Friday, May 25, 2012

Quickie Marinated Olives

I get my love of olives from my dear late grandfather. We both were rather unfortunately born into families that hated olives, so I discovered my passion for these amazing little fruits a bit later into the game.

I realized how lovely olives were when I spent a summer in Spain, where olives are a standard tapa and basically unavoidable.

Salty. Tangy. I didn't understand the flavor "briny" until I tasted olives — and now it's one of my favorites.

Back home in St. Louis, olives aren't nearly as ubiquitous. I stare longingly at them in the olive bar at Whole Foods, wishing that they weren't so dang expensive for the marinated ones. I particularly love the giant green ones and kalamatas. Why does life on a budget have to be so hard?

So here's a secret to all you olive lovers: You can marinate your own olives — the canned kind. The much, much cheaper kind.

Well, lightning strikes. How could I have never thought of that before? The very idea is so obvious I'm embarrassed that it took the Food Network to tell me that.

Here's the lowdown:

{Printable Recipe}
1 can olives, your favorite (I like green)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
small pinch dried basil, oregano, pepper, salt
optional: red pepper flakes

Make the vinaigrette by mixing the spices, herbs, oil, vinegar and garlic.

Drain the olives. Toss it together. 
Let this sit in the fridge, covered, for at least an hour to let the flavors mellow. I wish I could tell you how amazing they smell!

It's a brand new day, readers.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Asian Tuna Tartare

Here's another treat Justin and I made for our anniversary dinner. It serves as an incredible appetizer. If you like sushi at all, you'll dig this. Sushi-grade tuna is pretty expensive, so get it when you want a really special treat.

We got this lemon wasabi sauce, as well as the tuna, at Annie Gunn's marketplace in Chesterfield, MO on the way out to Innsbrook. This stuff in delicious — I'm already planning on ways to use it for deviled eggs (stay tuned).

{Printable Recipe}
1/2 lb sushi-grade yellowfin tuna
2 tbsp lemon wasabi sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
sprinkle sesame seeds
drizzle olive oil
salt & pepper
sesame crackers

Chop the tuna up pretty small. Combine with soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Serve with the lemon wasabi sauce on the side and sesame crackers.


Anniversary Dinner: Spinach + Ricotta Ravioli

Hey all - it's been a while since my last post, what with school finally wrapping up, graduation, an out-of-town wedding of a dear friend, and now Justin and my 2nd wedding anniversary.

Man, time really flies. These past two anniversaries we spent at Innsbrook, a small lake community about an hour outside of St. Louis. On the way out, we stopped by Annie Gunn's Smokehouse market to pick up a few things. This place is awesome.

Justin's parents have a lovely cabin out at Innsbrook, with a boat and everything. And by everything, I also mean a fully functional kitchen. Justin and I like to celebrate by cooking for each other.

This kitchen is larger than the one we have at home, so we have extra room to maneuver. Last year I tried making homemade ravioli, which ended up a huge disaster. We didn't have a pasta roller, so we tried rolling pasta out with a wine bottle. Not pretty.

This year went much smoother, and the ravioli turned out well. We did a twist on the traditional spinach and ricotta ravioli by making spinach pasta. It looks and tastes gorgeous.

{Printable Recipe}
For the pasta:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs +1 egg yolk
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
dash of salt
1 bag baby spinach

For the filling:
1 container ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 tsp salt
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
dash garlic powder

I didn't really get any good pictures of this, because, well, it was my anniversary and I wasn't thinking about blogging (sorry guys).

Blanch the entire bag of spinach in a bit of boiling water. Drain it out, let it cool, and then squeeze out all the water with a towel. Put the spinach and a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth.

Follow the basic directions for making pasta dough, but also add in the wilted, chopped spinach. Knead it around, wrap it up in some plastic film, and let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

For the filling, just mix everything together and let it sit to incorporate the flavors.

When you're ready, roll out the pasta dough with the pasta maker. I like to stop at the #5 setting so that there's a little extra firmness to the pasta and it holds its shape. It's the third to last thinnest setting. 

