12.29.2009

Christmas Bliss

This year, Christmas was spent in Montauk, NY.
For my friend's overseas, or for those who just don't know,
Montauk is the eastern most point of New York and is on the little fish shaped island called Long Island.
It was a beautiful white Christmas.
Below are some photos from the day,
and I'll even share a 7 Fishes Christmas Eve recipe with you...
(recipe below) 


















































































































































































































7 Fishes Dinner for 3
This dish is great served with baked pasta, salad, and/or crusty bread.

Ingredients: 
2 1/2 cups washed and peeled shrimp (cooked or uncooked, just adjust your overall cooking time)
1 1/2 cups cleaned fresh scallops
1 15oz can cannellini beans
1 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 stick butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan, extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Prepare your ingredients. Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium. Add the onions and garlic with a little salt and pepper. Cook until tender- About 10 minutes. Add the wine and let reduce for 5 minutes. Add in butter, beans, and tomatoes. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in fish and cook until the fishes are opaque in color. Add in fresh herbs and cheese and let cheese melt. Garnish with more cheese when serving. This dish is like a thick stew or italian goulash. It's amazing! You do not have to literally cook 7 types of fish to enjoy this Italian tradition. Buone Feste!

12.28.2009

Cookie Time!



Happy Holidays everyone! I have been super busy but am excited to have the whole week off and can get back to blogging, relaxing, and doing the things I love most. First up, is baking cookies. The holidays may be over, but I'm always up for a great cookie! This year, I made Wedding Cookies and Holiday Inspired Sugar Cookies. Take a look below, and I even give you one of my secrets when it comes to fabulous cookies!
Wedding Cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds (I used 1/2 pecan 1/2 almond)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for rolling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Cream butter or margarine in a bowl, gradually add confectioners' sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add almonds and vanilla. Blend in flour gradually and mix well.
  3. Shape into balls (or crescents) using about 1 teaspoon for each cookie. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake for 15-20 min. Do not brown. Cool slightly, then roll in the extra confectioners' sugar.

Now, this recipe is for up to 80 cookies. If you are not in the mood to make that many... just click here and the recipe adjuster will help you out!

Holiday Inspired Sugar Cookies


Ingredients
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Again, this can make up to 4 dozen. So use the recipe adjuster. And if you are like me and love chewier cookies... here's my secret tip: UNDERCOOK YOUR COOKIES BY 1-2 MINUTES and say goodbye to hard cookies!

When it comes to decorating you cookies... do what you want. I used holiday cookie cutters to start. After baking and cooling, I frosted the cookies with some store-bought vanilla icing and sprinkled them all will red and green sugar sprinkles.


And just when you thought I was going to turn off my oven, I gave Federica's Yogurt and Chocolate Plum Cake a try. I'll admit that converting the grams to US measurements was tricky, and I have no idea if I did it correctly, but it tasted delicious so that must be a good sign!



I am very excited to be back and can't wait to see how all of your holidays have been! I have a lot to blog about this week and into the new year so stay tuned!

12.16.2009

Chicken Soup for the Cold

Baby, it's cold outside! At least up north it is... Here is a refreshing yet warming soup that will make you feel cozy and satisfied.


INGREDIENTS


-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-2 medium white onions (diced)
-3 garlic cloves (minced or grated into paste)
-4 medium carrots (skin shaved and cut into 1 inch think pieces)
-2 medium parsnips ((skin shaved and cut into 1 inch think pieces)
-1 pint cremini or baby portobelllo mushrooms (washed and halved)
-1 pint shataki mushrooms (washed and halved)
-1 pint cherry tomatoes
-1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
-1 sprig thyme (drop in whole on the stem, remove before serving)
-1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
-salt and pepper to taste
-2 boxes (32oz each) chicken (or vegetable) stock
-3 lemons (zested and juices)
-1 rind of a parmesan cheese wheel.
-1 store bought Rotisserie chicken (or 1 chicken you've cooked. You need about 2-3 cups of meat. Or substitute White Beans for the chicken and make it vegetarian)
-4 oz your choice of pasta. I used fresh linguine from store.
-1/2 cup freshly chopped basil
-1/2 cup freshly chopped italian parsley
-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese to garnish plates

