Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

A few weeks back, one of my sweet students presented me with some adorable, edible acorns.

Aren't they precious?! Who knew that Hershey's kisses, Nilla Wafers, pretzels, and chocolate frosting could result in such a heartwarming and delicious nibble.

Happy Thanksgiving and as always...

Happy Searching!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thing for Wings

Remember when I told you how I get food crushes? You know, when you can't get enough of something and it's all you can think about? Well, the hubs has had a thing for wings recently. Fortunately, his hankering translates into some deliciousness for me, too!

He followed the Hooters technique of coating the wings with flour and then refrigerating them for an hour (since we've both reluctantly admitted they are our favorite wings). Once they were fried, he tossed them with hot sauce and butter.

Crispy, just the right kick, totally crush-worthy.

Happy searching,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Hallow-eating!

Can you believe it's almost November? But before retailers rush us into decorating for Christmas (before we've even had Thanksgiving), there is a delicious day upon us. Candy? Clever snacks? Creative cocktails? It must be Halloween. And the mister's absolute favorite holiday. Why? See above, beginning with candy...

Ryan created our menu this year, but I did contribute in the way of assembling (and eating) some treats!

First up? Yummy Mummy Dogs.

We followed this recipe, but used garlic breadsticks instead of Crescent Rolls. Very tasty, especially with  a spooky cheese drizzle and fresh blood (or ketchup...whatever you have on hand)!

To wash it down? A crisp apple cider martini. The hubs mixed my childhood favorite beverage...

...with vodka, muddled apple & lime, a splash of maple syrup. Complete with an apple slice garnish. Fall-icious!

Notice the Spooky Snack Mix in the background...the mister's own Munchie mix of pretzels, potato chips, gummy worms, and Cheetos.

Do you have any tricks or treats up your sleeve this Halloween?

Happy searching!

p.s. Instead of trying to catch up and fill you in on everything since the last post, I'm starting with the present. And hopefully, someday, I will have a few extra moments to fill you in on our delicious summer and early fall adventures. 'Cause they were tasty. :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Lately, I've been on extended vacation--from just about everything, except spending time with family, friends, and food.

My vacation has taken me to Colorado where I visited my parents and celebrated 32 years of being in this fabulous food-filled San Diego where I bridal-showered with my best friend and enjoyed my hometown and the company of my in-laws...and to Vegas where I broke even on the slot machines but hit the gastronomical jackpot.

I'll give you a bit of a amuse bouche, if you will. There have been burgers...

and bacon milkshakes...

and Happy Hours...

and pastries...

and pizzas...

and giant ribeyes.

So, stay tuned for some tasty tidbits!

Happy Searching,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bison Burgers & Oven Fries

In our efforts to maintain a relatively healthy regime, we regularly integrate protein alternatives into our meals. In lieu of steak, we have chicken. We always have ground turkey on hand instead of ground beef. A lean option that we hadn't explored in our home kitchen: bison. But during a recent grocery trip, we spotted some and thought that bison burgers would be a lighter alternative to the beef burgers we love so much (seen here, here, and here).

I viewed several recipes (although considering that bison seems to be gaining popularity, there aren't as many as you'd think). Before forming patties, I added some smoked paprika, grated onion, crushed garlic, S&P to the meat. The burgers turned out deliciously moist due to the recommended cooking method from this recipe. (Because bison is so lean, they suggest covering the burgers to prevent them from drying out.) Topped with some swiss cheese, tomatoes, and Cabernet carmelized red onions, these bison burgers were stampede-worthy.

To go along with our adventurous burgers, I served up some carrot and parsnip fries. I had just seen the recipe on Mad Hungry earlier in the week (one of my new favorite cooking shows) and had been awaiting an opportunity to try them out. If you've never cooked with parsnips (which I hadn't before today), they are similar to carrots. Fibrous and a bit sweet, parsnips are perfect as a potato alternative for some oven fries.

I love exploring new foods to satisfy some good ol' fashioned culinary curiosity. Is there anything you've tried making recently that was new for you? Or is there something you are thinking about trying? Do tell!

