August 23, 2008


I'm a sucker for pasta. Just love it. Maybe it's the runner in me that feels like my efforts are totally deserving of a big plate of carbs, but I just couldn't live a full life without it. Oh I tried once. I jumped on one of those diets that promised rapid weight loss for the small price of forsaking my beloved carbs. That lasted all of two weeks before I realized I had turned into the most cranky, tired, miserable person around. I didn't even want to be around me!

I soon decided that no amount of weight loss was worth cutting out an entire food group. Oh, and I quickly gained back all of the weight I had lost, so that even further increased my believe that the no-carb thing was not the way for me. Don't get me wrong, I totally have the utmost respect for those who have the willpower and resolve to keep with it and still remain sane. These people tempt me with their ability to wear skinny jeans without batting an eyelash or slip into a swimsuit anytime of the year. But then I look at a beautiful plate of pasta, like this one, and realize that it is mine without any kind of thought or guilt, and all no-carb temptation is quickly thrown out the window.

This pasta dish, which was the brain child of the always charming Jamie Oliver, is a carbonara with yellow and green zucchini. It was absolutely scrumptious. The sauce is rich, but not overly so, making it a perfect summer pasta. It was super simple to put together as well. The biggest problem is having a big enough pan to mix it all together in at the end. I only made half the recipe and needed every inch of my 4-qt saute pan. The only changes I made to the recipe, aside from halfing it, was to used dried thyme instead of fresh and to dump out about half the bacon grease that is produced in the pan before adding in the zucchini. Love the bacon grease, but it just seemed a bit overly glutenous. The velvety sauce, buttery pasta, and lovely veggies make this pasta an absolute keeper.

Sorry to all of my friends who can't partake. But you can rub it in my face when I'm attempting to zip up my jeans. :)

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

August 16, 2008

Ina's Messy-as-all-get-out Pecan Squares

These little desserts traumatized me. I mean really traumatized. As in, I must have made them months ago, and am just now feeling brave enough to tell you about them. Not to say that the end result wasn't delicious, cause it totally was, but sometimes it's more about the journey than the end result and this is a prime example.

Usually I love to bake. People are always making baking out to be more difficult than cooking savoury food, but to an extent, I would say for beginners, it's usually easier. I say that because baking is an exact science. Meaning you following directions to a "T," and there's no vague language that says things like "add salt to taste." I'm a beginner, I don't know what my taste are let alone what amount of salt would satisfy them! I can follow a recipe though, and have no problem measuring out specific amounts of salt, flour or baking soda. That being said, there's a definite line between beginner baking and full on you-must-be-a-pastry-chef-to-pull-this-off baking. I mean I'm not going to be cranking out any kind of fancy soufle any time soon, but I sure as heck thought I could make these little bites without too much of a problem. Ha - never underestimate the kind of disasters that beginners can cause in the kitchen!

To start from the beginning, I saw Ina making this and knew I had to have them. I'm obsessed with pecan pie, and that's exactly what these are, just in a convenient bar form. The recipe makes a ton, and I had a friend's birthday coming up, which gave me the perfect excuse to make a boat-load of these tasty treats. It all started out well enough. I pulled out my most prized kitchen appliance - the stand mixer - and got the dough made perfectly. Putting it into the baking sheet was a whole nother story. Ina says in the recipe it's going to be sticky and she ain't kiddin! With the use of a lot of flour (which was mainly used to get the super glue like dough off my hands) I shaped it into the baking sheet, popped it in the oven and started on the filling.

The more messy, sticky, gooey the more delicious, right? Well, after making the filling I decided the squares were setting themselves up to be the most fantastic dessert around. Nevertheless, with a little patience, I was able to get the gooey filling on top of the baked crust.

Here's where I should have had that something-ain't-right feeling. See, the filling goes all the way to the very top of the baking sheet, and this was the exact size specified in the recipe. So, I just trusted Ina and went on with sticking the pan in the oven. Big, no HUGE, mistake. That sucker boiled and spilled over so much you would have sworn there was a second erupting of Mt. St. Helens in my oven. The apartment immediately filled with smoke and poor Suki nearly had a heart attack (I think dogs have a 6th sense for knowing when you are about to burn the house down).

