Monday, December 31, 2012

Manly Man's Roasted Potato, Asparagus and Ham Hash

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Ta... Dah!

I say Ta Dah, because isn't that what you're supposed to say when you bring a very special meal to the table, on a very special day?

And now, as I sit here, feet up, fire going, and my man (a true meat and potatoes man), eating a THIRD helping of his Manly Man's Hash... I once again realize that in life, that sometimes Plan B can even be better!

You see, I had a menu for our First Night Feast, but when I finally tracked those Cornish Hens down, they were frozen- ugh.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Which Came First, the Greek Chicken or the Egg?

Which came first, the Greek Chicken or the egg?

The Wrinkled Egg, that is. 

And one of the best reasons to visit Flat Rock, NC, well, except for the
Flat Rock Playhouse...

Or Carl Sandburg's House...

Yea, missing home a bit today.

But, back to the Egg.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Crispy Chicken Tenders- Delish!

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I guess you could say I'm a Food Nework fanatic.

And over the years, I've had my favorites.  Emeril, Giada, Paula... and how cool is The Pioneer Woman?
But Rachael Ray isn't just about the food, but also about the fun (yes, cooking can be FUN and take less than 30!)  EVOO, Sammies, Stoup, garbage bowls, and fried chicken... yes this chicken deserves a YUM-O!

I'll never forget when I read her recipe and it called for Old Bay Seasoning.  Huh?  But, I'm allergic to fish... should I?

Well, did I?  YES! And it had nothing to do with fish, but just the most amazing fried chicken I'd ever had.  Here is my version of crispy chicken tenders, adapted from her inspired recipe and star ingredient.

Friday, December 21, 2012

White Bean, Leek and Asparagus Salad- Cheap and Chic #healthyluxemeals

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With four more days until Christmas, I can pretty much guess that...

1) You're counting calories and eating a bit healthier in hopes to balance all the Christmas goodies soon to come. (and) 

2) You're a bit short on cash.

Well, I was all of the above tonight, plus a bit bored with the same old sides.

So, I pulled out the asparagus I bought this morning, and had some leeks and onion on hand, but was still totally uninspired. I went to the pantry, and hmmm... that can of white beans I had left over from some chili a few weeks ago was calling to me. Yes, it called.

So, I went for it. Low fat, low cost, and heck, the French eat white beans all the time, and they surely know what's good. And good it was. Ok, better than good. This has quickly become a new family favorite!

Serve hot or cold, stuff it in a pita, schmear it on some french bread, use it on a salad, or have it as a side to some Salamon, like we did. Yes, we ate well tonight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Indiana Sugar Cream Cranberry Pie, Me oh My!

When I think of pie, I think of fresh strawberries piled six inches high, dripping in red, sugary filling. Or mounds of whipped cream over a creamy, dreamy chocolaty cloud.  Or my favorite- apple, smelling of cinnamon winter delights, all cute with top crusts of leaf cutouts, hearts or lattice.

These are the arm candy pies.

But what about the simpler pies?  The pies with the stories.  The pies that may not photograph well, or be featured on the cover of foodie magazines, but the ones you dream about, even though they're not the prettiest pie on the plate.

This is a pie you'd bring home to Mother!

I first discovered Indiana Sugar Cream Pies from my mother, who grew up in Anderson, Indiana. Apparently, Sugar Cream Pies are big there, and those happy Hoosiers are hardcore when it comes to their humble pie.

Now I understand why, oh my.

Love caramel? You'll love Indiana Sugar Cream Pies.

Like custard pies? These are even better, without any eggs.

Want something simple to make for the holidays? This pie couldn't be easier!

My version builds from a traditional Sugar Cream Pie base (not messing with that one- no boy!) and adds my favorite cranberry topping. Cranberries add a lovely pop, and a nice tart contrast to the sweet brown sugary center- plus a beautiful presentation... just in time for the holidays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cream Cheese Orange Cilantro Pork Chops... let Some Sunshine In!

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Today was an off day.  Perhaps the goings on in the world.  Perhaps a few hiccups in our own world (my man had surgery today).

But as we must do in life, we trudged on, and I cooked.  Because, you see, cooking for those you love... is love. And in my world, that means just about everything!

