Saturday, December 31, 2011

142.6…Happy New Year’s Eve!

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately but I’ve been too busy with this:

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Happy New Year’s Eve! Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. :)

Any New Year’s Eve plans? 

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta (Holiday Blog Hop)

This time of year, all I want is comfort food. Something warm. Something hearty. Something with a lot of cheese.

I have the perfect dish that fits all my comfort food requirements with an added bonus: pasta.

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You can use any cut of pasta you want. I chose shells because I like them. :) It’s like a fancy mac & cheese incorporating fontina, mascarpone and parmesan cheeses!

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I even added some fresh spinach to the dish to make it seem a little healthier. See…I’m always looking out for you.

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Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta (serves 4)

8 oz uncooked shell pasta

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 cup shredded fontina cheese

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 cups of fresh spinach

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

pinch of nutmeg

Tabasco to taste

1/2 cup Panko

1/2 Tbsp butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Remove from heat; add cheeses, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in salt, black pepper, nutmeg and Tabasco. Add spinach and cooked pasta, stirring to coat. Spoon pasta mixture in a 8x8 baking dish coasted with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Stir in Panko until well combined. Sprinkle Panko mixture evenly over pasta mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley.

Printable Recipe

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This post was the fourth installment of our Holiday Blog Hop Series. Our ingredient choices were wines (red, white or sparkling), white chocolate or mascarpone. If you missed the other bog hop posts, you can see them here:

Blog Hop #1: Bernice’s Pumpkin Bread

Blog Hop #2: Brown Sugar Pecan Bundt Cake

Blog Hop #3: Eggnog Bread

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

143.0…Boxed Cake Bliss

Don’t get me wrong….I love to bake from scratch. But sometimes, you don’t have the time or patience. For those days, I have the solution:

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Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate Cake Mix. I received this cake mix from the Foodbuzz Festival I attended and was excited to finally get a chance to try it. We had family over last minute on Monday night so I quickly turned the mix into a fabulous Bundt cake.

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There are two parts to this mix: the regular mix plus a separate packet of chocolate that you mix with water. You swirl them together in the Bundt pan and it creates pockets of ooey gooey fudgy chocolate throughout the cake. Bliss. 

For dinner I made potato latkes, Spinach Lasagna and a big mixed green salad.

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For dessert, I served the Bundt cake with homemade vanilla ice cream.

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Dare I say it again….Bliss.

Yesterday morning’s breakfast was leftover potato latkes with a couple of eggs.

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I went to Costco and the grocery store and had some repairs done at the house. My husband had a lunch meeting at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza so he brought me home my favorite salad for lunch: Chopped Chicken Salad.

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Our family came back over for dinner. This time we kept it easy and picked up Chinese food. :)

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For whatever reason, I could not sleep last night. So here I am, blogging at the crack of dawn. Hopefully I’ll get some sleep tonight. We have even more family coming into town today and we are all going to the Holiday Bowl tonight. Big day!

What’s your favorite boxed cake mix?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Recap

Christmas came and went. Presents were opened, food was eaten and in a flash it was over. It’s amazing how long you prepare for the holiday and it vanishes in the blink of an eye.

My Christmas holiday started on Friday when my parents picked me up from the train station. We came back to their house, I had a glass of wine and then we went out to their favorite local Chinese restaurant: The Grandview Palace.

We all shared some wonton soup:

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I ordered the combination Kung Pao. It had beef, chicken and shrimp and it was spicy and delicious.

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I enjoyed my dish with some steamed rice.  We came back to the house and called it a night. I was asleep by 8:30PM. I did not get up until 10:0o AM Saturday morning. That is unheard of. I guess I really needed the sleep!

Breakfast (or brunch, really) was toasted cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter.

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I ran some errands with my parents and we stopped at another one of their favorite spots: Weinerschitzel. I enjoyed two chili dogs and fries.

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Oh yeah. They were good! :)

That night I made one of my favorite meals ever for dinner: Beef Stroganoff.

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I will have to share this recipe soon on the blog because it is fabulous. It’s definitely one of my top 5 favorite meals ever.

