Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beer 'n' Cheese Mac

I was so distraught over how to name this recipe, combining beer, cheese, caramelized onions, bacon. Beer Mac 'n' Cheese... Mac 'n' Beer Cheese ... Mac 'n' Cheese with Beer 'n' Bacon, Beer-Cheezy Mac (yeah, with a z)... so that's the ever-so (not) creative title I have. Beer, bacon, cheese, caramelized onion, awesomeness... can you dig it?

This recipe is a great example of accidental ingenuity. I often start out with one idea in my head that turns into something completely else once I start cooking (and realize I don't have half the ingredients I need in the house), or I will have no idea what I want to make and just start looking for food that needs to be used up in the kitchen. I was going to make mac 'n' cheese... but then that ever so important ingredient just happened to be missing, MILK. So beer and flour it was. It's days like these I wonder if I could be on top chef or chopped one day... and then I come back to reality (and realize I took an hour to make everything and the timer would've run out light-years ago... not to mention I'm not the first person to ever make this food).

A natural pairing for this recipe is whatever beer you cooked with. I used a run-of-the-mill light beer because it's what I had on hand, but lager would probably be best to cook and drink. But if you must pop the cork, opt for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Puppy, Rain, & Baked Potato Soup

Where have I been this past month or so? Well, Mr. B. and I have had a busy end of summer/start of fall. We bought and moved into our first home (yaayyy but so stressful!), I started grad school (yay, but so stressful...), and we became the parents of a handsome German Wirehair Pointer named Sawyer.

Yeah, he's pretty much the cutest, craziest thing ever.

And then, just when we thought we were getting the routine down... Sawyer hurt his leg on one sunny Saturday morning at obedience class. Now, we have a 14-week old puppy who would love nothing more but to run, run, run, and run some more but should be resting & healing (which he only did for the first few days... then went back to running, splint & all). 

So this is our cute puppy, down for a nap, with his new blue cast :(

Mommy (as I now refer to myself in the third person...) gets to come home from being orthopedic nurse at hospital all day to orthopedic nurse at home for a stubborn puppy. Moreover, his splint must stay dry and it's pretty much done nothing but rain for the last two months.

And again, it's raining outside. No suprise. Hurricane season is no fun for anyone... and it's a shame because September is one of my favorite months here in the Northeast; sun-soaked days in the 70s, flip flops and jeans. My September was held hostage by rain, and now it's October. Perfect weather at night to sit around the fire with friends.

So to comfort myself in this mopey weather, I've made a baked potato soup will all the fixin's. This recipe yields A LOT so cut down if you don't want to be eating this for days. Pair your bowl of yummy baked potato soup with a Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Changes to come

I might be having a short hiatus of blogging for the next week or so. Mr. B and I are moving out of our tiny apartment next week into our first home (almost twice the size of our apartment). With this new move, there's going to be a lot of DIY home improvement projects going on over the next several years to make this house into something we really love (and then we'll sell it!). As much as I love cooking, I'm really excited to add home decor, DIY projects, and weekend fix-ups to my list of hobbies and continual learning experiences. And I think I may expand this blog to include these adventures. I know I don't have much of a following right now so I'm not quite sure who I'm addressing. But I'm not blessed with enough ingenuity or patience or time to cook something new every night, photograph, edit, and blog about it. I will continue to talk about my cooking adventures, new recipes, and wine recommendations because I still love food and wine, but I feel like making this blog a little more full circle about my life. 

So there it is. More coming soon :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Caprese Salad Bites

These little appetizers are yummy, fresh-tasting, and perfect for your next dinner party. Moreover, you don't have to use your oven, crockpot, or skillet. Just chop, skewer, and refrigerate until the guests arrive. This little app' is very versatile when it comes to wine pairing so just pick your favorite bottle of Italian red or white to make it the Italian feature of your next wine/dinner party.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sweet & Tangy Veggie Kabobs

One of my favorite parts of grilling season is grilled veggies. Marinate them and grill 'em up til they get a nice light char - eating your vegetables has never been so easy. You can plan to spend a lot of prep time on any kabob dish so take this into account when preparing for dinner: you'll need to wash and cut your veggies, marinate them, and then the oh-so tedious task of skewering them. But when it's done, you'll be thankful for such a yummy feel-good dish.