Happy Searching!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sensational Strawberry & Chicken Salad

When summer rolls around (and you are trying to prevent your own rolls from being around), it's all about lighter meals. But as you know, the hubs and I share the food philosophy that it's possible to eat healthy, nutritious meals without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction.

My ideal salad has lots of different flavors and textures to satisfy all of my senses (I mean, if you're going to eat a salad, that's the least you can do for yourself, right?). So, this salad totally hit the spot.

Tender grilled chicken, sweet sliced strawberries, crunchy toasted almonds, thinly sliced red onion, greens lightly tossed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette...sensationally satisfying.

What's in your favorite salad?

Happy Searching,

Friday, June 10, 2011

Let Him Eat Cake

Dessert isn't a daily ritual for us. Thankfully, I have more of a salty tooth than a sweet one (although the hubs has enough sugar cravings for the both of us). Every now and then, usually for a special occasion, we indulge and have something sweet to finish the meal.

One of the hubs' favorite desserts is this cake from Ina Garten. The cake itself is moist and intensely chocolatey, but what really makes it is the frosting. A thick layer of rich, chocolate buttercream adorns the spongey delight inside.

I've only made it a few times, but there are never any leftovers. And since it's such a rare occasion, I say let him eat cake.

Happy Searching,

p.s. If you feel like to drooling a bit, here's the video to see the full process.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cool as a Cucumber

While making one of my favorite salads the other day, I realized that I've never shared it with you! It's certainly deserving of its 15 Minutes of Fame (or however long it takes you to read this post).

Cucumber and Tomato Salad has been a favorite of mine since my early childhood, when I would help my mom pick the cucumbers and tomatoes right from our garden. It is such a summer staple, and can be adapted to make a thousand different versions depending on what you have in your fridge or what you're in the mood for.

But the basic recipe is so simple and delicious on its own, I often find myself just sticking with the classic.  I'm sure you've made or eaten something's the version I grew up with:

Cucumber & Tomato Salad
Whisk together equal parts olive oil & red wine vinegar, garlic salt, pepper, dash of sugar, dried Italian herbs (parsley, oregano, etc). Most dressing recipes call for 1 part acid (vinegar) to 2 or 3 parts oil, but I like mine pretty adjust to your taste.
Toss peeled and sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes (grape, cherry, or vine-ripened are the most flavorful), and thinly sliced red onions with dressing. Best when refrigerated for 30 minutes, but I can't always wait that long.

You could add corn, avocado, bread to make a panzanella, or some nice salty olives. As for me, it's usually just the essentials. Cool, crisp, bright...a happy little bowl of summer.

Happy Searching,

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I Will Eat Them Anywhere...

Growing up, my family always enjoyed a good, hearty breakfast. And when I say hearty, I mean that it usually included eggs of some sort: fried eggs, scrambled eggs, green eggs and ham (okay, not really). One of my favorite childhood egg dishes is still one of my favorites today: soft-boiled eggs with toast.

They are so easy to make, and feel so luxurious in spite of their simplicity. The trick is to get the time right so that the eggs are perfectly cooked (according to your taste, of course). To me, perfect soft-boiled eggs have runny yolks but whites that are semi-firm.

So here's how it goes: put the eggs into a pot, cover with cool water, and bring to a boil. (This is also the point where I put some bread in the toaster). Set the timer once the water begins to boil; for my "perfect" eggs, the timer is set for three minutes. When time is up, turn the heat off and run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking. I use the back of a butter knife to give them a good crack, open them up, and scoop out the liquid gold inside.

Sprinkled with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper (and a smidge of butter if you're feeling indulgent), this breakfast warms your belly and your soul. I will eat them here or there, I will eat them anywhere.

Do you have any childhood favorites that you still love today?

Happy Searching!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Three Pizzas

Pizza is my favorite food, hands down. There are numerous close seconds, but I would be lying if I said there was anything else in the top spot.

