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August 31, 2011

Three Cheese Tomato Tart, Tortellini Pasta Salad, and No Bake Raspberry-Lemon Cheesecake

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, but I have been at work almost non-stop for a week and a half! I'm exhausted, but so glad I finally had a break to cook dinner! Naturally, I went all out and made 2 dishes and a dessert. They all turned out delicious, but dinner was quite rich. Dessert was a little lighter, but quite sweet and tangy. Without further ado...



Three Cheese Tomato Tart
Here's the recipe adapted from The Kitchn.


Prep Time: 45 min | Cooking Time: 30 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: ~9 slices


Ingredients:
2 Ripe Heirloom Tomatoescut into ⅛-inch slices 
1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry
3 Tbsp Light Mayonnaise
½ cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (I may have accidentally used too much cheese, so measure it!)
½ cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2 Tbsp Finely Chopped Basil
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
to taste
Kosher Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper



Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400°.


2. Lay out the tomato slices on a large sheet of paper towels. Cover with more paper towels and allow to drain for approximately 30 minutes (this is crucial to not getting a watery tart). Meanwhile, remove the sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes.


3. Unfold the puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, pinching to close any holes in the seams. Using a fork, prick the dough all over to prevent it from puffing up during baking.


4. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the entire puff pastry. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese on top and garnish with freshly chopped basil.


5. Bake for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Remove the pastry from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Cut into 9 squares and serve immediately.


Tortellini Pasta Salad with Bacon, Broccoli and Basil
Here's the recipe adapted from Cookin' Canuck.


Prep Time: 10 min | Cooking Time: 15 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 4-5


Ingredients:
12 Oz. Cheese Tortellini
slices Bacon (or just use a 1/4 cup of real bacon bits, which is what I used because we had it and we didn't have bacon)
1 Head of Broccoli
Vinaigrette:
¼ cup White Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 ½ tsp Honey
1 tsp Kosher Salt
½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
½ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
6 large Basil Leaveschiffonaded (rolled and thinly sliced)



Directions:
1. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water. Drain again. Transfer to a large serving bowl.


2. In a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat, cook bacon until crunchy. Set aside on a piece of paper towel to drain. When cool, crumble the bacon (not too small) and reserve. (Skip this if you used bacon bits)


3. Pour out all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease from the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and add the broccoli florets. Saute until the broccoli is tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into tortellini.


Vinaigrette:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. While whisking constantly, slow pour in olive oil until combined.


2. Pour the vinaigrette over the tortellini and gently toss. Stir the basil into the pasta salad. Serve.


No Bake Raspberry-Lemon Cheesecake
Here's the recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction.


Prep Time: 15 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 6-8


Ingredients:
For The Crust:
¾ cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 Tbsp Sugar
3 Tbsp Unsalted Buttermelted
For The Filling:
 cup Sugar
Zest On 2 Lemons
1 (8 ounce) Package Cream Cheesesoftened
2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 (8 ounce) Tub Frozen Whipped Toppingthawed
1 cup Fresh Raspberriesslightly mashed with a fork



Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and 1 tablespoon of sugar and melted butter. Spread the mixture evenly in a glass or metal pie tin.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar becomes moist and fragrant. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla mixing to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped topping until well blended, then fold in the raspberries.

3. Spread the mixture over the crust and spread smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. If desired, garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprig of fresh mint.


August 19, 2011

Freshii Restaurant and Gobi Butter Masala with Chicken

B and I had a day together today, and thus went to try a new restaurant. I got a recommendation for Freshii from a co-worker, and so looked up the menu and ventured out there. It's a make-it-yourself kind of place, and you walk in a grab a clipboard with a pencil and a menu paper to write your selections on. They have a pre-made menu with items you can just write down and order, or you can make your own salad, wrap, bowl, or soup. You add the veggies and protein you want, along with toppings and sauce or dressing. Then they make your order that's made just for you. 


