Monday, August 30, 2010

Sweet Treats in NYC and Boston

We ate a lot when we were in Boston and NYC.  There were way too many things we wanted to try.  I thought I would start by telling you about all the wonderful bakery type places we tried.  

We got a lot of recommendations, but I would have to say that one of Scot's besties gave us the most best recommendations of all.  He has such good taste.  Or at least the same taste as me.  Which is the best kind of taste to have, obv.  ;)

The first place (and one he recommended) is a small bakery/cafe in Boston.  It is called Flour.  He recommended the sticky buns, so that is definitely what I got.  Along with some fresh squeezed orange juice.  And not that I have tried every sticky bun in the world, but this was the best I have ever had.  So soft.  Served warm.  A nice deep, caramel flavor.  Nutty.  Really, really good.  And they have lots of other baked goods and some sandwiches.  

Now, to NYC.  We had to try the famous Doughnut Plant.  It was on my list.  It was also recommended by lots and lots of people.

The "Plant" in the name is very misleading.  This is the smallest little doughnut shop you will ever see.  There is enough room for maybe 10 people inside.  

I don't know if I have told you about the "donut kick" that I recently was on.  Luckily, that kick ended several months ago.  That does not mean I don't eat donuts anymore.  It just means I don't crave them every Thursday morning.  

Also, luckily, I do not live near Doughnut Plant (or any good donut place actually).  Because that kick would be very permanent.  

So, we test tasted four different kinds.  (Test tasted means we just ate them.)  First up, Tres Leches.  By far the best donut on earth.  See Mark (genius behind the donuts) did not start selling cake donuts until 2005!  He worked on his cake donut recipe for 5 years.  And I am kind of a cake donut girl.  And Mark is my cake donut maker boyfriend.  This is the prefect donut.  

We tried one more cake donut.  The Blackout.  This is obviously like a chocolate explosion.  It honestly tasted like a brownie.  Or like chocolate cake.  There is really no excuse to eat this for breakfast.  Unless you just convince yourself that this is a donut.  And that donuts are breakfast appropriate.  But, Scot thoroughly enjoyed this.  The easiest way to tell how much Scot likes something is to see how much of it he left on his face.  

Here is the blueberry yeast donut.  I really liked the yeast donuts too.  The dough itself was not super sweet, which I really like since the glaze is so sweet.  We liked the texture too.  The outside "crust" is very chewy.  

And last, a jelly filled donut.  This was blackberry filling.  I have never liked jelly filled donuts because there is always too much filling.  I like a little filling, with mostly donut.  These donuts are genius because they have a thin tube of filling that runs along the entire length of the square donut.  It is like the perfect bite every time.  Yum!!!

Next, we had to check out the Magnolia Bakery.  It is famous.  Gotta do it.  The one we went to was tiny and so packed with people.  I love that because it makes you know you picked the right place.  They have all sorts of cakes and desserts, but we kept it simple by trying their famous cupcakes.  I was slightly disappointed that we could only pick from some traditional flavors (chocolate cake/chocolate frosting, white cake/white frosting, yellow cake/chocolate frosting, etc.)  You have to place an order to get the more exciting flavors.  

However, it was a delicious cupcake.  And didn't have a ridiculous amount of frosting on it.  I am not a fan of the equal amounts frosting and cake.  I like just a little frosting.  I think I still took some off.  But I am picky.  It was good frosting too.  Definitely a fun experience.  

We also tried out Momofuku Milk Bar.  I was pretty excited about this place.  I had heard a lot about it.  It is a bakery, but not really at all.  The pastry chef tries to stand on the boundary of genius and disgusting.  The menu is made up of crazy soft serve ice cream flavors, delicious cookies and cakes and a few interesting drinks.  We got a sampler of all the ice cream flavors and toppings.  Starting with the purple one on the bottom (in above pic) we had:  purple drink, cereal milk, BBQ sauce, creamed corn, corn flake toppings and potato chip topping.  

Now, at first bite, each ice cream was so intriguing.  Very interesting to get your brain and taste buds to realize what is going on.  But, after a few bites, I had a really hard time with the BBQ one.  Secretly almost made me gag.  

