Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Meatballs 5.0

After trying Molly's recipe for lamb meatballs, I decided to make the meatballs that Michael Amster-Burton suggested on their episode devoted to meatballs. Meatballs can be cooked in a variety of ways, most falling into one of two categories - 1. sear and cook the meatballs on the stove top (or finish them in the oven) or 2. slow cook them in a sauce on the stove top (no browning of the meat). These meatballs classically fall into category number two and I admit I was slightly hesitant as to how "good" they were going to turn out minus the sear. Never doubt the versatility of a meatball and particularly, the one you are about to feast your eyes on.

These decadent beauties are something else.  Somehow this recipe conjures up my inner Italian grandmother and the result is mouthwatering. Comfort food taken to a whole other level, these are some of the most flavorful meatballs I have ever made and tasted.  With Cafe Lago as your guide, it seems there's nothing you can conquer in the Italian kitchen of your dreams. Unlike the recipe's suggestion, I spooned this simple sauce and a few meatballs over baked spaghetti squash and a little elbow macaroni. Add this to your fall repertoire and break some hearts.

SPAGHETTI WITH CAFE LAGO MEATBALLS (featured by Michael Amster-Burton on Spilled Milk)

For sauce:
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juices
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, halved and peeled
1/2 tsp. table salt

For meatballs:
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup whole milk, or more if needed
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp. table salt
5 grinds black pepper
2 large eggs
2 large cloves garlic, pressed

To serve:
1 lb. dried spaghetti

To make the sauce, combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, onion halves, and salt in a large, wide pan, such as 5-quart Dutch oven. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a slow but steady simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Taste for seasoning. Remove and discard the onion (or eat them, if desired). Using an immersion blender, process briefly to break up any chunks of tomato. (Alternatively, the back of a wooden spoon works, too.) The sauce will not be perfectly smooth, but its texture should be even.

While the sauce cooks, make the meatballs. Put the breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl, and stir to moisten the crumbs evenly. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until the crumbs are swollen and thoroughly saturated.

Put the ground meats in a large bowl. Break them up into chunks. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, parsley, salt, and pepper.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs well with a fork. Add the garlic, and beat to mix. Pour into the bowl with the meat.

Using your hands, squeeze the milk from the bread crumbs, reserving the milk. Add the bread crumbs to the bowl with the meat.

Holding your hand in a claw shape (fingers separated, tensed, and slightly bent) and moving in a strong, quick stirring motion, mix the meats and their seasonings. When the mixture looks well combined, pick it up and turn it over in the bowl, and then mix some more. (Turning it over helps to ensure that no ingredient settles to the bottom and clumps there.) This stirring process should be fairly brief; do not work the meat until it smears on the side of the bowl. Chill until the sauce is ready.

When the sauce is ready, remove it from the heat, and keep it close at hand. Remove the meatball mixture from the refrigerator. Moisten your hands with the reserved milk, and then pinch off bits of the mixture and gently roll them into golf ball-size meatballs. Place the meatball in the pan of sauce. Repeat, arranging the meatballs in a single layer in the pan of sauce. Return the pan to the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink inside.

Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water. Drain, and transfer to a serving bowl. Spoon desired amount of sauce onto the pasta, leaving the meatballs in the pan, and toss well. Divide among plates, and top with meatballs and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Note: If possible, make the meatballs and sauce a day ahead, or even a few hours ahead, and chill until ready to use. Reheat gently on the stove top.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Cafe Lago is an Italian cafe in Seattle - their tag line is "pasta handmade each morning, pizza baked by apple wood fire each night". Sounds like my kinda place. Next time I'm in the Seattle area, I intend to check this place out!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A love letter to fall, Part II.

