Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Super Bowl Party Apps!

If you are looking for a few things to throw together for the big game, look no further!  Here are some of my favorites that are easy to put together and are always crowd pleasers!

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Carbonara Mac 'N Cheese

There is an ongoing search in my family for the best mac 'n cheese....we are always willing to give a new recipe a try, simply for the sake of research, of course!

It didn't take long for this recipe to find it's way into my dinner rotation when I saw it on a food blog I follow and forwarded it to my sister-in-law with a simple message: " When are we trying this?"

We had it that night for dinner and I must say, combining two of my favorites, bacon and mac 'n cheese, was an ingenious idea!  DELICIOUS!

Carbonara Mac 'N Cheese
as adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

1 pound fusilli, cooked just under al dente
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound pancetta (we used bacon), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten in small bowl
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Wisconsin Gruyere Cheese, shredded and divided
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) Wisconsin Parmesan Cheese, grated and divided
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add one teaspoon olive oil to large sauté pan and place over medium heat. When oil is hot, add pancetta and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes. Remove pancetta with spoon and transfer to bed of paper towels to drain. Set aside.
Add onion to same sauté pan and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. 
Place garlic and thyme over the onions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
Add butter and melt. 
Once melted, mix in flour and cook 1-2 minutes. 
Increase heat to medium-high and whisk in milk until mixture has thickened, about 4- 6 minutes. 
Add a few teaspoons of warm milk mixture to bowl with egg yolks and whisk. 
Add egg/milk mixture back to pan and mix until completely combined.
Turn off heat and add Dijon mustard, 1 cup Gruyere and 1 cup Parmesan. 
Add salt to taste; mix well. In large bowl, add pancetta, pasta and cheese mixture; toss together until pasta is evenly coated. 
Transfer to a 13”x 10” casserole dish and sprinkle top with remaining Gruyere, Parmesan and freshly cracked pepper. 
Transfer to oven and bake 12-15 minutes, until top is melted. Serve immediately.
The night was perfectly complete with my nephew and a beautiful sun set!
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Chicken Piccata for Two

One thing I have found in the kitchen is that for me it seems easier to cook for a group in the 4-6 range as opposed to 1-2 person range.  Scaling back on the enormous feasts I am used to cooking, and quite frankly, what I prefer cooking, is trying to say the least. 

Inevitably I end up with 4 meals worth of leftovers which is fine if I have friends over because then I just send them all home with my friends.  When it is difficult is when it is just me....I rarely eat leftovers.

Every once in a while I will be known to re-heat something for lunch the next day but those days are few and far between.  

I am just odd I realize this. 

So many people look at me with shocked expressions when I say I don't like leftovers. 

"But it is so good the next day"

"How can you let it go to waste"

"I can't believe you aren't going to eat that"

Trust me, I have heard it all!  So to set the record straight here is my bottom line....I can freak myself out about anything when it comes to food.  The mind, for me, can be a terribly wasteful monster!

Here is what happens: I have a dinner that for all intents and purposes was delicious. I pack it in a storage container and pop in in the fridge with wonderful intentions to eat it the next day.  One of two things will happen the following day.  

One: I forget to take it to work with me and then think that surely I will remember it the next day and then, of course, I don't and it sits in my fridge for several more days.

Two: I take it to work with me but since I just ate it for dinner the night before I am not really in the mood for it and since lunch is provided at work it just sits in the fridge until it is time to clean out the fridge again.

You see the point is that after one day of it sitting in a container I have convinced myself that it has gone bad.  It surely can be no good anymore and will make me violently ill should I attempt to stomach this rancid mess.

Dramatic maybe, but that is the way my psyche works.  Please do not analyze that one!

With all of that to be said, I have long been searching for recipes on a smaller scale and leave it to my dear friend Mackenzie to enlighten me! I recently had dinner with Mackenzie and her darling lambchop of a daughter, Amelia, and must say that this was the most delicious chicken piccata I have ever eaten and was thrilled to find the recipe was FOR 2!!!

