Sunday, December 12

a few catch-up recipes

So I haven't been doing the best job at keeping up with An Edible Mashup. No excuses -- but I've been doing lots of cooking the past week (the boss was in town) and I want to share with you a select few recipes that I really enjoyed creating. And eating, of course. In order: a smoky paprika glaze that's good on anything, sauteed black eyed peas and leeks, sweet potato gratin with chipotle puree and individually sized meat loaves.

My culinary class final is this Thursday and we're required to prepare two chicken dishes, one starch and a vegetable. I'll be preparing the below glaze for one of my chicken dishes and the Sweet Potato Gratin as my starch. You'll have to let me know if you think they are A+ worthy dishes. :) Enjoy! 

Smoky Paprika Glazed Chicken
I first used this recipe on shrimp and sausage skewers. This time, I brushed on chicken and grilled. Reserve some of the glaze to brush on after cooking. Use on your favorite protein or veggie.
3/4 c. EVOO
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
5 tsp. smoked paprika
4 tsp. sherry wine vinegar (if you don't have, substitute red wine vinegar)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Whisk oil, garlic, thyme, paprika, sherry wine vinegar, S&P and red pepper in medium bowl to blend for glaze.

Black-Eyed Peas & Leeks
I came across this gem on another food blog, and it's fabulous. Very simple to make. If using dried herbs, I'd start with a little less and adjust at the end if necessary.

1 tbsp. EVOO
3+ tbsp. unsalted butter
4 leeks, trimmed of dark green parts, quartered lengthwise, then 1/2" slices
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas (you can start with dried or buy them canned)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram
1-2 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
Fine grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat EVOO over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the butter in large skillet. When hot, add leeks and a couple big pinches of salt. Cook gently, stirring regularly until leeks are nice and golden. Add drained beans to skillet. Cook until heated through, stir in marjoram, tarragon, more salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Gratin
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4" thick rounds
2 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp. chipotle puree
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1/2+ cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for layers
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more for layers

Preheat oven to 475F. Whisk heavy cream, chipotle puree, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Divide potato rounds into 4 parts. In square baking dish, arrange potatoes one layer at a time so that each round overlaps the next slightly. Sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper and pour 1/4 of the heavy cream mixture on top. After pouring heavy cream mixture on top layer, cover gratin with parmesan and bake until potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Mini Meat Loaves
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup dry plain bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan
4 tbsp. ketchup
1/2 pound each of veal, chuck, pork


Preheat oven to 350F. Heat EVOO in medium saute pan. Add onions, thyme, salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Off the heat, add Worcestershire sauce, stock and tomato paste. Allow to cool slightly. In large bowl, combine meat, eggs, bread crumbs, parm, onion mixture, and lightly mix with your hands. Divide the mixture into 4 and shape into mini loaves (about 6 to 8 ounces each) on a sheet pan. Spread 1 tbsp of ketchup onto each loaf. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until cooked through.

Sunday, November 21

food I can't live without: A Culinary Ode to Lancaster

Having lived in Las Vegas for more than 3 years now (yikes!), it gives me a different perspective on growing up in Lancaster County. I remember the first time I went back home to visit after living across the country for 6 months. My appreciation for pine trees, open fields and back country roads had never been stronger. Not to mention the food. While I am also very appreciative of the opportunities Vegas has provided me and the friendships I've created, this "city" can feel very cookie cutter-ish. (Cue theme song from Weeds.)

Last weekend I went back East for a last-minute visit to see my parents. For as many people who come to Vegas to get away, for me it felt like a vacation to get outta here even if for only a few days. When in PA there are certain foods I must eat in order to get my Lancaster foodie fix. Foods you can't get anywhere else that hold a special place in my stomach of a heart. So, in addition to my love of that fresh-smellin' country air, the following is a mixture of food I just can't live without.

1. Central Market in downtown Lancaster -- I know technically this isn't one food item in particular, but collectively this place houses tons of delicious food I absolutely love. It would be almost impossible for me to be in Lanc and not wander through market at least once.

