Friday, April 29, 2011
Lasagna is one of those comfort foods that always seems to do the trick. Layers of cheese, pasta and bolognese are hard to resist, especially on a cold evening or after a long hike. Sometimes, though, you don't need a reason at all and it tastes just as good. Earlier this week my mom made her lasagna, the same recipe she's used since I was a kid, and I finally decided to help out and take some notes.
You can tweak a lasagna in so many ways and it is still delicious. This is just one of the many, many options out there, but it's straightforward and it's one that I love. As much as I love vegetables, I have always preferred meat lasagna over a vegetarian one. Maybe it's because I've never had a really good vegetarian variation before, but I haven't actually attempted to make one from scratch. For now, I will stick with this meat version.
The sauce can be made using a combination of two parts beef to one part turkey, or all beef. You can use lean meat if you want to keep part of it healthy, but with all the cheese you'll be adding, I wouldn't consider this a healthy meal. I used the no boiling required lasagna sheets, but if you use the traditional pasta, make sure to cook it beforehand or while making the sauce. Hopefully you can enjoy this with a glass of wine in front of a fire. But like most of us, it will probably be gobbled down in 5 minutes.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011
The ice cream obsession continues as every member in my family buys an ice cream maker (which I then adopt and temporarily claim as my own). Growing up, my dad's favorite ice cream flavor was coffee, which meant the freezer was always stocked with a tub of the stuff. It also meant that my whole family has grown to love coffee ice cream. While reading through my sister's copy of The Perfect Scoop last week, I saw a coffee ice cream recipe in there and knew I had to make it for my dad.
In my first ice cream making lesson, my sister taught me the trick to getting soft, creamy ice cream: liquor. I decided that I wanted to stick with that texture (how can you not love creamy ice cream?) and added some Kahlua to the ice cream. And because I can be a 5 year old sometimes, I threw in some chopped chocolate. You can omit the Kahlua if you're really against it, but the ice cream will get pretty hard. You don't actually taste the Kahlua, but you will appreciate the ice cream consistency it creates. At this point, I think I will add liquor to most of the ice cream I make (when it's appropriate). Having tried various ice cream consistencies, I prefer the "spiked" ones.
I'm currently snacking on bowl number 2 of this goodness as I type. It's addictive, and possibly slightly dangerous in my hands. Anyone that knows me is aware of how hyper I can get, especially with the addition of caffeine and sugar. You can buy decaf coffee beans if you're not into the caffeinated ice cream concept. You can also add lots more chocolate if you want, but I prefer the surprise bite of chocolate here and there over 10 chocolate chips per bite. So before I start bouncing off the walls, I will give you this oh-so-good recipe. It rivals Haagen Dazs, which is considered the best coffee ice cream in my book (sorry Haagen Dazs). Have I talked you into an ice cream maker yet?
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Today we had a slightly hot 83 degree day in LA and it finally felt like summer. I made a batch of ice cream (recipe to come soon) and had one of my all time favorite hot weather meals: Israeli salad.* Well, the salad itself was not the entire meal, but it was the highlight. Along with the salad I had some bread, kalamata olives, Israeli pickles, and cheese. The best part of the meal: dunking chunks of bread into the remaining salad dressing after everyone has finished eating. Maybe that's slightly rude, but try it once and you'll temporarily forget your table manners.
This is one of the most refreshing salads and I have often lived off of it during really hot summer days. It's quick and easy to make and typically I have all of the ingredients at home. Once you start making this salad a few times you'll realize that you don't really need a recipe and can just throw things in as you go along. You can tweak it in many way and it's still great. Some people prefer red onions over scallions, you can throw in an avocado or some bell pepper if you feel like it, omit the parsley if you don't like the taste, etc... You get the point, this is so simple and straightforward that anyone can successfully make this and change it to their liking. Israeli salad also keeps well, so if you make it in the morning and take it to work for lunch, your salad won't end up mushy or soggy (like many others do).
The one thing you want to make sure of is that you have ripe tomatoes. With such a simple dressing, the ingredients need to be flavorful. I used a Meyer lemon (from the yard) in this and to be totally honest, I didn't feel the difference. But when I've made it with slightly unripe produce it tastes much less exciting.
*Yes, I realize that different cultures and countries have their own name for it, but since I have no clue as to where this salad originated, and I grew up calling it Israeli salad, I'm sticking with that.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011
My sister recently got an ice cream maker attachment for her KitchenAid and has been on a homemade ice cream kick ever since. When I first came to visit her, she had made an amazing zabaglione ice cream that was very addictive. This weekend we decided to tackle frozen yogurt (it's healthy, right?) since we had tons of strawberries in the house. Not only is making frozen yogurt pretty easy, but it actually tastes like the fruit it is made of.