I'm putting this recipe for pumpkin walnut bread on repeat, like a classic jazz record. I liken it to enjoying the sweet wails of Billie Holiday. Eat your heart out. It's that delicious, moist and quintessentially autumn. You may start to get sick of me and my fantasy island of fall, but work with me people, it's still 90 degrees where I live. I must recreate this beautiful season and the only way I know how to do so is to bake like a banshee. I actually posted this recipe in 2008, but I've adapted it slightly this time around and let's face it, you probably forgot about it anyhow. The only change I made was the sugar - I optend to go half brown sugar and half blond cane sugar. Oh I skipped the parchman paper, I hae pretty kick ass loaf pans, but if yours have seen better days, I recommend sticking with the parchment paper. Thank God for repeats.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread
by Cindy Mushet and Sur La Table

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) water
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 cup (9 ounces) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts

9 by 5-inch Loaf Pan, Parchment Paper, Large Bowl, Whisk, Medium Bowl, SIlicone or Rubber Spatula, Cooling Rack, Serrated Knife

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Getting ahead Pumpkin Walnut Bread freezes beautifully for up to 8 weeks when double-wrapped in plastic and placed inside a resealable plastic freezer bag. Defrost, still wrapped in plastic to avoid condensation on the cake, for at least 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A love letter to fall.

I equate fall with baking, it's just that simple. Lately I find myself choosing to spend more time indoors lately - nesting, reading, puttering and even better, nesting in my kitchen.  I have written a couple love letters to fall, this one in particular, is a keeper. Like the last post, this recipe for pumpkin pie bars was something I repinned on Pinterest and baked over the weekend for friends.

After popping this into the oven, I recognized that I have held "bars" (as in dessert bars) at arms-length.  Not squite sure why, but I think that I subconsciously filed "dessert bars" in my "do not attempt" dessert category. Boy, I  have been missing out. To every season, turn, turn.....it all comes full circle and now I'm obsessively looking through recipes and cookbooks in collection that include more dessert bar recipes.

These pumpkin pie bars are easy to make (in fact, I think this would be a fun one to make with kids) and they are effortless.  Most of these ingredients are staples in your pantry and I'm stocking up on canned pumpkin this fall (it will be on sale closer to Thanksgiving) as I know I will be making these again and again.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Crust Ingredients:
1 1/3 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. chopped pecans

Filling Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. vanilla 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a food processor, combine crust ingredients and pulse two or three times until mixture is crumbly. Reserve 2/3 cup of the mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture evenly into the bottom of an 8x11 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool slightly.  

In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, blend until mixture is smooth. Pour mixture over baked crust. Sprinkle with remaining crust topping. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until firm.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

KooKoo for Coconut.

Pinterest is all the rage. A friend of mine has referred to Pinterest as the "new black".  It has instantly become one of my "online happy places" and also a resource for recipe inspiration! I recently tested a recipe I found on Pinterest for Coconut and Chicken Curry Soup from a site called Cooking for Seven. You can find the original recipe here but I adapted it to fit Madame Munchies' tastebuds. I wanted to incorporate more vegetables and I also kicked it up a notch or two in my cookbook.
Easy peasy is the name of this soup, it came together swiftly and is a great meal to make for the autumn season (that is if you are lucky enough to enjoy cooler temperatures right now).  As I have become more comfortable in the kitchen, I find myself feeling more comfortable to change recipes to not fit only fit my taste buds but also what I may have on hand that I could use or needs to be used.
Coconut & Chicken Curry Soup (Makes 4 hearty servings)
Adapted from a recipe posted on Cooking for Seven
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb (give or take) skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk, full fat
2 teaspoon curry powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded, minced
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
Kernels of corn, from one ear of corn
½ tomato, chopped
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups freshly cooked rice (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized soup pot over medium heat. Add the chicken to the oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until the chicken is cooked through and golden. Remove chicken and set aside. Sauté the onion, adding more oil if necessary, until tender.
2. Return the chicken to the pot with the onions. Add the ginger and garlic - cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder and jalapeno. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add bell pepper, tomato, corn and cilantro and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice or lemon juice, cilantro and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Optional: Spoon rice into 4 bowls. Top with two ladles of soup. Serve.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend Breakfast.

It's always a treat to go out for breakfast on the weekends, but there are days when staying in your jammies, brewing a pot of coffee and making breakfast yourself is just what the doctor ordered. If I go out for breakfast, I rarely choose pancakes and I make them on occasion, but I had the itch this past weekend to make some. I pulled out my copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks and gave her mother-in-law's recipe for sour cream pancakes. 

Let's just say these are probably the best pancakes I've ever made from scratch. I am that serious about these pancakes. The batter is delicate and egg-y. Crispy, buttery, light and melt-in-your-mouth happiness is the end result. These pancakes won't sit in your belly tormenting you and I didn't feel the usual side effects of pancakes, post-pancake coma. Blessing in disguise.