Drop little tablespoons of ricotta mixture on one half of the pasta dough, about an inch apart from each other. With a different sheet of pasta, brush some egg wash on one side, place carefully on top of the pasta sheet with the filling, and press around the edges of the ricotta so that not much air is in there.

Trim around the edges of the ricotta lumps, leaving enough room so that you have a nice edge. If you want, press the edges down lightly with a fork to crimp them.

Boil them for one minute, and serve with a simple marinara sauce. We had these with grilled steaks.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother's Day Treat: Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

My mom is a Dr. Pepper freak. And she's a trekkie. So yesterday (Saturday), I made her Dr. Pepper cupcakes and took her to the Star Trek exhibition/movie at the St. Louis Science Center. In a way, my mom was a hipster before anyone else was a hipster.

The Dr. Pepper cupcake recipe I found on Pinterest had a ton of ingredients that I didn't really feel like buying, so I just tweaked it around to make it a lot easier. Originally, the recipe called for grated licorice and apple flavoring...who's going to buy that for one batch of cupcakes?

Not me. These may not have turned out tasting exactly like DP, but they're pretty close! I reckon you could do this with any of your favorite sodas as well.

{Printable Recipe}
1 box chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup Dr. Pepper

6-8 cups powdered sugar (buy a few boxes to be safe)
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup Dr. Pepper reduction (see below)
1/2 tsp vanilla
dash nutmeg
pinch of finely ground pepper
2 tbsp Dr. Pepper

DP Reduction:
2 cups Dr. Pepper
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ingredients for the cake mix, scoop into lightly-greased cupcake liners, and bake until you can stick a toothpick in them and it comes out clean.

For the Dr. Pepper reduction: Bring the soda and sugar to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until it's evaporated by half. 

For the icing: whip the butter until smooth, then add the vanilla, nutmeg, pepper, and Dr. Pepper. Slowly incorporate the sugar until it starts getting fluffy and icing-like. Add the reduction. Icing is very forgiving. If it's too runny, add more sugar. If it's too stiff, add more Dr. Pepper reduction.

Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

Happy Mother's Day!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Asian-Inspired Edamame Tart

This was a totally random creation. I kind of just felt like something different, and now that Justin is in the thick of studying for boards, I get to be queen of the kitchen.

So the other day I was just browsing Trader Joe's when I came across this stuff: Edamame Hummus.

Genius! Who the heck thought of this? When I got to taste it at home, I instantly fell in love. It's garlicky, smooth, with a hint of edamame and salt. Perfect for a tart — and on toast with a scrambled egg for breakfast (I can now vouch for that).

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed and rolled a little bit
1/2 cup Trader Joe's edamame hummus
2 cups frozen edamame
1 cup green beans
1/2 bell pepper (I like yellow or orange because they're sweetest)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
splash balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
Salt & Pepper

I had puff pastry already on hand, but naturally as it was thawing out it got all gloopy and weird. I just rolled it out, and it turned out pretty good. Bet yours will turn out better!

To make the vinaigrette: combine the soy sauce, Dijon, Sriracha, balsamic, sesame oil, and some pepper. Cut the green beans into 1/2-inch pieces. Blanch them in salted water along with the edamame for a couple minutes until cooked through. 

Toss the beans with the vinaigrette and some sliced bell pepper. Coat well and let it sit for five minutes to soak up some of that flavor.

Spread some edamame hummus onto the puff pastry, and top with the veggies. If you want you can brush the edges with egg to make it nice and golden.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 
It might be a little moist from the vinaigrette, but it will taste amazing.

Here's to trying something new!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Meatball Stuffed Eggplant

Now that I'm done with school forever and ever, it's time to start thinking about getting a job. I'm experiencing some sort of weird mix between excitement and terror, especially with the somewhat grim outlook everyone seems to have on the economy.

My goal is to be employed by the end of the summer (fingers crossed), and so until then, between applying for positions, I'm going to enjoy my time cooking as much as possible.

This is one of those recipes that just sort of happened randomly as I was thinking about what to do with my time now that there's no more grad school lurking over my shoulder. And anyway, Justin needs a little extra TLC now that he's hunkering down to take his Step 1 boards (a major test in 2nd year med school to basically determine if you're going to move on).

