Monday, May 28, 2012

Pasta a la Vino

I can't believe Memorial Day weekend is almost over already.  I feel like it just started!  Besides going to a super fun wedding on Saturday, I did absolutely nothing, and it was glorious.  After spending more nights than I can count at the Hyatt Regency Austin, all I wanted to do was sleep in my bed, lay on my couch, eat food besides Mexican or BBQ, and not wear high heels.  I did all of those things and then watched an inordinate number of episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras on Netflix.  I love that show, and I'm not even ashamed to admit it.  My husband would disagree and tell me that it is ABSOLUTELY shameful to watch Toddlers and Tiaras, but really, what does he know?  My favorite part is when they're interviewing the pageant moms and the mom says something like, "My daughter so-and-so usually wins pageants because of her sweet personality - she's just so poised and very mature for her age", and then the camera pans to the child screaming, "I HATE YOU!!!" to her mom, slapping her brother and then flushing her toys down the toilet.  Poised indeed.  The editing is genius and 90% of the people on the show belong in the looney bin.  I love it!

Anyway, I should stop now before I really start embarassing myself.  I swear I have other interests besides trashy television.

Now, for the pasta.  You know what makes cooking Pasta a la Vodka really hard?  The lack of vodka.  Actually, I did have some vodka in the freezer, but it was cherry lemonade flavored and I thought that would be weird.  So I improvised because I didn't feel like going to the store, and we ALWAYS have wine in the house.  I think it turned out really well, and it was a hit with the hubs.  I added a bit of chicken sausage in there because meals without meat don't go over very well in this house.  And see that basil on top?  Yep, that's from my garden!  I haven't killed everything yet!  Score!

Pasta a la Vino
Source: Adapted from Cook Like a Champion

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup half and half

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil, plus additional for serving
1 pound whole wheat pasta (short cut, not spaghetti)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving

Few sprigs fresh basil for serving
2 large links Italian flavored chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe's brand)

Cook pasta in well salted water until al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.   Add the onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.   Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Next, stir in the tomato paste and wine. Cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated, at least 5 minutes.

Stir in cream, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook sauce until thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in basil and cheese.

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat.  Serve topped with additional basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Orange Creamsicle Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

I saw these creamsicle cookies on Pinterest (OMG what did we DO before Pinterest!?!?), and they immediately went to the top of my "make this now" list.  Because I looooove me some creamsicles.  In fact, I love all kinds of popsicles, and I always have.

When I was little, I used to eat a completely unnecessary amount of popsicles, and I'm surprised my Mom didn't start to hide them in an attempt to slow my roll.  I'd grab one (or two, don't judge!) and head down to the edge of the back yard to where the swingset was.  I'd sit there on my swing, eat my popsicle, and ponder the important things in life like Rainbow Brite and all the cutest boys in the first grade.  Once I was done, I'd throw the stick in the grass under my swing and start in on the next one.  I don't know why I didn't just go up to the house to throw the sticks away.  Actually, I do know why.  It was a LONG walk up to the house to get to the trash can, and as you know, Rainbow Brite and cute boys in the first grade are serious business, and I just didn't have time to take out of my pondering schedule to deal with insignificant things like properly disposing of popsicle sticks.

I didn't see this as a problem, but there is someone who did.  And that person was my Dad.  He would be cutting the grass down near the swingset, and he'd run over a dozen wooden popsicle sticks, which would get stuck in the motor of the lawnmower and make it stall out.  He'd come up to the house all red-faced and be like, "Ann, I TOLD you you have to throw these things away!"  I'd be like, "Sorry Dad!  I promise I'll throw them away next time.  PROMISE!"  And then, of course, I wouldn't.  And Dad would run over them with the lawnmower again and the cycle continued. 

