Monday, October 31, 2011

Coming Home

On our last morning in Hawaii, we had to check out of the resort by 10:00 a.m. which we did and then we just hung out by the beach for a little while and then by the pools in the shade. We were able to rent a locker space in the workout room for the guys so they could sunbathe, swim and then shower before leaving for airport. Barb and I decided to just shower in our room before checkout and dress in shorts for the day.

Gerry and Bill took a last dip in the ocean and Gerry took a walk out on the sandbar and got some great shots of the resort. I would post some of those pictures, but we are trying to track down my camera which I think may still be on the plane (hopefully it will turn up).

We stopped for lunch at Kalapaki Joe's on our way to the airport. I feasted on fish and chips which were absolutely wonderful!

We flew from Kauai to Honolulu where Bill and Barb are staying for another week. Meanwhile Gerry and I watched the rest of the disappointing Cowboys game at the aiport before boarding our flight to Dallas. We took off at 6:40 p.m. and landed this morning at DFW at about 7:00 (the actual flying time is about 7 1/2 hours). We did manage to sleep quite a bit of the time. I think it may be during this sleeping time that I may have dislodged the camera from my purse which was under the seat in front of me. Hopefully we will track it down since I would hate to lose the last day of our pictures.

I spent the day doing laundry, watching lots of cooking shows and catching lots of nap all day. I really catnapped all day and at 8:00 tonight this is the most awake I have felt all day.

On another note, I had recently found a co-op style produce system which gets me a crate of organic, locally grown produce which is like a CSA that I have been trying to find for a couple of years now. It is called Urban Acres and I stumbled upon it by accident at a pick up point in McKinney. I promptly signed up for a full crate that Val and I will split every two weeks. The first pick-up happened to be this past Saturday while I was kayaking up a river and hiking in Kauai so Val picked it up for us.

It was wonderful to see all the fresh produce in the crate. There were so many choices for dinner since there was so many greens along with some fruits and some potatoes. I opted for Leek and Potato Soup along with Kale Chips since all three of those items were in the crate and it is a Meatless Monday. Both of these recipes were wonderful.

Potato Leek Soup (adapted from Urban Acres, from

2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
5 potatoes, thinly sliced
2 1/2 – 3 cups vegetable broth (or enough to barely cover potatoes)
3/4 cup heavy cream
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat then add onions and leeks. Cook, stirring, until onions are limp and just slightly brown.

Add sliced potatoes to saucepan then pour in enough vegetable broth to just barely cover the potatoes. Continue cooking over medium heat until potatoes are tender. Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, mash or blend potatoes until desired consistency is reached. As you mash the potatoes and the soup thickens, turn down heat and stir frequently with a large spoon to prevent scorching on the bottom.

Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream (or more if you desire) and salt and black pepper to taste. Cook 15 minutes more over low heat, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and serve.

Tuscan Kale Chips (Adapted from

12 large Tuscan (Lucinato) Kale leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat convection or regular oven to 250 degrees. Meanwhile remove stems from kale leaves and cut lengthwise in half. Drizzle the leaves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before spreading in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes in a convection or 30 minutes in a regular oven, and then spread them on a cooling rack to stay crispy.

This was a wonderful meal for our first meatless Monday after our travels.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kayaking and Hiking

Our last full day on the island, we decided to rough it a little with a kayaking and hiking tour. We had a wonderful guide named Lisa and there were only the four of us so it was like our own personal tour. We did a three mile kayak trip up a river which turned out to be a lot of fun due to the wonderful instruction we got before we left. Of course, the wind pushing us along was a perfect foil to the belief in how hard we were working.

We pulled ashore and proceeded to hike for about an hour to get to an astounding waterfall. Did I mention that the hike was through Hule'ia National Wildlife Refuge which meant the path through the tropical jungle was through muddy, slippery covered trails that our guide was chopping the foliage as we followed her? It was a very Indiana Jones experience which Gerry especially enjoyed. As it turns out, our guide was from Connecticut with a degree in Environmental Science which was really helpful since she was able to point out so much of the natural vegetation.

After our hike downhill, we got to a tremendous waterfall where the water was cool in the pool below it and we all took a dip. Gerry actually climbed on to the rocks under the waterfall which was very powerful and after watching him, the rest of us decided to just cool off in the pool and swim as close as we could to the falls.

We then dried off for a bit and made the trek uphill back close to where we grounded the kayaks and had a lunch provided by the tour company. I had a turkey and cheese sandwich served on a wonderful locally made organic whole grain bread which was
delicious along with the usual bag of chips. Our tour guide had brought along several avocados from her garden to supplement our lunch along with some passion fruit which I had never tasted before.

We also got to sample strawberry guava which grow along the trail which were superb. The most unique thing we tasted at the beginning of our tour was Verbain which are little purple flowers that are nicknamed mushroom flowers. The flowers taste sweet when you first put them in your mouth but then leave you with the lingering flavor of mushrooms. It was a very unique experience. The tour ended with a van to return us to our car so that we didn't have to hike or kayak back to our starting point. The entire tour took about five hours.