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes (adapted from Ree Drummond's recipe)

1 cup sour cream
7 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
maple syrup

Place an iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat.

Place the sour cream in a medium bowl. Dump in the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir together very, very gently.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

Pour the egg mixture into the sour cream/flour mixture. Stir together gently.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet 1/4 cup at a time. Cook for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, then flip the pancakes over. Cook for another 45 seconds and remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Top with softened butter and warmed maple syrup.

Though my preference is topping them with peanut butter and syrup. Don't knock it til you try it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Too Darn Hot!

Complaining isn't my forte at MM, but it's been HOTTER THAN HADES in LA! That said, I usually spend time on the weekends in my kitchen, cooking up a storm or trying out a new recipe. But with the recent onset of heat, I've been trying to leave that "big white box" turned off as much as possible. Difficult at times, but not impossible.

A couple weeks ago, I received a lovely link for these fresh spring rolls and was inspired to give them a try!  Use whatever you have in your fridge or follow the recipe to a tee, either way you will not be disappointed. I've made two batches in the last two weeks.  In the first batch (pictured above), I included Persian cucumbers, carrots, scallions, champagne mango, mint, cilantro, mini sweet bell peppers and cellophane noodles. I didn't have any peanut butter in the cupboards so I used almond butter instead. Fantastic dipping sauce (note I added a wee it more sugar to the sauce than called for in the recipe)!

I made another batch this past weekend and swapped the mango for some poached shrimp and instead of making the peanut sauce, I dipped these bad boys into some sweet chili sauce.

Healthy, crisp and refreshing, these rolls will satisfy your snack craving or you can make a mean main out of them!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

MM Interview: Jessica Hilton

I'm jazzed about continuing my interview series and even more jazzed to introduce you to holistic coach and personal chef extraordinaire, Jessica Hilton. I may be slightly biased because I've had the immense pleasure of coaching with her, but I think you will dig her as a person, coach, chef and fellow foodie. In addition to her coaching and personal chef packages, she is teaching at The New School of Cooking in Culver City and updates her blogs with inspirational and delicious recipes!

Tell us a little about yourself.  How did you become a holistic health coach?  I have always been into food and also health and fitness.  I first learned how to cook, then I began to apply those principles and techniques I learned to healthier styles of eating, or what I thought at the time was healthy eating. Then I started to pay attention to all of the contradictions in nutrition.  One week eggs were good, the next they were bad, so I got a couple of nutrition certifications so I could make sense of all the information.  What I have realized is there is not one perfect diet for everyone.   

How would you describe your style of cooking?  Seasonal, farmers market driven, simple, homestyle.

What inspires you in the kitchen?  Seasonal produce.  I think it’s really easy to roast or grill some meat, but what is challenging is making those sides more interesting.  There are many more ways to cook vegetables than steaming (which I loathe) and roasting.  

What are some of your favorite cookbooks or blogs?  101 cookbooks, Food and Wine, Plenty by Ottolenghi which focuses entirely on vegetables, Anything by Donna Hay, an Australian chef who uses seasonal ingredients in very simple yet unusual recipes, I also LOVE Jamie Oliver.   

What are a few of your “can’t-live-without” pantry items?  Red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs (especially marjoram and sage), lemons for zesting, nuts of all sorts (pistachios and walnuts are two of my favorites) , feta cheese, eggs.

If you could travel to one country and eat your way through it, which one would you choose?  Easy, Italy.  I love the approach to fresh, local foods.  

Working with your clients, what do you find are some of the most common struggles?  Mindless eating and snacking.  Most of my clients find themselves grazing all day long, especially when they aren’t hungry. The biggest issue tends to be not eating breakfast, which then causes them to be famished by lunch and they wind up eating for the rest of the day.   So few people sit down to eat a meal and enjoy it.  Rather, they eat in the car, at their desk.  They don’t enjoy their food.

If you could encourage blog readers to make one small change, what would it be?  Try to eat vegetables at every meal, even breakfast.  If you eat an unhealthy meal, don’t give up on the day, start fresh at the very next meal.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hello, Zucchini Bread.

