Sunday, January 29, 2012

Couscous Stufffed Peppers with Basil Sauce

Hello everyone!
I hope you have had a awesome and relaxing weekend. I worked a little but mainly I was able to relax a bit and hang out with my hubby and friends. We went to the Suns game yesterday and I am happy to report they won! Finally! They definitely needed a win and plus it was nice to go to a game and have the home team triumph:)

I have been lax in posting my cooking lately. I know... I said I would get more consistent on posting and I have already failed but I will say I have been working a lot lately and when I get home I am tired. I will try and do better but I will not make any promises. I do have a couple of good recipes to share this week so I hope you read them. My post today will be Couscous Stuffed Peppers. I saw Giada make them this past week and they looked so delicious I decided I wanted to make them for dinner as well. I am so glad I did. They were definitely a keeper. You should make these whenver you get a chance. I promise, you will not regret it.

Couscous Stuffed Peppers with Basil Sauce
Giada De Laurentiis

1 c chicken broth
2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 c couscous
1 c canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c dried currants
1 c packed spinach leaves
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c EVOO plus more for drizzling
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 m red bell pepper
1 yellow bell peper
1 orange bell pepper
hot water as needed

1 c packed basil leaves
1/2 c creme fraiche ( I used sour cream)
3 T olive oil
1 T water
1 garlic clove coarsley chopped
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp of salt plus extra as needed
1/4 tsp of pepper plus extra as needed

Preheat oven to 400F.

Filling: In an medium sauce pan, bring chicken broth and cumin to a boil over med-high heat. Remove the pan from heat and stir in couscous. Cover the pan until the couscous is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 to 6 minutes. Put the couscous in a large bowl and add beans, currants, spinach, feta cheese and 1/4 c olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all seeds and ribs.

Stuff the peppers with the filling and drizzle the tops with olive oil. Put the peppers in an 8 by 8 square baking dish. Fill the baking dish with 3/4 in hot water and bake until filling is golden and the peppers are cooked through. ~55-60 minutes. If the filling browns too quickly cover with foil.

Sauce: In a blender, combine the basil, creme fraiche, olive oil, water, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. blend until smooth. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Place peppers on a plate and top with basil sauce.

The hubby loved the filling and sauce but did  not really care for the peppers. I loved all  of it together and I will make them again. For some reason I did not take another picture with the sauce on top of the pepper. I think I just got distracted but they were delicious just the same.

I hope you are having a great day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red Velvet Cake with Old Fashioned Milk Buttercream

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

I hope your week is going well, mine is good so far. I having been working a lot lately but that is a good thing. I need the money, but who doesn't need money? I have not been getting much kitchen time lately but I have been putting my crock pot to good use. I love the idea of being able to put some ingredients in it and coming home to a ready meal. How easy is that? I would love to meet the person who invented it and give them a hug. Thanks for not only making my life easier but many other people lives easier as well! I would however like another cookbook with recipes for it so I can expand my repertoire of go to recipes. I will keep my eyes open for one. I did just order Emeril's new cookbook and it had some recipes for the slow cooker. I can't wait to give them a try.

I did however get to spend some time in the kitchen today. I was in the mood for some cake. Red Velvet to be exact. After eating that disappointing cupcake from the festival this past weekend I decided to make one for myself without the gummy texture of course. Many, many moons ago I said I was going to bake my way through the cookbook, United Cakes of America, but I have only made two cakes to date. I plan to complete this book this year hopefully. I still need to get a scale and a couple of pans but other than that I should have the equipment to do them all. I have previously made a Lane Cake from Alabama and it was terrible. I also made the Honey Raspberry Cheesecake from Wyoming which was delicious. So two out of fifty....I have long way to go. The recipe for the Red Velvet Cake I baked today was from this book and it covers the state of New York. I know what you are thinking. What? No cheesecake? Well there is a recipe for cheesecake but I wanted to do the Red Velvet Cake. If I have time I will go bake and make the cheesecake. Who knows? Maybe it will become my go to recipe.

The author paired the cake with an Old Fashioned Milk Buttercream instead of a Cream Cheese Frosting. At first I was not going to take his suggestion and make it but I decided since I was baking my way through this book I should give it a chance. If I did not like it I could always make the familiar frosting. Overall, I liked the cake. It was not hard to make but the frosting I was not so sure about. Fortunately it ended up tasting very good. I just now need to learn how to make a cake look prettier. My skills for frosting or decorating need help. I should take a class but until I can I will just keep practicing. My hubby enjoyed the cake so much in fact he told me I had better have snapped my pictures because he was about to tear it up. Lol:) I love him. He loves cake, especially if it has some sort of chocolate in it. I definitely will make it again.
Unfortunately when I was taking pictures of the early steps my SD card was not engaged so I do not a pictures of the steps , only of the final product. Boo:(

Red Velvet Cake
Warren Brown

2 1/4 c cake flour
2 T cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 c superfine sugar (if you can't find it just put granulated sugar in a food processor and give it a quick whirl)
2 eggs
1 oz red food dye

Old Fashioned Buttercream Milk Frosting
1 c milk
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 c sugarfine sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven 335F and place the rack in the middle position. Line the bottoms of 2 9-by-2 inch round pan with parchment. Measure dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Whisk each bowl separately to combine. Measure the butter and sugar and put in bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream for about 5 minutes on low speed. Add the eggs one at a time to butter-sugar combo and then beat in the dye. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake approx 30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Mine took 28 minutes. Cool the cakes for about 5 minutes and then invert on flat surface and cool to room temp before frosting.

