Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mother's Day Breakfast (Fruity Breakfast Muffins)

Two posts in one day. . on a roll! Here is once again a recipe so old that these muffins were another part to my mother's muffin basket for mother's day. This is also one of the many dozen recipes that I have stored away in my blog drafts because ironically it is the safest place to hide them far from the trash can or from being put into lost hands. However, it is just now being posted to the public because of my four month strike from Blogger. (In which I am deeply sorry to any readers out there who have missed reading up on my recent culinary creations.)
These fruity breakfast muffins are a top favorite amongst me, my friends, and my family. They are fresh with fruit, vibrant with lemons, and have the classic crunch from walnuts that balance off the moist flavorings from the banana. Of all the muffins in the muffin basket, the breakfast muffins were the first to go because they are that good and definitely hands down a crowd pleaser!
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 ripe banana, mashed

2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lemon, zested
1/2 pint blueberries
1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix together strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar. Let sit 15 minutes until strawberries give off juices. In a small bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed banana, eggs, oil, 1 cup sugar, strawberries, and lemon zest. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in blueberries and walnuts. Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with a few crumbs but not wet, about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack to room temperature and enjoy!

Sticking With The Classics (Blueberry Muffins)

Okay so it has been what? Nearly four months since I have yet to post anything in this silly blog. Sounds like an insanely long time, but to me those four months have flown by as I denied the length in time and yes, sadly I will admit, have even at times denied my blog. It has just infuriated me to extremes such like denial of the entire process. Why? For one I have and forever will remain irritated at the fact that Google has ripped any earnings that I potentially had and could have made with their stupid Google Ads. And two, a virus has been roaming my posts which sends visitors to virus staked sites waiting to scam one of money. However I have grudgingly put all that aside because my sister's wonderful Bama friends have easily persuaded me that they have missed reading my blog, therefore here I am four months later and still blogging away.
With that said, I am finally, FINALLY sharing my mother's day recipes to the world wide web of bloggers and starting with my all time favorite muffin recipe; classic blueberry muffins. They are soft and moist on the inside, but have an outer, crunchy coating of sugar toasting on top. The classic muffins have yet to disappoint as they have been given as part of a mother's day muffin basket and shared amongst many of my closest friends. 
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh
coarse white sparkling sugar for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with papers, and grease the papers. in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light, fluffy, and almost white in color. Start the mixer at low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, then gradually increase speed to medium-high until the desired color and texture are reached. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light, fluffy, and almost white in color. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth. It will be thick. Fold in the berries by hand. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using a heaping 1/4-cup for each. Bake the muffins for 18 to 24 minutes. Remove them from the oven and while still warm dip the tops into melted butter and then into sugar. Allow to cool and enjoy! 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

For The Tennis Ladies (Blueberry Crumble Bars)

I often love to seek any and every excuse to bake up something sweet. I don't bake often, for when I do, I always find at least half of the baked goodness lingering around my kitchen weeks after. I am beginning to think expiration dates are much needed when baking anything in my kitchen that contains sugar, flour, and butter. However, I continue to find pleasure in the kitchen standing by an overheated oven for hours on end waiting for perfection to ring. Luckily today I knew I would be baking for a dozen tennis ladies, thus my blueberry crumble bars would not go to waste. My mother was attending a tennis ladies luncheon day thing and she was to bring a dish of any kind. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity and eagerly agreed to make Smitten Kitchen's/AllRecipe's Blueberry Crumble Bars for her.
I believe I am often craving to bake because of the sensational aromas which are given off through out the house, and then the sweet, savory smell that lingers on into the morning. (Or until doors and windows are swung open to let loose of the beautiful lemon zest and blueberry juices.) There was no exception to my blueberry crumble bars. They not only turned out to look fabulous, but tasted just as good. The crumble on bottom and top reminded me of cookies that my grandmother and I bake during Christmas time, and the blueberries in between oozed all over as they popped and exploded in the oven. This is a wonderful dessert to give away for it is easy to cut and serve, but it also just as good to eat right at home warm over cold vanilla ice cream.
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Serve and enjoy!

