Monthly Archives: March 2013

Perfectly Grilled Lamb Chops

Easter Sunday in my family is not a big holiday.  Depending on the year, sometimes my sister and I get in the spirit to color Easter eggs (yes, even though we’re adults with no children we still like to do this).  Usually we attempt to copy Martha Stewart’s latest egg coloring venture… and by “we” I mean my sister.  My attention span for coloring eggs runs out about two eggs into my dozen and I find myself wandering off to pet the dog or something equally as productive.  Meanwhile, my sister will be tediously coloring the most beautiful eggs you’ve ever seen.

She usually ends up helping me finish my eggs because all mine start looking the same.  I’ve perfected the sewage brown egg.  This color is achieved when you have little to no patience and you move your egg from one color to the next before the full intense color can set in and you get a mish-mash of a little bit of each color.  ALL my eggs seem to turn out that way.  If they weren’t chicken eggs and already hard-boiled, the color of this egg would indicate that the most ugly of all ducklings is destine to hatch from it.

Now that I’ve demonstrated what I’m NOT good at doing during the Easter holiday, let’s move onto what I CAN do.  Cook something good to eat that is a little more appealing than a sewage colored Easter egg.

Traditionally, Americans think of Easter brunch or dinner and they think of ham as the protein served.  However, before there was ham, there was lamb.  I looked up the tradition of meals served on Easter and found this quick blurb about why ham versus lamb.

Lamb is a hit or miss meat for me.  Sometimes I try it and it has such a potent, mangy taste that I can even stomach swallowing another bite.  Other times, (like in this recipe I will be sharing with you momentarily) it is so finger licking good!  The richness of the meat and slightly charred bone makes me momentarily forget my manners and want to start gnawing on the bone at the table, growling at anyone who dare try to pry this succulent morsel from my paws hands.

This is a really easy recipe.  Probably the easiest one yet.

Ingredients:

Lamb chops (as many as you’d like to serve)
Salt
Pepper

Directions:  Salt and pepper the lamb chops.  Heat the grill to medium-high temperature.  The key is to begin by grilling the lamb chops bone end down for 6-8 minutes.

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When the bone begins to bleed a little, you know it’s time to turn it on the side.  Grill each side for 1-2 minutes apiece until desired doneness is achieved and meat is slightly charred/crisped.

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Pull off the grill and rest the chops at least five minutes before serving.  By the by, this meat would go great with Worcestershire & Green Onion Rice.

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Trust me… even non-lamb lovers cannot deny the deliciousness of a perfectly cooked lamb chop.

Share, Tweet, Comment… let me know what you think. 🙂

Blueberry Coconut French Toast – tribute recipe to Nevada Softball

It’s springtime.  This time a year always holds a special place in my heart because it is softball season (more specifically Nevada Wolf Pack softball season) which means guaranteed volatile weather in Reno, NV.

This time of year makes me nostalgic.  I think back to those days when my biggest worries in life were studying for tests and just how much goose $h!t would be clumped onto the bottom of my cleats at the end of the day.  Why is it that geese love softball fields so much?? Can’t they go ruin soccer fields somewhere? They poo every 12 minutes you know… I looked it up here 7 years ago when I couldn’t comprehend why there was so much.

The things I miss and don’t miss the most were all the road trips to warmer places to play ball.  The memories that stand out the most are the times I spent with my ex-teammate off the field.  For example: I will never feel the same about Wendy’s or Denny’s.  Burnt out.  Thanks Michelle Gardner. 🙂

When I think of food and how much our team use to eat, one particular food stuck out in my mind.  Girls on the team were infatuated with ordering French toast.  Most wouldn’t even look at the menu.  Or one person would spot the French toast and bam – 10 orders of French toast, please.  I think it’s safe to say restaurants hated us.

Many of the wonderful women I played with have gone on to create successful careers for themselves, have beautiful families and are still just tremendously wonderful, beautiful women.   Believe it or not, you all helped inspire me to create this recipe and write about ‘the good ole days’.

Here’s to you Wolf Pack Softball! Tribute Blueberry (Nevada Blue) and Coconut (silver – use your imagination) French toast.

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Yield 9 pieces, approx. 3-4 servings

– Ingredients –

French Toast:
9 French bread slices (or sourdough which also makes a great French toast)
6 eggs
3 ½ Tbsp. Cream of Coconut (found in the liquor aisle in grocery store)
3 ½ Tbsp. cream
Shake of cinnamon
1 Tbsp. coconut spread (Purchased at the Great Basin Food Co-Op)

Blueberry Compote:
2 cups frozen blueberries
3 Tbsp. water
¼ sugar
2 Tsp. lemon juice

Follow this link: Blueberry compote for directions on how to cook this up.