Then, there were two problems.  One, I hate cereal milk.  I never drink the milk after I eat my cereal (something that Scot totally does not approve of).  To me, it is kind of like drinking something out of a bottle and then when it is gone, refilling it with water without washing it out.  So, it kind of tastes like what you just had in the bottle, but not really.  On one hand, I was like, "awesome, you totally replicated the taste of cereal milk and made an ice cream out of it."  On the other hand, I was like, "why did you make ice cream out of it?"  100 points for creativity.

Second problem is that I am not a huge fan of creamed corn.  I mean sure it is a pretty good side dish.  I mean I will eat it.  But it isn't like the most amazing flavor ever.  Not really sure why I would want it in ice cream for.  But, it did taste spot on like creamed corn.  

And I actually really liked the purple drink flavor.  Tasted like Koolaid.  It was a fun spin on a child hood favorite.  We also tried one of the cookies.  The compost cookie.  It was really good.  Has like a million things in it: butterscotch chips, potato chips, pretzels, etc.  Really soft and chewy.  I totally enjoyed our experience at Momofuku.  It was fun to try crazy ice cream flavors.  

And lastly, back to Boston, we got cannolis at Mike's Pastry in North End.  They were delicious (and huge).  I couldn't eat all of mine.  From what I hear, Mike's Pastry is most known for their cannolis, but they have all sorts of baked goods and desserts.  We went with cannolis and were not disappointed.  

It is also cool how they tie your box up with string hanging from the ceiling.  

And this place is so packed.  We went on a Monday night and didn't have to wait too long (maybe 10 minutes with some aggressive ordering).  But we walked by it again on Saturday and the line out the door was ridiculously long.  

Lastly, I don't have a pic for this, but we got some amazing ice cream at Toscanini's in Boston.  I got Vietnamese coffee ice cream and Scot got Hydrox cookie ice cream (apparently Hydrox was the original Oreo, but Oreo stole it or something...)  I also tried the Burnt caramel flavor.  So good!  They had lots of interesting flavors.  Wish I could have tried more.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boston and NYC - A Sneak Peak

I just had the most amazing time in Boston and NYC.  I have been to Boston a few times and have loved it every time.  This time I was a little older, less cheap and way cooler.  All three of these things made my Bostonian experience over the top.  And my first time to NYC!  Wow.  I have been really missing out on one of the most amazing cities that I have ever been too.  I have already been talking Scot's head off about either moving there or trying to visit once a year.  I honestly loved every second of our time in NYC.

Luckily, Scot and I have some friends and family who helped us pick out the BEST places to eat.  And, of course, I did some research before hand.  Guess what?  I ate some of the best food of my life.  And a lot of it.  Like we just ate the entire time.  This is why moving to NYC would be a horrible and amazing idea.  Maybe we walked most of it off.

I can't wait to tell you about all these great places.  I thought I would start with a sneak peak of some of my favs.  Then, I hope to give all the details over the next several days.  These recommendations helped us so much, so I hope they can help other people too.

First, probably my favorite thing I had was the pizza from Grimaldi's Pizza in Brooklyn.  And, of course, I love pizza.  Who doesn't.  But pizza is not my favorite food, by any means.  This is a BIG deal.  So simple and so perfect.  Worth the hour wait.  Worth even longer of a wait.  I am counting down the days when I can go back.

Next, we had these soup dumplings in Chinatown in NY.  The restaurant is called Nice/New Green Bo.  These are dumplings filled with soup!  Scot called it a party in your mouth.  They were so tender and the burst of soup, pork and crab when you finally open them in your mouth is delicious.  Best dumplings ever.  Best recommendation ever.

And we also were told to go to this Venezuelan place (called Caracas) for arepas in NYC.  And we did.  YUMMMM.  I was tempted to try one with each filling (there were about 20 to choose from).  Instead we picked two.  BTW, an arepa is this unleavened bread made of corn.  Then, they fill it with various cheeses, meats, and veggies (lots of avocado).  So so good.  They also have empanadas.  Also amazing.

