F the “Skinny Bitch”

February 18, 2009 at 6:58 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

So January started with the idea of following the “Skinny Bitch” diet!  It lasted about a week (and that could be exaggerating!)  But, even though I wasn’t a strict adherent to the intended diet, I for some reason lost my zest for cooking.  Because really, how good can lasagna be when it has to be made with tofu cheese?

There were no post-its marking recipes in my foodie magazines, there was no meal planning, there was only ad hoc Chinese take out and delivered pizza…just because I was trying to follow some silly rules set up by some “skinny bitches”!  For some reason it just took a while to see some holes in the plan!  Like… I might be better off indulging myself in something I want to eat, than buying food that I actually really don’t want to consume!

But, now I am back.  Cooking is happening in the kitchen once more.  The new goal…2 experiment/new dishes a week.  The rest of the time, good ole stand by favorites.

So here we go…tonight…something I have never actually prepared myself, but have had many, many times…mussels!  Thank You, Thank You Bon Appetit magazine for the inspiration…god knows I needed it!

Steamed Mussels with Sausages and Fennel
Bon Appetit, February 2008
(I cut the recipe in half, so it serves 4…my version is the one below)

1 # Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage, sliced into 1″ chunks
1 large onions, sliced
1 large fresh fennel bulbs, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 t crushed red pepper
1 1/2 C dry white wine
3 # mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 baguette
EVOO for drizzling
Chopped fresh Italian parsley

1.  Preheat oven to 450F. 
2.  Heat large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook until browned, turning occasionally.  Add onions, fennel, garlic, and crushed red pepper.  Add white wine and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer until sausages and veggies are cooked through (about 12 minutes). 
3.  Add 1/2 C of wine and mussels to skillet; transfer skillets to oven and roast uncovered for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove skillets from and top each skillet with enough baguette slices to cover completely.  Return skillet to oven and bake uncovered until mussels open and bread slices begin to brown (about 5 minutes).
4.  Drizzle bread with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve mussels and sausages directly from skillet
Note:  Super yummy when I drank it with my friends Rose.

Super yummy for your tummy!


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Rainy Sunday and Roasted Chicken

February 15, 2009 at 5:16 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) ()

I am completely loving the rain! 

The Pitter, Patter sound on the windows.  The clean smell.  The gray clouds rolling over the Mayacamas mountains…NVS anyone?

The rain hasn’t stopped all day, and I really hope it doesn’t anytime soon!  Because of the rain I am actually inspired  to stay at home and get stuff done.  Things that seem so awful to do when it is sunny and bocce is calling my name. 

And when the rain is coming down in buckets and buckets, what is more fun than roasting a little chicken?  Not much, unless it is Pot Roast, or Lasagna, or short ribs.

But, today i roasted a chicken and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!  So delicious that I was actually inspired to share it with you…so here it goes…

Special Sunday Roast Chicken
Bon Appetit, February 2009

2  12-oz unpeeled russet potato, cut into 1″ cubes
1 12 oz yam, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2  Large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
3  medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
1 1/2 T EVOO
3 T unsalted butter, @ room temp
2 T finely chopped fresh sage
2  garlic cloves, pressed
1 4# chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1 t kosher salt
8 C torn mustard greens
1 shallot, minced
1/2 C dry white wine
1/4 C water

1.  Toss first 5 ingredients in large roasting pan.  Mix butter, sage and garlic in small bowl.  Place chicken in center of vegetables.  Spread sage butter under skin as well as on top.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Stuff lemons in the cavity.
2.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Roast chicken and veggies for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven to 375F; continue roasting until instant read thermometer reads 165F and veggies are tender.  Stirring veggies once after about 1 hour.
3.  Place greens and shallot on large deep platter.  Spoon 3 T fat from juices in pan and drizzle over greens; toss to coat.  Using slotted spoon, transfer roasted veggies to platter placing atop greens.  Tilt chicken, allowing juices to flow from cavity into pan.  Transfer chicken to work surface.  Cut into serving pieces and arrange with veggies atop the greens.
4.  Add wine and 1/4 C stock or water to roasting pan.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring to scrape up browned bits.  Simmer until slightly reduced
(about 3 minutes).  Season sauce to taste with S&P.  Transfer to a small pitcher and serve alongside chicken.

WaLa – dinner on a rainy Sunday!

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Cookbook Club – December 2008

December 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm (Cookbook Club, Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, , )

This time we decided to do something different.  This time something a little more festive.  So the girls decided let’s get inspired by cocktails…can’t go wrong with that this time of year…right?

artisinal-cocktailsThe chosen book was “Artisinal Cocktails:  Drinks Inspired by the Seasons”written by famed St. Helena boy Scott Bade about his concoctions behind the bar at Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg.  (Side note:  Cyrus is probably the BEST restaurant I have ever had the experience of eating!)