2. Let's hear it for whoopie pies! Considered a Pennsylvania Amish tradition, I've been eating these pies since I was little. My taste buds would ordinarily choose salty edibles over sweet, but nothing beats a homemade whoopie pie. Pictured left, a chocolate whoopie pie with peanut butter frosting (my fave) and a pumpkin whoopie pie with cream cheese frosting. Hats (or should I say bonnets) off to the Amish, who in general know what's up when it comes to delicious, farm-fresh food.

 3. Turkey Hill ice cream, iced tea, etc. An original a la Lancaster County, Turkey Hill is something you don't quite appreciate the culinary value of until it's no longer a car ride away. Their ice cream is creamy, smooth and well worth the calories. This particular photo features a pint sized container of Turkey Hill ice cream stuffed with Tastykake Chocolate Cupcake (also born in PA). Chocolate ice cream with chunks of chocolate cupcake! No, this is not a joke folks. Apparently it is also half the fat or calories or something and let me just say, it's a revelation. Bravo.

 4. Grandma Utz's Handcooked Potato Chips. OK, so deep down, I am really a fat girl at heart...and this is my absolute number one go-to snacky when I can get my hands on a bag. I l-o-v-e potato chips. Like a fat kid loves cake, I heart Grandma Utz Potato Chips. I'm sure most of you are familiar with regular Utz potato chips, but these my friend... are a very special breed born in Hanover, PA. They are super salty, kettle-like potato chips cooked in the best kind of fat -- lard. And boy are they worth the heartburn one might experience after devouring a bag... I mean, a handful.

5. Pennsylvania Dutch food in general -- Lebanon Bologna and Egg Nog are pictured here... other favorites include (but aren't limited to) red beet eggs, apple butter, chicken pot pie (the kind with homemade noodles) and pretzels.

6. Downtown Lanc is home to some really good, locally owned restaurants and bars. A handful of which I insist upon eating at when back home. Alley Cat Pizza is greasy, thin and full of flavor. Order with extra cheese and pepperoni and you'll be one happy camper. Their tasty blend of cheeses and the way the crust and pepperoni edges crisp up is what makes it for me. Other restaurants/bars I love... Character's, The Belvedere Inn (try the caesar salad, it's grilled and one of the best I've ever had), Annie Bailey's, Rachel's Creperie, Carr's... the list continues.

Thanks, Lancaster. See you at Christmas.

Monday, November 8

Chicken Pot Pie on the Go

So after a week of summery 85 degree weather, it was finally chilly enough for some layers today! It was windy and cold (well, for Vegas) while walking to my car which got me in the mood for warm, feel good comfort food to end my Monday. This recipe is a take on one I'd found online some time ago courtesy Miss Paula Deen, but I of course spruced it up with fresh veggies and created a healthier version than the original (i.e. omitting a stick of butter).

Chicken pot pie is like delicious, homemade meatloaf -- for me, it brings about that warm fuzzy food feeling I love so much. This recipe doesn't call for homemade dough and I bought a whole roasted chicken from the grocery store which makes it very time and kitchen friendly. The ingredients are simple, and from prep to cooking should only take you about an hour. It is a fabulous (and delicious) take on "homemade" chicken pot pie. I baked mine in a 2 quart casserole dish, but for a more elegant touch you could absolutely divide the mixture up into individual ramekins and serve, probably about 6 servings. Feel free to add whatever veggies you like, I've added potatoes in the past as well as corn and winter squash.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup frozen peas
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups instant biscuit mix
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 can condensed cream of chicken (I used the 99% fat free version)
1 cup chicken broth or stock

Preheat oven to 350F. In saute pan, heat one tablespoon of EVOO. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic and fresh thyme and saute until almost tender, about 3-5 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together cream of chicken, broth/stock, pepper, salt, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Add in veggie mixture along with peas and chicken, stir to combine. Transfer to greased casserole dish. In separate bowl, whisk biscuit mix and milk until smooth. Pour evenly over pot pie filling and bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Note: With 10 minutes left, brush top with EVOO and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. This will help with the browning. Let set about 10-15 minutes after removing from the oven. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3