I had a spicy peanut noodle salad type deal, with rice noodles, cucumbers, wontons, carrots, mandarin oranges, edamame, grilled chicken, and spicy peanut sauce. It comes in a take out container, which was nice because I couldn't finish mine! B had a classic wrap and added sriracha to it, and his was really tasty! I think I liked his better than mine! But this is definitely on my list of places to grab food during my lunch break at work. Here's what I got...
So, then when B and I got back to my place, I started making dinner. Dinner consisted of cauliflower and chicken masala with rice and naan bread. I found this recipe on my favorite new way to procrastinate, Pinterest. I added chicken just to add another flavor, but could easily be left out and just have the cauliflower, for a vegetarian meal. In fact, I think I liked the cauliflower better than the chicken. This recipe does require a lot of spices you don't use often, so I substituted a lot, but I also have collected a few Indian spices over time, so that worked out. I was worried my substitutions would change the flavor too much, but it was a little spicy, and also flavorful.

Here's the recipe adapted from Journey Kitchen.


Ingredients:
For Cauliflower:
½ medium Size Head Of Cauliflowersplit into small florets (about 500g)
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste (I just peeled an inch of fresh ginger, grated it, along with 3 cloves of garlic, also grated)
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 Tbsp Butter
½ cup Water
Salt To Taste
For Masala:
3 Tbsp Butter
1 Red Onion (Largefinely cubed)
3 Tomatoes, diced (Mediumred, ripe)
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste/ 2 Cloves Garlic With ½ Inch Cube Ginger
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp
 Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp Crushed Cashew Nuts/Almond
1 Tbsp Coriander Powder
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
2 Tbsp Heavy Cream/Thick Cream
1 tsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves/Kasuri Methi (I substituted this with 1 tsp of dry mustard)
½ cup Water
1 Bay Leaf
1 Green Cardamomcracked
½ tsp Ground Cumin
1 Stick Cinnamon (2 Inch)
Salt To Taste

Chicken:
1 Whole Chicken Thigh, drizzled in olive oil, add salt and pepper, cooked with whatever method you chose, and shredded


Directions:
1. For the cauliflower, wash and separate the cauliflower into small florets and add all the ingredients except water and butter. Heat the butter in a sauté pan and add the florets. Once the florets starts to brown add water and let the them cook covered for about 5-7 minutes. You just want the florets to be tender and not mushy. Pour everything into a bowl and set aside.

2. For the masala, heat the butter in the same sauté pan. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, green cardamom, black cardamom, bay leaf and black cumin.

3. Add finely chopped onions and let it cook.

4. Once they are lightly golden, add the ginger garlic paste.

5. Tip in the turmeric, red chilly powder, cashew nuts, coriander powder, tomatoes and tomato paste. Let the tomatoes completely cook till they form a paste.

6. Add water and let it come to a boil. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Pour mixture into a blender and blend the mixture to a smooth sauce.

7. Add the sauce back to the sauté pan and let it come to a boil.

8. Add the cauliflower (along with the water) back in and let it cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the cream and crushed kasuri methi (or dry mustard) and cook for another 5 minutes. Garnish with more cream and some coriander to perk it up. Serve with white basmati rice, and buttered naan.




August 16, 2011

Apricot Oat Bars

My mom left me this recipe to make, and tonight I finally got around to it. And I'm so glad that I did, because these turned out delicious! I love desserts with rolled oats, like my cobbler recipe I have that I need to make again so I can post it. These bars are not too sweet, but chewy and fruity! They would definitely make the best unhealthy granola-type bars to take hiking or camping! Or really just an awesome portable dessert.
Crust, then apricot filling

Bars right out of the oven

Bars about to be eaten! They would go great with ice cream too, but I just had a big glass of milk.

Here's the recipe adapted from Giada at Home.


Prep Time: 20 min | Cooking Time: 30-35 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 24 Bars


Ingredients:
Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
Filling:
1 (13-ounce) Jar Apricot Jam Or Preserves (About 1 ¼ Cups)
8 Dried Apricotschopped into ¼-inch pieces (about ⅓ cup)
Crust:
1 ¾ cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Packed Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon (we have this mixture of cinnamon and sugar, I used 2 tsp of this mixture)
¾ tsp Fine Sea Salt
¾ tsp Baking Soda
1 ¾ cups Old-Fashioned Oats
1 cup (4 ounces) Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) Unsalted Buttermelted (all we had was 1 unsalted stick of butter and 1 salted, so I used less salt then it calls for)
1 Eggat room temperature, beaten
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract



Directions:
1. Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13 by 2-inch metal baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with vegetable oil cooking spray and set aside.


