Monday, March 29, 2010

Savory Shepherd's Pie.

The theme of our recent book club meeting revolved around England and I decided to make a shepherd's pie. I had made one while still living in Indiana, but for a Rachael Ray recipe, it was rather cumbersome with nearly twenty ingredients. This time around I opted to do a little research and find a recipe that was easier. Lately, I've had much success with recipes from Epicurious so I headed over to that site for some help. The recipe for Shepherd's Pie that I selected received glowing reviews and 4 forks (as opposed to stars, Epicurious is rather clever,eh?).

The gals in my book club devoured the savory pie and proceeded to rave about it (a first since I've rejoined the group). The highlights of this savory pie are the rosemary and tomato paste. After browning the meat, onions and varrots together, I added the broth tomato paste, rosemary and parsley to simmer for about 10 minutes. Rosemary adds this "hunter" quality to the dish - woodsy, earthy, umami and the tomato paste is robust, sweet and concentrated. Both ingredients add contrast and depth to this hearty dish. The pie is topped off with buttery, creamy mashed potatoes before baking for about 30 minutes. Piping hot, this shepherd's pie screams "COMFORT FOOD" at you and spells H-E-A-R-T-Y in a variety of languages. If served along side a fresh garden salad, this meal is something you can feel good about serving family and friends.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eat Your Greens!

I recently joined a CSA near my house, Silverlake Farms. Tonight I picked up my share and I have to admit, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the bounty. This week's share includes, greens, greens, and more greens. Some familiar and some totally unfamiliar, but I am up for the cooking challenge! Are you? So here's what was included in this week's share: mustard greens, swiss chard, golden and red beets, dill, parsley, butter lettuce, baby romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, arugula, green garlic, chrysthanthemum greens, young celery, and dandelion greens.

Tomorrow I'm planning on making a big beautiful salad for the Ripple Effect gang, with all the salad greens. I'm hoping that by taking part in the CSA, I'm not only supporting community agriculture, but I'm also eating more veggies. Made an impromptu curry with the dandelion greens and green garlic. I also made some brown rice for a satisfying meal this evening. Coconut milk and red curry paste are the base of this curry and it honestly couldn't be any easier than this.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Over the weekend, I spent some gal pal time with my girl Aimee in San Clemente. Aimee had been telling me about this Caribbean joint in Laguna Beach for a couple of months so we worked in a foodie adventure for two at Eva's Caribbean Kitchen. With its funky and eclectic charm, Eva makes you feel right at home as if you were in her very own personal kitchen. Brightly painted with the colors of the rainbow and lit by an array of colorful candles, you just know that you're going to be taken real good care of, and so is your tummy.
Aimee and I had an appetizer - Eggplant Choka, roasted eggplant (stuffed with garlic) and then sauteed with chiles, shallots and seasoned to perfection. Of course it's served on top of toasted pita bread. Whether you're a carnivore or a vegetarian, this start will make you salivate. All of their entrees are served with plaintain, peas and rice and sauteed veggies. I went with the evening's special of Red Snapper and Aimee went with the Curry Prawns. What I loved about both of our dishes is that each sauce was so bold, so flavorful and so different. Sometimes Caribbean cuisine isn't very distinctive and Eva's sauces took each dish to a whole other level. Even though my fish was fried, it was still light and the texture of the fish cam through beautifully, it wasn't compromised at all. The heat of the dish brightened all of its complexities without overshadowing the fish either. The roasted plaintains were absolutely mouth watering, each bite was sweet and nutty. Aimee's curry prawns were also delicious. The curry prawns definitely had alot more kick, but without numbing the inside of our mouth.
For dessert we were immediately drawn to the special - coconut creme brulee, which was topped with toasted coconut and blueberries. Creme brulee is my favorite dessert and this one easily makes it to the top of my creme brulee list. Tropical breezes and swaying palm trees danced in my mind as I spooned a bite of this delicate and creamy concoction into my lil' mouth. Made with coconut milk, this creme brulee was aromatic, smooth and light. A perfect ending to a perfect meal.
If you're ever in Orange County, let alone Laguna Beach, you should totally look up Eva's and stop by for dinner. She's got a gorgeous smile and isn't afraid to hug customers.
**Photo credits go to Aimee Foster.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bundt for Joy!