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Coconut Drizzle: (replaces traditional syrup)
¼ cup Cream of Coconut
1 Tbsp. milk
Toasted coconut for topping.

Directions:  Start with making your blueberry compote (follow link above for directions.) Next, in a bowl large enough to fit a slice of your bread, combine eggs, cream of coconut and cream.  Add a shake of cinnamon.   Heat griddle on medium-high temperature.  Melt coconut spread on griddle.  Dredge bread in mixture, and grill until golden brown on each side.  As French toast cooks, make the coconut drizzle by missing the cream of coconut and milk together.  Once toast is golden brown on each side, top with blueberry compote, coconut drizzle and toasted coconut.

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Serve and enjoy!  Tell me what you think of this recipe.  Go Wolf Pack!

Worcestershire & Green Onion Rice – easy side dish

Today I share with you a very simple side dish to prepare with any meal.  This rice dish pairs nicely with almost any type of meat (fish, beef, chicken, lamb etc.)

On top of that, it’s really easy to make.  I know most people when in a rush will sometimes make RiceARoni or some other “instant rice” option to go along with their meal.  In my opinion, this rice dish is just as easy and healthier.

I think you might be able to use this cooking method with brown rice as well, but since I’ve never tried it, I’m not really going to suggest it.  However, if any of you culinary adventurers out there would like to give it a try with brown rice and let me know how it turns out, I’m all ears… or eyeballs since I will likely be reading your response.

*Disclaimer* I am guessing on some of these ingredient amounts because when I cook, I don’t often measure.  In this recipe, it’s important to measure your liquid to rice ratio correctly.  In the Nevada dry air, I use 1:2 rice to liquid ratio.  If you live in a more humid environment, you might scale back to 1: 1.5 ratio.

Ingredients:
1 cup white rice
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup green onion sliced

Directions:

Begin by getting out a large pot with lid to cook the rice.  Melt the butter in the pan then pour in the rice.  Toast the rice until grains become opaque…i.e. they turn white, maybe a little brown from being toasted.  Be sure to continue to monitor and stir the rice to ensure even toasting.EasyRice1

Once all the grains appear toasted, pour 1 cup of the liquid onto the rice.  Pan is hot! It should sizzle very nicely… allow it to bubble.  This is what makes the rice “puff” up.  Add the remaining liquid, bring the liquid up to a boil, then immediately turn to low temperature and put on the lid.  Allow to simmer and cook the rice, should take about 15-20 minutes.EasyRice2

Meanwhile (if you haven’t already done it) you can chop your green onion.  I generally use 2 green onions, thinly sliced.

20 minutes has passed, rice is cooked, and liquid is absorbed.  Toss in the green onion and pour in some Worcestershire sauce with about one turn around the pot (I don’t measure, I just season for what I think looks appetizing, try not to over do it.)EasyRice3EasyRice4

Fluff with spoon.  Rice is ready.  Enjoy.

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Tell me what you think of this dish!

Spicy Thai Green Papaya Salad

Thailand is a country that is at the top of my “Places to Visit” list.  I’ve heard from so many people about the beauty, the beaches, the people, and (of course) the food.  Since I don’t have Thailand on the travel docket for this year, I had to settle for a “staycation” and indulge in authentic Thai food.

My friend, Mimi, who is from Thailand, but now lives in Lake Tahoe and owns Mimi’s Authentic Thai Massage, was gracious enough to share one of her true home cookin’ recipes with me.  I’ve eaten at plenty of Thai restaurants and I’ve never had a salad quite like this.  Don’t be fooled by the name.  Most American’s hear “papaya” and they think fruit, so they think sweet.  Like any fruit salad you’ve had before.  This salad isn’t sweet.  It’s spicy and savory (well… as savory as spicy can be).

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This salad would be a great side dish to fish or chicken.  It can be prepared without the vermicelli noodles if you’re aiming for a “low carb” option.  I do not recommend omitting the sugar, but you can substitute it with a sweetener of your choice, but I can’t guaranty the flavor results with that.  I personally like how real sugar tastes in cooking.

There was MSG used in the batch I had, but it was so small, it didn’t bother me.  It was less than a pinch.  I listed it in the ingredients below because that is how this recipe was taught to me. Its purpose in this salad is to add salt.  So my recommendation to you is to substitute salt if MSG sends you running and screaming towards the hills.

Some of these ingredients may be hard to find at the regular grocery store.  So I recommend hitting up International Market in town.

