Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#BrunchWeek 2014 Shout-Outs: Chelsea, Lori, & Stephie

A few more 2014 #BrunchWeek blogger intros for today...

Chelsea at Chelsea's Messy Apron loves watermelon, peanut butter, fajitas, and mango...just not all together. Her Skinny Double Chocolate & Peanut Butter Muffins look amazing...and they are made without butter, oil, and flour. And they have very little sugar. Sounds like a winner to me. Another winner: her Tropical Quinoa Salad with Tangy Citrus Dressing.

On Twitter: @ChelseaLords

Lori of Foxes Loves Lemons left the advertising world and went to culinary school. Her #1 rule in the kitchen: anything is better with a poached egg on top. I'll buy that...well, maybe not everything. But most things!

I noticed many intriguing recipes on her blog, but this one is stuck in my mind - Bacon & Brussels Pizza. How cool is that? I love roasted Brussels with bacon bits, but would never have thought to turn it into a main dish by putting on top of pizza dough. I've also bookmarked her Perfect Pear Strudel. I'm inspired.

On Twitter: @foxeslovelemons

Stephie blogs over at Eat Your Heart Out which is a completely new-to-me blog. Fun! Speaking of fun, I found a Blackberry Moscow Mule on her blog. Her Roasted Cherry Barbeque Sauce will definitely make it into my kitchen once we really hit grill season. And I might just have to pair it with her Summer Farro Salad.

On Twitter: @StephieCooks

Looking forward to the recipes that this trio will be posting next week. Hooray for #BrunchWeek.

Luscious Lemon Squares

Riley needed a dessert for a class party and yellow is his favorite color. So, we decided on lemon squares. It's akin to picking a wine for its label; I'm guilty of that, too. But, unlike picking a wine just for its label, I know that this will be good - a tangy lemon topping over a crisp cookie crust make this a luscious treat! And sliced into small squares, this treat is portable.

makes two 9"x13" pans

Vodka Crust Ingredients

  • 4 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 C butter (3 sticks)
  • 2 T cold water
  • 1 T vodka (or another T of water if you don't want to use alcohol)

Topping Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 3 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • 3/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Place flour, powdered sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in water until the mixture forms a ball.

Press the dough into a 9"x13" baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. In the meantime, make the topping. To make the lemon layer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a bowl till smooth and combined.

Pour lemon mixture over the cooked base. Bake for another 25 minutes. Leave to cool. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice into squares.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#BrunchWeek 2014 Shout-Outs for Liz, Anita, & Lanie

A few more 2014 #BrunchWeek blogger intros for today...

Liz at That Skinny Chick Can Bake is not joking. She can bake. I can't wait to try her French Silk Pie with Frangelico. So many words in that title that make me happy! On the savory side of things her Gorgonzola Mushroom Stuffed Beef Tenderloin could easily become a tradition in my household, too.

On Twitter: @ThatSkinnyChick

Anita is the voice behind The Hungry Couple. She, and Brian, also run A Cocktail Life, a new-to-me blog where I spent an obscene amount of time browsing this afternoon. Over on her kitchen blog, I was enamored by her Grilled Cheese Croutons. I mean, really, why didn't I think of that?! She also has a recipe for which I have been looking - buckeyes. Only hers are boozy buckeyes. Yep, I'm a fan.

On Twitter: @hungrycouplenyc

Lanie runs The Vintage Cook and has some truly delectable sounding recipes in her hopper for #BrunchWeek. I just adore the word 'Chantilly.' Not only does she have a ton of delicious recipes, I love that she has an etiquette section on her blog. Here's her take on 10 Table Manners that We Forgot. When I read that she writes from her 'humble abode in Oz', I immediately thought Australia. Nope. Lanie hails from Kansas. That Oz. One vintage recipe that jumped out at me - How to Make Homemade Caramel Apples.

On Twitter: @thevintagecook

I can't wait to see what these talented ladies bring to our virtual brunch table next week.