So this past weekend I was blessed with a dresser (to be funk-tified and used for CD storage) and in exchange for this blessing, I promised to bake my friend a cake, Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake to be exact. Apparently, this was a childhood favorite, so of course I obliged.

What I came to find out was that I no longer owned a bundt pan, so I made the trek to Sur La Table (not that anyone had to twist my arm, mind you) to pick up a quality bundt pan for this baking endeavor. It's so silly to be afraid of a cake pan, but I have to admit, I've always been a bit weary of bundt pans. What if the cake gets stuck? What if it falls apart when trying to remove it? What if? What if? What if? Well, being that I promised to make this cake, I had to face my bundt pan fears right in the face and I did quite a bit of research on various bundt pans. I read many reviews on Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and more, and the Nordic Ware Anniversary Pan, got 5 stars out of 5 stars. I've never read so many positive and glowing reviews on a bundt pan. So I went with the Nordic Ware bundt pan (which by the way, has a lifetime warranty).
The cake batter was thick and gooey, took a little longer to bake then the recipe calls for (50 minutes), but the results are in and I HEART MY NEW BUNDT PAN! While the cake is meant as a gift (so a chef's tasting is not going to happen), the cake scents that filled my kitchen were warm, nutty, cinnamon, chocolate-y goodness rolled into one. Now if someone could make a candle that smelled like that, I'd be all over it!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Buried Treasure.

Soups has to be one of my favorite one pot meals to make, and recently I came across a black bean soup recipe (Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno) on Epicurious that has rocked my culinary world! From start to finish, this soup took about 45 minutes to make, which was a perfect meal before heading out to see The Swell Season last night.

An excellent source of protein, this thick and satisfying soup warms the cockles of your belly and your heart. Made of onions, carrots, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, diced tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth, I didn't have to substitute anything in this recipe. I did add extra jalapeno simply because I'm a spicy gal. I topped my big bowl of soup with sliced scallion, chopped cilantro and crumbled feta cheese. A hearty supper or lunch, give this yummy soup a try!

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Heart Foodie Adventures.

Fleeting as they may be (and I'm working on having more of them), foodie adventures rock my world and my weekend was rocked this past Sunday at Little Dom's in Los Feliz (located at Hillhurst Ave. and Avocado St.).

I had first heard of Little Dom's on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network. The episode featured pizza and Little Dom's Breakfast Pizza was featured. I mentioned this to a super rad foodie at work and she chimed in that she wanted to check it out, along with her hubby. Yesterday, we strolled into Little Dom's on a late Sunday morning and were seated outside (it was a gorgeous and sunny day) promptly. We drooled over the sights and smells surrounding us, and we all agreed, the FRIED POTATOES, were calling out to us.

Anna ordered the French Toast souffle, which was a little on the sweet side for my tastes, but if you dig any type of bread pudding, you will be a happy camper. Served in an individual cast iron dish with freshly whipped cream, you're sure turn into a 3 year old again. Ben went with the wild boar and parmesane bacon (which I did not get to try) but he seemed to scarf it down with a big smile on his face. I went with one egg sunny side up, an order of the wild boar bacon and the fried potatoes. Now a sacred moment of silence for fried potatoes - the BEST fried potatoes that have ever entered my mouth, I kid you not. Sprinkled with olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic and lemon juice, these potatoes could easily become a meal or an afternoon snack on their own. Crispy and semi sweet, these potatoes were insanely delicious and worth every stinkin' penny! Now for the wild boar bacon, which is a first for me. I was surprised to find that this bacon was not salty in the slightest bit. Smoky and woodsy flavor penetrates these non-greasy strips of bacon. Not typical, but certainly worth trying. Little Dom's menu definitely will bring me back to try their tasty pizzas, salads and more.
**Photo credits go to Anna McCann and her iPhone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tooting Horns.

So one of my mom's dearest buds, Karen Caterson, heads up Square Peg People. Karen leads the pack when it comes to encouraging like-minded individuals to accept, develop and grow as human beings while not conforming to stereotypical cultural norms. Last May, while I was still roaming in the Midwest, she interviewed me for her website, which I'm happy to report is officially published today. I'm totally honored that Karen wanted to spend some time getting to know a little bit more about me and so I wanted to share this with you. You can check out the interview here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Lil' Cake.