Equipment Needed:

Mortar and Pestle

Ingredients:
1 green papaya grated
6 red Thai chilies
3 garlic cloves
12-14 cherry or grape tomatoes halved
1 T lime juice
1 tsp fish sauce
A small pinch of MSG (substitute Salt if desired)
1 tsp white sugar

Directions:  Start by peeling, removing seeds then grating/shredding your green papaya, set aside. (You may want to YouTube how this is done, it’s easier than me describing it)  Next, remove the stems of the red Thai chilies and peel the garlic.  Throw them in your pestle and start smashing.  Next add the fish sauce, lime juice, MSG (or salt) and sugar.  Combine with using pestle.  Next throw in your halved cherry or grape tomatoes and also mix them in.  You should now have a fragrant dressing to add to the previously grated papaya.

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If you don’t have a pestle large enough to hold all the papaya and sauce for combining, I suggest portioning out the sauce and doing it in batches.  Or you can transfer it all to a larger bowl and add the dressing on top.  You really want to work the dressing into the papaya.  It’s like you want to smash and rub the dressing in, don’t simply toss it.

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As the salad rests, the flavors deepen and get all friendly with each other, prepare your vermicelli noodles.  The noodles are meant as an accent to the dish to help with the spiciness.  The noodles are not the main event.  Therefore, approximately a quarter size (yes, like $0.25 piece) diameter of dry noodles should be plenty to compliment the dish. That’s total. Not per person.  Boil water and cook noodles until soft.  Drain and cool.

Top vermicelli noodles with papaya salad and enjoy!

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Tell me what you think of this post, have you had spicy Thai green papaya salad before?

Ruben Soup

Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner which means it’s that time of year again for corned beef and cabbage.  It seems that there is always leftover corned beef and if you’re anything like me, having this cut of meat once a year is more than plenty.  A Ruben sandwich however gets my taste buds excited all year round.  The combination of corned beef, sauerkraut, rye bread and Thousand Island dressing makes for a potent flavorful packed delight.

It seems wasteful to not eat the leftovers, but eating regular ole corned beef, floppy cabbage and potatoes doesn’t appeal to me.  So, I came up with this soup as an alternative.  This is a good recipe to do the day after or several days after the St. Patty’s day feast.  The version I created uses the leftover broth/liquid left in the crockpot after cooking the corned beef.  If you’re reading this recipe after you’ve already discarded the liquid, no worries, just use a beef broth as substitute.

After cooking your corned beef, reserve the leftover liquid from the pot in a bowl or large measuring cup.  Refrigerate overnight so that the fat solidifies on the surface and can be removed.

For the crouton, I thought it would be delicious to bake the Thousand Island dressing flavor into the crouton.  This step can be skipped, but I think it added a nice layer of flavor.

Recipe – Yields 4 Servings

– Equipment Needed –
4 Oven safe soup bowls

– Ingredients –

For soup:
1/2 large onion sliced
2 ribs celery diced
1.5-2 cups diced or shredded corned beef
4 cups reserved liquid from cooked corned beef in crockpot
3-4 cups water
1.5 cups sauerkraut
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

For Crouton:
Rye Bread
Thousand Island dressing
(I made my own with 1 Tbsp mayo, approx. 1 Tbsp Ketchup, and 1/2 Tbsp relish)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees to make croutons. In a large soup pot, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil at a medium heat to cook the onions until slightly caramelized. Add diced celery and cook another 3 minutes. Add the corned beef and allow to continue to cook.Diptic

Next, add the reserved broth from crockpot, and 3-4 cups water to taste. (You want the broth to not be too salty, which is why the water is added to dilute.) Crank up heat an allow to come to a boil. While waiting for the soup to come to a boil, cut the rye bread into a circular size to match the bowls in which you will be serving the soup. Lightly coat one side with Thousand Island dressing and bake in oven for 8 minutes.photo-2

Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce temperature and allow to simmer another 5 minutes.

Serve into oven safe bowls, float the baked crouton and top with a handful of cheese. Place back into oven and melt cheese until it gets bubbly and brown.

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It comes out screaming hot! Allow to cool slightly and enjoy.

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Breakfast Quinoa Bake

QuinoaBakeI like having options when it comes to breakfast.  I especially love it when I find something I can make once on Sunday that can carry me through the week so that I’m not hustling around for breakfast in the morning when trying to leave on time for work.

This recipe does exactly that.  One dish made on Sunday, divided and portioned into containers for the week and it reheats well.

