Monday, February 28, 2011

Easy Oven Baked Sea Bass

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a ton of experience with fish.  As a kid, I used to pinch my nose because anything seafood used to smell "fishy" to me.  So the only thing my mom could get us to eat were deep fried fish sticks.  I don't think I really started eating seafood until I was in college and then eventually I tried everything and realized what I was missing out on!

The reason I have been hesitant about cooking fish is because I have lived in cities where you're not allowed to have a grill so you're either sautéing it or baking it in the oven.  Both ways tend to smell up your house and that's one thing I can't stand.  My friend Joanna gave me this recipe and I believe she got it from good ole' Martha Stewart.  I made a couple of tweaks but I completely agree with her that this is one of the best fish recipes I've tried.  The trick is to wrap the fish in parchment paper and then wrap it in foil.  NO SMELL.  So don't be afraid to try this recipe, I guarantee your confidence with fish will be restored!

2 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

*(2) 6-8 oz fresh sea bass filets (you can use any firm fish like salmon, halibut, etc)
*Salt & Pepper
*(4) thin wheel lemon slices
*1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
*(4) fresh thyme sprigs
*Splash of dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
*Parchment Paper
*Aluminum Foil
*Lemon Butter sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Go to the grocer and get (2) fresh fish filets.  It is really important to have FRESH fish.  I typically go to Whole Foods because their fish always has great quality.  Yes, it's a bit pricier but it's worth it.  If you don't have a Whole Foods, just ask your fish counter when they got the fish in and smell it.  If it's smells really fishy, it's not fresh.

Roll out some aluminum foil the length of a sheet pan.  Then roll out parchment paper on top.  I know parchment paper is not something everyone typically has in their kitchen.  But it's a good investment.  I bought some at Williams Sonoma 2 years ago and I still have some left.  I also use it to bake cookies, etc.

On top of parchment paper place the fish filets.  Season with salt and pepper.  Then place 2 thyme sprigs length wise on each filet.  Followed by the 2 slices of lemon and red onion slices on each.  Splash a little of the Pinot Grigio enough just to wet both the filets.

Next wrap the fish filets up in the parchment paper like a present.  Then wrap the aluminum foil securely around the packet making sure there's no holes.  Put in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  When the fish is done in the oven, open the package slightly with a fork and see if the fish easily "flakes".  It should be tender and easily break off with a fork.

Place the filets on individual plates and you're done!  I added lemon butter sauce on top but it tastes great without it as well.  The recipe is below in my "Chicken Piccata" posting.  Just omit the capers.  Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sinful Dark Chocolate/Coffee BACON Cupcakes

I don't even know where to start with this recipe.  I'm sure a lot of you are questioning this whole combination, but I along with my entire team at work literally fell off our chairs when we took the first bite.  The taste of dark chocolate with a hint of coffee and then the surprise of the salty bacon at the end.  Not to mention one of the most moist cupcakes I've ever made before.  After taking a bite, your eyes literally automatically close and the savory sensation just makes your taste buds dance!

This truly is the perfect cupcake.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

*(10) slices of bacon (try to get thick cut)
*(2) cups flour
*3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweet., I use Hershey's)
*(2) cups white sugar
*(2) teaspoons baking soda (make sure it's fresh!)
*(1) teaspoon baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt if you have it)
*(2) eggs
*(1) cup cold brewed coffee (I used regular Starbucks)
*(1) cup buttermilk
*1/2 cup vegetable oil
*Dark chocolate frosting (I used Duncan Hines, sorry I don't do frosting)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until brown and crispy.  Let dry on paper towels.  Then put bacon pieces in food processor and pulse until they are small bits.  If you don't have a food processor, chop bits the best you can with a knife.

In a bowl mix together the dry ingredients.  Flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Then add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.  Mix lightly for 1 minute.  You don't want to beat the hecht out of the batter, just get it mixed.  Fold in about 2/3 of the bacons bits.  The rest are to sprinkle the tops when done.

