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Monday, April 28, 2008

Mojito Jello Shots

We were invited to a party on Saturday night. What to bring to a party can greatly depend on the type of party it is and how many people are going to be there. This particular party, as we were told, is one of the craziest parties that kick off the summer; clearly THE party to attend and we weren't about to miss it.

Food was not the appropriate item to bring along; this party called for alcohol- but do we bring a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine or.....jello shots? Jello shots definitely carries the most fun factor while still offering the opportunity to be creative.

I saw this recipe in Food and Wine some time ago and they sounded so fabulous. I think what is really exciting is the other ideas that this recipe is sparking: I'm already thinking limoncello jello shots, grappa jello shots maybe even a rum and coke jello shot!

These were a huge huge hit at the party, we could have made hundreds more! We left the party about 3 am and people were still talking about them Mitch thought they were extremely potent, or so that's what I think he was saying as he held up the wall next me. Dave thought they needed more rum. Just know your crowd and plan accordingly.

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
warm this over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved.

3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin, whisk until this is dissolved.

Have ready in a glass bowl:
1 cup lime juice
1 cup mint leaves (muddle the leaves a bit)

Pour the hot sugar water into the lime juice and let steep for 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup of white rum. Strain, then pour the mixture in to your jello shot cups (add a mint leave here for better presentation and for a slightly mintier flavor.) I couldn't decide if each shot should have a mint leaf in them or not. My concern was that it might hinder the shot to just slide down- but the extra minty flavor was nice in the shot that I did put leaves in.
**Updated note: DO strain the mint leaves out. When I put the extra leaves in, it was a fresh leaf after the shot were already set. If you want to add one or two fresh leaves to the top for presentation- do it just before serving and then take them out before eating. If you don't strain the leaves- you'll end up with a weird chewy shot that doesn't slide down (I heard our friend Kasey's shots didn't turn out so well because of this!).

Refrigerate about 3 hours.

I highly recommend making these for your next party. They are quite simple and you'll be the hit of the party! Watch everyone flock to you to find out how you made them; and you can just smile, throw down a shot and be fat and happy!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Potato Scamble

I have been a complete slug in the work out realm recently. Work has been overwhelming, there was a lot of traveling which can really set back a work out routine, then there was a slight ankle sprain and then I just got lazy. Dave forced me to work out this morning; I went to the gym kicking and screaming and pouting the whole way. Of course I feel better now, but I'm not about to admit that to him. The only reason I went was because I knew if I didn't go he would razz me about it all day - talk about annoying!

Hunger kicked in. Here's what's in the fridge: some left over wheat pasta, some condiments like mustard, tonic water, eggs, part of a red onion, a few stalks of celery, a little hunk of cheese, 2 cloves of garlic, a few strips of bacon, beer and batteries. I can make breakfast out of that. Get out a skillet and let's start cooking!

Slice about 4 strips of bacon crosswise
and 2 stalks of celery
Add fresh ground black pepper
cook until the back is nearly cooked.

drain most of the bacon grease, but leave a little in the pan.

Return pan to the stove and add
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup of red potatoes thinly sliced
cook this all together on a medium heat.

Now add 2 cloves of chopped garlic (you don't want to add this to soon or the garlic will burn and be bitter) and add any left over chopped pasta (if your pasta has sauce on it like a pesto or cream sauce so much the better - it will just mix in and create an even better flavor, but adding the pasta is optional.)
Cook this, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are soft.

Push aside in the skillet while you cook the eggs. This will allow the bottom to form nice crusts on the potatoes and pasta.
Add eggs and season with pepper. I prefer a more runny yolk, Dave likes his fried or scrambled.
Also add any cheese you have to the potato mixture. Cover and let the eggs cook and the cheese become melty.
Serve immediately, topping the potato mixture with your eggs. If you have it, top with parsley.

This just reminds me of a classic dinner dish, it's hearty, simple and extra tasty. The perfect reward for a morning workout. Today probably better be a grocery shopping day cuz I'm not sure what I can make with batteries and tomato paste.... not that I wouldn't try...

If you worked out- pat yourself on the back. If you didn't, I'm jealous. Either way- try this hearty classic breakfast, enjoy and be fat and happy!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Super Fun Bachelorette Party in Breckenridge!