Quesadillas, Burritos, Whatever You Call Them ( W/Black Beans and Peppers)

 My mother was making bar-b-qued potatoes tonight, thus leaving me on my own. I didn't really mind at all however, because I was in the mood for something a bit more festive and was eager to cook anyways. Therefore I dug through the pantry and refrigerator to find a few peppers, black beans, and whole wheat tortillas. So obviously mexican came to mind, and this is what I came up with. I threw whatever I found and thought would taste good together in what was originally going to be a quesadilla. However, I ended up eating most of the "quesadilla" with a fork, for if I were to recreate this dish again, I would make it more of a burrito style considering the quesadillas weren't really holding up too well.  
 So below I have prepared a recipe with two different ways of creating it. My suggestion is to go with the burrito-wrap style in order to keep most of the goodness inside the tortilla rather than on an unnecessary fork. Either way, it was absolutely delicious and I don't think I have ever tasted such plump and flavorful peppers before. They were juicy and completely made the entire meal. As many of you know by now I am a vegetarian, so I am constantly having to keeping protein in mind, therefore the beans were added. So to all those vegetarians out there, this makes for a great meal with the many colors of vegetables and proteins added.
Ingredients: (made for about one)
1 whole wheat tortilla
baby spinach leaves
1/4 red pepper thinly sliced
1/4 orange pepper thinly sliced
4 teaspoons black beans
1/3 cup white cheddar, grated
For quesadilla style:
cut tortilla in half and place both halves on frying pan over medium-high heat. add cheese, peppers, and beans onto one of the halves. Let cheese melt before adding the other half on top (sandwich style). Remove from heat, cut in half, add spinach, serve and enjoy!
For burrito style:
Place tortilla on frying pan over medium-high heat. Mash up with a fork the beans and add to tortilla. Sprinkle cheese and peppers on top. Remove from heat and add spinach. Wrap up to make a burrito, serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Light And Mini Farfalle Pasta For Spring

Tonight it was just me and my mother for dinner, and I was desperately in the mood to cook up something yummy. I originally planned to surprise my dad with home-made beer bread, but he was working late so his loss. Therefore, I made dinner for my mother instead, and I knew what made her most happy was a simple pasta with fresh herbs from the garden and anything that included mouth watering tomatoes. So I came up with a light and springy pasta dish that included just that. The sauce is nothing more than some olive oil and cooking water (okay, I did add a little bit of butter), and the flavors of fresh rosemary and grape tomatoes really shine through this simple yet delectable pasta dish. The asparagus and parsley also add a nice spring touch to the mini farfalle and well. . . parsley goes good with almost anything cheesy, Italian, and fresh. The dish was prepared in about ten minutes, so to those who live on a "busy schedule", you now have no excuse as to not cook this good!
1/8 cup olive oil (plus more)
1/2 pound mini farfalle pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese (plus more)
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground salt
1 cup steamed and cooled asparagus
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 stalk fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 or so "stems" parsley, coarsely chopped/torn (leave some whole to garnish)
cook pasta in well-salted water with some olive oil until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cups of the pasta cooking water. Dry out pot and leave on high heat and then add olive oil until almost starts to boil it. Then add pasta and pasta water. Add butter, cheese, pepper, tomatoes, asparagus, parsley, and rosemary. Toss together and serve in shallow bowls or plates. Garnish with pepper, parsley, and cheese. May also need to add more salt. Serve warm and enjoy!

Happy Birthday Grandma! (Carrot Cake)

Last Saturday was my grandmother's birthday which was spent at our lake house in Montgomery, Texas. It was a lovely time for my mother's cousin, Susann, was in town visiting from Switzerland. My grandma is probably one of the best cooks I know of and when she asked me to make her birthday cake I was more than delighted to do so. However, I have to admit I was a bit nervous and made sure the cake turned out absolutely perfect, because I could not risk making a mistake on my grandmother's cake, let alone on a cake that is her very own recipe. (For she knows exactly how the cake should taste.) Luckily the cake turned out beautifully and I was more than satisfied with the first one, thankfully, because I was not about to hand grate another three large carrots!
I really do think my grandma liked the carrot cake, as I am sure anyone biting into a slice of creamy, crunchy carrot cake glazed over with a lemon frost would. The cake is moist from the carrots, yet the taste is indistinguishable. It has a slight crunch that allows each bite to be savored, and the lemon glaze adds a nice comparison to the carrot cake its self. It is the perfect balance between sweetly original and richly authentic. My grandmother's carrot cake rates up to my seventeenth birthday cake, the tiramisu cake, and it is simply just irresistible.
1 ½ c grated almonds
1 ½ c grated carrots
1 ¼ c sugar
5 egg yolks
1 c flour
½ tsp baking powder
Juice of one lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
5 beaten egg white
Prepare nuts and carrots, Beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Fold in dry ingredients. Last fold in beaten egg whites (beat them with electric mixer). Bake between 350 and 325 f (depending on heat of oven) for 45-60 minutes. (check occasionally)
Glaze with a mixture of powdered sugar and lemon juice stirred together just enough to make icing after it cooled. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Leftover Makeover (Spinach and Pasta Salad)

