Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Wishes

ONE. Working Out
I have been doing going getting to spin the last few weeks, but waking up at 5:20am to do so is hard so my wish is it will get easier to get out of bed in the morning. I wish I was one of those girls who claim they are addicted to working out. I seem to talk myself out of working out more than into it. 

Two. My dream home
My husband and I are STILL house hunting and have had some major set backs this last week. My wish is that our dream house is still out there and we find it soon. 

I am chapter 3 of this amazing bible study and I hope I find the time to really dig into it and grow from it and discuss it with my girlfriend soon.

FOUR. Find a cute up-do
Doing my hair has never been my thing, I get intimidated by it and normally just wear it down. I wish I knew how to style my hair like this. 

FIVE. My Husband
I am blessed with the most amazing husband and we have been through so much together. My wish is he makes it home safe this week and passes his California Bar with flying colors and we can move on to the next season in our lives together! 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And the Oscar Goes To...

I LOVE the Oscars. Men have sports seasons, women have award season and the Oscars is the Super Bowl of it!

I threw my second annual Oscar party this last Sunday, and even though it didn't go exactly as I planned, I let it go and had a blast.

I invited some fabulous ladies in my life and we all had such a fun time dressing up and having fun with it. Even my dog wore a bow tie; and if I do say so, he was very styling.

I am OBSESSED with candy so this is my annual excuse to live out my fantasy and create a candy bar. I just go to the dollar store and walmart and load up with all the bests: peach rings, M&Ms, skittles, nerds, mile duds, Reece's pieces, sour worms, gummy bears, red vines, etc. I used a bunch of martini glasses, wine glasses, bowls,  and margarita glasses and just made everything look festive. I also bought Chinese boxes from Walmart so everyone could take some to-go candy as their party gift. I think it turned out cute. 

We also had to give Harry Winston a run for his money and show off our bling! haha

We had three games we played. First we printed ballots off the Oscar website and before the show started, everyone put their picks down. At the end, whoever guessed the most correct in each category won! The second game we played was Oscar Bingo. Each square had fun things like people thanking their spouse in their speech, or people crying, or the Help wins an award. First person to get BINGO won. The last game was for best dressed at the party. For prizes, I went to the dollar store and got a sparkly silver bag and filled them with fun movie favors like old glass bottles of soda, candy, popcorn, Audrey Hepburn note pads, etc. 

Now lets talk food. I made three appetizers that I released through out the night. The first was a duo of crostinis. One was a steak and onion crostini, one was a pear and honey crostini with Gorgonzola cheese. 

To make the steak crostini:
What you will need:
1 small steak
Havarti Cheese
1 large white or yellow onion

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get a small fry pan hot on stove. Add a steak seasoned with salt and pepper to HOT pan and sear each side for about 3 minutes each. Remove from heat and let rest. Cut baguette into about 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay each slice flat on cookie sheet. Put in oven for 2 minutes to get toasted...not browned yet. Remove from oven. Put a large frying pan on stove; heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion to large frying pan and cook will translucent. Slice steak into little thin squares. Slice Havarti cheese into small squares

On lightly toasted sliced baguette, add small steak square, cheese square, and a small spoonful of onion. Repeat till all bread slices are full. Put in oven to cook till cheese is melted.  
To make the pear crostini:
What you will need:
1 pear
Gorgonzola Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put a small pot of water on stove. Add 1/4 cup sugar into water. Pearce pear with a knife a few times and add to pot. Bring to low boil until pear softens. Remove pear from water and let cool. Cut baguette into about 1 1/2 inch thick slices and lay flat on cookie sheet. Slice Pear into thin squares. Top bread slices with pear squares. Drizzle very lightly with honey. Top with Gorgonzola cheese crumble. Put in oven till cheese melts. Remove and put on platter to serve.

Another Appetizer I made was a Honey Roasted Onion Tart. Click here for recipe

Lastly, I made a grilled cheese with a shot of tomato soup. It made for the perfect finger food! 

Can't wait for the next years party. 


Honey Roasted Onion Tart

This is one of my favorite appetizers. Its not too much prep work, and it gives you a lot of down time while everything cooks for you to prep your dinner or straighten up before a dinner party. The flavors in this dish work together so well that almost any guest will be impressed with your use of flavors! YUM YUM! 

What you'll need:

1 sheet sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed

3-4 bacon slices

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup white wine

2 large sweet yellow onions cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

3/4 cup crème fraîche (you can use sour cream to substitute)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (you can use dry if you can't get fresh)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to 14x10-inch rectangle. Pastry will be very thin but still manageable. Transfer dough to large cooking sheet that has been lightly floured. Fold 1/2 inch of pastry edges in toward center on all sides. Press firmly on pastry edges with fork to form rim. Chill crust in refrigerator.