One day, he finally lost it.  After watching popsicle stick splinters fly through the air for the 200th time, he comes storming into the house and says, "That's it!  I've had it!  Ann, you are no longer allowed to eat popsicles AT ALL, because you can't be responsible enough to throw the sticks away.  NO MORE POPSICLES!!!"  And I looked at him, cool as a cucumber and said, "That's okay, I decided I don't like popsicles any more anyway" and sashayed out of the room. I think steam came out of his ears at that very moment.

Despite our disagreement about popsicles, I adore my dear old Dad.  He is a wonderful, kind, funny man, and I love him to pieces.  At my wedding, he gave a hilarious and heartwarming speech and included the popsicle story, and even presented my husband with 100 popsicle sticks and a little mini trash can in order to keep me in line in case I decided I liked popsicles again.  Every time I think of his speech on that day, I laugh a little and cry a little.  I love you, Dad!

Anyway!  The best thing about these cookies is that they are just like a creamsicle except there is no wooden stick.  A win-win situation if you ask me!  They were super easy and totally delicious.  Its a good think I leave tomorrow for a business trip or else I'd eat WAY too many of these little guys. 


Orange Creamsicle Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest (zest of 2 oranges)

Juice of 1 orange
2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest, orange juice, and white chocolate chips.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Do not flatten cookies.  Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Cool for several minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pan Seared Halibut with Mediterranean Salsa

I started this blog post yesterday, and I was all, "I can't believe its Sunday night already!".  And then I got busy and forgot to finish that thought.  Then, before I know it, its Monday night and I'm saying, "I can't believe its Monday night already!"

I would normally be hum-ho about Monday, because what's very exciting about a super busy work day (where your computer crashes and you have to pay $100 to FedEx it to the IT guy in Massachusetts) and then getting a toe cramp in spin class?  You know what IS exciting about this particular Monday though?  No, I'm not getting a raise (although I totally deserve one, ahem).  The dishwasher emptied itself?  Nope, not that either.  But, BUT!  Today is the season premier of The Bachelorette!  I don't even care that its like the 30th season and the whole thing is completely scripted and downright ridiculous, but I love it anyway and I will never stop.  Never.

I am constantly amazed that they still get people to come on the show.  I mean, these people KNOW that they are going to be fed massive quantities of alcohol and then prodded by the staff shrink about their deepest insecurities so that they cry on camera and look like total stalker lunatics.  I love it!  I think these people would probably have better luck just dressing up in their best pageant dresses, getting really drunk at a bar and trying to find a mate that way.  At least then its not televised. 

ANYWAY, the Bachelor/Bachelorette is probably my biggest guilty pleasure.  I love it more than words can say, and certainly more than is appropriate.  I think it just makes me feel better about myself.  I mean, I did my fair share of things that bordered on lunatic-caliber during my dating years, but NOTHING like you see from these fine folks on this show.  Its pure comedy and I look forward to it far, far too much.

But I digress.  We're here to talk about food, aren't we?  I guess so.  This fish with Mediterranean Salsa just kind of materialized from the depths of my mind as I perused the interwebs looking for inspiration.  It was a real hit and there were absolutely no leftovers.  I served this with roasted Brussels sprouts, which doesn't necessarily GO with Mediterranean food, but whatever.  I like eating Brussels sprouts, and this is my kitchen, anyway.


Pan Seared Halibut with Mediterranean Salsa
Source: a "Cooking with Wine" original, inspiration found here

2 large fresh Halibut steaks
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the marinade
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

For the Salsa
8 artichoke hearts, quartered
4-5 roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
large handful pitted Greek (green) olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (best to buy the block and crumble it yourself)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar

First, make the fish:
Mix all marinade ingredients in a large freezer bag.  Add fish and let sit at room temperature for one hour.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Saute fish until it gets a nice sear on one side and then flip.  About 5 minutes per side or until it flakes with a fork.