Alright I am dedicating this post to Ky and LB for their patience and dedication toward my blog. I apologize deeply for not posting as often as I usually have in the past, but the school year is finally coming to an end (well technically three weeks left!) and I have simply just been so busy! I have three more posts that I have been desperately needing to publish (plus this one) which I promise to have them all up by the end of this month. . . by the end of this week. With that said, here is a little something that I threw together about a week ago with a few leftovers found in my kitchen. As this recipe is very easy, simple, and can obviously be made with leftovers; I absolutely loved the fresh and pure taste each ingredient gave.
This is a cold pasta salad, yet it is not the typical pasta salad one would think of. (Because quite frankly I have never been a fan of cold pasta salad.) However this one is different because there is actually lettuce to the salad and is so simple yet delicious! Everything is cold and is covered with fresh parmesan cheese to combine each flavor together. It is also extremely easy, and if you are thinking right now of popping in a frozen meal or pouring a bowl of cereal, well think again because this recipe probably takes just as much or even less time and is not only healthier but tastes fresh and like real food.
already cooked and prepared ziti pasta (leftover work) about 1/2 pound
one cup frozen peas
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
one sliced hard boiled egg
couple large handfuls baby spinach (about as much or more compared to ziti)
fresh herb and Parmesan dressing
defrost peas and add to salad bowl. toss with cold pasta, cheese, lettuce and egg. Before serving add dressing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MS150 Breakfast (Whole Wheat Blueberry Pecan Pancakes)

Last weekend was the annual BPMS150 which my dad and I participated in. It was my first time to ever ride such a distance from Houston to Austin and my dad's third time to fulfill the two day trip. However, I managed to beat his "thirty years older" legs by a near hour leaving him in the dust after the lunch break. (funny how it is called the "lunch" stop when I got there around nine in the morning!) I crossed the finish line, turning into the heart of downtown ATX at approximately noon, fifteen minutes before my mother (who had driven up that day) even arrived! And almost an hour before my dad crossed the same line. So bittersweet I felt when no one was there to greet me at the finish line, yet giddiness when I realized I finished so early that I beat my own mother's car! (Which I guess isn't saying much when she drives SO SO SO SLOW. . . ha! I still love you mom!)
But anyways back to the Whole Wheat Blueberry Pecan Pancakes, because a post will soon follow with in depth details on the BPMS150 Houston-Austin ride. So these pancakes were made the night before the big day, because I knew that there was no way I was going to get up at five in the morning to cook a gourmet breakfast that I would be craving. So plan B: make the pancakes ahead of time and freeze them! (Which I still have a few frozen that are waiting to be eaten. . . thus saying, they freeze quite well for weeks.) These pancakes are healthy with the whole wheat flower, juicy with the flavorful blueberries, and have a slight crunch affect with the finely chopped pecans. All of these which add to the whole affect of an absolutely amazing grand breakfast pancake.
one cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
3/4 cups milk (PLUS MORE)
1 tablespoon melted and cooled butter
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
In a bowl mix dry ingredients and in separate bowl beat egg, milk, and butter together. Gently stir mixture into dry ingredients and then add in blueberries and pecans. If thick, add some more milk (which you will most likely be adding LOTS MORE!). Lightly spray skillet and heat over medium-high. Ladle batter onto skillet to make pancakes. Adjust heat and flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms are brown and golden. Cook until the second side is slightly browned and serve warm. Enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Ride To ATX

