Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and health and happiness in the new year! 

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Well, it's been awhile, but for good reason.  I was a tad busy due to the wonderful fact that Mark and I were married on Sunday, Nov 21st!  I'm working on a post about the celebration which included craft beer, delectable food (beer and cheese pairings, among other things), but in the meantime, I want to share this heart-warming soup.  A pleasant diversion from the more traditional potato and leek soup, I opted for cauliflower, instead of the traditional spud.
To bring out the nuttiness in the cauliflower, I roasted it first with shallots.  Then I sauteed the leeks in butter and olive oil, adding the cauliflower/shallot mixture once the leeks were softened.  The uniqueness of this soup comes from the spice - garam masala.  This spice is typically used in Indian cuisine and is a combination of several pungent spices mixed together. 
After cooking in chicken broth for a bit, you can puree the soup to your liking.  Sometimes I go smoother, and other times I leave some chunks.  Leave the preference up to your palate and enjoy. 

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
1 shallot, sliced
Cooking spray 
2 TBL olive oil
3 TBL butter
2 leeks, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground pepper
6 cups chicken broth
salt to taste

Preheat over to 500*.  Place chopped cauliflower and sliced shallots on a cookie sheet and coat with cooking spray.  Roast for 15-20 min or until lightly browned, tossing the mixture at least once while roasting.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add leeks and saute for about 10 minutes, or until they soften.  To the leeks, add the cauliflower mixture and the chopped garlic.  Saute for another 5 minutes and then add the garam masala and pepper.  Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat and blend soup with an immersion blender or hand mixer until it reaches the desired smoothness.  Season with salt and pepper as needed. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Treats!

When my 7 year old proclaims..."I don't want to go trick-or-treating this year.  I've done it my whole life."...what's a mom who loves Halloween to do?  Have a Halloween party instead!  The house is decked out with black webbing, white & black pumpkins, and glittery purple accents (I was stuck on a black/purple theme this year), complete with black lights that flank the inside of our porch.  And of course, there is the food.  It's amazing what people can come up with to make food look spooky and gross!  Witches fingers, tombstone sandwiches, calzones made to look like witch hats.  Some of the most fun items are the desserts.  These Spooky Halloween Eyeballs are quite labor intensive, but so worth it.  They taste like peanut butter cups and you can make your monster eyeballs look however you want.  
We also made Chocolate Spiderweb Treats.  The base is essentially a rice krispie treat made with cocoa krispies instead.  They are topped with melted milk chocolate and then drizzled with circles of white chocolate.  To give them a cobweb effect, use a toothpick to pull through the white chocolate. 
Lastly, there are the Cinna-Mummy Wrapple Pops.  A slice of green apple, mummy-wrapped with strips of pie crust that have been tossed in cinnamon and sugar.  They literally taste like little pieces of apple pie in your mouth.  Using raisins for eyes, this is definitely one of the more healthier Halloween treats out there, and delicious too.  

Much more cooking to do, but I wanted to share these ghoulish delights!  Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pear and Almond Crostata

What Would Brian Boitano Make?  To be brutally honest, I didn't really care until I tried his Pear and Almond Crostata.  I remember Brian Boitano the Olympic ice skater, the role model for the kids from South Park, but the chef?  I'm a convert.  I'm sure I'll be posting more of his recipes since there are several gems, but with pears in season right now, I thought this one was fitting.
I love rustic tarts and crostatas since you don't have to be perfect with rolling the dough.  My rolling pin may be close to my heart (it was my grandmother's) but a pastry chef, I am not.  To make things even easier, this crust is made from store bought almond paste. 

After rolling out a small portion of the flavorful paste to a thin pancake, a dollop of cream cheese filling (cream cheese, egg, vanilla extract, and a touch of flour and sugar) is spread around the center.  Then you take a quarter of a pear, cut it into 5 slices, and fan it on top of the filling.  To finish the package, wrap the edges of the almond paste around the filling.  Once the crostata is brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with raw sugar, it bakes until it reaches a rich, golden brown shade, shimmering with sugar crystals.  I chose not to use all of the garnish that Brian called for (ice cream, almonds, mint), but I did opt for the scoop of cherry vanilla ice cream.  Now don't get me wrong, his show is laden with slapstick humor and quirky story-lines, but the recipes are great!  So the simple answer to "what would Brian Boitano make?"...really good stuff!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Once upon a year...

