Thursday, December 12, 2013

new ingredient alert: spaghetti squash

Just in time for fall, spaghetti squash swept the nation. Or at least my office. Okay, really just 4 of us on my team all cooked it in a week and obsessively talked about it for days.

Have you tried it?!? I made it once with one of my roommates in college and it was delicious but I seemed to have forgotten about it--until now.

In an attempt to decrease my pasta intake (ha!) I decided to make this one night. I am happy to report its fun, pretty easy and the result is tasty and well worth it. I paired it with my homemade pesto, asparagus and zucchini.

spaghetti squash
1 spaghetti squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper for seasoning
  • preheat oven to 350, cover a baking sheet in tin foil and drizzle olive oil on squash halves, season with s&p
  • place cut-side down on baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping over halfway through
  • test to see if the squash is ready by scraping a fork through the insides--if it shreds easily, you can remove and let cool
  • once cool enough to handle (you have to hold onto the outside of the squash) begin to shred the squash with a fork and scoop into a bowl

1 package of asparagus, diced into bite sized pieces
2 medium sized zucchini, diced into half moons
salt and pepper for seasoning
olive oil to coat the pan
  • preheat pan on medium heat with oil
  • add veggies, season and cook until tender
  • add squash and pesto to veggie mixture, toss together and serve with grated cheese 
pesto recipe here

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

pesto pasta purses

Lazy/easy meal alert here: Trader Joe's pre-made pastas are heaven and continue to make my life so easy when I am just too tired to spend hours in the kitchen. I put my own spin on these by making homemade pesto and roasting fresh veggies on the side.

2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp grated parmiggiano reggiano
1/2 cup pine nuts, pan roasted until slightly golden brown
2 garlic gloves, pan roasted in olive oil on low heat
salt and pepper for seasoning
olive oil to drizzle in (about 1/2 cup)

tip: slowly roasting the garlic prior to mixing helps to avoid the raw, overpowering garlic taste you get in some pestos
  • place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor, blend together and slowly drizzle in olive oil until it starts to get slightly thinner and you can see all of the garlic, pine nuts and basil broken down and chopped
  • taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or cheese accordingly
  • serve or place in container, drizzle more olive oil on top, then cover in plastic wrap, pressed down on the pesto to prevent browning.
 tip: refrigerate for about a week or freeze for up to 3 months

 pasta & veggies
  • roast veggies with salt pepper, olive oil
  • boil pasta then combine with pesto, sprinkle with more parmiggiano reggiano and serve with veggies on the side

Thursday, December 5, 2013

kitchen essentials

I would kill for this much space & layout

I was recently asked for advice on stocking a kitchen-pantry basics, good things to keep on hand and the like.

I am a very "use what you have" type of cook and like to have things that stay fresh for a long time and stock up on non-perishables for a quick addition to a weeknight meal.

Below are some basics broken out into: must haves, perishables, things that freeze well, and some extras worth having around.

kitchen must haves

  • salt: sea or kosher salt + table (iodized) salt
  • pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • cayanne pepper
  • dried parsley,  basil
  • cumin: essential for any mexican feast
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg: the key to all of my bechamel sauces

other pantry basics:
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vegetable oil
  • vinegar: I prefer red wine for dressings & white vinegar is good to rinse fruits and veggies in
  • honey
  • flour: I keep AP + whole wheat
  • sugar
  • chocolate chips: for whipping up chocolate chip cookies on the fly
  • baking soda: in a airtight container or bag it stays fresh for a while
  • baking powder
  • brown sugar: put a slice of white bread in there for a few hours when it needs to soften; store it in an airtight container to prevent hardening for the future
  • pasta: I like to keep several types on hand, both whole wheat and regular, penne, spaghetti and elbow macaroni are good to have on hand.
  • rice: long grain white rice
  • canned tomatoes: I prefer whole or crushed
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • canned beans: I like to keep at least one of cannelini, red beans, black beans and garbanzo
  • wine: I keep one bottle of white in the fridge for sauces, and at least two unopened bottles of red for drinking and 1-2 opened bottles of red that are no longer drinkable, but perfect for a red wine sauce or to add to tomato sauce
  • at least one box of cake mix and jar of frosting: you never know when you will want an impromptu cupcake :)
  • crackers of some sort: trader joes have delicious raisin rosemary crisps, and they really hold up nicely with any cheese
  • nuts or trailmix
  • granola bars
  • one box of cereal
  • nestle quick mix: essential for hot cocoa
  • mini marshmallows: see above

perishables (I chose ones that keep for a pretty long time)
  • lemons: they are great to add to sauces, water, or to freshen your garbage disposal
  • carrots: also great for sauces, soups, stews and roasting, add color to a dish
  • shredded cheese mixture: trader joes three cheese blend is great to add to eggs, melt on top of burgers, use in tacos, or whip up a quick mac n cheese with
  • goat cheese: one of my most used ingredients and a staple in my kitchen. you may have noticed it in a few of my recipes
  • fresh herbs: some keep longer than others-rosemary lasts a while and is great to roast with veggies or chicken; parsley is my go-to herb and if you chop it you can freeze it and use for about a month
  • eggs: useful for making homemade pasta, breakfasts, as a binder for burgers or meatballs
  • garlic
  • onion: until sliced open you can keep it for a few weeks
  • BBQ sauce: essential for Mikes (and my) sanity
  • ketchup
  • dijon mustard
  • hot sauce: I like to keep franks and tabasco on hand
  • butter: obvious
  • cream cheese: also obvious