We ended our day by soaking in one of the hot tubs at our resort before going out to dinner. None of us wanted to do something elaborate after our full day, so we decided to walk to the local restaurant that we went to when we first got here, Brennecke's. We walked to the restaurant and ended our stay at the island with yet another wonderful meal. Before getting ready to go to Brennecke's however, we watched a beautiful sunset on the beach.

I had the grilled Ahi Tuna Steak served over Portobello stuffed Ravioli with a Pesto Cream Sauce and once again it was superb!

It saddens me to see this trip come to an end. We need to check out of our condo unit by 10:00 on Sunday morning. Our plan is to check out by 10:00 and spend a couple of hours on the beach before changing and heading to the airport in the early afternoon. We have a 3:40 flight out of Kauai to Honolulu before boarding our 6 something flight back to Dallas from which we will land at 7:15 a.m. on Halloween day. I wonder if we will be up late enough to see any trick or treaters?

Kauai has been the perfect blend of having everything you need and want while still maintaining the island feel without too much commercialization. It is a true gem!

Waimea Canyon by Car

On Friday, we toured the Waimea Canyon by car. We had seen it from our boat tour and by our helicopter tour and so we also needed to see it by car. We had all three views; by sea, by air and by land. It was just as spectacular from all three views. The highest point is just over 5,000 feet and the views were awesome.

It was a great way to finish the tour of the canyon. It took us about an hour to get to the highest point with many spots to pull over for the scenic viewpoints. The canyon is awesome with its stark mountains and very green valleys. There are also seven different waterfalls helping to provide the green and lush areas in the valleys.

As we started our trek to the canyon, we stopped by Spouting Horn which is an area where waves force air out of an opening in a lava tube producing strange sounds while spray is forced out of another opening close by. It is a very memorable sound compounded with the wave splashing up. It is just another thing I have never seen before.

We returned to the resort for an hour of beach time before getting ready for dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant called Pomodoro which had wonderful Italian food. The hostess was from New Jersey and her husband, the chef and his brother were Italian immigrants and decided to move here 31 years ago to open an Italian restaurant. The food was superb!

We started with Focaccia bread served with the traditional olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grated Parmesan for dipping which set the perfect mood for the food to come. I had the melon and Prosciutto for an appetizer which was the best Prosciutto I have ever eaten. I shared my melon and Prosciutto with the table, but I could order that for a lunch and be perfectly satisfied. Gerry had the green salad with a vinaigrette that he willingly shared a few bites for me.

My entree was Veal Marsala which had three generous pieces of veal smothered in a Marsala sauce loaded with mushrooms and was fabulous. The side for this was a perfectly al dente cooked pasta with slivers of barely cooked vegetables. The entire dish just melted in my mouth.

I ended the meal with a Cannoli which was one of the best I have ever eaten. I did share my cannoli with the table after a few bites since I felt I really had to share the treasure that was brought to the table.

This restaurant was a hidden gem and we really enjoyed the hostess named Gerry and got to meet her husband Tony and his brother Rosario. It was a very fun evening!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Helicopter Tour

Gerry and I did a one hour tour of the island by helicopter. There are two different types of helicopters available; one without doors that seats four passengers (plus the pilot) and one with doors that seats six passengers (plus pilot). Gerry had said even before we got here that he had no interest in being on a helicopter; whereas I was where do I sign up and I would love the front seat. After some gentle persuasion from me and Bill he agreed to accompany me and was not sorry for it.

I got the best seat in the house, in the front on the outer seat with the full glass door next to me and even a glass portion on the floor to look at the ground dropping away from me. The pilot had a speaker system and we all wore headsets to be able to hear the tour information as he was presenting it. It was awesome. It is seriously one of the best ways to get an overall feel for the area you are visiting. We toured the island a bit and of course the Napali coast line, but the most spectacular views were in the Waimea canyon. We got to view awesome mountains and dropped down in to beautiful valleys. We also got to view very pristine waterfalls. The Waimea canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and is just spectacular!

We came back and spent the afternoon by the pool closest to the ocean which is the best of both worlds; the lounge chairs are on a nice little patch of grass just in front of the ocean spotted with palm trees with a pool right next to it. It was great to just sit and soak up the rays.

We rounded out the day with a lauau which is a must when you come to the islands, so I have been told. It is usually held outside, but with the chance of rain they decided to hold it indoors for this particular night which worked out fine since they were still able to do the flame throwing part of the show. The food was wonderful! They did the traditional pig, cooked outside in a fire pit all day which was so tender it fell apart with a fork and I got to try poi for the first time. I have always heard about poi which is a mashed taro root dish but what makes it interesting is the texture (imagine a liquid paste) and the color which is between purple and gray. It was okay to dip the cooked pork in but I don't know that I would have eaten it on its own. The rest of the food was wonderful with different salads, grilled chicken, and a local fish wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf. They had a beautiful dessert table which I decided to pass on.

The show was stunning and informative since they explain the custom behind each of the dances and then proceed to demonstrate them. The culture here in Kauai is from many different influences which I didn't realize.

It was another wonderful day in paradise!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday's Boat Tour

We boarded a 55 foot catamaran to tour the Nepali coastline this morning which is really inaccessible by car. It is a stretch of about 45 miles of stark cliffs and canyons covered in various shades of green on the northwest side of the island. One area was used in the filming of Jurassic Park. There are some beautiful beaches, obviously very secluded since the only way to get there is by boat or an 11 mile hike over rugged terrain. We chose the easy route by motoring in the boat.

