Monday, November 7, 2011

Mac and Cheese

It's been a while since I've updated this blog with a new recipe. Here in Utah we've moved from warm weather in early fall to cold days with occasional small snowstorms, which have left accumulation in the mountains on the Wasatch Front.

So during these winter-like days I am craving and making comfort food. For those of you that are familiar with my cooking style, you know that I try to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients. I avoid eating processed foods - heck, when I lived in DC for the last 6 years I never owned a microwave. I do however have a weakness, and it's Stouffer's mac and cheese - I LOVE it! Even when I was microwave free I would buy it (on occasion) and bake it in my oven, which was a 45 minute commitment to get my cheesy, starchy fix.

I've made mac and cheese from scratch at home and it has never really satisfied my craving - somehow it's always been granular and lacking in flavor. So this week I attempted to make macaroni and cheese again, learning from my many mistakes in the past, and I feel like I finally found a recipe that's a keeper. It isn't low fat, and it's not healthy, but it's good, tasty, comfort food at its best.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Niçoise Salad

It's officially Fall, and I am basking in the sunny, warm days of Utah. Since we had a late growing season here. I am  taking full advantage and stocking up on the great end-of-summer produce that's overflowing from my local farmers market. This week I got ripe tomatoes, green and yellow wax beans, and the sweetest corn on the cob. To utilize my great produce and use some recently gifted items, I decided that a niçoise salad would be an appropriate dish for an early dinner.

The niçoise salad is from Provence, traditionally consisting of fresh vegetables, hard boiled egg, canned tuna, anchovies, and olives (specifically niçoise olives). In my version I decided to use the principle of local seasonal ingredients to build my salad. It's not a traditional niçoise but everything was chosen based on what's in peak season, in my pantry, available to me in the market, and - most importantly - what I love!

My parents visited recently and brought me some high quality canned tuna from their last visit with Sasha in Victoria. The tuna was the perfect protein for this healthy salad. I bought lettuce and potatoes from the grocery store to go with my seasonal produce from the farmers market. I also have fresh eggs from a neighbor with a chicken coop. Fresh eggs from free-grazing chickens are something special! Just look at the color of the yolk - orange, vibrant, and so incredibly flavorful! I love oil-cured olives and decided that I would forgo the traditional niçoise olive in this recipe to get in a few of these delicious ones instead. Here's my version - delicious, healthy, and satisfying!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wasabi Soy Salmon with Pineapple Fried Rice & Pickled Daikon

I recently bought some amazingly fresh wild Copper River salmon and have been brainstorming ways to do this fish justice. Here's what popped into my head - pineapple fried rice with salmon and pickled daikon. The pineapple fried rice is sweet, savory, spicy and tart, and it pairs nicely with the rich buttery salmon. To tie it all together I pickled radish and cucumber to cut the fattiness of the fish and to highlight the freshness of the herbs in the rice. This meal was outstanding! The fried rice was my favorite - the flavor combination of sweet, salty, spicy, and tart transported me back to the streets of Bangkok.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Made it! Salty Oat Cookies

These salty oat cookies are something special. Sasha and I have been making these cookies for the last couple of years and getting rave reviews from friends and family. This recipe has been tried, tested and approved!

I love this cookie because it's easy and versatile - I've made this recipe with raisins, craisins, dried blueberries and cherries. I'm not a huge fan of nuts in my cookies, so, I leave them out. Go ahead and make your favorite salty oat cookie. Below, I'll tell you how I made mine!

Everyone has a favorite dried fruit, and right now mine happens to be cherries. Sweet and tart, these goodies are my current addiction, so they had to make an appearance in my cookie post. I also added 1/4 of a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to make this a "chocolate salty oat cookie." I love the combination of chocolate and cherry. Since I live in the mountains now I left out the baking soda and baking powder because I didn't want to make it too cake-y. I also added nutmeg to the recipe to give it more spice. I was thinking about adding cayenne pepper but decided to hold off - perhaps next time?