And I made an amazing meal, but in taking pictures so late in the day, the lighting was all wrong, and it just didn't come together, and well... the plate ended up way too yellow, the sauce looked like a blob, instead of something on a gourmet plate, and I just wanted to throw it all out.

But, the recipe rocked.  One of the best meals ever (said my patient, who is doing great, by the way!)

So here it is.  Kind of messy... like life.  Not perfect... like us all.  But full of heart, and love, and well, tonight, that's all that matters- at least to us.  Hopefully, this might inspire a bit of sunshine.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Valley Girl and the Pea - and my favorite pasta!

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I love peas.  There, I said it. 

And I don't mean the kind of peas you get in the packages and have to soak, with black eyes or that come split.  But, the peas (especially petite) that are green, and found in the frozen aisle...

In salads, stews, pastas, and especially as a side to meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  Peas add just the right crunch, color and healthy addition, especially in an old favorite- Linguine a la Diana.

Linguine a la Diana includes all my favorites- ham, peas, Romano cheese, fresh thyme, all in a relatively low-fat sauce, using evaporated skim milk instead of cream. Add a nice soup or salad on the side and you've great a great supper on the table in no time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quiche Number 3121 and Counting- Zucchini Dill #healthyluxemeals

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Yup, that's the approximate number of quiches I made during the 10 years I ran B&B's.

And yup, real men do eat quiche... well at least mine does!

I think I started cooking at about 2, and never had the good sense to stop.

Cooking is a labor of love.  And love it, I have.  And no matter where life has led me, I've always come back to my true passion, cooking.  And here we are!

I started working in B&B's when I was 15, cleaning rooms and quickly worked my way up to Innkeeper.  From there, I worked at the best B&B's in Santa Barbara- all which helped mold my cooking skills, and me as a person.
You see, cooking is from the heart.  And like they say in B&B's, "An Innkeeper is worth her weight in muffins," or in today's case... quiche.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Di's Drizzle Skins... Potato Skins Worth a High Five!

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During a roasting kick last year I created this awesome appetizer and gave it another whirl today for a tasting.

(yes, I am from the 80's... and the Valley, so I can say that)

These Skins are so flavorful and fresh, and after trying them again, they reminded me of a restaurant I loved in Santa Barbara (back in the 80's) called the Elephant Bar. They had their own skins (Elephant Skins), so why not my own version of one of my most favorite foods?

These are a lot lighter than the typical potato skins, but with the comfort of the roasted potato, the cool freshness from the herbed cheeses (instead of heavy, greasy cheese), and the bright crunch from the corn and red onions. You'll love these simple and beautiful bites.

And don't forget the Balsamic Glaze. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cream Cheesy Chicken and Peas Puffs... 21 Years and Going

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Whenever the question, "If you could have anything for dinner, what would you like?" gets asked at my home, the answer is ALWAYS "Chicken Puffs." 

...must be a man-thing.

I've been making these puffs for 21 years, and the recipe has barely been changed (but the last 10 years I've opted for a roasted chicken from the deli- makes life much, much, much easier. And about 14 years ago I added peas... the peas make it).

And breaking up the croutons with my mallet? An extra benefit and much appreciated to relieve some stress after a week with a poopy puppy (tip: open bag, let out air, reseal, and then go for it!) 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roast Hash... Culinary Works of Art #healthyluxemeals

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Want a super healthy and simple meal?

Roast Hash.

Need a meal that's quick to get on the table, and even quicker on clean up?

Roast Hash.

Just not sure what to do with veggies like parsnips, fennel, beets or Brussels?

Roast Hash.

Roast Hash is a little piece of heaven on a plate... healthy, hearty and it's just so darn pretty.

Roasted mix and match veggies, fruits and sausages offer a meal that's sure to tempt even the pickiest eaters in your family... so give it a try today!

Cut it up, drizzle it up (with olive oil), salt & season it up (you can add salt on the fruits too), and roast it up at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes (check fruit after 15 minutes).

Spicy Sausage, Parsnips, Pearl Onions, Sweet Potatoes and Cranberries
(add sugar to cranberries)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chicken Picatta Pasta with Roast Fennel and Bacon

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OK... one would think that the bacon should have been listed first, because bacon USUALLY steals the show!

But in this case, the lemony chicken, nutty Parmesan, and the freshness from the roasted fennel and fresh parsley held their own- oh boy.