Like many of you, I subscribe to umpteen e-mails/newsletters.  It's a vicious cycle like my former magazine subscription addiction and I find it difficult to stop, but that's another psycho-babble post for another time.  

This past week I received a newsletter from The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories, where I took a macaron class earlier this year. In addition to promoting new classes they are offering, they always include a recipe to entice you. This week it worked and I made this lovely quick bread, Zucchini and Strawberry Jam Bread. Moist, delicately sweet and summery, it's a quick way to whip something up to bring to a winding-down summer cookout or any gathering of friends, family and food. And I think it's a flexible recipe, if you're not crazy about strawberry jam, why not use apricot jam? Also, I opted to not use the sliced strawberries.

Zucchini & Strawberry Jam Bread (courtesy of The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories)

This  recipe makes about 6 muffins or small loaves and one medium loaf, but can easily be doubled.

In a medium bowl, whisk together:
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsps flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a larger bowl, whisk together:
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup strawberry jam 

Set aside:
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1) Whisk together your flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
2) In another bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, sugar and jam.  Add the zucchini and mix until combined.
3) Fold in flour and mix until just combined.
4) Pour into muffin pans or molds and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes for smaller and 25 minutes for larger loaves.  Before baking, arrange strawberry slices over the batter.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Salsa Verde, I Heart You.

I've been spending alot of time in the kitchen lately - trying out new recipes. The kitchen is one of my happy places. I needed to put together a quick sauce to drizzle over skirt steak and had all of the ingredients needed for salsa verde.

Salsa verde is not the Mexican green salsa you may be thinking of, this one is a classic green sauce from Italy. It's versatile and easily adaptable to what you have in your pantry. I referred to Alice Water's book, The Art of Simple Food, for some direction. The result is a simple sauce - fresh, mouthwatering, a little briny, flavored with parsley, lemon zest, garlic, capers and olive oil.  Add a little bit of chopped anchovy for an extra kick.  I drizzled it over some skirt steak, but it would be delicious over grilled chicken, fish, lamb or over scrambled eggs. It won't last long, that's for sure.

Salsa Verde (by Alice Waters)
1/3 c. coarsely chopped parsley
grated zest of one lemon
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped or minced
1 tbs. capers, drained and rinsed, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 c. olive oil
1 anchovy, finely chopped (optional)

Mix well and taste for salt.  Let the sauce sit for a while to develop the flavors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meatballs 4.0

Sometimes I surprise myself. I did a quick search on MM before drafting this blog post and found that I have featured the topic of meatballs here, here, and here. Hope you're not "over" the meatball because I HAVE to share another meatball recipe with you. You're just going to have to trust me on this one - let me lead you into the kitchen, I promise not to disappoint you.

Meatballs are one of this dishes that are either fantastic or disappointing. There is little room for anything else in between, however, after listening to Molly and Matthew's recent Spilled Milk podcast all about meatballs, I was inspired to make a batch.  Molly referred to a recipe in her book for Mediterranean style meatballs served a yogurt sauce and immediately I sprung into the kitchen to look it up.

What I loved about this recipe is how flexible and easily interchangeable it is when it comes to ingredients.  Don't have cilantro, but got parsley, substitute. Not a raisin fan, go ahead and substitute with dried cranberries.  The recipe calls for golden raisins, but I used dried cranberries instead. The original recipe calls for 1 lb. ground lamb, turkey or chicken - I did half and half, lamb and ground turkey.  Again, whatever your pleasure. The world is your oyster or in this case, a meatball or two.  The result is one mouthful of unctuous, sweet, earthy and nutty meat. I will wait for applause on this one.


Doran's Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Cilantro and Dried Cranberries (adapted from Molly Wizenberg's recipe in A Homemade Life)

For yogurt sauce:
1 c. plain Greek yogurt
3 tbs. lemon juice
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt 

For Meatballs:
1/2 c. yellow onion
1/4 c. fresh cilantro
1/2 c. pine nuts
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. fine bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1/2 lb. ground turkey, dark meat
2-4 tbs. olive oil

First, make the yogurt sauce.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Allow the flavors to marry together.  You won't be sorry.