#BrunchWeek 2014 Bloggers: Our Hostesses

#BrunchWeek take a lot of coordination and effort - from courting sponsors to wrangling the bloggers - and these two lovely ladies are doing it with panache. I just wanted to shine a spotlight on them and their drool-worthy blogs.

Terri is the force behind Love and Confections and jointly spearheaded #BrunchWeek 2013 with Christine of Cook the Story.

While my family and I go olallieberry picking every summer, we've never had the opportunity to go blueberry picking. Terri has a great post about picking blueberries and shares a recipe for blueberry jam and one for crumb-top blueberry muffins. And, if that weren't enough to make you jealous, she toured and tasted at Lake Catherine Bluberries last Spring. Here are a few of her recipes that I have marked to try: Overnight Chia Seed Pudding, Blood Orange Sangria, and Individual Chicken Pot Pies.

You can find Terri on facebook and on twitter @Lovenconfection.

Terri's co-host for #BrunchWeek 2014 is Susan, The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. Susan lives in Brooklyn and creates all of her culinary magic in an 80-square foot kitchen. Impressive.

I love that she has CSA-based recipes, including Purple Basil Lemonade and Kale Pesto.  Her Feta Stuffed Lamb Meatballs, Duck Carnitas, and Kimchi Fried Rice are now all on my short-list of things to cook.

Find Susan on facebook and on twitter @littleredkitchn.

Thanks, gals. Hats off to you for what is shaping up to be another amazing #BrunchWeek event! Just polishing up my posts and counting down the days. Hooray!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Babaloo at La Balena {Pop-Up}

La Balena Carmel, in their first dinner with guest chefs, welcomed Gladys Parada of Babaloo and Sarah LaCasse of Earthbound Farm tonight for a Cuban feast. Sold out. What a great, and tasty, evening! It was the perfect, albeit slightly belated, dinner to celebrate Jake's birthday. 

Start That Conga Line!
Berry Mojito, Crispy Plantain Chips

Fred & Ethel
Fish Slider, Tropical Slaw, Lemon Creme Fraiche

Where's My Fruit Hat?
Crisp Greens, Avocado, Papaya, Guava Vinaigrette

Ricky & Lucy Do the Mambo!
Lime-Cilantro Braised Pork and Grilled Sea Bass, White Rice, Black Beans, Sweet Plantains

Sweet 'Little Ricky'
Guava, Mango, Cream Cheese Terrine

A Little Cha-Cha
Cookies and Cuban Coffee Shots

Happy birthday, My Love. Hope you enjoyed this as much as the boys and I did!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

#SundaySupper: Kale-Had-a-Hard-Day Salad {5-Ingredients or Less}

Funny story about this recipe. It's really a massaged kale salad, but I wanted to incorporate what my kitchen elf asked about it.

And it's perfect for the 5-ingredients or less #SundaySupper event. Remember - water, salt, pepper and oil are freebies and don't count towards the total!

Raw kale is tough, so you need break down the fibers somehow. In the past I have blanched it, softening it before using it in a recipe. Massaging it accomplishes the same thing. The first time my littlest kitchen elf helped me, this was our conversation:

D, can you help Mommy with dinner?
"Sure, what can I do?"
Can you please massage the kale in that bowl?
Massage the kale, please.
"Did it have a hard day?"

Now he's our resident Kale Master. And he calls it our Kale-Had-a-Hard-Day Salad.

  • 1 bunch kale, larger ribs removed and chopped into 1" pieces
  • 2 T olive oil
  • juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh herbs, destemmed and thinly sliced (we used a mix of parsley, basil, mint, and oregano)
Place the kale in a large mixing bowl and pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the leaves.

Massage until the leaves are softened and have turned from a greyish-green to a bright, deep emerald.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the fresh herbs. Let sit for another 10 minutes before serving so the flavors can fully develop.

I also love how flexible this is. As long as you have oil and a citrus you can create any number of combinations. I've done a Kale Salad with Lemon-Lavender and Kale Salad with Apples and Beets, for example.

Here's what the rest of the #SundaySupper bloggers shared...

