Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Not too bad, to be honest

I don't care for most shellfish. Especially the ones in the Oyster/Clams/Mussels category. The meat is either too snot-like, or too rubbery for me to appreciate. (Texture is a big factor for me when it comes to food enjoyment.)

*Wanting* to even *think* about preparing mussels was a huge step out of the ordinary! I blame Bobby Flay, once again...

It was the Boy Meets Grill episode that included steamed mussels and grilled bread that spiked my interest. And, you know what...the mussels were not that bad. Tasty, even. They were also so small and so loaded with garlic that it was difficult to taste them at all. Perfect! Plus, Nathan was super happy, because he loves shellfish as much as I hate it.


2-3 lbs of mussels - well cleaned and beard removed (if you can get the "Rope Raised" variety - get them! They are cleaner, more tender and do not have that tough yucky beard.)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 onion, finely minced
4 tbsp butter
1 cup dry vermouth (or a white wine of your choice)
1 cup of heavy cream
1 lb spaghetti or linguini
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 small package of cherry tomatoes

Prepare pasta as instructed.

In a large skillet, melt butter and add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent. Add all of your well cleaned mussels - checking to make sure that any opened mussels (that will not close when you tap on the shell) are discarded. (They're dead!) Add vermouth, and cover entire skillet. Let cook for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until the shells open to reveal the meat. Gently stir in heavy cream, tomatoes and parsley.

Place cooked pasta in a serving dish, and top with mussels and sauce. Serve! The tomatoes just heat up enough where they explode in your mouth.

Weekly Menu Planning ( a couple of days late)

Sunday - Steamed Mussels over linguini
Monday - Roast Chicken with cranberry and almond stuffing
Tuesday - Roasted Acorn Squash Rigatoni
Wednesday - Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Brisket with smashed potatoes
Thursday - Sausage Lasagna
Friday - Pizza day

*Alternate menu (just in case...) - ham and cheese frittata with stove top potatoes

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wish list

Nathan keeps telling me that he will be going to Florida to visit his mother and brother sometime soon. Since I can not take any real time off of work during our "season" I will not be accompanying him. I'm kinda bummed about it - but I am also making some big plans!

Right now, in the apartment, the kitchen is...well...a disaster. I don't have any counters - I use my kitchen table (which is scary in it's own right) as a prep space. Leaning over to do any kind of chopping is horrid on my back. The walls are yucky and the only light in the whole room comes from a floor lamp positioned in the corner. To be honest, we were only supposed to "squat" here for a year...tops. It's been 5, and immediate action is required if I am going to continue to cook/bake in this place!

So, while Nathan runs off to sunny West Palm Beach, I will be tearing the kitchen apart. He doesn't know this, and I am not planning on telling him!

Kitchen table - gone!
Exsisting Baker's Rack - outta there!
Mis-matched utencil cabinet haphazardly placed next to the stove - man, I am gonna kick you to the curb!
The decorative and outdated moulding under the upper cabinets - see ya!

I'm thinking new paint, on both the walls and ceiling - which color I have yet to decide on. Maybe yellow. A co-worker mentioned terra cotta. Unfortunately, the floor must stay - but the cabinets I do have will also be painted a crisp white. I plan to add some new knob pulls for to jazz them up a bit. And, I am going to purchase some items that will assist me in my everyday life.

My wish list also includes:

Cilantro Chicken with Red Beans and Rice

If you want to make a meal that will make your entire house smell like home, than this is the dish for you! It's super flavorful and ready in no time at all (well, it takes as long as the rice - about 20 minutes).

Chicken with Cilantro flavored Red Beans and Rice

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package of yellow rice
1 can of red beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro*
salt and pepper

Start rice.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Slice garlic clove. Add to oil and watch it until it starts to turn brown. Gently remove sliced garlic from oil and discard. (This will leave a nice garlicy flavor, without allowing the garlic to burn.) Season chicken with salt and pepper, and place in pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until chicken is fully cooked through. Remove chicken from skillet, and cover chicken with foil.

Add butter to hot skillet. Add onions, and saute until translucent. Add drained and rinsed red beans, and saute until hot. Transfer entire mixture into cooked rice, and stir until combined. For the finishing touch, stir in chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve!

I added a little homemade cornbread to round out the meal. (I baked the cornbread in a "corn cob" cast iron mold, like this. So cute!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Spaghetti Carbonara

I've tried about 13 different recipes for Carbonara, and every single one failed miserably. The eggs curdled, or the sauce somehow separated into a mess or the whole thing was runny, or too dry. You name it! I don't know why I kept working on it though, I guess it was because I was always told that Carbonara was the best comfort food ever. (They also said it was easy...ha!)

