Monday, January 31, 2011

Poblano Dogs

How was everyone's weekend?  I hate the fact that it's Monday, but I guess we've got to get through Monday to get through the rest of the days of the week to get to the weekend! 

Blood Orange Vodka Martini won Friday's poll, so check back later on this week for a recipe!  It was mighty tasty!

I'm super excited because tomorrow we get to check out our venue and potentially book it!  I've decided to go with an "Asian" theme for the decor.  My sister is the super creative one, so I'm leaving most of the design up to her!  I trust her, so I'm sure she'll bang out something great.  And plus... less stress on my part, right?

Anyway, we had a super lazy weekend.  Saturday actually marked one year from when we got engaged!  I'm just amazed how fast time flies and I know I'm just extremely antsy to be a Mrs!  One step at a time though.

But let's get to the food, why don't we?!  These dogs are different from your average ketchup and mustard dog.  These have a little Latin flare to them, and I'm definitely lovin' it!  And hey, keep these in mind for your upcoming Superbowl parties, too!

Couldn't help it, I just needed a bite.

Adapted from Bon Appetit's recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into small strips
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 angus hot dogs
1/2 cup salsa verde
small handful cilantro, chopped
4 hot dogs buns 
shredded Pepperjack cheese
crumbled Cotija cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet under medium high heat.  Add poblano peppers and onions.  Cook until the peppers start to soften, about 10 minutes or so.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In same skillet, add hot dogs and 1 cup of water.  Cover pan and cook dogs for about 5 minutes, or until heated through.

Turn oven broiler to high and move rack to middle position. (If you've got an in-oven broiler, that is.  If you've got the average below the oven broiler, this is not necessary).

In a small bowl, mix cilantro and salsa verde until combined. 

Place hot dogs in buns and sprinkle pepperjack cheese on top.  Place each hot dog on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted and slightly golden, about 2-3 minutes.

Top hot dogs with pepper and onion mixture, cotija cheese, and salsa verde.

These were quick and easy, just my kind of lazy meal.  And different enough to make you think that a hot dog can be somewhat classy.  If you've got kids, this is a good way to introduce them to new and interesting flavors, and if you've got no kids, not to worry... we don't and we loved them!  Definitely thinking about coming up with a mini version to serve at our Superbowl party (where we'll be cheering for neither team, of course).  Have a great Monday guys!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Balsamic Glazed Skirt Steak

I'll say it now and I'll say it forever... TGIF!  I've only got to work until 8:30 tonight and I've got the weekend off, so all is well in the world!  It's definitely been one of those, "I need a drink" kind of weeks.  So that is why this week's poll is a mixed drink one!  Especially after gorging myself on desserts from yesterday's Dessert's First, I need a break from the sweets!  And don't worry, for those of you who don't drink alcohol, I'll be making a "virgin" version of whatever wins, as well!  So it's win-win for us all!

And now to this steak.  Seriously, best. steak. ever.  I'm not even joking.  I mean, look at it... don't you carnivores out there just want to reach through your screen and have a bite?  Simple steak and vegetables are all a girl needs to get her through the week.  Well, this week, anyway. =)

Adapted from Blissfully Delicious's recipe

1 lb. skirt steak (I love it because it's cheap and a little goes a long way!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 & 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake

To make marinade, melt butter in a medium saucepan under medium high heat.  Add shallots and garlic and saute until they soften, about 3 to 5 minutes or so.  

Add balsamic vinegar to saucepan and bring to a slow boil.  When at a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let reduce for about 15 minutes.  The sauce will be slightly thickened.  Add sugar, chicken stock, soy sauce, and sake.  Bring to another boil.

Let mixture cool to room temperature and reserve a 1/4 cup of the liquid for finished steak.

Place skirt steak into large glass baking dish and cover with remaining marinade liquid.  Cover dish with plastic wrap and let marinate in the fridge for about 2 hours.  Also place the reserved marinade in the fridge while the meat is marinating.

Prior to cooking steak, drain marinade and pat steak dry.  Cut skirt steak into desired size.

Heat large skillet under medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  When oil is shimmering, add 2 steaks at a time and cook to your liking (I had a nice medium rare, at about 4-5 minutes per side).  Let steaks rest on cutting board for about 5-7 minutes before slicing against the grain.  While the steak is resting, you can heat up the reserved marinade.  Just bring to a simmer until mixture is heated through.