If you're like me and have a hard time just eating one cookie, here's a great tip to conserve the waistline. Take the cookie batter and mold it into a log that has about a 2-inch diameter. Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and freeze. When you are craving your salty sweet snack, just cut a slice off the cookie dough log and bake in the oven.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Made It! Sweet Corn Salad

I made this sweet corn salad for a potluck BBQ the other day and received rave reviews. I altered Lisa's recipe quite a bit, to cater to my own taste buds.
Rather than raw corn, I decided to use grilled corn - to give the salad some extra flavor. I love the taste of grilled corn, but sadly I don't have access to a grill or gas stove. However, I discovered that you can "grill" corn right on top of the burners of an electric stove. Simply turn the burner on the highest setting and place the corn on top for a few seconds, rotating the corn until all the sides have some grill marks. Adding this simple step gives the corn a deeper, subtly smokey flavor. To the salad, I also added cucumber, avocado, and cilantro. I omitted the red onion since I don't like the taste of it raw. Instead, I minced a shallot and added it to the lime. The acidity of the lime breaks down the shallot to mellow its flavor. I also added a good quality olive oil to the dressing. That was it!!! This salad is so simple and quick to prepare. Just a few veggies to chop, a dressing to whisk together, mix it all together and you're ready to enjoy this healthy, fresh, and flavorful dish.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sweet Corn Salad

Nothing is a better representation of summer's bounty than biting into a freshly picked cob of sweet, juicy, crunchy corn. I am so lucky that I moved to Utah just in time for sweet corn season. Farmers are selling freshly picked corn cobs on a daily basis on the streets in my town. There are a million delicious ways to eat corn but here's one recipe that I love to make as a healthy side dish. No cooking necessary here - who wants to stand over the stove top in the summertime heat? Just some basic knife skills and a little marinating time and you're done!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Desserts: Salty Oat Cookies

People always ask me, "What is your specialty?" In the past, I would have been stumped. But after making these Salty Oat Cookies for many different occasions and receiving rave reviews, I concluded that this recipe IS my specialty. These cookie have everything...sweetness from the chocolate, tartness from the dried fruit, and crunchiness from the nuts. They are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The salt topping adds a surprising taste that brings all the delicious flavors together. For all of my family and friends who have asked me for the recipe, here it is! And for those that haven't tasted these cookies yet, I suggest heading to the kitchen and giving them a try!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mojo de Ajo

This is an adaptation of Rick Bayless' mojo de ajo, or just plain "mojo" in my house. I cook the mojo about twice a year - yes, it takes a little time and patience, but it lasts forever in the fridge and is so versatile that it's an essential kitchen ingredient! This stuff is liquid gold - it can be used make a quick pasta dish; to marinate proteins escabeche style; to jazz up grilled veggies; and to make the best popcorn EVER. All it takes is olive oil, garlic, lime juice, and salt. So simple, so delicious, and SO worth trying a batch! Just beware - you won't be able to live with out it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Curd

I love lemon curd - it's the perfect tangy and sweet bite of deliciousness. Each spoonful is rich and decadent yet light and refreshing. Recently I have been enjoying summer's bounty and feel like I have never-ending bowls of berries. So this week I was inspired by some lovely blueberries and created a blueberry lemon curd. Whether you top muffins, scones, bagels, ice cream, or just eat it by the spoonful, this is really the ultimate sweet summer condiment!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Made It! Skillet Granola

I've been making granola for awhile now, but I always used the time-consuming oven baking method. In the past, I have had to plan in advance when I could be home for at least 2 hours to watch the granola slowly cook on a low heat, gently stirring it every 20 minutes. However, after making this quick skillet granola, I will never go back to my tedious original method. It took me only 30 minutes to make this skillet granola from start to finish. Just think of all the extra time I now have to make other delicious treats!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Watermelon Salad

Who wants to break a sweat while making dinner? Not me - especially in this heat! So this week I am beating the summer heat by cooking dishes that don't require my stove top or oven. Last night I made a watermelon salad, and it was easy, healthy, refreshing, and most importantly delicious. This salad packs a punch without the calories - sweet watermelon, tangy lime juice, spicy serrano chiles, and salty feta cheese. These complex flavors really shine through. It may sound odd but, trust me, this recipe is a keeper!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cucumber Grape Gazpacho

A cold and rainy weekend is behind us, and the sun has come out. So, I am taking advantage of this nice weather and will be relaxing outside and soaking up the sun's warm rays. It's a perfect time to whip up a batch of this cool, refreshing, super easy, and healthy cucumber grape gazpacho. This gazpacho pairs nicely with grilled pork and a crisp, light sauvignon blanc. Come on, get into the kitchen - nothing can be easier than this!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pesto Pasta

