Clams with Bucatini

Sometimes, you just need a bowl of pasta that screams comfort and Summer all in one. This pasta is close to my heart for a number of reasons, one being it lets me taste the ocean without physically being there. Chris and I decided not to do any trips this Summer, since we are saving for a nice Fall trip. It sounds fine, at first, but as the mid-July slump took over, I found myself desperately needing to be by a large body of water, soaking in the sun, and eating the fruit of the sea. It’s a Summer tradition for most folks who grew up on the East Coast. I felt something missing all Summer and I realized that was why. What are some of your favorite Summer vacations? (more…)

So back to the pasta. I have never, ever cooked anything that was considered alive. In fact, I had cooked my best friend a lobster dish a few weeks back. Instead of paying for the cheap whole lobster, that I would have to kill myself, I opted for the much more expensive lobster tail option. I just couldn’t bring myself to do the deed. I saw this recipe for clams and pasta in the July issue of Food Network’s magazine. It had everything I wanted out of Summer: briney, lemony, buttery pasta with tender, sweet clams mixed throughout. I cooked a lot of garlic, then added the wine, then gently placed the clams on top, covered the pot and walked away for 7 minutes. Opening that pot was the most beautiful surprise. All of the clams were widely open, soaking it the wine and garlic they had just been cooked in. See my notes on caring for the clams at the bottom! This recipe is too easy and too delicious not to make. I made it again this weekend and was equally satisfied! Be sure to serve this with tons of napkins! A lot of slurpin’ with happen! Happy pasta making!

Steakhouse Pie

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Ever since I came across this issue of Bon Appetit magazine, my homemade pizza world drastically changed. Never will I ever buy store bought pizza dough again. There just isn’t a comparison. From how easily the dough stretches, to its pan tossed texture, and how simple it is to make, store bought pizza dough is not welcome here no more. I hope you are encouraged to brave the world of rising yeast and join me in changing how you view homemade pizza! As epic as that sounds, nights that I make pizza are not that epic. I recently made this hearty Steakhouse pizza pie for friends and it was an immediate hit. Chris and I also take no shame in eating a pizza pie for date night, even if there are yummy leftovers to look forward to the next day. At this point, I know you probably scrolled down to the ingredients list and immediately cast off this recipe because of how long it looks. Don’t fret! I’m here to comfort you in saying you probably have most of those ingredients sitting in your pantry, just waiting to be used! For the sake of your overall happiness, I really hope you try this goody out! No room for disappointments!

Here is the link for the best pizza dough! Bon Appetit Grandma-Style Pizza Dough

Crispy Kale Caesar

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Doesn’t food taste so much better when it’s pretty? This curly kale caesar kept making bedroom eyes at me with its adorable little curves and crannies that were just begging to be filled with a smoky, tangy caesar dressing and delicately topped with fresh parmesan curls. Placing this delicacy underneath the hot broiler was the least I could do and in return, it gave me a perfectly charred, slightly salty, cheesy appetizer with no fuss. Kale is perfect for this recipe because it holds up while being broiled. Romaine would have been nice too, but would need a different approach when preparing, such as cut into quarters instead of separating the individual leaves. I like to add a light sprinkling of smoked paprika to my dressing for an extra flavor element. We loved this “salad” as an introduction to our pizza dinner and cannot wait to give it another go! A fun little hint: instead of broiling your kale, you could also grill it after brushing it with the dressing. ‘Tis the season!

Look at those webs of cheese!

The Killer Burger

I like to name burgers the same way I like to name my nonexistant children. I want to give them a name that sets them apart and makes them stick out from the other burgers that are mundanely named. Although I can’t take credit for the name of this burger, I do think it appropriate to keep the name because the name says it all! I have this habit, when I’m menu planning for the following week, to look up recipes that sound good and are the healthier option. Take ground turkey burgers for example, when I found <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/killer-turkey-burgers.html” target=”_blank”>Anne’s Killer Turkey Burger, I got all excited and proud of my choice of choosing white meat over red meat. But then reality struck and my desire for an all beef burger patty commandeered my desire to get the healthier meat. What I’m trying to say is I can’t stand ground turkey! Give it to me roasted and on a croissant sandwich with mayo but DO NOT give it to me in a form of a burger! That being said, I’m sure the turkey burger is outstanding in this recipe and don’t let my close-minded thinking deter you from trying the original recipe. (more…)

Don’t let the picture fool you. It may look like just the run of the mill burger but it’s so much more. This burger was so flavorful and perfect, I had dreams about it last night! I think it’s a great idea to throw these babies on the grill and add fresh toppings like ripe tomatoes, sweet red onion, and crisp, green lettuce. You really don’t need much embellishment for the amount of flavor you are going to get! Side note: Due to laziness and forgetfulness, I did not add the water chestnuts or the fresh ginger (I’m really disappointed with myself on that one!) but if you do, let me know what you think! This recipe also introduces us to Sriracha’s cousin, Sambal Oelek, a wonderful chili paste that you will be tempted to put on everything! Now, let us take a moment of thankfulness for Anne Burrell and her ingenious burger! Happy Burger making, guys!

