Archive for July, 2009

Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Strata

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I was in Cedar Rapids Iowa, visiting with my friends from college. While I was lazy and slept in, I missed the chance to go ot the farmer’s market with a couple of my close friends, Sarah and Leah. I wish I’d been awake, because I love a farmer’s market (though I guess I also missed a bunch of wandering around in the rain, which I don’t love quite as much).

While they were out, they picked up this delicious breakfast baked pastry thing, with eggs, cheese, bacon, and thinly sliced mushrooms and even spinach. I don’t think any of us were totally into both mushrooms or spinach (I’ll eat mushrooms, but not spinach, others were the opposite, some wouldn’t normally eat either one) but it was still delicious. It had been baked and cooled, and cut into squares–kind of like squares of a casserole, but solid enough to pick up and eat. When they got back from the market, we warmed it up a little in the oven and that was it.

I don’t know what it was called, but when I saw this Bacon and Cheese Strata on The Pioneer Woman’s website, I was reminded of it, and decided to try the strata dish.

I’m going to say upfront that this was not my favorite. Maybe I was comparing it (unfavorably and unfairly) to the baked dish from Iowa. I also think I used too much of the bready pita chips in my base (I was halving the recipe, and I didn’t measure the chips so I overestimated what I would need). Then there was the issue of cooking–again a problem with halving the recipe, I guess, but when it looked like the eggs were set at the edges, I cut into it and found raw egg. By the time I was sure the eggs were done, the outside edges were rubbery and overcooked. All in all, I would not call this a success, but I think I might try it again sometime. There’s definitely potential here.


Bacon & Cheese Breakfast Strata
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

  • 6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 piece
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese)
  • 5 ounces Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips

1. Fry the bacon pieces in a large skillet until done but not overly crispy and Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

2. Mix eggs, half & half, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Arrange pita chips in an 8 x8-inch baking dish. Slightly press to flatten.

4. Tear pieces of cream cheese and evenly distribute over the top.

5. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the top, followed by the cheddar cheese.

6. Pour egg mixture evenly over all ingredients.

7. Place into the fridge for several hours or overnight (makes a handy breakfast casserole!), then bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Cut into squares and serve immediately.


Friday, July 10th, 2009

Can I just take a minute and say how much I love my husband?

Well, I do. And not just because he buys me presents. But this post is about presents. 🙂

I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work, so getting a call from him when I landed in Denver, telling me he’d ordered two presents for me was really fun. As was the anticipation of waiting for them to come in the mail. (For him, probably the most fun was me needling and whining to get him to tell me what they were. I figured one out, but his lips were sealed on the other).

I don’t want to say too much about them, because they both deserve full reviews here, but he ordered two fantastic books for me.

The first (the one I had figured out) is called The Cook’s Guide to Chicago. The blurb on the back says “This is not a cookbook, it’s a cook’s book!” and that seems about right. Though there are recipes sprinkled throughout, the book sets out to uncover the best specialty food stores and specialty equipment shops in the city. I’m excited to work my way through it.


The second book is a naturally fit for me, and one I’ve had my eye on for a while: Tom Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft: Craft a sandwich into a meal–and a meal into a sandwich. I haven’t had a chance to look through it fully, but it’s a beautifully constructed book with a wide range of sandwiches. It makes me sad to think that I’ve missed my chance to stop into a ‘wichcraft shop twice now (once in NYC, once in San Francisco). Next time the opportunity arises, I’m going to take it for sure.


I’ve got one more book burning a hole in my bookshelf, and this one was actually a birthday present from Leah: it’s called Jam It, Pickle  It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects. Another beautiful book full of pictures (I don’t know why that matters to me, but it does!) and a lot of cool “projects,” like making Oreos from scratch. Or bacon. It looks really fun, and definitely the kind of thing I’ve been into lately.


I’m really excited about all of these and I can’t wait until things slow down at work a little more so I can really get in the kitchen and use them!

Yukon Gold Garlic Fries with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

For our Fourth of July party, I made these garlic fries with a spicy dipping sauce to go with our main dish of BBQ Ribs. I actually got this recipe from a couple different places. I got the idea for the one-step french fries from The Hungry Mouse, and then doctored them up with fresh garlic and parsley, inspired by Seven Spoons.

They were delicious.

french fries

Yukon Gold Garlic Fries with Spicy Horseradish Dipping Sauce

To make the fries:

  • 2-3 pounds yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed, and cut into desired frying shape
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for frying

1. In a small bowl of your food processor (I used the chopper function on my immersion blender) combine the garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes.

2. Place the sliced potatoes in a large heavy bottom pan (or deep fryer). Pour in (cold) oil of your choice (I used a mixture of canola oil and vegetable oil), so that the potatoes are covered by at least an inch. Then turn on the heat, to medium high.