Let me just start by saying I'm only posting the 'clean' photos; what happened in Breckenridge, stays in Breckenridge!

Alina is getting married (her an Aaron came for a visit over The Holiday's )and decided to have her bachelorette party in Breckenridge, Colorado because it was the first place she visited in the mountains on a school trip, I believe. She could not have picked a better place- this was an amazing weekend. The house we rented was simple gorgeous- there wasn't a single thing we needed. The kitchen was magazine/gourmet quality with a six burner gas top with true simmer functionality. I was toasting pecans and walked away from the stove for at least ten minutes and they didn't burn! With most stoves the nuts would have been on fire after ten minutes- seriously! I was in complete heaven; and it was stocked with every pan and utensil needed. In fact, there was more in this rental than I have in my house and I used to own a restaurant.

There is so much to say about the weekend and we did so many fabulous activities, like our scavenger hunt. Most important is that this was an amazing group of friends and I can't wait to spend time with everyone again. Now- about the food. I was presented with some challenges; how do you cook for 15 women so that everybody is pleased - that in and of itself is a challenge. But add to it a vegetarian, citrus allergy, egg allergy, onion and snap pea issues and a few other random allergies I can't remember. I had asked Cat for a list of allergies and I got back an excel spreadsheet...need I say more?

Similar to how one needs to dress in Colorado (in layers) is how to best create the menu plan. You start with basics that everyone can eat, and then offer extras from there. So for the first night, I made a simple wild rice salad (sautee celery, onions, craisins, and some various veggies in a little mustard/white wine sauce and mix with cooked rice) and then topped that with a very simple roasted pork loin. I browned the pork in pan on the stove with thyme and rosemary, then finished it off in the oven. Warm bread finished off the meal.

On the second night I had various pasta dishes available. There was a pesto option, a tomato-red wine sauce option and then (my favorite) a bacon garlic olive oil option. I had planned on making a roasted fennel salad with lavender (in honor of Alina sending me my first strange ingredients!), but we couldn't fennel at the grocery store on the way up. So I sent Alina home with the lavender and the instructions. I'm hoping she'll send photos and let me know how it worked out!!

A veggie chili was actually planned on the last night but we had quite a few left overs, so we made a huge salad with a lime vinaigrette. All in all, these were not the fanciest dishes ever, but they were simple and comforting, and I think I covered all the options for everybody! It was great to cook for more people than two- I miss making gigantic pots of soup every morning at the restaurant! Everybody pitched to help; especially Cat - she was fantastic at prepping!

I can't wait to cook again ext time we all get together. I heard this may become an annual event... count me in. Next year lets go someplace thats at or near sea level. Even though I lived in Colorado for 15 years, going back a year later, I could hardly breathe. You think you're in relatively good shape, but try heading to the mountains after being at sea level - it's a real test to bounce up the steps or shovel out the hot tub!

Theresa was the queen of snow shoeing, Roz brought a case of wine (she's posing next to it in the photo at the right), Dana set up the scavenger hunt (and then participated in it...hmmm), Lavanya was the life of the party at the Gold Pan (she kept coming on the dance floor with more random guys for Alina to dance with- where did she keep finding them?), and Catherine, Carrie, Cindy, Abby and Lisa were just the most fabulous ever. Get together with some friends, if even for a night. Cook together, drink, laugh and most of all - be fat and happy!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Homemade Semolina Crackers

If you haven't noticed my pattern, I am all about making everything from scratch. There is so much satisfaction that comes from this process- the feeling of getting your hands into dough, mixing and shaping and creating something edible from raw ingredients; beside the fact that it just tastes better! My friend Carolyn agrees with this approach as well so we share stories and recipes and dissect when something works well and when something doesn't! Carolyn makes ricotta cheese from scratch so I can't wait to try that, but she showed me this recipe, which she found at 101 cookbooks. (great site, good photography) and thought I should give them a whirl.

After reading this recipe, I was quite intrigued because this cracker recipe is so extremely similar to my homemade flatbread recipe. Testing this recipe was high on my priority list.