I'm settling into my new home in Utah, which means I've been busy unpacking and organizing my kitchen so that good food can be prepared, eaten and blogged about! So far I'm loving the change in scenery. The weather here is gorgeous - blue skies, sunny days, bright green foliage, and snow capped mountains are the views from my windows. It's been hectic trying to reorganize my life, so cooking fast and easy recipes is a must, and light and refreshing meals are a plus to help wind down after the long hot days! Here's a classic dish that hits all the marks - pesto pasta!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Skillet Granola

I love starting my day with a bowl of granola, plain yogurt, and berries. This is my favorite spring/summer time breakfast, because it's cool and refreshing and so simple to make. Pick your favorite dried fruit - raisins, apricots, cherries, craisins, or coconut (currently I'm using cherries and coconut). Then add your favorite nuts - almonds, cashews, peanuts, or macadamia nuts (I'm using peanuts). Use a non-stick skillet to cook this dish in less than 5 minutes! Cook up a batch and store it in an air-tight container for a tasty and wholesome breakfast. With milk or yogurt it will keep you full for hours!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Leftover Challenge #3: Korean Grilled Pork Salad with Crispy Rice Cakes

It's my last week in DC - the hubby and I are shutting down the house and getting ready for the big move across the country. Some of you may know that I LOVE Korean food. I have been lucky to live and eat in the DC metro area, which has some of the best Korean food in the country. Because of my seven years in this area I constantly have cravings for good Korean BBQ. So this week's leftover challenge is inspired by my favorite Korean BBQ place, Honey Pig in Annandale, VA.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Leftover Challenge #2: Chicken Curry Naan'wich with Mango Chutney

I'm still digging through my freezer trying to find inspiration for a good dinner, while using up my stockpile in preparation for the big move out West. The other day I found chicken thighs, chiles, and naan bread in the freezer; apples, mango, onion, raisins, and curry powder in the pantry; and a container of yogurt and mayonnaise in the fridge. The end result - a tasty sandwich with Indian and American flavors.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cured Meat and Melon Crostini

I updated the classic pairing of prosciutto and melon into this fast and easy yet elegant appetizer!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leftover Challenge #1: Chicken Chorizo Pizza

My husband and I are leaving DC and heading west to Salt Lake City. We have less than three weeks to go, and my husband challenged me to raid the freezer and use up our stockpile of food. This challenge I couldn't resist! I am a freezer hoarder - I buy and cook in bulk, store almost anything edible in that frozen box, and always come back weeks later to find happiness with a great, quick meal.

This week I dug deep into to my freezer and found Trader Joe's pizza dough, chicken thighs, chorizo, and chile verde. The other essentials I had tucked away in the fridge and pantry. The end result was this flavorful pizza that blew our leftover expectations (and taste buds) out of the water!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Made It! Chile Verde Chicken Enchiladas

I enjoy eating a good enchilada any day of the year, but this occasion was always reserved for restaurant outings. I never had attempted to make them in my own home. So I was excited to try this Chile Verde Chicken Enchilada recipe. Let me just start this review by saying that since I usually only eat enchiladas while dining out- so my expectation is comfort food - rich, gooeey and slathered with melted cheese. I'll be honest this recipe didn't meet my expectation for comfort food but was I pleasantly surprised by the flavors and could easily settle for this healthy runner-up.

I wanted to re-create my ideal enchilada. My first goal was to make the filling creamy, so I added cream cheese. This was a big mistake as the cream cheese overpowered the chicken filling and made the consistency of the filling chalky. Next time, I will use more Monteray Jack cheese to give it that ooey-gooey texture that I was craving so badly. I loved the bold vibrant flavors of the chile verde. The tangy-ness of the tomatillos. The sauce was light and flavorful. Overall, this is an excellent recipe for a healthier enchilada, but it cannot be compared to the authentic versions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chile Verde Chicken Enchiladas

Let's celebrate this Cinco de Mayo with amazing enchiladas! What's not to love about the enchilada? Take a great filling, wrap it up in a tortilla, slather it with a chile sauce, and then top it off with ooey gooey melted cheese - sounds like a winner to me! I make huge batch of these a couple of times a year, portion them out, and freeze them so that my husband and I can whip up a fiesta at a moment's notice.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Banana Oat Muffins

I adapted this Banana Oat Muffin recipe from a friend of a friend's award winning banana bread recipe. These muffins are moist, delicious, and full of healthy ingredients (oats for fiber and flax seeds for omega-3s). I love the individual portions of the muffins, which can be easily taken from the freezer and defrosted for a snack anytime of day.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Head over Heels: Silicone Mat and Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps

I am head over heels for my silicone mat (mine is by Silpat), which makes baking hassle free by preventing baked goodies from sticking to the pan. I am the first to admit that my skills are not in the realm of pastries and sweets, but as a savory cook this item is still a must have in my kitchen. No need to grease a sheet pan to prevent sticking - just throw the mat down and get baking. The best part is the easy cleaning - wash with warm water, a soapy sponge, and dry. There's no need to spend valuable time scraping off baked, charred bits!