We set sail about 8:00 and a breakfast of water, juice, coffee, pastries and fresh pineapple was set out for us. After cruising about 30 minutes we anchored and everyone who wanted to snorkel jumped in. The snorkeling was great once I got used to it. I got to see some beautiful, vibrantly colored and striped fish of all different sizes and shapes. The water was so clear, you could see the very bottom of the reef. My only disappointment in snorkeling is that I didn't get to see a turtle underwater. We did see several from the boat however.

Once everyone was back on board, we continued following the stark coastline. Our captain did a wonderful job of showing us all kinds of hidden coves and beaches all along the coastline. One of the highlights of the day was the pod of spinner dolphins that came out to play with the boat. It was a beautiful sight to see the pod of dolphins in merriment. It's a memory we will carry with us forever.

We had lunch on the boat which was a choice of hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken teriyaki sandwich or a veggie burger, along with coleslaw and beans. They even baked fresh cookies for us on board which were wonderful. It was a great 5 hour cruise.

We came back and got ready for dinner which was at Merriman's which is a local restaurant here in Poipu which has always followed the locally grown trend. Their menu even lists the fisherman that caught the fish you are eating that night. They source their fish from two or three local fishing boats and fly in what they can't get in the area (such as scallops since the chef believes the best scallops come from the northeast). All of the produce they serve is locally grown and organic which made for a wonderful dinner.

I started with the Kauai Fresh Farms Tomato, Moloa'a Beets and Papaya Salad served with a Macadamia Nut Vinaigrette and Kunana Dairy Goat Cheese and it was wonderful except for the green Heirloom tomatoes which I thought were not quite ripe enough.

My entree was a "Create your Own Duo" which is a half serving of two of their entrees, along with the sides all on one plate. It is the perfect choice when you can't decide which entree to order. I had the Pan Roasted Diver Sea Scallops served over creamed sweet corn, and slices of asparagus topped with crispy bacon. The other side of my plate had grilled ahi which was served over a bed of rice with a sweet tomato relish. I really preferred my scallops over the ahi.

Being completely satisfied after my wonderful meal, I decided to skip dessert.

Another wonderful day in paradise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Day of Touring on Kauai

Today we decided to tour the east side of the island. We are staying at the southern most point of the island at Poipu and we went up the east coast all the way to the most northern point of the island. We actually followed the route until it ended before the Napali coast.

Our first stop was at the Wailua Falls which was a beautiful spot to visit.

In addition there was a local artist finishing his watercolor painting of the falls. It was great to see his rendition of the falls.

We continued on to the Kilauea Lighthouse which is a designated national historic landmark, even though it is no longer in use. It was right next to the Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge which highlighted all the local birds in the area.

We proceeded to the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville where we had lunch in the most beautiful setting imaginable. Lunch was a very elegant affair starting with my diet Coke that was served with a lime wedge and a lovely orchid floating on the top. Only in Hawaii do they have enough orchids to float some in an ordinary diet coke. My lunch was a Mahimahi fish sandwich served with guacamole and a garlic aioli on a wonderfully fresh bun. The side was perfectly crisp french fries. The food and the setting were both astounding!

We continued on the road to the very end of it, crossing 8 one way bridges on a very winding road following the shore on the right with the mountains on the left.

We stopped frequently along the route for shopping and then returned in one sweep on the way back. We actually didn't get back here at the resort until about 6:00 tonight and decided to just order dinner from a little restaurant in the hotel complex.

After many meals of fresh Hawaiin fish, we opted for cheeseburgers which came with waffle fries and it was a perfect end to the day.

Tomorrow we are boarding a boat for a tour of the Nepali coast with snorkeling and lunch provided on board. It should be a great day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dinner at Roy's in Kauai

I have adapted to the time change quite well. I actually woke up at 6:00 a.m. today instead of the 4:30 a.m. yesterday and the rest of the day felt normal. We spent the day running errands after our morning walk strolling along the beach and exploring some of the local neighborhoods. This area is absolutely stunning. We bought food to make breakfast in our condo unit every morning and got settled the rest of the day.

Exactly one week ago, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Roy's in Plano and tonight we had dinner at Roy's on Kauai and it was superb! Even though the Roy's on Kauai has delicious food, it is all about the food since the location is nowhere near the water and is the end anchor at a local little shopping area.

I started with the Spicy Ahi Poke which is fresh, raw ahi tuna served over a few cucumber slices, topped with some fresh avocado cubes with a garlic aioli and a drizzle of smoked soy and tobiko vinaigrette. This was by far the best ahi tuna I have ever eaten and the smoky, sweet flavor of the sauce was the perfect complement. I then moved on to the entree which was Roy's Poipu Fish Duo which was a piece of Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahimahi served on a pool of lobster butter sauce and a piece of Potato and Black Pepper Crusted Opah served on saffron vanilla emulsion and truffle bearnaise. The side was roasted potatoes with beautifully cooked broccoli florets. I can't even begin to describe how good the whole combination was. Both fishes were equally delicious.

