between a bread and a cake, sweet and savory. I have modified it a little, and in my opinion, improved it.  (IF I do say so myself!)
Every time we go to a family gathering, they ask me to bring my quesadilla. No problem! It's super simple to make.....the "problem" is, they like it too much!
For example: Yesterday I made two 9"x13" pans of quesadilla for a family gathering. My quesadilla's never had a chance to cool off! I took them out of the oven, turned around, and found everyone gathered back at the table waiting for a piece. I served them piping hot from the oven. Two pans GONE in a matter of minutes!
Next thing I know, I am being asked to make 2 I did.  :)

On a side note: Quesadilla originated from El Salvador, but is common throughout Central America.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Who'd a thought it would be a hit?

Pork Chop Sandwiches........
Besides having defrosted pork chops, I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner last night. I rummaged through the fridge and pulled out ingredients for what I thought might make a good sauce for the pork chops. (Tomatillos, onion, garlic, cilantro, and a little leftover habanero salsa.) I threw it all into my food processor, and voila, the sauce was done!
Now, what the heck was I going to serve it with? I was out of rice, out of potatoes, out of pasta......oh wait! There are some leftover hamburger buns! Sweet!
 I toasted the buns, sauteed the pork chops, topped them with the tomatillo sauce, and called it a "Pork Chop Sandwich."
For a side dish I had one of those "ready made" broccoli coleslaws, so I just added a sesame-orange vinaigrette and called it DONE!
Who'd a thought it would be a hit?
Not me!..........But it was!  :)