A Halloween Wedding

A pair of our most favorite people sealed the deal this weekend. They had a costume wedding on Halloween and it was one of the best weddings we've been to in a long time. In lieu of a traditional dinner, they opted for more of a pot luck. Everyone was asked to bring a dish that served 6-8 people, preferably finger foods and appetizers. Of course, I was thrilled! Sharing food with friends brings me much joy. I do my best to be present, or in the moment so to speak, when I'm creating food (despite kitchen mode, ahem) and try to actively put love into what I serve.

Boyfriend was an inspiration in the following foodie creation. He is a super fan of a cannellini bean and kale side dish that I make and his suggestion was that I bring it to the wedding. Since there would be no easy way to keep the dish warm (we didn't have access a stove, microwave, etc. at the reception) I didn't love the idea, but after giving it some thought I came up with one of my first original recipes... a kale and cannellini bean crostini! I did a practice run on Friday before the wedding and alas, it was a success. I actually ended up making this dish two ways, raw and cooked. The first time, I cooked the cannellini bean and kale mixture as I usually do and then pureed it. It was delish. The second time, I combined all ingredients and decided to serve it raw. Also delish! There were a few reasons I went with raw. First, kale is considered a "superfood." And green superfoods in particular have the highest concentrations of easily digestible nutrients, fat burning compounds, and vitamins and minerals to protect and heal the body. (If you aren't familiar with this term and are interested in what superfoods are and how they can impact your own health, click here to read more.) For those of you who don't eat loads of kale, it has a very earthy, strong flavor when served raw. Many people prefer to eat it similar to how they would collard greens. Of course when you cook it, as with any vegetables, you lose some of those essential nutrients. So, with the following recipe, feel free to try it based on your own preference. If you've never tried raw kale I encourage you to give it a shot. The kale in this recipe isn't overpowering due to the other ingredients which helps mask the kale to create a more subtle flavor. If it still tastes too strong, try adding more parm. I do top the crostini with chopped tomatoes and add a whole roasted garlic bulb into the puree for added sweetness.

Cannellini Bean & Kale Crostini with Roasted Garlic
1 bunch kale, rinsed thoroughly with tough stems removed and roughly chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (or more as needed)
1 lemon, juiced
1 roasted bulb of garlic
1/3 cup EVOO
1-2 baguettes, sliced on an angle
1 tomato, chopped and drizzled with EVOO, S&P

Preheat oven to 400F. 
To roast garlic, cut in half horizontally, drizzle with EVOO, S&P and wrap in foil. Roast for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on bulb size. After garlic is done roasting, lower heat to 375F. Place baguette slices on cookie sheet, drizzle with EVOO, S&P and bake until toasted and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. For puree, combine kale, beans, red pepper flakes, pepper, salt, parm, lemon juice and garlic cloves into food processor. Pulse until just smooth. Slowly, steam in EVOO until you reach desired thickness. Season to taste.

To assemble, scoop heaping tablespoon of puree onto each baguette slice and top with chopped tomatoes. Enjoy!

Friday, October 29

Beef: It's What's for Dinner

Tonight's class was all about beef. Our team was responsible for a delicious dish which I can't wait to make again and wanted to share with you -- Coffee Rubbed Filet of Beef. It was served over grits with bitter greens and drizzled with a pasilla chili sauce. YUM! I've had coffee rubbed beef in the past, but being able to make it from scratch (especially when you don't have to shell out the bucks for the tenderloin) was awesome. It would be a great dish to serve if you're having a dinner party. A beautifully cooked filet of beef makes for an elegant dish, but serving it atop hearty grits with greens takes it to the next level as an ultimate feel good meal. If you're feeling beefy, picture and recipe are below for your reference.