 Chicken Piccata for Two

2 chicken breast (pounded thin)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 extra large egg
½ TB water
¾ cup Italian Panko Crumbs
Good Olive oil
1 lemon
2 TB Butter

Preheat oven to 400
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper
In 3 shallow plates put flour, beaten egg with ½ TB of water and bread crumbs.
Dip each chicken breast into the flour first then the egg and then the bread crumbs.
Heat 1TB of olive oil in a large sauce pan over med/high heat
Brown chicken (2mins on each side) and place on sheet pan and put in oven for 5-10 mins
In same saucepan over medium heat melt 1 TB of butter and add lemon juice (let one half of the lemon rind sit in the sauce while it simmers), ½ salt and ¼ pepper.  Let the sauce simmer for 2 minutes and then take off heat and add more butter if needed. At this point, if you are serving with pasta drizzle some of the sauce over the chicken and then add the cooked pasta to the remaining sauce in the pan to soak it all up!
Thank you Mackenzie and Miss Amelia for a lovely dinner and a wonderful new recipe!
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hot Damn Duck

To fully appreciate the amazingness that is "Hot Damn Duck" one truly needs to understand the man behind the recipe.

"Daddy Reed" as we affectionately refer to him is one of the most kind, generous, funny men I have met in a long time.  Always excited to come to Nashville for some time spent on Lower Broad or simply by the grill in the backyard, Big Reed has become a fixture in Nashville as he breezes through town.

Having spent more time at Bruce Springsteen concerts across the country than in his own home, this man is fully embracing The Boss and all he has to offer.....not to mention the people watching alone is enough to write home about!

I was first introduced to this dish while at the cabin which Big Reed and several of his friends have in Alabama.  No electricity, fireplaces everywhere, the river rushing past.....pretty much heaven if you ask me!  With so much freshly shot duck available, Big Reed is always ready and willing to put on the dog with his Hot Damn Duck.

This year, on on of his fun visits to town, Daddy Reed made this for the masses and boy was it received well.  Not sure if it is the Mississippi Delta duck, the bacon, the cream cheese or just the delicious combination of it all but this is quickly becoming a sought after appetizer in these parts!

Thanks to the man who brought it to Nashville!

Big Reed's Hot Damn Duck

Fresh duck meat, cubed into strips
Italian dressing
thick cut bacon
cream cheese
pepperoncini peppers
Butter, melted
Knorr's Bearnaise sauce

Marinade the duck for several hours in Italian dressing and Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. 

Cut the entire pound of bacon in half.  For each piece of duck take one pepperoncini pepper, cut the stem and the top off of the pepper, and stuff the pepper with cream cheese.
Wrap each pepper in a piece of duck and then wrap each piece of duck in a piece of bacon.
Secure with a toothpick.

Grill over medium heat for 8-10 minutes.  Brush with melted butter during the cooking to keep them moist.  Move to the side of the heat on the grill and let them smoke for an additional 10 minutes.  Serve immediately with the Knorr's Bearnaise sauce.  For an especially rich sauce use half & half instead of milk.

Sprinkle a little Tony's Creole Seasoning in the Bearnaise sauce for an added kick!
So delicious!!
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Monday, January 21, 2013

Spinach Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Since I am always on the hunt for new recipes I am constantly trolling Pinterest to find something that will spice up your basic chicken, beef or pork.

When I saw this recipe I could find no negative....ingredients looked amazing, prep looked simple and cook time gave ample opportunities to visit with our dinner guests before we sat down to eat.

Here is another delicious recipe that I feel certain would be delicious with chicken if you wanted to go that route!

Spinach Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin
1 1/2 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese (Polly-o)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
2 tbsp chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 oz thin sliced prosciutto
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Combine crushed garlic, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, and pepper; mix well.

Cut a lengthwise slit down the center of the tenderloin to within 1/2- inch of bottom (careful not to cut all the way through). Open tenderloin so it lies flat. On each half, make another, lengthwise slit down the center to within 1/2-inch of bottom; cover with plastic wrap. Flatten to 1/4-in. thickness with a mallet.
Remove plastic wrap; spread 1/2 of the garlic/Dijon mixture on the inside of the pork.Layer the cheese, spinach, sun dried tomatoes and proscuitto on top, press down gently.
Roll up pork jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Tie the roast at 1-1/2-inch to 2-inch intervals with kitchen string.
Season lightly with salt, and remaining garlic/Dijon mixture. Place on a rack in a shallow baking pan.  Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 25-30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160°. Place under the broiler to brown the top for 5 minutes, then transfer to a serving platter or cutting board. Let stand 10 minutes before removing string and slicing. Slice in 8 pieces.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Pan Seared Scallops

Alright ladies and gentlemen I am getting ready to take you on another adventure in the kitchen with my dear friend Michael.

