Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Fun

We had an amazing time catching up with family and friends over the Easter holidays and eating our way through the past two weeks. That's not exactly a hard thing to do in a city like New Orleans, and I never tire of the amazing food Louisiana has to offer. For Easter Sunday instead of the traditional dinner most people are used to,  we celebrated with a huge crawfish boil. Traditionally an over-sized stockpot is filled with all your seasonings: onion, celery, garlic, lemons and seafood boil and allowed to steep for about 20 minutes, then the potatoes are added to get a head start. After the potatoes are in for 5 minutes the crawfish are added and the water is brought back to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, you shut it off, add the corn on the cob and mushrooms and let it all soak 30-45 minutes. The result is pure heaven.

Experienced hands cleaning the crawfish
stirring the pot
ready to be devoured
Paw Paw Jake and Louis- a while ago while we were living in San Diego and sorely missing crawfish Louis called to get the secret to his success......his recipe started with a 6 pack of beer- put the water on to boil and drink your first beer, once the water is up to a boil add your seasonings and have two more beers, and so on. The man knows his stuff.

During our visit home I made it my personal mission to eat as much seafood as I could get my hands on. I think I did a pretty good job. Here is a list of some of my favorite things we had while in town. If you ever find yourself hungry in New Orleans, you can't go wrong with any of these pics!
Cafe Giovanni- Eggplant LoCicero- grilled eggplant with shrimp in a lemon, caper, artichoke and mushroom sauce
Cafe at the Square- Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict- holy heart stopping breakfast, I cleaned my plate!
ACME Oyster House- charbroiled oysters, raw oysters, shrimp po-boy and crab and corn soup
Seither's Seafood-  Blackened Shrimp Po-boy, boiled crabs and boiled shrimp- if you don't get invited to Paw Paw's house for crawfish, this can fill in as a close second
The Delachaise- goose fat fries with a bottle of prosecco- yes, it was as good as you are imagining and yes I shared (a little)
R&O's -  this is the only restaurant that I consistently get the exact same thing every time I go because it's consistently that good- an Italian mixed salad with olives and a dressed shrimp po-boy
Red Fish Grill- Shrimp and Grits, Calamari salad and BBQ Oysters which make you want to lick the plate 
Venezia's- stuffed artichokes, Eggplant Vatican- a fried eggplant shell stuffed with a creamy seafood sauce
Angelo Brocato's - Caramel Cafe Au Lait ice cream in a little traditional Italian bakery/ice cream shop
Pinkberry- Mango Pomegranate Swirl with Pineapple and Raspberries, and the second trip was Mango Coconut swirl with Captain Crunch cereal, Pineapple and Raspberries
Blackened Shrimp PoBoy from Seither's

Friday, April 22, 2011

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

When I think of Easter dinner I immediately think of a baked ham, macaroni and cheese, asparagus and a dessert that screams of spring. 
This year, we are in New Orleans celebrating Easter with family and friends and will be celebrating with a crawfish boil. I'll be sure to post pictures of the whole process in case you've never been to a crawfish boil yourself.
For an early Easter treat, I decided to try out these low fat carrot cake cupcakes I saw in Cook's Country magazine. I iced some in a lemon cream cheese frosting topped with little edible bunnies I found at Michael's last year and the rest I left un-iced as a quick breakfast option for the kids. I was surprised at how good these came out. The baby food keeps the batter moist and it had a wonderful spice to it. I think next time I may adds some dried cranberries or toasted walnuts to the batter. What's your favorite Easter dessert?
Reduced Fat Carrot Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 4-oz jar carrot baby food
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 pound carrots, peeled and shredded

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 13x9 pan and line the bottom with parchment. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the eggs, baby food and sugar until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the oil to the egg mixture, while still mixing. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing until nearly smooth. Fold in the carrots. Spread the batter in the prepped pan and bake until a toothpick comes out almost clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blue Cheese, Bacon and Potato Soup

On my quest to clear out all of my refrigerated items I came across a recipe that I knew I could tweak to fit the few items I had to work with. One large hunk of Gorgonzola cheese, a couple of potatoes, zucchini and some bacon. This was so easy to put together, and if you like blue cheese you will love this soup!

One of my favorite swaps for heavy cream (which the original recipe called for) is a can of fat free evaporated milk. In soups, mashed potatoes or creamy pasta sauces you really can't tell the difference in taste while saving over 100 calories per half cup. 

The saved calories from not using heavy cream makes me feel perfectly ok adding the crumbled bacon and large hunk of blue cheese at the end!