Store bought strawberry frozen yogurt from often tastes like artificial flavoring, but this tasted like real (macerated) strawberries. This recipe is a perfect refreshing summer treat. It's texture is similar to sorbet and is not as soft as a frozen yogurt, unless you eat it straight away without completely freezing it. Once you give this a try, you'll realize that you've been missing out on the homemade frozen sweets phenomenon.
This recipe is from David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop, which is filled with tons of inspiring desserts. He has recipes for everything from avocado ice cream to cantaloupe sorbet to butterscotch pecan ice cream. Looking through that book, I wanted to try everything at once. If it's in your budget to get an ice cream maker this summer, I highly recommend it. Not only will your ice cream be delicious, but you'll know exactly what's going into it.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011
The Passover leftovers are finally (almost) all gone, which means it's time to start using up the veggies that never made it into a dish. I'll admit we overestimated everyone's eating capability for the holiday, leaving my sister with a massive bag of onions, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Not to mention the hundreds of garlic cloves. If only we actually felt like making veggie soup...
To begin tackling this veggie surplus, we made a dinner of side dishes last night. It was actually really good, and surprisingly filling. My sister made roasted sweet potatoes and a salad and I made a mushroom ragout (although she did help with that too). Mushroom ragout always remind me of Thanksgiving because its one of my mom's yearly side dishes for the holiday. But that doesn't mean these mushrooms aren't delicious year round. They're quick, easy and use simple ingredients. It's one of those dishes that you can throw together after a long day and still have the energy to make. If the slicing or chopping is uneven, it really doesn't matter. Enjoy this as a side dish, or even over some fish (in which case you may want to cook the fish in a white wine/butter sauce).
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
When I was a kid, I could not stand salmon. I thought it was one of the most horrible foods in the world and refused to eat it in any form. Luckily, my taste buds have grown to love almost all foods these days, and salmon can be one of my favorite light dinners. I find it really filling without weighing you down or making you feel like you need an instant nap. Having just finished back-to-back Passover Seders, I can confidently say I am a master of food comas, and the instant nap feeling that happens to me after any massive meal. This salmon will not do that to you (unless you eat it along with some chicken, brisket, asparagus, and eggplant).
My one contribution to the Seder, aside from chopping lots of vegetables, was preparing the salmon. This is a salmon recipe that tastes great year round and is so easy to make that you can have it any night of the week. It goes well with a salad or some roasted potatoes if you want to keep it simple. It looks really impressive too since it's one huge piece of fish, so it is the perfect dish to serve to company (as long as they like salmon).
If you want to make this for fewer people or can't find a large piece of salmon, you could always use individual fillets of fish and reduce the baking time. If you're unsure whether your fish is cooked or not, take a fork to it and see if the fish flakes without you forcing it. If it does, then it's ready.
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Monday, April 18, 2011
I got a little bit excited when I saw sweet corn in the grocery store. Yes, I get excited about a lot of different foods, but there's something extra exciting about seasonal produce. I tend to go a little overboard at farmer's markets and produce stands. How am I supposed to resist perfectly ripened produce? I think part of it is genetic (at least that's my excuse) since my dad has been known to buy a dozen avocados when it's just him and my mom at home. I'm not complaining though since my produce overloads generally lead to many kitchen experiments. This one, luckily, was a success.
I've been wanting to try out a chipotle-lime vinaigrette for a few weeks now. I researched a bunch of recipes and found one that seemed like it would be the best (with a few little tweaks of course). And what would go better with a chipotle-lime dressing than a grilled corn salad? Ok there's probably a lot of other great options, but this is what I came up with. It's the perfect side dish for any summer barbecue. You could even add some grilled chicken to the salad make it a light summer dinner.
For the salad I just combine a lot of my favorite Southwestern ingredients. You could omit or add anything you want to this salad and it would still be great since it's the vinaigrette that really makes it amazing. It has chipotle peppers in it, but the sugar takes away that really spicy flavor and leaves you with all the delicious chipotle and lime flavors. If you're planning on throwing some steak or burgers on the grill anytime soon, don't forget to make this salad as well.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011
Indian food used to intimidate me. I thought every dish would be made up of lots of spices I'd never heard of and ingredients that would be hard to find. Luckily, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. This chicken was one of the first Indian dishes I ever made and it continues to be a favorite. It's easy to make and is so flavorful. I never thought Indian food could be easy, but some of it is.