2. Filling: In a small bowl, mix together the jam and the apricots. Set aside.


3. Crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Stir in the oats and walnuts. Add the butter, egg and vanilla and stir until incorporated.


4. Using a fork or clean fingers, lightly press half of the crust mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a spatula, spread the filling over the crust leaving a ½-inch border around the edge of the pan. Cover the filling with the remaining crust mixture and gently press to flatten. Bake until light golden, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

August 15, 2011

Marinated Steak and Salad

My mom left a giant round top steak in the fridge for me to marinade. When I was trying to figure out something to make a marinade out of, and that's when she walked in the house with groceries, including a Trader Joe's Soyaki Marinade for the steak. So I just used that, threw in a chopped jalapeño to the marinade and put it all in a ziptop bag and stuck it in the fridge for 2 hours and then flipped it over for another 2 hours. My dad grilled it and I made a salad out of every vegetable we had in the fridge! Anyways, it all turned out delicious, especially with the tasty dressing I made for the salad. Without further ado...
Marinating meat

Cooked meat. Sooo tasty!

Salad with the whole fridge in it
Marinated Round Top Steak


All I did was put the meat in a ziptop bag, along with half the bottle of Soyaki Marinade sauce from Trader Joe's. I minced a whole jalapeño and put that in there as well. My dad used the marinade to baste the meat in while on the grill. It came out so delicious and tender!


Vegetable Salad with Vinaigrette


I mixed in a small bowl, a couple tablespoons of basil olive oil (regular olive oil would be fine too), couple tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (also from Trader Joe's), 2 cloves of minced garlic, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. Then add some kosher salt and some fresh ground black pepper. Whisk together with a fork, and pour over the salad.


The salad consisted of spinach, arugala, some chopped cucumber, chopped celery, tomatoes, red bell pepper, and thinly sliced red onion. Mix together and pour the dressing over. The dressing was so good, garlicky but tasty!

August 13, 2011

Almost Famous Soft Pretzels

I have been wanting to make soft pretzels since forever, and finally did so the other day. I also made a jalapeño cheese sauce to go with it. The cheese sauce didn't turn out quite right, it was too stringy, but it was also pretty good. I'm a big fan of those nacho cheese-like spicy dips that you can get with the pretzels at the mall, and so I'll have to come up with a way to make that at home to go with these pretzels. But, the pretzels themselves turned out amazing! They were almost like homemade rolls, since they didn't really hold their pretzel shape in the oven. I would make one, set it down on the rack and go to make another, and the one I had made previously was still rising from the yeast. 
Dough before the rise

Dough after the rise!



Here's the recipe adapted from Food Network.


Prep Time: 1 hour and 30 min | Cooking Time: 30 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 6 pretzels


Ingredients:
1 cup Milk
1 Package Active Dry Yeast
3 Tbsp Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flourplus more for kneading
Tbsp Unsalted Butterplus more for greasing
1 tsp Fine Salt
 cup Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Coarse Salt



Directions:
1. Make the pretzels: Warm the milk in a saucepan until it's about 110 degrees; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon. Dice 2 tablespoons butter and soften; stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 ¼ cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.


2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large baking sheet. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. (If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes.) Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each rope into a pretzel shape.


3. Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish. Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.


