Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thai Tomato & Crab Soup

We went to Charlestown "Hollywood Casino" the other night with a few friends.

7-7-7-7 and a disco ball ... Do you know what that means?

It means $210 on the Super Jackpot Party slot machine!!! 
It also meant expensive fresh lump crab meat for this recipe from Bon Appétit that I've been drooling over -- guilt free.

And ... it meant an extra $100 dollars toward our vacation fund! We are thinking a Western Caribbean cruise. We don't have tons of money, but have been putting some aside so that we can go somewhere when the weather gets too cold. 

 ... life is short and we work really hard.  It's a crime not to enjoy it. You have to eat lump crab meat in soup sometimes and take vacations to places where the water is turquoise. 

Even if you don't hit 7-7-7-7 and a disco ball. 

This soup is amazing hot or cold. Whatever you do, don't skimp on the crab meat. I've never made  tomato soup from scratch before and it was easier than I thought. The Thai influence (I love coconut milk) made it light but still extremely flavorful.

Shopping List
(from Bon Appétit) 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
5 scallions, thinly sliced 
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, peeled, trimmed, thinly sliced 
1 Fresno or Thai chile, seeded, minced 
2 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups) 
2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
1/2 cup coconut milk 
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice 
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam) 
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lime juice 
Kosher salt 
1/2 pound fresh lump crabmeat 
3/4 cup pea tendrils or shoots, trimmed 
6 snow peas, trimmed, thinly sliced on diagonal

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add scallions, lemongrass, and chile and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Stir in chicken stock, coconut milk, orange juice, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth, about 1 minute per batch. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice. Season to taste with salt and more lime juice, if desired. Chill, if desired. Or ladle hot soup into wide shallow bowls. Garnish with crabmeat, pea tendrils, and snow peas.
    (I learned how to trim lemon grass for the first time making this soup. Pranee's instructions on this video were super helpful.)

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Sweet & Savory Breakfast Hot Dog

    Have you ever had a McGriddle from McDonald's? You know, those delicious breakfast pancake sandwiches that have like 5 gazillion calories.

    Oh, you haven't?

    Yeah ... I don't eat McDonald's either.

    But if I did ... the inspiration for this breakfast hot dog would have come from one of those pancake sandwiches.

    A fried egg, sprinkled cheddar cheese and chives on top of a hot dog wrapped in turkey bacon, with cinnamon and sugar butter and maple syrup.

    Happy Hot Dog Friday! Why wait until lunch?

    Shopping List
    All beef hot dogs
    Eggs (one per hot dog)
    Hot dog buns
    Turkey bacon (one or two slices per hot dog)
    Chives (just a sprinkle)
    Shredded Cheddar (just a sprinkle)
    Maple Syrup
    Cinnamon and Sugar Butter (New in stores from Land O Lakes

    Wrap one or two pieces of your turkey bacon around the hot dog and place it on the grill or on a grill pan on high heat. Cook until bacon is crispy and fully cooked.

    Fry your egg sunny side up and sprinkle some of the chives on top.

    Toast your hot dog bun and then spread a generous amount of cinnamon and sugar butter on the inside of the bun.

    Place your bacon wrapped hot dog in the bun then sprinkle your cheddar and place the egg on top of the hot dog, then drizzle with maple syrup.

    (Posted a little early since I'm up at 4am on Friday for a dreaded 4 hour drive to Ft. Picket for a work assignment. Hooah)

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Strawberries & Cream Bars

    Yesterday was a good day.

    Yesterday was pureeing strawberries and whipping egg-whites and sugar until glossy white peaks formed ...

    It was a “Congratulations: You Made the Foodbuzz Top 9!” kind of day.

    It was doggie daycare for my Honey Bear where she played and played and played until she just couldn't play anymore (impossible?!)

    It was tennis until it was too dark to see and then “your meatloaf is the best thing in the whole world” for dinner.

    It was laughing so hard you cry while brushing your teeth.

    And even though, my strawberries and cream bars were not as good as Pips, and they melted before they even made it to my mouth.

    It’s okay because, yesterday was still a really good day.

    Shopping List (recipe from Pip&Ebby)
    2 lbs. Strawberries (2 medium plastic containers from store)
    1 1/2 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla
    2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
    7 egg whites

    Halve and hull your strawberries and then place them in a food processor with 3/4 cup sugar and puree until smooth.