3. After about 10 to 15 minutes, the oil will begin to bubble around the fries, and the fries will float to the top. Continue to cook, stirring frequently. The fries will continue to brown steadily, so watch them carefully. When they are browned and crisp to your liking, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Sprinkle the fries with kosher salt and the garlic/parsley mixture, while they are fresh and hot.

To make the dipping sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip–actual mayonnaise)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1. In a bowl, stir together all five ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Restaurant Review: Rockafeller’s Virginia Beach

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I’m travelling for work. And though I don’t normally do this, I thought that my dinner tonight was worth mentioning. After a long day of meetings, my coworkers and I set out to find dinner on the beach, or as close to it as possible. We got some recommendations from the locals, and made the short drive to the shore, where we stopped first at Mahi Mah’s. It looked okay, and came highly recommended, plus it had an awesome patio overlooking the ocean–but it was a little loud for what we were looking for tonight (In large part due to the live band).

So we drove a bit further (about half a mile) to our second recommendation, Rockfeller’s. The place was super casual, but a bit more low key than Mahi Mah’s, so we decided to stay. The restaurant is nothing fancy, but it’s certainly not trying to be, either. The decor reminded me of Red Lobster, but in a good way–like Red Lobster was copying this place. The smallish restaurant overlooking the inlet full of fishing boats is decked out in nautical gear. As it should be.

The menu wasn’t expansive, especially if you wanted to avoid seafood. Luckily, we were there to eat seafood. 😉 For an appetizer, we split a pound of steamed shrimp. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, spiced with old bay seasoning, and very tasty. Though they did have to be peeled, and I’m not a huge fan of peeling my own food, we were all happy with the appetizer. The fresh french bread was passable, but the cornbread was awesome: warm and sweet and crumbly.

For my entree, I ordered a platter with fried shrimp, scallops, fish, and crab cakes. The sides were simple, but tasty: steamed red potatoes and green beans. But the seafood was the star. The scallops were the best I’ve had in recent memory. Sweet, tender but meaty, and the size of a half-dollar. The crab cake was excellent. The fish and the shrimp were good, though not fantastic. All in all, I was impressed with my dinner.


And for dessert, we all shared a sampler platter, which was a nice option for a group. It came with a small piece of Key Lime Pie, a slice of coconut cake, a thick, rich chocolate mousse, and a small Jamaican rum cake. Out of the bunch, the rum cake was my favorite. For one, I don’t have rum cake that often, and this was very, very tasty. The cake was rich and moist with a delicious rum glaze. I’d forgotten how much I liked real rum cake. The key lime pie was alright, though I feel that mine is better, by far. The crust was fine, but the filling was too sweet, not tart, and it was just barely chilled. I’m going to be a jerk and say that my coconut cake was better, too. This was moist, and it was pretty good, but the coconut cake that I make uses real coconut, not the shredded, sweetened kind–and for the first time, I really noticed the difference in flavor. The real coconut is a much more subtle taste–the processed, sweetened kind is cloyingly sweet. It almost tastes too much like coconut. The chocolate mousse was good, but it was my fourth taste on the plate, and so, so rich for a last bite. It made me wish for a glass of milk!

All in all, we really enjoyed our dinner. The food was all good–some of it great–and our server was awesome. If I was a local, I think Rockafeller’s would be a place to frequent.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Monday, July 6th, 2009

I finally had my cousins over for dinner, and after much discussion, decided on a menu. My intention was a sort of “Choose Your Own Alfredo” bar, with fresh homemade fettuccine, creamy alfredo sauce and the choice of garlicky shrimp, grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, or any combination thereof. In reality, I forgot the broccoli, but no one seemed to mind too much. The rest turned out fantastic. The chicken was just marinated in Italian dressing–nothing too fancy. And the alfredo was the same alfredo I’ve made before. So this post is about the shrimp. I made Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Shrimp Scampi from the Back to Basics Cookbook.

And Yum! Assuming I can scrounge up some people to help me eat them again, I’ll be making these again for sure.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of butter at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs)
  • lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a large mixing bowl and toss gently with olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Allow to rest at room temperature while you make the butter/garlic mixture.

3. In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined.

4. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down in a glass baking dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture in an even layer over the shrimp. Bake for 10-12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Note: This was simple, delicious, and beautiful–pretty much everything a Barefoot Contessa recipe promises. I enjoy seafood, but Leah and David won’t touch most of it, which means I don’t make it very often. It’s nice to have this recipe in my pocket, for when I need it. These would be great tossed some linguine and parmesan cheese, too.

Strawberry Tart with Lemon-Vanilla Pastry Cream

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

I whipped this up for a family cook-out a couple of weeks back. My cousin was home from the Air Force for a visit, and it was nice to see him and meet his new girlfriend. (They’ve been together for a while, of course, but she’s new to me. 😉 ) My aunt asked me to bring a dessert, which I was happy to do, but the challenge was that dinner was after work on a Monday afternoon, and so I was trying to think of something that could be made ahead but would still be fresh and tasty after hanging out all day while I worked.