A few weekends ago I rode in the BPMS150 for the first time with my dad. He had done it a few times before with some friends, but that was when he had "younger legs". The ride was absolutely phenomenal and I enjoyed almost every second of it. The biking really wasn't half as bad as I thought it out to be and i finished well lets just say on both days. . . a good hour before my father. (Yes, I left him at the half way mark each day.) On Saturday I arrived at the half way point in La Grange, Texas at around 1:15 being one of the few done out of the Gardere Team, and my dad came in around two-ish and was also only one of the few done considering we had to sit around and wait until about six o'clock for the bus to round up the team and head off to adorable little bed and breakfasts in Fayetteville, Texas. We had started our ride on Saturday from our back door around 6:45 a.m. but were hit with a flat only two miles in. Luckily we came prepared and only had one more hiccup the rest of that day. 
On Sunday we left from a hotel near La Grange around seven and rode into University of Texas at Austin around noon that day. (Yes, I not only beat my dad by an hour but also my mom who drove to meet us!) Therefore, the end was bittersweet with the feeling of accomplishment of finishing so early, yet the feeling of loneliness to have no one greet me at the end. However, it all worked out because in the end my mom showed up and shortly after my dad rode in, and before I knew it we had met up with all our other riding friends and had a relaxing, fabulous time in ATX.
The first picture is just of a rack of bikes I saw laying together at the lunch stop on day two. I found it ironic that I arrived at the "lunch" stop around 9:30 that morning and on the day before we arrived at around 9! The first photo of my dad is while getting ready to leave from the "lunch" stop on day one, and the second photo of him (the one right above) is when we were in La Grange and he was awaiting for his leg massage. . . I just could not resist to snap a few even though I'm sure he will make me pay for it in the long run if he ever reads this blog, ha! (well worth it.) The photo below is what a crowd of people would look like at a typical rest stop, which came about every 8 to 14 miles in which my dad would love to linger about and chat about with whatever breath he had left, while I simply just used the stops as a butt and water break eager to move on to the finish line. The other photo is of my dad riding which was taken by photographers along the road, and somehow (with how UNcomputerized of a person I am) managed to copy them off of the website and delete their logo (which covered half the photo unless they were bought. . . I found that ridiculous but whatever floats their boat) in order to have a half way decent picture to share amongst my readers.
All in all the ride was absolutely amazing. I want to genially thank everyone who supported me, my dad, and our friends and who contributed towards my donations in which I raised over one thousand dollars towards multiple sclerosis. One day the world will be free of MS, and thanks the thousands of bikers who biked a near 190 miles, that dream will one day become reality. Those are the people who got me through this bike ride, for I realized that I could take a few days of pain to help those who have to take a lifetime of agony. My life now feels that much more fulfilled knowing that I am not only here to live through the days, but am living for a purpose. The reality of MS didn't sink in until I passed that finish line and the only picture popped into my head; a church I had passed earlier that morning with three elderly ladies sitting in their lawn chairs with a simple white poster reading, "I have MS, Thank you" . Those words were so simple, yet so powerful they made me beam with happiness that I was able to contribute to those helpless, determined souls.

Friday, April 16, 2010

For My Parents (Classic Blueberry Pancakes)

And tomorrow we are off! The day that my dad and I have been waiting for has finally arrived, and in less that nine hours we will be well on our way to Austin, Texas for the annual BPMS150 bike ride raising money for multiple sclerosis. Excitingly I have raised a near 900 while my has raised a whopping 1400, and added up together our team Gardere raised a total of 140,000 dollars! We will begin the race at my back door and will ride to La Grange by Saturday evening ending at the University of Texas in Austin mid-evening Sunday. So with this 180 mile bike ride, I thought it only necessary to have a good and healthy start. That is why the night before I decided to make pancakes for that morning!
 Now I originally had made whole wheat pancakes filled with fresh blueberries and chopped pecans, but sadly my parents (well my mom more than my dad) were a bit iffy on the fact that the flour was whole wheat making the pancakes no longer traditional. Honestly, I think they are just scared to try something fresh and different (as well as something that so easily qualifies under the Food Revolution Movement that has recently sparked up across the world.) Therefore, the nice daughter that I am, I made a new batch with white flour which calls for a bit of a different recipe. They still make for a great before-a-long-two-day-bike-ride-breakfast, but are just not quite as healthy as my whole wheat ones (which will be posted within a few days). This pancake recipe originated from the New York times, but was fixed up by me to make the flavors more fulfilling and tasty.
one cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
3/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon melted and cooled butter
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
 In a bowl mix dry ingredients and in separate bowl beat egg, milk, and butter together. Gently stir mixture into dry ingredients and then add in blueberries. If thick, add some more milk. Lightly spray skillet and heat over medium-high. Ladle batter onto skillet to make pancakes. Adjust heat and flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms are brown and golden. Cook until the second side is slightly browned and serve warm. Enjoy!

Another One Of Giada's (Pasta Ponza)