Summertime makes me think of crisp, light white wines. Most of these will pair great with this veggie selection.  Reach for a bottle of Pinot Grigio, Muscadet, or Sauvignon Blanc ... or plan ahead the day before and make a pitcher of white sangria (so you can get your daily servings of fruit, too, of course).

Happy grilling!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Chopped Salad

If you like hot sauce, this is your recipe. If you don't, don't even bother reading on (and shame on you... I never understand a dislike of all things spicy unless of course for medical reasons). Yummy chopped salad full of healthy vegetables such as broccoli, cucumbers, and carrots gets topped with spicy pan-fried buffalo chicken strips and blue cheese. Drooling, yet? Because I am (yes, I confess I drool at the sight, smell, thought of hot sauce). Sometimes I get an unbelievable craving for buffalo wings, but don't feel like leaving the house or consuming the calories of deep-fried butter-and-hot-sauce-laden chicken wings. This recipe uses skinless boneless chicken breast cutlets, a light coat of breading, and pure hot sauce to get that lip-puckering, mouth-burning taste I crave. Meanwhile, the salad and blue cheese helps cool down the fire in your mouth.

Hot sauce and blue cheese poses a difficult wine pairing. Spicy foods pair well with a glass of semi-sweet Riesling. For a bottle of red, opt for Zinfandel. Otherwise, reach for a bottle of hoppy IPA (India Pale Ale) - if that's your thing, I'm not a fan - or a "sweeter" beer such as Blue Moon or a variety of Belgian Wheat.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grilled steak two ways

With weather warming up, grilling season is well on its way, and nothing tastes better fresh off the grill to me than a juicy steak. Here, I will present two ways to top off your steak: a cabernet balsamic sauce from Guy Fieri or blue cheese & chive butter. Both these steak recipes will go great with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tangy Chicken Soft Tacos

When in need of a quick & easy weeknight dinner, look no further than these yummy, tangy, healthy chicken tacos served on whole wheat tortillas. I left the topping choices customizable so that you can use whatever you have in the kitchen or leave off whatever you don't like and control the heat level.

Home-made tacos can be healthy, and not like their widely available greasy fast-food counterparts! Whole wheat tortillas and black beans are a great way to add heart-healthy fiber to your diet. Opting to add cayenne pepper and chili peppers such as jalapeno adds immune-boosting capsaicin and vitamins. Avocado (in guacamole) often gets a bad rap for its fattiness but studies show these fats are actually anti-inflammatory and increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids (such as those found in previously discussed chili peppers).

Since I always seem to be opting for spicy, tangy dishes... my wine choices may seem repetitive ... or maybe it's my cooking that's getting repetitive? Whites like Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers are the way to go here to balance the spiciness of chipotle, cayenne, and jalapeno in this dish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teriyaki Turkey Burgers

Ground turkey is always a better option than ground beef, and I look for 93/7 lean ground turkey breast. The risk with using such lean meat, especially with burgers, is drying out and blandness. These Asian turkey burgers do not have that problem with the addition of tasty teriyaki sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and plenty of herbs and spices to keep them flavorful. Teriyaki flavors pair well with Riesling and Gewurztraminer, and these wines will also meld nicely with turkey.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork BBQ

I love making my own sauces, but the problem is when I make a sauce, I'm very much a "little bit of this, little bit of that, little bit more of this" type person. I taste and taste and taste and adjust and by the end of it, I can only guess what my ingredient ratios are. So, my disclaimer is this is my best guess-timate of my delicious pulled pork BBQ recipe. Everybody's tastes are different, so you may need to adjust according to your tastes regardless. Enjoy this comfort food dish!

When I was first reading about the best way to make pulled pork, there was much debate on whether pork butt roast or pork tenderloin should be used. Well, I have tried both and I must say the pork tenderloin was much better, much leaner, much tastier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bacon, Asparagus, & Cherry Tomato Flatbread

This recipe is perfect if you're cooking for two, as each flatbread makes a personal "pizza" for each eater. Simple, fresh ingredients make this recipe a keeper. I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy my vegetables, and what better way to enjoy anything than to serve it on top of crusty bread with bacon and cheese? In the future, I will try this with different cheeses such as gouda or goat cheese.  This dish is very versatile in its wine pairings. If you make with mozarella, any Italian white wine will make a great pair. Or, if you use gouda, chardonnay is a must. Goat cheese pairs well with riesling. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A wine guide review: Anything but Chardonnay

Anything but Chardonnay by Laura Holmes Haddad
I picked this book up on my honeymoon while browsing a book store. This wine guide caught my eye because Chardonnay is my go-to grape. As the writer notes in her introduction, I am the girl that stares at the wine list at a restaurant, and if nothing catches my eye (or I don't know what the heck I'm looking at), I'll "just have the Chardonnay". Now, Chardonnay lovers, this book does not knock this palpable wine that pairs well with many foods... but it does point out the monotany of not exploring the many other delicious grapes and discovering what they have to offer.

