Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pasta Para Uno: Carbonara

When my chef is unavailable or out of town (as he is currently), I am forced to cook for myself. I use the word "forced" in jest--sort of. I love to cook, but since dinner has been ready when I get home from work for nearly a year, I am a little rusty (and a little bit spoiled).

One of my go-to meals when I am dining solo is Pasta Carbonara. Bacon? Eggs? Pasta? Buonissima! My favorite everyday pasta is linguine, so I made Linguine Carbonara. It's quick, easy, and luxurious--a perfect dinner for one!

All you do throw some noodles in boiling water and while they cook, beat an egg, cheese, fresh ground pepper, and a smidge of cream together (I used fat-free half and half since it was all we had on hand, and it worked fine). Toss with the pasta and some crumbled bacon (even though the recipe calls for pancetta) and you'll be in the best company ever.

The next time you're in need of a quick and tasty meal, go for some Carbonara. This recipe from Giada will hit the spot!

Happy Searching!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pigs in a Blanket for Pigskin Season

If I had to pick a favorite season, I would have to choose summer. My husband's favorite season? Football season.

Truthfully, I don't get nearly as excited about the sport itself but the snacks that come along with it are reason enough for me to rally! Although we like to try out fancy recipes and nouveau cuisine, we also love a tried-and-true classic.

I couldn't remember the last time we made Pigs in a Blanket, so we broke out the weenies and crescent rolls and went to town!

In an effort to refrain from being totally gluttonous, I used Turkey Lil' Smokies and reduced fat crescent rolls. But cutting calories did not cut the deliciousness--they were so yummy! Of course, if you made the full fat version and had a side-by-side tasting, you would definitely notice a difference (the reduced fat rolls are less buttery and flaky, but still good).

And...they were easy peasy. I just kept the dough in tact (I pinched any seams together that were coming apart after popping open the can), brushed it with a little honey mustard (adds flavor and keeps the pigs moist) and cut strips slightly narrower than the weenies. Then I wrapped 'em, baked 'em seam side down @ 350 for 10-15 minutes and voila! A classic! Tasty Pigs in a Blanket. Haven't tried them in a while either? You should!

Happy Searching,

Friday, September 10, 2010

Who Put the Dip in the Dip Da Dip Da Dip?

During one of our Saturday Smorgasports, we felt like having a dip of some sort. Ryan found a recipe from one of our newer cookbooks that looked promising. It can be risky to venture into unknown culinary territory, but it often pays off.  This recipe definitely did--it was not only delicious, but super easy (which is exactly what we love)! 

The next time you have to take an hors d'oeuvres dish somewhere or feel like trying a new dip just because, whip this up, courtesy of The Deen Brothers! It's great with pretzels, potato chips, and bread.

Happy Searching!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Melon Heaven

At the end of July, we took a mini-road trip up to Oklahoma to visit Ryan's family. After catching up with everyone (and getting some good Oklahoma eats), we took the scenic route back to avoid traffic and mix up the drive.

One of the greatest things about the back roads in this section of the country (aside from some hilarious photo ops) is the produce. In the summertime, there are roadside stands outside of every town offering their prized watermelons and cantaloupes. We bought one of each from a friendly fella and moseyed on our way.

I have to say that melons from the supermarket don't even come close to these...these were incredible. We sliced them up and savored their juicy goodness, summer dripping off of each bite. Even though they were good on their own, my favorite way to eat cantaloupe--especially really good cantaloupe--is on top of really good vanilla ice cream. 

Holy smokes, I almost forgot how much I love this. It's unbelievably simple, but unbelievably good. If you are a cantaloupe fan, this is a must-try. You'll thank me later.  

Stay tuned for more melon posts...we had lots to consume and enjoyed trying out some new recipes! 

Happy Searching,

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

Well, it's been a long time, my friends! My apologies for the long hiatus...I've had a few irons in the fire. Running my own classroom of seven- and eight-year olds for the very first time plus a mild case of pneumonia have required my full attention these past few weeks. Fun, overwhelming, and exhausting pretty much sum up the experience. Even though I've been busy, though, it doesn't mean I haven't been eating deliciously (thank you, Ryan)!