Using a food processor, pulse together the onion, cilantro, pine nuts and dried cranberries. In a large bowl or stand-up mixer, combine the ground meats, onion mixture, bread crumbs, beaten egg, salt, cumin, and pepper. Mix until combined, but do your best not to overmix, meat tends to get tough easily. With damp hands, use a small spoon or hands to take a small hunk of meat and form 1-1 1/2 inch balls.  Set aside on a large plate.

Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat.  Add about half of the meatballs (be careful not to overcrowd the pan) and brown them on all sides. The meatballs are ready when they are evenly browned and feel pleasantly firm, but not rock hard.  Transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel lined plate. Then repeat with second half of the batch, you may or may not have to use more oil, your call.  Trust your culinary instinct.

Serve warm with the yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

MM Interview: Fat Girl Kitchen

I am really excited to introduce to you to Jenapher, from Fat Girl Kitchen.  I met her on Facebook through a mutual friend and I just adore her blog. She is laugh-out-loud, entertaining and the girl knows how to cook and write!  I asked her to be apart of a series of interviews I plan on posting this year and she graciously agreed to be my first!  Aside from writing her "crack me up" blog, she self-published her very own cookbook, which is available to purchase!

Question - What do you get when you combine 4 cups of the efficient semi-homemade styling of Sandra Lee, 3 helpings of the artery clogging, butter drenched, down-home cooking of Paula Deen, 2 pounds of the Mr. Wizard-esque geekiness of Alton Brown, 1/4 tbsp of the inspirational insight of Oprah Winfrey, and a dash of Seinfeld-like social commentary?

Answer - You get Fat Girl Food.

My mom is Hispanic and my dad is Yugoslavian/Danish, so clearly I grew up in a home with a deep love of food, broad cultural roots and I first learned to cook at my mom’s elbow. I grew up in the lazy/privileged/instant-gratification generation, so college was a great opportunity for me to really develop my own unique culinary skills - and by that, I mean figure out how to make food that tastes great, doesn't break the bank, comes together quickly, and stores well.

Then I ran across an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats and my life changed. Alton intended Good Eats to be part Julia Child, part Monty Python, and part Mr. Wizard. I grew up on all those shows, and for the first time I started learning about the science behind the food I loved to make and had been cooking all my life.

Something else that’s been going on my whole life is my weight. Though I have pictures of me as a skinny little girl, in living memory I’ve always been the size I am - which is supersized. I spent a long time hating everything about myself. Then I was lucky enough to have a best friend (Marty) and to fall in love with my amazing husband who taught me that, while I’m not perfect, I’m pretty flippin’ awesome. Most importantly, they taught me that I’m worthy of love.

What inspired Fat Girl Kitchen? Well, for years, friends and family had told me that I needed to write a cookbook, but I always felt that cooking was more of a ‘hobby’ for me, you know? People asked for my recipes often enough, at parties/potlucks/etc, that if I brought a dish I almost always brought 7-10 recipe cards printed out.  

Fat Hubby, though, is the single biggest reason that we published Fat Girl Food. Originally, it was just intended to be a Christmas gift for friends and family. As we were editing it, though, and received critical reviews of individual recipes from friends & family, Ryan kept saying, “We need to sell this. This is an awesome book. Jena, I don’t even like to cook, and not only do I enjoy reading this book, I feel it’s made me a better cook".

We looked into submitting it to publishing houses, but the terms were not enticing– no creative control, no input on marketing, no nothing, & maybe a $0.10-0.20 royalty on each book. Fat Hubby and I run a print shop (it’s our day job), Ryan has 15 years’ experience in marketing (especially in online marketing), I do basic graphic design, and it just seemed silly to outsource/give up control over all of that. So we did it ourselves, and I’m SO glad we did!

What are some of your favorite cookbooks? I love, love, LOVE Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking. His cookbook is the only that included ‘handwritten’ notes from the author in the margins. I loved that concept so much, I used it in Fat Girl Food. I’m not stingy; I’ll give props where props are due.

I also love the Southern Living Cookbook, that’s my cold-rainy-day-cuddle-up cookbook, without a doubt. Not a go-to source for diet food but a great resource for classic comfort food.

Even though it’s not technically a cookbook, I adore Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen. I haven’t always had the beautiful, big kitchen I have now, and Alton gives lots of great pointers about how to make any kitchen of any size work for you.