This is a really horrible picture of the best pasta I have ever eaten.  O.  M.  G.  This was from Terramia in Boston's North End.  We were luck enough to be in Boston and NYC during both cities' Restaurant Week.  And totally scored on picking out this little 40 seat Italian restaurant.  Part of the reason I picked it was because the Restaurant Week menu did not have a dessert course.  Just had 3 regular courses.  I think sometimes the Restaurant Week menus' dessert courses are kind of lame.  Oh and, this was a bolognese sauce with homemade pasta.  Honestly one of the best things I have ever eaten.  Honestly wanted to kiss the chef.

Now that I just bashed Restaurant Week desserts, this was my dessert from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Restaurant Week Menu.  In NYC.  Had to put that in a separate sentence due to too many proper nouns.  Anyways, this is a bread pudding with some fruit in the bread pudding and then a delicious raspberry sauce.  My idea of a perfect dessert.  And I have always been kind of scared of bread pudding. It just sounds gross.  I would order this again and again.

This is by far the best cup of coffee I have had in a long time.  Stumptown in NYC.  A really cute coffee shop where all of the employees dress up in roaring 20's garb.  They are adorable.  And amazing baristas.  I have a special place in my heart for baristas who make designs in my cappuccino.  Especially hearts.  And this woman did.  And she smiled and chatted with me.  Also, they sell this $75 package of coffee beans (Panama Esmeralda Especial, the guy explained that has been decided by all real coffee drinkers that it IS the best coffee in the world).  I will have one,  Thanks.

And just scratching the surface.  I will be writing in more detail about these places.  But mostly, I have many more places to tell you about.  I had to pick favorites.  Which apparently I don't have a problem doing.  :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homemade Oreos

Well, I have been a bad blogger lately, huh?  I love pretending like I am too busy to blog.  Makes me feel really cool.  

The truth is, yeah, actually, I am just too busy to blog.  Booyah.

Anyways, I love blogging.  And I made these Oreos kind of a long time ago.  Never posted them.  

I made these Oreos for mothers and friends.  Mailed them out in care packages.  First, these were not my favorite cookies of the bunch (these were).  Second, they were just about everyone else's favorite cookie.  Could it be that people got a kick out of "homemade Oreos"?  Or maybe it was because they were the only real chocolaty cookie out of the four I made?  Maybe they are just amazing?  Probs.

I have what I call a negative sweet tooth.  I have no idea why.  But I can't take it when desserts are too sweet.  So, for me, these were just a tad too sweet.  The chocolate wafer recipe calls for a range of sugar...I would suggest using the least amount. And, I would prefer that the filling had less vanilla in it.  I would suggest 1/2 tsp rather than 2 tsp.  I didn't change the recipe below because I am no dessert queen and everyone else really liked them.  But Scot agreed about the vanilla.  And I would call him the dessert king.  Or at least the chocolate king.  

Homemade Oreos
adapted from Retro Desserts, Wayne Brachman via smitten kitchen

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa,
baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the
butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes
together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.

(Servings: 25-30 sandwich cookies, Prep time: 30 min, Cook time: 1 hr., Difficulty: Easy)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grilled Peach, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Pizza

We had a little stay-cation over the past few days.  Scot’s bro and sis-in-law came to visit.  And, of course, our amazing little nephew came with.  We had a wonderful time.  We are totally in love with this little baby.  He has the cutest personality and is such a happy boy.  And guess what?  He is a great eater.  I think they have a potential foodie on their hands.  This is probably strongly related to all the wonderful homemade baby food his mom makes him.  J

Anyways, we had this pizza one night they were here.  I wanted to incorporate some Colorado peaches into a menu.  Colorado peaches are by far the best produce to come out of CO, for sure. 

This pizza is very clean and simple.  A combination of thinly sliced peaches, goat cheese and prosciutto.  You put that on anything and I will love it.  And I like to top these fruit pizzas with a lightly dressed salad.  I had a pizza similar to this at SALT in downtown Boulder for brunch a week or so ago.  They used blue cheese instead of goat cheese, which was also delicious.  But, as you know, I have an unhealthy obsession with goat cheese.  And I am totally ok with it.  

Grilled Peach, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Pizza

1 pizza dough
1-2 peaches, peels and sliced thin
5 oz. of goat cheese, crumbled
3-5 slices or prosciutto
olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed greens
balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat grill to medium heat. Oil grates.