things that freeze well
  • chop meat: for burgers, meatloaf, tacos midweek, just pop it from the freezer to the fridge in the am before work
  • chicken
  • herbs: pre-chop and double bag
  • pre-frozen veggies: good for soups
  • tortillas: freeze then double bag to avoid freezer burn, pop in the micro for a few seconds
  • bagels, any breads: also double bagged, pop in the micro for a few seconds and then toast/pop in the oven

extras worth having around
  • milk, cream: for obvious reasons like cereal and coffee, but also for hot cocoa, mac n cheeses and cream sauces
  • another fresh vegetable: zucchini is my favorite, or arugula
  • isreali couscous: a great sub for pasta or rice
  • cookies: double stuff or seasonal oreos are my go-to
  • dark chocolate covered almonds
  • marcona almonds: great for a cheese plate spread and a delicious snack
  • pizza dough: pre-made will last about a week in the fridge and you can use just about any pantry basic to make a pizza or mini calzones

Do you have any pantry essentials that are missing? What do you like to keep stocked?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

baked pasta with arugula, tomatoes and carrots

This was a "use what you have meal." Carrots are a great vegetable to have on hand because they stay fresh for a long time and fresh or canned tomatoes can be used. You can easily sub in any veggies you have on hand, a can of beans, any protein and switch up the cheeses--ricotta would work great here.

At the end of a long week sometimes I just want something warm and easy to whip up--10 minutes of prep time and another 15 to cook.

baked pasta with arugula, tomatoes and carrots
2 cups of arugula, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (or two fresh tomatoes, diced)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup of pasta
6 oz of goat cheese
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tbsp butter

  • preheat oven to 350
  • put up water to cook the pasta, once it comes to a boil add a generous amount of salt and pasta
  • preheat pan with butter, add carrots once butter starts to melt (I used my cast iron skillet so I could place it straight in the oven) and salt
  • cook carrots for about 5 minutes on their own, tossing occassionally
  • add tomatoes (drained), arugula, garlic and more salt and pepper
  • let all the veggies cook together for about 3 minutes, tossing together
  • under cook the paste to just below al dente--about 4 mins under cook time, add to pan
  • place goat cheese in pan, toss all ingredients together until incorporated and let bake in the oven for about 7 minutes

serves two

Thursday, November 28, 2013

happy thanksgiving!

For the second year in a row, I am not spending thanksgiving with my family. I have opted to stay in SF and spend it with Mike and a few good friends.

I am so excited to do my very first thanksgiving turkey, and spend the day cooking, watching football and enjoying the holiday.

Be thankful this holiday. Enjoy the day with family or friends. And remind yourself just how lucky you truly are.

Need a last minute side dish? Check out my sweet potato boats!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

easy and yummy turkey day side

On Thanksgivings when I was growing up we would cram into my grandparents house in the serious country of upstate New York. I'm talking country: no electricity, one bathroom with a claw foot tub and the entire house heated by the wood burning stove in the kitchen.  Nine cousins, aunts, uncles, my parents and grandparents: it was quite the party.

I never remember it being crammed or fighting for the bathroom though. I remember the never ending bingo games, crafting, playing in the snow and scarfing amazing food.

We used to start the biggest meal of the year with ravioli.  Yes. You heard me, we ate pasta to start, before consuming turkey and potatoes and stuffing and sides and who knows what else.

That was our tradition and though it hasn't carried through till now (could you imagine??) one food tradition and family favorite did: sweet potato boats.

My Aunt Sue made them every year and they are so simple and delicious and the perfect thanksgiving side. You can also skip the boat part and just mash sweet potatoes, but there is something about this presentation that just makes the dish.

sweet potato boats
3 sweet potatoes (actually yams)
1/2 cup sour cream (I like to use reduced fat to make myself feel a little better..)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1package of bacon, cooked and diced into bite sized pieces
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Heat the oven to 350
  • Pierce the potatoes with a fork all over
  • Place them in the oven on the top rack (place a foil lined cookie sheet on the rack below to catch the drippings)
  • Let cook for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of potatoes. They should be soft when you squeeze them
  • Let cool for a few minutes, enough to handle and then slice lengthwise
  • Carefully scoop out filling, keeping skins intact
  • Spray a foil lined pan with cooking spray and place skins (or boats) in
  • Scoop all filling into a bowl and mix with all ingredients, save for half the cheese and all the bacon
  • Whip together with a hand mixer until smooth, stir in half the bacon by hand
  • Scoop the filling back into the boats (they should be overflowing a bit) and top with remaining bacon and cheese
  • Place in oven for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted
  • You can make these ahead, just cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature and then bake uncovered at 350 until cheese is melted, about 10 mins
I don't have a pic of the boats, but here are the mashed sweet potatoes!

Monday, November 25, 2013

a brief departure series: bedroom decorating

The decorating series is back!

I have nearly my entire non-existent apartment decorated, but I am getting stuck on one room....the bedroom.

The reality is, the next move I make will be with Mike, so the bedroom can not be too girly. I would buy a hot pink comforter and a bunch of fun brightly colored accessories if it was just me.

But I guess I should consider that he wouldn't love the hot pink comforter so much and that's where I am getting stuck.