Winter Stuffed Shells

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Saturday and Whole Foods are the only two words that will make Chris get out of his comfy sweatpants and brave the crowds with me to grocery shop. Whole Foods will have tons of samples out, I guess making his trip more enjoyable (and mine too! Who am I kidding?). Last year, they had this interesting Gouda titled, “Winter Gouda.” I didn’t need to know what was in it, I was already intrigued. The cheese was a salty and mellow Gouda, studded with flecks of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. The combination was out of this world! It also inspired me to take those flavors to the next level. What could be better than a beef and tomato stuffed shell, bathing in a glorious spiced Gouda sauce? Not much. This recipe might be for a little more than two people but no one hates the idea of easy leftovers! Winter Stuffed Shells is warm, comforting with a spicy edge, and something you probably don’t normally have on your menu.

Fancy Sprouts

I need to get something off of my chest. I’m not a huge brussel sprout fan. Yes, I have tried cooking them smothered in bacon. Yes, I have tried braising them in a yummy mustard and white wine sauce. It doesn’t matter what yummy concoction brussel sprouts are a part of for me because I can always taste that bitter brussel sprout flavor. So I decided to amp up my sprout game, mainly because I need easy, pretty, yummy side dishes to serve in the winter time. Brussel sprouts are green so they trick me into thinking it’s Summer. Well played, brussels, well played… (more…)

At first, I wanted to call this dish Christmas Sprouts because they remind me of the perfect side dish to go with that Christmas beef tenderloin or honey-glazed ham. They also have green and red hues going on, making me feel extra Christmasy inside. Alas, I decided to keep it neutral. Not everyone is as obsessed with Christmas as me and I need to accept it’s only 11 short months away. So let me tell you about these sprouts. They are crispy, tangy, salty (in a very good way), briney, with a little bit of sweet. So much flavor going on but the sprouts aren’t being hidden, they are being elevated. Even if you aren’t a fan like me, try these! They won’t last long on your table! Onward!

We start with simple, yet stunning ingredients! Red bell pepper, minced garlic, capers, brussel sprouts, salami, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese. I think we are ready to start the easiest yet most beautiful side dish ever. Don’t you think?

Our sprouts are tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We roast them to bring out their natural sweetness. A little sweetness never hurt nobody! I like to cut off the bottom stems altogether when I quarter them. Some leaves will fall but I like it that way!

As our brussels are cooking, we can move on to the other ingredients for a bit. We sauté the red pepper until soft then add our fragrant garlic and briney capers. You could totally pile this on a steak and call it a night but I promised you a side dish so a side dish you shall receive. Let’s keep moving!

Beautiful! These sprouts are ready to be spruced up another notch! You could collect the leaves and eat them as chips but I like the flavor and crunch they add to this dish! Rule number 1 of the kitchen: DO WHAT YOU WANT!

The salami strips are lightly fried in olive oil to make them crunchy! Also, pan frying them makes their flavor deepen past the saltiness we all know and love. These make a great snack, FYI! Set these aside to be used as the topping. Oh and don’t burn yourself!

And always serve your brussels on a pretty plate. Pretty plates make the world go round. You can quote me on that. Make these! Enjoy these! Happy sprouts making!

Brunch Pad Thai

Life is stressful and sometimes, all you need is a warm bowl of noodles. Noodles of any form are what I consider real comfort food to me and I like ’em every which way! I was the kid on spaghetti night who preferred her spaghetti sans the red sauce and with the lovely addition of butter and parmesan cheese. My favorite part was biting into a huge forkful of pasta, not being able to fit the whole bite into my mouth,  and getting those cheesy, buttery noodle footprints  all over my face. I knew I was doing something right. Those same buttery delicious noodles get me through the hardest of days and longest of hours. Of course, I’ve traded in my green can of parmesan for the real deal. I love being a grown up! Well, other than the stressful part, of course. I tried to conjure up a few more Thanksgiving leftover recipes but honestly, I need a break from the holiday food for a sec. Feel me? Usually, Asian inspired dishes are what I turn to when I need a break from the usual rich and filling foods of the holidays. I introduce the Brunch Pad Thai! It’s a simple noodle dish made with the usual suspects of brunch: eggs and bacon. You could really eat this for any meal but isn’t it a fun thought to think of having a few friends come over for a unique brunch like this? All I know is that it’s delicious and I didn’t miss my eggs benedict…this week at least. (more…)

Our ingredient line up:

Asian rice noodles, beaten eggs, pea shoots, a mixture of tamarind paste, soy sauce, and fish sauce, mushrooms, bacon, sugar, garlic, crushed peanuts, and scallions.

