Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ah yes, the Pumpkin Spice Latte! This is perhaps my most favorite drink from Starbucks. Of course I order it as a Venti, Half-Caf (or fully decaf), Non-fat, No Whip, Extra Foam, Pumpkin Spice Latte. Yes, that is 20 ounces of pure pumpkin-y goodness. It will take a couple of days to drink it, but oh yes, it's lovely.

I usually order a venti drink because it's 20 ounces and I can usually only drink about half. The other half goes into the fridge for tomorrow. I normally wouldn't spend $4.45 on a cup of coffee, but I only drink a few of these a season, and boy are they worth it every once and a while.

Thanks to my friend Alece for letting me know they were out already. Today is gonna be a good day!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Asian Chicken Salad

(If you enlarge the photo, you can see I went a bit crazy with the sesame seeds. I LOVE sesame seeds.)

3-4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
3-4 cups shredded cabbage
1 can water chestnuts, julienne
1 cup carrots, julienne
6-8 green onions, finely chopped so they aren't intrusive
1 large can mandarin oranges, drained
2-3 chicken breasts marinated in teriyaki sauce or sweet Thai chili sauce, then bbq'd or stove cooked then cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds and more for garnish
1/4 slivered almonds, toasted (optional)
1 package Ramen noodles crushed and toasted (optional)
1 cup crunchy chow mien noodles (optional)

4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
(You might want to double the dressing - we did and it was a bit much, but after sitting, it was perfect).

Toss together all vegetables after prepared as stated. Whisk together all dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Toss.

I really liked this salad. The husband thought it was missing something in the dressing. I have tried many Asian Chicken Salad recipes, and this one is light and by far my favorite. I did not add the Ramen noodles or slivered almonds this time, but they would go great in the salad, especially if you are serving this to company. Both the husband and I added the crunchy chow mien noodles and thought that was enough. Of course, with my love for all things sesame, I added more sesame seeds on the top of the salad. Oh yum!!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saffron Rice with Balsamic Sauce

This post is for my brother-in-law who just loves my saffron rice with balsamic sauce. I usually make this rice with skewers, both meat and veggie, marinated in a Greek style dressing. It's a summer favorite at our place.

Saffron Rice
3 cups Basmati Rice
4.5 cups of water (use the ratio on the rice package)
2 teaspoons of salt
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter (I usually use a heart healthy oil)
1/2 teaspoon saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water

Directions: There is a very specific recipe and technique for making this type of rice, which incidentally is a Persian recipe. But I don't follow the recipe. Here's what I do: put the rice in a pot or rice cooker. Rinse 3-4 times in cold water until the rice runs clear. Add water, salt, oil and saffron mixture to the rice pot. Turn on, walk away and come back when it's done.

In another pot I cook 1-1.5 cups of plain rice according to instructions (be sure to rinse the rice). Once both pots of rice are done, mix them together so there is clear defining colors. The saffron rice will be yellow/orange, and the plain rice will be white. Since we eat with our eyes, this is a very beautiful presentation.

Balsamic Sauce
(This sauce is served spooned over Greek marinated skewers, and over the rice recipe above).

1, 2 or 3 shallots chopped/sliced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cups of balsamic vinegar
1/2-1 cup of chicken stock/broth

Directions: Slice and/or chop the shallots into small pieces, but don't mince. You want decent sized pieces. Add them to the olive oil in a pan and saute until soft. Add the balsamic vinegar and chicken stock/broth and reduce by half. The sauce can be served over the rice, which is especially good. We also spoon it over meat skewers and veggie skewers that have been BBQ'd. A tip for skewers - in order to cook the veggies evenly, we make the meat and veggie skewers separately.

These recipes are simple to make, and are a crowd pleaser. Anytime I take the rice and balsamic sauce to a party, or serve it at our house for a get together, I'm asked for the recipe. It's wonderful!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

We eat with our eyes.....

This is what I made today.....

I also made some really good deviled eggs, but I didn't take a picture of those because, well, they are deviled eggs, and who hasn't seen those?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Copycat Outback Steakhouse Ranch Dressing

I have been searching for a good homemade ranch dressing recipe but have been unable to find one. I decided to search for copycat recipes and have been making different versions all week. Here is one of the best ones I have found so far:

1 teaspoon Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix (make sure it's the Buttermilk version)
1 cup mayonnaise (Hellman's or Best Food's only)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Throw everything in a blender and blend until everything is well combined.

1 teaspoon Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix (make sure it's the Buttermilk version)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Hellman's or Best Food's only)
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix everything together in the blender until well combined.

The only difference between the lighter version and the first recipe posted is the substitution of cottage cheese for some of the mayo. Both versions were good, but it's still not exactly the same as Outback. I have also seen some copycat recipes with 1 Tablespoon of the Ranch Dressing Mix instead of 1 teaspoon. I personally think the dressing needs a bit more flavor, but that's probably only because I'm a ranch snob. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bistro Shrimp Pasta

Impress your spouse with this copycat recipe from the Cheesecake Factory. About a year ago, Sharon and I were trying to figure out how to make one of the best recipes at the Cheesecake Factory, Bistro Shrimp Pasta. Well, I figured it out, with little help from the internet because I have not found a copycat recipe to date. This recipe is the closest I have found to the original dish. I can't seem to get the shrimp breading right, but everything else is spot on.