{Printable Recipe}
1 eggplant, cut lengthwise
3/4 lb ground turkey
2 cups brown rice, cooked (or you can use quinoa)
1 egg
2 tbsp fresh basil + parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups tomato sauce (I used the leftover sauce from chicken cacciatore)
2 cups shredded Italian cheese


I made this healthy and used brown rice and ground turkey, but if you like you can go ahead and go whole hog! 

Cut the eggplant lengthwise. Scoop out the inside, leaving enough so that the eggplant doesn't just flop apart when you stuff it. Oil them down and salt them. They WILL turn brown, but that's ok.

Meanwhile, cook the ground turkey in some olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the cooked rice, turkey, Pecorino Romano, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil to moisten.

Add the egg in when it's cooled down a bit. Stuff the eggplant as much as you can (I had a bit left over)

Spoon the tomato sauce over the eggplant and top with cheese.

 Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until it's bubbly and the eggplant is soft.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Family Recipes: Chicken Cacciatore

Yesterday, I edited my thesis. Evidently, passing the oral defense is not enough: I must then go back and edit certain parts that my committee thought were less than perfect. I'm not complaining, but it sort of puts a dent in the celebratory process when you still have a ways to go in graduation.

Still — I'm so close to being done! I sifted through all 125 pages of my paper yesterday, fixing each edit. With so much busy work to do, you know I was itching for a good distraction. Over the weekend I procrastinated by scrubbing down the tops of our kitchen cabinets, which were somehow amazingly filthy. Yesterday I didn't afford myself such a luxury (ha), but instead made an old family recipe that's one of those "set it and forget it" kind of meals.

Using the Crock Pot is perfect for when you don't have time to stir a pot all day. While I drove myself crazy erasing extraneous commas and adding more sources to my paper — and while Justin started his 6-week-long study crusade toward his Step 1 boards (eek) — a pot full of my mom's chicken cacciatore simmered in the kitchen. It made the whole house smell like my home growing up, which is a wonderful thing when you're trying to stay calm.

{Printable Recipe}
2 chicken breasts + 2 thighs/legs
2 small onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
2 sprigs thyme
1-2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

This is the best part — it's one step. Throw it all into the Crock Pot.

Simmer on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. 

Serve over hot buttered spaghetti, rice, or polenta
(we did the latter this time, but I grew up eating it with spaghetti).

Taking it easy and eating well are not mutually exclusive concepts —
even when you're a grad/medical student.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Spicy Pasta e Fagioli con Tonnino

Remember when I bought way too much stuff at World Market? Some of the things I got included imported tuna packed in olive oil, capers, and anchovies. These ingredients, as delicious as they are on their own, begged to be combined into a spicy tomato sauce for a pasta. It's sort of like puttanesca or a pasta e fagioli, one of my favorite meals. I LOVE canellini beans.

We tossed this with penne rigate, but you can put this on fish, chicken, polenta, or rice.

{Printable Recipe}
1 can high quality tuna packed in olive oil
1 8-oz can cannelini beans, drained and lightly rinsed
1 small onion, diced
1 16-oz can tomatoes
2 tbsp capers
2 anchovy fillets, crushed
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups spinach
1 lb short pasta
1 cup chicken broth

Saute the onions in some olive oil with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Add garlic, anchovy, chicken broth and tomatoes. Let this reduce for fifteen minutes until combined.

Run it through a food processor until smooth. We strained our sauce, but you don't necessarily have to. 

Return to the heat. Add beans, spinach, tuna, and capers. Warm it through until the spinach is wilted.

Toss the sauce with the pasta. This is warm, comforting, and filling. It also makes great leftovers (and when you make a full pound, you get a LOT).


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Review: DeMun Oyster Bar

Well, it's official, readers. I passed my thesis defense yesterday! Justin and I decided to celebrate by actually going out to dinner rather than cook at home, and we had the perfect place to try: DeMun Oyster Bar in Clayton.

Even having grown up in St. Louis, I'm still amazed at the variety of culinary and cultural avenues available to explore in this city. We've walked by DeMun Oyster Bar several times but have never quite had the occasion to give it a try. Yesterday Justin also finished his second year of medical school, so this was definitely the time to go.