A few other dishes our class prepared... homestyle meatloaf, stroganoff, fajitas and swiss steak. Most turned out fairly well, although the meatloaf ended up as more of a crumble than a loaf. And not the good kind of crumble. After it came out of the oven black and crispy (pictured right) Chef John did his best to salvage the remnants on the team's behalf and it was actually he who coined it as a crumble. I am however, responsible for including this crumbly meatloaf on my blog. Sorry team 3, I just couldn't help myself.

Coffee Rubbed Filet of Beef with Grits & Pasilla Chili Sauce
Yield: 6 servings
Beef Tenderloin:
1 beef tenderloin (Chateaubriand cut) cleaned and tips removed
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp coffee beans, ground very fine
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon powder

Pasilla Chili Sauce:
1 tbsp butter
8 oz white onion, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 pasilla chili pepper, stemmed & seeded & chopped into large pieces
3/4 oz white corn tortilla, shredded
20 oz chicken stock
2 oz heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp brown sugar
*we added red pepper flakes to this recipe

Creamy Grits with Bitter Greens:
4 cups water
8 oz instant grits
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more if needed
6 oz yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp butter
4 oz arugula, roughly chopped
*we added freshly grated parm to this recipe, cheddar would also be great

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Tie filet with twine at 1" intervals. Rub filet with S&P; then rub with oil.
3. Combine coffee, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Spread mixture onto your work surface and roll filet to coat evenly. Allow beef to marinate approximately 30 minutes.
4. While meat is marinating, prepare pasilla chili sauce. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, saute onions and garlic until browned. Add pasilla, tortilla and continue sauteing until golden brown.
5. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover loosely and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Puree sauce in a blender until smooth and strain. Add cream, salt and brown sugar; stir to combine. (hold until ready to serve)
6. Place filet on a rack in roasting pan. Roast filet at 400F for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 250F and cook until desired doneness, approximately 20-25 minutes for medium rare. Remove from oven, remove twine and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
7. While meat is resting, prepare grits. Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Add salt and stir in grits. Follow instructs on the box, instant grits usually cook in about 5 minutes. In separate pan, saute onion and garlic in butter until onion is translucent. Add greens and saute until just wilted.
7. Add greens and cheese to grits. Season to taste with S&P.

To serve, spoon grits into the center of each plate. Ladle a portion of the pasilla sauce around the grits. Slice filet to desired thickness and serve fanned onto each plate. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24

Lots O' Pumpkin Seeds

Yesterday, a bunch of us got together to carve some pumpkins and of course, eat delicious food. I hadn't carved a pumpkin in years (and totally recommend it) but what are you to do with the seemingly millions of leftover seeds? I roasted our seeds three different ways, posted below for your viewing pleasure. Consensus says Spicy Chipotle was the winning flavor. Tip: To get all the muck off your seeds, fill kitchen sink with water (I couldn't find my stopper so I actually used a big bowl) and soak for about 15 minutes. The heavier stuff should sink to the bottom leaving the seeds at the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry overnight.

From bottom left: Spicy Chipotle, S&P, Old Bay
Spicy Chipotle
2 cups pumpkin seeds

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes

Old Bay
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Old Bay

Salt & Pepper
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt (plus more, if needed)
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

For all seeds, preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients and toss well until evenly coated. Roast in even layer on cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes, or until crisp to the bite and lightly browned. Enjoy!

And in case you were interested in how my pumpkin turned out... it's an owl. :)

Tuesday, October 19

mmm, cheese steaks.

My boyfriend was born in Philadelphia and like any well-respected Philadelphian, loves a good cheese steak. Thus, my initial inspiration for our lunch today came from the infamous Philly Cheese Steak and was cemented by the items I had on hand. I call it... a Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Baked Potato. First, I love stuffed baked potatoes! Besides being hearty and delicious, there are infinite versions of this dish you can make. I create them largely based on what I want to rid myself of in my fridge and pantry. You can use whatever you have laying around. Second, I love cheese/sauces (and cheesy sauces, duh) on top of my stuffed baked potatoes. Today, I whipped up a bechamel base cheese sauce and added cheese I already had, which happened to be mozzarella and sharp white cheddar. I also didn't have beef, but I did have leftover breakfast sausage (about 1/2 pound) and so I used that in place of the normal steak. Yum-O.