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and make *my* version of carbonara. I was a little leary at first - - but I finally decided that this time...it wouldn't fail.

And, it didn't. OMG! How amazing! (And filling - believe me, your eyes will be much bigger than your stomach with this one.) The secret is in the bechamel sauce you start with.

KAT'S NO-FAIL CREAMY CARBONARA with peas and proscuitto

1 lb pasta of your choice - I chose Spaghetti
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 cups of heavy cream
salt and pepper
whole nutmeg
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup frozen peas
6 thin slices of proscuitto, cubed

Prepare pasta. In the last minute of boiling the pasta, add peas.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add flour, whisk and cook for one minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. Slowly add in heavy cream, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring often, until bechamel thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Add proscuitto and season with salt, pepper and grated whole nutmeg. (Just a smidge!) Turn heat down to low.

Separate egg yolks into a small bowl. Whisk to break yolks. Temper your egg yolks with about 1/4 cup of the bechamel sauce. Once thoroughly mixed, add yolks to the white sauce, stirring constantly to incorporate. Add drained pasta and peas, tossing to combine. Serve as is, or with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley.

I can not believe how creamy this carbonara turned out. Seriously good! And, a little goes a long way...I was full after only one small serving - I didn't even tough the loaf of homemade bread I made to accompany this dish.

Weekly Meal Planning

Dinner this week will be full of comfort...creamy pastas, thick soups, lots of melted cheese and....breakfast! It's cold outside and comfort food is the only way to keep us all sane.

Monday - Spaghetti Carbonara
Tuesday - Cilantro Chicken with Beans and Rice, plus Corn Bread
Wednesday - Cheesy Ham Pockets and Herbed Tomato Soup
Thursday - French toast with Citymama's wonderful Challah bread, scrambled eggs and bacon
Friday - Pizza Day
Saturday - Beef Kabobs with Vegetables and a loaded Baked Potato

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Checkerboard Cake

I have been waiting to make this cake for so long, that when I found out it was a co-worker's birthday, I jumped at the chance to bake this one up. The best part, is that it is made with a cake mix, so there is really no guess work - it's all about the ta-da when you cut a slice to chow on!

Items you will need:

Your favorite White Cake Mix - plus the eggs, water and vegetable oil you will need
Your favorite Chocolate Cake Mix - plus the eggs, water and vegetable oil you will need
2-3 cans of your favorite White Icing/Frosting
1 Package of Hershey Kisses
Shredded Coconut, optional
3 9-inch cake pans, well oiled and floured
2 large plastic freezer bags

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cake mixes. Pour white cake mix into large freezer bag, and seal. Repeat with chocolate cake mix. Set aside. (If you have a second pair of hands to help out - use them!)

Make a small cut in one corner of each plastic bag. Start with the Chocolate (because why wouldn't you?! Yum!) mix. Pretend that your cake pan is a bullseye. Make a ring around the outside with the chocolate, followed by a smaller ring of the white cake mix, and finally a large dollop in the center. Repeat, starting with the white mix in the second pan. And, repeat again on the third pan, again starting with the chocolate cake mix.

Bake for 26-32 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the cake pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To build: Layer cakes on a cake pedistal, making sure that the layers are interchangeable. Spread a thin layer of white icing between each layer. Frost entire cake. Press shredded coconut into sides of cake. (I skipped this part, because the person I made this for could not have coconut.) Top cake with hershey kisses! I dusted the top with a little cocoa powder. Serve!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Two dinners, one for the meat-eaters, one for the meat-free'ers

Back to making dinner! At least, for a couple of days, as the later part of the work week is filled with work events (during dinnertime). Both of these dinners were very easy to make and had lots of flavor. If you are afraid of tofu...don't be. Tofu is one of those amazing products that takes on any flavor you are cooking with!

For the Carnivors:


2 lb pork tenderloin, rinsed and dried

1 jar calamata olives, or olives of your choice (pitted prefered!)

salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

Glazing Sauce:

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar


salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a pairing knife to make "holes" or slits into the pork tenderloin. Place one olive into each slit. Turn pork over, and repeat the process. (You want an olive piece in every slice of tenderloin.) Season both sides of pork with salt and pepper.

Heat oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Add oil. Sear all sides of the pork. Place enter skillet in the oven to complete cooking. Cook for approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your tenderloin. (Internal temperature should reach a safe 170 degrees.)