This book is written in a casual voice, is very easy to read, and is not at all "snobbish" like many other wine guides. Since reading this, I have opened up my wine rack to many new and interesting wines and been truly pleased with where it has taken me! This book now resides in an easily accessible place in my kitchen so I can quickly skim the pages for the perfect pairing to my meals.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Southwest Tuna Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

I've made tuna cakes before, and many times have thought about making them into a sandwich. This recipe differs from tuna cakes, as it makes the patties a bit sturdier (my tuna cakes are always on the brink of falling apart). Next time I might try adding some shredded cheese to the tuna mix and seeing how that enhances the flavor (and the calories...). These patties need a lot of seasoning to prevent them from tasting just like any old tuna fish sandwich, and I was very liberal with applying the chipotle mayo to do the same. Otherwise, you'll find yourself with a very quick and easy dinner that requires no thawing or handling of raw meat - and moreover, tuna is so low in fat that any other ground meat can't even compare (2 g in a cup of canned tuna vs. 19 g in a cup of extra lean ground beef). You'll also get more protein, less calories.

I enjoyed my Southwest Tuna Burger with a glass of semi-dry riesling and found the sweet & tart flavors of this popular wine balance out the spicy flavors of the chipotle. The specific bottle I opened was from Belhurst Winery in the Finger Lakes region of NY state, where riesling is a specialty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slow-Cooked Pot Roast with Red Wine Gravy

I love comfort food and therefore, I love my slow cooker. Many people don't want to cook hot food in an oven or over a skillet in the summer, and I think slow cooking is the perfect solution. I stick the slow cooker in the corner of my kitchen, let it do it's thing all day, and the only heat that comes out of it is a steamy aroma of home-cooked goodness when I lift the lid. Then, I sit in the air conditioning and enjoy a comforting bowl of pot roast and egg noodles. This recipe could be enhanced by the addition of veggies such as baby carrots and diced potatoes, which I would recommend adding in the second half of the cooking time as to assure they don't turn to mush (and skipping the egg noodles if you're doing potatoes as to not double up on starch).

For this meal's wine pairing, I would pour a glass of the same red wine you use in the gravy. One of my favorite red wines to cook with and pairs wonderfully with beef is Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz would make a great spicy, earthy addition to the meal. Pinot Noir works well too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Banana Oatmeal Crumb Cake

This recipe for Banana Oatmeal Crumb Cake comes courtesy of Carol at Many of my recipes start by having a bunch of ingredients I want/need to use before they go bad or if because they're all I have left in the house. My only change to the original recipe is I left out the walnuts. I'm not a big fan, nor did I have any around. I had some bananas that were over-ripe, and was craving a coffee cake-like recipe. This cake is delicious, and can be made with stuff you'll already have around the house. However, my topping wasn't very crumb-y like a crumb cake. I'm not sure what to do there, suggestions appreciated. I enjoyed with a nice hot cup of black coffee (how's that for a pairing).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Southwest Mac & Cheese

Everyone loves mac & cheese, right? I wanted to make a meal out of this well-loved classic and make it a little more grown-up. This recipe is spicy, flavorful, and packs a lot of protein by adding chicken breast and black beans. If you'd rather go vegetarian, you can leave out the chicken and still get plenty of protein from the black beans and cheese. I would leave out the hot sauce if you're serving to kids and save it on the side for adults to add, if desired. I debated adding chopped spinach to the mix at well, but I didn't want to add so many things that it stopped looking like mac & cheese.

As far as wine pairing for the adults, my go-to wine for spicy dishes is a nice Riesling or Gewürztraminer, which are both sweet German wines that work well to balance out the heat of this dish.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicken Parmigiana

If you haven't figured it out yet, I love cooking Italian dishes, though I'm not Italian. There's something very comforting about these Italian classics, not to mention they're easy to make. This recipe for Chicken Parmigiana is loosely based off of Bobby Flay's, though I use more spices and seasonings, and it is the best I've ever had. I think what makes this recipe particularly delicious is the thinness of chicken breast, so if you trim and pound out chicken breast halves, make sure they're thin. Or, you can also buy a package of thin sliced cutlets and I would recommend pounding them out a little more so they're extra thin.