Appetizers, Salads and Starters
Sides and Accompaniments
Main Dishes

  • BBQ Foiled Chicken from Meal Diva
  • Desserts and Beverages
    Sunday Supper Movement
    Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET.  Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos. 
    Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement. 

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Pass the Cookbook: Chard & Green Garlic-Stuffed French Toast

    This month the Pass the Cookbook crew - under the leadership of Kita, the culinary force behind Pass the Sushi - is cooking from Erin's pick. Erin blogs at The Spiffy Cookie and chose a cookbook I've actually reviewed for the publisher: Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth, the authors of the Love & Olive Oil blog.

    Here's my review with three dishes, including Grapefruit-Barley Risotto, Grapefruit-Rosemary Risotto, and Earl Grey Panna Cotta. I was tickled that Erin picked three dishes for Pass the Cookbook that I didn't make earlier. Awesome. We could choose from: Breakfast Sausage Ravioli, Italian-Style Stuffed French Toast, and Lemon Poppy Seed Thumbprints. I opted for the savory French toast as a starting point. I subbed in feta cheese and used greens from our High Ground Organics CSA. This was a delicious dinner!

    makes 6-8 slices
    For the filling

    • splash of olive oil
    • 2 green garlic, thinly sliced
    • 4 C chard, chiffonade
    • ½ C whole milk ricotta cheese
    • ½ C feta cheese, crumbled
    • 1 t lemon zest
    • 1 T chopped fresh basil
    • freshly ground salt
    • freshly ground pepper

    For the French toast

    • 1 loaf French bread, cut into six or eight 1-1/2-inch-thick slices
    • 3 large eggs
    • pat of butter
    • splash of olive oil

    For the topping

    • 2 C marinara sauce, warmed
    • 1 T chopped fresh basil
    • splash of olive oil
    • basil leaves for garnish


    For the filling
    In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Let cool then coarsely chop.

    In a small bowl, combine chopped spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest, basil, and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    For the French toast
    Using a small serrated knife, cut a horizontal pocket in the side of each slice of bread. Gently fill with 1-2 tablespoons on filling and press closed.

    In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and garlic powder.

    In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat add one tablespoon of oil. Working with one slice at a time, dip into egg mixture, flipping to coat both sides. Place in pan with the hot oil.

    Repeat with 2-3 more slices without overloading the pan. Cook for 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining slices, adding more oil as needed.

    For serving
    Transfer to plates, spoon warm marinara over top, and serve.

    Here's what the rest of the crew made...

    And this round, there's a giveaway, thanks to our hostess for the month and thanks to Quirk Books for sponsoring the giveaway. Thanks, Erin!...

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Leek-Asparagus-Oyster Mushroom Risotto

    Tonight I made a seasonal risotto topped with leeks, asparagus, and oyster mushrooms. I love the meatiness of the  mushrooms, the silkiness of the leeks, and the sweet grassiness of the asparagus. Apologies in advance for the lack of measurements. I really, really do not measure when I make this. Here's a link to Jamie Oliver's Basic Risotto. That will get you on the right path with the measurements.  The secret to risotto, as Maria told me, is stirring: usa il cucchiao...sempre. Use your spoon...always; keep stirring.

    Maria was the cook for the Nuzzo family who was ordered to teach me all her recipes. Then she was fired and I was tasked with cooking for the family six days a week. Thankfully she didn't blame me for the impossible situation and we stayed close throughout the year that I was there. And sometimes when I cook, I hear her instructions in my head.

    Make risotto with whatever you have on hand!  I used leeks from High Ground Organics in Watsonville along with some asparagus and mushrooms from Far West Fungi in Moss Landing.

    For the risotto: saute your ingredients - greens, seafood, whatever - in a large flat-bottom pot in a splash of olive oil until cooked through. Stir in the arborio rice - one handful per person you're serving and un'altro per la pentola (an extra for the pot). Maria's voice again.