The theme for the party was pair up with someone and pick a cocktail, and then make your “go-to” holiday appetizer.  Britt and I made the Autumn Apple cocktail which had apple rum, cinnamon, and dried apples for garnish.  Super yummy and perfect for a fall evening.  For my appie I threw together “Wickedly Good Potato Bites”.  A super simple finger food that is perfect for cocktail parties.

What you’ll need:  baby potatoes, chives, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat cheese, and toasted Pine Nuts.

Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper.  Roast the potatoes at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  While potatoes roast, combine the chopped chives, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, goat cheese, and pine nuts in a bowl.  Season to taste.  When potatoes are done, let them cool a little so they can be handles.  Then cut them in half, and out of each half scoop out some potato to make a little boat.  Fill the boat with the olive mixture.  Sprinkle with more chives and serve.

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Quickie Dinner and a Movie

December 17, 2008 at 12:26 pm (Good Eats & Drinks) (, , )

It’s officially the holidays.  Making up lists and checking them twice.  I give presents for naughty, rather than nice.  But that’s not a surprise it it?

It’s a busy time of year, and when it gets busy I get lazy on preparing my own food…it’s sooooo much easier to grab something on the go or order take-out.  But, since I am trying to eat healthily this week I made a super-quick dinner that included salmon and broccoli rabe.  Doesn’t get much healthier, right?  And I need something quick because I had a movie date at 8:15 to see Rachel Getting Married (which by the way is EXTREMELY dark and filled me with anxiety…in a good movie kind of way…highly recommended!)

For Salmon:  Mix together mayo, Dijon mustard, dashes hot pepper sauce, chopped garlic, chopped chives, and chopped tarragon.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Place salmon in a baking dish skin down and cover with mayo mixture.  Drizzle with a little honey.  Bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.

For Broccoli Rabe:  Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add broccoli rabe to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and then cool.  While cooling, in a skillet melt butter, then add 2 cloves chopped garlic and a handful of chopped walnuts.  Cook over medium high heat until butter is browned.  Add broccoli rabe to skillet and cook for and additional 5-8 minutes. 

Serve salmon and broccoli together.  Winner, winner deliciously quick dinner!

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Tortilla Soup – The FAST Way!

December 10, 2008 at 9:13 am (Good Eats & Drinks) (, , , )

While flipping through the December issue of Gourmet magazine I stumbled across Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup.  “Yum” I thought as started reading the Ingredients and Directions.  “Ouch” I said, when I realized that it would take 3 and 3/4 hours to make.  Who has that amount of time to spend on a Tuesday night dinner?

But, then I realized 2 and 3/4 hours of the time was due to cooking the chicken and making homemade stock.  So, I decided to cheat.  Solution:  store bought stock and rotisserie chicken.  Easy, peasy dinner in an hour!

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 Quarts Chicken Broth
1 Rotisserie Chicken
3 whole Allspice
1 whole Clove
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 t black peppercorns
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 T chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
1 T adobo sauce from can
1 C brown rice
1 1/2 # sweet potatoes (about 2 ), peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 (15-19oz) can black beans
2 avocados, sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
1/2 C finely chopped cilantro
Smashed tortilla chips
And if you are feeling a little frisky some grated cheese and sour cream!

1.  Heat chicken stock in large soup pot.  While heating toast spices over medium-low heat, until fragrant and a shade darker (about 2 minutes).
2.  Transfer spices to a blender along with onion, garlic, chipotles and adobo sauce, 2 1/2 t salt, and 1 C chicken stock.  Blend until mixture is smooth and spices are ground.
3.  Add puree to stock in the pot along with rice and sweet potatoes.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer, covered, until sweet potatoes and rice are tender (about 45 minutes).
4.  While soup simmers, discard skin and bones of rotisserie chicken and shred meat into bite size pieces.  Prepare garnishes.
5.  When rice and sweet potatoes are tender, add chicken and black beans to soup and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.
6.  Season soup with salt and pepper and serve with garnishes of lime wedges, cilantro, avocados, and tortilla chips!


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No More Leftovers…Please!

December 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

I am so very thankful that Thanksgiving is over.  Not because I don’t love gathering with family and friends to enjoy a delicious feast, but because I really can’t stomach the leftovers from the feast another day!  No more turkey, no more mashed potatoes, and please no more pumpkin cheese cake with marshmallow frosting.