My bedroom pinboard is So I put together two different ideas--one is navy, white with a coral pop of color and the other focuses more on a mustard yellow + teal theme.

So here is option one:

clockwise from top: striped pillow-sold out, visit etsy shop; simple white duvet cover; step nightstand via la belle vie; perfect blue and white comforter (can not find source) via real simple; coral dresser accent via sarah m. dorsey designs; navy and white comforter set

I love the white comforter because it makes things so versatile, but lets face it, they get dirty so easily. Though a duvet is a lot easier to clean/bleach...

The navy comforter in the bottom right is my favorite. I tweeted at Real Simple to try and find the source but nothing yet.

I like that nightstand/bedside step, maybe painted in a distressed white though..

And option two:

clockwise from top: mustard yellow printed curtains, similar here; clear barcelona vase; chevron accent chair; yellow ranunculus print; coral vase, similar here; mustard yellow area rug; "follow your bliss" quote + photo; california <3 ny print; example/ideal set up

I like the idea of the mustard yellow with some minimal coral/teal mixed in as well.

If I could just have that bed/nightstand/those pillows on the bottom left, I would be set.

Which do you think?

Friday, November 22, 2013

winner is chosen--thanks for playing!

Congrats to my awesome co-worker Betsy for winning a meal or cooking demo with me!

We are going to menu plan, decide on timing and document everything via the blog.

More fun contests to come and happy weekend :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

pork chop with apple compote

Pork. One of the three things I am afraid to even consider Mike living without (peanut butter and BBQ sauce are also in that group. He told me this past weekend we would break up if I became allergic to peanut butter. So. There's that...) We add it to burgers, meatballs, shred it in the crock pot...I get creative.

This was my attempt at some lighter fare. The apple compote was fresh, the veggies on the side crunchy and the pork perfectly pink in the center.

pork chop
2 bone-in pork chops
salt, pepper, red pepper for seasoning
2 tbsp butter
  • massage seasoning onto both sides of the pork, let sit for about 15 minutes
  • preheat oven to 350, preheat pan on medium heat with about half the butter (I used my cast-iron skillet to go from stove-top to oven)
  • once the pan is really hot--try the water flicking trick and wait for it to sizzle--place your chops in and let sear on both sides (about 2-3 mins per side)
  • once you turn over the first side, baste the seared side with the pan juices
  • once both sides are seared, place pan in oven with remaining butter until internal temp reaches 150 degrees (time with vary based on thickness of cut)

apple compote
1 green apple, diced (I didn't peel it, but would recommend doing so)
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1/2 tablespoon of flour
  • let sugar and water dissolve in a saucepan over low heat, add apples
  • let saute and stir in seasonings and flour, bring up to medium-high heat and stir together until the mixture comes to a boil
  • bring it back down to low heat, simmer until ready to serve

Did I mention tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a meal or demo cooked by yours truly?!?!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

five spice lamb

A delicious and simple weekend dish, this five spice lamb made me feel like a master chef for whipping it up.

This is the second time I have made lamb and it's definitely turning into one of my favorite things to cook. I went the Mediterranean route here, but I think this could go in so many directions--dying to try lamb ragout or maybe grill a few pieces.

five spice lamb
one lamb steak
2 tbsp butter

spice mixture
onion powder (1 tsp)
ancho chili powder (2 tsp)-can use regular chili powder if you don’t have it
pepper (1/2 tsp)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp rosemary, finely minced (or 1 tsp of dried)
2 tsp salt

  • Combine spice mixture, rub it on both sides of lamb steak and let sit for about 20-30 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Preheat pan with butter on medium-high heat
  • Place lamb steak in pan (it should sizzle, flick it with water first to make sure its hot enough)
  • Sear on both sides, about 3 mins per side 
  • Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes, until cooked to about medium/medium-rare (use a meat thermometer if needed)
1 package of isreali couscous
3 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp rosemary, finely minced
salt and pepper for seasoning
onions and garlic sautéed in oil with about half the rosemary

tip: cook onions and garlic low and slow to bring out their natural sweetness
  • bring vegetable stock up to a boil
  • in the meantime, lightly brown couscous in a pot with butter on low heat
  • once the stock is boiling, add slowly to couscous with remaining rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic, onion and rosemary mix
  • cover and let look on low-medium heat until all liquid is absorbed and couscous has a slight bite (similar to al-dente pasta) this should take about 20-25 mins
1/4 cup red wine
pan drippings from lamb
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup vegetable stock (beef or chicken stock would be fine too)
3 tbsp flour
  • whisk all ingredients together over low heat, adding more liquid if mixture is too thick, and more flour if too thin
  • spoon over lamb

Also: if you haven't entered already, enter here to win a meal cooked by me or a cooking demo with me!

a few notes:
  • I can make suggestions or work with you to plan the menu, but the limit is $50 on all ingredients
  • I will cook at your home as long as you are comfortable with that
  • If you are not a Bay Area resident and do not have any upcoming plans to visit, it may be difficult to cook for you, but contact me: we can do a virtual session!
  • This giveaway closes Friday October 22nd
  • Please give me a way to contact you!
I will be choosing the lucky winner on Friday !

Friday, November 8, 2013

blog milestone!

I have been at it for about 8 months and I am thrilled to say I have hit 4,000 page views! (even if it was with a little help from my awesome co-workers :)

I am beyond excited to have hit this point and can not wait to keep going--here's to 4,000 more!