Use the silicone mat to make Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps in less than 5 minutes!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Roasted Beet Salad with Croutons and Blue Cheese

My friend Ingrid has been on a beet craze since making my borscht risotto, so when I had her over for dinner a couple of weeks ago I made this roasted beet salad just for her! This is a great salad that is full of contrasting flavors, textures, and temperatures. The sweet, warm, soft beets paired with the bitter, cold, crunchy greens and tangy, rich blue cheese makes every bite of this dish a joy to eat!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

It's technically spring here in DC but it feels more like fall, and these cold and rainy days have me cooking up some soup. This is the first time I have made this version of butternut squash soup, and I must admit that I love the curry addition to this classic fall dish. The soup's bold flavor and creamy texture gives it a decadent feel, but the secret is that it's actually low fat and healthy - not to mention easy and super tasty!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Made It! Seared Steak with Tamale Polenta and Avocado Cilantro Salad

I made my version of Lisa's Seared Ribeye with Tamale Polenta and Avocado Cilantro Salad the other day. When I went to make the dish, I ran into one major problem, but don't worry...all ends well :) The grocery store didn't sell masa flour! I opted to use a regular Italian polenta instead, all the while wondering if I would get that tamale taste without the lye in the flour.

I put that out of my mind and set out to the kitchen. The prep time was literally five minutes (salt and pepper meat, toss a salad, pour the polenta into hot water, grate cheese). Cooking time was also surprisingly fast...the 5 minutes it took to sear my steak was basically it! I used an instant polenta, so while the meat was resting, I quickly made the polenta and mixed in the cheese and salsa (I left the sour cream out and I still thought the end result was creamy). I did not miss the masa flour since the salsa gave the polenta so much flavor. The salad was a nice addition to offset the richness of the polenta and meat. The end result was a delicious, hearty meal that really tasted like a deconstructed tamale.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Holy Guacamole!

What's not to love about guacamole? Heart-healthy avocado is transformed into a rich, creamy, and delicious dip or garnish. I have been eating wonderful, simple homemade guacamole since childhood (thanks, Mom!), but this recipe is my husband's, adding a little pizzazz of texture and flavor to accentuate the avocado.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seared Ribeye with Tamale Polenta and Avocado Cilantro Salad

This dish was inspired by a taqueria favorite, the beef tamale! I took all the delicious flavors and reinterpreted it into a refined and elegant meal, perfect for your next dinner party. I used masa de harina, a commonly available dried corn flour that is used to make tortillas and tamales, in which the corn is soaked in lye water. This gives a slightly alkaline flavor and increases the availability of lysine and tryptophan, making the corn more nutritious. I used the masa to make a "tamale" polenta - a savory, rich, and comforting foundation for the dish. I layered perfectly seared ribeye steak on top of the polenta and topped it off with a mound of buttery tart avocado cilantro salad. These flavors balance one another and create a dish so delicious, it will be a huge hit for your next fiesta!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fresh Salsa Made Easy!

Why buy salsa in a jar when you can whip up a fresh batch in less than five minutes? Here is my recipe for you to enjoy!

  • 1 can (16 ounces) diced tomato, strained
  • 1/2 - 1 serrano chile, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 slice (1/2" thick) onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro

Place the above ingredients in a food processor or blender or immersion blender and pulse 10-20 times until well incorporated with no large chunks remaining. Adjust the amount of chile according to your heat tolerance, and season with salt to taste.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Borscht Risotto

I love the flavors of borscht, with the sweetness of roasted beets, the richness of beef short ribs, and the temperature contrast of cold sour cream against the warm comforting soup. So why not take the concept and join it with a creamy risotto? The result was delicious and easy, and it can be a great vegetarian dish as well! So why not make this hearty bowl of borscht risotto to finally banish your winter blues?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Just Desserts: The Perfect Creme Brulee