A few weeks back, the chef himself was craving some hot wings (which are some of my favorite pub-grub items as well). Without a good wing joint nearby, he improvised and ended up creating my new favorite treats: Buffalo Chicken Sliders.

They seemed to be fairly simple to put together:  Cut the chicken breasts to fit the slider buns, bread them (flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs), and toss them in a mixture of melted butter and Louisana hot sauce (Ryan basically followed the recipe on the bottle).

Place them on toasted slider buns (we found these little gems at our regular grocery store and they're awesome). Add a dollop of homemade blue cheese dressing (recipe below), some lettuce and diced red onion and you are in business--Scrumptious Buffalo Business! Served along side some roasted potatoes and a cucumber tomato salad, these sliders are so tasty--they'll become your new fave, too. Give 'em a try!

Best Blue Cheese Dressing
Equal parts mayo & sour cream
Blue cheese crumbles (as many or few as you like)
Chopped chives 
Squeeze of lemon

Mix all together. Dressing is thick--add milk to thin out if using for salad.

Happy Searching!

Friday, August 6, 2010


A few weeks back, we kicked off our visit to San Diego with a fabulous dinner. Personally, I don't think there's a better way to begin a vacation. A delicious meal sets the tone for the trip and allows you to relax while you plan out your itinerary (i.e., what  meals you're going to eat for the duration of your trip). So, we threw some goodies on the grill, grabbed a glass of wine, and got into total chill mode.

Ryan & Papa C have definitely become grill masters (they even hand-cut their own steaks from a giant slab of beef, Flintstone-style). After getting the coals nice and hot, they put some simply seasoned ribeyes on the grill. The boys have tried various marinades and spices over the years, but have discovered that less is more: olive oil, salt (or Lawry's), and pepper is all that's necessary to enhance the smokey flavor of the meat.

Nothing goes better with grilled steaks than grilled side dishes. Ryan whipped up an amazing fingerling potato salad. He steamed the potatoes a bit to start them cooking, then finished them off on the grill. The potato party also included some crumbled goat cheese, microgreens, crispy bacon, and a light lemon-dijon vinaigrette. Once it was tossed all together and served, an embarrassing amount of oohing and aahing ensued. (Remember the dinner scene from "What About Bob?" It was kinda like that).

The only thing missing now? Some corn on the cob. But not just any corn on the cob. Corn with a homemade cilantro butter, courtesy of Mama C. Holy kernels, it was delicious! How did she do it? She took some finely chopped cilantro, minced garlic, salt, and pepper and mixed it into softened butter. She popped it into the fridge to harden a bit, then brought it out for us to slather all over our sweet summer corn. Three ears later, I was nearly in a corn-coma. So good!

So fire up the coals, grab a glass of wine or a cold brew and enjoy the smokey relaxation of the grill. The burning question: what do you like to chill with? Burgers? Beer-can-chicken? If it's grill-icious, do tell!

Happy Searching!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wacky Word Wednesday

chiffonade (pronounced "shif-FUH-nod"): A way of cutting large leaf herbs that produce fine ribbons obtained by tightly rolling the leaves and slicing across in thin cuts.
The recipe called for a chiffonade of basil as a garnish for the pasta.

Want to see a quick demo of how to make a chiffonade cut? Click here!

Happy Searching!

*Information courtesy of www.italian-cooking-made-easy.com/cooking-terms.html

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Great BBQ Debate

There are few dilemmas in our household when it comes to BBQ. Thankfully, there are no disagreements about where to get it: the best bbq is at the Salt Lick, unanimously. (It's the one that's been featured on tons of shows on both Food Network and The Travel Channel).

We both know where to go. Our debate surrounds what to order when we get there. The two topics in question?

1. Beef vs. Pork (Ryan vs. Jen)
2. To Side or Not to Side (Jen vs. Ryan)

Pork Baby Backs with Sides

Beef Ribs with Sides

1. Beef vs. Pork (Ryan vs. Jen)
If the Salt Lick had bacon, I'm pretty sure this one would easily go to the pig. But, Ryan had the Beef Ribs for the first time a few Sundays ago and I've never seen a man eat with such conviction. I had the Pork Baby Back Ribs (which were incredible), but Ryan said (and I quote) "These beef ribs are so good, I want to hang the bones up above the mantle."