Serve with a bed of fresh vegetables (we had some zucchini and carrots that really made the dish quite colorful!) and top with reserved marinade (that you didn't marinate the meat in).

 Seriously.  Best. Dinner. In. A. While.  This made me mouth rejoice because it was just perfect and simple.  The balsamic really let the meat flavor shine and added the perfect touch.  I'm drooling as I'm typing this because I want it again!  Good thing I have the other half of that skirt steak still in the freezer!  Don't forget to vote in the poll below!!  Have a great weekend guys!

Can you tell I might want a Toddy??

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Desserts First!

Today was really fun!  My sister and I got to go to the Louisville Marriott Downtown and check out the Desserts First event!

All proceeds go to the Kentuckiana Girl Scouts.  About 20 or so local Louisville restaurants and bakeries participated in an event that let the chefs be creative with the ever popular Girl Scout cookies!  Check out all the good eats!

Samoa Cheesecake

Salted Caramel Goodness from Sweet Surrender (favorite bakery in town, hands down!)
Make Your Own Sundae from Proof On Main (I had a Vanilla Gelato with Do-Si-Does and a Mixed Berry Sauce)
Tower of cupcakes from Adrienne's Bakery
White chocolate dipped Samoa with a zabaglione filling - to. die. for.
Lemon Grass Chicken Skewer from Blu Mediterranean Grill

The best, most untraditional bourbon ball that I've ever had - Browning's

Chili thickened with Do-Si-Does - JCC Culinary School
PB&J - Varanese
Strawberry Milkshake - Bluebell Creamery
Thin Mint Torte - this sucker was RICH

 There was definitely more, but we couldn't stuff our faces with everything!  And we could even buy to-go boxes for $5 before the event was over (so guess who is the best fiance in the world, and brought her beau a to-go box home... yep.  I think I'm owed a back rub or something, hehe)

 So who knew Girl Scout cookies could be so decadent!  I definitely want to snag some boxes and experiment!  Have a great Thursday guys!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spelt Flour Bread

Happy Wednesday guys!  It's the middle of the week and I'm just counting down the weekend! 

I've got a bookclub meeting tonight with the girls to discuss this month's book - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.  And honestly... I wasn't a fan.  I know Pride & Prejudice is a classic, but I just couldn't bring myself to be interested.  The other books we've read (The Help, Running with Scissors, Water for Elephants) all had me wanting to read more and more and not put the book down.  But this just had me yawning and not very interested.  Oh well... to each their own.  Have any of you ever read Pride & Prejudice?  Or this Zombie-infused version?  What did you think?

I'll tell you what is interesting to me though.  Spelt.  And spelt flour.  Perusing the Whole Foods bulk bins a couple weekends ago, I came across this little gem of a flour.  I'd honestly never heard of it before, and well, for $2.49/lb., I thought it was reasonable enough to experiment with.  So I took to the good old Internet and of course found a no-knead bread recipe to try!  The results were more than satisfying! And in case you wanted to know (as if I'm not going to tell you regardless), spelt is similar to wheat in it's appearance, but is a little bit nuttier and sweeter in flavor.  It's also higher in protein than wheat, so if you're trying to increase proteins, spelt is the way to go!  So if you're looking for something different, but not too different (really only some subtle, but delicious differences)... give it a go!

Adapted from Prairie Table's Recipe
With only 4 ingredients, how can you go wrong?

3 cups white spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 & 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt and water.  Stir until combined.  The dough will be quite sticky, but that's okay.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for at least 10-12 hours (This is ideal for doing the night before, or in the morning before work).  

On a floured work surface, dust dough with flour and gently flatten into a rough square/rectangle.  Fold dough into thirds.  Gently flatten one more time, and fold into thirds one more time before shaping dough into a ball.  Place dough, seam side down, in a clean, lightly floured bowl.  Dust dough ball with flour and cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Leave in a warm, dry place to rise for about 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

At least 30 minutes before the end of this rise, preheat oven to 500 F.

