Archive for April, 2011

April 25, 2011

Un-Traditional Easter Dinner

Since our family had to postpone Easter dinner until next weekend, I decided to make Braciole for Easter. It’s a dish I attempted and failed at before so it was time for another try.

Braciole is an Italian dish made with steak (sirloin pounded into think strips, or flank steak pounded to about a 1/4’”) stuffed with bread crumbs, cheese, and herbs, then stewed in a tomato sauce.

Technique: Braising. Braising and stewing begin with searing meats to lock in the moisture and create a good crust on the meat. Another great side effect of Braising is the sauce. Braising uses a small amount of liquid so by the end of the cooking process the sauce has reduced and developed deeper flavors.


I begin with the tomato sauce since it should simmer for 30-minutes, then I use that time to make the stuffing and prepare the steak.

Tomato Sauce

2 cloves of garlic

1 onion, finely diced

8oz mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup white wine

crushed red pepper

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

4-5 basil leaves

salt and pepper

In an oven safe pot saute the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms until they are softened. Deglaze the pan with the wine and allow to cook about 3 minutes.


Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper and let the sauce cook for about 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


After 30 minutes add the torn basil leaves to the tomato mixture and stir.


1 flank steak

1/2 c bread crumbs

2 eggs

1/4 c parmesan cheese

1/2 bunch of parsley

1 clove garlic

salt and pepper

NOTE: Add other ingredients to the stuffing such as, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, green onion, spinach, mushrooms, etc…

(Next time I am going to try spinach, provolone and sun dried tomatoes, and I won’t process it in the food processor).


Place all the stuffing ingredients in a food processor and process until it’s paste-like.

Lay the steak out on a cutting board and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Spread the stuffing over the steak, then roll it up starting with the narrow end.

Tie the ends and middle with kitchen twine. Sear the steak on all sides until it is brown, then add it to the tomato sauce. Cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. The longer you cook it the more tender the meat.

I served the Braciole with roasted asparagus and basil butter orzo.


April 25, 2011

Caesar Dressing–on a lighter note

IMG_8233-6 -2

You have heard me gush about him before, and I fear I may have a crush, but I love Jamie Oliver and his recipes never disappoint!

This is a recipe that I have been looking to find for a long time. A Caesar dressing that tastes like something you would get from a great restaurant – by that I mean a high class restaurant that clearly makes homemade kick-ass Caesar dressing.

Let me also preface that I usually do not opt for salad dressings or most savory recipes that use yogurt, but because it was Jamie I decided it was worth a try. Boy am I glad I tried!

This recipe has the graininess of the grated parmesan, the saltiness of the anchovies, and the classic garlic flavor that a great Caesar has! All on a lighter note because it’s made with yogurt and no eggs. You will be super impressed how good this recipe.

1/3 cup greek yogurt (lowfat or nonfat)

2 anchovy fillets, mashed

1 garlic clove (I used 2)

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Salt and pepper

(Note: parmigiano-reggiano is what REAL authentic Italian parmesan is called, everything else is not authentic but still damn good).

Now I realize some of you may have an aversion to anchovies, even if you are well aware that it is in your Caesar dressing, maybe you just have a tough time handling the anchovies. If this is you, you should get over it because you are really missing out on anchovies. I know, I’ve been you before, but I pushed through my fear and jumped and I won’t go back. Anyway, in the event you just can’t do it, you can use 1 Tablespoon of capers and whatever brine you scoop up with the Tablespoon of capers from the jar instead.

Now, I roughly chop the garlic and mash the anchovy, but then I put it all in a blender and let the blender run a few minutes. If you don’t have a blender then finely mince your garlic (or even mash it) and then mash the anchovy (to mash (garlic or anchovy): sprinkle a little salt on it and use the side of your knife and mash it into the cutting board).

If you don’t have a blender: Whisk yogurt, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, and Worcestershire. Then whisk in the olive oil and cheese.

Toss the dressing with romaine lettuce, chicken is a yummy addition, and some homemade croutons. Top with shredded parm and some freshly ground pepper.


April 23, 2011

Easter Egg Decorating

Here is a great egg decorating idea that I would like to share with you. I got the idea to marble the eggs and using olive oil from Food Network.