I also just got Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible and while I’m only a few pages into it, I can just tell I’m gonna love it, too. It’s not that much of a stretch, you know? We have culinary minds (and tummies) of a similar bent.
Got any favorite cooking shows? If you only ever watch one cooking show, every episode of every season, watch Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Most other shows are just video recipe cards – not so with Good Eats. If you watch it, not only will you have fun whether you want to or not, there is no way you will not become a better cook. Alton is really good at explaining the science of cooking in an easy-to-understand way, and is a master at explaining how THIS science relates to THAT science, and why this process is good for these types of foods, etc. Plus, he’s geeky – and I’m always down with that!

If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would your last three meals be? That entirely depends on if I have to cook or not. I love cooking, but (especially being 6 months pregnant) it really takes it out of me. But, assuming someone else is cooking for me on my last day, I’d want a mess of my mama’s pan fried chicken, some Welfare Casserole, a plain hot dog, some sliced cucumbers and cauliflower florets dipped in my Semi-Homemade Ranch, a big bowl of Schwann’s Sweet-n-Salty Ice Cream, and a hunk of bone marrow. No "meals", just let me graze all day long.

Top three favorite restaurants?  Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan (Las Vegas, NV). All-you-can-eat 5 star dining for $30? How could I NOT?

Culinary Dropouts (Scottsdale, AZ). An eclectic, funky, indy-coffeehouse vibe with food that is mouth-slappingly innovative AND foodgasmically delicious? Worth the drive, every time.

Claim Jumper. I know, “Gasp – a chain?” I’ve got two words for you, my friend –Brontosaurus Ribs. I think they call them ‘beef’ ribs, but when they bring out that huge platter of yard-long ribs, TELL me you don’t immediately think of when Fred Flintstone gets his car flipped by the poor placement of dino ribs. SOLD!

Buy the Book: www.FatGirlFood.com
Follow the Blog: www.FatGirlKitchen.com

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Cake.

In honor of the Cinco de Mayo party I attended and the rare rise of the "super moon" , I baked a cake (well, actually two). I originally was going to use a recipe I cut from the Los Angeles Times, eons ago, but decided to do a quick search for Mexican chocolate cake recipes online.  This one popped up first from Baked Bree, who I met at Camp Blogaway, a year and a half ago.

Initially, what intrigued me about Bree's recipe was that she did not use the mexican chocolate tablets and she used balsamic vinegar in her cake batter. The cake is complex in flavor, but not over-powering.  The frosting is perfection, creamy, light and slightly sweet.  If you're looking for something special and unique, I'd definitely recommend giving this cake a try!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Perfect Marriage.

What's the perfect marriage? When it comes to pairing foods, I think the victory belongs to Mr. Salty and Mrs. Sweet. Bake shops, food trucks and restaurants are taking a gamble on this perfect pairing with the likes of chocolate covered bacon, sea salted caramels, bacon brittle and more.

Like many of you, I have a little problem with a website called Pinterest and I recently tried a cookie recipe that was pinned - a chocolate chip and pretzel inspired cookie. I tweaked the recipe slightly, the original recipe included peanut butter chips and I'm not a huge fan of those baking chips.  Instead I added more broken pretzel chips and the results left friends happy and reaching for more.  Soft, chewy, sweet, salty, it satisfies all those inner kid cravings.

Chocolate Chip and Pretzel Cookies (adapted from recipe found on Pinterest)
1 ½ c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. broken pretzel pieces
Sea salt
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl or stand-up mixer, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract.  Beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour mixture and beat until there are no more streaks of flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, if not longer. The longer, the better. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat mat.  Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and sprinkle each cookie with sea salt. Leave about 2 inches between each cookie and bake for 10 minutes.  If you like a crisper cookie, leave in the oven for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm so excited and I just can't hide it!

I'm about to lose control and I think I like it! I'm so excited! Sing it with me, all you Pointer-Sister-big-hair-wearing foodies! :) I'm posting my very own creation this week here on Madame Munchies, but I am also pinning my recipe to Pinterest - Red Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad. What I love about this salad is how versatile it is! If you don't care for certain vegetables or are related to picky eaters, you can easily chuck it out for something you love or that appeals to your family's preferences. Even if you adore the vegetables I suggest, the farmer's markets will inspire you to change it up with vegetables at their peak.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is increasing in popularity among foodies and health nuts. Not only is it recognized as a grain that is a high in protein, but I recently found out it's a complete protein too. This ancient grain (the Incas ate it!) is related to spinach and swiss chard. Enough facts, go out and buy some quinoa!