Mmmm Giada De Laurentis does not dissapoint once again. And this time it is with a cheesy, savory, Italian dinner entree known as Pasta Ponza. As Giada so fluently explains, Ponza is a little Island off the west coast of Italy where her and her aunt first experienced this sweet and savory dish. As I have recently promised to post all of Giada's newest recipes as I make them, this one is a bit different because the original calls for capers (bleh!) and two times the ingredients. So the recipe below is almost line for line Giada's except made without capers (because honestly, something about them just grosses me out!) and the amount is cut in half because I was only cooking for me, my mother, and my father, rather than a party of six.
 I was so thrilled to make the pasta ponza, because it was only another excuse for me to go to my little herb garden and use the freshly grown parsley. It made the Italian cooking experience that much more authentic as well as filling my home with a wonderful, fresh aroma! This recipe parallels very similar to an older post, the baked tomato sauce, however the pasta ponza tops it one hundred percent. Pasta Ponza is so delectable with the fresh parmesan cheese, flavor popping grape tomatoes, and has now been ranked as a top pasta dish under my pasta favorites lists. (Don't worry I am not that much of a cooking geek, because all lists are kept inside my little head and have yet to be stored and sealed with a pen and some ink.)
unsalted butter, for greasing
2 cups red cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs
1/2 pound ziti
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated plus extra to top
few leaves freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 375 and butter an 8 by 8 inch glass baking dish and set aside. Combing tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper in the baking dish and toss to coat. Sprinkle bread crumbs over mixture and drizzle again with olive oil. Bake about 20 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until tender and al dente. Drain the pasta, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add in tomato mixture and cheese. Toss well. Serve onto plate and sprinkle pepper if wanted as well as parsley and cheese on top for garnish. Serve, and enjoy!

From The Garden (Herb and Springtime Salad)

Are you getting sick of all the salads I keep posting? Well I hope not, because my love for salads is far from dead. In fact, my salad exploration continues to grow as I find new ingredients to mix with a few green leaves to create a spectacular, exotic tasting salad. This is by far my best and favorite salad yet, because the flavors are an absolute juiced explosion. The corn and peppers make this salad bright, colorful, and extremely flavorful livening up any spring salad. On top of everything, I even added a few fresh herbs from my herb garden to add a slight texture and give the salad a hint of extra pizazz, which I believe, tops the dish off quite beautifully. (And might I add how excited I have been lately as I watch my garden continue to grow and grow and grow! It makes me so happy!)
handful fresh spring mix lettuce
hadful fresh romaine lettuce coarsely chopped to bite size pieces
half cup cherry tomatoes halved
one fourth cup thinly sliced almonds
one third cup cold, cooked corn
half orange (or any color really) thinly sliced pepper (seeds not included...unless you would like)
few leaves Finley chopped parsley
handful leaves finely chopped chives
parmesan cheese, grated
a basil and herb dressing
in a salad bowl toss everything together and then add dressing right before serving. Serve, and enjoy! (UM WOW CAN YOU SAY EASY?!)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cooking With Sisters (Pea Pesto Crostini Appetizers)

One of the appetizers served at Giada De Laurentiis' book signing was the pea pesto crostini, and they were so absolutely amazing that I was determined to re-make them for my sister the next time she was in town. (Which happened to be this weekend for a wedding.) I ended up making them for her as well as my other "part" sister, Kylie, and my mother, Robin. So there we were all around the kitchen's island laughing, talking, and making appetizers together. The crostinis were just fabulous to make for Kylie helped with the french bread and LB helped out by slicing tomatoes, and my mother. . . well she sat there keeping us lots and lots of company and wine. (Well for her, LB, and Ky! Ha!)
This recipe comes directly out of Giada's newest cook book; Giada at Home. So no need to run out and buy a thirty five dollar cookbook if you don't mind waiting it out until I have posted every recipe of hers on my blog, because everything Giada cooks up is just splendid and I know sooner or later her entire cookbook will be one hundred percent replicated here in my (mom's) kitchen.
Pea Pesto Crostinis can be made before hand by leaving the pesto refrigerated until time to serve on slightly toasted bread. It can also be made by creating an assembly line if you would like to have everyone in the family involved by having one slice tomatoes, one slice and toast bread, one create pesto, and one more to assemble the appetizers together. (Which is exactly what we did to make everything go by that much faster and was also easier to make! Oh, and did I mention. . . it makes cooking more fun as well?!) Okay so maybe we sort of did the "assembly line" effect because I did have some help in the kitchen, but in the end I would have to say it was me who did most of the cooking. But hey, it's my passion so who cares, right? (side note: shirt above created by the brilliant Chris Tran who designs fat cows with the phrase high in COWlories underneath the cow!)
So did I say that Ky and LB were there to help me? . . . well lets just say they attempted but got a bit side tracked with the bread knife and sharp pink tomato slicing knife. . . But that is why I love them :-)
So once the appetizers are fully prepared, arrange them neatly onto a serving platter and enjoy with one, four, or a party more! However, my pea pesto crostini did not turn out to look exactly like Giada's, but if I were to copy exactly her ways then that would show my inability to be flexible and creative. Therefore, my tomatoes were sliced a tad different and my bread was toasted a bit thicker. Thankfully though they tasted divine and were so wonderful my mother has decided to make them again next weekend for our neighbor's wedding shower.
10 ounces frozen peas thawed
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2/3 cup olive oil
somewhat thinly sliced french baguette bread
couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
Pulse together in a food processor the peas, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper. With machine still running, pour slowly in 1/3 cup olive oil. Keep machine running about one to two more minutes or until well combined and mostly smooth. Season with more pepper if needed. Set aside. Preheat a stove top griddle or grill pan over medium-high. Brush both sides of each of the bread slices with the remaining olive oil and grill until golden brown, about 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer bread to platter and spread evenly pesto and then arrange two tomatoe slice on each piece, serve and enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Giada De Laurentiis Book Signing