And the best part?  Mostly stuff I had on hand, with the addition of some chicken. Hope you love it as much as we did... BEST PASTA YET! (Not only did I lick the plate, but this time... I had seconds!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hot Brown Friday... All of the Flavor and Worth All of the Guilt!

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I first fell in love with Hot Browns because of the story.  And just as quickly as it caught on in the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926...

I, too, after my first bite, knew this was going to become a life-long day after Thanksgiving tradition.  And a life-long love affair!

In my version, I kept most of the traditional ingredients, but added some chopped onion and fresh tarragon to the sauce. The result... PERFECTION!
See you again next year, Hot Brown!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Apple, Thyme and Gruyere Cheese Stuffing... it's not just for Thanksgiving!

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There's no place like home... there's no place like home... there's no place like home- back in the 60's for Thanksgiving!

This year, being just the two of us, we decided to mix it up with a retro menu.  So I clicked my heels three times and out came the Southern-style deviled eggs, the green bean casserole, and don't forget the Mad Men-inspired cocktails...

Elegant, tasty, and so simple!

But one dish must have come "back from the future" with me, with it's gourmet flavors and flair- my Apple Onion Thyme & Gruyere Stuffing.  A dish that's perfect for any time of  year... or decade. And yes... we licked the plate!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chicken Tarragon Gyros with leftover Spicy Balsamic Greek Yogurt Sauce... a Foodie Reuse!

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I could build a Food Truck business around this Gyro. 
Yup... it was THAT good! 

Just like I "built" this Gyro around the leftover Yogurt Sauce from the Baked Rice Cakes from the other night- I love foodie reuses! And I love saving money by stretching my ingredients, and finding creative ways to never have to waste or throw away food.

A little tangy, with freshness from the herbs, warm flatbread, a crunch of some veggies, and a bite that sticks with you from the SPICY sauce... this one will be back on my table (if not someday on a Food Truck) soon!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baked Gruyere and Chive Rice Cakes with a Spicy Balsamic Greek Yogurt Sauce

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Easier than risotto, and far less fat than fried, these flavorful baked rice cakes really pack a punch... and make clean-up time a snap!

Perfect for a dinner side dish, party appetizer... or a late night snack, these versatile cakes can be adjusted with ingredients to fit any mood or occasion!  Plus, they freeze beautifully.  Simply place the cookie sheet with the formed cakes into the freezer Once frozen, place in zip-lock bags.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Honey, We've Got Company... Let's Make Roasted Pear and Honeyed Goat Cheese Bruschetta!

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Pears bug me. Yes, bug me.  

No matter how often I've tried to ripen them, they're typically bruised once finally soft enough to eat, or tend towards the tasteless.

But, what I've found, is that roasting them kind of "fools" them into perfectly plump, sweet, soft and all around yummy perfection- right out of the grocery store produce aisle!

And tonight... the rock-hard pears I bought today, surprisingly came through! Here's a recipe that I came up with at the last minute using ingredients on hand. It's reasonably healthy, with no refined sugar- and fresh fruit, and was substantial enough for a nice snack, yet sweet and satisfying enough to feel like a dessert. 

So simple. So fresh. So pretty!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato, Artichoke, Balsamic Onion & Havarti Burgers... without the BUN!

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My Pop was the master of the grill growing up, and although the main attraction was almost always burgers, those burgers still make me drool. 

Those were the "company-inviting" kind of burgers that got Mom wiping down the outdoor furniture and plating up all kinds of yummy burger accoutrement like thinly sliced onions, lettuce, American cheese, and of course, Miracle Whip... oh man, now that brings back memories!

And these days, I still love a good burger, but honestly... we could ALL do without the bun- and the processed cheese.  And yes, I've learned to live without the Miracle Whip!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Flannel Sheets and Three Cheese Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

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"Flannel sheets are like a hug all night long." ~Di

It happened early this year.  The day I long for, when the chilly daytime air finally warrants wool socks (and leg warmers!) and the night- flannel sheets.

The moment where you finally nod at each other in agreement... it's time.  And you light the fire log (and all the candles) that's been patiently waiting on the hearth all summer and fall long.

It's also a day when I tend to get a craving for all things cheesy... and pasta!  So, I warmed our hearts... and our bellies with some shells stuffed with tons of cheese, chicken and spinach.