We don't even have a mantle (thank goodness) but Ryan says those were hands-down the best ribs he's ever had. I think I prefer the pork ribs since they are a bit leaner; Ryan likes the beef because they are fattier and meatier. Where do you weigh in on the meat debate?

2. To Eat or Not to Eat Sides (Jen vs. Ryan)
Sides are given their name for a reason--they're not the main dish and are often forgettable. (Ryan claims that they just take up valuable stomach real estate.) And, I have to say, traditional bbq sides don't do much for me. But. The Salt Lick has mastered theirs.

The potato salad is unlike anything I've ever tasted, and I think that's why I can't turn it down. In more of a German-style application (vinegar/mustard based) with sesame oil (strange, I know, but trust me) and diced onions. The coleslaw is crisp without having a raw cabbage texture and isn't drowning in dressing--it's fresh, flavorful, and the perfect compliment to a roll topped with brisket. And the beans--oh, the beans. They are probably the plainest of the three sides but their simplicity is what wins me over. Pinto beans in a pinto sauce...I don't know even how they do it. So, what do you think--sides or not?

I'm not sure we'll reach a timely conclusion on these issues, but I'm happy to eat Ryan's serving of potato salad in the meantime.

Happy Searching,

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chilaquiles...Every Time

I know I said in a previous post that I like to branch out and try new things, but I'm beginning to think I led you astray...every time I go to the Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego, I get the exact same thing: the chilaquiles with red sauce, my eggs over easy, and a side of corn tortillas.

I've tried to order other dishes, I really have. They have terrific cheese enchiladas and their carne asada is great. But. I've ordered chilaquiles elsewhere and I've never tasted any that are half as good as the ones from Old Town Mex. So that's what I order...every time.

Chilaquiles are basically corn tortillas (or day old tortilla chips) baked in an enchilada-type sauce, then topped with eggs, green onions, and queso fresco (a crumbly Mexican cheese). Served beside a generous spoonful of refried beans (also topped with melted cheese), I cannot resist them.

The combination may sound strange. It may look odd, what with the egg-yolk-river and all. And I understand your hesitation. All I can say is that when you tear off some of that homemade corn tortilla and wrap it around the perfect ratio of eggs, beans, chips, and cheese, you know what delicious is. And you just may not order anything else again.

Happy Searching,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wacky Word Wednesday

On a regular basis, I come across cooking words that I have no idea how to pronounce (half the time, I'm not even sure what they mean...until I look them up).

Sooooo, I decided I would share what I learn. Wednesdays will now be reserved for wacky cooking-related words I come across (along with some clarifying pronunciation). Enjoy!

Today's word?

boule (pronounced like "cool"): A round loaf of white bread.
We enjoyed a sourdough boule with mussels and white wine.

Happy Searching!

*Information courtesy of Answers.com & m-w.com

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Holy Crab!

I realized it's been awhile since I've showcased one of Ryan's masterpieces (even though I eat them all the time). This dish was inspired by one of our favorite indulgences, crab legs. Caught fresh from the Costco Seafood Road Show, two or three legs usually satisfies our appetite for a taste of luxury. This time, those legs had a fancier fate than simply being dipped in butter. They put on a tuxedo and hopped into pasta baked with four cheeses.

That's right...Holy crab! Crab Mac & Cheese, ya'll! Let me just tell you, it was out of this world.

The recipe was a hybrid of Ina Garten's & Emeril Lagasse's. After removing all of the crabmeat and boiling the pasta, Ryan made a homemade four-cheese sauce: Gruyere, Pecorino Romano, Fontina, Parrano. Sauteed onions and garlic, pancetta, and chives made the sauce ooze with flavor. The nutty, sharp, creamy, salty cheese sauce surrounded bits of crab, chives, and cavatappi pasta (which is my absolute favorite pasta shape, by the way).

Tossed together, scooped into a glass baking dish, and topped with tomatoes and buttered bread crumbs...

