Sunday, March 28, 2010

Homemade Citrus Jello Bricks

Sometime around 11pm I decided to make Jello with fresh squeezed orange juice. I happened to have a lot of oranges of varying kinds in the refrigerator: Cara Cara (those are the pink ones), navel, marmalade (the ones that look like lemons). I even threw in a couple of Oroblanco grapefruits.

Making your own Jello is simpler than you think. You need 4 cups of 100% juice and you don't even have to juice it yourself.

Honestly this isn't the best Jello I've ever had--it is a little bitter probably because I only added half the sugar it called for assuming my juice would be sweet enough. Bad assumption. However, I would definitely make this recipe again because it is worth it for the pictures alone--and I think it could be delicious. Besides, I had to use that LEGO mold for something!

Homemade Jello Bricks
1 cup cold juice (I used orange-grapefruit)
2 T sugar or honey (I used one and should've used more)
3 cups juice, heated to boiling
4 packets unflavored gelatin

a. Sprinkle gelatin over the 1 cup cold juice and let sit one minute
b. Meanwhile, heat additional 3 cups until boiling
c. Add boiling juice to gelled juice stir until dissolved. Add sugar and stir.
d. Pour into either a 9x13 pan or half-fill LEGO molds
e. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours until set. If you used a 9x13 pan try cutting out shapes with cookie cutters or just cut into cubes and serve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lamb & Carrot Curry

Last night I purchased 5 lamb shanks for $10. I thought it was a pretty good deal for lamb. Little did I know you are supposed to use lamb shanks in slow-cooked recipes because they are tough and fatty. However, I didn't do that. I grilled 2 shanks and they were not tough but instead delicious.

And what to do with the rest? Today I chopped two up into little pieces and made some quick and easy curry! I highly recommend this recipe. It is quick, easy, and you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboard!

Lamb & Carrot Curry (serves 2 only, maybe 1 very hungry individual)
2 lamb shanks, trimmed and cut into small chunks
1 14oz can coconut milk
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1/3 cup chicken stock (for some reason they only had chicken broth so I used that)
handful of multicolored baby carrots (or two regular carrots coined)
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash soy sauce
1 T brown sugar
cooked rice for serving

1. Bring coconut milk and curry paste to a simmer in a large saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes.
2. Add all other ingredients except rice. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until carrots are tender and lamb is cooked through
3. Serve warm over rice. Curry will be slightly thickened.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Grilled Lamb and Roasted Carrots

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It is spring here in SoCal and as a result the Farmer's Market is brimming with fun vegetables to try. Last weekend, I was browsing the Ojai market and saw some beautiful carrots. Not just orange carrots but also red and yellow. In hindsight, I probably should've chosen a plate that was not yellow so you could get the full effect of the colorful carrots but man they looked great and tasted better.

Easter is also right around the corner so lamb was on my mind. If you are afraid of flames, don't grill lamb steaks! The flames were jumping like frogs!

There is no recipe for this meal really. Grill Lamb steaks 4-5 minutes per side (but a nice herb rub would really be something with these), serve warm.

For the carrots, cut off the stems and wash carrots. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your carrots--mine were small so 15 minutes was a little long. The carrots will be sweater once cooked.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Smiley Face Cookies

There used to be a bakery in downtown Wheaton, IL called Carney's. It was a family favorite growing up. I especially loved the Smiley Face cookies. Unfortunately, Carney's went out of business when I was away and along with it went the perfect smiley face cookie. I've had it in my mind to recreate these cookies but first I had to find the perfect pieces.

This recipe didn't turn out exactly the same--I need a cookie that is crunchier and a glaze that is thicker (and doesn't seep into the cookie). The chocolate frosting was perfect though.

Smiley Face Cookies
The Cookie:
I used the recipe number one on Simply Recipes I didn't have cream so I just used whole milk and they are still delicious. I used this special vanilla and that made them extra delicious. I think it is important to refrigerate the dough before using it so it is easier to use and between batches. I also think it is important to sift the dry ingredients as she says. Make sure the cookies are completely cool before glazing or the glaze will just drip in.
The Glaze:
I used this recipe because those cookies looked about right. I didn't have enough so I kept having to make it again. I used liquid food coloring because the gel kind wouldn't stick--I had to use a lot of coloring to get the yellow I wanted. To glaze, hold the cookie on the edges and dip one face into the glaze. Turn over and try to distribute the glaze from side to side. Place on a cooling rack and let the glaze dry before trying to put on your face.
The Face:
I made a quarter of this recipe. I will re-post it here as 1/4 cause it is so hard to find on that blog.
1/4 C butter, room temperature
1/4 t vanilla
1 C powdered sugar
1 tsp Cream of Tarter
1/8 C cocoa powder
1 oz semisweet chocolate melted and cooled
1-2 tsp whole milk

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream butter. Add vanilla and mix again. Slowly add the dry mix alternating with the cream until all is added. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Place in a piping bag or ziploc bag (snip a small corner) and pipe onto cooled cookies. Piping the face takes a steady hand and I had my share of mistakes but luckily you have enough frosting for that.

I made 32 cookies. They are better if stored in the refrigerator. They are delicious, but they are not the same, not this time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tortilla Soup

I had a roasted chicken from Costco to use up and had a taste for tortilla soup. I got online to find a recipe and came across quite a variety. I finally settled on Emeril's Favorite Tortilla Soup (

Well, I loved it! It wasn't too tomato-y (a plus for me). It was a brothy soup with lots of flavor (what else would you expect from Emeril). I suppose you could add other veggies, but I don't think it needed anything else.

I took the bones from the roasted chicken and cooked them up in chicken broth to give the broth used in the soup more flavor (the Costco chickens are very well seasoned) -- and I put it in the refrig over night so I could easily get rid of the extra fat. Instead of raw chicken, I used the already cooked chicken breast from my roasted bird cut up into chunks.

I served it with tortilla strips - I was going to make the chipotle crema, but it seemed a waste to buy a can of chipotle in adobe sauce for a single teaspoon -- as it is, I still have a lot of cilantro to use! I gave some of the soup to Kath and she topped it with avocado (not a fav of mine) and said it was delicious.

I didn't take a photo, but there is one with the recipe.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Italian Shepherd's Pie

This recipe is from a new cookbook I got and has been a big hit -- easy to make and it is very fun to serve in little individual casserole dishes (these are ones that Kath gave me). I think I am using a little more meat and you can decide if you really want to make it into less than six servings. And, the tomato paste in a tube rather than opening a can helps.

Italian Shepherd’s Pie

¾ cup shredded pizza cheese or Italian cheese blend (3 ounces)
2 cups mashed potatoes or refrigerated mashed potatoes -- it takes about a lb of potatoes if you make them yourself
8 ounces lean ground beef
4 ounces bulk sweet Italian sausage
½ cup chopped onion 2 cups sliced zucchini or yellow summer squash
1 14 ½ -ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
½ of a 6-ounce can (1/3 cup) tomato paste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Paprika (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Stir 1/2 cup cheese into potatoes; set mixture aside.
2. In a large skillet combine ground beef, sausage, and onion; cook until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir zucchini, undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, and pepper into meat mixture in skillet. Bring to boiling.
3. Divide meat mixture among six 10-ounce individual casserole dishes or ramekins. Spoon mashed potato mixture into mounds on top of hot meat mixture in dishes. Sprinkle with remaining quarter cup cheese. If desired, sprinkle with paprika.
4. Place dishes in a l5 x 10 x l-inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Source: diabetic LIVING Cookbook

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cilantro Crusted Roast Beef

Friends, I forgot to photograph my delicious roast right out of the oven. I forgot again when I was packing up the leftovers. I will have to make it again as proof. But, leaning on one grain of hope that you will believe me when I say I made Roast Beef for dinner on Friday, I took a picture of Saturday's lunch--French Dips with leftover roast beef. This was a fantastic way to use the leftovers! You can purchase McCormick Spice mixes of Au Jus that you just heat and mix with water. Then grab the $1.99 loaf of french bread at the store, add a few slices of beef and serve. Fantastic! Those little cups you see there I got at Crate & Barrel at one point and they are really great for dipping--I recommend using a shallow bowl that is round enough to fit much of the sandwich and fits on the dippers plate to make less of a mess. I believe this dish was meant for soy sauce originally.

The first night, I roasted the beef with a cilantro-garlic crust for only about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Can you believe it doesn't actually take all day? I added potatoes to the pan and then at the very end asparagus. I think probably you'd want to add the asparagus a little earlier than the very end, but I didn't really plan ahead at all for that one.

Cilantro-Crusted Roast Beef (as found on the food network by Ingrid Hoffmann)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves (1 1/2 bunches about)
6 cloves garlic
1 t celery seed (I just omitted this because I didn't have it)
2 t couarse salt
1/2 t pepper
1 3lb boneless rump roast (it will take more time if you are over the 3lb weight)
1lb yellow potatoes
1 T italian seasoning
1 T olive oil
1 bunch asparagus

1. Preheat oven to 325
2. In a mini chopper or food processor combine first 5 ingredients and pulse into a smooth paste
3. Rub mixture over the meat covering all the meat sides (ignore fat side - in fact you cut off the fat side if you prefer).
4. Let meat sit covered with plastic wrap at least 10 minutes on the counter to rest and drink in the marinade
5. Meanwhile, cut up potatoes into medium-sized wedges. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and italian seasoning on a rimmed baking sheet. Push the potatoes to the edges of the sheet to make room for the roast, try to keep a single layer of potatoes
6. Roast the beef for about 1 1/2 hours, tossing the potatoes on occasion until meat reaches 120 degrees for medium rare. *If you want to roast the asparagus, add on top of the potatoes in a single layer for the last 30 minutes (or more) of cooking.
7. Let beef rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly and serving with potatoes and asparagus
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Product Review: William Sonoma Spiced Pecan Pumpkin Muffins

This past Thanksgiving I went shopping at William Sonoma for an apple slicer. We were making lots and lots of pies and needed one of specific measurements that eventually turned out to be a bust. However, while at the store, I sampled these delicious pumpkin muffins with dulce de leche topping and it reminded me that samples are a really good idea for sales. I was immdiately sold and bought the pricy mix and jar of dulce de leche to make in my own kitchen. And so it sat for months and months in the cabinet waiting patiently to be made.

Today I was hungry so I decided I'd make them. The mix whipped up in just seconds--1 stick of softened butter, 1 cup of water, 2 eggs. I mixed it with a spoon and had the whole thing in the oven within 15 minutes. The muffins take the normal 25 minutes to cook and then I had to wait about 15 minutes for them to cool before I could pour on the melted dulce de leche. By itself, the dulce de leche is too sweet--however with the not-so-sweet muffins it is the perfect compliement.

The result was fantastic, warm muffin, sweet topping--delicious. However, in the future I'm sure I could make my own pumpkin muffins for less and get the same flavors. This is a great gift though if you need one around the holidays--baked or unbaked.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

20 Minute Fajitas with Oven Nachos

On my way home tonight I couldn't think of what to have for dinner until it dawned on me, fajitas! As I said, I'm really rocking the new grill and try to use it as much as possible. So I stopped by the store and picked up some "beef for marinating," 2 limes and some cilantro.

When I got home, I whipped up a quick marinade in the mini-chopper, threw it in the refrigerator in a zip-top bag and marinated for 10 minutes. During that time I made some nachos in the oven as an appetizer and heated the grill.

10 minutes were up and the grill was set. I threw it on for about 8 minutes along with a few peppers and dinner was born.

Oven Nachos

Small ovenproof dish
taco sauce
tortilla chips

1. Heat oven to 350
2. Meanwhile, combine chips, taco sauce to taste and cheese
3. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is sufficiently melted. Serve warm.

Quick Fajitas

handful of cilantro (stems and leaves)
1 clove garlic
2 T olive oil
1 t vinegar (I used cider)
2 limes, juiced
1 lb meat for marinating
1 bell pepper, cut into quarters

1. In a mini chopper or food process combine first 5 ingredients. Chop until perfect consistency (vague? you know what you want).
2. Salt and pepper meat, place in a Ziploc bag and pour marinade in. Knead briefly and throw it in the fridge for 10 minutes.
3. Heat the grill to medium heat (like maybe 400 degrees)
4. Cook meat for a little less than 8 minutes until medium rare (I did mine a little long I think, to temp = 140 but it was still slightly pink)
5. When you are flipping the meat halfway through, add the peppers and grill until slightly soft
6. Cut meat across the grain in strips. Cut the pepper in strips. Serve with salsa in tortillas and your favorite toppings.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grilled Pork Chops with Savory Butter and Hasselback Potatoes

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I was craving pork chops likely because someone at work mentioned them in the morning. I really am trying to use our new grill as much as I can so that I really get to know it as an old friend. So, I scoured the internet as I finished up my last couple of things and found a recipe on The Other White Meat website. I decided on a whim to try out the hasselback potatoes I read about so long ago and dinner was born. I actually did buy some green vegetables but, in the heat of the moment, forgot to make them.

The potatoes weren't right, I guess they didn't cook long enough. I used a recipe that someone had converted so I suppose I could have just searched a little more and found something better. I think these potatoes needed about 20 minutes more in the oven to be crisp on the top and cooked in the middle--but the thought was there.

The savory butter made the pork chops taste absolutely fantastic. It melted into the meat and gave depth to the flavor. The meat cooked perfectly also, and the best part? One pork chop with the butter is only 250 calories! I will use this butter recipe again for other grilled meats!

Hasselback potatoes are supposed to be crisp on top and soft on the inside. I used these gigantic russet potatoes and that could have easily been the problem. I saw this recipe after and wish I had gone with it instead.

Pork Chops with Savory Butter
2 pork loin bone in pork chops
1 meat thermometer
1/2 stick butter
1 T steak sauce such as A1
1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t Lawry's seasoning salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
dash hot sauce

1. Heat grill to medium-hot heat. Salt and pepper pork chops (not too much salt because the butter is salty--you could probably skip the salt).
2. When the grill is perfect, place the pork chops on the grill and cook 12-15 minutes, flipping once, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees
3. Meanwhile, soften the butter. Mix together in a small bowl all the other ingredients and the butter. Set aside.
4. Serve pork chops with the savory butter on top while hot, the butter melts in and gives the meat the flavor.