Getting out of work late I had missed my yoga class so I phoned Dave. It was a gorgeous spring night, one of the first nights warm enough to sit out on the patio and watch the setting sun shimmer against the downtown skyline. It was decided that Dave would stop by the liquor store on the way home for drinks, I would make snacks and we would meet on the patio. I arrived home to find a completely empty cupboard. What a perfect time try out the cracker recipe!

It's a very simple recipe, comes together in minutes; even faster if you use a mixer (I used more of a pasta method, mixing everything on the counter.) I separated the dough into 16 balls to rest, then after letting the dough rest, rather than use a rolling pin I opted for the pasta machine. You really want consistency on these crackers for even baking- while rolling by hand is fun and builds muscle, it is not as reliable. I found I was able to roll each section into a strip, and then cut similar shapes each time.

For each section of dough I used various toppings on the crackers; basic salt and pepper, lemon and lime zest, cumin and chili and garlic topping. I also used Pink Salt, from my strange ingredients, on some too! The crackers look rustic and homemade and beg for you eat them. They are not overly flavorful, but it's a cracker, pair it with nice cheese and salami's or make a dip. They were perfect for the patio snacks and drinks and Dave loved them.

The process can be considered slightly time consuming; keep this in mind if you plan to make these for a party as you might want to do these a day ahead or in the morning. Keep them covered and out of sight or you might just eat the whole batch before the guests arrive!

1 1/2 cups white or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

You can mix this in a stand mixer or by hand, which is how I mix. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork. Add the EVOO then slowly add the water. Depending on the day and the humidity, you may need a little more or a little less water. You can always add more flour if you ended up with too much water and the dough is too sticky to work with, keep in mind the dough will be slightly sticky. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Now the dough needs to rest for about 30 minutes. Cut or pull the dough apart into small balls, I ended up with 16 of them. Brush each dough ball with EVOO and cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel.
If you're using a stand mixer, simply start with the dry ingredients and add the wet, letting the mixer do the kneading for you.

Preheat your oven to about 450 degrees. You can roll your dough by hand or use a pasta machine, which is how did it. Then simply cut the shapes you want, season with your favorite spices and bake until golden brown. Simple salt is just fine as this is a simple cracker. But feel free to experiment with hot pepper or even a little ginger! There are no mistakes here, just depends on your flavor preference. You will wow friends with something you made from scratch; be careful though - you just may get addicted to scratch baking! Now sit back and admire your hard work, munch on a cracker, sip on something fruity and just be fat and happy!

Sauteed Spinach and Mahi Mahi

It's Friday night and we tend to stay in on Friday's, it's often our Wii night. After a long week, it's can be a tough night to go out; bars are packed and we are usually worn out from the week. So this is a great night to stay in, make a little dinner, have a simple drink and play some Wii. It's also our chance to catch up from the week and plan the weekend, sort of a re-grouping. And even though Dave is not a great fan of fish, this does seem to become a fish night for us- very similar to the classic Friday night fish fry's in the Midwest- only we make it much healthier.

I've been on a Mahi Mahi kick lately and tonight is no different. Dave is a big fan of spinach and wanted sauteed spinach as well. So I started with red onion and celery in olive oil, added the fish with a bit of lemon pepper, then mixed a little soy-mustard sauce and added that and spinach to the pan. A gorgeous dish that is healthy and tasty with plenty of protein for hours of Wii play! Whether your heading out for a night on the town or planning on an evening in- enjoy and be fat and happy!

Slice a quarter of an onion, place in a pan over medium heat with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 chopped stalks of celery. Now add the fish to the pan with the lemon pepper, cover and simmer until the fish is near opaque. Quickly wisk together grainy mustard (1/4 cup), soy sauce (1/8 cup) and red wine vinegar (2Tbls), pepper and olive oil (just to mix). Add the spinach and the mustard sauce. Cook until the spinach is wilted and the fish is flaky and white. To plate, place the spinach on the plate first and top with the fish. I found a gin tonic with extra lime quite nice with this. Now go play Wii and beat your mate!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Green Chili, Corn and Steak Stew

Some people love leftovers and others hate them. I consider myself a god with leftovers and have often said that I could feed small countries with some left over meat, a pan and an onion. I'm the MacGyver of leftovers. Dave's not as good with them so I have to be very inventive; I view this a challenge! So when the phrase "That Goo is Good!" comes out of his mouth and it's regarding leftovers - eureka!