Divide dough into three equal pieces. Roll out each pizza to about 8 inches in diameter. The dough should be thin.

Precook each crust on the grill by cooking for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove crusts from the grill and decrease heat to medium low. Top with peach slices, goat cheese and slices of prosciutto. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place each pizza back on the grill, close the lid, and cook until crust is crispy and toppings are warmed through.

Toss mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette. Top pizza with salad and serve!

(Servings: 3, Prep time: 15 min., Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 tsp Dijon mustard
a splash of soy sauce
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

In the bottom of a big bowl, whisk together mustard, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Continue to whisk, and as slowly as possible, stream in olive oil. By doing so slowly, this will emulsify the oil and vinegar (and then it won’t

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Egg Salad Sandwich

I have been majorly craving eggs lately.  Not really normal for me.  

I have been eating scrambled eggs on toast (spread with goat cheese) and REALLY enjoyed some deviled eggs at game night.  When my friend asked me for an egg salad recipe lately, I couldn't help but make myself a sandwich too.  

I have learned recently that two of my friends don't like eggs.  And my sister in law is not a fan either.  Seems pretty common.  I have gone through small spurts of being uninterested in eggs.  But I have mad respect for the little guys.  They are pretty much the most useful ingredient out there.  So those spurts never lasted long.  And right now I am in an egg obsessed spurt.  

Random side story that does not flow at all:  When I was little, we used to have hard boiled eggs.  We just ate them.  Not sure if this was just around Easter, I feel like it was more often than that.  But, my brother and I were the perfect egg pair.  He liked the whites and I liked the yolks.  I ate both, but he did not eat yolks.  And we always traded everything...nothing in life is free.  You don't just get my egg yolk for doing nothing.  Therefore, I often gave up my whites.  Yikes!  Glad I am not still on an egg yolk only diet.  

Make this sandwich.  It was so amazing.  

Egg Salad Sandwich

2 eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 stalk celery (sliced)
1 green onion (sliced)
salt and pepper to taste
2 leaves of lettuce
2 slices of bread

Place the eggs in a sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil.

Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for seven minutes.

Transfer the eggs to a large bowl filled with cold water and let cool.

Peel the eggs and mash to the desired consistency mixing in the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, celery and green onions.

Assemble sandwich.

(Servings: 1, Prep time: 15 min., Cook time: 0 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer Squash Enchiladas

These were delicious!  

I have never been crazy about enchiladas.  I think I sometimes ate enchiladas as a young child.  And, I guess, I love my favorite New Mexican green chile enchiladas.  But, I don't even think I have ever made a traditional red batch of enchiladas.  

One reason is because I don't like store bought enchilada sauce.  I think it tastes like a cross between ketchup, dirt, salt and raw, stingy jalapenos.

This sauce is the best enchiladas sauce I have had.  And I love that these are vegetarian.  Mexican is so rarely vegetarian. 

One change I would make is to fry the corn tortillas before wrappin' and rollin'.  I normally do, but this time wanted to try just warmed the corn tortillas in the oven, as the recipe states.  Even after dredging it in sauce and covered it with cheese, I still think corn tortillas taste too raw/dry if they aren't fried.  You can just fry them each in a couple of tablespoons of oil.  

Also, we ate these with some cilantro-lime rice.  

Summer Squash Enchiladas

For the enchilada sauce:
10 dried cascabel chiles or 6 dried guajillo chiles
1 canned chipotle chile
2 teaspoons of oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 15-oz. canned tomatoes, drained
2 cups of chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the filling:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, stems and seeds removed, diced
2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste

For the enchiladas:
12 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese, a mix of Monterey Jack and cheddar

To make the sauce, in a dry skillet heated on high, take the chiles and toast the chiles on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they start to puff. Leave the heat on and cover the chiles with water. When the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain the chiles and add to a blender.

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a skillet and cook the onions for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Place onions and garlic into a blender. Add the canned chipotle chile, the tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin, oregano and blend until smooth.

In a pot, heat 1 teaspoon of oil on low heat, pour in the sauce and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and black pepper to taste and adjust other seasonings as needed.