I started a food blog.  The year has been incredibly filling and fulfilling.  I wasn't certain where it was going to take me, but the journey has been more thrilling and eye-opening than I could have ever imagined.  I've been to wonderful restaurants, where the dishes have made me study each bite in the hopes of recreating the same tastes at home.  I've made some delicious recipes, from folks all over the world and brought those flavors into my home.

But my favorite part about this year hasn't been the food; it's been about the people I've met.  The people I've dined with.  Friends, family, acquaintances; the couple sitting next to us at the bar.  To me it's been about the experience.  Food brings everyone together, from all parts of the world.  It is a common ground and a necessity we all share.  I encourage everyone to embrace this necessity and pursue the most enjoyment as possible through dining, through the experience, instead of simply just eating. 

I've learned that several people share this same passion.  Take Roger Ebert.  He can't eat anymore.  He can't drink anymore.  But worst of all, he can't speak anymore.  My first thought was the horror of not being able to taste a succulent shrimp or sink your mouth into a crisp apple, but I was wrong.  Roger brought me back to the root of it all in his comment "So that's what sad about not eating.  The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?"...So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now."  Roger Ebert. 

I too enjoy my blog and the people I interact with.  That's my favorite part. The individuals and communities that have embraced me, be it online or through our dining experiences.  I thank you all for your support, for without you, I wouldn't have learned how deep my passion runs.  Oh, and for those of you that wonder where the name "lick-a-plate" came from, you can read about it here on my first blog post.  For those that know already, you can see the name is still alive and well, courtesy of my son, Ryan.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Frozen Lemon Pie

People could argue that lemons are the most useful and versatile fruit when it comes to cooking.  I would have to agree with them.  Lemon juice in a marinade helps break down tough fibers in meat, yielding tender results.  Squirted on fruit, it slows down the oxidation process so they don't turn brown as quickly.  Drizzled over seafood, lemon juice turns fish into a succulent treasure from the sea.  
My parent's neighbors have a huge lemon tree in their yard that is literally dropping fruit on a daily basis.  Not wanting this bounty to go to waste, I was graciously given a large bag to explore all of the talents of the lemon.  

So what have I made?  Interestingly, not lemonade.  I guess that would have been an obvious choice, (our lemon harvest is not over yet so it may be in our future), but I was intrigued with other recipes.  Limoncello, for example.  I actually don't like limoncello, so I'm not sure why I thought my tastes would change just because I was using freshly picked lemons and making it at home with love.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, just not the end product.  If you do like Limoncello, definitely give it a go (here's a recipe) since the transformation over the course of 3 weeks is enjoyable.  

For this post, I'll focus on a Frozen Lemon Pie.  I love lemon meringue pie, but wanted something a bit different from the norm.  This recipe includes cream cheese and condensed milk, lending this pie to be tart and creamy.
In my opinion, traditional pie crusts can tend to be soggy, wet ,and all around not that tasty.  Create a base with a cracker crust, and you've just transformed your pie with each and every bite - a smooth, creamy interior with the light crunch of an exterior crust.  To save time, I did buy a pre-made graham cracker crust, but took it to another dimension by basting the crust with egg and baking it to a golden brown before adding the filling.

I basically followed this recipe for Lemon Icebox Pie, but decided to freeze the pie in the end.  After whipping the cream cheese and condensed milk with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, it's as simple as popping it in the freezer for a few hours.  The recipe calls for refrigerating the pie, so we tried it that way first, but it felt too heavy and creamy.  The flavor was spot on, but it wasn't as refreshing as we had hoped.  The freezer is where it's at for this pie. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Picnic in the Park

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with good friends in a beautiful park, complete with a lunch feast!  My college girlfriends and I got together with our kids for a full day of eating and playing.  Instead of buying your typical macaroni salad or potato salad in the grocery store, I wanted to make a few items and figured my friends could be the guinea pigs. My contribution to our feast was a rice salad, a pasta salad and goat cheese rounds with honey. 

The salads had an added benefit in that I could make them the night before.  I love that most salads get better as they sit, so making them ahead is sometimes the best way to go  I started with the Rice Salad.  The title is deceiving since there are many other components that go into this dish.  Peas, celery, onion, pimentos, and protein from hard boiled eggs and a can of tuna.  The dressing is made with mayo, mustard, sweet pickle relish, lemon juice, and dill.  It's moist, filling, and hearty.  The slightly sweet pickle relish is balanced by the pimentos, onion, and dill.

