On the lighter side.

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite salads, courtesy of Cooking Light. It's fresh, light, flavorful, easy to prepare and colorful. It involves one of my favorite grocery store buys: the rotisserie chicken. The recipe actually calls for turkey (as it was written for using Thanksgiving leftovers). I prefer chicken. Use what you like best!

Asian Chicken Salad
from Cooking Light, November 2001
to see a photo and read the nutrition facts provided (this is Cooking Light after all), click here

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups)

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground fresh ginger
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 serrano chile (remove the seeds unless you want a lot of heat)

4 cups thinly sliced napa (Chinese) cabbage
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (or turkey)
1 cup red bell pepper strips (about 1 small pepper)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

To prepare the salad dressing, place the first 11 ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

To prepare the salad, combine the cabbage and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat.

I love to eat this with white rice (with extra chopped peanuts on top). Mmmm.



Easy does it.

Hey. It's me again. It's been awhile. (Have I really not contributed anything since October? Yikes, I'm a lazy blogger.) I'm back. With baby steps. This may possibly be the easiest recipe you've ever seen - or made - in your life. There are four ingredients (FOUR!) and that includes salt. So does that really mean three ingredients? Try this when you don't feel like going to the store. Try this when you're in the mood for comfort food. Try this every night of the week. Because it's that good!

PS. I swear I will post about something other than pasta. The thing is, I get really excited about pasta.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

Serves 4 as a main course; makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used salted, therefore needed less salt in the end)
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta (or prepare your pasta when your sauce has 10 minutes or so to go).

Serve with any type of pasta you'd like (I used rotini), with or without grated parmesan cheese to pass.


No Sweat Holiday Feast

Feeding a crowd on a day with lots of anticipation and expectations can be a seriously stressful day for any host. When trying to figure out the Christmas dinner menu at my table I tried to keep this in mind. Visions of me standing over a pot stirring, while my guests leisurely sipped champagne and ate canapes swirled in my head. Along with the mathematical feat of using only one oven and timing multiple dishes. My mother (partner in Christmas crime) and I started discussing this meal no later than the week after Thanksgiving. Sounds crazy, but for two women that love to cook and were excited to cook together, it was a joy. We came up with this lovely, easy and delicious dinner that I will absolutely be repeating. The meat was delicious, the sides so great, and this sauce is a knockout. I had some help from my guests with an appetizer and salad and dessert was made the day before. This Christmas I spent some time in the kitchen, but even more time with my guests enjoying the champagne with them.

Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots, Bacon and Port
Adapted from: Bon Appetit December 1997
serves 12

1 1/2 pounds large shallots (about 24) halved lengthwise, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

6 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups tawny Port
1 tablespoon tomato paste

2- 3 to 3 1/4 pound beef tenderloins (large ends), trimmed (ask your butcher to do this for you)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
7 good bacon slices, chopped (If it is not the thick stuff, use more)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Toss shallots with oil, salt and pepper and place on baking sheet. Roast until shallots are deep brown (but not burned) and very tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Boil stock and port in large saucepan until reduced to 3 3/4 cups, about 30 minutes (this took longer for us). Whisk in tomato paste. (Shallots and stock mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately, chill)

Pat beef dry; sprinkle with thyme salt and pepper (be generous, I used more than listed). In large roasting pan set over medium heat, saute bacon until golden, about 4 minutes. using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Add beef to pan; brown on all side over medium high heat, about 7 minutes. Transfer pan to oven; roast beef until meat thermometer inserted into center registers 125 degrees for medium rare, about 45 minutes. Transfer beef to platter. Tent loosely with foil. (If you would like to some meat that is more cooked than others for your guests, simply but one roast in first, then add the one after a bit. I put one in 15 minutes before the other so I had some medium and medium well pieces)

Spoon fat off top of pan drippings in roasting pan. Place roasting pan over high heat. Add stock mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits. Transfer to medium saucepan; bring to a simmer. Mix 3 tablespoons butter and flour in small bowl to form a paste; whisk into broth mixture and simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons butter; Stir in roasted shallots and reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut beef into 1/2 inch slices. Spoon sauce over or use a gravy boat for the table to serve.
(For timing of our meal, after we finished the sauce and the meat was resting, we had our salad course. When done with that course, we sliced the meat and placed everything on platters/serving bowls to serve at the table)

Sauteed Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
4 servings (I doubled for 9 and it was all eaten)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb thin french green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat one teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add green beans and saute until beginning to sear in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Add water, cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes for tender-crisp. Push beans to the side, add remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, stir everything together and cook until tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. (Timing wise, I finished this before we sat down and kept it warm in the oven)

