Monday, February 11, 2008

Aphrodisiac Cooking for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day - a day to show your love to the special person in your life. If you play your cards right, what you feed your loved one could enhance the rest of your evening, if you catch my drift! Some foods that are known to have aphrodisiac qualities - like asparagus, almonds, avocados, bananas, basil, coffee, figs, honey, libations, rosemary, strawberries and oysters. Cayanne and chili are known to rev up the lovin' as well.

If you've been watching Food TV, you'll also know that chocolate is a must-have for any Valentine's cooking...and that chocolate is not just an ingredient for desserts. Case in point, Ellie Krieger's "Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary, Chocolate and Wine Sauce." Chocolate and beef...a classic combination? Oh yes. And I am not kidding. Make this sauce with your favorite cut of meat, and you will be on the way to the bedroom in no time!


1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, carrot and celery and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the wine and broth and stir in the tomato paste. Add the bay leaf and thyme and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 40 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Stir in the cocoa and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Serve on the side with the sliced tenderloin.

This sauce is slightly bitter, due to the wine and cocoa powder, and blends really nicely with the buttery texture of the beef fillet. Nathan thought it was a bit too bitter - - so taste it before serving, and add a tsp or two of honey, if desired, to sweeted the sauce up just a touch.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Doughnuts or donuts? Who the heck knows..."doughnuts" makes my poor spell check go crazy, throwing red squiggly lines all over the place, but "donuts" is the incorrect spelling according to all of my cookbooks and the recipes listed on the internet! Whatever way you spell it, just call them delicious.

Last Thursday I had the most intense craving for doughnuts. Cake doughnuts, in particular. Moist, dense little circles of pleasure covered in sugar or dipped into a glaze. I thought about them all day. Now, I could certainly run over to Duncan Donuts and pick up one on the way home to satisfy the craving, but with my luck they would be out of my favorites or they would be stale. So, why not make them at home? After all, any well stocked (or even partially stocked) pantry has all the ingredients you need to make these fresh...

BASIC CAKE DOUGHNUTS (and doughnut holes!)

3 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
cooking oil for deep fat frying
Glaze: 2 cups powdered sugar, 3-5 tbsp water. In a bowl, mix together sugar and water until you have achieved the desired consistancy.

Combine 2 cups of flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid Mixer) combine eggs, sugar and vanilla. Beat about 3 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken slightly. In a smaller bowl, combine milk and butter. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to egg mixture, beating well after eat addition. Stir in remaining 1 cup of flour. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Heat cooking oil in a large, deep skillet until temperature reaches 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 1-inch thick slab. Cut dough with floured doughnut cutter (size of your choice), dipping cutter into flour between cuts. Reroll as necessary.

Fry doughnuts, 2 or 3 at a time, for about 1-2 minutes on each side, turning once with a slotted spoon. Drain fried doughnuts on a rack or on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and doughnut holes. If desired, shake warm doughnuts in a plastic zip lock baggie with cinnamon and sugar. Or, dip tops in a simple glaze.

Tip: Do a "test fry" with one doughnut, so that you can gage the correct frying time and thickness of your dough. My first batch came out perfect on the outside, but raw on the inside - and that is not good eats! I simply flattened out my donuts more and that did the trick. Oh, and make a double batch...they are that good. (And, not greasy believe it or not!)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Vegetarian Sushi

I am in love with making Sushi!

I'm obsessed with it. I've been scouring the internet for tips and tricks. I stopped at the Asian Food Market and grabbed a sushi rolling mat to increase productivity - which set me back a cool 99 cents! I can now chuck my sacraficed bamboo placemat which is pretty much ruined anyway, since I was pushing it past it's regular job of sitting pretty on my table.

It's funny, because although I wince at the thought of eating fish, no matter how I try to tell myself how good it should be - raw fish (particularly red snapper and tuna) is quite tasty. There's no "fishiness" - or there shouldn't be if it's fresh - and I find the texture to be quite similar to the rice in the sushi roll. Plus, if eaten with a dab of wasabi, dipped in soy sauce and chased with a piece of pickled ginger you can barely taste anything else!