Red Quinoa & Roasted Vegetable Salad (serves 6-8 as a side dish)

1 c. quinoa, uncooked 
2 c. water 
2 zucchini, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. small tomatoes, halved
1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 c. arugula, washed and dried

Herb and Shallot Vinaigrette

1 shallot, finely chopped 
1 lemon, juiced 
White wine vinegar, splash 
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used thyme and oregano)
Salt and Pepper
Scant ¼ c. of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Making the Quinoa: 
Besides, being a powerhouse grain, quinoa is an easy grain to cook successfully. Mark Bittman’s, How to Cook Everything, includes a user-friendly recipe for cooking quinoa. In a small saucepan, add 1 c. quinoa and 2 c. water. Do yourself a favor, add a good pinch of sea salt to the mix and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot slightly. It should take about 15 minutes for the water to absorb and then the quinoa is ready.

Roasting the Vegetables: 
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread your zucchini, onions, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes onto sheet pans in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss together with your hands. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the vegetables. Roasting time may depend on what vegetables you choose for this salad, but mine took about 30 minutes or so.

Making the Dressing: 
In a small bowl, add the shallots. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over the shallots, add the lemon juice and a splash of white wine vinegar. I allow the shallots to swim in the lemon juice for a while to mellow out. Then add the herbs and the olive oil. Whisk together, taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

When you are ready to serve the salad, choose a pretty big bowl, add the quinoa, cooked vegetables and arugula. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss together and serve.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back to Baking.

Hello blogsters! It's been WAY too long since my lil' fingers have danced on the keyboard and written you a foodie love letter. For that, please accept my sincerest apologies. I didn't stop eating or cooking, but I did take some time to shift gears and re-focus on some health stuff. I haven't baked in a really long time and sincerely have missed it.  I missed the sweet sounds of my stand-up mixer beating butter and sugar together in a harmonious song. I missed the whisking of dry ingredients and I missed the sound of my jazzy turquoise timer going off, "it's ready, it's really ready"!

During this time de-blogging status, I bookmarked several recipes to try and when I read Luisa Weiss' post about donut cake, I just knew it would be the first thing I would bake. I rarely bake the same thing twice in one week, but this donut cake recipe is without a shadow of a doubt, worth baking more than once a week. Your friends, family and co-workers will forever be grateful, I promise. It's such a simple recipe (eggs, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, salt, buttermilk, cornmeal, baking powder and nutmeg) and it delivers grand results.  Yes, your kitchen will smell like a donut factory, but who is going to complain about that? I wish I could've bottled up that smell into a fragrant candle. 

P.S. - If you don't have a springform pan in your cupboards (mine sadly passed away when I made the cake for a second time), a 9" round cake pan will do just fine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


When I was in Paris, I ate macarons. Alot of them. Cheerfully with wild abandon because that is what you do when you are in Paris!  Prior to going Paris, I had tried macarons at Europane Cafe + Bakery in Pasadena ( a block from where I work, it is one of my favorite lunch destinations and they are dedicated to fixing a sweet tooth).

Now I enjoy baking and macarons have been on my list to try, but they fall under the "scary" category. I've got a few books dedicated to the macaron as well but all I have done is tag flavor profiles that I love or would like to try at some point. (I learned that the recipes in I Love Macarons from Japan are crap, so if anything, it's a lovely coffee table book).  Les Petits Macarons is a lovely book on the subject matter too. Of course, the book that I am lusting after for is Pierre Herme's book on the subject, Macarons.

So like any smart girl who fears a recipe, I signed up for the Intro to Macarons class at The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories in Santa Monica, taught by Clemence Gossett (one of the school's owners). All 15 of us students were a bit wound up, Clemence could smell the fear on us and she instantly put all of us at ease.  With her laid back nature and encouraging teaching style, she was able to assuage our fears and voila - we made vanilla macarons with buttercream ( we flavored them with raspberry, citrus and vanilla) and/or chocolate ganache. Practice will make perfect...one day.