By the way, if you haven't entered already, submit your entry here to win a meal cooked by me or cooking lesson.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

finally back--mixing it up a bit!

I have become a pro at the hiatus--all the while cooking up a storm but neglecting to blog. Blogging is hard work. You have to put something behind the words and the recipe, it is unfortunately not just a collection of ingredients thrown on the page.

The process of cooking is about so much more than sustenance for me. It's about gathering together, making people happy, enjoying the process (and strange calmness it brings me.) It's about discovering new ingredients and opening up someones eyes to experience a dish in a different way than they expected.

With that in mind, I have decided to do a giveaway of sorts!

I want to cook for you or with you. It can be teaching you a few trick and tips, a new recipe, or just making a meal for you and one lucky individual. It can be a date meal and I will even let you take all the credit.

Submit your entry here.

a few notes:
  • I can make suggestions or work with you to plan the menu, but the limit is $50 on all ingredients
  • I will cook at your home as long as you are comfortable with that
  • If you are not a Bay Area resident and do not have any upcoming plans to visit, it may be difficult to cook for you, but contact me--maybe we can do a virtual session!
  • This giveaway closes Friday October 15th
  • Please give me a way to contact you!
I will be choosing the lucky winner on Friday 
November 15th 22nd!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ingredient experimenting: speck

I can make (and eat) pasta until I am blue in the face, and likely I will, but it's always nice to try and change things up.

I was perusing my favorite neighborhood specialty shop, little vine, and had already grabbed fresh pasta and ricotta. As I scanned the meat case, my eyes fell on speck, an ingredient I had heard of, but never tasted or cooked with. I knew it was a pig product, but I learned that it's fattier and richer than pancetta or proscuitto.

Armed with these foods, I created a loose take on carbonara. No egg, the speck in place of the usual pancetta and ricotta in addition to grated cheese. I added frozen peas for good measure and it was perfect.

carbonara style pasta
one slice of speck, sliced about 1/3 inch thick and diced
1/3 lb of fresh pasta (I bought papardelle), you can use fresh or dried
1/2 cup full fat ricotta
1/4 cup frozen peas
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for seasoning
pecorino cheese, grated (optional)
  • put a pot of water up to boil
  • cook speck on the stovetop until crispy, remove from pan and drain on a paper towel
  • salt the water and add pasta
  • with one minute left for pasta to cook, add peas
  • once pasta and peas are cooked, add to pan with speck, two tablespoons of pasta water, ricotta and seasonings on low heat
  • stir together and serve with grated cheese on top
serves two

Thursday, October 17, 2013

quick and easy weeknight meal: stuffed chicken breast

I can't really count how many nights I come home from work and my dinner consists of wine and string cheese. One night it was wine and easter candy. Sometimes there isn't even wine food. Point is, there are plenty of nights where that is just fine, but I would rather not get [too much] into that.

Nights after work when I am motivated to cook, or come home from a great run and want something healthy, it still needs to be easy and not result in dinner at 10pm. Last week I finally broke in my new running shoes and was feeling great. The shin splints I have been suffering with for months seem to have subsided and I wanted to have something healthy but still yummy.

new running sneaks and the view I get to live with

In comes this stuffed chicken breast--it sneaks in a bunch of veggies and took about 20 minutes of prep time. Best part? The possibilities for stuffing are endless--ricotta and pancetta, butternut squash and broccoli, etc.

chicken breast stuffed with spinach, tomato and mushrooms
2 chicken breasts, sliced open lengthwise like a book (should open up, but not be fully sliced)
5 medium sized cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tomato, diced
1 bag of spinach
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper for seasoning
3 oz of goat cheese, softened
3 tablespoons of butter
  • preheat oven to 350, heat pan (I used my cast iron skillet so it could transfer from stovetop to oven easily) with 2 tbsp butter
  • saute mushrooms, spinach and garlic (season with s&p) until cooked down, add tomatoes and cook for another minute
  • scoop veggie mixture into a bowl and set aside, wipe down skillet and add remaining butter
  • season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper, stuff half of the mixture into each and fold over sealing with toothpicks
  • add chicken to skillet, sear on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side) then transfer to oven
  • let chicken cook through (about 8 more minutes) then add goat cheese and put back in oven for goat cheese to melt (about another minute)
  • remove from oven, pull out toothpicks and serve
serves two

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

buttermilk biscuits and my constant struggle with southern classics

I can not make biscuits. My cornbread always fails. Like it or not, this Italian girl can not get these southern classics down.

Truth be told, I haven't been trying for ages. And to be fair to myself, when I make these things they are never terrible--and certainly not inedible. But I know a good biscuit when I have one, and mine do not rise, they don't get as fluffy and the whole thing just frustrates me.

Surprisingly, a good and easy biscuit recipe is hard to find, but I researched tips and tricks. Such as: do not twist your biscuit cutter or it will interfere with the layers and flakiness. A dough cutter is not necessary. Simple is best.

You may recall my admittance to biscuit failure recently, which made me even more determined to try again. As I scoured the internet & tweeted at Alton Brown for his recipe (to no avail), I remembered my favorite cooking muse. Smitten kitchen to the rescue (I hoped!)