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Baked Potato
2 russet potatoes
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1/2 lb sausage (you could easily substitute beef or chicken)
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp red pepper flakes, divided
Pinch smoked paprika
2 pinches chili powder
Salt & cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash potatoes thoroughly, rub with vegetable oil, place on tray and bake for one hour. In the meantime, saute sausage (breaking up as it cooks) until just done. Add onion and green pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes and a pinch of chili powder. Saute until tender, 3-5 minutes. Set aside. With 10 minutes left on potatoes, start your cheese sauce. Warm milk in saucepan, but don't boil. In separate small saute pan, melt better and add flour to create roux. Cook roux until blond in color, about 3 minutes. Whisk into warm milk until combined and continue cooking over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, pinch smoked paprika, pinch chili powder. Turn heat to low and while whisking continuously, gradually add cheese until all is combined. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cut potato in half, cover with a heaping scoop of sausage mixture and top with cheese sauce. Enjoy!

P.S. Which one are you: Pat's or Geno's?

Wednesday, October 13

(One of) The Best Things I Ever Ate

This blog post is inspired by an unforgettable lunch I shared with friends at Jake's Ready-To-Eat in Palm Springs. It was one of the most delightful and refreshing meals I've ever had. Bold statement, I know but maybe you'll understand after I describe to you what I ordered (err, devoured)... a Seared Ahi Tuna Wrap with organic greens lightly tossed in a soy-sesame-sake vinaigrette and tomatoes rolled with wasabi aioli in a spinach wrap. The wrap was served alongside organic greens tossed with the same vinaigrette. It was ridic. From the delicately seared Ahi to the lightly dressed greens, this dish was jam packed with flavor. I was quite literally in taste bud heaven.

Photo Credit: LeighAnn Smith
I have to admit, I'm big on organic. Throw the word organic (or "locally grown") on any food product and I'm usually taking it home. I also have to admit that sometimes, even if food is organic (take potato chips, for example) it doesn't necessarily coincide with better tasting food. When available I tend to choose organic over non for meats and vegetables. I can honestly taste the difference when it comes to those items. Don't worry, I'm not climbing up on my soapbox. I'll save that for a later post.

Back to this amazing lunch... after we were done eating I very politely asked our waitress if she knew how the vinaigrette was made. Her response? "Let me go ask our Chef." She came back with the recipe written down. I was ecstatic. Chefs can often be secretive as to the exact measurements/ingredients in a dish. Thankfully this fantastic chef was willing to share the love...

Soy-Sake Vinaigrette
Recipe courtesy Jake's Ready-To-Eat in Palm Springs, CA
3 cups soy sauce
3 cups sake (any cheap, filtered sake is fine)
1 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup green onion, finely chopped
Handful sesame seeds (I used white)

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Let cool and refrigerate.

Wasabi Aioli
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, very finely chopped (you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon Wasabi powder

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients.

The reason I'm sharing this today is because, as with the chowder yesterday, I made this meal for lunch for my boss. The vinaigrette turned out perfectly! You only need a small amount when dressing the greens and in the wrap. If you're trying to watch salt content, you could easily substitute light soy sauce for the regular; might tone down the vinaigrette a bit. I substituted roasted chicken for the Ahi (he doesn't eat fish), added sliced orange bell peppers and shredded carrots (he doesn't eat tomatoes) and wrapped in a regular tortilla since I already had them on hand. Picture below for your viewing pleasure. Happy Wednesday!


Tuesday, October 12

Chowda Time

I love chowders. Clam, Manhattan clam, corn, lobster, crab... you get the point. And in my humble food opinion, you simply cannot make a delicious chowder without heavy cream. It's just not the same. This may not be a recipe you'd want to eat everyday if you're trying to maintain a girlish figure, but everyone's gotta indulge now and then. I simply love food too much not to. 