Healthy?  Anything but.  But hey, it's just one day a year!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Wine & Cheese Hour Changed my Life (and inspired my Black Forest Ham & Cheddar Wraps)

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I've been entertaining since I was 15, and not just for friends and family... but getting paid for it!  It all started at a Bed & Breakfast in Santa Barbara, where I found another great passion of mine- Wine and Cheese Hour.

Oh, how I looked forward to wine and cheese hour each day.  Relaxing with the guests on the couch by the fire with the smells of hot spiced cider on the stove and chocolate chip cookies in the oven permeating the Inn.

(The Cheshire Cat Inn's kitchen... on of my all time favorite B&B's in Santa Barbara)

We talked about their days, the best places to see and be seen around town, and the top restaurants to try... over wine and cheese. You see, Bed and Breakfasts are a place of romance; idealistic in a way.  Everyone was always happy, and smiling, and well, at least to this na├»ve 15-year-old, it seemed right up there with the other happiest place on earth (Disneyland, of course!)

And still to this day, one of my greatest joys is making Hors d'Oeuvres, entertaining... well, and wine and cheese!  Little bits of heaven, full of intense flavor and aren't Hors d'Oeuvres just so cute?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dumpling Delights, Day 2- I'd like mine with Pineapple and Cream Cheese!

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Yesterday, we received a beautiful gift of fresh honey from a local client, so I couldn't resist creating a special recipe just for them.

And Honey, these Honey, Pineapple, Cream Cheese Won Tons were almost better than the Tri-Tip Asian Fuision Dumplings last night! What an awesome way to use the leftover won ton wrappers, and man, was this easy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tri-Tip Asian Fusion Dumplings

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There's something about dumplings.  Little packages of steamed goodness wrapped around meat and veggies...and typically dipped in a sugary, orangy-pink sauce (I'm in love!)

And ever since the Dim Sum scene in Working Girl, I've had a fascination with them... ha ha, you know you had that hair in the 80's, too- even without the steam!

But instead of heading out and buying a steamer today, I boldly decided to just go for it, and FRY them up... with all my favorite flavors.  

First I added chopped leeks and sweet onions to some olive oil to caramelize.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Falling for Fall Flavors- Pork Chops with Roasted Pears, Blue Cheese Brussels and a Mustard, Maple Syrup Drizzle

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I guess you could call me the eternal Cali girl... 

I've sported a bikini since I was 3 swimming in our family pool (and yes, we are conservative!), I wouldn't be caught dead on the beach w/anything more than SPF... coconut oil, I knew what vegan and juicing and yoga were WAY before they were the "newest thing," and I still believe this song was written for me... well, at least by my surfer ;-)

But I'm a Southern girl now.  And with that comes fall clothes, fall colors (leaves actually change colors?) and a fall bounty that's simply fabulous (here is a REALLY great link to the 10 best fruits/veggies in season NOW!)
And here is a recipe that is healthy, low carb, uses in season produce (which means it is cost-effective) and QUICK!  Enjoy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Veggie Box that got me Thinking Outside the Box

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Some girls get excited about shoes, massages, days at the spa (oh, who am I kidding- I LOVE them too!)  But these days, my budget breakers are along a different line... with a little more fresh, and a whole lot more FLAVOR!

Like meats that my butcher proudly points to and says... Di, this is the ONE (get to know your butcher!)  Vegetables so fresh that you pause for a moment wondering, "is that dirt?" and then smile, remembering they were picked TODAY, and the earth on them is local earth.  Mmm. ;-) Fresh breads that take me back to days up at 4am, mixing, kneading, waiting for the rise, and then "drinking" in the intoxicating yeasty smell while browning in the oven.  And cheese.  Oh, cheese.  Rich, creamy, nutty, herby, velvety... and yes, the stinkier the better, cheese, I say (some day remind me to tell you the tale of the stinky hotel cheese in Paris- P.U. ;-)

But today my budget breaker didn't break the budget, and it came in a cardboard box- delivered! (Thank you Door Step Produce!)

"Eat your vegetables, they'll put hair on your chest," said my Pop growing up, and while that was almost as gross of a concept (for a girl, at least) as eating the vegetables themselves, it did make me giggle.  And now, as an adult, I still smile when I think of eating and making veggies fun in every meal!