...this was the end result. I can't tell you how hard it was to wait for the 10 minute "cool time". So after 9 minutes, I dished up a hearty portion (I already knew it was going to be good), and drizzled it with teensy bit of White Truffle Oil (one of our William's-Sonoma gift card splurges).

Ho-LY CRAB! Luscious, perfectly rich, make-your-mouth-sing delicious.

Happy Searching,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mission: Popover

Inspiration struck like lightning last night during an episode of The Best Thing I Ever AteThe hubs and I were both nearly drooling as Tyler Florence described his favorite appetizer--popovers--from BLT Steak in NewYork City.

We both said, "We should make those...tomorrow!" (Only because we needed to buy the pan and Williams-Sonoma wasn't open at that hour).  Twelve hours and $20 later, we were ready to go.

Having never attempted these doughy delights, we were both surprised at how easy they were to make. The batter is only four ingredients: milk, flour, salt and eggs. Mix it all up, pour the batter into the pan, and top each one with cheese (the BLT recipe calls for Gruyere, which is a Swiss cheese...nutty and scrumptious)! Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees and...

...what emerges from the oven are edible, cheesy clouds. Like savory cream puffs, these popovers were everything a good popover should be: airy and light with a few custardy crevices and a golden crust.

Split one open and spread on a little butter lovin'--and you're tasting something amazing. I should warn you that they don't keep very well, so you may feel compelled to eat all of them several in one warm, cheesy, heavenly sitting (not that I did anything of the sort)...

Mission Popover=Deliciously accomplished!

Happy Searching,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ode to Taco Shops

Taco shops, oh taco shops
Your greasy grub is the best
Although others try to compete,
Your Mexican food beats the rest!

You're one of my favorite features
Of the Southern California scene
Tex-Mex is not Mexican Food
(and I'm sorry if that sounds mean...)

But Robertos, Albertos, Sombreros,
Juanitas, Los Panchos and more
Serve in-and-out grub with minimal flair
And delicious choices galore!

Carne Asada's a favorite of mine
But Carnitas are tasty as well
Burritos as big as your head, if you want
And their beans are better than swell

We got our fix from Lolita's
And their comida lived up to its name
A Chula Vista childhood fave,
They were on top of their game

Five Super Rolled Tacos
With guac, lettuce, crema and cheese,
And Carne Asada Fries?
You bet! Por favor! Yes, please!

And one California Burrito
Full of French fries, cheese, guacamole
Some Carne Asada to top it all off...
Dios Mio! Delish! Holy Moley!

For now, I'll be dreaming of salsa
And homemade tortillas, too...
Until next time, Taco Shoppies,
I bid you a delicious adieu!

Happy Searching!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fair Fare

Summer in San Diego offers so much to see and do...and eat! One of the greatest traditions in America's Finest City is the San Diego Fair, which is held in Del Mar right off the coast. Picturesque and packed with people, it's full of the usual fair staples:

1. Cool exhibits (butter sculptures, anyone?)
2. Lots of cute animals (newborn baby goats...awww!)
3. Fun rides & games (huge ferris wheel overlooking the ocean=priceless views)

I love 1, 2, and 3, but (not surprisingly) I look forward to 4 the most.

The volume and variety of deep-fried cuisine is kind of overwhelming: fried pickles, fried Pop Tarts, fried Klondike bars, fried s'mores, fried butter. Fried butter?! Yep (didn't try it, but heard it was quite tasty). Your arteries practically start to clog when you enter the fair gates.

If that's not enough to get you going, you could always snag some chocolate-covered bacon or a zucchini weenie (a hot dog stuffed into a whole hollowed out zucchini, then battered and fried like a corn dog). Tempting, no?

But one of my favorite fair foods is the classic giant turkey leg. Given the large selection of indulgent treats, however, I wasn't completely sold...until I caught a whiff of the grill. My nose led me straight to the medieval-looking meats, all in a golden brown row.

Smoky, crispy, tender. Alongside a basket of fried zucchini strips, which were coated in a light, tempura-like batter (and served with thee fair condiment, ranch dressing)? Deeeeelicious.

This year's fair fare definitely met my greatest expectations. It was greasy. It was gluttonous. It was good!