I ended the meal with their Almond Creme Brulee since I am such of fan of creme brulee in general. The creme was delicate and slightly flavored with almond extract and the sugar crust on the brulee was perfect.

It was a superb day for all!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Greetings from Kauai

We landed on the island on Kauai a little over 24 hours ago and it has been spectacular. We met up with our friends, Bill and Barbara who we will be vacationing with. We were met at the airport by Bill bearing leis to welcome us to the island. We toured the Marriott resort that we were staying at to get familiar with the grounds and then we walked to Duke's Canoe Club for dinner. I had the fish tacos which were wonderful since the fish was as fresh as it could be. Gerry had the ahi tuna wrap which was fresh seared tuna in a spinach wrap with some fresh vegetables tucked in.

We walked back to the resort to get into our bathing suits and ended the evening in the hot tub with a drink to wind down. When we went up to our room it was only 10:30 but with the 5 hour time difference it was really 3:30 on Dallas time. We slept hard until about 4:00 in the morning.

We got dressed and went for a long walk around the resort about 6:00 in the morning and then showered and had breakfast at one of the restaurants on the resort. We spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon, poolside with books and magazines which was a great way to spend the day. We left the Marriott resort in Lihue and traveled about 30 minutes to another Marriott resort in Poipu. We are now at the resort where we will be spending the next week.

This resort is a little smaller than the one we were at yesterday, but it is right on the beach and the grounds are beautiful! We familiarized ourselves with the grounds at this resort, went to the bar on the beach for a drink and watched the sun set on the beach. What a great way to wind down our first full day on the island.

Tonight we walked to a restaurant called Brennecke's which is right on the beach and had wonderful seafood dishes. We both started with a mixed green salad with a very light vinaigrette. I had the seared Ono (fish) with a pickled ginger butter sauce served on pineapple Jasmine fried rice with a couple of sauteed shrimp and some perfectly steamed vegetables which was very good. Gerry had the Porcini Ravioli in Pesto Sauce with seared Ahi tuna.

I wish I had ordered Gerry's entree...mine was very good, but Gerry's was fabulous! I'm looking forward to all the fish dishes we will be having this week.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

For dinner tonight Gerry requested the Turkey Burgers with Aioli Sauce that I made last week...yes, they were that good. These are the burgers with the smoky aioli sauce that gets mixed in with the ground turkey before they get grilled and more sauce goes over the grilled burger. The word yum about covers it. I also made sweet potato oven fries and it turned out to be a fabulous meal.

Today, I thought I would highlight the Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars that Val made for me on Saturday, at my request of course. These bars start with the shortbread layer, covered with the caramel layer, topped with the chocolate layer and sprinkled with sea salt. These bars are heavenly!

From Annie's Eats
Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars (makes about 5 dozen small bars)

For the shortbread:
2 cups all purpose white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

For the caramel layer:
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cans sweetened condensed milk

For the chocolate layer:
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling

To make the shortbread layer, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13-in baking pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden. (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the caramel layer, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly. Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set. Chill the bars at this point to ensure that the caramel layer does not melt when the warm chocolate is added.

To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with salt. Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Masala-Poached Mahi Mahi with Coconut Rice

I'm sure I have mentioned before how much I love Indian food and flavors and so tonight I turned to a wonderfully spiced fish dish served with a Gingered Mango-Cucumber Raita. A raita is traditionally made with cucumber but it can be made with other vegetables and fruits and is combined with spices and yogurt and usually freshened with lime juice. The rice which was the base for tonight's dinner was cooked in light coconut milk slightly diluted with water and seasoned with both sugar and salt. This recipe is one of my all-time favorite fish recipes. I love fish and I really love Indian spices and flavors and this dish combines all my favorite things.

I started dinner tonight by making the Ginger-Mango-Cucumber Raita so that it could chill while the rest of dinner was cooked.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two
Gingered Mango-Cucumber Raita
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 cup mango, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 lime, juiced

Stir together cucumber, mango, ginger, cumin, salt and pepper. Add just enough yogurt and lime juice to dress the mixture lightly; chill until ready to serve.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two
Masala-Poached Mahi Mahi with Coconut Rice

For the rice:
1 cup light coconut milk (I actually found organic light coconut milk today)
3/4 cup dry basmati rice
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Fish:
1/2 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches
6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 serrano chile pepper, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 6 oz. mahi mahi or swordfish fillets, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 lime, juiced
salt to taste
chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Combine coconut milk, rice, water, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and cook over low heat until rice is tender 15-18 minutes. Fluff rice; cover to keep warm.

Fry cinnamon and cloves in oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add onion and saute until onion is brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon and cloves.

Stir in curry, garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, and bay leaf; cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes and brown sugar. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.

Poach mahi mahi in sauce, covered until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Transfer fish to dinner plate over the coconut rice.

Swirl butter, garam masala, lime juice, salt and cilantro into sauce. Spoon sauce over fish and serve with rice and Gingered Mango-Cucumber Raita.

Our rating:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beef Tenderloin with Port Wine Sauce

I went back to an old favorite tonight since filet mignon or beef tenderloin by its other name was on sale this week at Market Street. Technically, filet mignon is from the small end of a beef tenderloin. All parts of the tenderloin are lean enough to be part of a healthy meal. A 3-ounce serving has less total and saturated fat than the same amount of chicken thigh meat. Regardless of how it can fit in to a healthy diet, it is just darn good. It is almost tender enough to cut with a fork and it very easy to cook inside without firing up the grill.

