Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Foolproof Entertaining

I LOVE America's Test Kitchen -- the cookbooks, the Cook's Illustrated magazine, and both the cooking shows on PBS.  They try all the recipes a gazillion times so each recipe is foolproof. Recently, I purchased their new Cooking for Two cookbooks for friends who will soon be empty-nesters, and purchased myself a copy as we'll be in the same boat next year. 

Now, looks like America's Test Kitchen is coming out with a new book of recipes -- menus!  What an easy way to plan a dinner party...just pick a theme and they've done all the work of putting together a team of dishes that will make you a rock star!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Different Spin on a Tomato Salad

This summer, I've enjoyed a new kind of tomato (at least it was new to me) called a Kumato.  It's a small tomato whose skin looks brown.  I've purchased them at my local grocery store and at Trader Joe's.  The flavor is tasty and it's fun to use something a little out of the ordinary.

I'm a bit tired of caprese salads (yes, they are yummy), so when company was coming, I made a different version with the Kumatoes.  First, I drizzled some balsamic glaze on a plate.  You can buy it in a bottle -- I've pictured mine here.  It's thick enough to hold a pattern, which makes it a fun way to add flavor and decorate the plate at the same time.  

Next, I laid three slices of the tomatoes on the plate, then garnished them with crumbled gorgonzola, diced red onion, crumbled pecans, and some chopped fresh avocado.  I topped it all off with one more small squiggle of the balsamic glaze. 

Voila!  It was beautiful to serve and delicious to eat!  (And pretty darn easy, too -- although it has the look of having taken a lot more trouble).   Enjoy!
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Tea-ing It Up

So far, the marriage of sweet tea and booze seems here to stay.  We haven't made time yet to experiment with some recipes ourselves, but came across this Tea-Thyme recipes that sounds like a perfect summer beverage.  It incorporates tea vodka with lemon juice, honey and muddled fresh thyme.  There are a number of tea vodkas out on the market including Seagram's, Firefly, and Jeremiah Weed. For some more tea vodka recipes, check out this azcentral link from June. 

In honor of Barb, whose drinking tendencies lean decidedly toward bourbons,here's a fun-sounding recipe from a blog called "Something Edible" for Bourbon Whiskey Iced Tea.  For this one, you don't need to run out and purchase a special bottle -- it actually uses brewed tea and traditional bourbon you may already have on-hand.

Bottoms up!

O What a Delicious Dessert

So, I had my neighbors, Louise and Barry, over for dinner last weekend.  The menu turned out to be delicious (will share more of that in a future post), but I also finally had the chance to try my idea of peaches marinated in The Big O ginger liqueur over vanilla ice cream.  It was a resounding hit! 

I peeled and cut up 4-5 fresh peaches and then poured three full shots of The Big O over them, letting them marinate covered the fridge for a few hours before serving over the ice cream.  Louise suggested that adding toasted almonds to the concoction would be a delicious addition -- I plan to try that next time. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homemade Granola–a Great Start to Your Day

A lot of people spend a lot of money on expensive, "all natural" granola. By stocking up on some bulk items, you can make delicious granola for your family with exactly the ingredients you want in it. This recipe is all about what you like and how sweet (or not) or how crunchy (or not) you like your granola. Play with the amounts, measurements and time to cook to suit your needs.

1/2 c. honey or preserves
1/2 c. juice (fresh, or defrosted concentrate not diluted)
1 T. vanilla extract (optional)
4 c. old-fashioned oats (NOT quick oats or steel-cut oats)
2 c. nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds, trail mix, cashews, pepitas, etc.)
2 T. flax seed
1 t. cinnamon
Dash nutmeg
1 c. raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, apricots or dates
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place honey, juice, and vanilla in small saucepan and warm over medium heat until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix everything but the dried fruit. Pour honey mixture over and mix well.
  • Spread on sheet pan.
  • Cook 20 minutes then stir with spatula.
  • Cook another 10-15 minutes until golden brown (or depending on how crunchy you want it)
  • Remove from oven, let cool.
  • Sprinkle dried fruit over and place in an airtight container.
Another option is to use concentrated fruit juice (the stuff in the can in the freezer section) as your liquid binder instead of the honey or preserves. Orange or apple juice works really well depending on your taste. I use about 1 c. of it to moisten the whole batch. No need to heat it up, just defrost it.

store in an air-tight container such as a ziplock bag.  should keep for several weeks, but you'll eat it all by then...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thirsty Thursday -- Rose' Wines -- They're NOT your parent's White Zinfandel

For many of us, we're in the dog days of summer and still needing a refreshing summer wine.  It's too early to break out the heavy reds, and frankly, we're a bit tired of white wine since that's what we've been drinking all summer.  The solution?  Rose'!  All the wine geeks are talking about it, and one of our buds just mentioned she's been drinking a great one all summer from Paso Robles she picked up cheap at Trader Joe's.  Find out more about this yummy wine in this San Antonio Express-News article:


Monday, August 15, 2011

Restaurant Weeks for Charity: Las Vegas

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Las Vegas Restaurant Week Returns - Help Out by Dining Out
In Fifth Year, Valley-wide Dining Event Expands to Two Weeks
Las Vegas, NV—For the fifth year, Las Vegas Restaurant Week will provide locals and tourists the unique opportunity to dine at many of the city’s best restaurants at affordable prix fixe prices while helping to support Three Square Food Bank. Las Vegas Restaurant Week 2011 will be held August 29 through September 11, with more than 80 restaurants throughout the Valley participating.
For a complete list of Restaurant Week participants and menu details visit www.helpoutdineoutlv.org
Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Mediterranean Onion Pasta

Mediterranean Onion Pasta
1 lb. penne
4 T. olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, sliced thin
1 large yellow onion (not sweet), sliced thin
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 c. pitted kalamata olives
1 t. capers
Dash red chile flake
½ c. chicken stock
½ c. feta cheese
¼ c. grated parmesan
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, then boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 T. olive oil. Add sliced onions, then reduce heat to medium low, and stir often, until caramelized, about 25 minutes. When golden brown, add tomatoes, olives, capers and red chile flake.  Add in pasta and start to combine, adding in chicken stock. Off heat, add cheeses. Serve with a green salad.
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Adult Root Beer


Recently had the pleasure of dining at Sedona Cantina & Tapas in Fayetteville, WV, a quirky, tasty place with something of an identity crisis.  There, I sampled an unusual drink -- an adult root beer -- that we share for your Thirsty Thursday drinking pleasure.

Adult Root Beer

-- Bourbon (to your taste)
-- Squeeze of orange
-- Root beer

Serve over ice; top with heavy cream.

We're thinking a tasty alternative would be to substitute vanilla ice cream for the heavy cream, creating the Thirsty Thursday version of a root beer float.