To make the filling, in a large skillet, heat up the oil on medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeños and cook for a minute. Add the diced zucchini and yellow squash, cilantro, cumin and sauté for 10 minutes. Add salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. Wrap the tortillas in foil and place in the oven for 5 minutes while the oven is preheating.

Remove tortillas from oven, open the foil (be careful as there may be hot steam), take a tortilla and with tongs dip it into the sauce. Shake off most of the sauce, but make sure that it’s moist enough to be pliable. Lay the tortilla on a plate or clean cooking surface, add a spoonful of the filling down the center of it and then roll the tortilla. Place rolled enchilada in greased baking dish and repeat with remaining tortillas.

Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with shredded cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Serve topped with avocado wedges and cotija cheese.

Note: Cascabel chiles are round, about the size of a golf ball and they make a rattling sound when you shake them. Guajillo chiles are red, slender and usually about 4 inches long—they look very similar to New Mexico dried red chiles. Now,
in Houston I’ve seen guajillo chiles labeled cascabel chiles—so if it’s long and slender and not round, chances are it’s a guajillo chile. These chiles are commonly found at Mexican grocers, all across the US. If you can't find them, you can substitute ancho chiles, which may be easier to find--I'd use 4.

(Servings: 4-6, Prep time: 1 hr. 30 min., Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fiery Angel Hair Pasta

I am always looking for ways to spice up my life.

Yup.  I really said that.

This pasta is great for a quick dinner.  It is not only vegetarian, but it also has no vegetables.  Pasta-tarian?  Probably not the best dietary lifestyle choice, but definitely a good dinner choice.  This would be great with a nice salad.  We had smoothies with ours.  I would say that this is not that spicy.  Mild.  But I still love that Giada named it Fiery.    

Fiery Angel Hair Pasta
by Giada De Laurentiis via Food Network

1 pound angel hair pasta
1/2 cup Chili Oil, recipe follows
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Coarse sea salt
Dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, optional
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the angel hair pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Stir the oil, parsley, lemon juice and lemon peel in a large serving bowl. Add the cooked pasta and toss with enough reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and red pepper flakes, to taste. Sprinkle
grated lemon peel over pasta for extra flavor and texture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 20 min., Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Chili Oil

2 cups olive oil
4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes

Combine the oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a heavy small saucepan. Cook over low heat until a thermometer inserted into the oil registers 180 degrees F, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Transfer the oil and pepper flakes to a 4-ounce bottle. Seal the lid. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Yield: 2 cups

Friday, August 6, 2010

Gups' Blueberry Pie

A special guest blogger.  Gups!

Gups is actually my bff Megan.  We have a long evolution of nicknames for each other.  And Gups is the latest and greatest.  I have known Megan since elementary school.  We didn't go to elementary school together, but she did occasionally make an appearance at MY pool with her friends, so I saw her there.  She wore goggles.  I also knew of her because we played in the same district basketball league.  She was tall and her mom was always doing her hair before games.  She pretty much exclusively sported the low pony.

Anyways, we become good, good friends through middle/high school, roomed together at an out of state, private college (all four years) and now that we live apart, we skype on a semi-non-frequent basis because she pretends like she is too busy for me.  Jk.  Jk.

She also contacts me often to discuss what she should make for dinner, lunch, breakfast, or her next dinner party.  I help her and she always takes my ideas and advice (after totally bashing the first 3-5 ideas I give her).  Haha...we are friends like that.
Bottom line, Gups is an excellent cook and baker.  Here is her contribution for blueberry pie:

PS:  Isn't she SOOOOOO cute (note:  she is the baby in the bonnet)?

I love blueberry pie. It's my second favorite of pies after pumpkin. When I was younger, we used to go blueberry picking by my cabin. It was one of my favorite things to do up North. We did it for a number of years until ticks got really bad and lyme disease and all that happened. Anyway, my mom would make an amazing pie with what we picked. We would also go to the blueberry festival in Lake George, MN. It's a three day festival that is all about blueberries - a blueberry pancake breakfast, a blueberry ball, a blueberry square dance. You can get blueberry pie, cobbler, crumble, jam, syrup, pretty much anything you want. Which I think is ok because blueberries are super good for you. Antioxidants and all that.