For tonight's dinner, I seared it in a cast iron skillet in a little oil after seasoning it simply with salt and pepper. Then a few shallots and cranberries got a quick saute before the port wine and beef broth were added to deglaze the pan. The liquids got cooked down quite a bit and then Worcestershire Sauce, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard went in and were allowed to cook briefly. I like to finish this sauce with a tablespoon of butter whisked in at the end to smooth out and enrich this sauce. The beef tenderloin gets served with the sauce spooned over it and topped with blue cheese crumbles. The tender beef served with the sweet port wine sauce containing the sweet and tart cranberries all topped with blue cheese is the perfect blend of flavors.

My side dishes were buttermilk mashed potatoes and haricot verts (french green beans) which were blanched and then sauteed with caramelized shallots and finished with a little Dijon mustard.

This is one of my all time favorite beef dishes.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two
Filets Mignon with Port Sauce, Dried Cranberries and Blue Cheese
2 6-ounce beef tenderloin filets, 1 1/2" thick, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
3/4 cup port wine
1/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Saute seasoned filets in 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick (I used cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 4 minutes, flip steaks, and saute an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and let filets rest 5 minutes. It should read between 130-135 on a meat thermometer for medium-rare.

Saute shallots and cranberries in 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Deglaze with port and broth, then increase heat to high and boil until reduced by two thirds. Stir in Worcestershire, balsamic, and Dijon; simmer 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, and whisk in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Drizzle sauce over filets.

Garnish with blue cheese.

Our rating:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shrimp Pasta with Oven-Dried Toatoes

I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats a couple of weeks ago and knew I wanted to try it. Bowtie pasta with oven-dried tomatoes, sauteed shrimp, mascarpone cheese, fresh basil leaves and Parmesan cheese...what's not to like? I love bowtie pasta since it seems rather delicate and yet is able to hold a fair amount of sauce. This recipe also had crushed red pepper flakes in it for just the right amount of heat. Definitely a keeper that I will go back to again and again. We did send the leftovers home with Zeb and Melissa for them to enjoy at lunch tomorrow.

I also made my first batch of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream which was absolutely delicious with homemade Hot Fudge Sauce over it, but I'll post those recipes at another time.

Adapted from Annie's Eats
Shrimp Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes (Serves 5-6)

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Small pinch of sugar
Kosher Salt and pepper
1 lb. bowtie pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

To make the oven-dried tomatoes, preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Place the tomatoes in a small baking dish in a single layer, cut side facing up. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Bake for about 3 hours, or until the tomatoes are mostly shriveled up. Refrigerate until ready to use.

While the pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook in a single layer, flipping once during cooking, just until opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a plate, tent loosely with foil and set aside. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in the pan. Saute the onion until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and saute just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Return the shrimp to the pan and add in the drained pasta along with the oven-dried tomatoes. Add the mascarpone to the pan and stir until completely melted. Stir in the Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan as desired.

Gerry and I agree:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Birthday Dinner Out

I decided that I wanted a dinner out tonight for my birthday day. I have been wanting to try Roy's Hawaiian Fusion restaurant for a while now, and tonight seemed the perfect time since we will be leaving on Saturday for a Hawaiian vacation. Roy's restaurants are the creation of Roy Yamaguchi who was born in Tokyo but vacationed in Hawaii with his grandparents and there started his fascination with fusing the flavors of Hawaii and Tokyo. Gerry and I loved all aspects of our dinner out tonight.

We started with cocktails; a 1988 for me and a Hawaiian Martini for Gerry. 1988 is the year that Roy started his original restaurant in Honolulu and hence the name of the signature cocktail. The 1988 is a mixture of Absolut Ruby Red Vodka, Soho Lychee Liqueur and Patron Citron Liqueur. Gerry's Hawaiian Martini was Skyy Vodka, Stoli Vanilla Vodka and Malibu Coconut Rum. Both of these drinks had the perfect blend of sweet and tart ingredients. The cocktails were served with edamame which had a spice blend sprinkled over them rather than salt. Gerry enjoyed the spice blend, but I kind of missed the salt.

We then shared Roy's Canoe Appetizer for Two which had two pieces of each of the following: Seared Tiger Shrimp, Spicy Tuna Roll, Grilled Szechaun Pork Ribs, Lobster Potstickers, and Wagyu Beef Dim Sum. Everything was absolutely delicious. It was impossible to pick a favorite out of the five.

Gerry followed the appetizer with a Walnut Apple Salad which consisted of a bed of baby greens with crumbled goat cheese, walnuts, and slivered apples dressed in a spicy and sweet Chili Dressing.

I feasted on Sweet Butter Seared Scallops served on a bed of Macadamia Nut Pesto Risotto with a Lobster Curry Sauce which was garnished with some baby greens, slivers of red pepper and slices of taro (I actually had to ask what the taro was since it was something I had never had before). Gerry had the Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish served with steamed rice and a Sweet Ginger Wasabi Infusion. The presentation of both dishes was wonderful, but Gerry's had the most impact with the sauce presentation. What we loved the most about what we ate was all the sauces that had the perfect balance of sweet and spice which really made the meal.