Place a baking sheet on the center rack and another baking sheet on the bottom rack (this will help absorb some of the heat).  When dough is finished rising, carefully turn it out onto the hot baking sheet, seam side up.  It won't look too pretty, but seriously, it gives it some rustic beauty when it's all done.  Who wants an absolutely perfect shaped loaf anyway?  Not me.

Pour about a cup of water into the pan on the bottom rack and quickly close the oven door.  Turn the oven down to 450 F and bake loaf for about 45 minutes, or until crust is a deep golden brown.

Serve warm with some butter or jam, or you can make sandwiches, like we did!

 Seriously, this is probably my favorite loaf of bread I've made so far this year.  It's so good, that I made it 3 times!  In 1 week!  That good.  And I'm sure if you can't find spelt flour, regular all-purpose will do, but I highly suggest that if you get a chance to come across some spelt, you won't be sorry!  Enjoy your Wednesday guys!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Dog Is A Hoarder...

Yep... this is really how she likes it.
Have you guys seen that show Hoarders?  Andy and I were browsing Netflix the other day and the only thing that appealed to us was Hoarders.  We'd never seen it before, but had heard people talk about it plenty of times, so we decided to give it a go.  And now we're addicted.  And now we realize that our dog, Mocha, suffers from hoarding.

Seriously, we clean up the house, but all of her toys neatly into her little fire hydrant storage tub, and no sooner than the last toy ends up in the thing, they're all back out.  Scattered all over the living room.  On her dog bed.  Like she's holding them hostage.  And of course, she won't let you throw the toys away.  So yes, she's a dog hoarder.  But I guess we'll have to have an intervention soon enough.  Who knows, you may see her on the show soon enough.

All kidding aside, my brain is on Spanish overdrive right now.  I've got a quiz today and a test next week, but good thing this chapter is all about Food!  And guess how I'm studying?  I'm Google-Translating almost every blog post I read into Spanish!  Am I weird or what?  But hey, it works!  So I'm outta here to do some more studying before class... have a great Tuesday!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Herb-Braised Chicken Halves

What a weekend!  It seems that we'll be able to check out our potential wedding venue next Tuesday!  We're pretty sure this is THE one!  We had breakfast at Toast on Market, which happens to be right next door to the venue... so we just walked around it a bit, and you know, I just got that feeling.  That it was the right choice.  Am I crazy?  Or do I just have that wedding-planning bug?  Either way, the fact is... we're so close to settling on a date, a venue... which means that this wedding is sooooo gonna happen!  Not that I didn't think it was, but you know, the more that is set in stone, the more real it all feels!

And we committed to a photographer this weekend too!  It's my friend Adam who does some awesome work, and he's cutting us a great deal, so it was extremely hard to resist! 

So our tentative date is April 28th of next year, so hopefully we'll be able to book that date next Tuesday when we check out the whole place!  Cross your fingers!

I sound like an elated school child don't I?  I just can't help it!

Anyway, let's talk chicken.  A while back, Sommer, over at A Mama With Flavor, posted a recipe about how she cooked a chicken in a dutch oven.  I'm sure this is somewhat common, but to me, it was a totally new way of cooking chicken.  I was quite intrigued.  Especially since my favorite part of a chicken is the crispy skin!  This would have no crispy skin, but it would definitely render a tender and moist chicken, that rivals even the best of the crispy-skinned chickens that I've cooked!  So thanks for planting that seed in my head Sommer, because I finally took the plunge and cooked a chicken in the dutch oven, and I quite possibly may never go back to the regular roasting method again!


Didn't want to get all that chicken juice on my new cutting boards!

4 lb. whole chicken
salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup madeira wine 
3-4 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
5-8 sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle both sides with salt.  You can be somewhat generous, but don't overkill here.  Place chicken in glass bowl or dish and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours.

Take chicken out of refrigerator and wash off salt.  Pat dry.

In a large dutch oven (big enough to fit the whole bird and cover it) under medium high heat, add olive oil.  Add chicken and sear until both sides are a golden brown, about 10-15 minutes total.  Remove chicken and set aside.

Add garlic, celery, carrots, and onion to dutch oven.  Cook until vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes or so.  Stir in tomato paste and cook for another minute.  Add madeira wine and cook until it is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine butter, sage, and thyme in a small bowl.  Spread the butter mixture underneath the skin of the chicken and on top of it.  This will ensure good flavor throughout the meat and keep a little moisture too.