How could I forget to wish Madame Munchies a Happy Birthday? February 27th marked my blog's 2nd birthday! And while I didn't sing a song or do a dance, this past weekend I did bake a cake, but it wasn't in honor of my blog's birth.

Over the weekend, I had an impromptu baking session - I was invited over to hang out with some friends and we had a last minute potluck. I offered to make a dessert and after perusing several cookbooks (of which I'm still organizing and finding a home for), I came across Molly Wizenberg's French Yogurt Cake featured in her memoir, A Homemade Life. I know what you're thinking, haven't I babbled enough on Molly, her fabulous blog and book??? Well, dear friends, no I have not!

Of course given time constraints as well as purse constraints, I was looking for a recipe for which I had the majority of ingredients listed and it just so happened I had 95% of the ingredients for this one. Plus the name of the recipe was intriguing. I've had alot of success with cakes that utilize the moistening power of yogurt or sour cream, so I was pretty confident that this would turn into sweet success!

The recipe called for whole yogurt and my fridge was fully stocked with greek yogurt and instead of using a silly old regular lemon I used a meyer lemon, which added a delicate sweetness to this otherwise mild cake. What I love about this recipe is its flexability. Molly suggested using other citrus fruits if you have them on hand, she even recommended using a fruity olive oil to replace the canola oil that the recipe calls for. You could add ground pistachios or almonds, or even dried fruit and I think it would compliment the flavor base for this cake.

Either way you slice it, your friends and family will thank you, I've been told it could be the key to meeting my future husband.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Soup to Nuts.

One thing I adore making time after time is soup. It's usually pretty simple and even the complicated recipes really aren't that complicated. Have I mentioned Heidi Swan's blog yet, 101 Cookbooks yet? She has easily become one of my favorites, with her whole foods approach to cooking, her book, Super Natural Cooking and her blog are not intimidating at all when it comes to healthier cooking and eating.

I pulled her recipe for Thai Spiced Pumpkin Soup a couple of weeks ago and finally made it this evening. It's been a cool and rainy day in Los Angeles and nothing is more rewarding than a big bowl of homemade soup. The recipe calls for pumpkin, but any winter squash will do honestly. I bought some butternut squash at the farmer's market last weekend and thought it would be an adequate substitute given that pumpkins aren't in season currently.

This soup is so satisfying and good for you, the Thai inspiration comes out in the coconut milk and red curry paste. The coconut milk is silky and sweet and the red curry paste balances it out with some heat. The consistency of this soup is all about preference, I happen to like my soups thicker than most, so I added very little chicken stock (the recipe calls for water, but that's boring). I topped it with some cilantro leaves for garnish. What I also adore about this recipe is that it calls for so few ingredients, which makes for a simple meal but also one that you can whip up anytime throughout the week.
** Note that the adorable owl bowl is created by Eclectic Clayworks.

Monday, March 1, 2010's Forbidden....

For a couple of weeks now, I have been making better choices when it comes to food, one of my personal goals is to eradicate (as much as possible) highly processed foods, soda and America's favorite, fast food. Essentially, I'm aiming for a "whole foods" approach to cooking and eating. I was introduced to J&P Seafood at the Hollywood Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago, and bought some of their sea scallops.

Last week I found a recipe at Bon Appetit for Seared Scallops with Bok Choy and Miso and I gave it a college try. Scallops are delicate creatures and one must handle them with a lil' TLC when preparing them. If you overcook them, they become tough and dry, like mini hockey pucks. Admit it, you don't want to be caught dead eating a scallop hockey puck.

What brings this easy weeknight meal together is a simple and fresh sauce made of miso paste, mirin, rice vinegar and ginger. The scallops are seared for about 2 minutes on each side and the bok choy is sauteed. Upon completion, you throw the sauce in the pan for a minute or two til it sizzles and pour over the scallops and bok choy. The sauce is super tasty and I think it would go well with any piece of mild fish, like tilapia, halibut, swordfish or cod.

My nutritionist, Jessica Hilton, introduced me to a new rice, at least it's new to me - forbidden rice. In the package this rice is black but when you cook the rice it meta morphs into a deep aubergine color. It's quite beautiful and adds a nice "wow" factor when it comes to presentation. While this rice is "pretty", it's also really good for you. Forbidden rice is high in fiber and iron, and it contains the same antioxidants as berries do. Besides, it's just so darn pretty.