The second salad is called Spiral Pasta Salad.  If you are like me, you're probably bored of the basic pasta salad with Italian dressing.  Not that I would turn it down, but I was ready for something with a twist.  This dressing is made with oil and vinegar (I know, the starting point for Italian dressing) but then taken to a new level with the addition of ketchup, onion, sugar, salt, ground mustard, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano.  As with the rice salad, this pasta salad was sweet, but with a tang from the onion, vinegar, and mustard.  The base is pasta, celery, tomato, green pepper, and shredded carrots (another slightly sweet item).   The kids loved this one.  Both of these salads have a slightly sweet element, but when feeding children, that is never a bad thing. 

The simplicity and distinct flavors of the Creamy Goat Cheese with Honey won over my heart and stomach.  I actually did make a portion of this the night before, but waited to drizzle the honey on the day of.  I chopped up some left-over pecans I had in the freezer (freezing nuts extends their freshness), and combined them with cinnamon in a small bowl.  Then cut a goat cheese round 12 portions, roll them into a ball, and coat them with the pecan and cinnamon mixture.  After pressing down gently to form a disc shape, this is where I left these goat cheese morsels to rest overnight in the refrigerator.
The day of the picnic, I chopped up fresh rosemary, sprinkled it over the rounds, and brought the honey with me in the jar that contained the pimentos from the rice salad.  Those little glass jars are quite handy!  When we were ready to feast, I drizzled the goat cheese with honey and severed them with a fresh baguette.  These cheese gems were both crunchy and creamy and when smeared on a torn piece of baguette, were divine.  The food was fun, but the company was the best.  My college friends and I had a blast laughing about old times while our kids made new memories together. 

You may have noticed that all the recipes on this post came from a website called (ha ha). But seriously, a feature of theirs that I love, is the ability to put in ingredients you have on hand and search for recipes containing those ingredients. You can even exclude ingredients you don't want. I know there are several other websites that have this ability, but I tend to find a lot of interesting recipes on this website. It's a great way to use up what you have in your fridge and pantry!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Strawberry Cardamom Bread

 'Tis the season...for luscious, and cheap, strawberries!  I was looking for something new to do with strawberries and this recipe grabbed me due to the addition of cardamom.  A spice used mainly in Indian cuisine, I had only used this spice one other time before in a cookie recipe.  Marie posted this Strawberry Cardamom Bread to her wonderful blog, The English Kitchen
The ingredients seem at first to be a pretty typical of a quick bread, but then there is the addition of creamy sour cream and fragrant cardamom.  Marie used actual cardamom pods, removed the seeds, and ground them up.  Trying to use up the cardamom I already had, I passed on the pods and stuck with the jarred spice.  I'm sure it wasn't nearly as fragrant, but the wonderful aroma and flavor did come through.  A unique twist on strawberry bread and delightful to enjoy at any time of day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ballpark Food at PETCO Park!

We love our Padres so we try to make it to as many games as we can.  Since my parents are half-season ticket holders, we've been fortunate to attend a fair amount of games which has allowed us the wonderful opportunity to try some of PETCO's finest food attractions.  Some are winners and some are losers.  I'm going to do my best to give you our personal take on what we've tried so far and how we liked it.  I welcome your thoughts too, since we haven't tried everything! 

Two carts that I find most intriguing are FriarFit and Gluten Free.  FriarFit seems like a great idea - I always come to the ballpark to find healthy foods.  Okay, but seriously, there were people in line, so someone had the right idea.  But Gluten Free?  I know some people need to exclude gluten from their diet, but I also partially think some people are doing it as a fad right now.  We'll see if the Gluten Free cart is around next year.

Moving into the Western Metal Supply building, there are several good food stations.  However, the first thing that catches my eye, is the beautiful blue glow from the bar. 
This is a unique space.  The original brick building is structurally impressive and they converted this floor into quite the social scene.  There is an outdoor sitting area that is open to all; to regulate the crowd, they rotate people every 3 innings, I believe. 

Some of the best food stations are here inside the Western Metal Supply - carved brisket sandwiches, nachos with all the toppings in the world, sausages of all types (including the Sonora, which is a spicy sausage wrapped in bacon).  It's all pricey, but what isn't at the ballpark.  For what you get at these stations, it seems to be worth it, compared to the basic hot-dog and nacho stands. 
The brisket is pretty darn good, as long as you dress it up.  The meat on it's own is bland, but it comes with bbq sauce and coleslaw.  The trick is to put this all together, including the coleslaw on top, and then you have an extremely messy, but very tasty sandwich!  The portions are huge, which does not necessarily equate to good in my book, but you do get your monies worth. 
Another bar within Petco Park is on the Field level in the "Mercado".  It's towards the back and has some great views of the convention center and railroad tracks. 