So, I've found that people tend to be intimidated to make their own crust. Every time I make a pie, at least someone says: "Whoa, you even made your own crust? Way to go, Martha." Truth is, it's not that hard at all. I just use the crisco recipe, and I think it tastes pretty dang good. I would say the main things to be cognizant of are to make sure you only add a little water at a time and keep testing it until it just forms together, and also to let the dough chill before you roll it out - it keeps it from sticking. Sometimes if I'm in a hurry or am impatient, I just stick it in the freezer for like 10 minutes while I prepare the insides of the pie.

Make sure when you split the dough that one is a little bigger than the other, cause the bottom takes more dough to cover. So when you roll it out, do it on a piece of waxed or parchment paper - easier to flip into the pie pan then. Put some flour down to prevent sticking. Roll that sucker out and make sure its a couple inches bigger than the diameter of the pan. I usually place the pie pan on top of the crust and then flip. Press down the edges against the pan, and then fill with the blueberry mixture. Top with a couple tablespoons of flour or corn starch to prevent runniness after baking. Roll out the top and flip that guy on top, seal the edges, cut slits in the top, and you're good to go. I usually take the pie out a few minutes before its done and brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Everything's better with sugar on top.

Gups’ Blueberry Pie
crust recipe from Crisco

For double crust:
2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening Sticks
* OR 3/4 cup well-chilled Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening
4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

For blueberry filling:
4 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
5 TBS. flour or corn starch
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg or cinnamon
dash salt

1 tsp. lemon juice.
1 TBS. butter.

BLEND flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.

CUT chilled shortening into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut in chilled shortening cubes into flour mixture, using a pastry blender, in an up and down chopping motion, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.

SPRINKLE half the maximum recommended amount of ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top, distributing moisture evenly into flour. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon, until dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.

SHAPE dough into a ball and divide in two, one ball slightly larger than the other. Flatten ball(s) into 1/2-inch thick round disk(s).

TIP For ease in rolling, wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

ROLL dough (larger ball of dough for double crust pie) from center outward with steady pressure on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax or parchment paper) into a circle 2-inches wider than pie plate for the bottom crust. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin. Center the rolling pin over the pie plate, and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.

For a DOUBLE pie crust, roll larger disk for bottom crust, trimming edges of dough even with outer edge of pie plate. Fill unbaked pie crust according to recipe directions. Roll out smaller dough disk. Transfer dough carefully onto filled pie. Trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold top edge under bottom crust. Press edges together to seal and flute as desired. Cut slits in top crust or prick with fork to vent steam. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

Combine ingredients for blueberry filling.

Line pie plate with pastry dough. Fill with blueberry filling mixture. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Dot with butter. Adjust top crust over mixture, cutting slits for steam to escapes. Seal and crimp edges.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 min.

(Servings: 6-8, Prep time: 1.5 hrs., Cook time: 45 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables

This was a great side dish.  We had this with the grilled chicken stuffed with goat cheese with smoked chile-cilantro sauce that I posted yesterday.  

I have been wanting to try Israeli couscous for a long time.  It is much different regular couscous.  Almost more like orzo but spherically shaped.  It also cooks like pasta, not instant.  And I really like it.  It has a nice texture.  I would say it lends itself well to being paired with grilled veggies, especially if it is toasted first.  I am always looking for new sides to make when we grill out.  This is a great one.  

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables
by Bobby Flay via Food Network

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 green zucchini, quartered lengthwise
2 yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise
6 spears asparagus, trimmed
12 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup basil chiffonade (stack leaves, roll in a cigar shape and cut crosswise into
thin strips)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Israeli couscous
2 cups vegetable stock, heated
Hot water to cover

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 the marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Preheat the grill. Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Cut the zucchini and peppers into 1/2-inch pieces, cut the tomatoes in half. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the couscous and toast until lightly golden brown. Cover the couscous with the hot stock plus hot water and bring to a boil, cook until al dente and drain well. Place in a large serving bowl, add the grilled vegetables and herbs and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

(Servings: 8, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 20 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grilled Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese with Smoked Chile Cilantro Sauce

Bobby Flay is my favorite Food Network personality.  He is the only one I find natural and normal in front of the camera.  Scot does not agree with me.  His favorite is Sandra Lee.  