Christmas morning I made another winner: Eggs Benedict Casserole:

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The last time I made this I broke the hollandaise. This time I managed not to screw it up! Success!

My mom served orange rolls with it. We have them every years. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

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My plate:

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I went back for another serving of the casserole and hollandaise. It tastes just like Eggs Benedict!

We opened gifts and hung out. Eventually it was time to get dinner ready. I made a prime rib and my famous Gulliver’s Creamed Corn. My mom made mashed potatoes and gravy and rolls. We were a good team!

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I made an apple pie for dessert.

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We enjoyed it with vanilla ice cream.

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And that was that.

This morning I drove back to San Diego with my husband and kids. We have family coming into town from Texas and they are visiting tonight so I need to get cooking!

Is there a certain dish/dessert that you have to have every Christmas?

Friday, December 23, 2011

142.8…On My Way to LA

I’m on a train! I’m Los Angeles bound to visit my family for the holidays. My husband and kids will drive down tomorrow.

Last night was date night at my house. My husband took me to Flemming’s for dinner. We had a gift card so it made it extra special. :)

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Iphone photo my hubby took. :)

I enjoyed a fabulous glass of Pinot Noir.

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I normally don’t eat the bread at the table but I had to try this one because the butters were so unique!

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The butter on the left was a Chardonnay infused feta and the one on the right was a Sun-dried tomato. Both were excellent!

I started with one of my favorite things to order at a steakhouse: Lettuce Wedge Salad.

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I always substitute the blue cheese dressing for ranch dressing but I leave the blue cheese crumbles on. Go figure.

My husband and I split a Filet Mignon and we ordered two awesome sides:

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Potatoes au gratin and creamed spinach. I really wanted the Chipotle Mac & Cheese instead of the potatoes but my husband won in the end. Next time!

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Fabulous meal! I hadn’t been to Flemming’s in awhile…..now I want to go back soon!

This morning I ate a bowl of Special K cereal with almond milk before heading to the gym.

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I was the only one who showed up for Cardio Muscle class so it got cancelled.  At least I tried.

I came home to get packed up and dressed. I made a quick tuna melt on a tortilla with a salad for lunch.

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My husband and kids took me to the train station. I am currently snacking on some Wheat Thins as I type.

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Tonight, it’s just me and my parents. I’m sure we will chill, eat something good and drink a ton of wine. My kind of night!

What sides do you have to order at a steakhouse? 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

143.0…Conchiglie Al Pollo

One of my husband’s favorite restaurants is Il Fornaio. He eats one dish there and one dish only. It is probably his favorite pasta dish of all time. Awhile back, I went to a cooking class at Il Fornaio. When the class was over, I asked the chef how to make the pasta dish and he told me. It was my husband’s dream come true. Last night was the second time I attempted making the dish.

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The first time was much better. I think it was because I obsessively measured everything the first time so that it would be perfect. I didn’t measure the garlic and I obviously didn’t put enough in. The store did not have the large size shells like the restaurant uses so it looked different too. I’m going to share the recipe anyway with you because it turned out perfectly the first time. The dish is too good not to share! Below is the exact measurements/instructions that the chef gave me.

Il Fornaio’s Conchiglie al Pollo (serves 4)
Printable Recipe

1 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz diced chicken
8 oz cream sherry
3 oz roasted garlic
60 pieces julienned sun-dried tomatoes
10 oz broccoli florets
12 oz large shell pasta, dry
20 oz chicken stock
3 Tbsp butter
Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Add oil to hot pan. Saute diced chicken until brown. Remove to a plate. Quickly add the garlic, tomatoes and sherry and reduce by half.
Add chicken stock and reduce until thickened. (Note: if not thickening, add a bit of corn starch mixed with water)
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Add broccoli in the last few minutes of cook time. Put pasta and broccoli into sauce mixture. Return the chicken to the pan. Add butter, cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

This morning’s breakfast was a toasted English muffin with peanut butter with strawberries.

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I went to Zumba class and then came home to wrap the myriads of presents that were taking over my closet.