Somehow, I got the pan out of the oven and managed not to throw it out the window in a fit (I was stopped by the thought of being sued by some New Yorker for covering them in pecan stickiness). And guess what - these little bars were absolutely amazing. The crust was flaky and delicious and the filling was sweet without being overly-sweet and perfectly mimicked the pecan pie that we all know and love. The big bonus was that the recipe made like 30 large sized bars. And people loved them so much I am still hearing about them months later!

Yes, the end result was worth the work. That is, until I tried to use my oven cleaner and filled the apartment with so much smoke we were forced to evacuate for 3 hours. :)

Please visit the link below for the recipe (if you dare!):

Ina's Pecan Squares
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa -The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

August 7, 2008

Diving In

Last night, feeling a little bit more like my old self, I decided to whip up something new and impressive for the hubby-to-be to make up for my couch potato status the last few days. Now don't get too excited. Remember that I am in fact a culinary wannabe, and therefore, new and impressive is probably old and standard to most. So, what did I decide to make with my new found motivation and courage? Fish. Yes, fish. Fish is freakin' hard to cook people! I mean, you are dealing with a scaly ewwey looking piece of meat, that gives you no indication of when it's done cooking ("what do you mean salmon is supposed to be pink in the center, it doesn't turn white like chicken?"), and then you go to bed with nightmares of the mercury and other kinds of toxins you might have just willingly put in your body and the bodies of your loved ones. SCARY!

These reasons are why I generally avoid having any kind of fish in this house unless it came from Yama. The sad part is that I even took a seafood cooking class once. We learned that you must blot scallops on paper towels before searing, fish must not actually smell like fish when you buy it, and that mussels need to have their little shells closed to qualify for my pot. Nowhere did we cover things like how to get the crazy fish smell out of your apartment or how to make sure you are feeding people cooked fish instead of something closer to shashimi.

By now you probably get the point that I'm a tad nervous to dive into the deep blue sea for my dinner. So, I decided to turn to none other than the Food Network's very own resident mom (because who else could make everything sunny and perfect but mom?), Robin Miller. Robin plays the role of the busy mom very well. Her show intro even shows her answering phone calls, bringing home groceries, playing with her kids, and signing cookbooks for fans. What, book signing isn't in the cards for your typical mom? Anyways, her dishes are generally pretty straight forward in nature with few bells and whistles, which is exactly what I was looking for.

This honey mustard glazed salmon sounded delicious, but what appealed to me most about it was that it is baked in the oven. No game of cooking time roulette. I just popped it in the oven for the specified length of time and presto, changeo - we have perfectly cooked fish! Sorry frying pan, the baking sheet is my new best friend. Really though, the flavor of the mustard topping was very good (not nearly as strong as in the previous mustard chicken) and was well liked all around. Even Suki liked it. Who knew that dogs were on the fish train? The only problem we ran into was that both pieces had quite a number of little bones in them. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that was more Whole Foods fault than my own, so I'm not going to let that deter me from my next seafood adventure.

Fish that tasted so good I might actually make it again...I might just be progressing!

P.S. - why did no one ever tell me couscous is God's gift to people who can't cook? I love this stuff!

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

Robin's Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon Fillets
Adapted from Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller - Robin Miller

August 4, 2008

The King's Favorite

Let me start this post off with a little disclaimer - I am hurtin' today. See, my bachelorette party was this past weekend. Combine a bunch of girls who go months at a time without seeing each other, a little (or a lot) of alcohol, a crazy reason to celebrate and no sleep and you will understand why I've had trouble getting out of bed today. We had an absolutely amazing time and now we must all pay the price.

In my state I'm looking for a particular kinda something to eat - must take minimal effort to make, contain only staple items that I already have on hand and have absolutely no semblance of being "healthy." This little sandwich fits the bill. It takes no more effort than a grilled cheese and, being in this not-so-amazing state, tasted like the most delicious thing I've ever had. Peanut butter, bread, bananas, fried - 'nough said.

This fried PB & banana sandwich was apparently Elvis's favorite snack. Although I would think it would qualify more as a full on meal, I can see why he liked it so much. Paula also added her little spin on it and added a bit more sugar to the bread (leave it to Paula to make something already glutinous that much more fattening!). I don't really know much about Elvis except that he was originally from Tupelo, MS, which is the same place that one of my beloved bachelorette patrons lives. Mrs. L is the cutest thing you ever did see, and she was a major trooper this weekend. So this tasty treat is in her honor. Thanks L - enjoy! I'll be eating this in bed...

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

Paula's Fried PB & Banana Sandwich
Adapted from Paula's Home Cooking - Paula Deen