I'm not brave enough to try my hand at working with the raw sea animals - but I have been playing around with the colors of the rainbow via the veggie briggade. Peppers in every single hew, carrots, sprouts, avocado, cucumbers, pickles, zuchinni and squash.


2 sheets of Nori (found in Asian Food Markets)
1 carrot, peeled and cut into long, thin strips
1/2 cucumber, seeded and cut into long, thin strips (Do not peel!)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into long, thin strips
1/2 a ripe avocado, removed from outer skin and cut into strips
1/4 cup mung bean sprouts
wasabi paste
pickled ginger

For Rice:
2 1/4 cups of water
1 cup brown rice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add rice and soy sauce. Cover with a lid and let rice steam for 40-45 minutes or until done. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl with a large surface area for cooling. Sprinkle with rice wine vinegar and gentle stir rice to coat. Let stand 20 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare all vegetables.

Lay out your sushi rolling mat onto a clean cutting board or other flat surface, so the slats are perpendicular to your body. Lay a piece of nori on the mat, shiny side down. Using damp fingers, spread a layer of rice over nori, covering the nori almost entirely - leaving a 1 inch strip at the top of the nori, furthest from you. (Doing this will help to seal the roll.)

Spread a very thin bead of wasabi paste in a single line along the edge nearest to you. Be careful with the wasabi, because if you use too much, you will blow yourself and your dinner mates out of the water! Arrange vegetables strips. Using your thumbs, gently begin to roll up the mat, squeezing gently to adhere the nori to itself. Chill roll for 10 minutes or so, then cut into pieces with a very sharp knife.

I served my sushi alongside some pork and vegetable pot stickers.

Now, some may think that brown rice was a strange choice...but I wanted to up the nutrician level and brown rice certainly did the trick. However, if I didn't tell you, you'd probably never still had the same consistancy as traditional sushi (or sticky) rice, but with a slight nutty flavor.

I'm now thinking of ways to create a little sushi dessert roll. (Hummmm.....YUM!)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Beets...lunch ladies beware

Walking through the grocery store last night without a menu or list in mind, put my brain into a tail spin. I continued through the produce aisles, glancing at boring button mushrooms, overgrown eggplant and yellowed icebugh lettuce. I was in an idea rut until I happened upon a bunch of yellow organic baby beets. So tiny and so cute! I also selected a bunch of organic red baby beets as well, and the tide started to turn.

At home, I scrubbed my beets with a spud scrub and let them air dry. I grabbed a couple of carrots, peeled them and set them aside as well. Since the baby beets were so young, I decided to leave them unpeeled. The skins were so thin anyway that it seemed like a waste (of time and nutrients) to remove them.

ROASTED BEET SALAD (served hot or cold)

1 bunch of baby yellow beets, trimmed, scrubbed and cut in half
1 bunch of baby red beets, trimmed, scrubbed and cut in half
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (keep in similar size to beets)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare all vegetables and place on a baking sheet. With your fingers, mix together vegetables, 2 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper until coated. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping vegetables half way through.

Remove from heat and place vegetables into a bowl. Add reserved olive oil, fresh parsley and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve warm, or chill for two hours if you prefer your salad cold.

I served this earthy salad alongside a portabello mushroom burger with avocado, tomato and onion. It was a beavy of colors and textures - which was just heaven to me!

Be warned though - - eating too many red beets may cause your poo to turn purple. Just trust me on this.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Fast, Easy, Tasty

Fast, easy and tasty just about sums up this meal in 3 simple words.


1/2 lb ditalini pasta
1 jar prepared pesto (or, make your own)
1 can light kidney beans, rinsed
1 bunch of broccoli rabe, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup vegetable stock

Prepare pasta as directed. About 3 minutes into the pasta cooking, add the broccoli rabe pieces to the boiling water. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add drained beans and pesto and cook until beans are heated through, approximately 1 minute. Add mixture to pasta, stirring gently to combine. Serve!

Seriously good eats in about 15 minutes tops. I really enjoyed the nuttiness of the beans against the fresh flavor of the broccoli rabe - and the rabe was not bitter at all! This definitely made my "make again, and again..." list. (And, did a nice job in satisfying that comfort food craving.)