As usual, Deb breaks it down in an uncomplicated way and I followed her recipe exactly. I stopped just short of grabbing a ruler to measure how thick I rolled out my dough (she doesn't suggest that, but I wanted to get to that 1/2 inch thickness perfectly.)

Sunday morning bowl of biscuits

The biscuits tasted delicious. I woke Mike up on a Sunday morning with some fresh strawberry jam and these babies and he was as happy as a clam. But my perfectionist self was still not happy. They didn't rise enough--why? My flour was brand new.

Of course I spent the day musing out loud as to what I could do differently, and Mike probably just wanted to eat more biscuits. Maybe I need fresh baking soda. And fresh baking powder. Maybe I kneaded them too much? I may never know.

The bottom line is that I made it happen, and next time they will be even better. You can find Debs recipe here, and below is my quick strawberry jam.

strawberry jam (not for canning)
6 strawberries, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water (added slowly)
  • add strawberries, sugar and half of the water to a pot on low heat
  • stir frequently, add salt, flour and butter once sugar is dissolved
  • if mixture is thick, add remaining water, otherwise leave it out
  • if mixture is too thin, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time
  • bring up to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool
  • serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 14, 2013

fall eats: mushroom and zucchini baked pasta

It's fall in SF which means warm days (and nights!) one day and the sweater and boot weather the next. The east coaster in me needs to live seasonally-- so no matter what the weather outside says, it's October. That means pumpkin candles, cozy meals with lots of wine and fall decor. Yes I may be sweating in the kitchen, but it's tradition, dammit!

I found some fun fall decorations for my apartment so that is slowly coming together. I am still on the hunt for a wreath, or perhaps a pinterest inspired craft, for my front door.

To go with all of that, I have been making tons of comfort foods--the latest being a rich and cozy baked pasta with grilled mushroom, zucchini and onions--covered in cheese of course.

mushroom and zucchini baked pasta
5-6 medium sized cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium sized zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 small onion, diced
1/2 box of pasta (I used campanelle, which really held the sauce and ingredients in, but use whatever you like. a penne would work too)
1 cup of whole milk ricotta
3 ounces of goat cheese, softened
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
a handful of parsley, minced
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for seasoning
2 tablespoons of butter

  • preheat oven to 350, heat pan with 1 tablespoon of butter
  • once pan is heated, add zucchini, let it cook for about 2 minutes, then add mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste
  • bring up a pot of water to a boil, add salt and add pasta once boiling--under cook the pasta by about 2 minutes
  • let that cook for about 4 minutes and add diced onion and red pepper flakes (a half teaspoon will give you a slight amount of heat, add more if you want more heat) and about half of the parsley
  • lower the heat and add remaining butter and let it cook down
  • mix together the goat cheese, ricotta, more salt and pepper and a sprinkle of parsley (reserve a bit for garnish)
  • once pasta is done, turn off your pan and add pasta in with the vegetables, with a splash of the pasta water and ricotta/goat cheese mixture
  • stir until well mixed,  transfer to an oven safe dish, coated in pam, then sprinkle with mozzarella
  • let it cook for about 5 minutes, until mozzarella is melted and bubbly
  • scoop out and garnish with parsley, serve!
serves two

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

quick and easy weeknight meal: butternut squash ravioli

I can not tell you how many nights I just want something so yummy-but not enough to cook for hours after work.

Browsing through Trader Joe's after work with no idea what to make, I stumbled on their ravioli section. They always make the best ones--they have a carbonara one that is out of this world. But as soon as I spotted the butternut squash ravioli with fall on my mind (and soon to be in my belly) I knew what was going to happen.

A pizzeria and restaurant back home has these butternut squash ravioli with brown butter, sage and goat cheese on their menu that I die for. The sauce with the goat cheese melted in is craveworthy on its own, but adding the pasta gives it the perfect earthy flavor. I needed to recreate this (adding a vegetable to make me feel less guilty for all that butter.)

butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sauce and goat cheese
1 package of pre-made butternut squash ravioli
3 oz. of goat cheese
5 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper for seasoning
4 stalks of brocollini, cut into bite sized pieces
  •  put a pot of water up to boil
  • preheat a pan with 1 tablespoon of butter
  • add brocollini to pan, season with salt and pepper and saute until cooked through, turning frequently (about 6-8 minutes)
  • melt butter on low heat in a sauce pan, adding salt and pepper for seasoning (sage, thyme or rosemary would be a great herb to add here too if you have them)
  • cook pasta in salted boiling water--do not drain
  • scoop out pasta with a slotted spoon into pan sauce
  • spoon about 2 tablespoons of pasta water into sauce and ravioli, add brocollini
  • plate and add goat cheese on top
This is truly one of my favorite meals of all time--I hope you love it!

Monday, September 30, 2013

chicken pot pie soup and homemade biscuits

Full disclosure: the biscuits were not the biggest success. They were flat and crispy and had no fluff to them. I need biscuit help--a good recipe and someone to literally walk me through it.

Baking is not my strong point and I will be the first to admit it. I hate measuring and the science of it all--you have seen my recipes? They are not what you would call exact.

Now that we have that out the way....the chicken pot pie soup, which I think was a success. Even though the bay area refuses to recognize that the calendar turned to fall, it is fall and my absolute favorite season. This meant comfort food all weekend, starting with a meatloaf and mashed potatoes Saturday--with a little spin on the potatoes (added goat cheese--yum!)