'Parts' List
Battered and fried rock shrimp (optional, see note below)
Sauteed mushrooms quarters
Chopped tomatoes, seeded
Cooked Spaghettini
Lemon Basil Cream Sauce

Step 1:
Quarter the mushrooms
Chop tomatoes into small cubes
Saute mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. When almost cooked, add tomatoes to heat through.
Set aside and keep warm.

Step 2:
Cook the shrimp

The Shrimp:

Rock Shrimp (as much or as little as you'd like - calculate per person)
Eggs, scrambled
Corn Starch or flour (mix with the bread crumbs)
Bread crumbs, seasoned
Butter for frying
Oil for frying

Take the shrimp and coat with egg mixture, then dip into the bread crumb and corn starch mixture. Fry in a butter/oil mix for just a few minutes until done. Set aside and keep warm with paper towels on a dish (try not to cover completely or they will turn into a soggy mess).

If you will notice, there are no quantities here. That's because I simply can't get the shrimp exactly like the Cheesecake Factory. I am still trying to figure this out.

I have used regular shrimp before and it turns out similar, but not the same. Play around with the shrimp. This part of the recipe is a 'wild card'.

Step 3:
Cook the pasta and make the sauce at the same time. (note: DO NOT add sauce to the pasta until ready to serve. The pasta will soak up all the sauce if it sits and the pasta will be fairly dry).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add salt - this is your only opportunity to season your pasta.
Add 1lb. of spaghettini
Cook until done.

Lemon Basil Cream Sauce (double the sauce recipe if you'd like):
2 TB. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup half and half
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 TB. corn starch
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 TB. chopped fresh basil

*Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic, and saute 1-2 minutes.
*Add half and half and chicken broth.
*Bring to a boil, and cook about 8 minutes or until reduced by half.
*Whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch until smooth in a bowl.
*Whisk lemon juice and 1/2 tsp. pepper into butter mixture and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes or until thickened.
*Remove from heat.
*DO NOT add basil until ready to serve.

Step 4: Put it together
In each bowl/dish add pasta, sauce, some of the mushroom/tomato mixture, some fresh arugula (let the heat of the pasta and sauce wilt the arugula) and toss until combined. Add shrimp and toss lightly. Top will a sprinkling of basil and grate some fresh Parmesan cheese on top of the dish and serve.

The quantities of the final product are a bit ambiguous for a reason. You can add as much or as little as you'd like. Copy the Cheesecake Factory if you have ordered this dish before. If not, you have nothing to compare it with, so get creative and make it to your specific taste.

Note: You do not have to batter and fry the shrimp - sometimes I don't so I can save some time. Frying the shrimp is the longest step in the process, and a hassle. I simply add some cooked shrimp to the final product. You can also substitute chicken cubes if you'd like.

This recipe looks quite intimidating. As noted above, frying the shrimp is the longest step in this recipe. If you omit this step, the recipe is quite short and easy. The sauce is amazing and can be used in a variety of ways.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's For Dinner?

This was dinner last night, lunch today and dinner the night before. I am trying to get more fresh fruits and veggies into our diet, and one way I thought I would do that is have a fresh fruits and veggies meal. There is not fruit here because I am trying to stay away from the sweet stuff at first, and simply add in fruit as a snack here and there. A headache is looming, so I will cut this short. But doesn't this photo make you want some fresh cut veggies and a bit of dip?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vegetable Spectrum

This morning I have been compiliing a list of fruits and vegetables that are contained within the 7 color categories. Some say there are only 5, others say there are 7. I have listed 7 here because I will trying to eat something from all 7 categories on a pretty consistent basis. You will notice that there are some things in two categories. This is because a certain website will list it in one category, while another will place it in a different one. Here is the list in case you are interested:

Purple Asparagus
Purple Bell Pepper
Purple Cabbage
Purple Carrots
Red Wine
Black Cherries
Dried Plums
Grape Juice
Purple Figs
Purple Grapes
Quetch Plums

Fresh Rhubarb
Red Leaf Salad
Red Onions
Red Peppers
Red Radishes
Red Skinned Potatoes
Blood Oranges
Pink/Red Grapefruit
Red Apples
Red Grapes
Red Pears

Acorn Squash
Butternut Squash
Orange Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Winter Squash
Yellow Beets
Yellow Skinned Potatoes
Cape Gooseberries
Golden Kiwifruit
Yellow Figs
Yellow Watermelon

Yellow Grapefruit

Broccoli Rabe
Collard Greens
Green Beans
Green Cabbage
Green Peas
Mustard Greens
Spinach Greens
Romaine Lettuce
Turnip Greens
Yellow Corn
Yellow Pepper
Green Apples
Green Grapes
Green Limes
Green Pears
Honeydew Melon

Bok Choi
Brussle Sprouts
Chinese Cabbage
Wheat Grass

Brown Pears
White Nectarines
White Peaches
White Wine

Well, there you have it. I have printed out a copy of this and out it on my refrigerator so I can see exactly which categories I am eating everyday. I can't say that I will eat all 7 everyday, but that is my goal. Enjoy!