Carefully place chicken back into dutch oven and pour about 3 cups of chicken stock into the pot.  Cover and place in oven.  Roast for about 1 & 1/2 hours or until chicken is white throughout. 

Carefully remove chicken from pot and let rest on cutting board for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring liquid from pot to a boil on stovetop.  Remove about 1 cup of the stock and mix it with the flour in a small bowl.  When flour is dissolved into stock, slowly pour back into dutch oven.  Whisk until mixture has thickened slightly.  Strain the vegetables from the pot, and at this point, you can either save them, throw them out, or use them as a side.  I don't like wasting things so I just served the vegetables alongside our chicken. 

Cut chicken in half and serve alongside vegetables or chosen side.  Spoon gravy over top, if desired.

Seriously, this was a great idea.  The meat was probably the most tender I've ever had, and the flavor was just amazing!  Definitely try roasting a chicken in a dutch oven if you get a chance!  Enjoy guys!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Loaded Turkey Sandwiches


I know, I say that every Friday.  But seriously.  Friday is a great day, isn't it?  The end of the work week (well, for people who don't work weekends, unlike me).  A day that begins the much sought-after weekend.  And in my case, a day off.

It's snowy and sunny today, so practically perfect to just lounge around the house.  Maybe I'll do some cleaning.  Maybe I'll do some studying.  Or maybe I'll just do nothing.  Actually... I've been pretty productive today - looking at wedding venues!  Andy and I kind of silently decided that we need to have one booked by March and get this planning underway.  We've been procrastinating for too long! 

I checked out the website for The Green Building in downtown Louisville and was pretty impressed.  It's a somewhat small space (probably couldn't have more than 100 people), but you know... the more I think about it, the more I want an intimate small wedding.  Less to plan, more to be extravagant about (like the food!).   And speaking of the food, I also contacted 732 Social (which is a restaurant in the Green Building that we LOVE), to see if they could possibly cater!  So, while nothing is set in stone... a vision is coming together!

Anyway, I thought I'd end the week with an easy recipe.  Everyone knows how to make sandwiches so this really isn't a recipe, but more of just a showcase of the awesome sandwiches we ate the other day!  Sometimes easy and quick dinners like these are just what you need!


Fresh homemade bread (I've been using this recipe here, and I LOVE it!)
Cajun turkey slices (for Andy's sandwich)
Maple-glazed chicken slices (for my sandwich)
fresh spinach
sliced tomatoes
chopped artichokes
mayo or miracle whip

slices of mozzarella cheese

I don't have to tell you guys how to make a sandwich.  I'm sure you're well-capable of doing that =)

But I did lightly toast the bread (so that the cheese could melt slightly) and sauteed the artichoke in a dry pan for a few minutes (I love warm artichokes!)  Then pile your chosen toppings on the bread and close!  Serve with some chips and voila!  Easy dinner or lunch!

Enjoy the weekend guys! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Day Dos!

Thank you, Snow.
Well, another snow day.  I'm kind of glad this time.  I really wasn't feeling going to class tonight. 

Although, I haven't been completely lazy since I've been home from work.

I've been watching Big.  You know, Tom Hanks.  He's pretty cool, in my opinion.  And Big... it's actually one of my favorite movies, even if it is somewhat cheesy.

And I'm making tomato soup.  I figure, with all the snow, I'm in a soup mood.  And what goes great with tomato soup?  Grilled cheese, of course!  I just love dipping it in the soup!  Way delicious!  Anybody else do that?  Or am I just weird? 

Oh, and to top it all off... I'll be buried in Biochemistry notes for the next few days.  Must. Do. Well.
Positive thinking should get me through right?  Right.

Anyway... have a great rest of your Thursday guys!  Me, Tom Hanks, and Biochemistry will be having a date night. =)

The pictures are colorful... but the information, not so much. =)

P.S.  My sister hooked me up with a media pass to Desserts First (basically a Louisville event that has a bunch of Louisville chef's making desserts out of Girl Scout Cookies... sounds pretty awesome to me!)  And I get to take pictures that may end up in her article!  Meaning I may get a "by-line" by my photos if they're good enough!  Cool, eh!  Will update you guys further when I know more! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roasted Shrimp, Tomato, & Feta Pasta

Looks like a big pile of whatever here, but trust me... this was delicious!
Can I just take this first second to say how awesome you guys are?  Yeah.  You guys!  That come here, day in and day out.  Reading my blog.  Leaving me comments.  You. Guys. Are. AWESOME.