For Frosting
Quickly whisk 4 T of milk with the flour. The slurry will be somewhat thick but get out lumps. Whisk the rest of the milk in and transfer to a heavy bottom sauce pan. Bring to a simmer for 30 seconds over medium heat whisking the whole time. Place plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature. Combine butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla together beat with paddle attachment for 5 minutes. Pour cooled milk and flour mixture into butter mixture and beat for another 5 minutes or longer as needed to achieve spreadable consistently.

I thought the milk flour mixture was a little thick when it cooled. I didn't know if it was supposed to be like a paste or liquidy. Mine was thick like a paste. I added it to the butter mixture with trepidation then tried it. I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted a looked good. Yay for me!

Overall I was pleased with my effort. I just hope my decorating skills improve in the future. I hope you have a great rest of the week!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Street Eats Food Truck Festival and Tyler Florence

Today I went to the Street Eats Food Truck Festival. It was amazing! I not only met Tyler Florence and got a picture with him but also got his autograph. I ate some amazing food as well as some not so great food. I was a little disappointed with the wait in lines for food as well as the fact some of the food trucks sold out. We later found out the event was oversold. They were originally expecting 5000 people but the sold tickets for over 15,000 people. There were also supposed be $2 tickets sold for food. You were supposed to be able to get samples of food for $2 and if you wanted you could purchase full sized portions. When we arrived, we found out they were not selling tickets for food and you could just use cash to buy from the trucks. Only a couple of trucks had the $2 samples but most of the trucks only had full sized portions for sale. I was a little upset about this because some of the food was down right expensive and so not worth the money nor the long wait in lines.

I still had a wonderful time with my family and friends. I left the event stuffed full of food. As promised, I will tell you my top 3 trucks.

Top 3
1) Q up BBQ
The best bbq tacos!

We wanted seconds but by the time we went back, they were all gone:(

The Butter Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese was amazing!

3)East Meats West

Tribeca - Eggplant Sandwich with goat cheese, red pepper, and arugula

Honorable Mention

JamBurritos -
The Cajun Catfish Taco was quite tasty!

Bottom 2 trucks

1) Lobster on a roll

Clam Roll was gritty and tasteless.

2) Truckin Good Cupcakes
Red velvet cupcake - The texture was very strange and frosting was not good.

The festival had its high and lows but I had a lot of fun. I definitely will go again next year if they have it. I missed a lot of trucks and would love to try more food. The best part of the day was meeting Tyler Florence!

I was a little star struck and didn't say much to him but that's ok. I am happy I met him and got his autograph.
I had a great day! I hope you did too!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

I am getting more and more excited about the Truck Festival this weekend! It's going to be a girl's day. Those are the best kind of days. All of the guys are busy doing "Guy Thing" it just means we will not be rushed. We actually will get to take our time and mosey around and take all the sights in. If the guys were there and were bored then they tend to suck all of the fun out of it. I also hope Tyler Florence is going to sign autographs. That would cool to not only  meet him but to also have a memento of the event.

How is your week going so far? Anything exciting happening this weekend for you?
I at least hope it is relaxing. It's always good to take some time for yourself.

I have been cooking up a storm lately. Some dishes are just everyday dishes not worth sharing but some are definitely note worthy. I am really enjoying my new cookbooks and also the time I have been spending in the kitchen. I just wish there were someone on dish duty besides myself. Oh well! You can't have it all.  There other day I was looking to make something hearty but easy. So I took a page from Trisha Yearwood's cookbook Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen and made a casserole. It was just what I was looking for but I changed it just a bit. I enjoyed it but it definitely it's not an everyday dish just once and a while. Too rich for everyday eating.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
Trisha Yearwood (minor changes by me)


2 c of cooked rice
3 c of broccoli
1 onion diced
1 c sour cream
1/2 c of mayo
( I used a can of crm of celery instead of mayo and sour crm)
1/2 c chicken broth
1 10oz can of crm of chicken soup
10 0z of cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 chicken breasts


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2 in baking dish with nonstick spray. Saute chicken, onion,and broccoli in a pan together.

 When the chicken is no longer pink add the cans of cream soup, chicken broth and rice and mix together.