    Add one ladle of simmering broth at a time, stirring, stirring, and stirring some more till the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the rice is soft. Let stand for 5 minutes. Season with sea salt to taste. Stir in marscarpone cheese. Fold in some fresh chopped herbs to finish the dish; I used thyme. Che squisito!

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Ricotta-Gorgonzola Gnocchi

    Sometimes you put flavors together that aren't a favorite with everyone at the table. I have to admit that these were not a hit with the boys. While they really like regular ricotta gnocchi, they objected to the gorgonzola part of these. Oh, well. I just wanted to try it.


    • 2 C whole-milk ricotta (I wished we had some of Riley's Homemade Ricotta!)
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 1/4 C white whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    • 2 T crumbled gorgonzola
    • dash of grated nutmeg
    • freshly ground sea salt
    • freshly ground pepper

    Stir together ricotta, eggs, cheeses, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring with a silicone spatula to form a soft, wet dough.

    Shape dough on a parchment-lined surface with lightly floured hands. Roll into 1" ropes and cut crosswise into 1" pieces with a lightly floured knife to form pillow dumplings.

    Place gnocchi on parchment-lined surface until you're ready to cook them.

    Cook gnocchi in a few batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water with a splash of olive oil. Add a few to the pot at a time, stirring occasionally. When they float to the surface, they are finished. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.

    Toss the gnocchi with the sauce of your choice. I did a green sauce for Earth Day with black garlic, kale, arugula, pea shoots, and lots of fresh herbs.

    Dyn's Spicy Carrot Cake {Easter}

    The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf loves to bake...adores spices and loves mustard. So, this spicy carrot cake was the perfect Easter dessert for him to make. We started with this recipe and made some tweaks. This made one 9" layer and one 11" layer - I don't have matching sized pans.

    For the Cake
    • 3-1/2 C grated organic carrots (some from our High Ground Organics CSA box)
    • 1-1/2 C ground almonds
    • 1-1/3 C white whole wheat flour
    • 2 C organic coconut sugar
    • 1-1/2 C softened butter
    • 8 eggs
    • 2 T prepared yellow mustard
    • 2 T spicy mustard
    • 3-1/2 T baking powder
    • 3 T hazelnuts, raw (I would have chopped them, but D just dumped them in there whole)
    • 2 T pistachios, raw
    • 2 T chopped dark chocolate
    • 1 T pure vanilla extract
    • 1 T ground cinnamon 
    • 1/2 t ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 t ground ginger
    • dash of ground coriander
    • seeds from 3 cardamom pods, crushed
    For the Cream Cheese Frosting
    • 16 ounces of cream cheese
    • 16 T softened butter
    • 2 C organic powdered sugar
    • 1 T maple-agave syrup

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat the eggs with the pure vanilla extract and stir in the grated carrots, coconut sugar, butter, and mustards in a mixing bowl. Mix in the ground almonds, wheat flour, baking powder, and spices until just moistened. Add in the hazelnuts, pistachios, and dark chocolate. Spoon into a prepared baking dish (lined with parchment and lightly greased).

    Cook in a 375°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Once cooked, let cool for 5-10 minutes before unmolding. Remove the cakes from the baking molds and let them cool completely before frosting them.

    To make the frosting, blend all of the ingredient with a mixer until smooth. Cover the carrot cakes with frosting and let harden for 2 hours, uncovered, before serving.

    Pan-Seared Padròns {Easter}

    Padròns are another one of those deliciously seasonal treats. They have a subtle heat...usually! The smaller ones are less hot with a grassy sweetness. We love 'em! Whenever I get them, I cook them the same way. Why fix what is amazing, right?

    But when I served them for Easter, they were ridiculously hot. Uncomfortably hot. So, it became a dare sorta thing. Great!


    • padròn peppers
    • olive oil
    • fleur de sel 


    Rinse and dry your peppers. Heat a splash of oil in a skillet. Add the peppers and sear until they begin to blister. Remove from heat and season with a sprinkling of salt.

    Enjoy! Maybe just have a glass of milk case you get a hot batch like we did this weekend.