I love to take a recipe and really make it my own. I did this with the chowder by adding some extra veggies I had on hand in addition to one of my fave spices, Ancho Chili Powder. There are a few vegetables you'll almost always find in my fridge: celery, carrots, bell peppers (of all colors) and onions. For this chowder, which I actually made for lunch for my boss, I added the carrots, celery and bell pepper to make the chowder meatier and to feel slightly less guilty for all the dairy that was about to go down. Last fall, I made this chowder post-Thanksgiving and added shredded turkey to rid myself of some leftovers. Feel free to add whatever you have on hand. Shredded chicken, crab, lobster (again, the list goes on) would be delicious, and would create more of a one pot meal from the chowder.

Corn Chowder
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 orange, yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups canned vegetable stock or chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced (I used 4 Yukon Gold, my grocery store didn't have Idaho)
6 ears corn (you can substitute frozen corn, about 6 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon Ancho Chili Powder
1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish 

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, and thyme and cook until the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes, bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 -10 minutes, until the potatoes break down (this will help to thicken the soup and give it a good texture). Cut the corn kernels off the cob and add to the soup. Add Ancho Chili Powder, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the corn is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the parsley and cheddar. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a few more sprinkles of the cheddar and serve.

Sunday, October 10

Sunday: A Day of Cooking

When my boss is in town I get the chance to do tons of cooking. There are certain staples he cannot live without (i.e. BBQ chicken) but he pretty much gives me free reign of the kitchen and lets me do my thang. Today was one of those days. Though the temp outside was a summery 87 degrees, I was hungry for food that warms the belly... starting with homemade Butternut Squash Soup, I also prepared Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloins, Rosemary-Fleur de Sel Crusted Fingerling Potatoes, Charred Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta and Sage and for dessert, Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chips and Walnuts. All recipes and accompanied photos (with the exception of the soup) are listed below in case your stomach is rumblin'. :)

Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis
2 tbsp room temp butter
2 tbsp EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled & chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 pounds butternut squash; peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4" pieces (about 8 cups)
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In an 8-quart stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sage. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloins
Recipe courtesy Rachel Ray
4 pork tenderloins (about 4 lbs)
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp EVOO
8 cloves garlic, cracked
Steak seasoning blend or coarse salt and pepper
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 springs fresh thyme, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Place tenderloins on nonstick cookie sheet. Coat in balsamic vinegar, rubbing vinegar into meat. Drizzle with EVOO. Cut small slits into meat and disperse chunks of cracked garlic cloves into meat. Combine steak seasoning blend (or S&P) with rosemary and thyme and rub meat with blend. Roast for 20 minutes. Let meat rest, transfer to carving board, slice and serve.

Charred Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta & Sage
1 lb brussel sprouts, bottoms trimmed and cut in half
2 tbsp EVOO, enough to coat sprouts
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
1/4 lb pancetta, small dice
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Toss brussel sprouts in EVOO and season with S&P. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until charred and tender. Meanwhile, saute pancetta in pan until crispy; remove with slotted spoon and add sage leaves. Fry sage leaves for 1-2 minutes, remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Remove excess fat from pan. When sprouts are well-roasted, remove from oven and combine, in pan, with pancetta, sage leaves and 2 tbsp butter over medium heat until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Rosemary-Fleur de Sel Crusted Fingerling Potatoes
Cook's Note: I have a new obsession with Fleur de Sel, a hand-harvested French sea salt cold smoked with Chardonnay oak chips. Admittedly, I love salt in general but give this a try if you could use a different depth of flavor.
2 lbs fingerling potatoes, rinsed thoroughly and patted dry
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbsp Fleur de Sel, divided (substitute with kosher salt if you don't have Fleur de Sel on hand)
Fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Toss fingerling potatoes with EVOO, rosemary, 1 tbsp Fleur de Sel and lots of fresh cracked pepper. Roast in oven until tender and crispy, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with remaining tablespoon of Fleur de Sel.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chips & Walnuts 
Recipe adapted from
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla; mix well. Add flour mixture; combine until all ingredients are incorporated. Fold in dark chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks (or wax paper) to cool completely.