David also bought me a tart pan that weekend. I can’t say that didn’t play a part. It did. So I decided to make a fruit tart with fresh strawberries and a homemade pastry cream.

Strawberry Tart with Lemon-Vanilla Pastry Cream

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 tablespoons frozen or cold unsalted better, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:

  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 teaspoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the Fruit Topping:

  • 2 – 3 cups of fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved (or any other fresh berries you would like to use, really)

Make the tart.

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process for about 10 seconds. Add in the egg yolk and process for a few more seconds.

2. Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add 3 tbsp. ice water and mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball. You can add a little more water if necessary or a little more flour if it’s too wet. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

3. Spray your tart pan with a non-stick cooking spray made for baking, or grease and flour your tart pan. Roll the dough into a round about a half an inch thick, then transfer into your tart pan. Using your fingertips, press the dough into the pan evenly, spreading it out all the way to the edges and up into the fluted sections of the pan. Refrigerate for about an hour.

4. After the crust is properly chilled you need to prebake it. Heat oven to 425 (F). Sufficiently prick the entire bottom of the crust with a fork. Take a large piece of foil and butter one side, press the buttered side into the crust and up along the sides. Weigh the foil down with a pie weights (or if you don’t have pie weights, a few cups of raw rice or dried beans will do the trick) Bake for 12 minutes.

5. Now remove the tart from the oven and reduce the temp to 350 (F). Take off the weights and the foil and put the crust back in and bake until it’s a nicely browned, 10-15 minutes. Take out and cool completely on a rack.

Make the pastry cream (You can do this while the crust is baking)

1. Mix together egg yolks and cream. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk every minute or so at first, but as it heats up and starts to boil and thicken, you will need to whisk constantly. This should take about 10 minutes.

2. Turn the heat to low/medium-low so that mixture bubbles gently and cook until it coats the back of a spoon, or when you can draw your finger through it and the line stays there. Stir in the butter and vanilla, and two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

3. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve/strainer to remove all lumps. Because the mixture is very thick, you may have to help the mixture through the strainer by pushing gently with a spoon.

4. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Then place in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, with plastic wrap pressed gently against the surface of the cream.

Assemble the tart. (I did this part the next day, at the party)

1. Spread the cooled pastry cream inside the cooled tart crust. Arrange the strawberries on top of the cream in whatever pattern you like.The more fruit the better, of course, so try to keep it in a close pattern.

Note: My original plan was to use a lemon glaze to finish the tart, but that never really came to fruition. I didn’t have time to do it right before the party, and I was afraid to start it ahead of time, as those things tend to solidify quite a bit, and I didn’t know how to keep it smooth and fresh all day.

I made a double batch of the tart crust, and refridgerated it to use at another time, which was nice. It was nice to have on hand for a quick dessert later on. If wrapped well, it could certainly be frozen for later use as well.

Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Hope everyone had a great day today. We had my parents over for dinner and to watch the fireworks from our back balcony. I think everyone had a good time, and I know the food was good, though, as always, there was too much of it.


We had “barbecue” ribs braised in the oven–our version of Alton Brown’s “Who Loves Ya Baby Back” Ribs. I also made cole slaw, a new recipe for Garlic Fries with Horseradish & Spicy Mustard Dipping Sauce, and Pioneer Woman’s Fried Corn Fritters.

For dessert, there was a Lemon Bar Tart and my take on Ben & Jerry’s Uncanny Cashew Ice Cream–a sweet cream vanilla base with caramel-coated roasted cashews and a salted caramel swirl. I even managed to get the caramel sauce right on the first try this time! (More than once, I’ve gotten impatient at the lengthy process of making caramel and turned my attention elsewhere–only to be snapped back to reality by a blacked pot of burned sugar goo. As Alton would say, “That’s not Good Eats.”)

Anyway, I was lucky to be surrounded by family and friends for the Fourth, and had a great time. I hope everyone else did, too!

Another Photograzing Pick!

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Serious EatsPhotograzing posted my Stuffed Pork Chops picture this week.

pork chops

July is National Ice Cream Month

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

And really, I can’t think of a better food/month match up than July and Ice Cream. What’s better in the hot July sun than a cold ice cream cone?


Of course, we make our own ice cream around here, as I may have mentioned. You know. Once or twice. You can click through the links below to see all of the frozen treats that I’ve made since Dave’s mom bought me the Ice Cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid Mixer last Christmas. Just recently, I got around to making Cookie Dough Ice Cream again. Up until then, I kept trying new flavors, but never got back around to the old ones. The following links will take you to ice cream treats I’ve made over the past 6 months:

But don’t just listen to my list—What’s your favorite kind of ice cream? Tell me in the comments!