Happy Searching,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Strawberry Pie

Growing up, having a summer birthday was sort of a bummer. Your birthday didn't really get acknowledged in school and when it came time for your party, your friends were likely away on vacation. But...there were definitely some perks. June birthdays= no school, perfect weather for pool parties, and strawberry season. And to me, that means one thing: my mom's strawberry pie.

For birthdays, cake may seem like the obvious dessert choice but I have never been a classic birthday cake kind of gal (that's my hubby's department). Although I can appreciate a good cake, I gravitate towards the more unconventional birthday desserts like fruit tarts, ice cream cake, or pies.

The thing is...I'm kind of picky. I don't really like pies unless they're homemade. And I don't mean to be such a snob, but after being raised by a mother who's even made her own ketchup, the grocery store pies just don't do anything for me.

But this pie? This pie makes my eyes roll back in my head. When I take that first bite, I need a moment of silence to honor it's deliciousness.

The strawberries, of course, have to be ripe and sweet. The glaze (which is simply mashed strawberries, sugar, water, and cornstarch) is just sweet enough to enhance the strawberry essence. The homemade whipped cream is light as a cloud. I mean, is there any dessert that sings summertime more than this?

My mom always swore this pie was "so easy" to make and after watching her it, I have to agree. Her recipe is close to this one, but she uses half the amount of sugar in the glaze. It's still sweet, but you can always add more if you like it sweeter.

If you like strawberries, you have to try this pie...you don't even have to make your own dough. Get a frozen pre-made pie crust (Mama B even approves of this shortcut), get some strawberries, and get ready for your mouth to do the happy dance! One bite and you'll know that summertime has officially arrived...

Happy Searching,

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Burger Bliss @ Cherry Cricket

Have you ever seen the Food Network show Best Thing I Ever Ate? Being the food lovers that we are, it's one that we view regularly. Chefs reveal their favorite dishes within a certain theme (best breakfast, best barbeque, etc). I actually don't have a lot of absolute favorites (I like to keep my options open). But if I were on the show about burgers, I'd know exactly what I'd pick. The best burger I ever ate? The Little Cricket Burger at Cherry Cricket in Denver, CO.

The Cricket is a Denver mainstay that's been around since 1945. After changing hands (and locations) a few times, it's still serving up fantastic burgers and brewskis in the chic Cherry Creek district.

What makes the burgers so unparalleled is that each ingredient is incredibly delicious. The beef, which has just the right amount of fat and is cooked to order, sits atop a fresh-baked bun that perfectly absorbs the patty's juices. The menu lists over 20 toppings to choose from so you can customize to heart's content. In the mood for a White Cheddar-Grilled Onion-BBQ Sauce combo? Or maybe you feel like Blue Cheese Crumbles & Sauteed Mushrooms? It isn't easy to decide, but you really can't go wrong.

This time, I went with a Bacon-Smoked Cheddar-Green Chile Strip version and threw on an onion ring for good measure. The result? Absolute burger bliss. Alongside a basket of fries and an icy cold Coors, I experienced burger euphoria.

If you're ever in Denver, it's a must. And if you're not? Well, it just may be worth the trip.

Happy Searching!

p.s. Hats off to Mama & Papa B for introducing me to this little piece of heaven--they're Denver natives and have been dining at the Cricket for years. Muah!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pleasin' Indonesian Chicken

Looking for an easy and flavorful way to prepare chicken? Look no further! Indonesian Ginger Chicken (courtesy of Ina Garten) is incredibly tasty and couldn't be easier.

I wanted to deliver a meal to one of my friends who just had a baby and this chicken seemed perfect. Simple without being boring, the chicken is marinated overnight in soy, honey, garlic, and ginger. Ina's recipe called for 2 whole chickens (cut up), but I just used a mix of what was on sale. I got a package of drumsticks and and a package of breasts (which I cut in half because they were huge...like, double Ds).

Put them in the fridge, then put them in the oven the next day. After an hour (and removing the foil halfway to crisp up the glazed skin), the chicken is done. Served with steamed rich and some sauteed veggies, this Indonesian was pleasin'. Easy? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!

Happy Searching,
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