My wine pairing for Italian dishes is becoming pretty predictable as well, I love an Italian sangiovese or chianti, but you can mix it up by trying different red Italian wines in your local wine store and you'll almost always have a good pairing.

I also served up this dish with a simple caesar salad with romaine lettuce, croutons, shredded carrots, tomatoes, and light caesar dressing (my favorite is Ken's).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Easy Apple Cobbler

Using short cuts such as boxed baking mix and a short list of ingredients makes this recipe quick and easy, and not to mention delicious. Apples can be macintosh, gala, honeycrisp; whatever you have on hand. Pair this recipe with a a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a hot cup of coffee!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fettuccine & Roasted Garlic Alfredo

Another classic Italian dish that you can easily make at home: fettuccine alfredo. Alfredo sauce is so easy and inexpensive to make at home (and tastes so much better than anything you get in a jar when you do so). To add color and extra nutrients, I used Ronzoni Garden Delight fettuccine. Throw in some chicken breast for lean protein, some broccoli for extra crunch, and roast some garlic for extra yumminess.

Want some wine for this meal? Make it Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Meatball Subs

Previously, I posted a recipe to spaghetti & meatballs which gave my recipe for home-made meatballs. Again, we're using this same recipe, but to make meatball subs, another great classic. I used whole wheat bolilo rolls from my local grocery store's bakery section, which fit about three 2-inch meatballs. This recipe makes about 18 recipes, so count on about 6 subs, and adjust accordingly for your needs. Enjoy this simple and delicious recipe and enjoy getting your hands messy!

Again, I will make the same wine recommendations I did for the spaghetti & meatballs: This meatball recipe could be matched with either a white, due to its herb-y nature, or red. Avoid Chardonnays, as they do not like to be paired with tomatoes, and match up with acidic red such as Malbec or Sangiovese.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Buffalo & Blue Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burger

Buffalo wings are one of my favorite foods, so I though why not figure out how to make a "buffalo wing" burger, emulating the flavors of a basket of buffalo with a cup of blue cheese dressing for dipping. Plus, bacon never hurts the flavor of any dish, especially a burger. Not only is ground turkey breast leaps and bounds healthier than ground chuck typically used for burgers, I think the poultry flavor lends itself to being more similar to buffalo wings. Using low fat blue cheese and low-sodium bacon, you can enjoy this burger guilt free.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Slow-cooked Sweet & Spicy Sloppy Joes

The sloppy joe has been a staple of the budget-conscious family for years, but if you're from a family that grew up with this in regular rotation at the dinner table - have you even thought of making sloppy joes since? It's time for Sloppy Joe to grow up, get a job, enhance his resume. It's time for an adult sloppy joe - a sloppy joe with sweet, savory, and spicy flavors that a sophisticated palate can appreciate. Do not be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients for the sauce, it will be well worth the flavors you'll get from this grown-up 'joe - and keep in mind it will give you a lot of HEAT hidden beneath it's sweet bbq sauce taste.

I love to hide veggies in recipes where they easily go undetected. I've snuck more than 3 cups of veggies into this recipe by using my mini food processor to make them the same size and texture as the ground beef. Covered in this recipe's sweet & spicy sauce, hungry eaters will be none the wiser.

I typically make a lot of sloppy joe and then freeze portions for nights I don't feel like cooking or nights I'm not home so Mr. B. has something to eat. This recipe makes a lot of sloppy joes. Please feel free to cut down this recipe to a half or a third, if you don't have room in the freezer and are only cooking for a few.

Can we just take a moment to remember this amazing sketch from SNL featuring Chris Farley and Adam Sandler? Sloppy, sloppy joes...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sweet & Simple: Strawberry Ice Cream Cakes

Dessert is as simple as scooping out some vanilla ice cream and convincing your guests they're eating gourmet food. Strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and dessert shells make for an affordable, delicious, and light tasting dessert. This recipe would work well with almost any berry or a mix of berries.