Fill individual cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes.  My oven is really hot (gas oven) so if your oven bakes slower you'll probably need 25 minutes.  When done, let them cool down.

Now you might think I'm crazy for the next step.  Leave the cupcakes overnight (covered).  I tried one right out of the oven and didn't really like it.  The next day the flavors had time to marinate and they were SO much more moist.

Frost cupcakes the next day and sprinkle with bacon bits.  Then prepare to surrender yourself to an absolutely heavenly experience!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Throwback Taco Salad

Some of the people I know will see this recipe and laugh because this dish was pretty much the only thing I could “cook” back in the day.  I used eat this almost every week during college and I still enjoy it here and there to bring back old memories.  This recipe is quick, easy and when stored properly can be even better the next day at lunch.  No fancy tricks, just a tasty salad that is cheap and appeals to all appetites.  Not to mention, who doesn’t like taco salad??

6 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes (includes cooling of beef after browned)

*(1) Head of iceburg lettuce, cleaned and chopped (or any other lettuce)
*(2) lbs of ground beef
*Taco Seasoning (you can make your own, but just buy packet)
*(2) Tomatoes, seeded and diced (cut tomato half and use spoon to scoop seeds out)
*(1) Jalapeno (optional) seeded and diced
*(1) small bunch of scallions, sliced horizontally
*(1) cup of shredded cheddar cheese
*Italian Dressing (I use the Good Seasonings packet and make my own)
*Nacho Cheese Doritos, smashed

Start off by browning your ground beef over medium high heat until cooked through, takes about 10 minutes.  Drain the fat.  Add taco seasoning per packet directions and mix.  It normally calls for about ½ cup of water.  Transfer taco meat to a bowl and throw it in the freezer for 10 minutes while you chop everything.  You can use hot meat on your salad but note that it will wilt the lettuce and the texture isn’t too ideal.  I like to cool it down just a little bit so it’s still warm but not piping hot.

Get a large bowl.  Chop lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeno, and scallions and put in bowl.  Add cheese on the top.  Toss. 

Spoon salad into individual portions.  Then place the beef on top of the salad and add your desired amount of dressing.  I don’t add the italian dressing into the big bowl so I can separate it out for the next day and avoid soggy salad.  Take the Doritos bag and squish it together to break up the Dorito pieces, and add to the top of salad like croutons.  Add however much you like!  Toss again.

And that's my college throwback taco salad!  Now, where’s my margarita??

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Melt in Your Mouth-Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

I figured it was time to put in a recipe that required your crock pot.  I love my crock pot and relish in the fact that you can throw a bunch of ingredients in the pot, walk away and not have to worry about starting a kitchen fire!

This is the first time I've actually made pulled pork and I was surprised how easy it was.  This recipe makes a TON of pork.  Probably a good 10 servings.  I'm also going to put a "next morning" recipe under this one as well so you can continue to enjoy it's fatty, porky goodness!  I put my pulled pork on regular hamburger buns (my boyfriend insists in the south it HAS to be white, and I agree).  I then served it with corn muffins (recipe coming soon!), baked potatoes, and steamed broccoli.  This is a hearty meal that will leave everyone with a smile.  Just be prepared, because a food coma will probably make you fall asleep within 20 minutes of this meal!

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5-10 hours (this tastes great at 5 hours, but if you're going to work you can leave it up to 10)

Dash of Vegetable Oil
(1) 4lb pork shoulder roast
(1) cup BBQ sauce (choose your favorite, I used KC Masterpiece orig.)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup light brown sugar (not packed, just lightly filled)
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 large onion, chopped (I used yellow)
2 garlic cloves, crushed (take side if your knife and smush it into cutting board)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt & Pepper

Set crock pot to high for cook time of 5 hours, or to low of cook time of 10 hours.