Food coloring (I used the neon colors for these eggs)

1/2 cup boiling water for each color

1 t. vinegar for each color

10-20 drops of food coloring for each color

(Note: we followed the directions on the food coloring box and also mixed colors to make turquoise and raspberry for the marbling)

eggs (however many you want to color)

olive oil


Color your eggs the base color – you will want your lightest colors to be the “base” color.

Once you have colored all your eggs and they are dry, mix your dark or “marble” color. (This is where we made turquoise and raspberry.

Drizzle just a little olive oil in the color and using tongs or a spoon, break up the oil just a little bit.


(I’m not sure how well this works for the store bought coloring kits because the dye in those kits doesn’t seem to color the eggs nearly as fast as food coloring)

Roll your egg in the dye-oil mixture and then remove to a rack to dry.


The oil also gives the eggs a little sheen!

April 21, 2011

Strawberry-Avocado Salsa with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips


This recipe came from Cooking Light May 2011 Issue. I don’t know about you but I think Cooking Light always has the prettiest food! Full of color  and rustic backgrounds. I am really starting to like that magazine. Especially after this recipe. (Since I’m not as “healthy” as Cooking Light I added a little more oil (originally 2 teaspoons) and bumped the cinnamon sugar mixture (originally 2 teaspoons of sugar – I don’t know how you are supposed to cover 6 tortillas with that!) At the same time, I did not go overboard and lightly sugared and oiled the tortillas.

1 Tablespoon Canola oil
6 whole wheat tortillas
Cinnamon and sugar (I always keep this mixture on hand for cinnamon toast or cookies so if you don’t use it all you can save it for something else!)
2 ripe finely chopped and peeled avocados
1 cup finely diced strawberries (all the same size)
2 Tablespoons minced cilantro
1 teaspoon finely diced, seeded jalapenos
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3/8 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • To prepare chips, brush oil evenly over one side of each tortilla. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle a little evenly over the oil-coated sides of the tortillas.
  • Cut each tortilla into 12 wedges (I used a fluted pastry cutter to make the chips more fancy); arrange wedges in a single layer on two baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until crisp.
  • Combine avocado and remaining ingredients; stir gently to combine.

Serve with chips. Enjoy~

April 18, 2011

Open-faced Bruschetta Grilled Cheese

Since I watched the movie Julie and Julia I have been wanting to know what it is Julie made at the beginning of the movie. It was one of the first scenes and she was making dinner for her and her husband. It was fried bread and then some tomato-type topping that looked so good! I could almost taste whatever it was, while watching the movie, and then every day dream about it since. My expectations were somewhere between salty and crunchy fried bread and fresh vibrant vegetables.

What I came up with next fulfilled that “taste” and then some. A cross between bruschetta made with salty briney capers, fresh tangy tomatoes, melty cheese and crispy toasty bread. (I don’t think I ended enough words with “y”).

4 slices of your favorite artisan bread (sliced thick)
Fontina, cheddar or parmesan (I used Dubliner Irish Cheese, a cross between cheddar and parmesan)
1 Tablespoon of butter
2 tomatoes
2 Tablespoons capers (with the brine)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Dice the tomatoes into small even pieces (think what you would want to eat in one bite). If using fresh basil, cut the basil into thin ribbons.

(TIP: stack the basil leaves on top of one another fold in half, then fold in half again and run your knife through the leaves to create thin strips.)

Mince the garlic. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Slice 4 slices of bread, sliced on the thicker side. In a pan melt the butter. Add the bread and fry on both sides until golden brown.  Top each piece of bread with a thin slice of cheese immediately off the grill so it will melt.

Top with bruschetta mixture and Enjoy~

(SIDE NOTE: I made this later on and had some extra bruschetta left over and some extra pasta in my fridge. I tossed together the bruschetta, pasta, with some red onion and toasted pine nuts and it made an excellent pasta salad for my lunch!)

April 14, 2011

Seared Ahi w/Mixed Greens

This post will, by far, be the shortest post.  That’s how easy it is.

Seared Ahi

I made this for Appetizer Extravaganza! for Shawnee’s birthday (with zebra cheesecake).