Believe it or not, but one of the very first dishes that got me baking and cooking was this creme brulee. I was in my senior year of high school and assigned a project to pick an interest and devote one month to studying, learning, and cultivating this interest. A friend (who also loves food) and I decided to study eating etiquette from eastern and western cultures. We dined around San Francisco, met restaurant owners, chefs, and pastry chefs, and researched French and Japanese cuisine. We then took our inspirations and headed for the kitchen. This classic creme brulee is one of the few from the many we created as a part of that high school project that I continue to make today. It's really easy to make and virtually fail proof, granted you work slowly and carefully. The result is a creamy, rich, decadent dessert I reserve only for special occasions.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Made It! Kale Quinoa Salad

I just started eating quinoa a few months ago after I discovered its interesting texture, taste, and nutrient-rich profile. But I was getting sick of my usual, boring preparation of just cooking it in chicken broth and serving it plain on the side of a protein. This Kale Quinoa Salad, however, has rekindled my love for the ancient grain. The flavors were so bold and melded beautifully together. In one bite I could taste the bitterness from the kale, the sweetness from the dried fruit, the spiciness from the red pepper flakes, the tartness from the lemon, the tangy-ness from the balsamic, and the saltiness from, well...the salt. This dish was so good I made it again for lunch the next day. I loved knowing I was eating such a healthy meal that would keep me full for hours. What's even better, is that it is so easy to make that it's guaranteed to be delicious, even on your first attempt.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kale Quinoa Salad

After months of cooking and eating for these cold winter days I am starting to crave the lightness of springtime food. This warm salad is a bridge between two seasons - maintaining all the warmth and comfort that is needed for cold days while incorporating the light airy flavors of spring. This recipe is super healthy, very flavorful, and definitely jazzes up the dreariness of winter. So go ahead and give it a try - your winter palate will thank you!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Made It! Thai Coconut Seafood Soup

Lisa was right! I absolutely loved this Thai Coconut Seafood Curry dish when she made it for our family last July. It was so flavorful and refreshingly light. When she told me what ingredients she used, I couldn't believe the simplicity of the recipe and its quick preparation. I've been making this dish regularly since that first taste last year.

I called my version of this dish a "soup" rather than a "curry" because I didn't have Madras curry powder in my pantry. Honestly, I don't think it needs the curry since my dish was so good, even in its absence. Then again, I've never tried the dish with the curry so I may not know what I am missing!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thai Coconut Seafood Curry with Crispy Rice Cake

I cooked this dish for my mom, dad, and sister in San Francisco last July using the bountiful fresh seafood of the Pacific - scallops, shrimp, and halibut. I knew my dad would love it but was worried about my mom and sister, since neither of them are the biggest seafood fans. To my surprise they all loved this dish, especially the Thai style broth. So I knew this recipe was a keeper!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Gratine

This dish is a savory decadence: sweet potatoes baked to golden brown perfection in heavy cream infused with nutmeg, garlic, and bay leaf. So grab your apron, crank up the oven, and get into the kitchen to make this deliciously "sweet" potato recipe.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crispy Kale Chips

Kale, a leafy deep-green member of the cabbage family, is packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. I like kale because it has some palate personality. It's got a little bite - a mild bitterness that makes its presence known. Also, the uncooked leaves are pretty hearty, which give the cooked product a nice dense texture. In sautees and soups, I use it instead of spinach, which turns into a pile of green nothing. But I love this cooking technique in particular - it turns this delicious vegetable into crispy chips! Incorporating kale into your diet will also save you money, as it's a great bang for your buck. I often see it being sold for 99 cents a pound - that is a lot of kale!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

I have mixed feelings writing this introduction because I have to admit that this was one of my least favorite dishes growing up. As children my sister and I never really got into our Russian food heritage. My mom would tell us we were having stroganoff for dinner and Sasha and I would groan and then start looking for something we considered "better tasting" to fill up on before dinner. Eventually my poor mom and dad got sick of our complaints and just stopped making and eating this dish. So now that I am older (definitely) and wiser (maybe), with a more developed and adventurous palate, I have been cooking up Russian classics and resurrecting the lost dishes of my youth. This week I made beef stroganoff. The result? Love at first bite!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Made It! French Onion Soup

When people ask me what is my specialty dish, I usually say this French Onion Soup recipe. Like Lisa mentioned, our family has been making it for years. But the family tradition is not the only reason why it's my specialty - it's the fantastic flavors. The broth is so rich and earthy; the bread is gooey and crispy at the same time; the cheese is the perfect addition to the top. The best part about this recipe is that it doesn't take years to perfect. It's so simple and easy you're guaranteed to have a wonderful soup the first time you make it. The only tip I have for this recipe is to make sure that when you are placing the toasted bread on top of the broth you overlap the toasts so that some of the bread soaks up the broth, while other pieces remain crispy. I hope you give this recipe a try and fall in love with it as much as our family has done.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brussel Sprouts with Cherries and Bacon