Put a dash of vegetable oil in the bottom of the crock pot, enough to lightly cover the bottom.  Take your pork roast and salt and pepper both sides.  Always season your meat, salt and pepper really adds flavor.  Put in the cooker.

Add all the wet ingredients.  BBQ sauce, chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, worcestershire sauce.  Mix together in pot with a spoon the best you can.  Then add dry ingredients.  Brown sugar, chili powder, garlic, onion, thyme, garlic powder.  Mix in the best you can, spoon liquid over your roast.

Put lid on your crock pot and walk away!!

After your desired cooking time, pull the pork shoulder out of pot.  Put on cutting board and use forks to shred pork, it should literally just fall off.  When you get closer to the center it won't really shred any more and just slice the rest up with a knife.  Put pork back in pot and stir and let sit for 10 more minutes.

It should look like this:

Serve on buns and let your taste buds just die and go to heaven!  If you have a lot of leftovers, put some aside for the next morning and you can freeze the rest for up to 3 months.

NEXT MORNING - Breakfast Pork Burritos

2 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

(2) Flour burrito tortillas (wheat or spinach is great too)
(3) eggs
Splash of milk
1 cup of pork (just eye ball it, use how much you would like)
1/2 teaspoon season salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chunky salsa

Beat 3 eggs, and add splash of milk.  Add season salt & pepper and mix.  Set aside.

Heat up your pork in microwave or a pot.  I have to use a pot, we don't have a microwave.  I know,  crazy San Francisco!

Heat skillet to medium high and spray with cooking spray.  Add egg mixture.  Start moving mixture around with a spoon.  After about 30 seconds add chunky salsa.  Mix everything together and finish cooking eggs, about 1-2 minutes. 

Heat flour tortillas in microwave, or I use a clean skillet and warm on each side.  TIP: Do not use cold tortillas, they will crack!  You want them warm so they roll better.

Lay the warm tortilla down and spoon pork mixture and egg mixture on top.  Roll up and enjoy!  If you're going to work, wrap it in foil and it will still be warm when you get to your desk!  (Also can be reheated in your office microwave)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Infamous Arugula Pasta

Posted by popular demand, I've decided it's time to share my all time favorite pasta dish.  My boyfriend will roll his eyes because I literally used to make this every week!  You're going to find out very quickly that I LOVE arugula.  I first discovered it in an Italian restaurant in DC about 3 years ago and it was listed as "rucola".  I'll never forget it, because it took me a good two months to figure out what it was!  For those of you that are unfamiliar with arugula, it is a green lettuce leaf that looks a little bit like a baby holly leaf and has a sensational peppery taste.  I love it so much I could just sit there and eat it raw!  So needless to say this will not be the first arugula recipe you see on my blog.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

2 Servings (plus a little extra for 1 for lunch)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

1/2 large onion, chopped (whatever type you like best or is on sale)
1 small crate button mushrooms, sliced (you can use any type, but these are cheapest and work great)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large handfuls baby arugula (found in salad area in plastic containers)
1 handful sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 box of pasta (I use fresh linguine when it's on sale, or otherwise a dry Barilla farfalle, penne, etc)
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Grated parmesan
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Cooked sliced chicken breast (optional)

First off get your pot of water on the stove for the pasta so it can come to a boil while you're chopping vegetables.

In a large skillet, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Chop your onion, mushrooms (sliced), and garlic and add it to the skillet.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Make sure your pan isn't too hot, you don't want to burn the garlic.  Cook for about 8 minutes until onions and mushrooms are soft.  Once cooked, lower heat to medium low.

Salt your boiling water so you can season your pasta (this should be in the middle of cooking vegetables).  It's a myth that putting oil in your water helps the pasta not stick.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente.

Once pasta is done, strain and put directly into skillet with the vegetables.  DO NOT RINSE PASTA WITH WATER.  This will wash all of the starch out of the pasta and you will lose all the flavor, etc.  Toss pasta with onions, etc and add more olive oil if you need a little more.  Next, throw in the 2 large handfuls of raw arugula and toss with the hot mixture.  It should cook a little bit just from the heat of the pasta. 