 Next put mixture in a baking dish and top with cheese.

I seem to have lost my pictures but I am sure you can imagine what it would look like.

Bake for 40 minutes and enjoy!
I hope you are having a great day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

Hello Everyone!
How has your week been going? Mine is good so far. Today is the hubby's birthday. He's another year older but he's still the same guy I married. Just a little wiser. lol :-) I made him dinner, a birthday cake and gave him kisses. His present will come later this week. I hope he likes it.

Other exciting news. There is a Food Truck Festival this weekend. I can't wait to go! Tyler Florence is going to be there and I am debating about whether or not to bring one of his cookbooks so I can get his autograph. I think I might just in case he is signing autographs I don't want to be unprepared. I think it would be awesome to meet him and have a memento from the day. Don't worry. I will post pictures and tell you my top three favorite trucks and dishes.

On to the fun stuff. What have I cooked lately? I can say I have made a few things I want to share with you guys. One of the dishes I prepared this week is called Pork Chops Alla Pizzaiola. It is a recipe from Giada's Family Dinners Cookbook. I received this book for Christmas and have found quite a few recipes that I cannot wait to try. This was first on the list and I am really glad I made it. This was delicious and a different way to prepare pork chops. I think the sauce makes the dish. The best part, it was very easy to make and it livened up a week night dinner. That is always a good thing. I will be making this dish again in the future. You should give this a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Pork Chops Alla Pizzaiola
Giada de Laurentiis

3 T Olive oil
4 Bone in Center Cut Pork Loin Chops
salt and ground pepper
1 Large onion thinly sauce
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp herbes de provence
1/2 tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Heat Olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper on pork chops. Cook pork chops until brown and done.

Remove from pan and put on a plate and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and saute until crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

 Add the tomatoes, their juice, herbs de provence, and red pepper flakes. Cover simmer until flavor blends and the juice thickens slightly about 18 minutes.

Season with more salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Return chops to pan as well as any juice that has accumulated and turn chops in sauce.

Heat until warmed through about another minute. Place pork chop on a plate top with the sauce. Serve with your favorite side dishes. Enjoy!

Simple yet delicious. Just how I like things. Hope you are having a great day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raw Zucchini Salad

Happy New Year All!

I know I have been decidedly absent these last few weeks but I'm back! It's a new year and I hope it will be a great one. Let's see. What's going on in my life? Not much really. I received new cook books for Christmas and am itching to try them out. I also have my eye on some new baking equipment. I made a couple of not resolutions but more like goals for myself.

Goals for 2012

1) Pay off some credit card debt
2) Become a better baker and cook
3) Take a couple of cooking classes
4) Read 200 books
5) Get in SHAPE
6) Go to a ballet
7) Go to a Sun's Game
8) Post at least twice a week
9) Get a new job
10) Go to at least 2 museums
11) Learn something new
12) Buy myself something extravagant just because
13) Go on a vacation
14) Go to a really nice restaurant (No chains)
15) Get more organized
16) Spend more time with my family
17) Finish my business associates
18) Throw a dinner party
19) Go some place I have never been
20) Save a good chunk of money for emergencies

These are my goals for this new year. I want to complete each of them. I know the cooking and baking is a work in progress but I at least want to improve my skills.

Enough about that. On to the good stuff. New recipes.
One of the new cookbooks I received for Christmas is called Ruhlman's Twenty. 20 Techniques, 100 recipes A Cook's Manifesto
I have just started reading this book and so far I have found it to be very informative. I like how the author explains the techniques and tells what will work and what won't and why. He has the book broken down into chapters which are techniques. Chapter 1 is thinking. Chapter 2 is all about Salt. Why you need it and how to use it. It is important to salt as you cook and not wait until the end to add it. In this chapter there are a couple of recipes to try. The 1st recipe is how to use salt to macerate veggies and change not only the texture but the taste of the vegetables. I tried it and let's just say...YUM! I definitely will make it again. I think it would make a great side for a picnic or for a BBQ. No more boring pasta salad!

You should give it a try.The texture of the zucchini changes because of the salt drawing the liquid out of it and it becomes something more. Something delicious:)

Raw Zucchini Salad


2 zucchini - 1 green and 1 yellow, cut on the bias into slices or julienned
kosher salt
1 T minced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/4 c of almonds or walnuts rough cut (optional)
1/4 c fresh herbs


Put zucchini in colander and sprinkle evenly with 1 tsp of salt. Sprinkle with another tsp of salt and toss. Let stand for 10 - 20 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the shallot, garlic, and lemon juice. Shake off the moisture and taste. If too salty rinse and pat dry. In medium bowl toss the zucchini with olive oil. Spoon the lemon shallot mixture over and toss some more. Season with pepper and more salt and lemon juice if needed. Garnish with herbs and nuts if using.

I hope you are having a great year so far:)