Not having a lot of experience with making sushi or serving rare fish I am very cautious. I’m not confident with the freshness of fish at the grocery store, so I will start by telling you I called in a favor to a friend who owns a restaurant.  So if you know your source and the freshness of your fish you’re good (Or if you are lucky and fortunate enough to have a friend like I do!)

On with the recipe!

6-8oz of Ahi per person

sesame seeds (regular and black)

1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper

salt and pepper

On a plate evenly spread the sesame seeds, red pepper, salt and pepper.

Dip all sides of each piece of fish in the sesame seed mixture.

Heat a grill pan over high heat, spray with a thin coat of oil.

Sear the Ahi 2 minutes on each side (watch out the sesame seeds started popping everywhere).

Slice thinly and lay on a bed of greens. I served this with Sriracha chili sauce and soy sauce because we all liked it simple.


April 11, 2011

Zebra Cheesecake

Sometime ago while surfing the web I ran across a zebra cake (regular yellow/chocolate cake). I filed that idea away in my mind for future cake making use. You may have seen the checkered cakes and other fancy type cakes that appear to require super-baking skills and talent, but this is a very simple technique with a very impressive result. When you finally see how these cakes are created, you realize it is definitely do-able and may only require practicing a few times to really have it down. 

Since, I don’t usually make a cake, I make cupcakes (yes I know this is a fad, but I do it for other reasons – cupcakes are easier to share, travel well, are more versatile and fun to decorate). This weekend I am have created what I am calling “Appetizer and Wine Extravaganza!” as a (belated) birthday dinner for Shawnee, and this idea was perfect for her – my zebra-print loving friend (note my daughter recently chose zebra-print and hot pink to decorate her room, so I will please the masses with this one). As I write this I have a half hour left on the clock for the cake and I’m on pins and needles waiting to see if it works…it will be several hours before I can cut into this baby and I am very anxious to see it! (Note: as you can see above it came out looking cool and stripey, BUT I am going to do another take on this because it wasn’t quite what I wanted. Keep ya posted!)

The rest of the menu goes like this:
Spicy Seared Ahi on greens with soy sauce and Shriacha

Spicy Avocado Eggrolls

Empanadas (a true authentic Argentina family recipe) – thanks Lucy!

and WINE!

Shawnee and I recently decided that once a month we would try a new wine together (this could spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E)…but for the Extravaganza! We added a new wine to try – Francis Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Collection) was a great smooth red. Not too dry (I don’t like too dry). Definitely to-buy again!

Now let’s begin backwards and start with dessert!


3- 8oz. pkgs cream cheese (softened)

3/4c granulated sugar

1T vanilla

5 eggs

1/8 cup heavy whipping cream

1tsp lemon zest (optional)

BEAT cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined.


Add eggs one at a time and make sure incorporated.

Beat in whipping cream and zest.


Split the batter in half and sift in 1/4 cup of good quality powdered coco. (NOTE: there is no crust in this cake, I didn’t think that the batter would spread well with a crust – let me know if you try it out and how it works).

Now is the toughest part (and it’s not even that tough) – place 3 tablespoons of the vanilla cheesecake in the middle of the pan.


Place 3 tablespoons of the chocolate cheesecake on top of the vanilla…the batter will spread as you go, let it spread on it’s own.


Now place 3 tablespoons of the vanilla…


Here is what it looks like at three layers.


Now it’s ready to bake!

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. In a pan large enough to set the cheesecake pan inside of it. Fill the pan with 2” inches of water and set in the oven to preheat.  I wrap the spring-form pan in two layers of foil to make sure the water doesn’t seep into the cake (made a cake once and only used one layer and my crust was soggy from the water getting into it).

Reduce the oven to 300-degrees, bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 5 min (or until the middle is set).

April 7, 2011

Sausage, Bean and Kale Stew

The other day a wise man (my dentist, Chris Kleintjes) mentioned that someone must have came up with the name “Spring” for this season because [around here] the weather keeps springing back and forth. “At least that’s my perspective,” he said. Even if that is not really the reason behind the name “Spring,” I think from this point forward that’s what we should say anyway, considering the weather we get in Nevada. Looking out the window today I can tell you that it is very evident, the weather has sprung back to Winter! Yesterday was a decent Spring day, while today is surely Winter again!