This is also a full bar, with slushy drinks (never tired them), and some decent beer on tap.  Lately, I've been enjoying a refreshing Widmer with a lemon wedge. 

The "Mercado" is a food court.  They have your basics, but then they also have Rubio's and Anthony's Fish Grotto.  I've eaten the fish and chips from Anthony's a few times (like once per season) and keep thinking I like it and then after I get it, realize I was mistaken...or else they've gone down hill in the last couple of years.  The must for the fish and chips, is to top them both with the malt vinegar and lemon.

Now onto our favorite item at the ballpark - Rubio's shrimp burrito.  A mildly spicy burrito that is packed with pinto beans, rice, salsa fresca, cheese, chipotle sauce, and shrimp that pop in your mouth. 
It's the same shrimp burrito you would get at a Rubio's restaurant, but I am impressed with how fresh it tastes.  The shrimp aren't rubbery, there are actual jalepeno peppers in there, and freshly diced tomatoes.  Reasonably priced and big enough to split, you definitely get a bang for your buck.  Nice job, Rubio's.

If you want something more basic, outside of hot-dogs, they also have Ruby's for burgers and Oggi's for pizza.  I give kudos to Oggi's for trying something a little unique at the ballpark, their Padres slice - tomatoes (2 slices), spinach, and a few specks of feta - but it just isn't that good.  I must preface this with also saying that I've never liked Oggi's pizza to begin with, so I'm not surprised that I didn't care for this one.  Funny thing, though, is that I've ordered this a few times.  I'll have that craving for pizza and always think it may be better than the last time.  It's not, but it's pizza.

I haven't touched on Randy Jones BBQ.  When the Padres were at Qualcomm, I pretty much saturated myself in Randy Jones items, so I hardly get it anymore since we've moved to the new ballpark.  It may be time, though.  I can't live on shrimp burritos alone. 

You may have noticed I didn't mention anything sweet.  I don't do sweets at the ballpark.  It's probably because I'm normally drinking beer, and the ballpark doesn't have a beer that would pair nicely with ice cream.  So instead, here are some of the beautiful sights at the ballpark.
But of course what surpasses all of this, is the game and the people watching.  Depending on the game, sometimes people watching wins out! 

When we were taking the scenery photos on the upper deck level, we noticed a lady walking towards us that appeared to have some OCD tendencies. She made it her mission to touch the flowers as she strolled the length of the walkway.  We were in her way, but stood our ground since we were curious to see what would happen.  She went around us, but didn't break her pattern, and continued until the end of the flower bed. 

We do enjoy the games and have been lucky enough to be in attendance for 2 grand slams this year!  To Mark's dismay, we only saw one of the grand slams since he agreed to accompany me on my photo scenery tour, so therefore missed one of them.  We heard the crowd, caught the end of it on the tv screen, but Mark may hold it against me for a little while longer. 

I urge all locals to visit PETCO Park and support our #1 San Diego Padres!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dressed up Brownie Bites!

I was in a pinch and needed a quick treat to take to Ryan's school for his birthday celebration.  For the kids whose birthdays are in the summer, they set aside a special day to celebrate them during school.  I thought about bringing cookies or cupcakes, but then I would have to buy 2 containers to ensure one for each child (pricey!). My eyes wandered to the brownie bites, most likely since I personally love them, but it was also the perfect amount in one package.  The only problem is that they looked a bit boring, for kids at least.

I thought about what I had at home - sprinkles.  What child doesn't love sprinkles?  I made my way over to the baking goods aisle and picked up an "easy cheese" bottle of priced-to-sell yellow frosting.  Ryan probably would have preferred red frosting, but for some reason the yellow was reduced to move stock.  Don't worry, I checked for an expiration date, but couldn't find one - that must mean it's still safe.

I was also tempted to look in the snack aisle for a true bottle of sharp cheddar easy cheese.  I may be a foodie, but there are some strange processed foods that I enjoy!  The great thing about these containers of frosting is that they come with 4 tips to create some fun shapes and patterns.  If I was talented, I may have used more than one tip, but alas, that didn't happen.  Ryan helped me squirt the frosting, shake the sprinkles, and then handed them out proudly to his friends at school today.  It was a success and an easy one at that!