Also, the nice thing about this recipe is that it is versatile.  While I chose to make the version below with broccoli and feta cheese, the possibilities are endless.  Chopped up ham and cheddar, spinach and Parmesan, sautéed mushroom with Gruyere and Rosemary…. mouth is watering.

This recipe is adapted from Whole Foods, but my changes are minor.  For those of you who have not tried quinoa, or don’t even know what quinoa is, this is a great starter recipe to try it out.  The quinoa settles to the bottom of the dish to create a nice “crust.”

One of the things I learned is that you should wet/soak the quinoa prior to putting it in the egg mixture for two reasons.

1.  It never hurts to rinse a grain, or in this case, seed, prior to cooking to remove any dirt or sediment.

2.  Wetting the quinoa helps it be heavier and sink to the bottom better.  The first time I tried this, I omitted the soaking/wetting step thinking I knew better.  Well, turns out I did not know better.  This is an important step to complete to ensure the recipe turns out correctly.

Prep comes together quickly.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  I do recommend fresh veggies as opposed to frozen because frozen veggies can release more liquid and turn your egg mixture runny, and hence, takes much longer to bake through.

Ingredients:
½ tsp butter
1 cup quinoa (original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I like a thicker crust)
8 eggs
1 ¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tsp garlic
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 cups fresh broccoli
1 cup feta cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 x 8 metal or glass baking dish with the butter and set aside.

Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cold water.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic, milk and rinsed quinoa.  Next stir in the broccoli florets and half of the feta cheese.  Pour entire mixture into pre-greased baking dish.  Jiggle the dish gently side to side to allow the quinoa to settle to the bottom.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, the egg should be set.  Remove the foil and add the other half of feta to the top, and back for another 10-15 minutes.

After baking, allow to cool, and serve.

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Tell me what you think of this recipe!

Four Cheese Lasagna Roll Ups with Swiss Chard and Prosciutto

In 2008 I had the pleasure of doing a two-week tour through Italy.  During the two weeks, I visited Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Florence, Venice, Milan, La Spezia, Cinque Terra, Pisa and the Vatican City.  When I think Italy, I think GOOD FOOD (yeah..and history, art, the Vatican…) but most importantly the FOOD.

CindyinItalyOne of the many things I love about travel (especially travel abroad) is that it expands my food horizons even further.  I know, I know…Italian food is prevalent in the US, but nothing beats eating food in the country of its origin.  I’ve most recently discovered this website, Eating Italy Food Tours.  Now, here is a company who is after my own heart.  Travel but the itinerary is about food?? Oh. Hell. Yes.

There was plenty of delicious food consumed during the two weeks while I was there.  Among my favorites were spaghetti alla carbonara in Rome, mushroom risotto at some random over-the-highway pit stop, and white pizza in Rome at some little place right next to the Trevi Fountain.  If Italian food wasn’t one of my favorite foods before going to Italy, it certainly was after I got back.

That’s what leads me to this recipe here.  This recipe is a labor of love.  Not something you’re going to whip up for a quick and easy dinner.  Reserve this recipe for when you have time to cook, as there are several steps involved.  Of course, you can take some short cuts like substituting premade sauces for the homemade sauces, but that’s up to you.

Ingredients:
9 lasagna noodles
¼ lb sliced prosciutto
1 bunch swiss chard
1 16 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup grated asiago cheese
1 cup grated fontinella cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Béchamel sauce: (follow link for instructions)
1 1/4 cup milk
2 T butter
2 T flour
Sprinkle of nutmeg

La salsa de 5 minuti: (follow link for instructions)
4 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Dried crushed red pepper
1 28 oz can canned peeled plum tomatoes, pureed
Salt
3 fresh basil leaves, torn

Directions:

Begin by preparing the la salsa de 5 minuti.  Prepare this first because then it can sit and get all yummy together while you prepare the other items.  Boil your lasagna noodles until ¾ cooked.  Don’t over do it, because mushy noodles don’t hold together well for rolling.  Wash and blanch the swiss chard.  Combine Asiago cheese, Fontinella cheese and Ricotta cheese together in a bowl.  Before assembling lasagna rolls, prepare your béchamel sauce to be the bottom sauce in the pan.  Lastly, preheat your oven to 350.  Then it’s time to assemble.

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First spread the cheese mixture, layer on the swiss chard, then layer on the prosciutto.

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Roll them up and place them in the pan on top of the béchamel sauce.  Top with la salsa di 5 minuti and mozzarella cheese.

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Bake at 350 degrees until sauce is bubbling (about 20 minutes).

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Tell me what you think of this recipe.  Enjoy!