The sponge cake dessert shells used in this recipe are usually found in your grocery store's produce section (check near the berries). Six dessert shells ran me about 2.29 (or about 38 cents a shell). If you make this recipe in the springtime, strawberries are usually on sale - I bought them for buy one get one free and ended up paying $4 for 2 lbs of strawberries (you only need 1 lb). Finally, vanilla ice cream will cost you roughly $4-$5 and you'll have plenty leftover for late night snacks. Overall, you're looking at $1.48 for each yummy serving.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spaghetti & Meatballs and garlic toast

The other night, I revisited a classic: spaghetti & meatballs. Spaghetti & meatballs is actually one of my favorite comfort foods, there's nothing like a big fork-ful of pasta and a carmelized meatball. I try to make this a bit healthier with the use of lean ground turkey and whole wheat spaghetti. Many "light" recipes call for only using the egg white instead of the whole egg. If you want to watch your fat and cholesterol, you may, but I hate being wasteful (and I have nothing against the egg yolk). Rolling into about 2 inch meatballs, you will yield approximately 18 meatballs that will fit nicely into a 12 inch cast iron skillet. The whole meal should feed about 4 hungry people, or if you serve with a caesar salad (which I originally intended to but filled up a bit too much on spaghetti and garlic bread), you can stretch it to feed 6.

This meatball recipe could be matched with either a white, due to its herb-y nature, or red. Avoid Chardonnays, as they do not like to be paired with tomatoes, and match up with acidic red such as Malbec or Sangiovese.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mexican Chipotle & Beef Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers were one of my favorite meals as a kid. However, it is time to kick up the traditional stuffed peppers recipe a notch with a spicy tomato sauce using chipotle and adobo sauce. This recipe is super easy and super yummy. It can also easily be adjusted to be healthier, using ground turkey, brown rice, and less cheese (but I can't say no to cheese). This recipe would be great to have for a Cinco De Mayo dinner or party and would make a great alternative to tacos or another stand-by Mexican dish.

The bell peppers should be large and round, as they will be the container for beef, rice, and chipotle goodness. The average person will eat 1-2 pepper halves. This recipe makes 8 pepper halves. Enjoy the few ingredients this recipe requires and the money it will save you! We enjoyed this recipe with a bottle of corona and a lime wedge.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Asian Shrimp & Noodle Salad

Continuing with my salad theme, here's a great, healthy, Asian-inspired salad. This recipe is taken from Kraft and enhanced with changing up some ingredients and adding shrimp. I only had 1 lb of shrimp on hand, but using 2 lbs would provide even more of the yummy little morsels. Leave out the shrimp, and you have a great vegetarian dish. I've posted this recipe previously, but I didn't have pictures at this time so I'm giving it a revival.

Wine? Make it light and crisp. Riesling, Soave, or Sauvignon Blanc.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Broccoli Salad

You won't have any problem eating your fruit & vegetables when it comes to this broccoli salad. The ingredients will cost you less than $11, and if you opt for pre-packaged real crumbled bacon, you won't have to cook a thing! Plus, you'll have grapes left over to snack on for the next week. This recipe will make about 9 cups of broccoli salad, costing you barely over a dollar per serving. However, if you're my husband, this salad won't last more than 2 days in the house. So bring on the picnic, and prepare to love eating your broccoli.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Summer time is approaching, which means picnic, pot-lucks, cook-outs, and bikini season. Don't just go to the grocery store and pick up a pound of pasta or macaroni salad when you can make it at home and know exactly what ingredients are going into the salad and what fat and calories you are keeping out. By mixing distinct flavors of Italy and Greece, you'll have a delicious, fresh tasting Mediterranean pasta salad that's quick, easy, budget-friendly and healthy.

Pepperoncini peppers add a little kick here and there, so add more if you like a little extra spicy-ness and tangy-ness or a little less if that's not for your palate. I am not a fan of olives, but if you are, they would make a great addition to the Mediterranean flavors of this pasta salad. This recipe yields about 9 cups of pasta salad

Sunday, May 8, 2011

White flatbread pizza

Naan bread, olive oil, ricotta, mozzarella, basil, garlic powder. Can you handle this 15 minute recipe? I think so. Forget waiting 45 minutes for a $15 dollar pizza when you can get a personal pizza at home in less than 15 minutes with simple ingredients you can get at any grocery store.

My idea for this recipe was originally from an issue of Wegman's magazine (Wegman's is an awesome Northeast grocery store) and ever since trying their naan pizza recipes, I've been hooked on my own version of white naan pizza. See more naan pizza recipes from Wegman's here.