    Pour into a 9x13 inch dish and freeze. Mix up the "slushing" strawberries every 30 minutes for 2 hours and then smooth with a rubber spatula.

    With an elextric mixer beat your egg whites until they are foamy (high speed) gradually add 3/4 cup sugar and mix until your get glossy, firm peaks. (About 4 minutes)

    Pour your egg whites in a separate bowl and clean your mixer.

    Next mix your 2/3 cup whipping cream and table spoon of vanilla until it’s thick and puffy. (Again about 4 minutes)

    Spread this mixture on top of the freezing strawberry puree. Cover and freeze for at least 24 hours. My bars didn’t get that solid. The minute they were outside of the freezer they started to melt.

    The flavor is worth it though. Perhaps serve them individually in a bowl with a spoon, or try freezing them for two days instead. (let me know how yours turn out  or  if you have made them before!)

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Summer Broccoli Salad

    It's been over a decade since I've had this salad. My mom used to make it all the time when I was a little girl.

    Sometimes these family recipes escape you ... and then one day, you have a light bulb moment, and all the flavors come rushing back.

    The sweet and sour dressing, the softness of the cheddar with the crunch of the broccoli, the bacon...

    I emailed mom right away to get the recipe and found out that she got it from our Aunt June, who is actually my Great, Great Aunt June.

    We used to go visit Aunt June and Uncle Chet's chicken farm in Halifax, Pennsylvania every Thanksgiving when I was little.  I loved it there.  Good ol' country cooking.  (I also remember that chicken farms smell AWFUL!)

    Do you have family recipes that have been passed down generations? Don't ever forget them. Write them down.  Right now.  I mean it.  They aren't just recipes they are memories.

    Shopping List (Recipe From My Mom)

    Broccoli (one large or two small bunches)
    Small red onion
    Sharp Cheddar Cheese 8 oz-12 oz
    Bacon 1 lb. (thick sliced)
    ½ cup white vinegar
    1 cup sugar
    ½ cup water

    Wash broccoli with cold water and strip away leaves, then chop florets (cut or pulled ) into small size parts and stems sliced in small pieces. Dice your onion.

    Cube your cheddar into pieces that are big enough to be caught by a fork. Mom says don’t skimp by going low fat and Vermont sharp is the best.

    Cook your bacon then cool and crumble or rough chop.

    [Mom don’t be mad, I used turkey bacon and I should have known better. It wasn’t as good as regular, I don’t recommend it.]

    Toss everything in to a big bowl, nibbling along the way is correct ...

    In a small bowl add your sugar, water and vinegar. Blend with mixer or whisk until smooth. You can microwave the sugar and water then blend with vinegar until you get the right taste. It should be more sweet from the sugar than sour from the vinegar.

    DOUSE the salad in the dressing and toss -- too much is better than not enough -- as what isn't absorbed will drop to the bottom of the bowl.

    Refrigerate at least overnight -- but best after 24 hours.

    Love Mom

    P.S. I called this a Summer broccoli salad but really this could be a Winter, Spring or Fall salad too.

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Drunken Grapes and Jenny's Sunday BBQ

    These boozy grapes were super easy and everyone loved them at Jenny's BBQ today. Simply slice some red (or green) grapes and soak them in Amaretto over night. Stick them on some tooth picks and tadaa, you've got a party pleaser.

    The rich almond-y flavor of the Amaretto and the sweet and sour grapes worked really well.

    Truthfully,  any kind of fruit soaked in alcohol will be a party pleaser ... It's a no brainer. I had to use the left over grapes from these and the Amaretto just smelled so good when I uncorked it.

    BBQ classics ...

    Here is me (I know, I know, finally another photo of myself, I'm shy) and the hostess with the mostess Jenny from Savory Style.  Check her out!  Jenny's blog was one of the first to inspire me to start my own.

    And this... this was clearly a mans idea. Tasty yes, but good lord, that's a cheese burger on a Krispy Cream donut! And I thought my bacon, chocolate chip cookies were indulgent.

    Last but not least my favorite party guest, Jenny's dog Eddie. I think he rocks my hat better than I do.

    Great party Jenny... Okay, off to watch True Blood.

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Hawaiian Hot Dog for Grandpa

    Aloha! Today, is an awesome day.

    It's Hot Dog Friday, and  we have been told to wear beach clothes at work (!!!) and  there is a kiddie pool set up in the conference room (no joke).

    But most importantly ... today is my grandpa's birthday.  This Hawaiian hot dog,  with bacon,  pineapple, chives and hoisen sauce is for you Poppy.