On April sixth, twenty ten Giada De Laurentiis came to Houston, Texas for a book signing on her recent cookbook, Giada at Home which includes all family recipes from her homes in Italy and sunny California. This was my first ever book signing to go to, and it was nothing like I had expected! I had absolutely no idea the line would swerve around blocks and blocks for a near mile. I also did not expect to be standing in that never ending line for almost two hours only for Giada to sign my book and have a sentence long conversation lasting a whopping 30 seconds. But wow! It was completely worth it! I absolutely LOVED every bit of the entire event! My mother, neighbor, and I left our house around four that afternoon to arrive in the luxury side of town known as River Oaks to stand in a line filled with armature chefs, food junkies, and book lovers while enjoying the sun shining weather and Giada's at home appetizers.
My mother was nice enough to provide the cookbook and ticket for me in order to meet my favorite television chef as well as have her sign it exclusively to me, Megan Brown. (So thank you so much mom for everything. It truly was a wonderful experience that will not be forgotten! And I love you for that as well as having the patience to wait around all afternoon with me!)
The book signing event was held at Sur La Table, a nice little cooking store located on the corner of West Gray street near the downtown of Houston. The service there was exquisite as people walked around with platters of Giada's crostini appetizers and drinks. It was very well organized and everything (thankfully!) ran smoothly as managers prepared our books and led us through the maze of cook ware to the back of the store where Giada was signing lots and lots of her cook books.
This here is Blake, which could be said he became our friend after walking the line multiple times passing out samples of Giada's at home appetizers and stopping each time to allow his photo to be taken exclusively for the Little Blue Box Blog. (I have to admit I became a bit embarrassed to keep taking photos, but my mother insisted and I just could not pass up this opportunity without having any photos to blog about and share with my fellow readers!) Thankfully my mother was persistent, because in the end I always do thank her for that, because now I feel my blog post is complete with insight, details, and pictures of the book signing with Food Network's Italian chef, Giada De Laurentiis.  

Above is a photo of the inside cover from her new book with her one and only signature as signed with a kiss and a hug addressing it to me, Megan. As I approached her table, I felt like a child picking out that one special ice cream from an ice cream truck, because I was just so happy and giddy inside that I almost (but luckily I held my composure) went star struck at yes, a chef! She was even more beautiful in person and looked so happy to be signing books for her all her lovely fans. However, there was one disappointment overall. . . the mean lady who stood next to Giada forced everyone to walk about six feet away only to take a NO FLASH picture. Which was quite a bummer considering even on zoom I could barley see her through my lens and thanks to the "NO FLASH" rule every picture turned out blurry. (Not like it matters, because one would have to squint their eyes really really had to be able to spot Giada in my photos. . . it would almost be like playing a "Where is Waldo?" game. Ha!)
And to wrap up the book signing event, the line only continued to stand around for many more hours after I had left content and happy with my book and signiture in hand. :-)

Happy Late Easter (Classic Bruschetta)