So the other night when we had shrimp, a few whole wheat tortillas, and nothing else planned for dinner, we ended up with shrimp pizzas! (Three delicious shrimp pizzas, if I do say so myself). We had several topping possibilities in the fridge, and since I really couldn't narrow it down to just one theme, I ended up making three different pizzas.

Spicy Thai Peanut with Cilantro & Carrots

The first thing I did was roast a pound of shell-on, deveined tiger shrimp (that I had tossed with olive oil, S&P, and a crushed clove of garlic) in the oven at 400 degrees. I took them out just before they were fully cooked since they were going back in the oven atop the tortillas (rubbery shrimp=opposite of delicious). Then I peeled them, sliced them in half so they would lay flat, and prepped all the other tasty toppings.

Roasted Pepper, Arugula, & Goat Cheese

Here are the topping deets:

Spicy Thai-julienned carrots, chopped cilantro & scallions, sesame seeds. This sauce totally made it (I tossed half of it with the shrimp and then used the other half to drizzle after it baked): equal parts soy/lime juice, a bit of toasted sesame oil, a smidge of peanut butter and a dash of chili garlic paste. Added some chopped peanuts and a bit more cilantro...Thai heaven.

Roasted Peps-leftover roasted yellow peppers and red onions, crumbled goat cheese, and arugula (tossed in lemon juice, olive oil, S&P and was added right when it came out of the oven). Buonissima!

BBQ Blue Cheese-carmelized red onions, blue cheese & bacon crumbles, and shrimp tossed in BBQ sauce (store-bought...I think the brand is Bull's Eye) before baking. Again, it was all about the sauce: equal parts BBQ sauce/ranch dressing, dash of chili powder, cayenne pepper, and some salt. Ooowwweeee, so yummy.

Blue Cheese Barbecue, Bacon, & Carmelized Onions

After assembling each pizza, I put them back in the oven at 450 for a few minutes until everything was melted and warmed through. I think my fave was the Thai while the hubs favored the blue cheese & bacon. Really, not a bad one in the bunch.

I mean, what's better than a customized pizza? Um, three of them!

Happy Searching!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thai-spiration: Coconut Chicken Soup

Recently, we had some lemongrass in the fridge (leftover from this meal) that needed to be used. When I discovered that we also had some chiles and mushrooms on hand, I realized we were one can of coconut milk away from this delicious Coconut Chicken Soup.

I made several adaptations based on what we had or didn't have. I used fresh mushrooms instead of canned, fresno chiles instead of Thai, reduced-fat coconut milk instead of regular, lime zest instead of kaffir lime leaves, and boxed stock instead of homemade.

And guess what? It was still amazing! One of the reasons I love Thai food so much is the salty-sweet-sour pucker that hits you right in the cheeks. The zing of the lime and spice of the chiles swirled together with the chicken and mushrooms in the milky broth.

Not too heavy, perfect for the beginning of summer. Try it out!

Happy Searching,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lovin' Larb

Larb? Yep, larb. It's a strange word to say, but surprisingly, not to eat. It's a Thai dish that is a basically a meat salad (sort of like the lettuce cups you may have tried in various Asian restaurants).

Intrigued? I certainly was the first time I saw Giada whip up this recipe. In trying to build a meal around some ground turkey, I thought it might be a good time to try it out.

Larb might make you step outside your kitchen comfort zone. Back when I first saw Giada introduce this dish, I wasn't completely sold (the fact that I waited several months to test it out is proof). But when I stumbled upon the recipe again, I read through the list of ingredients.

Turkey? Like it. Mint? Love it. Lime juice and lemongrass? Citrusy heaven. So I, myself, expanded my culinary horizons a bit and am so glad I did!

The name might sound a bit odd, the finished product may not be overly alluring, but let me tell tastes incredible! I hope it inspires you try something that stretches your tastebuds a bit.

Eaten anything that has surprised you lately?

Happy Searching,

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Wild About Rice

As you may know, I have an unrequited love for carbohydrates (I mean, if they loved me back, I could eat them without recourse, right?). Pasta, potatoes, bread and rice are must-haves in the pantry.