    Did your grandpa buy you 10lb. containers of gummy bears from BJ's Wholesale Club when you were a kid? Mine did.

    Did your grandpa take you to buy your prom dress and even pick out the rhinestone heels to match? Mine did.

    Does your grandpa read your food blog and send it to all of his friends and ask them to click on everything to increase your traffic? Mine does. :)

    Happy Birthday Poppy. You are truly loved. (Especially because you like hot dogs just as much as I do)

    Shopping List  (Adapted from Food Network's Polynesian Dog)

    All beef hot dogs
    Hot dog buns
    Pineapple chunks
    Hoisen sauce

    While you are grilling your hot dog, dice your pineapple chunks, and chives into smaller pieces.

    Crisp up your bacon in the microwave, patting off the excess grease with a paper towel. When the bacon is cooked, rough chop it into smaller pieces as well.

    Place your grilled hot dog in the bun and spoon on your hoisen sauce. Sprinkle on your bacon bits, then spoon on a little more hoisen. Place your pineapples on top and the chives last.


    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Grape and Bacon Goat Cheese Pops

    Oh man ... These cheese pops make me want to do bad, bad things.

    Like eat gobs of cranberry goat cheese covered in bacon when I am on a diet and then justify it by arguing that "goat cheese is lower in fat and calories than other cheeses" and "it's mostly grapes so it's healthy!"

    Salty and sweet, subtle yet tart.  Crunchy and creamy.  Oh they are dangerous.

    I think this diet is actually inspiring me to come up with crazy, delicious things. Things I know I shouldn't have.   I'm like a tortured artist.

    But really, I saw these cheese pops first on The Kitchen.

    I added grapes in the cheese and on the stick for an easier bite. I would probably serve them as a dessert/cheese option at a dinner party. They are a bit time consuming to make more than 5 or 6 and very rich.

    Shopping List

    10 slices bacon (I used peppered bacon but maple would be really good too)
    4 ounces cranberry goat cheese
    2 ounces cream cheese (not whipped)
    1 tablespoons chopped lemon thyme (or any herb of choice)
    Bunch of red grapes
    Lolly pop sticks (can be picked up at any Michael's craft stores or ordered here)
    ( Serves 6 )

    I first crisped up the bacon in the microwave, 1 minute per slice is a good rule to go by. You want the bacon really well cooked, not chewy.  Pat all of the excess grease off the cooked bacon with a paper towel and let it cool.

    While it's cooling carefully puncture three grapes (through the center) onto your stick.

    Put your bacon in a food processor and pulse until it's fully crumbled and place the crumbles in a separate bowl adding your chopped herbs. Clean your food processor accessories.

    Place your cheeses into the cleaned food processor and combine completely. Should be a light purple color. Roll about a tablespoon of cheese into a ball and press the top of that ball onto the last grape on the stick. Mold it into a new ball so the grape is in the center.

    Place your goat cheese and grape pops in the freezer as you finish them for about five minutes each to firm up.

    The bacon bits won't just stick to the cheese when you roll them in it, you have to pat the bacon on to each pop covering it completely.


    These pops hold up well in the freezer -- and frozen grapes are awesome.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Tuna Avocado Ceviche

    To make up for drinking too much wine at a local vineyard on Sunday Funday and missing my Monday blog  post  (I have no regrets!) I bought an expensive sashimi grade tuna steak for an extra special Tuesday  post.

    Ceviche! My favorite thing ever! (Other than all cheeses, caprese salad and gummy bears of course.)

    So the best tuna I've ever had was in the Dominican Republic while on vacation at the Punta Cana Club Med Resort. We arrived at the dinning hall for "sushi night" and there was a huge fish laid out on the serving table (a tuna fish). I was confused, no California roll?

    I handed them my plate and they sliced the tuna right there. Pure, raw tuna and that's it. I can still taste it right now; melt in your mouth soft, flavorful and cold. Better than any California roll for sure.

    Since then I've been hooked. Raw tuna is the way to go. Please don't cook it, don't even sear it. But if you must... you absolutely must,  this tuna ceviche is exceptional.

    Shopping list (slightly altered from New York Times)
    1 pound sashimi grade tuna steak, cubed
    1/2 small red onion, diced
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 jalapeño seeded and minced
    3 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained (I went heavy on the capers)
    1 ripe medium avocado, cubed
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1/3 cup fresh lime juice
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro to taste

    Prepare the tuna and refrigerate while you dice your onions and other ingredients.