Blue Cheese, Bacon and Potato Soup
  adapted from here

4 ounces bacon, diced
4 ounces smoked ham, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium zucchini, chopped
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups homemade chicken broth
4 ounces Gorgonzola blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup fat free evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
In a stockpot or large saucepan, fry the bacon until crisp.  Remove. In the bacon drippings brown the ham.
Stir the onion into the ham and bacon fat and cook until onion turns golden.  Add the zucchini and potatoes and stir well.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini and potatoes have softened, about five minutes. 
Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender.  Stir in the blue cheese and the half-and-half.   Cook over low heat until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with reserved bacon.
Serves six. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cucumber Cutie Cocktail

I've been lucky enough to have moved into a neighborhood full of amazing families and wonderful fellow moms. We are all in different stages of life, and hanging out with them is always a blast. Sometimes on a lazy afternoon or after a really trying day we will meet in the cul-de-sac for "happy hour" while the kids play. I am not a beer drinker, so a fruity cocktail is much more my speed. 
I brought this with me Wednesday evening after seeing a picture of a Pimm's cup but not having Pimm's liquor or gin I knew I had to go a different route. The cucumber and mint make the drink so refreshing and a little unexpected while the cutie orange juice gives it just the right amount of sweetness. 
I am in love with cocktails that have a savory aspect to them, and have tried many lately that have been giving me inspiration like the grilled thyme, preserved lemon and prosecco at Uchiko; sage and grapefruit smash at Jack Allen's and a jalapeno infused margarita at Chuy's to name a few. As I tell you about how well the different components go together in this drink (In the hopes that you will try it yourself and love it as much as I do) I have to be honest- this was also part of my attempt to clean out the fridge before leaving too! I had a 5 pound box of cutie oranges staring at me and half of an English cucumber to use up and I think this was the perfect way to use them! What's your favorite drink to enjoy with friends?

Cucumber Cutie Cocktail
a fleur de-lectable original

2 large mint sprigs
4 thick slices english cucumber
2 oz. vodka
1/4 cup cutie orange juice
1 Tbsp agave nectar

In a large cocktail shaker top 1 large mint sprig and 3 slices of cucumber with crushed ice. Muddle with the handle of a wooden kitchen spoon until mint and cucmber are broken up. Top with vodka, orange juice and agave. Shake and strain into your serving glass, Garnish with remaining cucumber and mint.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baked Mini Corn Dogs

Baked Mini Corn Dogs recipe

I mentioned before about my attempt at clearing out the fridge and freezer before going out of town so no food goes to waste. Well, I guess I'm better at it than I thought because now we really have nothing in the fridge and with a last minute change of plans last night I also had a friend's little boy over to play with the kids and was wondering what I was going to feed them. I had some low fat turkey hot dogs in the freezer, so I decided to make these corn dogs. My kids love corn dogs, and this is a recipe that lets them have the food they like while I know it's still nutritious.
Not counting the time you sit the dough aside to rise, this is a very quick and easy to put together recipe. The kids loved them and they didn't last long at all. Since they were all eaten I didn't get to test it out, but I'm sure that they could be baked and frozen for a quick snack. Next time I'll be baking a double batch!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Leftover Makeover

One thing I really love to do is take the leftovers I have on hand and make something even better with it. I especially love making fantastic breakfasts with the leftovers I'm trying to use up. I could put a fried egg on just about anything and be happy with it. I know there are people out there that refuse to eat leftovers at all- I just don't understand that personally. If you use a little creativity, you really can make some leftovers into a completely new meal; like this:

This week we will be going to New Orleans and will be gone for two weeks, so my mission right now is to use up everything we have so nothing goes to waste. I had some of the roasted fajita sweet potatoes form Wednesday's dinner so I topped them with a fried egg and some tomatillo salsa. WOW was it good! I think this may be my new favorite way to cook sweet potatoes. They were great as a side to the enchiladas, work wonderfully as a fill in for hash-browns and during the week I ate them rolled up in a flour tortilla with cheese and salsa for a guilt free meatless meal.

All you need to do is peel and chop 5 sweet potatoes and toss the cubes with olive oil and a packet of fajita seasoning. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until tender on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside. That's it!