The key here is to have a very hot wok or heavy skillet. We add our bacon and garlic. Be prepared. Your house is about to smell amazing.

This is how pad thai works; similar to stir fry. You cook meat and veggies on very high heat, remove, and repeat. You have to literally be on your toes during the whole cooking process so nothing burns. Here, we cook our eggs by swirling them in the pan so they cook fast and evenly. Burnt eggs equal gross so work fast!

Our noodles, pea shoots, and scallions are cooked. Our tamarind paste mixture is added. Tamarind paste is a must for yummy pad thai!

We kind of just throw everything else into the pan and toss! So much going on! So much flavor! Real talk: whatever you do, DO NOT overcook your rice noodles! This sweet little gal did and everything turned to mush! The horror!

Chaos. Perfect. Delicious. Chaos. You know what would be delicious with this? Cilantro and fresh lime juice! Don’t forget it at the grocery store like I did. Let me be the example. I hope you can find a calm moment in the midst of the holiday chaos and make yourself a nice bowl of your favorite noodles. Happy noodles making!

French Onion Mashed Potatoes

‘Tis the season of casseroles. We all have our dirty cookbook pages marked, begging to be opened and rediscovered because everyone just has to have YOUR green bean casserole or we have our unrealistic attempts of “something new this year” bookmarked on our laptops. Oh and don’t even get me started on the pies. As overwhelming as creating a memorable holiday can be, it’s good to have a game plan and here is your play by play for Thanksgiving….sike. I agree it’s helpful to have a game plan but unfortunately we live in a world of unpredictable chaos that can either make or break your day. That’s a lot of pressure for said game plan! My go to recipes are ones I can easily prepare the day or night before and all they need is a simple trip to the oven. Now, I understand some recipes would be hard to make the day before or even become not so appealing (I’ve made mac and cheese for 5 years in a row now for 10+ people so I get it) but maybe our chopping, slicing, and dicing can be done the night before just so you don’t accidentally hurt yourself on the big day. Not a sermon, just a thought. (more…)

You probably think that I’m some kind of mashed potato guru or that Thanksgiving day is my Olympics but let me let you in on a little secret: this was my second time making mashed potatoes…ever. In all seriousness, mashed potatoes have scared me and I always sucker my wonderful sister-in-law into making them. Pathetic I know. I decided to brave these taters and I’m oh so glad I did! I love french onion soup so I wanted to really stick to those simple but hearty elements of the soup. Meaty, dark onions, crusty croutons, and a gloriously cheesy topping. These potatoes were easy, cheesy, creamy and perfect for any Thanksgiving table!

Our ingredient line up:
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From Top Left to Right: Butter, onions, heavy cream, fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, Worchestshire sauce, Gruyere cheese, fresh thyme, beef stock, and golden potatoes.

I didn’t mention brown butter is involved because I wanted to surprise you so SURPRISE! You can’t go wrong here. Embrace the butter. We add our heavy cream, fresh thyme, and garlic to the brown butter and let it simmer. You could just add this to the mashed potatoes and be done. But why would you want to be done when cheesiness is just around the corner?

But not this corner! Here, we have the “french onion” part. The onions are cooked down and drenched in Worschestshire sauce and beef stock making them nice and meaty. Think French Onion soup here. That is the inspiration after all.

Next, we layer out potatoes. Spread half of the potatoes in a greased casserole dish.

Add onions (making sure that luscious broth is also included), and breadcrumbs (our “croutons” here).

Then top with the nutty Gruyere. Rinse and repeat. Also, indulge every need to snack on the Gruyere as you cook. I always shred just a little bit more than I need for snacking. You’re the cook!

Now, I wanted to show you the delicious layers from this angle. Can you see the broth from the onions seeping into our wonderful potatoes? That’s magic and perfect moisture for our potatoes so they won’t dry out. Just bake this off in the oven.

Serve this hot! Right out of the oven! And I wouldn’t be offended if you added a little gravy from Thanksgiving dinner to these potatoes. Happy tater making!