Okay, so to all my dedicated readers and followers I deeply apologize for not blogging in nearly two weeks! Gasp! It has felt like a life time, but no worries because I have not abandoned my blog (well not completely) and I most definitely have not forgotten about it! The truth is, I have been so busy with school and bike riding and events and just everything other than food. Sadly I haven't had much time to cook much of anything lately (tear.) but I am starting to get back into the groove of things and go back into my happy little kitchen. As I have made it clear that I am quite behind on my blog, I will still post up recipes that I have made in the past few weeks, such as these classic bruschetta appetizers that were made in celebration of Easter. (Which was spent with my family as well as the Brosnahan's at our lovely little lake house in Montgomery, Texas.)
I have watched endless numbers of shows, read pages and pages of recipes, and seen all variations of a bruschetta appetizer, but today I decided to take the more classic and authentic approach to these lovely little Italian appetizers. However, when grocery shopping in a small country town, well lets just say. . . Wal-Mart (the only grocer in town) doesn't usually carry raw and fresh ingredients. So I did with what was available and put together a somewhat classic version of bruschetta which turned out to be better than I had anticipated. These are terrific little appetizers, which are also great as a side for a brunch or dinner party. Not only are they delicious, but extremely easy to make and very chic to serve for guests.
7 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread
1/4 cup olive oil
Prepare the tomatoes first. Parboil the tomatoes for one minute in boiling water that has just been removed from the burner. Drain. Using a sharp small knife, remove the skins of the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in halves or quarters and remove the seeds and juice from their centers. Also cut out and discard the stem area.Turn on the oven to 450°F to preheat. While the oven is heating, chop up the tomatoes finely. Put tomatoes, garlic, 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vinegar in a bowl and mix. Add the basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.Serve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Time is Here (Poached Egg Garden Salad)

 This is probably the easiest, fastest, simplest salads I have ever made. It is perfect for a quick fix dinner or lunch, beautiful enough to serve for guests, and fresh enough to be a wonderful salad idea for an enjoyed spring time picnic. The salad may appear extremely bland with the very few ingredients that are added, but sometimes clear and precise balances taste buds better than overdosing on jumbling mixtures of ideas. There is an egg to add protein which is poached yet "broken" to give the regular hard boiled egg a break, the almonds are all natural to save time from having to preheat and grease an oven, the lettuce consists of only two different types which keeps the hassle of handling multiple lettuces to a minimum, and the seasoning is purely simple with a light vinaigrette and freshly ground pepper bringing the salad together as whole. This salad may appear quite easy and one that possibly wouldn't classify under a chef's specialty, but that is because it is precisely that! This salad is quite easy and it is a recipe that absolutely anyone can achieve! So the short and simple recipe shall follow. . .

Ingredients:handful baby organic spring time lettuce
one stalk romaine lettuce
plain almonds
freshly ground pepper
basil and parmesan vinaigrette
one egg
 add spring time lettuce to salad bowl and tear into bite size pieces the romaine lettuce and add to same bowl. Slice almonds and add to salad. In a small saucepan with inch thick high in water allow water to come to a boil. Crack egg into water and keep egg together as a whole and kind of slightly break the center yolk. But keep egg together! When thoroughly cooked through turn heat off. Pour vinaigrette into salad and toss. One placed on plate, add egg on top and garnish with pepper. Serve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Craving To Cook (Vegetable and Whole Wheat Pasta)

All day I was just craving to leave school and enter into my happy little kitchen and cook up something fresh, new, and exciting as well as something that symbolized the pure beginning that Spring had finally sprung. (Well it did a few days ago until the rain showed up. . . but I am positive within a few more days the sun will clear up everything and Spring will jump right back into it's place.) So I came up with any and every lousy excuse just so my mother would hand over her apron and measuring cups and allow me to prepare dinner for the family. And out of my fabulous vegetarian mags, I stopped upon a moderately easy recipe that called for vegetables and lots of them! I mean it only makes sense to add vegetables into a vegetarian magazine, right? I added a few of my favorite vegetables and mixed the recipe up a tad to make it an absolutely outstanding and wonderful dinner.
Well at least I loved this dinner! (And I am most certain any other vegetarian would love it as well.) But lets just say. . . my father is nearly a carnivore and my mother well . . . she pushes all her veggies aside and picks at her plate like a three year old! (Hm who would have thought a teenage girl would have to nearly beg her parents to eat their daily greens!) Regardless of their taste buds, this dinner was successful because the sauce was nothing more than salted water and a splash of wine, the linguine was one hundred percent whole wheat, and the dish consisted of lots and lots of plump, juicy tomatoes, freshly grown basil, green asparagus and zucchini, as well as organic mushrooms. All the flavors collided together to add spice and flavor to an ordinary pasta dish. After making so many fresh vegetables to add to my pasta, it is safe to say that Spring is right around the corner if not already knocking at my door.
half of green zucchini thinly sliced
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup fresh asparagus cut into one inch pieces
1 small onion coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
whole-wheat linguine
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 F and toss together mushrooms, asparagus onion, zucchini, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large cooking pan. Roast about 20 minutes, stirring half way through. While cooking, over medium high heat in a pan cook tomatoes until soft and starting to shrivel (about ten minutes). Then transfer all vegetables to a large serving bowl. Boil salt water with some olive oil and cook pasta for about 8 to 10 minutes. In the same pan (that veggies were in before) pour wine and put back into oven for five minutes. Drain pasta but reserve half a cup of cooking water and add it into the wine in the pan and mix all together. Add pasta and basil and water/wine to bowl of veggies and stir together. Serve and add basil for garnish with cheese. Enjoy! (add salt and pepper if desired)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who Would Have Guessed (More Chocolate Chunk Cookies)