Roasted Truffle Fingerling Potatoes
serves 8

2 lbs rinsed fingerling potatoes (also called Russian banana)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
3 oz. truffle butter (look in your market by the butter, specialty food stores carry it now and Whole Foods)
Optional herb: chive or parsley

Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper to coat and spread into a single layer on baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes until fork tender. Place hot potatoes in serving bowl and toss with truffle butter just before serving. Toss with a handful of chopped herbs of your choice or none at all.
(timing wise I had these finishing to roast in the oven and then tossed with butter in serving dish after the salad course)

This was my longest post to date, but I hope that this meal finds itself on your table in 2010. A quick tip to cooking any meal for company is to work your way back from the time you want to eat. Example for what I did is: Eat at 5:45, means at 5:15 I need to be making the sauce, beans and the potatoes should be in the oven roasting, this means that the meat needs to be in around 4:15, so I will begin searing it at 4. Once you wrap your head around all the timing, it is a piece of cake and a lot less overwhelming. No one likes to see the host sweat, so don't! It will all turn out amazing. I hope this meal finds itself on your table in 2010. Happy New Year to all the F&A fans!


First Christmas at Home

This was the first Christmas I had hosted at home, so it was a fun learning experience. My wonderful mother helped me along the way and made everything just that much easier. For those of you who know my mother, you know that she has a knack not only for cooking, but decorating and flowers. I have a lot more to learn in the flowers department, but I wanted to share a picture of our Christmas dinner table. It was very fun setting this formal table and I thought I could remind everyone of how to properly do it. Here is a quick guide for you to use for your next formal or even casual affair.

Forks: The small fork (salad fork) goes on the outside left hand side, the large fork (dinner fork) goes inside of that next to the plate. If having more than one course with a fork needed, simply continue to add in from the salad fork towards the plate.

Spoon: Place on the outside right hand side. if having soup, this should be the furthest to the right.

Knife: The dinner knife goes between the spoon and plate on the right hand side. Again, if serving multiple courses requiring a knife, just work your way in.

Plates: Work backward for each course. Dinner plate on the bottom, salad on top, appetizer plate or soup bowl at the very top if needed. The bread plate is placed diagonal left from the diner plate.

Glasses: All glasses go on the right diagonal from the dinner plate. Starting from the left it should be in this order: water glass, white wine glass, red wine glass.

Dessert flatware: The dessert spoon and cake fork are placed at the top of the setting, above the dinner plate. Spoon on top with the top of the spoon pointed to the left, cake fork on the bottom with the twines pointed to the right.

Not all of the above has to be done. In my opinion, you can set a table however you feel like it. I will say, though, that people are impressed with a formal setting and sometimes that is nice to see.


Petite Cheescakes, baked good gone easy...

I pretty much lived for the holidays, not just for the presents and family time, but also for these little wrapped cakes of deliciousness. This is quite possibly the easiest baked good I have ever come across. It requires little prep and whoever is enjoying them will be blown away. My mom has been making these for a very long time and I was excited that this year I got to make them in my own home. You can serve them year round and top with whatever you would like. Traditionally, we would top with just a berry or two, but this year I tried topping them with a bit of melted Nutella and it was so good. Just heat the Nutella in the micro until liquefied and drizzle a mound on top. Get creative with your topping! Anything will be delicious and a crowd pleaser.

Petite Cheesecakes
makes 24 individual cakes using a standard muffin tin (you could also use the mini muffin pans and make bite sized ones for a cocktail party, just a thought!)

3- 8oz packages of cream cheese
1 cup of sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

For Topping:
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla
optional: berries, melted nutella, candied flowers, etc. Anything you want!

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy using a standing mixer or hand held mixer. Add eggs one at a time allowing each to incorporate on its own. Add vanilla and combine. Pour mixture in paper lined muffin tin, fill each to about 2/3 full. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes or until they have risen and push back when you press on them.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit until the "sink in." (You will recognize what this is when you see it) Combine all of the topping ingredients above and "frost" with this mixture. I use a heaping tablespoon on each and swirl around with my spoon. Return pans to the oven for 5 minutes.
Cool the pans on a rack, remove the cakes once able to handle and place on the cooling rack. Top each cake with the topping of your choice if desired. Refrigerate until cool and ready to serve.
They can be made in advance and frozen, thawed at room temperature for about 30 minutes, top them after they are thawed.


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