I rounded out my meal with a Macadamia Nut Bread Pudding which I thoroughly enjoyed even though I only ate half (half turned out to be the perfect serving size for me).

The reason I chose Roy's for tonight is that we will be flying out to Hawaii this weekend and trying the Roy's on the island of Kauai. I wanted some basis of comparison to know how much better (if so) the Roy's is in Hawaii. If the Roy's on the island is better than what we had tonight, I can't imagine how good it will be.

We will be flying out on Saturday and I will be bringing my laptop so I can blog about both our travel and of course about the food consumed in the process. Tonight's dinner was just the appetizer for our trip.

Our rating:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cashew Chicken Stir Fry

After all the rich food from yesterday, I decided a spicy chicken stir fry with rice was just perfect for dinner tonight. I had this recipe bookmarked for just a night like tonight. It had just the right amount of flavor and spice; the heat factor was slow and just a little hot in the back of the throat; exactly the kind of heat we love. The stir fry was basically garlic, cashews, chicken, red bell pepper and scallions with a sauce that had both hoisin and Siracha in it. All of this was served over long grain white rice that I cooked in vegetable broth.

I know we will look forward to having this dish again.

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion
Cashew Chicken Stir Fry (Serves 3)

2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon Siracha (optional)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
Half a red bell pepper, cut into strips
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
Rice, for serving

Cook rice according to package directions. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Stir in hoisin, vinegar and Siracha and set aside.

Add oil to wok or large skillet and set over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cashews and stir until garlic is golden and fragrant. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add to wok. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, then add pepper strips and cornstarch mixture. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the green onions. Serve with rice and top with remaining green onions and additional cashews, if desired.

Our rating:

My Birthday Celebration

We celebrated my birthday with the family on Saturday and had a great day. I got to pick all my meals and I actually cooked quite a bit of it on Friday which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a wonderful day spent with those that I love the most, doing the activities of my choice. We played a few rounds of Bingo after lunch which Emma enjoys playing with us and then Jason helped me update the look of my blog a little. Hope you all like the new look. I took my grandchildren to the park while dinner prep was being finished up and we had a great time playing on the swings and the slides. We ended the evening playing Outburst because I love word games. We all decided I needed to buy a newer version since the one I have came out in 1988 and the kids had no idea what some of the questions were about.

My gifts were definitely food related this year, which is perfect for me. I got an ice cream maker, so be watching for my first post about homemade ice cream. I also got a Foodsaver machine (vacuum seals food for refrigeration or freezing, which should be perfect for all my extra loaves of bread).

Here is the menu for the day with everything homemade of course.

Fruit Platter with fresh pineapple and strawberries
Sour Cream Coffee Cake (Barefoot Contessa Parties Cookbook)

Corn Chowder (Tyler Florence)
Sourdough Bread, Honey Oatmeal Bread, Rye Bread
Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars (Annie's Eats)

Salmon Mousse with an assortment of Crackers (Mousse from Annie's Eats, crackers store-bought)
Braised Short Ribs (Cuisine at Home, October 2011 Issue)
Creamy Mashed Potatoes (Pioneer Woman Cooks)
Oven Roasted Carrots (Barefoot Contessa)
Creme Anglaise with Paline Crunch (Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties
Sour Cream coffee Cake (Serves 8-10)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Streusel
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the Glaze
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts if desired.

If using a tube pan, spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. If using a bundt pan, sprinkle 1/4 cup of the streusel mixture in bottom of pan, then spoon in half of the batter. Sprinkle on remainder of streusel and top with remaining cake batter. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel-side-up onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or a spoon.

My rating for this Coffee Cake:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Turkey Burgers with Smoky Aioli

Since I had half of a package of ground turkey left from dinner last night, I decided these turkey burgers sounded perfect. I started with making the smoky aioli by combining homemade mayonnaise with ground cumin, ground coriander, olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika, and a minced clove of garlic. I added some of the aoili in to the ground turkey and combined everything really well before making two patties. I covered the burgers and let them hang out in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. I also made another batch of hamburger buns which really are perfect. It's hard to describe how tender they are and yet still hold up to a burger.

Gerry grilled the burgers outside as well as a couple of red onion slices which were both brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before going on the grill.

He also toasted the hamburger buns for the last minute or so that the burgers and buns were grilling. Once done, they were topped with the grilled onion slices and a good spoonful of the smoky aioli sauce. These were fabulous burgers! I actually made a half recipe and it worked out great.

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion; originally adapted from Bon Apetit, Augusut 2009

Turkey Burgers with Smoky Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 garlic clove minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 small red onion, sliced into 4 1/3-inch slices
4 hamburger buns
Salad Greens

Whisk mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place turkey in a medium bowl and gently mix in 2 tablespoons aioli. Form into 4 equal patties and use your thumb to form a small indention into the center of the burger.

Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high.

Brush onions and turkey burgers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 minutes per side for each.

Place the burger on the bun and top with aioli, grilled red onion and greens.

