Monthly Archives: January 2011

Today is January 31st. Do you know what that means?

Happy Monday my friends!  Before you start grumbling under your breath about there being no such thing as a happy Monday, prepare yourself.  Grab a cup of coffee and spend the next few minutes at work (or at home) in the sweetest form of escapism that exists.  For the next few minutes, I invite you to dive into the sweet and delicious compilation of treats that have been gathered on two wonderful sites.

The first party is taking place over at Steph’s Bite by Bite blog.  At 7am this morning, the auction opened for bidding on all of the baked goods that were donated for Steph’s bake sale.  Her Team in Training is working to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  It is such an important cause and one that is very dear to me.  Please run (not walk!) yourself over to her site and consider bidding on those delicious treats!

The second party is being hosted by Nancy over at Spicie Foodie.  The Your Best Recipe roundup is a collection of dishes that participating bloggers have contributed.  Each month, we get to pick our favorite dish that we made and share it with the awesome community of readers on her blog.

Come on, isn’t this a great way to start a new week?  You get to contribute to a great cause and drool over a collection of delicious recipes!  Can us food blog readers ask for more on a Monday morning?  I think not!

The last thing I wanted to share with you is my *happy dance*!  On Saturday afternoon, I received in the mail a treat that I had been hoping for ever since she announced it’s release.  It’s Nancy’s cookbook!  I can’t wait to try the different recipes and drool over the phenomenal photography on each page.

I hope you guys have a great Monday and an awesome week.  Please be sure to stop by Steph’s and Nancy’s today!


Chicken Penne Pasta

Well, here we are.  It is finally Friday of what has been a long and very busy week.  But the weekend is finally upon us, and I have plenty of fun plans to celebrate the last three days of the Triangle Restaurant Week!

Since the last few days have been so packed, I planned ahead with the week’s menu and made a sauce that would last me for a few lunch and dinner meals.

Before you gasp at the quantities listed in the ingredients to the left, know that I doubled the recipe so that I could have enough to last us over a few days.  And, if you’re normal (unlike me) you can make enough pasta in advance so that all you have to worry about is reheating it in the microwave.

However, if you aren’t normal (like me) and you have a thing against reheated pasta, then you’ll have to take an extra couple of minutes into account in prepping the leftovers.  Don’t roll your eyes!  I’m not imagining it (I don’t think..)!  The consistency of pasta changes once it has been microwaved.  It gets gummy, or hard and it just bugs me.  All this means is that you have to warm up water in a tiny pot just for pasta.  It will take an extra 15 minutes, but it’s worth it to me to have freshly cooked past.  (Ok… I suppose it’s silly enough that you can roll your eyes…)

The recipe is adapted from Spitler & Yoakam’s 1,001 Best Low-Fat Recipes, and is very simple and versatile.  If you are of the vegetarian persuasion, you can simply omit the chicken and have a very flavorful dish.  Even if you aren’t vegetarian, I don’t think you would miss the chicken if you left it out.  There are enough harmonious notes in the dish to keep your palette intrigued.  The only thing I will try changing next time is the olives.  The black olives were nice, but I’d like to taste what kalamata olives would do to the flavor.

It’s time to start getting ready to close up shop and let the Friday fun begin!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Bake Sale for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Before I get to the who, what, where, and when, I want to start with the why.  When I was first contacted to participate, I had a moment of hesitation.  I thought: “surely she doesn’t want me to help out.  I’m just a rookie who would be playing with with pros!”  But then I thought about him.

This is Matt.  I met Matt the first day of fourth grade in Mrs. Nason’s class.  He sat in the row next to me all year.  Over the next few years, Matt and I hung out during various school activities like orchestra and safety patrols.  He was always nice to me despite my  general bratiness that accompanied being a pre-teen.  I could tell you so many wonderful stories about him…

The summer after our eighth grade year, my family moved back to Brazil.  Matt was one of the only people who kept in contact with me during our time abroad.  (Keep in mind we were getting ready to enter high school and email wasn’t as widely used back then, so this took some effort.)  We kept in touch over the years and as technology (i.e. AIM) became popular, we were able to check in on each other.

When I moved back to the States for college, I visited him every time I could when I found myself back in Virginia.  Matt was one of those rare guys that actually picked up the phone to catch up.  He didn’t rely solely on technology to keep up with friends.  One day, though, I got a call I didn’t want.  Matt told me that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here was a healthy, athletic, young guy who was in the ROTC program… how could it be?  Over the next few years, I saw one of the most exemplary displays of human resilience.  He even beat it into remission for a short time…

Matt was 24 when he passed away.  The picture above was taken the last time I saw him.  It was taken several months before things got bad.  Although it has been almost three years since he passed, I still can’t bring myself to delete his cel phone number from my phone.  So it’s him.  Matt’s the reason I agreed to join.