Slow Cooked Asian Style Short Ribs

Slow cooker talk: I need them in my life. They make dinner so much easier. I even use them in the summer when it’s too hot to turn the oven on. Slow cookers are ideal for the full time working person or someone that just wants to throw dinner together and forget about it for the rest of the day until dinnertime. I feel like slow cooker meals have gotten a bad reputation throughout the years. The ease gets confused with the quality of products. Don’t get me wrong. I, too, have fallen victim to the world of creamed soups for a dump and go dinner. BUT, we can still have a dump and go dinner, we just upgrade our ingredients. What if I also told you that this dump and go meal is also worthy of a dinner party (something you would actually want to serve to other people). I have been fully immersed in a book of slow cooker recipes by William Sonoma and I’m literally starting from the very beginning of the book and working my way back. I came across this recipe and fell in love so I thought I would share. I tweaked it a bit to my liking but this is definitely a warm, comforting meal that doesn’t require that much work. You with me? (more…)

Before we get started though, we need to have a Daylight Savings ending talk. It’s hell for a food blogger, especially a newbie. I was just sitting on my couch, smelling the amazing aroma of what would be my dinner when I realized the sun was setting! I didn’t have a final picture! I did my best but had to scrap the pics. Hopefully, I can get my act together here. So now, we slow cook!

Our ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Beef short ribs, onion, garlic, ketchup, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar (I actually used white wine vinegar), a spice combo of cayenne, cinnamon, ground fennel seed, ground cloves, and fresh ginger. This may look like a lot of ingredients, especially on the printable page BUT most of these should already be in your pantry. It’s all about the flavor, baby!

Here is the dump and go part! We throw into the slow cooker all of the ingredients, except for the short ribs and spices. Our ginger looks like it’s in a happy mood today! Give it a healthy stir!

Our short ribs are seasoned and broiled on both sides so they are nice and brown. Add the short ribs into the slow cooker and turn the ribs a couple of times to be fully covered in the delectable sauce. These babies are slow cooked for about 6 hours until they are basically falling off the bone. I served mine with some broccoli I will be featuring later this week. Add some rice and you have a complete meal! Whew! Wasn’t that easy? If you aren’t a fan of short ribs, you can make the same recipe with a chuck roast. I might actually do that next time. Happy dinner making!

Sweet and Spicy Chili

Everyone has their favorite chili recipe and I won’t try to convince you this is the best chili you will ever have. First thing, I’m not from a place that I can earn the title of “best chili ever”. Secondly, I think chili is a personal thing: you make it how you like it. This is how I like my chili. Just a little bit of beans, a nice smokey, spicy kick, and a hint of sweetness. When my mom would make chili growing up, I would raid the cabinets for that Heinz chili sauce that was slightly sweet. When it came time for me to start making my own chili, I felt like a new world had just appeared before my eyes. I could make my chili any way I wanted to. Don’t want kidney beans? No big deal. Need a little more cumin? Done. Want to use ground turkey instead? Perfect. Among being very versatile and forgiving to particular tastes, chili is also a great make ahead meal, a freezer friendly meal, perfect for a crowd or for leftovers, and a great meal if you are on a budget. The cold weather is coming in full throttle so let’s embrace a bowl of chili! (more…)

Our chili ingredient line up:

From Top Left to Right: Ground beef, black and pinto beans, tomato sauce, a spice mixture of cumin, chili powder, paprika, and oregano, brown sugar, and fresh garlic. The perfect blank slate.

Now, before we dive into making our chili, I have this picture here to serve as both a lesson and a reminder. Every 6 months, change out your spices! I made an example of myself when I made this chili. Once I added everything into the chili, I tasted it to see where the spice was. After 3 tablespoons of chili powder, there still wasn’t any kick to the chili. I then tasted my chili powder and do you want to know what it tasted like? Nothing. I had to grab the Sriracha bottle to give the chili some heat. That is pitiful friends. Don’t let this happen to you. On a more positive note, Sriracha in chili is awesome.

Moving on to the reason we are all here: chili! Our meat is browned, our spices are added, our tomato sauce poured. This baby is checked for seasoning and is ready to simmer. If you don’t like beans in your chili, your labor ends here.

But, if you want some bean action, our beans are added after the chili has been simmering for a little while.

I always forget how good and comforting chili can be until I make a batch. I love having leftover chili because (say it with me): IT’S ALWAYS BETTER THE NEXT DAY.

Sour cream, red onion, and sharp cheddar are a must topping for my chili. How do you take your chili? Happy chili making!

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