The good news in all my carbohydrate cravings is that I really like whole grains. I love the nutty, chewiness of brown rice and the texture of a multi-grain bread. And I LOVE wild rice. I've enjoyed it since my young carbo-lovin' days, when Mama B would glam it up with some sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, & white wine.

So, since she sent us a bag of it in our Easter package (the exact same kind we used to have growing up from Byerly's in Minnesota), I recreated her version.

Mama B's Wild Rice
2 c wild rice
1 TB olive oil
1 TB butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced (I like cremini/baby portabellas)
1/2 c white wine (I used a Chardonnay)
1/4 c chopped parsley

Cook the rice according to the package (we use chicken broth instead of water to add even more flavor). Drain the rice, and set aside in a bowl (it takes a really long time to cook--like an hour--so start ahead of time).

Meanwhile, saute the onions, garlic, and mushrooms with the olive oil and butter over medium heat.
When the mushrooms are starting to get soft, add wine and let it reduce and soak into the mushrooms. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley then add the mixture to the rice.

The hubs had never tried it before, and enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. The chewy texture of the rice, the carmelized onions, the sweetness of the wine...just like Mom used to make. Wildly delicious.

Happy Searching!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ooey Gooey Ultimate Coffee Cake

How has it been this long? In between delicious meals, I have been grading papers, planning for the end of my first year of teaching (how did that happen?) and finding a few minutes to spend with the hubs. But summer is around the corner, my friends, and although I have discovered first-hand the many challenges of education, I am about to enjoy the biggest perk. Summer vacation will definitely allow for more blogging, so I hope you're hungry.

On to the food! As far as breakfasts go, I am typically more of a savory person (breakfast tacos, eggs benedict, etc.) than sweet. So much so that it took a little convincing from my mother to give this recipe for the Ultimate Coffee Cake a try. "You'll LOVE it!" she kept insisting...

So, when my friend Andi was in town for a visit a few weeks ago, we gave it a whirl and all saltiness aside, this sticky pull-apart is the sweetest breakfast ever. Not just because it is incredibly delicious, but it is the easiest thing I've ever made (including the apology call I had to make to my mother for doubting her recommendation).

Toss some frozen dinner rolls into a bundt pan, sprinkle with brown sugar and butterscotch pudding mix, and drizzle some melted butter over the top (add a few chopped nuts if you're feeling frisky). Rise, bake, eat. And eat. And eat some more (I'm serious, it's hard to stop).

If you have any sort of breakfast function to attend, bring this and you will be a hit, guaranteed. And in case you're wondering, Andi and I were also able to squeeze in a few savory meals. Like breakfast tacos. And mimosas. On a swan. Ultimate fun!

Happy Searching,

p.s. If you're a visual learner (like me) and you'd like to watch Paula make it herself, check that out here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tea-riffic Sandwiches

I love all things dainty, food included. Small, delicate bites like petit fours, tapas, and finger sandwiches are among some of my favorites. They make me feel prettier just by eating them.

And I am usually a big fan of simplicity in the kitchen, but I must say that the attention to detail is partially why I love things like tea sandwiches. I am all about the details. Crusts, which I normally adore (but have no place on a finger sandwich), are lovingly cut off to ensure a perfectly balanced and refined bite.

Well, tea sandwiches appeared on one of our recent weekend menus when we were in the mood for something light. They were the perfect petite treat. Call me superficial, but there's something spectacular about food that both looks and tastes great.

We used a dense, multigrain bread (newly discovered Costco's Kirkland 100% Multigrain--love it!) to create two tasty tea sandwiches: smoked salmon with dill & chive butter and cucumber with an herbed cheese spread (similar to Ina's found here).

I'm sure these sandwiches would have been delicious with tea, but they were really excellent with a glass of chardonnay. Cool, refreshing, lovely little sandwiches. Delicious!