DIRECTIONS


Heat olive oil in large soup pot on stove. Add onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf to pot. Let cook and tenderize for about 7 minutes. Don't let the garlic burn! Add in stock, lemon zest and juice, chicken (or beans), and parmesan rind. Let cook to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Make sure the parmesan rind does not stick to the bottom of pot. Keep stirring! 10 minutes before serving, add the pasta to the soup. Let cook until pasta is al dente. Lower heat to just keep warm. Remove bay leave and thyme stem. Add in fresh herbs. When serving, garnish the soup with grated parmesan, and any left over herbs. Add a little pepper too.


I served this soup with garlic bread. Just get your favorite baguette. Cut lengthwise then in about 4-5 inch pieces. Grate garlic into paste and spread 1 garlic clove paste per each piece of bread. Top bread with a little butter, parmesan, tomato halves and basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake in oven at 400 until cheese is melted and bread is crispy!

12.15.2009

Christmas Time in the City!

And tis the season for the stink eye! Meaning this: If you are going to go see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in NYC, follow my rules:

1) Go early in the morning or late at night.
2) DO NOT push your kids in strollers if you go during rush hour. You WILL get the stink eye from the crowd! (see rule number 1)
3) When Hark, How The Bells starts playing full blast do not be alarmed. It's coming from Saks Fifth Ave. But please don't stop and stare in the middle of the crowd. You will get the stink eye!
4) You MUST wait on line to go ice skating, to get up close to see the tree, and to see all of the store windows. No pushing. You WILL get the stink eye!

And now, for what you've really been waiting for. The pictures!













12.14.2009

Truffled Chicken with Goat Cheese Orzo... and Wine!

This recipe is super fast and easy, and when the word "truffle" makes it to any title of a recipe, it's definitely going to be good!

INGREDIENTS:
4 pieces of your favorite cut of chicken
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon butter (broken into little pieces)
1 tablespoon each of dried: Oregano, rosemary, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil infused with white truffles (or reg white truffle oil)
1/2 cup chicken stock (if you aren't using the rest of the stock for something else and you bought a big box, use that to cook the pasta instead of water!)
1 pound orzo (or your favorite small/short pasta)
1/2 cup pasta water (reserved from pasta cooking)
2 pints cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup goat cheese (crumbled)
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup freshly chopped basil
1/4 cup freshly chopped italian parsley
Extra salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat oven to 350.  Start up the heat on the water for pasta in a large pan. In an oven safe pan, place the chicken pieces top side down first. Season bottoms with 1/2 the oregano, rosemary, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Turn meat over and season the other side with the remaining spices. Add chicken stock to pan. Spread the butter bits and the truffle oil over each piece of chicken. Roast chicken according to the type of chicken you used. I cooked chicken thighs for about 20 minutes. While the chicken is cooking and the water is boiling, add the pasta tp the boiling water. Cook pasta til al dente (about 8 minutes). After pasta is drained, add it back to the pot. Don't forget to save 1/2 cup cooking water! Add that water to the cooked pasta. Add the cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, remaining butter, and fresh herbs to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the hot pasta until the cheeses and butter has melted. When the chicken is done and you are ready to plate, place a piece of the chicken over a nice helping of the pasta. Spoon some of the cooking juices from the chicken over the top of the dish! YUMMY!

Now, what wine shall we pair this with? Well, the wine I tried with this meal really complimented it. You know you've found a great pairing of wine and food when the two together almost create another wonderful taste in your mouth. For this meal, I chose (and drank) Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a great wine for the holidays! Bring it to parties!

12.09.2009

Cheesy, Italian, & Comforting!

The other night I was hungry and did not know what to make. So, without any previous prep or research, I dug into my fridge and created this cheesy Italian pasta that satisfied all of my senses.

Ingredients
-1 pound Penne Pasta
-1 bay leaf
-2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 bulb fennel (chopped)
-1 white onion (finely chopped)
-1 tbs red pepper flakes
-salt and pepper
-3 garlic cloves (minced)
-3 cups whole mini heirloom tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
-1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
-3 handfuls grated Parmesan cheese
-1 tbs butter
-1/4 cup freshly chopped basil

Directions
Prep/chop all vegetables before water boils!