Lunch was a tuna melt and a salad.
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All of a sudden a baking mood struck.
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Chocolate chip and M&M cookies! They seem to be a big hit over here!

Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Los Angeles to stay with my parents. My husband and kids will follow on Saturday. See ya on the flip side!

 Where are you spending the holidays?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

143.4…Happy Hanukkah!

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. What did we have for dinner?

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Pizza and salad. Not your typical Hanukkah dinner. I plan on making my husband’s favorite, potato latkes, on the last night of Hanukkah.

I had a couple of Boboli crusts and some fresh mozzarella so pizza sounded perfect! I put some of the freshly grated mozzarella on the salad as well. It turned out pretty good!

I’m really enjoying that the kids are out on vacation. No rushing in the morning…I can actually enjoy a cup of coffee and eat my breakfast peacefully. Speaking of breakfast…

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I  enjoyed a piece of toast with peanut butter and some strawberries.

I went to Zumba, took my daughter to a playdate and came home for lunch.

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Turkey sandwich on toast with carrots and hummus. Simple yet delicious.

Tonight for the second night of Hanukkah, I’m making another one of my husband’s favorite dishes. It may appear on the blog tomorrow!

Do you like potato latkes? What should I make with them?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

143.8…Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry

I bring you one of the best appetizers you’ll ever eat. Yes, at first it looks strange. What is this big puffy square, you say?

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It is none other than the fabulous Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry. I love to watch people at parties try and figure out what it is. 

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Once they taste it, they are sold. And it completely disappears off the plate. Try it. I’m sure you’ll get the same results. 

Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry

Slightly adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
  • 1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and carefully roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place it on a sheet pan and brush the center with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Place a layer first of ham and then cheese, also leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash.
Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12inches. Place the second sheet on top of the filled pastry, lining up the edges. Cut the edges straight with a small, sharp knife and press together lightly. Brush the top with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.

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I brought the Ham & Cheese Puff Pastry to my friend Dina’s Holiday Party this past Sunday and, as usual, it was the first appetizer to go. :)

Continuing on with celebrations….last night we celebrated Monday Night Football at my friend Alicia’s house.

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Aren’t we cute with our matching glasses!?! I saw this bottle of wine and brought it over because I thought it was also cute. Little did I know that the cork was RED! How fun!?! And I thought the wine was good so this will definitely be a repurchase. 

Monday Night Football means hot wings. Alicia rocked our regular Hot Wing recipe. Of course they were off the hook.

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Alicia also made her famous Sloppy Joe’s and I brought over a salad.

Sometimes the meal isn’t complete without some of these:

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See’s Candy is my favorite candy in the world. This is true.

This morning I was in a cereal mood.

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Special K Vanilla Almond cereal with almond  milk. Then I headed over to Great News for a cooking class. On the way, I stopped at Starbucks for a skinny vanilla latte.

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Today’s class was entitled California Holiday Wine Country Favorites. It was taught by my favorite instructor, Phillis Carey.

The first two recipes we ate together: Mushroom and Kalamata Olive Tapenade on Parmesan Toasts and Wine Poached Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Mustard Vinaigrette:

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The toasts were excellent and would be a great appetizer for a party. You could make the tapenade and just put the toasts out for guests to assemble themselves. The salad was good too…I even ate the pears (probably because there was wine on them).

The next recipe was Tarragon Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Port Sauce on Mustard Seed Mashed Potatoes:

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This was FABULOUS. Both the chicken and the mashed potatoes went really well together. The mashed potatoes were unreal. The whole grain mustard gave it an amazing flavor.

Next up was Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon on Spinach Cakes with Pinot Noir Sauce:

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Another winner! The spinach cakes were awesome and how can you go wrong with bacon wrapped anything!?!

Dessert was Zinfandel Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream:

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Fabulous. It’s got wine it in….of course I loved it!

I sat next to a lovely woman who is also a food blogger! It’s so fun to meet other food bloggers. Hi Donna! Go check her blog out over at Dine With Donna!

What is your favorite appetizer to bring to a party?