With that being said, I think I'm on absolute Cloud 9 right now.  Why?  Well, yesterday... I had a record-breaking day on the blog, pertaining to unique visits.  The old record was 600 visits in 1 day.  Now, 600 is a hell of a lot.  But yesterday... that was completely shattered!  I had over 1000 visits!  Way awesome in my book.  Yes, I know, a lot of you have that many visits in the matter of half a day on a regular basis... but I'll take my little achievements as they come!  So when that next mile-stone of breaking 1500 visits comes... you guys will be the first to know!

Okay, now to the good stuff.

This was a pretty darn delicious meal.  Packed with some of my favorite ingredients.  Shrimp.  Tomatoes.  Feta.  And to make it a complete meal, I boiled some quick egg noodles and called it a perfect pasta dish!

Adapted from Ina Garten's "How Easy Is That?"

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
pinch of fennel seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup madeira wine
14 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Pernod
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveiled - tails left on
5 oz. feta cheese crumbles
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lemon
 dried egg noodles

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil under medium high heat.  Add celery and fennel seeds.  Saute for about 6-8 minutes, or until celery is starting to soften. 

Add garlic and cook for about a minute.

Stir in madeira wine and bring to a boil.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the liquid is half reduced.

Add diced tomatoes with their liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod (this is a licorice-flavored alcohol that really brings out the "seafood" flavor in the shrimp!), salt, and pepper.  Simmer mixture for about 15 minutes.

Add shrimp to pan in an even layer, over the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle feta atop the shrimp.

In a small bowl, combine both bread crumbs, lemon zest, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Scatter bread crumb mixture over shrimp.

Place skillet in oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until shrimp are pink.  Squeeze lemon juice atop shrimp before serving.

About 5 minutes before shrimp are done, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add egg noodles (I love the kind from the Asian market because they cook in practically a minute!) and cook according to package directions.

Place a serving size amount of the egg noodles on each plate and top with tomato-shrimp mixture.

 This was definitely a delicious dinner.  Ina just serves the shrimp by itself with some crusty bread, but I thought the pasta really made it a solid dinner!  Give this a go if you're looking for something relatively quick for the weekday!  Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday guys!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hook-ups and Lights off!

We're just your normal, laid back, kinda folks =)  Not to mention, we're cute.
Looks like the cheesecake is going over pretty well with you guys!  Definitely wouldn't be surprised if this one makes it to the top of the Top 5 posts on the right!

What an eventful weekend we had!

Saturday we went out for sushi with a few people from work (like 20!).  We went out to a place down the road from us, Wild Ginger.  Andy and I had been there 2 times before and have always loved the sushi.  It probably ranks as our number one sushi place.  Everybody else that came, it was their first time.  With a big group of people, you're bound to have some disappointment.  Service was a little slow, and a couple drinks were incorrect, and some people didn't quite like their food.  I felt kind of bad, because I was the one that recommended the place, but hey, you can't please everyone ALL the time.  We liked our food, and we're kind of "slow-paced" folks anyway, so we didn't quite mind the wait, but I understand not everyone is like Andy and I so I can see both sides here.  But oh well, we all had fun, despite the food debacle!

Red Dragon Roll (top) - WAY awesome!  Spicy Rainbow Roll (bottom)
Highlander Roll
Sunday, Andy and I headed up to Edinburgh, IN to go to the outlet malls.  We definitely snagged some great deals... saving over $300 at Banana Republic alone (or that's what the girl at the check-out said, anyway).  But got myself a cute pair of jeans, some dress pants, and a foxy dress.  Then went to Under Armour and bought some work-out clothes... can never use too much of those!  There were also 2 kitchen stores at the outlets, but I was quite disappointed.  Both places were really "gimicky" and didn't really sell anything substantial.  Kind of a bummer in that aspect, but oh well.

Oh, and I forgot to mention.  Friday, Andy's friend that works for a food distributor in town hooked us up with 13.5 lbs. of fresh Atlantic salmon... for $80!  What a bargain, eh?  We've got salmon for days now!  So definitely don't be surprised if you see a lot more salmon recipes in the near future!