My rating:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Turkey Pie

I turned to a casserole for dinner tonight. My latest issue of Cuisine at Home featured a Turkey Pie recipe (which is somewhat similar to a Shepherd's Pie recipe I grew up with featuring a meat/vegetable combo topped with potatoes and baked) and since Zeb and Melissa were here for dinner and grading papers, I decided we could make a dent in the 8 servings indicated for this recipe.

The base of this casserole was browned ground turkey with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme. A mixture of flour and tomato paste were stirred in before the liquids were added; a can of diced tomatoes, chicken broth, dry red wine, Worchestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. Once everything came to a boil and the sauce was slightly thickened, the browned turkey went back in along with some frozen peas.

The mixture was poured into a casserole dish and topped with frozen hashed brown potatoes drizzled with melted butter. After baking for 30 minutes, the casserole was topped with grated white Cheddar cheese and baked for an additional 20 minutes. The pie was allowed to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I served this with Gardener's Salad with Dijon vinaigrette which combined baby greens, sliced cucumbers and sliced radishes dressed with a Dijon vinaigrette.

This dinner was fine but not as good as some other meals I have turned out recently.

Adapted from Cuisine At Home, October 2011
Turkey Pie (Serves 8)
1 1/2 pound ground turkey (for the most flavorful pie, choose ground turkey labeled no more than 93% lean)
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 cup each diced onion, carrot, and celery
1 tablespoon each minced garlic and fresh thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup frozen green peas
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup shredded which Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2-quart oval or rectangular baking dish with nonstick spray.

For the filling, brown turkey in 2 tablespoons oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, 8-10 minutes Transfer turkey to a paper-towel-lined plate; discard any liquid.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same pan over medium. Add onion, carrot, and celery; sweat, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, and cook until fragrant, 1 minutes.

Stir in flour and tomato paste; cook 1 minute.

Whisk in diced tomatoes, broth, wine, Worcestershire, and Dijon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in reserved turkey and peas; season with salt and pepper. Transfer filling to prepared baking dish and place on a baking sheet.

For the topping, arrange potatoes on top of filling, then drizzle on butter.

Bake pie 30 minutes. Sprinkle top with Cheddar and bake until potatoes are cooked through about 20 minutes more. Let pie cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home, October 2011 edition
Gardener's Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette (serves 4)

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the salad:
4 cups mixed baby salad greens
1/4 cup seeded, sliced English cucumber
1/4 cup sliced radishes

For the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar, shallots and Dijon. Drizzle in oil while whisking until combined, then season with salt and pepper.

For the salad, toss greens, cucumber, and radishes with vinaigrette.

The overall rating for tonight's dinner:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spinach Fettuccine with Parmesan-Lemon Cream Sauce

For today's Meatless Monday, I went back to fresh pasta from Kelsey Nixon. I had watched her fresh pasta episode and already made her Italian Sausage Cannelloni which we thoroughly enjoyed and I had her other recipe on the show in the back of my mind. I made the spinach fettuccine by blanching some fresh spinach leaves for a few minutes, chilling it quickly in ice water and pureeing it in a food processor. I then drained the pureed spinach and used a little of the drained puree in the pasta dough to get the lovely green color.

The sauce started with a simple mixture of sauteed onion, yellow squash, and lemon zest. The pan got a splash of white wine and was allowed to cook down before chicken broth, heavy cream and fresh lemon juice went in along with a little of the pasta water.

The sauce was made while the fresh pasta was cooking in boiling water (fresh pasta only takes 3-5 minutes). Once the sauce was thickened, some grated Parmesan was stirred in along with salt and pepper. Finally the pasta was tossed with the sauce and served. The plates were garnished with a few shavings of Parmesan cheese. I also served slices of homemade French Bread from a loaf I had stashed in the freezer last time I made some.

This was a spectacular Meatless Monday feature; rich enough to be entirely satisfying.

Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials

Fettuccine with Yellow Squash and Parmesan-Lemon Cream Sauce (Serves 4-6)

1 recipe fresh pasta dough with spinach puree, cut into fettuccine, recipe follows, or 8 ounces dried fettuccine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon zest
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus Parmesan curls or more grated cheese, for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh Pasta Dough
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons spinach puree (recipe follows)

For the Spinach puree:
Blanch 8 ounces (about 3 cups) spinach leaves. Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Press the spinach puree through a small strainer or chinois, removing the liquid before mixing with the eggs. Add 3 tablespoons spinach puree to the eggs before mixing.

To make the fresh pasta dough:
Mound the flour on a clean work surface. Hollow out the center making a well in the middle of the flour the steep sides. Break the eggs into the well (add the spinach at this point). Add the salt and olive oil to the hollow center and gently mix together with a fork. Gradually start incorporating the flour from the sides of the well. As you incorporate more of the flour, the dough will start to take shape.

With your hands or a bench scraper, continue working the dough until it comes together. If the dough is too dry, add a little water; if too wet or sticky, add a little flour. If the dough feel too sticky, add additional flour until a soft silky dough is achieved.

Begin kneading the dough and keep kneading until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. At this point, set the dough aside, cover it with plastic, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. You can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, but allow it to return to room temperature before rolling it out.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 even sections. Keep each section covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel while you work with each one. Flour the dough, the rollers of a pasta roller (or your rolling pin), your hands, and the work surface.