Sunday was a crock pot chicken pot pie soup that was warm and cozy, not to mention totally filling. I can see it as a go-to recipe on chilly fall days, and the total prep/work (not including biscuit time) was 25 minutes. I love delicious, craveable food that is EASY.

chicken pot pie soup
3 chicken breasts
1 bag of frozen mixed veggies--the one I got had carrots, peas, string beans, corn
5 springs of thyme, de-stemmed
1 tablespoon of parsley, minced with a small amount set aside for garnish
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of flour
6 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup water
salt, pepper and crushed red pepper for seasoning

  • pre-heat a pan with 2 tablespoons of the butter
  • season chicken with salt, pepper and red pepper, place in pre-heated pan and season other side
  • cook chicken to get a color on both sides (about 4 minutes per side) and remove from heat
  • melt remaining butter in saucepan with 1/8 cup of flour, whisk together to make a roux, add salt and pepper for seasoning
  • pour in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and whisk to make a cream sauce
  • turn crock pot to low, add frozen veggies, cream sauce, chicken, water, herbs, onion, garlic, additional salt and pepper for seasoning and remaining flour
  • let cook on low for 3-4 hours, add remaining cream and water if the liquid is needed. add a few more tablespoons of flour if the soup is too thin
  • let cook on high for another hour
  • remove chicken and shred with two forks, add back in and mix
  • serve over biscuits (and send me a great recipe if you have it!) or add to a pie crust.

Friday, September 20, 2013

happy birthday to me!!

Anyone who has known me for longer than ten minutes knows how much I love to celebrate my birthday. I usually make it a month long affair, but as I have gotten older I have lessened it to a week. Maturity, ya know?

Well today is actual day and I am off from work (of course) and will be celebrating by gallivanting around Disneyland (my first time-eek!) with Mike. He planned the entire trip and I am so excited to see the princesses (yes I am still a 5 year old little girl at heart), ride all the rides and get all hopped up on sugar.

 Feel free to enjoy a celebratory cupcake or cocktail in my honor ;)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

pizza night!

Pizza crust is really one of the most perfect blank canvas' for cooking. Grab a whole wheat crust and collaborate on toppings and you have an easy and delicious dinner.

Mike and I love cooking together and taking our favorites and combining them: goat cheese (for me) and bacon and italian sausage (for him) with some brussels sprouts and a salad on the side to get those veggies in!

goat cheese, bacon, brussels sprouts and sausage pizza
8 oz package of goat cheese, softened
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup brussels sprouts, diced
4 pieces of bacon, diced
3 sausages (any kind you like, we used spicy italian)
1 whole wheat pizza crust
a few shakes of worcheshire sauce
1 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper for seasoning

  • preheat oven to 350, heat a pan and place sausages with worcheshire sauce, let cook for a few minutes
  • add bacon, brussels sprouts, butter, salt & pepper
  • saute all until fully cooked (about 5-7 minutes)
  • while that cooks in the oven flour the counter and your rolling pin and begin rolling out your dough. (be liberal with the flour so nothing sticks)
  • I usually use a rectangle cookie sheet, so I roll the dough accordingly. you can use a pizza stone but I have never had much success with them.
  • once the dough is rolled out, lightly oil your pan and place the dough in, making a crust by shaping the sides against the pan. if you have excess dough just cut it off the sides. be careful not to stretch it as the dough will rip. 
  • pre-cook the dough in the oven until its slightly browned (about 10 minutes depending on thickness)
  • take about half of the goat cheese and spread on the crust, place back in the oven to fully melt for another 4 minutes
  • slice sausage, add to crust with bacon, brussels sprouts and drizzle some of the pan juices on top
  • sprinkle with mozzarella and top with remaining goat cheese
  • bake until the cheese is melted (about 5-7 minutes)

Happy pizza night!

Monday, September 16, 2013

eggplant stacks

It has been a while. To my seven readers, including Mike, who eats all of the food posted on these pages, I am truly sorry.

I will give you the busy excuse, but I have been cooking, so I promise there will be lots of catching up to do. And I need to finish up my not-so-brief departure series on decorating my yet-to-exist apartment. Just a little preview for ya there.

One of the things I have been busy with was a visit from my parents. They were here a few weeks back and it was such a fun trip-I fed them well as expected (hit up some tacolicious & caffe baonecci in North Beach to name a few), took them to see the SF Giants, visited family in eastern CA and drank a lot of wine (duh.)

So this post, while delayed, is somewhat timely to come back with after their visit.

My parents have always been amazing cooks, but it never really occurred to me just how lucky I was to enjoy some of their great food until I had friends start to beg me to make it for them.

My parents make these eggplant "stacks"--sort of a simpler, deconstructed eggplant parm. Sometimes they use sauce, sometimes fresh tomatoes, but always breaded and fried eggplant & mozzarella.

Everyone who tries my parents' eggplant raves about it, which always mystified me. It's definitely not even top 20 of what I grew up eating and loving. And its so simple.