    Soak the onions in a small bowl with water. Let sit five minutes, then drain, rinse and dry on paper towels.

    In a medium bowl, combine the onion, garlic, jalapeño, capers, avocado, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. (Not the cilantro yet) Toss together gently. Add the tuna to the bowl.

    Stir together the remaining lime juice and the olive oil. Pour over the tuna, and toss the mixture together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

    Just before serving, add the cilantro and toss together. Taste and adjust seasonings.

    (Serves about five )

    P.S. The best non tuna ceviche I have ever had is from a friends Chilean catering company. Jenny has their secret family recipe here.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Lil Smokies with Green Apple and Brie Cheese

    I was so excited yesterday about this gourmet piggies in a blanket recipe for my Hot Dog Friday post. What perfect flavor pairings!

    I was patting my self on the back for coming up with the concept from the time I picked up my ingredients, until I took them out of the oven...

    And then...  I just really didn't like the way they looked. When my apples baked and I lost that bright green coloring on the skin and they lost all uniformity.

    So I tasted them... not bad...

    I arranged them on a nice plate and whipped up my Honey-Horseradish Mustard dipping sauce, tasted some more...

    Tasting, tasting... all the while trying to decide if I would post this recipe for Hot Dog Friday or not.

    When it was time to photograph I looked down and realized I had eaten over HALF of my gourmet piggies. Damn!

    After being able to abstain from eating those pink lemonade cupcakes, I realized that if I couldn’t hold back from these little hot dogs, they were certainly blog worthy.

    TGIF. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

    Shopping List
    Package of lil smokies or cocktail wieners
    Canister of Pillsbury crescent rolls
    One green apple
    Half of a small wheel of brie cheese
    4 tablespoons light mayo
    4 tablespoons horseradish
    3 tablespoons honey
    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

    Slice your green apple in to quarter inch strips leaving on the skin. I used a mandolin to keep them thin and uniform in size.

    Unroll crescent rolls, cutting down each triangle so that they turn into two triangles.

    Wrap your lil smokie halfway in the roll, then place a (similar size to the smokie) piece of brie cheese (rind on) and two strips of apple. Finish rolling up the smokie in the crescent roll. Place on an un-greased cookie sheet with the cheese side up. 

    Wrap all of the mini hot dogs this way. Bake for 15 minutes or until they are golden brown around the edges.

    In a small bowl whisk the last four ingredients together until combined and serve with your cooled gourmet piggies.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

    Last week, Erica over at Sweet Tooth -- a gorgeous blog by the way -- made my trademark Watermelon Jello Shots and did an amazing job. I loved her addition of the mini chocolate chips.

    She was also  sweet  enough to share some link love and I gained a lot of new readers because of it. (Hi friends!)

    So last night I decided to tip my hat to Erica and try her trademark Pink Lemonade Cupcakes. They were sweet, tart, and adorable all at the same time.

    It's been super hard not to eat any of them (no carbs for Michelle). While I was in bed reading last night I heard them calling me from the fridge...

    "Michelle.... come eat us... we taste like happiness on a warm summer day"

    Thankfully, I stayed strong.

    Shopping List  (Adapted from Sweet Tooth)
    Cake (makes about two dozen cupcakes)

    1 box white cake mix
    3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate
    1/2 cup water
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    4 egg whites
    3 drops of red food coloring
    (makes two dozen)

    3 cups confectioners sugar
    1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
    4 tbsp frozen pink lemonade concentrate
    Pinch of salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake pan with liners. Combine all of the ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Divide the batter evenly, filling the liners about 2/3 full. My cupcakes were done in about 20 minutes. Place your cupcakes in the fridge to cool while you whip up your frosting.

    Combine all frosting ingredients in an electric mixer on a low speed until combined
    Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and to your desired consistency.

    I use Wilton Disposable Decorating Bags to pipe my frosting.

    A candied lemon would be the perfect garnish on tart summer cupcake!

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Baked BBQ Ranch Wings

    When I was in college, Tuesday night at our local pub (Blarney's) was "Wing Night."  The ranch wings were my favorite.  I still crave them all the time and I've been trying to duplicate the flavor for five years.

    Since we picked up some "Bone Suckin' Sauce" on the way home from North Carolina, I  figured I would test out the best of both worlds and create a BBQ Ranch flavor.