Cook bacon in small skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from skillet. Whisk honey, wine, and reserved 1 tablespoon bacon drippings in large bowl. Add onions; toss to coat. Line another large baking sheet with tin foil. Spread onion mixture in even layer on sheet. Roast 30 minutes or until lightly browned and translucent. Turn onions over, allowing rings to separate. Roast until onions are caramelized, turning often for even browning, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven; cool onions slightly.

Increase oven temperature to 400°F. Mix crème fraîche, sea salt, black pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl. Using spatula, spread crème fraîche mixture over crust to folded edge. Arrange onions atop crème fraîche. Sprinkle with bacon. Bake tart until crust is light golden brown and topping is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme. Cut into little squares and transfer to a serving plater. 

Bon Appetit! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Wishes

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today has been such a great day. Its ASH wednesday which is also the first day of Lent. While I am not catholic, but I feel like lent is being adopted as a christian faith as a time to celebrate God. There are many stories in the bible about sacrifice, including the 40 days Jesus wondered the desert without food and water and drew closer to God during that time. As christians we are called to try to be as christ-like as we can, so I am taking these 40 days and devoting myself to bible study and calling on my God. I have decide to give up talking poorly about my in-laws, which is something that is a huge sin in my life and I really want to change because I don't like being so negative; see my rainbows and butterflies post. Below are my wishes for this week!

Wish 1: Be more optimistic and see the rainbows and butterflies in situations
Wish 2: I am throwing an Oscar Party on sunday and my wish is people have fun and it goes well

Wish 3: To get into top shape and go to the gym 4 times this week
Wish 4: To continue having fun and successfully cooking my way through this cookbook


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scallion Potato Cake Recipe

I am continuing to work through some of Thomas Keller’s recipes from his cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. In full disclosure, I felt a very un-confident in cooking this recipe. This is not something I would typically make so I didn't know if i was doing it right, or what its supposed to look like. However, now having done it, I am excited to make it again and realize how silly I was being. Rule number 1 in the kitchen is have fun, and for wahtever reason, my insecurity with this dish I lost that. However, proud to report after finishing this recipe, I have move past it. PLEASE try this recipe and don't let my silliness scare you! 
What you will need: 
1 large russet potato
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Food Processor
Frying pan

Peel and grate potatoes by hand and wash.  Get out you food processor with a coarse shredding blade. Add 1 peeled potato at a time till all the potatoes are shredded. Transfer the shredded potatoes to a large bowl of cold water and swirl and rinse the potatoes. Lift them from the water and dry in a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towel and transfer to a large dry bowl. Sprinkle the cornstarch around the sides of the bowl and toss the potatoes to coat. From here, I spread all the potatoes on the counter and separated into thirds as you will be making 3 potato pancakes.
Heat some canola oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Turn down the heat to medium. 
Take 1 of your 3 piles of potatoes and divide in half; spread that half to the frying pan and spread into a 5 to 6 inch circle. Do not press down on the potatoes; you want to keep the cake light and airy. Sprinkle a generous amount of green onions on the cake, season with salt and pepper and top with the other half of your potato pile. Cook for 6-7 minutes to brown the bottom. If needed, add a bit of canola oil to the pan; you want to hear the potatoes sizzling. 
Carefully turn the pancake to brown the second side and cook until it is browned and crisp. 
Allow to cook for 5 to 6 more minutes. Once golden brown, remove from oil and place on a cooling rack to allow to drain. Since I had two more pancakes to make, I kit hot in the over on low heat. 
Take your 2 pile of potatoes and divide in half. Again, add half to oil and spread into 5 to 6 in circle. Repeat above steps for this pile and pile 3. 
Take your three pancakes and cut into wedges and serve hot. I served as a side dish with chicken. 

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel

My amazing husband bought me Thomas Keller's cook book, Ad Hoc at Home. I am in love with it because all the recipes are rustic, (which I have learned that is what my cook style leans towards) and pretty easy to navigate through. I am excited to work my way through this cookbook and share some tips and recipes with you all along my way! 

What you need:
3 large fennel bulbs
12 chicken thighs
kosher salt
canola oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
¼ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (I used Robert Mondovi and then served the rest with the meal)
1 cup large green olives
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 fresh or 2 dried Bay leaves
4 strips lemon zest – removed with vegetable peeler
8 thyme sprigs
1 cup Chicken Stock
about ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves (I didn't have so I used dried parsley)


Cut off the fennel stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-½-inch batons. You need 3 cups fennel for this recipe; reserve any remaining fennel for another use.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt. Heat some canola oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Its really important to make sure your oil is hot and sizzling when you add your chicken. Add the thighs skin-side-down and brown on the skin side, about 4 minutes. 