4. Melt the other 3 Tbsp. of butter, and drizzle over the pretzels, after they come out of the oven. 

Icing on the Cupcake - a review

I had no idea this shop was in Folsom until I stumbled upon it the other day with my boyfriend. We had just left Buffalo Wild Wings and noticed this new cupcake shop. We stopped in to Icing on the Cupcake to check out how they tasted. They have the regular flavors, chocolate and vanilla, and they also have some flavors that are only available some days of the week. This is pretty much how most cupcake shops do it. I admit they don't have many exciting flavors that I've never seen, but the ones they make are quite tasty. B and I tried their Vanilla/Chocolate cupcake, which was vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. The cake part is made with real vanilla beans and they top it with little sprinkles.
I went back today, because they had the Raspberry Bliss flavor today. I got that, a lemon, strawberry, snicker doodle, vanilla/chocolate, and chocolate peanut butter. Unfortunately, I dug into the raspberry before taking a picture, as I'm known to do. But it was a vanilla cake, filled with raspberry jam, and topped with a vanilla buttercream and a drizzle of raspberry sauce. I loved this one! But I took pictures of all the other flavors I bought. I'm definitely going back to try more flavors at Icing on the Cupcake! 

Strawberry

Lemon

Snickerdoodle
Eventually, I'm going to start experimenting with cupcake flavors, I want to make some sweet and savory cupcakes, all in one. Something like fruit and cheese combined. I'll have those for you when I come up with something tasty!

August 6, 2011

Bay Area Restaurants: Cafe Borrone and Pazzia

B and I decided to do a day trip to San Francisco yesterday. We had it all planned out, we went to breakfast at one of his favorite places by his house, Cafe Borrone. I have been here several times now, and I love everything I order here. There's no going wrong with anything they have, and they change out some items on their menu every so often. Yesterday, we went with the belgian waffles they have and decided to share 2 different ones. I got the fresh berry waffle and he got the apple and pecan waffle.
I liked my waffle better than B's! 
This one was still good, but a little too sweet
We then headed to the Academy of Science in San Francisco, and poked around there for a few hours. Then we had tea at the Japanese Tea Garden, and ended our night hopelessly searching for a place for dinner. 
Jasmine tea at the Japanese Tea Garden

B had wanted to go to one of his favorite pizza places, and we got there and realized they were closed for renovations. So, we pulled up Yelp and found a place within walking distance called Pazzia. It was pretty good, albeit a little pricey. We shared a bruschetta appetizer and he ordered the margarita pizza and I had their pizza special of the day. It was a white pizza with arugula, prosciutto, and tomatoes. They give you fresh baked bread with olive oil for dipping, and balsamic vinegar if you ask for it. 
Bruschetta

My pizza after I once again forgot to take a photo before I dug in!
My only complaint about the food, was that the bruschetta wasn't salted at all. But after salting it myself, it was tasty. I actually enjoyed B's pizza more than the one I ordered, but I saw a few other dishes around the tables that I would go back to try.
There is limited seating here, only seating for about 50 people at any one time. I think if I was in the area, I would come back here, but I probably wouldn't make a special trip. So many other restaurants in San Francisco to try!

August 2, 2011

Meatball Subs

My dad and I were left home with no one to feed him but me, so I made a bunch of meatballs in marinara sauce to make meatball subs. We had this giant bag of hoagie rolls and the first thing I thought of to use them for were these subs. Since I didn't really want to go to the grocery store and buy anything else for this recipe, I just used some frozen ground beef we had and a recipe from my new Joy of Cooking cookbook. They turned out awesome and we had dinner for two nights in a row!
The meatballs after I finished them in the oven

The first sub I consumed, I ended up making another!

Here's the recipe adapted from the Joy of Cooking.


Prep Time: 30 min | Cooking Time: 25 min | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 6-8


Meatballs


Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (I ended up using a red one, because it was all we had, but go with the yellow)
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano (I used fresh because we had it)
Flour, for dredging
2 Tbsp Olive oil, for frying
3/4 jar of marinara sauce


Directions:
1. Mix it with for hands. Scoop out the mixture in heaping tablespoons and form into 2-inch balls. Dredge the meatballs in the flour. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.


2. Brown the meatballs in batches. Place in a baking pan with the marinara sauce and cook in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.


Subs


Ingredients:
Hoagie rolls
Fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
Meatballs with marinara sauce


Directions:
1. Lightly toast the split hoagie rolls under the broiler.


2. Top with the meatball and marinara mixture and then the cheese.


3. Place under broiler until the cheese melts.