Naan is a South Asian flatbread that is commonly seen in Indian and Pakistani restaurants in the US. And of course, it's complete natural for us (Americans) to take a century old recipe from ancient civilizations, cover it in cheese and salt and call it a pizza. Mmmmm, pizza.

You can find Naan bread at most grocery stores now, pre-packaged and ready to use in a number of recipes. I bought Tandoori Naan, and I particularly like the garlic flavor for this recipe (it also comes in original and whole grain). Find out if this is available at your local grocery store. The size of the naan is perfect for a personal pizza, so take this in consideration for serving sizes if you plan on making only this flatbread recipe with no sides.

This mild, garlicky, and herb-y white pizza will pair well with almost any white wine from Champagne to Sauvignon Blanc, so I won't even name grapes - just pick up a bottle of your favorite white. If you prefer red, I almost always opt for an Italian Sangiovese or Chianti when eating mozzarella and ricotta cheese.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chipotle & Lime Braised Beef Fajitas

I love fajitas, but have never been brave enough to try to recreate them myself (the whole here they come on a giant sizzling plate dripping in juicy-ness thing can be a little intimidating, right?). The typical cut of beef used for steak fajitas is flank steak or skirt steak,. But if you're a woman who knows very little about cuts of steak like me, you might pick up the wrong cut of beef at the grocery store because it was stocked on the wrong shelf... so here I am with 2 lbs of boneless beef chuck steak. Two completely different parts of the cow. The challenge with boneless beef chuck steak is its from the shoulder of the cow and is tough and needs to be marinated and slow cooked to break down the connective tissue. This recipe requires marinating and slow cooking (braising) the steak in a dutch oven so it's fall apart by the time dinner comes around.

The marinade recipe is essentially taken from this Tyler Florence fajita recipe. I added some jalapeños and exchanged the freshly juiced orange for 1/4 cup of Simply Orange juice, maybe a little extra garlic as well (I can never get enough). I also trade his immersion blender for a mini food processor. This marinade comes out a beautiful bright orange with flecks of red and green. If you do buy flank steak or skirt steak (like I originally intended to), I would follow Tyler's recipe for how to grill it. I can't wait to use this marinade for chicken and shrimp fajitas as well, so yummy!

There are some delicious red Spanish wines that you can pair with this meal. Though fajitas are not a Spanish meal, but more-so Mexican (maybe even more-so Tex-Mex cuisine), you can still try to make it seem more authentic with some spicy Spanish red wines, such as Rioja (a blend of several grapes from Spain or if you can find a bottle of Grenache (called Garnarcha in Spain). For your non-wine drinking friends (first, consider getting new friends), set out a bucket of Coronas and limes or make up your own Sangria to sweeten a bottle of wine up with fruit and brandy. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I'm not even sure if this recipe needs a foreword. Let's just say, these cookies will not last long around the house, at work, or with whatever group of people you decide to grace with their deliciousness. Just make sure there's enough milk in the fridge.

(I'm in love, and you will be too.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

White bean soup with ham & spinach

Oh, ham, so juicy and delicious. What am I to do with you after the holidays are over?
 Over Christmas, my husband and I were given a 9 ½ pound ham. After baking this ham and having bounds of leftovers, I decided I needed to make some more recipes with this delicious piggy. I'm sure many of you are experience a bounty of leftover ham after Easter. This soup is super easy to make with lots of short cuts. A variety of spices gives it depth and flavor, including crushed red pepper - This will give it a little kick, but adds great flavor so only add if you can tolerate spiciness. Leftovers can also be frozen from a rainy (or snowy) day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Bang bang" Shrimp... or maybe "pow pow" or "boom boom"

I celebrated my 23rd birthday a few weeks ago and enjoyed a meal out with my husband at our favorite chain seafood restaurant, Bonefish Grill. If you haven't been to one, go! It does not feel like a chain restaurant and doesn't taste like a chain restaurant. We always order the same appetizer every visit: the bang bang shrimp. I've tried to copy-cat the sauce in this dish, it's spicy, sweet, creamy, and oh-so yummy, but have failed miserably in the past. This time, I finally got close. This recipe is not identical, but very similar and a little healthier because I skip the deep frying, so I might need to call it "pow pow" or "boom boom" shrimp because it's not the true blue "bang bang" shrimp.