If using a pasta machine: flatten 1 of the dough pieces between your hands or with a floured rolling pin until it forms a thick oval disk. Dust the disk, the roller, and your hands with additional flour. Flour a baking sheet to hold the rolled out finished pasta.

With the roller on the widest setting, pass the pasta though the machine's rollers a few times until it is smooth. Fold the dough over into 1/3, and continue to pass through a few more times until the pasta is smooth again. Begin adjusting the pasta machine settings to become thinner, passing the dough through a few times at each setting. Cut the pasta using the fettuccine cutting attachment and place it on the flour dusted baking sheet, sprinkling the freshly cut pasta with a little more flour to make sure it doesn't stick together.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until just tender. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot.

To make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and season with salt, and pepper. Add the yellow squash and saute until almost tender. Add the lemon zest and continue cooking for 1 more minute.

Add the white wine, and scrape up the pan releasing any dry bits on the bottom. Add the chicken stock, heavy cream, lemon juice, and reserved cooking liquid. bring to a simmer and continue cooking until the sauce is creamy and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. Season the sauce with salt, and pepper to taste.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese.

Gerry and I agree:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday's Braised Short Ribs

For the past couple of weeks, every where I turned there was a feature about Beef Short Ribs. There was a recipe in my most recent issue of Bon Appetit as well as in my October issue of Cuisine at Home and there have been a few blog features about them as well. Short ribs have also been the feature of a few cooking shows both on Food Network and the Cooking Channel. I have never had a beef short rib and so I decided we needed to find out what all the hype was about. We were not disappointed. As much as we enjoyed our traditional pot roast last week, this takes slow cooked beef to a completely different level.

After reviewing many different variations, I decided to try the Wine & Cola Braised Short Ribs in my Cuisine at Home magazine. The braising liquid in this recipe gets its origins from the Basque region of Spain from a drink called kalimotxo [KAL-ee-MOH-cho] which is equal parts of red wine and cola. The drink was originally created to disguise a so-so bottle of red wine by mixing it with cola. The combination of the two made a surprisingly good base for braising ribs. Needless to say, an inexpensive bottle of red wine works quite well for this recipe.

I also made the recommended side dish of Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Kale and some oven roasted Carrots.

My sweet treat for this week was Boston Cream Whoopie Pies which were little cookies that tasted very much like Boston Cream Pie. Delicious, soft, little vanilla wafer like cookies sandwiched with a rich pastry cream and dipped in a chocolate ganache. A lovely little cookie.

Have I mentioned how much I love the transition to fall cooking? I thoroughly enjoyed all my time spent in the kitchen today.

Slightly adapted from Cuisine at Home, October, 2011 edition
Red Wine & Cola Braised Short Ribs (6 servings), Total Time 4 1/2 hours

1/4 cup olive oil
4 pounds short ribs, seasoned with salt and black pepper
1 1/4 cups diced onion
3/4 cup each diced carrot and celery
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons each sweet paprika and tomato paste
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups each dry red wine and cola
Zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon minced orange zest

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add ribs and brown on all sides, 8-10 minutes, then transfer to a plate and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Sweat onion, carrot, and celery in the drippings until softened, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and bay leaf; sweat 2 minutes more.

Deglaze the pot with sherry; cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Stir wine, cola, and zest of 1 orange into the pot. Return ribs to the pot. Increase heat to high, bring liquid to a boil then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Transfer the pot to the oven.

Braise rib until meat is fork-tender, about 3 1/2 hours, turning ribs every hour. Remove pot from oven. Transfer ribs to a plate. Cover ribs and keep warm.

Strain braising liquid from pot, discarding solids. Skim and discard fat from surface of liquid. Transfer liquid to a saute pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Whisk together cornstarch and 2 teaspoons oil, then whisk into liquid; cook 2 minutes.

Off heat, stir vinegar, thyme, and minced zest into sauce. Place ribs in sauce to reheat, 5 minutes.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home, October 2011
Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Kale (6 servings)

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cups chopped kale, ribs removed
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place potatoes and garlic in a large pot of salted water; bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add kale and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain potatoes and kale, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Add oil to the potatoes and kale and mash with a potato masher. Stir in reserved cooking water until potatoes reach desired consistency, then season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Annie's Eats
Boston Cream Whoopie Pies (24 pies)


For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar, divided
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cookies:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk

For the ganache:
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream


To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Fit a pastry bag with a wide round tip. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the bowl, alternating with with the milk, and beating each addition just until incorporated.

Transfer the batter to the piping bag. Pipe 1 1/2-2 inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing an inch or two apart. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are set (they should not brown.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with any remaining batter as necessary.

Once all the cookies have cooled, match them up in pairs by size. To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate into a small heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circular motions until the chocolate is completely blended and the ganache is smooth. Dip the rounded side of one cookie of each pair into the ganache and coat with an even layer. Return to the cooling rack, flat side down, and let the ganache set before proceeding.

Transfer the pastry cream another piping bag fitted with a smaller plain round tip. Pipe a dollop of pastry cream onto the flat side of the plain cookie of each pair. Press the flat side of the other cookie to the pastry cream, sandwiching the two together.

Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Our rating for tonight's dinner: