Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Lame Duck Cocktail

Photo courtesy from I was looking up the term "lame duck" in the web dictionary today and this is exactly what is says:
  1. An officeholder who has chosen not to run for reelection or is ineligible for reelection.
  2. An ineffective person; a weakling
Immediately, George W. Bush came to mind. So, in honor of our ineffective and weak president, I came up with a Lame Duck Cocktail. It's sweet and bubbly at first but the finish is bitter and full of disappointment.

INGREDIENTS (serves one)

  • 2 ounces Cold Duck® Champagne or Andre's Cold Duck Champagne (very cold)
  • 1/2 ounce of Bushmills Whiskey
  • 1 ounce lemonade
  • 2 dashes of bitters
In a Champagne flute or tall glass combine the Cold Duck, whiskey, lemonade and bitters. Give it a gentle shake then drink it like an angry liberal. Enjoy!

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    Greek Style Naan Pizza

    Greek style naan pizzaMy husband and I pet and house-sitted my brother's place this weekend. Unfortunately, my brother and his wife didn't have much in their fridge and I had to come up with something to eat. In their freezer I found frozen Naan bread, which you can buy at Trader Joe's. I also found in their fridge a few Kalamata olives, feta cheese, one red bell pepper, sliced mushrooms and a jar of ready-made pesto. And voila, my Naan Pizza, Greek Style, was born! This makes a great light dinner or a great lunch.

    INGREDIENTS (makes 2)

    • 2 frozen Naan from Trader Joes' (in the frozen food section)
    • 2 tablespoons ready-made pesto
    • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into 1" strips
    • 6 chopped Kalamata olives
    • 6 sliced button or crimini mushrooms
    • 1/4 feta cheese, crumbled
    • Olive oil
    • A few grinds of fresh black pepper
    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

    Place Naan on a baking sheet and thaw it in the oven for 2 minutes, then promptly remove.

    Spread one tablespoon of pesto onto each naan bread. Top each naan with the red bell pepper strips, chopped olives and sliced mushrooms. Top each with the crumbled feta cheese and place the pizzas in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until veggies are heated through and feta cheese slightly melts.

    Remove from oven and drizzle each naan with a little olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.

    Friday, May 26, 2006

    Spotted Dick Pudding

    I first saw this can of Heinz Spotted Dick at the local Brit Shoppe here in San Diego and I couldn't believe my eyes. Apparently this is a common pudding, or dessert, in Britain. The name "dick" means dog, so it's a pudding called "spotted dog." Hmm, interesting. Then, after I found a recipe for this unusual pudding, I noticed the recipe calls for suet, which I had never heard of. Suet is the hard fat from around the kidneys of cows and sheep. It's not really lard because it has a higher melting point, but it's animal fat nonetheless. If you can't find suet, you can substitute it with pork fat drippings. Um, yum????

    INGREDIENTS (makes 4)

    • 1 cup self-raising flour
    • 1/2 cup shredded suet or pork fat drippings
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
    • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. sugar
    • The zest of one lemon
    • Pinch Salt
    Mix all of the dry ingredients, including the grated lemon zest, together. Add the suet and enough milk to produce soft dough, about a 1/2 cup of milk.

    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Roll out the dough into 3" to 4" balls (dumplings) and wrap them in a couple of layers of cheesecloth. Place the balls in the steamer and cover tightly. Steam for 1½ to 2 hours. Serve cut into thick slices and top them off with orange marmalade. Those crazy Brits!

    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    Bangers and Mash

    Bangers and Mash
    In 133 days, my husband, my mom, my step-dad and I will be on our way to London, England. As you can tell, I’m terribly excited and I can’t wait. In order to get ready for this trip, I’ve been searching for authentic British recipes, and although the Brits are not known for their gourmet meals, they did invent one of my favorite meals, bangers and mash. If you've never had this British dish, you're in for a treat. It's quite easy to make and it's definitely a crowd pleaser. A banger, by the way, is another name for start banging!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 2 to 4, depending on how hungry you are)

    • 1 to 1-1/2 lb. pork or beef sausages (about 4)
    • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
    • ¼ cup red wine
    • 3/4 cup beef stock
    • 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and halved
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    • Butter
    • Salt and pepper
    • Milk
    • 2 tbsp. chives, finely chopped
    1. Peel and cut the potatoes in half. Place the 'taters and garlic in a pot covered with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes until soft. When done remove from heat, drain and set aside.
    2. Prick the sausages with a fork a few times and fry them in a large skillet over medium heat, adding a tablespoon of vegetable oil if they are very lean sausages. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm or place them in a warm (200 degree) oven.
    3. Remove all but one tablespoon of grease from the frying pan and add the onions (you can add more oil if your sausages did not render enough grease). Fry the onions until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and beef stock and stir until the liquid starts to thicken and reduce, 5 to 10 more minutes. Season to taste.
    4. While the onion gravy is cooking, mash the potatoes and garlic, adding butter and milk until the mashed potatoes get to your desired consistency. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper.
    5. Serve the bangers and mash on a warm platter and pour the onion gravy over it.

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    Eggplant Stacks

    I came up with these stacks many years ago when I was on a low carb diet. I remember that I wanted to make eggplant parmigiana but I couldn't use bread crumbs or eggs. So, my eggplant stacks were born. These stacks are much simpler to make and are a good vegetarian alternative, too...and they're low in carbs!

    INGREDIENTS (makes 4 or 5 stacks)

    • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2" thick slices (8 or 10 slices)
    • Kosher salt
    • Vegetable oil
    • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
    • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or basil or parsley
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • A few good grinds of fresh, ground black pepper
    • 1 to 1-1/2 cup marinara sauce (I used Barilla's Traditional Marinara)
    • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

    Cut the eggplant into 8 or 10 - 1/2" slices. Place the slices in a colander and sprinkle each one with a pinch of kosher salt. Let them sit in the sink for a half hour to drain.

    After 30 minutes, pat dry each slice--do not rinse them with water.

    Set a griddle pan or a large frying pan over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil and lower heat to medium-high. Place the eggplant slices on the griddle or skillet (cook them in batches if your pan doesn't fit all of them) and fry for about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

    Set aside and let cool slightly. You may need to add more vegetable oil as eggplants tend to soak it up.

    In a small bowl combine the 3/4 cup ricotta, 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of ground, black pepper.

    In a 9"x13" baking dish add 2 heaping tablespoon of marinara sauce and spread. Place half of the slices on the dish. Top each slice with 1 or 2 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta mixture. Then spoon 1 teaspoon of marinara over the ricotta. Top each slice with another eggplant slice.

    Spoon 1 tablespoon or more of marinara over each stack, and then spread the mozzarella cheese over all the stacks.

    Cook in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and eggplant is heated through.

    Serve immediately with a nice, crisp salad.

    Chicken Flautas

    Chicken Flautas

    I am not a big Mexican food fan (I know, it's weird considering I'm a Mexi-Chick) but flautas are probably my favorite Mexican food. Flautas, or flutes, are tightly rolled corn tortillas that can be filled with shredded beef, ground beef, shredded chicken or my favorite, leftover mashed potatoes. Flautas, a.k.a rolled tacos, are very easy to make; you basically just need corn tortillas, the filling, toothpicks and a hot skillet with oil and that's it. Here is a simple recipe for chicken flautas, but you can use other fillings as well.

    INGREDIENTS (makes 12 flautas)

    • About 1/2 cup vegetable or corn oil
    • 12 corn tortillas
    • 1 to 1-1/2 cup of cooked chicken, shredded and seasoned with salt & pepper
    1. In a medium-hot skillet or griddle, lay a tortilla on the hot surface for a few seconds, then turn and heat the other side. This will make the tortilla pliable enough to roll in a tight flute. **You can also place two tortillas in Saran Wrap and microwave them for 10 seconds.
    2. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture along one side of the tortilla, and roll the tortilla into a flute as tightly as possible without tearing the tortilla. rolling a flautaInsert a toothpick to keep the flauta from opening and lay the tortilla flap-side down. Continue filling and rolling the rest of the tortillas.
    3. Heat about an inch of cooking oil in a skillet. The oil should be hot enough to make a few drops of water sizzle when sprinkled into it, or 375°F. Carefully lay the flautas, three at a time, in the hot oil, flap side down, and cook until they are golden and crisp. You can remove the toothpick once the flautas are crispy. Drain in a paper towel and keep warm until all flautas are cooked.
    4. Makes four servings of three flautas each. Garnish with crema or sour cream. On the plate include lettuce, chilled, ripe tomato wedges, and a scoop of guacamole.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Ricotta Pancakes

    Yummy Ricotta PancakesI was recently was doing some research on New England bed and breakfasts and I found this interesting ricotta cheese pancake recipe. The following is a slight variation from the original Nutmeg Inn recipe I found online. I omitted the sour cream but added the zest of 1 lemon instead. Make sure you top the pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup to make these pancakes even more delicious!

    INGREDIENTS (makes about 10 pancakes)

    • 1 C flour
    • 1/2 tsp.nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
    • 1-1/4 C ricotta cheese
    • 4 tsp. sugar
    • 1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 C milk
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • zest of 1 lemon

    In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, juice of one lemon and the lemon zest until completely homogenized.

    In another bowl sift together the dry ingredients: flour, nutmeg, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Blend in the dry ingredients into the ricotta mixture and blend completely.

    Lightly oil a large griddle or skillet (preferably non-stick). Heat skillet over medium heat. You can tell your skillet or griddle is hot enough by flicking a drop or two of water on its surface. The water should skitter around and quickly evaporate.

    Once bubbles form over the top, pancakes are ready to be fliped. Spoon batter into hot oiled skillet, allowing about 1/4 cup per pancake. Cook pancakes for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Turn when bubbles form and continue cooking until golden brown. **The batter should be just thin enough to pour but if it's too thick just add more milk.

    Serve immediately or keep warm on a baking sheet in a 200° F oven until all pancakes are cooked. Pour hot maple syrup or dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Beermaking with a Brew Kit - Part 3

    Finally, our homemade beer! To view part 1, click here.

    To view part 2, click here.

    Well, my friends, our beer is finally ready. After 40 days and 40 nights, we finally opened up the bottles of our homemade beer, and boy was it good! Since this was our first time making beer, we decided on an American Pale Ale from the Mr. Beer Premium beer kit. The flavor was very crisp and the beer was quite bubbly. It did not have a bitter taste and the finish was very smooth. My friend Leo told us it reminded him of a Miller High Life, the champagne of beers, while my brother said it tasted somewhat like hard cider.

    I have to say that my husband and I had a lot of fun making the beer; waiting for it is the hardest part, but after you taste the goodness, you'll want to make more beer. I think we're going to try an IPA or a stout next. We'll keep you posted.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Herb Risotto

    I made this risotto recipe for our Lamb Night semi-cooking club meeting last Saturday and I have to tell you, the risotto was fabulous. Yes, it requires a lot of ingredients and it will take you about an hour from start to finish, but it's well worth it. Don't omit any of the herbs because they give this risotto its wonderful taste.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup trimmed, diced fennel bulb
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 yellow onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
    • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1. Heat oil and butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel, bell pepper, onion, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons mint, 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, 1 tablespoon rosemary and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Saute, stirring, until vegetables are slightly softened (about 2 to 3 minutes).
    2. Stir in coriander and rice and saute, stirring, until rice grains are oil-coated (about 3 minutes). Pour in wine and stock and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is tender but firm. (Note: Stir once or twice while simmering.)
    3. Remove pan from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in remaining mint, parsley, rosemary and lemon zest, then add lemon juice and cheese. Cover saucepan with waxed paper and let stand 8 to 10 minutes before serving.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Afternoon Tea with the Girls

    Beautiful tea pots and our teaThis year, Mother's Day came a little early for me and my moms. My real mom will be in Buffalo next weekend, and my step-mom, Elaine, will be busy with her mom and sister. So, I decided to take them out for some good ol' British Afternoon Tea. I found this charming place in San Diego called Shakespeare Shoppe, where they serve authentic afternoon tea, with the authentic teapots, and all the delectable little sandwiches, tea cakes, scones and real Devonshire cream. My tia Bea also joined us for our great afternoon, as well as Lindsey, my sister-in-law.

    LtoR: Elaine, tia Bea, mom, me, and Lindsey Below is a great scone recipe. Although this is not the one they served at Shakespeare's Shoppe, it's pretty close. You can add 1/3 cup of raisins to the dough below if you want. But the key to good scones is to handle the dough with a very gentle touch from the start of adding the liquid right up to the shaping of the dough. Also, do not over knead and don’t roll the scones out; just gently press them with the fingers to flatten.


    • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (self-rising) (NOTE: If you don't have self-rising all-purpose flour, use 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoons salt; also add in baking powder and salt, below)
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 3 tablespoons superfine or granulated sugar
    • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • milk
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

    Mix flour and baking powder in bowl, add cold butter and rub with fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar.

    Check out all the beautiful pastries, cookies and sandwiches. YUM!Break egg into a liquid measuring cup and mix with fork, add enough milk to measure 5 ounces.

    Pour egg and milk mixture into flour mixture a little at a time mixing lightly until the dough just comes together; you may not need all the liquid.

    Gather mixture and place on lightly floured surface, knead very gently just until it all holds shape. Flatten until approximately 1/2" thick.

    Cut into 2" rounds with a biscuit cutter and place on greased baking sheet. LIGHTLY gather remaining dough and repeat cutting.

    Brush tops with any left-over egg/milk mixture. Bake for 10 mins or until pale golden in color. Serve warm with some Devonshire cream!

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Eggplant Parmigiana

    Claudia's version of Scalini's Eggplant Parm!
    This is not just your regular eggplant parmigiana, this is labor inducing eggplant parm! This recipe is from the Italian restaurant, Alla Scalini's, in Cobb County, A future Diego?Georgia. Apparently many babies have been born after their mothers ate the Scalini's eggplant parmigiana. This is a breaded eggplant smothered in cheese and thick marinara sauce that is "guaranteed" to induce labor...well, that's what they claim. My cousin, Claudia, is about to pop a baby anytime and she made this recipe over 24 hours ago. It was delicious and I hope that it induces her into labor...I'll keep you posted.


    • 3 medium sized eggplants
    • 1 cup flour
    • 6 eggs, beaten
    • 4 cups fine Italian bread crumbs, seasoned
    • Olive oil for sautéing
    • 8 cups of marinara sauce (recipe below)
    • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 1/2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • 2 cups of ricotta cheese
    1. After you wash the eggplant, slice them into 1/4-inch thick slices. You may choose to peel the eggplant before you slice it. However, you may want to leave the skin on since it contains a lot of vitamins.
    2. Place the eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt, then cover with another layer of paper towels and hold it down with something heavy to drain the excess moisture. Let them sit for about an hour.
    3. Working with one slice of eggplant at a time, dust with flour, dip in beaten eggs, then coat well with breadcrumbs.
    4. Sauté in preheated olive oil on both sides until golden brown.
    5. In baking dish, alternate layers of marinara sauce, eggplant slices, ricotta, parmesan and Romano cheeses, until you fill the baking dish, about 1/8 inch from the top. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
    Scalini's Marinara Sauce
    • 2 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
    • 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
    • 8 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
    • 1 cup onions, chopped
    • 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
    • 1/8 cup of fresh chopped sweet basil
    • Pinch of thyme
    • Pinch of rosemary
    • One teaspoon salt
    • One teaspoon black pepper


    1. Lightly sauté the onions in olive oil in large pot for a few minutes.
    2. Add garlic and sauté another minute.
    3. Add tomatoes and bring sauce to a boil, then turn heat low.
    4. Add remaining ingredients, stir, cover and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.
    Yum! The finished product Recipe courtesy of John Bogino, Scalini's Italian Restaurant, Smyrna, Ga.

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Cheese, Glorious Cheese

    My sincere apologies to my five readers...I have not updated my food blog in a few days because Matthew and I have spent this entire week and weekend moving to our new place. Once we get settled into our new home I'll start posting new and exciting recipes, pictures and more fun cooking stuff. In the meantime, I found these very interesting cheeses that I am dying to try. They all sound so weird and stinky and I can't wait to order them online!!!!

    Stinking Bishop Stinking Bishop

    The name says it all. This is a washed rind cheese dating back to the Cistercian monks who once settled in Dymock, England, where this cheese is made. Washed in fermented pear juice (also called "Perry"), the cheese develops a stinky, pungent, orange-colored, sticky rind. Eeeuuugghh! Apparently, this cheese is a spectacular dairy experience. We'll see.

    Fourme au Sauternes

    Fourme au SauternesThis is a lovely cheese soaked in Sauternes...and if you're a wine lover like I am, you know that Sauternes is sweet, white wine from the Bordeaux region of France. I've always paired blue cheese with red wine and when I saw that this particular blue is soaked in a white wine, I just had to order it. From what I've read, this blue cheese is an incredibly smooth yet complex cheese that is a must try for any true blue cheese lover.

    Tibetan Yak Cheese

    Tibetan Yak Yes, this cheese is made in Tibet from pasteurized yak's milk. Can you believe it? After I Googled for a picture of a yak, I could not believe that these animals let themselves be milked. It seems, though, that yak's are extremely gentle animals...and they sort of look like Chewbacca from Star Wars. Yak cheese is most likely the world's highest altitude cheese, being made at over 14,000 feet above sea level. This unique cheese has a firm texture and a complex herbal flavor, Tibetan Yak Cheeseowing to the fact that the yaks graze on wild grass. It takes a full minute or two for its true flavor to unfold. At first, it has a familiar cheese taste, although it is apparent that its milk came not from a cow, goat, sheep or water buffalo, but from some other animal. Then hints of wildflowers, leather and even wood appear. It is a clean, subtle flavor that builds up to a gentle rise and then fades out into a long, slow, earthy, and, slightly funky note. This cheese is not only a fine gourmet product, it is also a lifeline for the nomads of the Tibetan plateau and their unique way of life. So make sure you buy some yak cheese!


    Juustoleipa Pronounced HOO-stah-lee-pah, its name means "bread cheese" in Finnish. Juustoleipa has been produced for more than 200 years in northern Finland and Sweden, originally from reindeer milk! This cheese is unusual in that it is baked during the cheese making process. The heat from baking caramelizes the sugars on the outside of the cheese to form a tasty crust similar to brown bread. This cheese doesn't melt but can be warmed (put in the microwave for 10 or 20 seconds until it glistens). It has a sweet flavor, especially toward its brown crust where it has been caramelized. We recommend it served as a dessert with honey or lingonberry jam. For an unusual treat, try it dipped in hot coffee!


    O'Banon The O'Banon is an old cheese with a new name. The cheese is made in the same fashion as the French Banon, a small disc of goat's or cow's milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves. However, while the French version has succumbed to largely industrial production, the O'Banon is still made in tiny batches by hand. The chestnut leaves used to wrap and preserve the cheese are soaked in artisanal Kentucky Bourbon - YES, Bourbon!!! Enjoy O'Banon either young or aged, with a shot of whiskey or a fruity California Viognier.