Here's the menu for the week:
Roasted Asparagus and Chicken and Cheese Tortellini tossed in a Roasted Red Pepper sauce with a green salad

stay tuned for what I come up with to clear out the fridge later in the week!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Snack Attack

Until very recently I was not an "active" person. I hate to sweat and I am very aware and willing to admit that I am lazy. One of the very first heated discussions my husband and I had was in a WalMart parking lot because I was convinced he was parking entirely too far away form the door and I didn't want to have to walk that much further. Of course, being the funny guy he is he literally parked in the furthest spot away from the store that he possibly could. 

guess what happened while we were shopping?

We heard thunder and lightning .........hehehe

He didin't think his little parking joke was so funny once he had to run the entire parking lot to get the truck and come back to get me during a thunderstorm. But believe me, I got the humor then.

So I was right, he was wrong. He got wet, I laughed. And now you know just how little I enjoyed physical activity. Until recently. I don't know how this happened still, but for the past couple months I have been taking hot yoga classes at least twice a week. And sweating while I do it. So when I get out of these 1 1/2 hour long classes of yoga in 90-95 degree heat I am starving. Really. I bring snacks with me and eat them in the car on the way home to get something to eat. Trying to think of something decent to scarf down after one of these classes, I came up with this dip (adapted from here) that I can just shovel in with crackers (or a spoon) and not feel guilty while doing it.

Garlic and Herb Vegetable Spread

3 wedges Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb spreadable cheese
1/4 c finely chopped celery
1/4 c finely chopped radish
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp black olives, chopped
1 Tbsp green onion, sliced
1 Tbsp capers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients until thoroughly combined and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Baby Shower Butterflies

 Happy Monday morning! This cake was for a baby shower on Friday and they requested a Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream. The expecting couple decorated the nursery with green rolling hills, trees and a monarch butterfly mobile that the mommy to be made herself, so I tried to mimic that on their cake. Without seeing any pictures of their room it gets nerve-wracking when you wonder if you even came close to what they were expecting to see. I was so happy to get one of the best compliments I've ever received; They liked it so much and said it was nicer than their wedding cake. I'll take it!
After the shower I was sent this picture of an adorable little boy clearly enjoying his slice. After the cake was gone he resorted to licking the plate clean to get every last crumb. I can't help but think how often I really feel like doing the exact same thing myself!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bake Sales and Birthdays

The Austin Bakes for Japan bake sale was yesterday and it was a tremendous success. Over $11,000 was raised to help for the relief effort in Japan! That is an amazing amount of money to raise in one day and I am so glad I got to be a part of it! If you'd like to see some pictures of the day, check out The Kid Can Cook
Here is the Feta and Rosemary Olive Oil Shortbreads I baked!
 Today is my birthday and last night my wonderful husband gave me this beautiful cookbook and brought me to dinner at Uchi
this restaurant is insane and both times I have eaten there and at it's sister restaurant Uchiko I leave amazed at what can be done with food! If you haven't been, I highly recommend it- you will not be disappointed. He also got me an ice cream cake form my favorite ice cream shop, Austin Scoops
Chocolate cake, Sweet Cream ice cream with fresh raspberries mixed in and chocolate fudge icing YUM!
Here's what I'll be making for dinner this week:

Monday: Asian Chicken and Noodle Salad- whole wheat linguine, shredded chicken, edamame, and vegetables in a lime, soy and ginger vinaigrette

Wednesday: Beef and Cheese Enchiladas and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Friday: Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Smoked Paprika and Cilantro Cream with Onion Blue Cheese Tart

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Austin Bakes for Japan

Today is the big day! At 10 am  bakers all over Austin will be selling their treats to go towards AmeriCares in a benefit for Japan. Get out there on this gorgeous day and get some for yourself! Here are the locations:
Downtown: Woof Gang Bakery, 1204 N. Lamar Blvd. 78703 
East: Nomad Bar, 1213 Corona Drive, 78723 
West: The Shops at Mira Vista (between Keith Kristofer and Collectic), 2785 Bee Cave Road, 78746
Central: Foreign & Domestic, 306 E. 53rd St., 78751
South: Hotel San Jose, 1511 South Congress Ave., 78704
My Cheddar Cheese Dill Bread, Sweet Pickle Relish
and Rosemary Feta Olive Oil Shortbreads
All packed up and ready to go by my fabulous foodie friend Emme
She made the labels, took the pictures and will be delivering my goodies to the bake sale for me. Talk about an awesome friend!! Be sure to check out the treats she whipped up for the bake sale and her fabulous blog The Kid Can Cook!

Pickle Baked Chicken Tenders with Creamy Chili Honey Sauce

Thanks to Hellmann’s 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles and the “Real Taste, Less Waste” challenge I get to share with you a kitchen hack that...