Meanwhile, mix all sauce
ingredients, minus water, in a small bowl until combined. Place mixture in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat. Add water slowly. Reduce until it is the thickness you desire. Spoon sauce over sliced tenderloin. I completed the meal with some steamed fresh green beans, and creamy mushroom risotto.

And, now a recipe and picture for the Veggie lovers:


Extra firm tofu, drained
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into stripes
1 red bell pepper, cut into stripes
8 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
2 cups of sugar snap peas
3 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup penko bread crumbs
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Cut drained tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange tofu on a plate, and pour 2 tbsp of the teriyaki sauce; turn slices to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep all vegetables. Heat 2 tbsp sesame oil in a large skillet. Add pepper, and stir fry 2-3 minutes. Add green onions, sugar snap peas and 1 tbsp teriyaki sauce, and saute another 2-3 minutes, until all vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer vegetables to serving platter, and keep warm.

Use a paper towel to remove any leftover oil in the skillet. Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. While the oil is heating up, mix together bread crumbs and cayenne pepper in a shallow vessel. Dip each tofu slice into bread crumbs and coat completely. Carefully place each tofu slice in the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes each side, carefully turning each slice with a spatula. Place tofu over vegetables. Serve as is, or over rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds as a garnish.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

In a funk

I'm in a cooking funk. (I read that I am not the only one!) I can't seem to make it to the market for the vital ingredients I need, and this week I have been taking the total easy way out. That means restaurants and buffets. Not a single meal has been prepared in my kitchen since the weekend.

Tonight I vow to get back on track.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Weekly Meal Planning

I picked up the most amazing looking beef short ribs yesterday, and decided to attempt a recipe I found in OK! Magazine. (I'm totally giggling at the fact that I am trying a recipe that was in a gossip rag.) It could turn out very, very bad...I'm going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Monday - Lemon Garlic Tilapia
Tuesday - Beef Short Ribs braised in red wine
Wednesday - Roasted Vegetables with Tortellini
Thursday - Italian Meatball Soup
Friday - Pizza
Saturday - Dinner with family (birthday party)

Superbowl Munchies, and more....

I can not wait until "the house" is completed, and we are in and ready to entertain in our own territory! (For those who do not read my other blog - Nathan bought a house back in 2002, which had been through a fire. We have been rehabbing the hell out of it for the past...ummm...5 years.)

I look forward to the Superbowl every year - not because I'm a sports fan (I'm not!), but because I love to try out new recipes on unsuspecting family members. Bwhahahaha! This year, I left out the "new" and went with a more traditional touch - chili, chicken wings, chips and dip and pigs in a blanket. I did whip up a couple of pinwheel sandwiches that were fantastic and got mad raves from all the boys!

Here are a couple of recipes that highlighted the evening:


flour tortillas
1/4 lb each of rare roast beef and cooked ham (or your favorite lunch meat)
handful of baby spinach
yellow mustard
roasted red peppers, packed in oil
baby spinach
shredded cheddar cheese
cream cheese

Imagine your tortilla as a clock....Spread a good layer of cream cheese on the top of one tortilla wrap. Make sure that you bring the cream cheese all the way to 9:00, as it will act like glue when you roll it up. Zig-zag some yellow mustard across the tortilla. Place 3-4 slices of meat, starting at 3:00 - and leaving about an inch of room at the 9:00 mark. Follow with the shredded cheese, spinach and red pepper. Start at 3:00 and roll up the tortilla tightly. Wrap entire roll in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Cut into pinwheels directly before serving.

They make handy little bite sized snacks. I made 4 rolls (two of roast beef and two of ham), and they were gone before kick-off!


Beware - this recipe will most certainly block your vital arteries - - but it is sooooooooooo good!

8 oz cream cheese
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup mayo
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain artichokes and pull them apart with your fingers. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients and mash until well mixed. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until dip is bubbly and hot. Serve hot with bread or chips.

You can make this ahead, baking when you get to your destination. Take my word for it - this dip is better than anything you've ever raved about at a restaurant. People will corner you for the recipe.


Mini Meatballs
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup chili sauce
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 cups of water

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add brown sugar and mix over medium heat until dissolved. Add garlic, mustard, ketchup, worchestershire sauce and chili sauce. Slowly add water, mixing thoroughly. Add cooked meatballs and simmer for one hour on low. Serve as is, or over rice for a more substantial meal. This is definitely one of my favorites!

You can also prepare the sauce in a crockpot, and keep them hot all night without having to watch the stove. Just leave out long skewers or little bowls for your guests.