As I mentioned before when I posted about the fresh salmon flown across the country from Pike Market in Seattle, Michael and his lovely bride, Amber, brought us back a plethora of fresh seafood so that our families could gather for a holiday meal with some of the most tasty dishes we have had the great pleasure to cook and eat!

Besides the delicious smoked salmon and then the salmon baked with an olive/tomato salsa  not to mention the ever so delicious mussels, we also had these little heavenly treats.....ahhhh the scallop!

Typically I am not the biggest scallop fan mainly because I can't get past the texture but if there is one thing I have learned in the cooking of this great meal is that all rules fly out the window when seafood is as fresh as this was!

In a meager attempt to keep up with Michael in the kitchen I got a few pictures but as is usually the case when I am in the kitchen with Michael I don't have any measurements or exact times on how long anything was cooked.  Sorry!

Here is how we prepared these crazy fresh scallops which were served to rave reviews!

Pan Seared Scallops

Fresh Bay Scallops
Salt and Pepper
minced garlic

Rinse the scallops under cold water and remove tough tendon.  Place on a paper towels, pat dry and dust with salt and pepper.
Om a large skillet, heat over high heat a couple tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, add the minced garlic.  Cook the garlic until it is just browned.
Add the scallops to the hot skillet and sear on each side for several minutes.
Keep the skillet really hot so that it is searing the scallops giving them a nice brown crust on either side.  
Remove from skillet and pour the brown butter and garlic over top.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Hello DC! It's good to see you again!

It doesn't matter how many times I come to our nation's capitol, I feel like every time it is the first time!  I see the same things but through a different filter, I experience places that I had never experienced before and I gain a greater appreciation for all that this city is each time I arrive!

I came to DC this time for a conference and decided to get here a day early so that I could walk around and truly get to SEE everything I wanted to see.  I have been here before a couple of times and each time I feel like it is something new and different.

This time I was going to be the ultimate tourist.  I put on my comfy shoes and set out on my journey.  

With an entire day to myself, 50 degrees and sunny on the forecast, I made a plan to see as many of the national monuments as I possibly could!
I walked and I walked, I sat and I read, I walked some more, took several pictures and then kept on going.  

It was perfect!

I went to the Smithsonian Museum on American History (a mecca for this college history major), I saw the WWII memorial for the first time, I sat at the feet of Lincoln and truly thought what a giant among men this great leader truly was, I stared into the reflection pool of the Washington Monument and took a closer look at the different stones used in the many phases of making this obelisk a reality.

It was a wonderful day spent the only way I wanted it....on my own, taking in as many of the sights as I possibly could.

After my trek was over, I met up with a friend for dinner and was able to have dinner at Clyde's in Georgetown and drinks and oysters at Old Ebbitt's, both delicious and perfectly what I wanted!

Here are some of the pictures from my day and night!

Walking in front of the White House exactly where President and Mrs. Obama will walk a week from today!
 Ahhhhh the Capitol!!
Everywhere I turned, they were getting ready for the Inauguration! 
 All I could think when I saw this was the line from The Lion King: "Mufasa, oooo do it again! Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa!!!!"
 I think this might be one of the most peaceful places I have ever seen!
 On to the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial!
 This was the first time I had seen the WWII Memorial....there is something moving about seeing your home state on a memorial in your nation's capitol.
My final stop of my self guided tour was going to be The White see this iconic building with a protest going on outside the front gates just beside the grandstands set up for the inauguration was pretty surreal.  
Off to dinner at Clyde's in Georgetown....such a perfect staple of this awesome area of town!
The food was so good that I forgot to take pictures of the here is the soup and desserts...everything was amazing!!
Finally the night ended with a walk in front of the White House to see it all lit up and drinks and oysters at Old Ebbitt's Grille!
There were flags everywhere which made me immensley happy!  For those of you who don't know, I am slightly (or maybe not so slightly) obsessed with the American flag!
I have now seen all three of these statues: DC, Nashville and New Orleans!
And because my mom told me I should do this but didn't actually think I would (I mean that is basically a triple dog dare right there) I went to a church service at the National Cathedral and as I knew it would be it was amazing!
And then I found the TN state flag in the hallway and just HAD to take my picture with it!  Of course then there was the TN state seal and the Presidential Seal....pretty awesome if you ask me! 
I thought this tapestry was is a tree with all the state seals on it!
Then the conference began and my Tour de Washington was over so until next was great seeing you again!
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