So I had to share, because I am spoiled. This is craveworthy recipe and I forget that sometimes...

eggplant stacks
1-2 medium sized eggplants, peeled and sliced into rounds
3 tomatoes, sliced, or tomato sauce (you can use mine here)
1/2 lb of mozzarella, freshly grated
a handful of fresh parsley or basil
1/4 cup olive oil (for frying)
a few tablespoons of olive oil for final dish
2 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk
2 cups of breadcrumbs, seasoned
1 cup of AP flour--seasoned with s&p
salt and pepper for seasoning

preheat oven to 350
  • prep all ingredients first--peel and slice eggplant, slice tomatoes, grate cheese, etc
  • preheat pan with some of the oil on low-medium heat
  • begin an assembly line: a dish with the flour, the egg/milk in a bowl and then finally a dish with the breadcrumbs
  • start by coating eggplant in flour, then egg (fully submerged) then breadcrumbs-I like to press the breadcrumbs on with a fork so they really stick
  • place the fully coated eggplant stack in the preheated pan, and begin the process again with a new slice-the eggplant will absorb a lot of oil, so make sure add more as your cook
  • let the eggplant brown on each side, then drain on a paper towel
  • once all the slices are coated and fried, coat the bottom of an oven safe pan with olive oil (if using tomatoes instead of sauce) or coat with sauce
  • begin laying down the largest eggplant slices, then layer tomato or sauce, cheese, salt and pepper and basil or parsley
  • repeat until about 3-4 eggplant high, using smallest eggplant slices for the top 
  • top with remaining mozzarella and drizzle with olive oil
  • place in preheated oven until the cheese is bubbly (about 10-15 minutes)
I hope you love this family recipe!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

tomato, garlic and ricotta pasta

Here's a quick weeknight meal for you--add any veggie you want. This came together in 15 minutes and was so fresh and flavorful.

I bought fresh pasta from a local shop, but you could easily use dried. Or be really ambitious and make it yourself!

tomato, garlic and ricotta pasta
2 tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 servings fresh pasta (a little of the cooking liquid reserved)
a handful of fresh parley
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons ricotta
juice of half a lemon
olive oil for cooking
  • put up water for your pasta--salt and drop pasta once its come to a boil
  • coat pan with olive oil, heat on medium and add tomatoes until they are cooked down, add garlic and lower heat
  • season veggies with salt and pepper, add parsley
  • add cooked pasta with 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and ricotta
  • squeeze lemon juice on top, stir together and serve

Thursday, August 15, 2013

spicy beef and pork burgers

These burgers were part of my "it's summer and I wish I had a grill" weekend a few weeks back. I must admit, in the meat department, I usually defer to Mike. As hard as I try, I overcook burgers more often than not, so we collaborated on the recipe and then I observed his cooking method like a hawk.  Feel free to steal his tricks..

spicy beef and pork burgers
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 hamburger bun, soaked in milk and squeezed out
1 tsp spicy BBQ seasoning
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
a few shakes of worcestershire
2 tbsp butter
a few sprigs of thyme
pepper jack cheese, sliced (about 8 slices of the block)
a few handfuls of arugula
one tomato sliced
whole wheat hamburger buns
  • preheat pan on stove top with butter & thyme
  • mix beef, pork, soaked bread, worcestershire and seasonings in a bowl and form two burger patties
  • season outsides with salt and pepper and place in pan-let them cook for on low-medium for about 5-6 minutes
  • flip burgers and tilt pan toward you so butter is pooled at the edge
  • using a spoon, spoon the butter over the burgers, basting the meat for a minute or so
  • repeat this a few times
  • after the second side is cooking for about 5-6 minutes, add cheese and let melt (you can also put a pot lid on top to steam/speed up the melting)
  • serve with the tomato and arugula (and BBQ sauce, of course!)

chili rubbed corn
2 pieces of corn, shucked
4 pats of butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • microwave corn with butter pats for 8-10 minutes
  • mix spices together in a small bowl, once corm is cooked and slightly cool rub spice mixture over corn and serve

pan-roasted brocollini
1 bunch of brocollini, diced
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper for seasoning
  • toss all ingredients into a pre-heated pan on medium for 7 minutes, tossing ocassionally
  • serve alongside corn and burgers

All of these recipes would be amazing on the grill--I would refrain from dicing the brocollini and rub the corn with some butter prior to putting it on the grill

Happy Grilling!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

a brief departure series: bathroom decorating

In the third installment of my decorating series I am venturing into the bathroom.

About 8 months ago I redecorated my current bathroom in an attempt to stifle my urge to move to a larger/newer place. I found a brightly colored shower curtain, bright yellow towels and brought it all together with teal, white and yellow accessories.

I LOVE my current bathroom. If I can re-purpose any of it I will. But in case I can't...I love the idea of bright walls and an all white bathroom-so clean, fresh and simple. Most importantly--CLASSIC.

updated: to include where you can find these beautiful pieces. 

how cute is that bunny cotton ball holder?!

clockwise from top: bunny cotton ball holder; antique white soap dish; white satin stripe shower curtain; ladder shelf; flower hook; "home is wherever i'm with you" sign; photo courtesy of bhg, color paint colors I like here, here & here

Monday, August 12, 2013

what I ate this weekend..

We had a cheese and meat plate with wine for dinner Friday night.
honey goat, brie, raspberries, berry jam, english cheddar, soppressata,  toasted bread and strawberries on the side

I found this new wine at Trader Joe's--a really delicious Tempranillo for $8!!

Saturday I took Mike to Ike's for his first time ever. We ate our sandwiches in Dolores Park and relaxed in the sunshine.

Then we scarfed some Bi-Rite ice cream--their brownie sundae is out of control.