Serve this over some rice, preferably basmati or cardamom cilantro rice, along with cucumber raita on the side and you have yourself a very satisfying dinner. It tastes like you went to a gourmet Indian restaurant, but it only takes you 40 to 45 minutes. Make your rice and raita while the chicken is simmer and everything will be ready around the same time. This also re-heats really well, so don't worry if you have leftovers.
The kitchen has been smelling like spices for 45 minutes and I want to dig in. I have a one track mind when it comes to food, so I will leave you with this amazing recipe. Just take my word on this one and try it out! It's not what I call spicy, but it has a tiny kick to it. If that's not your thing, just reduce the crushed red pepper flakes by half.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011
Have you ever been told about a recipe that a friend or family member cannot stop raving about? When my mom first had these lemon bars, she sent the recipe to my sister and I. All the email said was, "These are the best lemon squares." I instantly knew these lemon bars must be worth baking, and they needed to be baked soon.
With Passover coming up on Monday night, the Passover friendly dessert recipe experiments began in the past week or two. There were many average and pretty awful recipes I tried out (let's say my baking and dessert making with coconut milk is going to be on pause for a while). Luckily, there are things like Passover cake meal that make some forms of baking possible and still really good.
This recipe does not taste like a stereotypical Passover dessert, which would be bad if it did. I'm listing both the standard ingredients and the Passover variations, so you can make this all year round and for pretty much any occasion. This is a really easy dessert if you use store bought lemon curd, which is what I did. I also use my hands and avoid things like pastry blenders. With this change, anyone can make this recipe, whether you own kitchen gadgets or not. If you only have whole pecans and aren't sure how to chop them, put them in a Ziploc bag and smash them with a rolling pin. I also used a round spring form since I didn't have a 9"x9" baking pan. Either option works fine, they just result in different shaped lemon bars (slices vs. squares vs. rectangles).
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Friday, April 15, 2011
One of my favorite signs that winter is over is that tomatoes start to look good and taste homegrown. There's nothing better than cutting into a tomato and it actually has red flesh and tastes great on its own. Somehow, in a jumble of trips to the grocery store, I realized there was a surplus of tomatoes in the house. I looked around for a tomato based recipe for a while, but kept coming back to this one. The ingredients are pretty simple and didn't require yet another adventure to the market (you have to realize that I'm incapable of buying only things on my shopping lists. Impulsive food shopping is my weakness).
Even though this recipe calls for bread for a French boule, I used challah and it was still delicious. I'm guessing almost any French bread would do, but because I used challah (which has a soft crust) I didn't remove the crust. The flavor in this recipe is similar to a warm bruschetta, so you really don't want to slack off and use unripe or canned tomatoes. This recipe is really summer friendly, even though it's baked, and would be an awesome side dish for most meals.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011
I bought some blueberries the other day, only to realize that they were not nearly sweet enough and weren't at all enjoyable as a snack. I hate when this happens with produce, but luckily there are recipes that can handle the less than perfect fruits and veggies. This pound cake recipe is one my mom has been making for years. The first time I ever had it, my mother's friend had made some and my mom brought home leftovers. It was an instant hit with everyone in my family and it's been in my mom's recipe binder ever since. And having recently bought some adorable mini cake forms, I quickly started whisking the ingredients together.
This recipe comes from a 1998 edition of Cooking Light magazine and asks for some low-fat ingredients. Half the time I use full fat ingredients since I'm not the biggest fan of things like light butter. I also just throw in whole eggs since I find it wasteful to throw out half an egg just to be healthy (and let's be honest, that egg yolk is the least of you worries when it comes to baking). But I also know this recipe tastes good either way. You can use fresh or frozen blueberries, but keep in mind that the frozen ones can end up coloring your entire cake a blueish color.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Believe it or not, this week has still been chili weather in Los Angeles. It's blustery and cool and does not at all feel the way springtime should time in Southern California. So on that note, I went to town on what was one really time consuming but insanely tasty chili. I don't think I've ever spent so much time chopping up meat for a chili since I'm usually lazy and go for the ground/mince meat option. But this is seriously amazing.
My warning to you is that is is spicy! The spiciness does lose it's punch after a few days, but on day one, it's fiery. Not in the horrible "I taste nothing because it's so spicy" kind of hot, but the really flavorful yet spicy kind of hot. If you're not a fan of spicy, there are definitely ways to change this and still keep that same flavors. If you're not into spicy foods, only use 1 chipotle chile and skip the jalapeno. Also keep in mind that adding sour cream or grated cheese on top will help reduce the spicy factor.