This recipe is SPICY but sweet and the wine paired with it should be on the sweet & light side. Gewürztraminer is semi-sweet and fruity with a floral nose, and pairs well with many Asian style dishes. I would also suggest the crisp, light, sweet Muscadet, which pairs well with seafood.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sun-dried tomato stuffed chicken with creamy rosa sauce

One Saturday night, I was in need of a quick dinner. I just so happened to have all these ingredients on hand. The sun-dried tomatoes can be found in your grocery store, in a jar packed in oil. The citrus-y tanginess of sun-dried tomatoes pairs well with the woody, saltiness of smoked bacon. Although rule of thumb says don’t pair your oaky Chardonnays with tomatoes, the complex roasted flavors of sun-dried tomato and this cream sauce really loved my bottle of Red Tail Ridge (Finger Lakes, NY) Chardonnay. Although, almost any dry white will do.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken Piccata & Roasted Balsamic Asparagus

Chicken Piccata, a lemon-garlic Italian chicken specialty, is one of my favorite dishes. However, I don't get an opportunity to cook it often, as my husband particularly dislikes lemon-y chicken and even more so capers, so I waited until I was home alone and indulged. When I was in college, chicken piccata was one of the first things I learned how to cook for myself that wasn't from a box. I partnered this dish with asparagus, because it is in season and complements nicely with lemon flavors. So in this posting, you'll be getting 2 delicious recipes: Chicken Piccata and roasted balsamic asparagus. Enjoy!

Chicken Piccata is very agreeable and will pair well with most dry or semi-dry white wines. I love a buttery Chardonnay with the lemon and garlic flavors of this dish.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Black Bean & Jalapeño Quesadilla Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

This is my own version of a recipe from Cooking Light. My Tex-Mex/Southwest (whatever you want to call this Americanized cuisine) kick continues with another healthy option. We've already discussed how black beans are high in fiber and protein, so here's another recipe showcasing them in two ways: in the quesadillas and as a topping on the salad. As it is, this recipe is vegetarian, but a protein such as chicken or shrimp could easily top off this salad or go inside the quesadilla. Making your own dressing may seem a little intimidating when it doesn't call for a four seasons italian packet, but I promise this recipe is very easy with the use of a mini food processor. Serves about 4 hungry friends or family.

Like the turkey tacos, I really enjoyed Dry Riesling with this meal, such as Pacific Rim. However, if you're in the mood for red, I would elect for Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Now, are you ready? The three recipe breakdown is coming!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Turkey Tacos

Taco night seems like an American institution. Not only is it a cheap and easy way for mom to feed the kids, but lets be honest - who doesn't love tacos? Tacos can be done many ways, and there's plent of crafty gourmet recipes using new and fresh ingredients available that are a far cry from a pound of ground beef and a seasoning packet. Some nights, however, you get a craving for "bad" food, like a good old ground beef taco (which is not anything close to authentic Mexican, but we'll still categorize it so). Unfortunately, the beef is often greasy and fat & cholesterol laden, and the taco seasoning is full of sodium.

This recipe offers a healthy alternative that will be approved by the picky crowds. Ground turkey, because it is so lean, tends to be dry out and have an unfavorable texture. However, paired with these seasonings and plenty of yummy (and reduced fat) ingredients, it will easily go unnoticed. This recipe should serve about 4 hungry diners.

Wine pairing with ground meat tacos is a little ironic. Wine snobs might say, why pair a nice bottle of wine with "poor man's" food, but I say why not enhance your experience. Spicy foods poses one of those unique challenges. I would definitely pair this meal with a dry riesling. Pacific Rim makes a widely available (and very affordable!) dry riesling that I love, or try a dry riesling from the Finger Lakes region in New York, where riesling is the specialty - and they do it very well. Happy pairing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Black Bean Dip & Taco Night

When I say this recipe is easy, I mean it requires ZERO effort and will taste homemade and gourmet, not to mention delicious. Moreover, it's guilt free - this dip has zero fat, and lots of fiber and protein.  I made this black bean dip as an accompaniment for taco night, and it didn't last more than a day (and that was just two of us eating it... and I only got a few bites in the end). I don't recommend storing for more than 3-4 days in the fridge, if it does last that long.

Red wines are the way to go with this dip. The peppery-ness of the black beans pairs well with a Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, or Merlot. Or, why not skip the wine tonight and opt for homemade Mojitos with muddled mint and lime?