Fill a large pot (for pasta) with water, salt, and 1 bay leaf. Add pasta when water boils. Cook until al dente (8-12 min).

As the pasta cooks, add the olive oil to another skillet. Turn heat on medium. When oil is hot, add fennel, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for 5 minutes or until veggies get tender. Add in the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for another 7-10 or until the tomatoes start to burst.

Meanwhile, drain the cooked pasta. Remove the bay leaf! Add pasta back to pot with 1 tbs butter and stir until melted. Before all tomatoes burst (you want some whole ones, trust me!) add the mascarpone cheese and cook until the cheese has melted and created a creamy sauce. When the sauce is creamy, add to the pasta. Toss in 2 handfuls of the parmesan cheese and the basil. You can even garnish a little more of the cheese, basil, salt and pepper on individual servings.

This is really good. Really really good! Enjoy!

12.08.2009

My Holiday Decor

Here's a look at the Christmasy decor in my apartment. A simple trip to Michaels, and the fact that they are selling trees RIGHT OUTSIDE my building helped! Hurry up and get to Michaels if you have any last minute decorating needs. 50% off blowout sale!!!
I did simple things like stringing garland around the tree.
Arranging candles with twigs and berries.
Taking the trimmings from the tree and
creating green arrangements with holly and other xmasy things.
Simplicity is key.






12.07.2009

SAVORY Shrimp Scampi


Ever have a little shrimp cocktail leftover after a holiday feast? Here is the perfect recipe to get rid of that shrimp! If your shrimp is already cooked, just cook all of the ingredients (sans shrimp) for the 5-6 minutes. Add the shrimp for maybe 2-3 minutes to just heat through. DO NOT OVER COOK... yuck!








Ingredients
  • Salt
  • 1 pound YOUR FAVORITE LONG pasta
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
  • 2 lemons, 1 sliced and 1 juiced
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pitted/sliced kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook til just-shy of al dente. Remove pasta. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
Over low heat melt the butter in small pot, then stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat...Add the shrimp with the lemon slices. Add the white wine. Cook until the shrimp are pink, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. Stir in kalamata olives.Transfer to a serving bowl. Add the pasta and reserved liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley, basil and cheese before serving.

Tangy Goat Cheese and Dill Potato Salad




This is BY FAR my favorite potato salad recipe. Please note my adjustments. So yummy!! And I'll NEVER use MAYO again!










Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds diced Yukon gold potatoes ( I USED RED POTATOES)
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine or 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I USED CHAMPAGNE VINEGAR)
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup yogurt, creme fraiche, or sour cream (I USED 2% FAGE GREEK YOGURT)
  • lemon, juiced (I USED THE ZEST TOO)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely grated or minced (I USED 2 GARLIC CLOVES)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dill
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped, whites and greens
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 dill pickles, chopped (I DID NOT USE PICKLES. THERE'S ENOUGH DILL AND TANG HAPPENING...)
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced ( I USED MY AWESOME MANDOLIN TO SLICE THESE BABIES UP!)

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. I PUT 2 BAY LEAVES IN THE WATER. Salt the water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
When the potatoes are cooked, return them to the hot pot and douse with a splash of wine or a couple tablespoons of white wine vinegar. (REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES)
In a bowl, whisk together the goat cheese, yogurt, creme fraiche or sour cream, lemon juice,olive oil, and garlic. Toss the potatoes, dill and scallions in the dressing and season with salt and pepper. Garnish the salad with chopped pickles and thinly sliced radishes and serve.

And while I made this dish the boyfriend trimmed the tree. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

12.03.2009

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables



This is a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe that I tweaked ever so slightly. Very delish, but NOT for those that don't like vegetables!

Ingredients

  • 2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
  • 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes (I USED ONLY 1)
  • 2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 cremini mushrooms, halved (I USED 1 PINT OF BABY PORTOBELLOS)
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips (I USED 1 RED ONION)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence (I USED HERBES DE PROVENCE)
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella (I USED REG MOZZARELLA...I didn't want the smokey flavor)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.