Um wow. Can we just take a moment to soak in this absolutely beautiful picture of this absolutely beautiful super chocolaty chunky and oh so ooey and gooey and precious and good and beautiful little cookie? That sure was a mouthful, but so is this cookie! Seriously, after last month's chocolate chip cookie challenge I thought I was all cookied out especially ones with chocolate chunks and chips, but then my mother. . . oh my sweet, sweet mother nearly begged me to bake more chocolate chunk cookies! It was for a good cause so I simply could not say no, but I did go behind her back and come up with an entirely new recipe versus making one of my dozens of chocolate chip cookie recipes already posted. Devious little me ignored her input and baked a one of a kind gorgeous chocolate chunk cookie hailing all the way from little land Germany. In the end, she thanked me for if this cookie was entered into my previous challenge, well it is obvious it would have won the blue ribbon!
These cookies are giant, gooey and soft in the middle, slightly crunchy around, and extremely chocolaty with the large and irregular chocolaty chunks that surround the entire cookie. I thought I would never eat another chocolate chip cookie for a long, long time. That is until I discovered this recipe which changed my whole perspective on home made chocolate chunk cookies. They are picture perfect and look like they walked out of a local bakery. They smell like raw sugar and pure chocolate and dough. They taste absolutely perfect and I could not have asked for better textures from a chocolate chunk cookie. Also, after making these cookies, I don't think I can ever (and seriously, ever!) go back to making regular Ole' cookies out of chocolate chips. Chocolate chunks are the new fab and the absolute only and best way to make an award winning and crowd pleasing cookie. This is for sure one recipe that can not and WILL NOT be passed up because yes, it is that amazing!
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
17 tablespoons butter, melted and allowed to cool a little
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 egg yolks
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups chocolate chunks, roughly chopped to give large, irregular chunks
Preheat oven to 325 and lightly grease baking sheets. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl and then add eggs, yolks, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add flour and chocolate chunks and stir until combined. Divide the dough into even and large rounds and space them graciously on cookie sheet. Bake about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden and soft (they harden) Serve, and enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Be Happy! (Fresh Orange Juice)

I have discovered that we have an orange squeezing machine! It was a brilliant find considering Spring has sprung and citrus fruits are all the fab right now. So with my happy and sunshine attitude, I grabbed my bowl of oranges and got to squeezing. Now let me mind you, this machine has been around as long as my parent's marriage so it wasn't the fastest of squeezing but it still worked quite well regardless of all the racquet it created. (Not saying anything about your age mom and dad! ha!) Anyways, The first orange I cut up was just simply gorgeous and smelled so sweet and pure that I knew within minutes I would have a fresh jar of orange juice to savor. Hmm. . . I sure was wrong. Not about the part of how sweet and delicious it smelled, but of the whole jar savoring thing, because well, one giant orange is equivalent to about a small cup size of juice. (And when I mean cup, I am referring to the size of that little rooster cup in the picture below.)
So there I was ten minutes later with almost a cup full of orange juice to share among me and my three family members. But hey, I didn't have much to do the rest of the day so why not squeeze the rest of my oranges then? Well, because the rest ended up being pink Cara Cara oranges which are not really oranges rather than some sort of citrus fruit that simply does not squeeze juice out the same way a regular orange can. Therefore I was done, and with all my hard work had created a small cup where about each person in my family could savor one orangey, pulpy, all natural sip. And that sip I let linger in my mouth as long as possible savoring and enjoying every last bit. And it sure was worth it.

Fresh squeezed orange juice definitely, and by far beats the carton juice. When orange juice is fresh squeezed it tastes fresher smells stronger, and has way, way, way, more pulp! Which I absolutely love the taste of almost having to chew your orange juice because the pulp is so overpowering. Pulp gives orange juice a real and authentic taste resembling a true and real bite out of an orange. That is why I absolutely adore pulp in my orange juice, and I absolutely adore fresh squeezed, home-made orange juice. And for those who wish to pursue (or attempt) to make home-made orange juice, well the only ingredients necessary are oranges! and lots of them! And it is as simple (or complex) as that; squeeze a few oranges and. . . wahlah! (or not so wahlah as is , give it thirty minutes and then possibly wahlah!) So enjoy life, enjoy juice, and savor every bit of the two.