Imagine a party spread with guacamole, salsa, and this black bean dip. It would be a treat for the eyes and the mouth!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chicken stir fry

This recipe is legendary in my household, or at least I've decided it is. When I recently got married, my husband insisted that he hated stir fry. I made this one night to see if I could change his mind, and he absolutely loved it. Many people insist on shortcutting with frozen stir fry vegetables, but I love the crunch of fresh vegetables. You can also change up the recipe to suit your tastes, adding mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby corn, but this is a good starting place. 

(no take-out boxes necessary)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Home-made sweet and sour sauce

I do not claim this recipe is anything close to healthy, BUT it does open you up to making your own take-out style chinese food at home and avoiding the greese, deep-fried, MSG-laden oh-so bad for you version of this American household weeknight institution. So, get in the kitchen, make some stir-fry, and try out this easy sweet and sour sauce recipe!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Source: Recipe from Betty Crocker)
These cookies are a show stopper.  My favorite icecream flavor translated into a delicious cookie, and made simple with Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix. This recipe will make about 36 cookies, but trust me when I say they will not last long in any social circle. I was not able to find creme de menthe chips so I used 1 package of Andes Mints, coarsley chopped, and they worked perfectly. Enjoy!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big congrats to local bakery Vegan Treats

Vegan Treats is a local vegan bakery in the Lehigh Valley, and its popularity has sky-rocketed over the past few years, not only due to the increasing awareness of the vegan lifestyle and its health benefits but also because their sweet treats are outright DELICIOUS! I was excited to read this article in the Easton Express-Times this morning that this bake shop and owner Danielle Konya are going to be featured in a reality series on Animal Planet this summer (I imagine, due to the animal-friendly nature of the business). I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for this one!

Doughnut, anyone
Photo by P. Petty for Easton Express-Times

Chocolaty goodness
Photo by P. Petty for Easton Express-Times

Sausage & Vegetable bake with garlic-herb crust

Using many of the same ingredients as my Tuscan Sausage & Spinach soup, I created this delicious casserole with a completely different flavor. Starting with a base of classic sausage & peppers, this recipe is enhanced with the addition of healthy spinach, a layer of whole grain pasta, and a delicious garlicky herb crust. This recipe will easily serve 8-10 hungry friends and family.

(Dig in!)

Wine pairing: The tomato sauce and spicy sausage in this recipe will pair well with Sangiovese or Chianti (these wines are from the same grape), which are medium-bodied fruity wines and are available from Italy or California.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tuscan Soup with Sausage & Spinach

The concept of this recipe began when I woke up one morning with a miserable cold. As most of us do when we get sick, I wanted soup. I had other plans for my sausage, a fabulous baked pasta dish with veggies, but I needed the comfort of a hot bowl of soup steaming against my stuffy nose. This recipe has a delicious rustic flavor and can be enjoyed with a glass of dry Italian white wine (when you're not fighting off a cold) and a loaf of crusty italian bread.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A preview of what's to come

Spring is in the air, which means a new season for fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and asparagus. Although there's still snow on the ground here in the northeast, it won't be long until april showers bring may flowers (and the end of flu season, sniffle - I've been sick all weekend).

Coming up this week on Rachel B. cooks... I make two unique recipes featuring sausage and spinach, and I will try to highlight healthier recipes and options as we all prepare to shed our winter weight for bikini season.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes...and bacon

I love breakfast. I never skip it. Not only is it the most important meal of the day, but it can also be the most delicious. Many people skip breakfast every day, and scoff at me when I obsess over my need for a well-rounded, filling breakfast to start my day. Well, I think those people are aliens. Not really, but their opinions of breakfast are alien to me. My husband has been having a bad week, so I decided to wake up and make a big breakfast for the both us (by the way, my husband is one of those aliens that don't eat breakfast most days). There's just something so comforting about pancakes so here's my recipe for banana chocolate chip pancakes. This recipe will make about 10-12 pancakes, which feeds about 4 hungry people.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This chicken cordon bleu recipe started with a mission. My husband was asking for chicken cordon bleu but does not like swiss cheese. so I sought out a recipe without. This is a modified version of a chicken cordon bleu recipe from cooking light, so I tried to alter it without adding to many calories to keep the recipe "light". Serve with a salad and a glass of pinot grigio!

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