With my anticipation of Spring and my daydreaming of farmer’s markets and CSA baskets, I decided to offer you this Sausage, Bean and Kale Stew. It’s warm and comforting for the cold days, but full of good stuff. Kale is a Spring green and if you subscribe to a CSA basket, you will probably be looking for recipes with greens. This stew is versatile, I have made it with Swiss Chard and it worked out just as well. Any hardy leafy green will do just fine. So use what you like.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs Dinner: A Love Story. Jenny, a food writer for publications such as Bon Appetit, Cookie, and Real Simple, and her husband write this blog about their adventures in cooking and eating dinner with their sometimes-picky children. Jenny held a contest for easiest meals with directions that you could fit in a Twitter post (that is 140 characters). I entered, but unfortunately for me I did not win. This recipe, however, was the winning recipe. Although my recipe did not take the “post” I did find a great new recipe I love…(Thank you DALS and Anna, the winner).



Sausage, Bean and Kale Stew

Dinner: A Love Story Contest

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
8 Italian sausage links (I squeeze the sausage out or buy it without the casing)
1 (32 oz. ) container of chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
1 large bunch of kale, rinsed & chopped (or other greens)

In a Dutch or large pot, sauté red pepper flakes and onion in olive oil until the onions soften, then add the sausage and cook until browned.

Add garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant. Add the broth, diced tomatoes, and beans, cook until heated through.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring it all to a boil. Add the kale, cover and simmer until the kale is wilted (just a few minutes). Serve with shredded or shaved parmesan or Romano and some of your favorite crusty bread.

April 3, 2011

April 4-10: This Week in Dinner

Can I just tell you how much I love my iPhone! This is probably the first phone that I have ever purchased that I have committed to buying again, once it breaks! Those guys at Apple are genius! I want an iPad now too! I am not partial to Apple and I know plenty other brands have great products – I’m just so used to my iPhone and iTunes and getting Apps that I’m afraid to use another brand and being disappointed at the availability of Apps and ease of use. Plus, I have an iPod and a lot of money invested in my iTunes library – see how the companies get you “stuck.” Okay well enough of my iPhone rant! (I don’t know what I did without my iPhone…just sayin’).

There was a point for my rant, I just purchased the “How to Cook Everything” App on my iPhone this week. It is FANTASTIC! You pay a one-time $5 for the App – you get a daily featured recipe, 2,000 recipes, 400 how-to illustrations, conversion tool for measurements, Mark Bittman’s cooking guidance – and more! The book is $35 and this App is only $5! THAT’s a steal (not that you get the entire book in the app, but man you sure do get a lot)! (I will still buy the book, I know it’s silly) I highly recommend this App. This was one of iTunes top ‘foodie’ recommended Apps so I had to get it.  There is a free version if you want to try it out first.

This week in dinner, I have chosen two of Mark Bittman’s recipes from this App – one featured recipe and one “quick meals” recipe. If you don’t know Mark Bittman, he is a NY Times columnist – just ended his food column of many years, the Minimalist, and now he will have a column in the Opinion section. Bittman wrote How to Cook Everything and Food Matters. He is a health conscious foodie.  Close to my heart, he is a writer and has never had formal training as a chef, but he is very well known and respected in the food world. Check out his blog here.

This week in Dinner: 


– Chunky Vegetable Soup (featured recipe on How to Cook Everything App)

(Lunch: left overs)


-Sausage Kale Stew (this came from a Dinner: A Love Story blog reader)

(Lunch: work meeting lunch)


– Tomato and Cheese Frittata (How to Cook Everything App – quick meals section)

(Lunch: work meeting lunch)


– Left over Vegetable Soup

(Lunch: Ham and Cheese Croissant w/light Caesar salad)


– Eat Out!

(Lunch: left over Sausage and Kale Stew)


– To Be Decided


Dinner w/friends: Asian Mexican fusion (kind-a)

Spicy Avocado Eggrolls, Seared Ahi and Margaritas.