(In a voice resembling that of the great Julia Child): Bon Appetit!

Monday, October 4

It's fall, baby.

Living in Las Vegas, it takes a bit longer to feel the change of seasons. Today, I finally felt a nice autumn breeze and it inspired me to accompany my taste buds with a similar feeling. :) I adore fall vegetables like pumpkin, butternut squash and figs. I've seen Paula (Deen) and Rachel (Ray) make similar recipes on Food Network, but here's my version of a pumpkin-esque pasta dish.

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin, Sage & Sausage
For a richer variation, use pork sausage and add 1/2 cup heavy cream when adding sausage back in sauce. I had 1% milk on hand and added a few tablespoons for extra flavor. If you're watching calories, leave dairy out. If you like a thinner sauce, add more stock. I served this pasta with a side of roasted brussel sprouts, recipe and photo below.

1 lb turkey or chicken sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
4-6 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
1 cup chicken stock
1 (15 oz) canned pumpkin
1/2 lb whole wheat or whole grain penne
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated parm, plus more for garnish

Cook pasta until al dente and set aside. Saute sausage over med-high heat until browned and remove
from pan leaving a couple tablespoons of rendered fat. (If not enough, add some EVOO) Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and cook until tender. Add chicken stock, pumpkin, sage, salt, nutmeg and stir to combine. Add bay leaf and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in sausage and continue simmering until sauce is warmed through. Toss with penne and parm. Season to taste.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb brussel sprouts, bottoms trimmed and cut in half
2 tbsp EVOO
1/4 tsp garlic powder
S&P to taste
Freshly grated parm

Preheat oven to 500F degrees. Toss brussel sprouts with EVOO, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Roast until just tender and charred on the outside, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parm and bake until cheese is melted. Freshly squeezed lemon juice would also be a great addition, I just didn't have any on hand.

Saturday, October 2

Feelin' Saucy

Before I elaborate on this week's cooking class, I feel I should mention my boyfriend, Rich, is taking the class with me. He's a trooper. Let's just say being forced to share my kitchen space has been very... challenging thus far. Rich may or may not have a name for when I'm "in the zone" cooking. Kitchen mode is it? I'm certain he means it in the most flattering way possible. Speaking of me in the kitchen, here's a pic of me in full uniform in the midst of chopping a million vegetables 18 different ways.

Our mission in this week's class: prepare 4 of 5 mother sauces and 3 rouxs. Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole and Hollandaise (the 5th sauce we didn't prepare was tomato). Our instructor, Chef John, recommended we each be responsible for a sauce (you work in teams, 3 in our case) and go from there. I took the classic brown sauce, Espagnole. In the classroom we went through each recipe with a fine tooth comb, right down to answering questions like, "Chef John, what does season to taste mean?" (That is not a joke.) But when I walked into the kitchen a feeling of panic swept over me. I froze. Like when someone asks you what your favorite color is and you go totally blank... (as if that's an eat or be eaten kind of question) I felt just like that. I was supposed to make what? The espag-what?! For the first 15 minutes we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off. And let me just say, Chef John has the patience of a saint. It's incredible to me. For someone with very little patience and very real control issues, I take my chef's hat off to him.
After panic mode subsided, kitchen mode set in. We got the Bechamel, Veloute and Espagnole sauces going and the ancient smells of French classical cooking took over. Technically, cameras/photos/etc. are not allowed in the kitchen, but I was able to sneak a couple for your viewing pleasure.

Rich stirring his Chicken Veloute.
Our sauces, simmering.