Anyways, Bobby is great.  And we have reservations to go to Mesa Grill when we are in NYC.  CANNOT WAIT.

The only problem with Bobby is that he is a restaurant chef.  And rich.  So, he isn't exactly good at coming up with recipes for the everyday person.  However, a meal like this is good to make every once in a while.  Spice things up.  

This meal was delicious.  It is a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, roasted red pepper, olives and some fresh thyme.  The sauce is a lot of things including poblano peppers, cilantro and spinach.  All blended up in the blender.

If you have never stuffed a chicken breast, you were probably born after 1978.  Jk!  Didn't mean to slam B. Flay.  Or stuffed chicken breasts.  I just feel like they are kind of old school.  And I also feel like they are usually served at weddings.  But I don't know what I am talking about.  And who doesn't like a little surprise?

Anyways, to stuff one, you want to take the chicken breast and pound it out to about 1/4th of inch thick.  Then, put the stuffing on one half, fold over, and secure with toothpicks.  

And lastly, I did not smoke my poblanos because I don't have a smoker and also I don't even really know what that means exactly.  I am sure you could find smoked poblanos somewhere, but I didn't even try.  So, I roasted mine.  And I love poblano peppers.  They are pretty mild.  Like really mild.  But for some reason when I clean them my hands still burn.  

We ate this with a warm Israeli couscous and grilled veggie salad.  

PS:  Yes, I totally flagged my chicken breast with parsley.  I figured it couldn't hurt.  

Grilled Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese with Smoked Chile Cilantro Sauce
by Bobby Flay via Food Network

8 ounces soft goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped nicoise olives
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large boneless chicken breast, pounded thin
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat grill. Mix together the goat cheese, olives, red pepper and thyme in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Lay each breast out and fill with the cheese mixture. Brush the breasts with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste, secure with toothpicks. Grill for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Serving with smoked chile-cilantro sauce below.

Smoked Chile-Cilantro Sauce

2 poblanos, smoked, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup spinach leaves
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a blender, combine the poblanos, onion and lime juice and blend until smooth. While the blender is running, add the oil slowly until emulsified. Add the spinach and cilantro and blend until smooth. Add the honey and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 1 hr., Cook time: 12 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dinner for Mom

My mom was in town last week to pick up my baby sister.  I wanted to make a nice dinner for her after her long drive here.  I also wanted it to be something that I could make without using ovens, stoves or even the grill.  Having guests over in the summer after you have been cooking up a storm is never a good plan.  Something I learned the hard way.

First, I made some shrimp ceviche.  If you don't know what a ceviche is: ceviche is fish/seafood/shrimp that is marinated in lemon juice (or any citrus).  In many cases, the citric acid actually "cooks" the fish and no heat is needed.  My mom is a lover of all things fully cooked.  Well done.  She eats her bacon black.  Therefore, I chose a recipe for shrimp ceviche, which called for cooked shrimp.  And I bought some of the good stuff from Whole Foods.  It is simply marinated in some lemon juice and then mixed with different herbs (I used cilantro) and fresh veggies (I used avocadoes and grape tomatoes).  My mom called it vacation food and it totally is.

Next, I made some little stuffed cucumber appetizers.  I found these White On Rice Couple blog.  These are fresh, refreshing summer side or appetizer.  They are cucumber slices, topped with prosciutto and a dollop of a sour cream, roasted pine nut and feta mixture.

And lastly, I made some mini croissant sandwiches filled with chicken salad.  Something I knew both my mom and sister would love.  I love mini things.  I also love any kind of "salad" sandwich.  And I don't care who knows it.  Egg salad, turkey salad, tuna salad, chicken salad.  I made mine using a rotisserie chicken.  Mixed in some chopped celery, mayo and some seasoning salt and lemon pepper (the seasonings were something I saw on Paula Dean's son's chicken salad recipe).

It was a nice and easy menu.  I would definitely recommend it.