So even though I would love to share all of the fabulous things we made for our Thanksgiving feast…I just don’t think I can do it.  Just know, that it was AMAZING!

Instead I am going to share how I got creative and took some leftover Ile de France Brie from the cheese plate and made a delightful little sandwich which was a complete departure from the typical Thanksgiving Day fare.  I make this sandwich whenever I am fortunate enough to have a Brie like the Il de France, which is nice and creamy.  It was inspired by a sandwich from a little place I used to visit above Gloucester Tube station while living in London.  It was a nice warm treat on a cold London day.

Here’s what you do:  Take one baguette and toast it lightly in the oven.  Once warm, cut the baguette in half down the center.  Spread the brie cheese over one half of the baguette and a hot and spicy mustard (or Dijon mustard) on the other half.  Top the brie with ham and sliced tomatoes and then the other baguette half.  Put back in the oven until cheese is slightly melted.  Ooh, la, la!  And when I feel a little more feisty, I wash this delicious treat down with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

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Practice Makes Perfect

November 25, 2008 at 8:10 am (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

One Thanksgiving down…one more to go!roast-turkey

This year we are not traveling to Bass Lake.  Mom had knee surgery and is kind of immobile.  So if not traveling to Grandma’s, and Mom is immobile who is cooking…Natalie, Erin and Dad.  Should be interesting!

Because I have never really cooked anything at Thanksgiving due to all of the Chiefs in the Kitchen, I was really nervous about the whole Turkey and Gravy routine.  Mashed potatoes – no problem, Stuffing – in my sleep.  But, cooking a whole bird on my own and then making gravy without lumps…dangerous!

So when my friend Blake received a turkey from his mom, I gladly volunteered to help cook it…and make the gravy.  Friday night was spent perusing Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines for the perfect recipe.  Saturday day was lists and a trip to the grocery store.  Saturday night was prep and a couple bottles of wine (wasn’t in this on my own by the way…I talked Britt into being my sous chef).  Sunday we got up early to finish the job and supervise the other elves who were making things like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and brussel sprouts with bacon and jalapeno (yummy)!

Brittany and I made the Roast Turkey with Bacon-Herb butter and Cider Gravy (Bon Appetit, November 2008).  And I can honestly say, maybe the best turkey ever.  Maybe it was the bacon, maybe it was the herb butter, or maybe it was the fact that we made it on our own…but damn, it was FABULOUS!

Now I am ready for the real “Turkey Day”.  I will walk into the kitchen with my head held high and tackle that job like nobodies business.  But, of course I do like a challenge so I have chosen a completely different recipe for the Turkey…let you know how that goes!

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Winner, Winner Indian Chicken Korma Dinner

November 12, 2008 at 7:49 am (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

I was cold.  I was tired from a 10-hour work day.  I wanted a home-cooked meal.  Requirements – it needed to be fast and tasty.  Lucky for me I had a recipe stashed away just for an evening like this from my friends at loulies.com Quick Indian Chicken Korma.  It only took me an hour and 20 minutes, and this included a much needed stop at Sunshine Market.  Pretty quick for a store stop and braising a stew.  And, it really was delicious!

Warning:  This recipe calls for a random assortment of spices that might not be in everyone’s pantry/spice cupboard.  Since I cook a lot of Indian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, etc. I already had these ready to go!  If you don’t have these spices in the pantry and are on a budget be aware…this could be an expensive dish to throw together!

For those of you who want a little history:
Braising (korma)is an important technique in Moghul cooking, the process of braising is very similar to the Western method, with one difference – the braising liquid used in korma is much thicker (it includes yogurt, cream and/or fruit and nut butters).  It yields a rich, velvety sauce that heavily coats the meats and vegetables.  Serve with basmati rice.

Quick Indian Chicken Korma
Serves 6

1 1/2″ pieced fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 medium onion
1 t ground cardamom
1 T ground coriander
1 T ground cumin
1 large can of tomatoes, chopped
3 # skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t kosher salt
6 T heavy whipping cream

1.  Chop ginger and garlic into chunks.  Add to a blender with 1/4 C water and blend to a smooth paste.
2.  Heat oil in a large frying pan on high heat.  When it is very hot add bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds.  Stir a couple of times and add onion.  Cook until onion softens.  Add garlic and ginger paste from blender, and then add ground cardamom, coriander, and cumin. 
3.  Add tomatoes, and chicken, salt and cayenne pepper.  Give a stir and then add 1 1/2 C water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, turn the heat to medium and let cook for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove the cover and add cream.  Cook on high heat for another 5-8 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.

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