Luckily, our team had enough time to prepare a Hollandaise. My very first time whipping one into fruition. If serving Hollandaise for more than 2 people... scratch that, if EVER serving this sauce, finish it in a blender. Though buttery and delicious, it's torturous to prepare. In turn, my first two recipes I want to share with you are the sauces I had the opportunity to make. If you have the time and you've never made an Espagnole or Hollandaise (or any of the other mother sauces for that matter) I'd recommend it. Can't beat homemade, that's for sure.
Espagnole (Yield: 1 Gal)
1 lb onions, small to medium dice
8 oz carrots, small to medium dice
8 oz celery, small to medium dice
16 oz brown roux (you can prepare before starting sauce & set aside)
6 qt brown stock
8 oz tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 parsley stems
In stockpot, bring brown stock to a simmer. In separate pot, saute mirepoix in butter until well browned. Add tomato puree and continue to brown until mixture caramelizes. Gradually stir in roux and brown stock (you can bring roux back to temperature by adding a couple ladles of stock first), stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and skim surface. Add the sachet and let simmer about 2 hours, until sauce has reduced to 1 gallon. Continue to skim as needed. Strain through a china cap lined with cheesecloth. Press on mirepoix to extract juices. Season to taste with S&P.

Hollandaise (Yield: 1 Qt)
2 lb clarified butter
4 peppercorns, crushed
6 fl oz white vinegar or white wine vinegar
4 fl oz cold water
12 egg yolks
2-4 tbsp lemon juice
salt and cayenne to taste
Melt butter and keep warm. In separate pot, add a couple inches of water and simmer lightly. Combine peppercorns and vinegar in saucepan and reduce until nearly dry. Remove from heat and add cold water. Pass the diluted reduction through a fine strainer into a stainless-steel bowl. Add egg yolks to bowl and beat well. Hold the bowl over a hot-water bath and continue to beat until the yolks are thick and creamy. Remove bowl from heat. Using a ladle, slowly and gradually beat in warm butter, drop by drop at first. When all butter is added, beat in lemon juice to taste and adjust with salt and cayenne appropriately.

Thursday, September 30

A Brief Introduction

Hello fellow food lovers! Welcome to my first-ever attempt at being an open "foodie" in this crazy blogosphere of a world. It seems so strange to be blogging about, well me, but I would love it if you read on until the end. First, I know there are many food blogs already in existence. There are a few foodies I like to get a taste of on a regular basis when I need a good laugh or want new, creative recipes I've yet to consider. How my particular blog will be different from the rest is yet to be told, but my intention is to create a place where I can share with you the food that is my life.

Professionally, I am a personal chef and assistant to a hedge fund owner slash poker player. This is not necessarily my job by trade. I graduated college (Hail to Pitt) in '07 with a biz major, moved to Las Vegas and worked in public relations until the summer of '09. Through various channels (a.k.a. my boyfriend is involved in the poker industry) I was able to meet my current employer (a story in itself) and thus began my culinary career. This opportunity was scary and awesome at the same time, a huge step outside of my comfort zone. To actually get paid for cooking? As a job?! Anything and everything to do with food has been a passion of mine for a long time, and with a little encouragement it just so happened I had the right conversation with the right person at the right time. For this, I am eternally grateful. I am not a classically trained chef. I just love food. I did however recently enroll in my first college-level cooking course and am loving it so far. I look forward to sharing my new found culinary experiences with you each week, so stay tuned.

Now, enough about me. This wouldn't be a proper food blog introduction if I didn't share one thing with you that is entirely food related, right? I absolutely love to cook (and eat, duh) breakfast. OK, so this part is about me too... eggs, eggs benedict, omelets, quiche, pancakes, hash browns, center-cut smoked bacon... you get the point. I'm still getting used to writing out recipes for the food I make because I tend to be quite sporadic in the kitchen, but here's at least a brief description of what you see pictured below, which I call a Southwestern Benedict.

Poached eggs atop homemade, toasted beer bread topped with melted, sharp cheddar cheese and a hearty scoop of spicy guacamole. Garnished with chopped cilantro and Sriracha. I think this dish represents me well. I love to eat/prepare food that looks as good as it tastes. And since most people eat with their eyes first, the attractiveness of a dish is just as important.

This is the first of many meals I hope to share with you. Though I don't necessarily adhere to this "rule" all the time, I believe everyone should start their day with a hearty (and sometimes indulgent) breakfast, so it seemed fitting to start my blog off with one of my fav breakfast treats. Hope I didn't bore ya too much. :) Until next time, eat on.