You may have seen the previous blog with the Ribeye steaks, they were so huge we had one entire steak left. Steak can be tricky to work with the day after, especially if it's over cooked. But the great thing is that Dave cooked them so perfectly I had no fear of using it again. If you click on either of the photos, you can see how pink the meat still is- the key here is to add it at the very end just to warm it, you don't want to recook it!

Looking for something out of the ordinary, I found a small can of green chili's in the cupboard and then paired that with a can of corn. This is not the direction I started in, which is so typical for me. I don't always know what I'm making until it's done. Below is the recipe and according to Dave- this is quite good! Corn and green chili really work well together. Of course, if you don't have left over steak feel free to substitute hamburger or chicken or even turkey. I'm all about using what you have- consider it my effort to being, or rather, eating 'green'!

1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
olive oil

Add and cook a couple of minutes:
3 cloves of chopped garlic
3 green onion
1 Tbls of dried, Thyme
1 tsp rosemary (I did question the rosemary with this because initially I was heading in a different direction, but it actually worked well. If I remake this I might try cumin in place of the rosemary.)
1 cube beef broth
Fresh ground black pepper

Now add and sautee for 2 more minutes:
1 can of corn
1 can of chopped green chili's

Add and cook until the pasta is slight harder than al dente:
1 cup orzo
2 cups water (play this by ear, you may need to add a bit more if its getting too thick.)

Add the final ingredients just as the pasta is nearly done:
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or Velveeta or what ever cheese you have around, it's a great time to use up left over bits and pieces)
1/4 cup cream
the leftover steak, cubed

Serve immediately when the cheese is melted, top with fresh chopped scallions. Pair with a heavier micro brew like a black ale or go to the opposite extreme with a Tecate. How ever you serve it, rejoice with fabulous leftovers and be fat and happy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ribeye Steaks and White bean salad

When do you plan for dinner? Do you think about it in the morning? And does it often involve taking something out of the freezer? We are completely awful at remembering to do this, even if we are standing in front of the freezer we'll just start talking about a different subject or start kissing or something, and next thing we know its time to start dinner and we realize we forgot to take something out.
Today Dave couldn't go to work because our garage door was broken and he couldn't get out of the garage. I'm sure many of you are saying to yourselves 'just pull the cord and lift it'. Well, considering we live in a large condo building, the garage door does not simply just lift. In fact three guys tried to lift this garage door and it didn't budge. The great thing about this besides Dave getting to stay home for part of the day is that Dave was able take something out of the freezer for dinner and he makes great marinades!. When I finally got home I found 2 big beautiful ribeyes that had been marinating in Guinness all day. And the weather was perfect for grilling; around 6o degrees if I recall correctly.

So what to make that goes with steak and Guinness; that really depends on what's available in the house. I found a head of iceberg lettuce, it's a very rare item to find in our house and it definitely needed a little cleaning. but it was something to start with. I started chopping and adding items together even though I didn't really know in which direction I was heading. A nice little lettuce cup filled with a cold bean salad.

What's the morel of the story, if you can finally remember to be prepared for dinner, you could wind up with a really great meal! And once you have that, then you can be fat and happy!

Marinate your steaks in a can of Guinness and crushed black peppercorns.

Add the following to a glass bowl:
1/2 can white beans
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 chopped olives, use the good mixed variety
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese cubes, chopped real small
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Now whisk together
3 Tbls grainy mustard
2 Tbls red wine vinegar
black pepper
1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbls balsamic vinegar, (use a good one, this one I actually picked up in Modena, Italy- it's the 5 year old, not the 25 year old! They did have a 50 yr old bottle going for about $600, I could rent a cabana boy for a week for that price!)

Now pour the vinaigrette over the bean salad and toss. Grill the steaks, my preference is medium rare, and remember to let them rest before you slice into them or you'll lose all the juices. Peel a layer of the the iceberg lettuce off the head and place on the plate, now fill with the bean salad. The mustard vinaigrette goes beautifully with Guinness flavor on the steaks! I don't know how I didn't get a photo of the steaks after Dave grilled them, but they were beautiful; warm and bright pink inside. He just did a fabulous job I simply adore him!


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