Don't disregard this recipe if you're worries about the heat. If you've never had a chili with chipotles in adobo sauce before, you're missing out. They add a semi smoky flavor that is lacking in the pre-packaged chili flavoring powders. It will take a while to make this, but it's really worth it. And maybe if you're lucky your butcher can chop up the chicken for you.
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Monday, April 11, 2011
Do you ever get sick and tired of pasta salad smother in mayo or bottled Italian dressing? I know that is one of my least favorite summer dishes. The weather is getting warmer in parts of the country and that means it will be picnic season really soon. I absolutely love picnics. Something about sitting on a blanket and (usually) being out in nature makes for the ideal eating experience. So here's a delicious Asian noodle salad that will add some flavor to your summer menu.
It's made with beef, but I would make it vegetarian for a picnic dish (something about cold beef has never gone over well with me). If you're making this at home for dinner, throw in the meat and you have all of the food groups in one dish. It holds up pretty well on day 2, but if you want to make it ahead of time, just keep the dressing separate until you're going to serve it. There's a lot of dressing on this, but it's pretty healthy and has a really good flavor.
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Sunday, April 10, 2011
As a kid, it wasn't uncommon for my mom to make us Challah french toast on Saturday mornings. We almost always had leftover Challah from Friday night, and french toast was one of the best way to use it up, especially in the eyes of a little kid. This weekend, I decided to make this french toast again, after not having had any variety of french toast in years.
My little twist to traditional french toast is that I cut slits into the side of the bread and add some chocolate squares that end up melting on the inside. As you can imagine, this is amazing. It's not something I eat often since it really is not the healthiest way to start your day, but seeing as how it's the weekend and it's still mysteriously cold in Los Angeles, chocolate stuffed french toast sounded perfect. If you're really not into having chocolate in the morning, just skip this step. You can spice up the otherwise standard challah french toast with different flavors in the egg and milk combination (orange zest, vanilla, etc...) or by adding some fruit sauce or compote on the finished french toast.
If you cannot find challah, you can also use brioche. I used a mini challah that had been partially eaten (that's what we had leftover) and it gave me about 10 small pieces of french toast. With the mini challah, I was only able to stuff chocolate in 1 side, but with a larger challah or brioche, you can stuff all 4 sides or just 2 sides.
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Friday, April 8, 2011
I've been wanting to make this cake for a a few months now. It all started with a search for a very specific poppy seed cake that is wrapped in a pastry (I never found a good one by the way), but while looking everywhere, I stumbled upon this recipe. It sounded pretty delicious, and it did not fail at all.
My parents recently returned from a trip overseas and brought me a silicone cake form (this was my first attempt at using one), so I decided it would be the perfect time to try this recipe. In terms of the cakes flavor, have you ever eaten one of those massive Costco poppy seed muffins? Think of those, but lots better. I made this cake Thursday night, and by Saturday evening it still did not dry out. I absolutely love it, as does my family. Three of us managed to finish half of this cake in 1 day. So I hope you all give this a try. It's actually really easy to make and even though I oh-so-slightly over-baked it, it still came out being very moist. And it stayed moist for 3 days. The original recipe is made in a 9" bundt or tube form, but having neither of these on hand, and a new adorable form to try out, I made one brioche-style cake. Baking time will vary based on cake form.
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Friday, April 1, 2011
I'm sure most of you are over recipes involving squash, pumpkin, or any of the other delicious autumn/winter flavors. But now that it's not 100 degrees every day, I am so excited and actually want to use these things. So if you have room for one more butternut squash recipe before summer rolls around, give this a try.
I wasn't even going to make these ravioli until early today, when a batch of butternut squash/feta muffins turned out being a total bust, leaving me with 3/4 of the squash untouched. I wasn't in the mood for a soup, nor am I a skilled risotto maker, so these ravioli were perfect. To save some time, you can roast the butternut squash a day ahead and just puree it when needed.
I have to admit that I cheated and used wonton wrappers instead of making fresh pasta. But that cheat saves tons of time and seeing as how I have never owned a pasta machine, it's the next best bet. This ravioli has a really rich, and creamy filling that you have to love! I loaded up on the Parmesan (why wouldn't I) and added a little bit more butternut squash than in the original recipe, but aside from that, everything else was perfect.
I'm sitting here in a food coma, wondering why I decided to have half of this recipe for lunch. Seriously, I think you could feed 3 hungry, or 4 moderately hungry people with this recipe. But it was so delicious and heavenly that I couldn't stop. It is time consuming, and if you're anything like me, you nibble as you work. So if you're ready to indulge in some sinful ravioli, here you go...
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