    I baked the wings of course and use a dry ranch "rub" (a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning) instead of a creamy dressing to cut calories.

    If Barbecue and Sour Cream and Onion potato chips had a baby, this would be the flavor. They were amazing and the closest thing yet to the wings from Blarney's. 

    [Tip: Right after holidays in the summer there should be huge sales at the grocery store on party and bbq foods. I got a package of 24 wings for $4.00!]

    Shopping List
    12-24 Chicken wings
    1 large packet Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning
    BBQ sauce of your choice

    Place your wings in a large bowl and pour in half of the ranch seasoning, using your hands mix the chicken and seasoning until each piece is lightly coated. Pour in half a cup of BBQ sauce and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

    Pre-heat your oven to 435 degrees

    Place the coated wings on a parchement lined baking sheet and with a pastry or grilling brush coat your wings with more sauce. Sprinkle on a little bit more ranch seasoning and bake for 10 minutes.

    With tongs flip over your wings and repeat the same process, bake for 10 minutes. Repeat the flip, brush, sprinkle process every 10 minutes until your wings have baked for 40 minutes total.

    The last step is to broil them on high for about 5 minutes on each side to crisp up the skin.

    Cool and serve.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Thai Hot Dog

    This Hot Dog Friday post includes one of my favorite condiments of all time... (and I really like condiments) Thai peanut sauce.  It's like chicken satay but way better because...  it's a hot dog!

    The carrots give it crunch and texture while the cilantro lends a hint of lime. If you can handle the spice, sprinkle some red cayenne pepper on top as well.

    Of all the dogs so far (even though that gyro dog was delish) this one has been my favorite.

    Now it's back to work in a few days after such an amazing week off... C'est la vie.

    Shopping List
    All beef hot dogs
    Hot dog buns
    Carrots, chopped
    Fresh cilantro
    1/2 cup peanut butter
    1 cup coconut milk
    1 tablespoon cider vinegar
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
    2 table spoons lime juice
    1 teaspoon salt
    Coconut oil (optional)

    Chop your carrots and cilantro and set aside. Place the peanut butter, coconut milk, vinegar, soy, cayenne, lime, and salt in a food processor and pulse until smooth and combined.

    Heat up your grill pan with some coconut oil in place of butter or oil, and grill your hot dog and bun until it has the proper grill marks.

    Spread your Thai peanut butter sauce along the inside of the toasted bun, then place the hot dog on top. Sprinkle on your carrots and cilantro, top with more sauce. Sprinkle some cayenne for more heat.

    adapted from Food Network Magazines World Class Hot Dogs

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Just Beachy

    The 4th of July holiday was everything it should have been.  Children laughing and eating ice cream... sparklers and little fireworks in the driveway.

    Long afternoons reading by the pool (frequently interrupted by wet noodle fights) and walks along the beach at dusk.  Sleep and repeat.

    We stopped at a farmers market on the long drive home today, I got some fresh peaches (I can actually smell them right now all the way from the kitchen) and real deal North Carolina BBQ sauce to try out in my new pressure cooker this week. 

    Pinch me.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    What's Cooking Good Looking?

    I haven't been cooking a thing lately.  There has been a whole lot of this...

     (recommendation via Jenna)

    I hope everyone is as relaxed as I am and enjoying their long weekend. Happy 4th of July!

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Honey, Basil and Panko Turkey Dog

    Can you believe it's Hot Dog Friday already?  Last night something weird happened...

    ... I didn't really want to eat hot dogs.  [gasp]

    Not because I didn't think it would be delicious --  because it would be --  but because of my carb cutting diet, I couldn't have the bun.

    And because of that, I lost all my hot dog inspiration.  So I have to give credit where credit is due. My creative beau thought up this tasty turkey dog topping.

    You can't really see it but it's covered in honey. That's what's keeping the crispy panko, that he crisped up in coconut oil (!!!) and garlic, on the turkey dog.

    Shopping List
    Turkey dogs
    Hot dog buns
    Panko bread crumbs
    1 clove garlic
    Fresh Basil
    Coconut oil

    Grill your turkey dog, (gotta get the grill marks).

    Crisp up your Panko in a frying pan with coconut oil (instead of butter), mince up your garlic clove and throw in as well. Should take 5 minute total to not burn the Panko or garlic.

    Spread an extremely generous amount of honey on the bottom of the bun, then put the turkey dog on top and then spread even more honey on top of that.

    Sprinkle on your panko, and then more honey. Top with fresh basil and serve.

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