We ended the night with a few cocktails at House of Shields--my new obsession is a vodka gimlet, on the rocks-love the giant ice cube!

Sunday I made homemade soup stew--its been a particularly chilly SF summer and I wanted something to warm us up

taken on a walk last week--the transamerica building is somewhere among that fog..

chicken & veggie soup stew
2 chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper
4 carrots, diced
4 pieces of celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium sized squash, diced
2 cups baby spinach, slightly chopped
1 each red, orange, yellow mini bell peppers, diced
1 large potato, diced
1 bag of english peas (I used fresh, frozen works too)
7 sprigs thyme
a handful of fresh parley
salt, pepper, cayenne and crushed red pepper for seasoning
1 pint of vegetable broth
1 cup of water
a few glugs of olive oil

This turned out to be much thicker and was more of a stew than a soup, but was super hearty and had great flavor!

tip: dice all veggies a similar size so they cook evenly
  • preheat large pot with olive oil and a few thyme sprigs, place seasoned chicken breasts, skin side down
  • cook on medium-high heat, letting the outside get crispy, then flip
  • once the chicken is browned on both sides, take out and set aside
  • lower heat to medium, add a bit more oil and begin adding diced veggies. be sure to add the most firm ones first (carrots, celery, squash, peppers, onions, spinach, garlic in that order.) 
veggies cooking in their natural liquid
  • season liberally with salt and pepper, add a dash of cayenne and a few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • let all veggies saute in their own liquid until softened. add vegetable broth and cup of water, peas, potatoes, parsley and remaining thyme sprigs
  • add chicken to cook through, cover and let come to a low boil
  • after about 15 minutes of cooking, remove chicken and set aside, and pull out thyme stems
  • turn heat to low and let the soup cook for a few hours--it can be served at any point from here
  • slice chicken off bone and add to stew

we enjoyed this cozy stew with some cheesy panini--happy summer in SF!

Friday, August 9, 2013

its friday!!

Some pretty pics and things I am loving right now.

Have a fabulous weekend and enjoy the few summer ones we have left :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Last week Mike and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary and he surprised me by planning our very own version of Chopped. If you are not familiar with the show, first of all, go turn on the Food Network and catch an episode. Second, the concept is pretty simple: there are four contestants, three courses, and four items in a "mystery" basket for each course.

The chefs must use every mystery basket ingredient in their dish, and at the end of each course, one of them gets chopped.

Mike adopted the same concept, except for the two of us, with no judging and no chopping. We were celebrating our anniversary after all (even though we were both after blood.)

He had me pick random numbers and he made a list of ingredients from past Chopped episodes, corresponding to a number. The day before, I picked 4 numbers at a time and he would unveil the ingredients for that course. It made the whole process even more fun because I got to think obsess about what I would make with watermelon, ground beef, polenta and granny smith apples (first course ingredients.)

I would absolutely do this again, it was so much fun. It would be great to do with friends and have actual judges too!

a few shots of the basket with ingredients (yes he even bought an actual basket!)

The dishes we each made are below. While we didn't determine a winner, Mike won out for...creativity...and I swept everything else :)

first course: watermelon, granny smith apples, ground beef and polenta

second course: country style pork ribs, beets, rutebega and 5 year aged gouda

last course: pitas, ritz cheese crackers, condensed milk and whiskey

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

a brief departure series: living room decorating

As mentioned last week, I have been on a fantasy decorating kick. I know decorating a place happens after you move in, but I am doing some preliminary research: acquiring ideas of color schemes and accessories I want, as well as ensuring the whole place is cohesive.

I love the idea of a simply colored couch, a basic but versatile coffee table and then accessorizing with some bright colors. The artwork below ties everything perfectly together in my non-existent living room apartment :)

PS-I am nowhere near moving, just to give you a look into just how obsessive I am about this.

And now--my future living room [ideas]

definitely looking at a teal/coral/yellow color scheme with a more neutral backdrop
clockwise from top: wooden coffee table; map of the world pillow; yellow "love" pillow found via; bright abstract print; california print; teal watercolor print; printed ottoman, sold out, similar items here; blue chair; neutral couch

Monday, August 5, 2013

weekend 5k & lemon blueberry muffins

Four years ago I made a new years resolution to run a 5k. And yesterday, I finally did it.

I am prone to shin splints when I run and was cursed with them worse than ever before while training for this 5k. I hate running, and I hate the shin splits that come along with it even more.

But I signed myself up for this and was committed to seeing it through.

And ya know what? It turned out to be awesome--the adrenaline from the experience, coupled with people on the sidelines cheering us on really kept me going.

my first every race bib!

After the race, Mike took me to brunch to celebrate before heading off to work. The BART workers are threatening to strike, which for anyone outside the Bay Area, would cripple this city.

I had the afternoon to myself to clean, do some laundry and pick up a few items to eat.

race day treat-fresh buratta. and I am my mothers daughter--wine of course

I was in a baking mood and came across a blueberry and lemon loaf recipe from smitten kitchen that I turned into muffins. Have I ever mentioned I love lemon? Well this recipe is chock full of them.

I followed her recipe exactly, except for a few small notes: I used an extra egg since I did not have extra large ones and I doubled the sugar for the glaze on top. The recipe also yielded more batter than she had advised--I was able to make 12 muffins as well as two mini loaves.

As with all of my baked goods, they came to work with me today because I can not have that temptation laying around..