I have had a lifelong love for brussel sprouts, and this is my favorite recipe - fast and packed with flavor. I usually get a huge bag of them from Costco, and since these hearty greens can be refrigerated for weeks (especially in a vacuum sealed container) they are always handy for a quick side dish. These little cabbage-like vegetables are so healthy, packed with nutrients and vitamins, and when cooked properly are a tasty delight. I like to use one slice of high quality bacon to help flavor this dish. The bacon and fat impart an underlying saltiness and smokiness, which pairs nicely with the bitterness of the sprouts and sweetness of the dried cherries. If you don't want to use bacon, feel free to substitute with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. The end result is a bowl full of deliciousness!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good Eats: Bacon

Crisp bacon is a perfect bite - salty, smoky, crunchy, and fatty. Even though I like to cook healthfully, I use it quite often in my recipes. I just can't resist the flavor punch that bacon gives my food. So here are my techniques for maximizing flavor while minimizing guilt from eating such a decadent pork product.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Head over Heels: Vacuum Wine Saver

I am head over heels for my Vacu Vin wine saver, a wine bottle vacuum pump that extracts the air out of the bottle while resealing it with a reusable stopper. This gadget is great! It keeps previously opened wines fresh and tasty for weeks by removing air from the bottle, therefore decreasing the oxidation rate of the wine.

I have been using these stoppers for years to keep my wines fresh. I can keep bottles of red and white wine in my fridge for weeks without having to worry that it will turn into vinegar. Now it's easier to use wine as a cooking staple - always available to give soups, stews, or sauces extra flavor, or just for that one much-needed glass after a long day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

French Onion Soup

When I was younger I thought French onion soup was out of my league cooking-wise, and the only way to get my fix was to order it in a restaurant. But I remember the moment when my view of this delicious comfort food changed forever. About 15 years ago, watching Jacques Pepin with my family, he showed us that French onion soup is actually simple and easy to make. Immediately after watching him demystify things, my family and I scrambled to the kitchen to cook up a batch. Since then I have made this version of French onion soup hundreds of times. I love it! It is one of my true staple dishes, and since I usually have all the ingredients on hand, I can easily pull it together at the last minute.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Made It! Spaghetti and Meatballs

I made this Spaghetti and Meatball recipe the other day. Overall, I thought it was a good recipe. I liked the subtlety of the cinnamon; it provided enough interesting flavor without being too overwhelming. There were, however, certain things I would do differently next time. First, I would add more panade to the meatball mixture for a softer texture. Second, I think I added too much sugar in the beginning (about twice the amount Lisa called for). I thought the canned tomatoes were on the sour side, so I kept adding sugar until I achieved the flavor I liked. I didn't realize that as the sauce simmers for hours, all the flavors become more concentrated (including the sugar). When I was ready to serve the sauce, it was slightly on the sweet side. My biggest tip for this recipe is not to overdo the seasoning in the beginning. Develop a good base flavor and then season to perfection before serving.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chicken Stock

Along with a well-stocked pantry, I love a well-stocked freezer. It gives me the option to create meals on the fly and to save precious left-overs before ever getting sick of them. When it's my fourth meal of spaghetti and meat balls in a row, it's just not quite as exciting. In my book, one of the most essential components for a well-stocked freezer is chicken stock. I like the convenience of stock in cartons (generally higher quality than canned stock), but homemade stock tastes so much better, is easy to make, saves money, and allows me to use up my leftover vegetables rather than throwing them away. Plus, whenever I open one of those cartons of stock I end up throwing half of it away because it sits in my fridge just a bit too long. So when I am relaxing at home on a crisp cold day, I will sometimes have a large pot of stock simmering on the stove top. Freezing it into meal-sized portions or individual cubes in zip-lock bags allows for months of convenient use in tasty meals.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I am back in my DC kitchen, and after eight (incredible) weeks of eating mostly rice-based dishes my thoughts have been consumed by spaghetti and meatballs since landing in the USA. This dish is tasty, hearty and flavorful. I usually make a huge batch and freeze the leftovers for a quick home cooked meal when my days get crazy.  My sauce has a slightly unusual addition - read more and hopefully you will be inspired to try my version of spaghetti and meatballs.