Next, make the salsa:
Add all ingredients through the parsley in a large bowl.  Add the oil and vinegar to taste, toss to coat.  Serve over fish and on the side as well if you like.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Skinny Watermelon and Pineapple Margaritas

I don't have a whole lot of time to post today, since I have to leave for the airport in a bit to go back to Austin.  But I could not leave you fine folks without sharing some margarita love before I go.  So, I'll just say this: margaritas are delicious and oh-so-pretty and you should drink them all summer long and not just for Cinco de Mayo. 

These were not your average margaritas for two reasons.  One, they are a lot healthier than a "regular" margarita so you can enjoy more than one them guilt-free.  Two, they are watermelon and pineapple flavored!  Yum!

These were super easy to make, too!  Enjoy!  I'll be back later this week to share more food-bloggy-goodness.  Cheers, y'all!

Skinny Watermelon Margaritas
Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

1 lime wedge
6 cups cubed seeded watermelon
1 cup tequila (use silver, not gold)
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/1/1/2 cup Triple Sec
¼ cup kosher salt
Additional lime wedges for garnish

Place the kosher salt in a saucer.  Rub the rims of 6 glasses with 1 lime wedge; spin rim of each glass in salt to coat. Set prepared glasses aside.

Combine watermelon and about ¼ cup water in a blender (you may have to do in batches).  Process until smooth.  Fill each prepared glass with a few ice cubes.  Add 1/2 cup margarita to each glass. Garnish with lime wedges or melon balls, if desired.

Skinny Pineapple Margaritas

1 lime wedge
1 whole pineapple, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup tequila (silver or gold is fine)
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/1/1/2 cup Triple Sec
¼ cup kosher salt
Additional lime wedges for garnish

Place the kosher salt in a saucer. Rub the rims of 6 glasses with 1 lime wedge; spin rim of each glass in salt to coat. Set prepared glasses aside.

Combine pineapple, sugar and about ¼ cup water in a blender (you may have to do in batches). Process until smooth. Fill each prepared glass with a few ice cubes. Add 1/2 cup margarita to each glass. Garnish with lime wedges.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mini Apple Pie Bites

Every time I think about apple pie, I think about that hilarious movie, American Pie, that came out like 10 years ago.  I won't say which part of that movie in particular it reminds me of, though, because this is a family-friendly blog (just kidding, it totally isn't!).  But you know why.  And also - I wonder what ever happened to Jason Biggs, anyway?

I really liked that movie, so it gets added to the list of only like 10 movies that  actually like.  I know its shameful to admit and it probably makes me sound like a total bore (or a total psychopath), but movies aren't really my thing.  I have trouble paying attention for that long unless its something really mindless and funny, or something really suspenseful and scary.  A lot of times, I'll watch a movie, and when its over, I'm like, ummmm.....I don't get it.  I feel like I miss a lot and have trouble following intricate story lines.  Annnddd, that I typed that out, I realize I sound like a total bimbo and I think I should stop typing before revealing examples of the movies I don't "get" (Ahem, like The Recruit, and The Dark Night). 

What were we talking about again?  Oh yes, apple pie.  I saw these babies on Pinterest and thought they were adorable and looked so easy.  Plus, PLUS, I used 1/2 Splenda and 1/2 sugar and way less butter than "they" said to.  So, this is healthy apple pie!  Yes, that's it.

Anyway, enjoy, my friends!  And go rent American Pie.  It was seriously funny, you know it was.

Mini Apple Pie Bites
Source: Adapted from Budget Savvy Diva

1/2 cup sugar (I used ¼ cup Splenda and ¼ cup sugar)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 package refrigerated pie pastry
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 medium tart green apples (I used Granny Smith), peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 425. 

Combine sugar and cinnamon and set aside a 1 tablespoon of the mixture

Unroll pie dough and brush on 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle the rest of the sugar mixture on top.

Cut the pastry into strips — about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long.  Wrap one strip around 2 apple wedges, placing sugared side of pastry against the apple.

Place “pies” on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush on the remaining butter and sprinkles with the rest of the sugar mixture.

Bake at 425 for 10 – 13 minutes or until golden brown.