DeMun Oyster Bar takes its inspiration from New Orleans, from what I could gather. It's laid-back, tiny, and is an open-air bar/restaurant. Super cool.

First, the cocktail menu: Look at the appropriateness here. "The Manuscript" and "The Suffering Bastard" — perfect for a thesis writer.

We started off with the gin and citrus cured lox with crostini. Ah-maze-ing. I'm definitely going to have to try that curing mix when I make cured fish again.

Next, oysters of course. We couldn't go to an oyster bar and skip the main event. DeMun Oyster Bar even has an oyster shucker behind the bar, and an extensive list of oysters from different parts of the world written on a chalkboard.

We got a couple fried and a couple grilled (I'm not into the raw stuff). The fried were super crispy and served with an aioli. But the grilled were so incredible we had to get four more.

Butter, garlic, herbs, and oyster. I've never enjoyed a bivalve so much.

Last, we got a bowl of steamed mussels and clams in a tomato broth. The shellfish was plump and flavorful, and the broth was so good we had it boxed up to take home afterward. It took me a long time to come around to eating whole animals like this, but I'm officially converted thanks to this place.

Overall, an extraordinary celebration with my honey. Now, to graduation!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Darla's Big Day

Today is Darla's birthday. She turns 2. 

Darla almost 2 years ago - she was so tiny!

 It is also the day before my thesis defense. So I thought I'd treat both of us and orchestrate a really fun few hours.

So, today, Darla got to …

1. Have a big treat for breakfast. I know I'm going to be that parent that lets their kid eat birthday cake for their big days. I'm a sucker.

2. Play fetch for a solid 20 minutes.

3. Go for a long walk/run with Mom — and by running, I mean we awkwardly take turns chasing each other down the street (she's not a natural athlete).

4. Cuddle with Mom in front of a fan after the crazy run.

5. Have chicken and rice for dinner instead of the same ol' puppy crunchies (currently pending).

All in between consistent napping throughout the day.

And yes, that is an old comforter she gets just for herself. She's spoiled sick.

Darla is the perfect stress release combined with comic relief. She doesn't care what I have to get done that day, what kind of mood I'm in, or what is on the agenda for tomorrow. She lives in the now, and you have to appreciate that.

Happy birthday LD (little Darla).


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Baby Shower Treats: Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake Truffles

I recently found out that I have the pleasure of catering my cousin's baby shower this month. I am so excited! I love catering for family events. A couple years ago Justin and I catered his uncle's wedding (about 50 people) and a few months ago I threw a surprise baby shower for my sister-in-law Callie.

My cousin Erin is having a little girl, Lucy. How adorable is that name, by the way? I'm starting to think about menu ideas, and while I don't want to jump the gun (I haven't actually gone over the ideas with Erin), I have a few recipes up my sleeve to start.

Truffles make a scrumptious and easy party favor. I made chocolate Oreo truffles for Callie's shower, and this time I thought I'd switch it up and do something a little different for Erin. Besides, we can make these truffles pink, and who doesn't love all things pink and sweet?

Incidentally, it's also National Truffle Day, which really must mean the stars are aligning for me today. Kismet!

Check back here soon for more baby shower recipe ideas!

{Printable Recipe}
1 package golden Oreos
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 bag white chocolate (or dark chocolate if you prefer)
5-6 drops red food coloring
2 tsp fruit jam (raspberry or blackberry work well)


This is stupid easy. Grind up the Oreos in a food processor until fine.

Add cream cheese and jam. Whir it up.

Let this mixture sit in the fridge for an hour or so, just to harden a little. Afterwards, roll the mixture into  little balls, about a tablespoon's worth.

Let these chill in the fridge for an hour or in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate. You can do this over a double boiler or in the microwave. Just be careful not to overheat the chocolate or it'll burn on you.

If you want to use white chocolate, add a few drops at a time of the food coloring until you get the right pink color. If you are using the dark chocolate, skip the food coloring.

Take the truffles and dip them in the chocolate, working quickly. If the cream cheese starts to soften just pop them back into the fridge for ten minutes.

Once they're covered, pop them back into the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

I think baby Lucy is going to like these!


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