And Saturday, I ran into a slight problem with my car.  The map lights (you know, those lights on the inside of the car by the rear view mirror that let you look at... well... maps.)  They wouldn't turn off.  I pressed them, they didn't turn off.  I turned my car on and off multiple times, they didn't turn off.  I even went as far as banging and screaming at them... still didn't turn off.  My car automatically shuts them off after 15 minutes of the engine being turned off, but that doesn't help me when I'm driving early in the morning and those lights are glaring right in my face (not to mention how stupid I look with those lights on in my car the whole time I'm driving.)  So anyway, I finally had time to take my car down to the Ford dealership this morning, and the lady just went into my car, fiddled around for a minute or two and was like "all fixed."  My mouth just dropped.  Seriously... I felt stupid.  She told me what she did, but honestly, I didn't pay too much attention (I know, I'm horrible).  All I know is that the lights are off and my stress level is now at a reasonable level!  Hehe.

Wow... guess I was a mouthful today.  I've got the day off work, but have to head to class around 4, so I better get a little studying done (I'm actually ahead!!).  Have a great Tuesday guys!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I can tell you that this was the closest poll yet.  I think about 25 minutes before it closed on Saturday, I checked, and it was a 4-way tie.  A. FOUR. WAY. TIE!  While, yes, if there was a tie, I would have made all 4, and I'm sure Andy would have been in cheesecake heaven... I don't think my waistline (or Andy's, for that matter) would have enjoyed it.  So I was definitely relieved when there was a definitive winner.

And obviously... that winner was Mint Chocolate Chip.  Now, I've never had a mint chocolate chip cheesecake (and I don't recall Cheesecake Factory having this flavor, so I may be trend-setting here), but there were definitely recipes out there for it.  I used a couple of those recipes as a guideline, but then went with my gut instinct on a couple other things.  The result was this bright "atomic" looking cheesecake.  Trust me, this baby isn't a result of a nuclear spill... but a creative mind explosion (corny, much?)

Adapted from About-Recipes 

1 & 1/2 cup crushed oreos & Grasshopper cookies (about 10 each)
2 & 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
14 ounces sweetened, fat free condensed milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon neon green food coloring
1 & 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, chopped
1 teaspoon flour
Preheat oven to 300 F.
Combine crushed oreo and Grasshopper (these are like the Keebler version of Thin Mints) crumbs along with melted butter in a medium bowl.  Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9" springform pan
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Gradually beat in condensed milk until smooth.  Add eggs, peppermint extract, and food coloring.  Mix 3/4 cup of the chopped chocolate chips with flour to coat and stir into cream cheese mixture.  Pour the filling on top of the crust.  Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. 
Wrap the bottom of the springform pan in aluminum foil to catch any leaks.  Bake in oven for about 1 hour, or until filling is set.  
Cool cheesecake to room temperature, then place in refrigerator and chill thoroughly, about 3-4 hours. 
After dinner last night, I sliced this up (didn't quite let it chill for as long as I recommended, but we REALLY wanted a piece) and after Andy took his first bite, I asked him what he thought.  He said it was "interesting."  I didn't quite take it as good or bad, so I asked him to elaborate on what he thought was "interesting" about it.  He went on to explain that it was really good, that it's definitely full of mint flavor and it was unlike any cheesecake he's ever had.  So, score???  I'll take it as a win!
And it was definitely better this morning (I snuck a small piece for breakfast), maybe because it was allowed to set longer.  I'd definitely recommend this for anyone who loves cheesecake, mint, or chocolate... Me?  I love all three, so it was perfect!  Enjoy guys and have a great rest of your Monday!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shrimp Tempura Tacos

TGIF!  That's what I screamed when I woke up this morning.  Well, not literally, but just inside of my head.  But seriously.  Thank. Goodness. It's. Friday.

Definitely have a good weekend lined up.  It's the birthday weekend of a couple pharmacists I know, so we're going out for sushi tomorrow night.  Pretty amped about that because I could use a good meal of sushi right about now!