Happy Searching,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Presto Pesto

Some of the most delicious dishes have come into creation by accident. And sometimes a side dish is so tasty it becomes the main attraction. Both were the case when I whipped up a batch of pesto on a whim the other night.

We needed a little something to complement the main dish--chicken, I think--and after scouring the fridge and pantry, I realized we had some whole wheat pasta and a whole lotta basil. And anytime there's an abundance of basil, I think of pesto. And when we happen to have all of the ingredients on hand (cheese, nuts, olive oil, garlic), I feel like it would be a crime not to make some.

Super fast, super easy, it's a hungry girl's sauce-come-true: throw a clove of garlic, a bunch of basil leaves, salt, pepper, grated cheese, and a handful of nuts (we had sliced almonds) in the food processor. Mix until combined, stream in some good olive oil with the processor running and presto! You've got pesto.

I tossed some rotini with the vibrant green goodness over low heat, then added a splash of cream (since we had some) to finish the sauce. And how did it turn out, you ask? Well, when the hubs can't even tell that the pasta it's on is whole wheat, it's definitely a sauce worth making again.

Happy Searching!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazing Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my all-time favorite veggies. The lovely springtime stems are tied for first place with my other fave, green beans. I could eat boatloads of both, and usually in a similar preparation: lightly steamed, then sauteed with garlic, olive oil, S&P. But during Spring Break, I was reminded of one of the most amazing asparagus dishes. This may be the tiebreaker...

After choosing our delicious main course, my friend Sarah and I stumbled upon Giada's recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus. It's hard to decide what was more appealing about the recipe...the deliciousness or the simplicity.

Roasting intensified the sweet, nuttiness of the asparagus and made the tips crispy (which I love). And after letting them cool, we got to wrap each one in a little prosciutto overcoat. Just half a slice for each spear, enough to transform the humble vegetables into scrumptious superstars.

Simple. Savory. So amazing.

So what's your favorite veggie? What's your favorite way to prepare it? If you're looking for a new favorite, check out the recipe below.

Happy Searching,

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto
from Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Italian

12 asparagus spears [about 1 pound], trimmed
1 TB olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 paper-thin slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the bottom half of each asparagus. On a heavy baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the oil, salt, and pepper. Put in the oven and roast until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Wrap each asparagus with 1 piece of prosciutto, exposing the tips. Arrange on a platter and serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 appetizer servings or 3 side servings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vodka Sauce with Penne

I've been taking a little break from writing to enjoy Spring Break and a visit from one of my besties, Sarah. She flew in from New York and was itchin' to experience some suburban activities that she's missed since living in the big city (grocery shopping without taking the subway, cooking in a fully stocked kitchen, etc). I was, of course, more than happy to oblige! We spent our days together shopping, cooking, eating, and reminiscing about our shenanigan-filled friendship.

We sought inspiration from Giada's Everyday Italian cookbook, which I hadn't used in ages. But what a great collection of recipes! We ended up making two delicious dishes and shared a little feast.

The main dish that stole our hearts (and later, stomachs) was the Vodka Sauce with Penne. We started by making our own marinara sauce which was really easy, just required a bit of chopping. Once that was underway, we got the Vodka Sauce simmering (both recipes follow). It was well rounded and had just the right mix of sharp, acidic sweetness (from the vodka and tomatoes) and luscious depth (from the cream and parmesan). And to sassify it a bit, we added some roasted shrimp and sliced cremini mushrooms.

We almost had as much fun making it as we did eating it...almost. It tasted pretty amazing.

Stay tuned for some other scrumptious selections from our Spring Break Menu!

Happy Searching,

Marinara Sauce
from Giada De Laurentis's Everyday Italian 
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 [32 oz] cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thicken, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. [The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.]

Makes about 2 quarts/8 cups.

Vodka Sauce
from Giada De Laurentis's Everyday Italian 
3 c. Marinara Sauce
1 c. vodka
1/2 c. heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In a large heavy skillet, simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring until the mixture reduces by one fourth, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Season the sauce with more salt & pepper to taste.
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