Now let us cover the other w‘s of this event.

The who is the organizer of this event.  Steph and I started this blogging adventure around the same time and we’ve kept up with each other’s sites over the past few months.  In addition to being a great cook, Steph is a runner.  She recently joined a ‘team in training’ in order to prepare for the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon.  As part of their preparation, they are hoping to raise $1,900 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  (This is where she got creative!)  Steph had the idea of organizing an online bake sale (what) and asked a bunch of us foodie bloggers to donate a baked good to the sale.

The event will be hosted on Steph’s site (where) and will take place on Monday, January 31 (when).  For all of the rules and information you will need, and to see a list of the participating bloggers, please click here.

There are some heavy-weights contributing to this bake sale, so in an attempt to compete, I have been testing different recipes to find something that is both tempting and will ship well!  Out of the three baking experiments I have attempted over the last two weeks, this Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie was by far the best.  I found the recipe while flipping around Martha Stewart’s site.

The idea behind this cookie is that it has a chocolate cookie base (which is exquisite on its own!) and then you drop it into a bowl of sugar, cinnamon, and CHILI POWDER!  Seriously though, how good does that sound?

Because this was an experiment, I had to have a control.  There  were three batches that were made.  The first was simply the cookie dough without the interesting step.  The second was the cookie rolled in a sugar, cinnamon, and just a teeny bit of chili powder (i.e. the amount asked for in the recipe).  The third batch was rolled in bowl that had a good amount chili powder (it wasn’t an exaggerated amount, just a little over what the recipe calls for).

The first batch was scrumptious.  The dough could definitely stand on its own.  The second batch was enjoyable because you had the complementing flavors of the cocoa with barely a hint of the chili powder.  The third batch… oh the third batch… it was by far was the best.  There was no mistaking the brilliance of the recipe and why the flavors are infused into one mouthwatering treat.

See?  Don’t you want some?  You know you do.  It’s a great way to ease the guilt of indulging in this scrumptious treat.  It’s okay to eat it because it’s for a good cause…

There you have it.  This Mexican Hot Chocolate cookie is my contribution to Steph’s bake sale and it is baked with all of my love in memory of my friend Matt.  I hope you will consider bidding for it on Monday, January 31st!

Spicy Beef Roast & Potato Cakes

A few nights ago, the pelirojo took charge of supper by making his famous blue cheese steaks and mashed potatoes.  The meal was delicious (as usual) and left us with a big tupperware full of leftover mashed potatoes.  Do you know what we do with leftover mashed potatoes in this house?  We make potato cakes!

Knowing what to do with the potatoes was the easy part.  Now came the hard part: finding a new recipe that would produce some sauce or broth to spoon over the cakes.

Enter one of my new cookbooks: 1,001 Best Low-Fat Recipes by Sue Spitler.  I found a delicious recipe for a beef roast that had a really interesting combination of ingredients for the rub.  The apricot preserves combined with the mustard and horseradish made my mouth salivate enough to add the ingredients to the grocery list.  After a quick trip to the store, I had everything I needed to start.

The recipe originally asks you to roast the roast (hehe) in the oven, but I liked the thought of throwing it in the crock pot and forgetting about it until supper time.  After measuring out the first five ingredients into a bowl, I got to bust out my mortar and pestle to crush the caraway seeds and the peppercorns.  I added the crushed spices and the allspice into the bowl, stirred everything well, and then smeared it onto the roast.  The roast went into the crock pot with a bit of beef broth (to assist with the juiciness) for four hours.

During the last hour of the beef’s cooking time, I started working on shaping the mashed potatoes into little cakes.  Once I achieved the desired shape, I dropped each cake into a mixture of corn meal, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.  During this step of the process, the mashed potatoes start warming up in your hands from being handled.  For this reason, after I shaped the cakes and covered them in the meal mix, I put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes.  This helps the cakes to keep their form during the frying process.  While they were chilling in the freezer, I started warming up the olive oil in a frying pan.  I used the wooden spoon trick to see if the oil was ready and then dropped the cakes in one by one.

The hardest part of frying the cakes is trying to flip them over without them falling apart.  I can never get them to look particularly pretty, but this batch turned out just how I wanted them.  The outside of the cakes was a crispy golden color and the texture was perfect to accompany the roast.  The beef turned out juicy and tender, and the broth that was left behind was great for spooning over the cakes.

It’s hard to go wrong with this kind of combination.  Meat and potatoes always go well together, no?  The kick of the beef’s seasoning was unique, bold, and incredibly flavorful.  It’s definitely a ‘keeper’ recipe!


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