And I've decided to do something pretty cool here soon.  I've decided to kind of expand my "culinary abilities" and recreate dishes that I've had at restaurants.  I know... nothing new.  People do that all the time.  But I'm going to combine restaurant reviews and meals I've eaten and compare them to what I actually make at home.  Kind of like a side-by-side comparison of sorts.  Don't get it?  Well... the first post will be sometime in the next couple of weeks, and maybe it will be clearer then.

Anyway, this recipe was kind of an evolution of an idea really.  I had set out to make some shrimp ceviche, but then wanted tacos.  So shrimp ceviche tacos sounded pretty good.  Then I opened up the pantry and saw some tempura mix, and it was on.  Shrimp.  Tempura.  Tacos.  Oh yeah.

Oh, and don't forget this week's dessert poll at the end of the post!!


1 lb. frozen shrimp, defrosted
2 cups tempura batter
vegetable oil for frying

1 english cucumber, diced
1 small onion, diced

1 tomato, seeded and diced
small handful cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

corn tortillas, warmed
shredded cheddar cheese, optional
rice and salsa, for serving

In a large bowl, combine shrimp and tempura batter.  (A lot of Asian markets cell tempura batter mix and it's pretty easy... mine was a "just add water" kind of thing and tastes pretty great)  And of course, you could always make up your own tempura mix, but I had the pre-made stuff handy, so that's what I used.  Let sit for about 3-5 minutes.

In a heavy, deep pan or pot, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil.  You know it's hot enough when you add a little bit of the tempura batter and it sizzles.

Add shrimp and cook for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until the tempura is crispy and golden brown.

Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl and sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the cucumber, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Mix well.

To assemble tacos, place a thin layer of shredded cheese on each tortilla, then add a few shrimp (about 3-4 per taco), and top with cucumber/tomato salsa.

We served the tacos with some rice (which I basically just cooked in the rice cooker and added about a 1/2-3/4 cup of salsa to and mixed).

This made for a great impromptu taco.  The flavors were fresh and I loved the contrast of the fried tempura shrimp and the delicate salsa.  Definitely a winner in my book!

Have a great weekend guys!

And for the poll this week, I'm feeling like I want to make some cheesecake... so here's some flavors (don't know if some of them actually exist... but hey... I will make it happen if it wins!)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Yes.  Utter exhaustion.  From work.  From school.  From almost everything.

I know the non-food posts this week were a tad dull, but maybe I can recoup over the weekend (meaning maybe get ahead for the week???) and be more enjoyable next week!

I'm excited about tomorrow's dessert poll, and you all should be too!  Be sure to check back tomorrow for a recipe and the poll!!

Have a Happy Thursday guys!  I'm off to kick up my feet and watch a movie with Andy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baked Salmon w/ Pesto Puff Pastry & Corn

Remember that Lowell EGO light that I said I was getting?  Well... it came in the mail this past weekend and my verdict???  I.  Absolutely.  Love.  It.  LOVE IT. 

This salmon dish was just a quick Saturday night meal that was ready in about 30 minutes, just using what I basically had on hand!  I just love how the light gave such vibrance to the photos!  I hardly had to do any editing (besides some basic cropping/sharpening/noise reduction).  So hopefully over the next couple of months I can work more on the "styling" part of my photos.  Any tips?  Suggestions?  Any would help!

So if you're looking for something quick and tasty, this salmon dish is definitely for you!


2 6 oz. salmon fillets
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if you like it less spicy)
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for rubbing
1 & 1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup pesto
2 rectangles of puff pastry (cut a little bigger than the salmon fillets)

Preheat oven to 400 F. 

Rub salmon fillets with olive oil and season both sides with cayenne pepper, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Place puff pastry pieces on a greased baking sheet and bake according to package directions, or until golden brown.

Place salmon skin-side down in an oven-proof skillet and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through.

(My salmon and puff pastry were pretty much done at about the same time, so it worked perfectly)

Cook frozen corn in microwave according to package directions.

Spread a good amount of the pesto on top of the puff pastry and top with salmon and corn. 

Seriously.  I could not have had better ingredients to work with.  So colorful, so flavorful.  SO PERFECT. 

I asked Andy what he thought of the addition of the puff pastry (whether it was really necessary or added anything to the dish) and he said he actually enjoyed it's contrast with the delicate salmon.  So major score!  I loved this dinner and plan on making it many many times over!  Enjoy guys!


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