Turn the thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear meat. Transfer to cooling rack.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan and cook for 1½ minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in the fennel, turn the heat up to medium, and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest and thyme, then pour in the chicken stock. Increase the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

Taste the stock and season with salt, as needed. I didn't add more salt at this point because I felt it was salty enough, but I did add a little ground pepper. Return the chicken to the pan skin-side-up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Turn on the broiler, and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the chicken skin. Remove from oven, and transfer to a plate, spoon sauce over each chicken. Garnish with parsley leaves.

This meal was a HUGE hit at my house. The suggestions I got was to add a little bit more fennel to the sauce so each person could have more than a fe slices because it complimented the chicken so well. I served with a side salad and potato pancakes. 
Let me know what you think! 
Bon Appetit! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Easy Lasagna

Steven's Italian grandma taught be how to make Italian lasagna the way her family has been making it for years. Its quite a process and sometimes you just want something a little different and simpler...yet with amazing flavor. I was flipping through Thomas Keller's "French Laundry" cookbook and came across their staff lasagna recipe.

Staff meals are simple meals the chef of a restaurant makes for their crew around 3 or 4pm before the nights service begins. These meals have to be easy enough to whip up quickly without impeding on the restaurants service, but has to be packed full of flavor. I thought I would give it a try

Here's what you will need:
Olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup tomato paste
8 cups peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped oregano
2 tablespoon basil
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup parsley
1 pound lasagna noodles
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

For the filling:
Combine Ricotta, eggs, parsley and a dash of salt and pepper. Whisk till combined. Cover and refrigerate.

For the sauce:
In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir frequently till turns oragnish...about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir. Let simmer on low for about and hour to let the flavors melt together. Stir frequently to make sure the bottom of the pot doesn't brown. When the sauce is done, it should be thick, chunky, and reduced down a little. Add oregano and basil and let cool to room temperature. 

Cook your lasagna noodles as specified on the box and allow to cool slightly. 

To assemble:
Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your 9 by 13 baking pan. This will help prevent your noodles from sticking. Lay down some noodles, slightly overlapping. I cut some noodles in half to make the perfect size to cover the dish. 
Spread some sauce over the noodles paying attention to the edges so they don't burn and stay moist. 

Top with your ricotta cheese mixture. Repeat another layer on noodles, then sauce then the remaining ricotta mixture. Add one more layer of noodles, sauce, then top with grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. 

Put in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until mozzarella is golden brown. 

I liked this recipe because it was pretty easy to make. I feel like Steven's granny's recipe has more flavor to it and is more moist, but this was a hit and even she liked it when I served it. 

For a traditional Italian feast, why not serve it with a salad and my minestrone soup?

Bon Appetit! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rainbows and Butterflies

Most of you don't know me personally, but a lot of people in my life call me very naive. I never understood why until I had a coworker explain it to me once so I could understand this.

In bad situations, I try to spin it to be positive. In certain situations when people can read into things or assume the worse, I choose to think the best in people. When a situation has the potential of being bad, I am hopeful that it won't be. I live in a world of rainbows and butterflies. Ever since my talk with my coworker I decided that its not being naive, its being on optimist; its seeing things in a different light.

I like my world of rainbows and butterflies. It's a happier and more peaceful place than being consumed with drama  or negative thinking all the time. I wouldn't ever choose to leave my world for a moment.

Don't take this as being naive, because by definition, naive means "lack of experience, or information" and trust me, I have both.  I have had a lot of things in my life go wrong. Things haven't always been perfect in my life. People have hurt me. I have lost trust in a lot of people, however every person and situation are different and putting other past experiences onto new ones is limiting your future.

I choose to believe in positive thinking. I believe every person has a good side to them. I believe in second chances. I believe in seeing things differently. I believe there is an end to every storm. I believe in rainbows and butterflies. Who's with me?

"And God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set the bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the each. "
Genesis 9:12-13

Monday, February 13, 2012

Minestroni Soup

There is nothing better on a cold day than a good cup of hearty soup. This recipe is a play on Italian Minestrone soup and can be served as an prelude to your meal or simply as a meal on its own. What I love about this recipe is its so easy and just simmers so you can multitask while it cooks.

  • What You'll Need:
    1/3 pound sliced pancetta cubed
    2 medium red onions, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, cubed
  • 3 medium carrots, shave the skin and chop
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard. Separate the leafs from the stems. Set leafs to one side and dice the stems
  • 6 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 3 quart hot water
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 5 cups chopped cabbage 
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano 
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small box of little pasta...I used stars

In a big pot, add olive oil and heat. Add pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once onions begin to become translucent, add swiss chard steams to pancetta pot. Add garlic and a dash of salt and pepper. Continue Cooking for approximately 45 minutes will all the vegetables cook together and soften. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom of the pot from burning. 

Push vegetables to one side of pot and add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. 

Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add can of tomatoes and juices. Add water and vegetable broth. Bring to simmer. Add cabbage, kale, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 30 minutes.
Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper. Add pasta right before serving.

Bon Appetit!!