Serve on a plate and sprinkle with parmesan.  Add the raw sliced grape tomatoes on top. (I don't have the tomatoes in the picture because they were out at the store, but I typically use them).  Next, I always sprinkle a little red pepper flakes on top for a kick but that's up to you.  Then add the sliced chicken breast.  You don't have to have the chicken breast, I normally don't but my boyfriend was complaining of "needing" protein!  So it's up to you, it tastes great without it too.

And there you go!  My infamous arugula pasta.  This is the best meal for a weeknight because it's so quick and easy and reheats really well for the next day at lunch.  Bon appetit!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cornbread & Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

This is for all my snowed in friends and family on the east coast!  I love this recipe because pork tenderloin is relatively cheap and when cooked correctly has great flavor and moisture.  I typically buy the tenderloin in the vacuum sealed bag that can be found in the meat area.  Normally there are two full tenderloins in the pack, so you can freeze one and use it another time.  Don't be afraid to freeze things.  I do it all the time; just make sure you have the right ziplocs to prevent freezer burn.  In the picture to the left, I actually made both tenderloins so this recipe is for 6 servings.  But the two of us can eat this for lunch the next day, or another dinner.  You can just cut this recipe in half if using one tenderloin.  I know the below looks complicated but think about it simply.  All of the ingredients are reasonably priced and you should have some of this in your kitchen.  There's only a few key things you really need.  WARNING: This is a Sunday dinner!  Don't attempt to make this during the week otherwise you'll be eating at 11pm at night, which has happened to me before so don't make my same mistake!

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour & 45 minutes

(2) 2 lb pork tenderloins
Kitchen twine
3 granny smith apples (2.5 peeled and sliced, 1/2 peeled and diced)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 peeled and diced granny smith apple
1 1/2 cups dried corn bread stuffing mix (any brand is fine)
1/3 cup apple juice
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 egg, beaten

Rub: (mix all these together)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
(1) 14oz. can of chicken broth

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of cooking spray or olive oil.  Saute the celery, onion and pepper until tender stirring occasionally.  About 5 minutes.  Add the diced apple and saute for another minute.  Place the mixture in a large bowl and let cool for a couple of minutes.  Then add cornbread stuffing mix, apple juice, sage, and egg.  Toss and set aside.

Take the pork tenderloin and slice lengthwise, cutting to the other side but not through.  Open up the butterflied portions like a book and flip over.  There should be a thicker side, so repeat by cutting the larger side and cutting to but not through the other side.  This is kind of hard so you can also cover the original butterflied piece with saran wrap and hit the meat with a tenderizer or a hammer until about 3/4 inch thick.  Lightly salt both sides.

Spread the stuffing mixture over the entire tenderloin leaving about 1/2 inch margin on the outside.  Roll up like a jelly roll starting from the long side and secure with kitchen twine every 2 inches or as needed.  Then spread the rub over the entire tenderloin.

Spray a pan (can be a broiler pan or a 9x13 glass pan) with cooking spray and then layer the sliced apples on the bottom.  Place the pork over the bed of apples.

Bake for 20 minutes at the preheated 450 degrees.  Then reduce the oven to 325 degrees (DON'T remove the pork or open door) and bake for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Depending on your oven it may cook faster so also when your thermometer reads 155 degrees. (But let's be honest, after almost an hour and a half of cooking it should be done!)  Remove the pork from the pan, cover with foil and let sit for 10  minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the juice, corn starch, and broth in a small pan for the sauce.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir frequently with a whisk.

Slice the pork tenderloin and pour sauce over the meat and serve.  Enjoy your hearty dish for the winter and stay warm out there!  It's 70 here in California so I think I'll go and sit outside, visitors welcome! :-)