Easy Peasy Roasted Peppers

If I had to pick one vegetable to have aplenty, it would have to be peppers.  I love how versatile they are and yet they still stay true to their flavor no matter what you put them in.  Depending on what method of cooking you use, their flavor is enhanced in different, tasty ways. 
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My favorite pepper cooking method?  Roasting peppers. 
Sure the kind in a jar are delicious and convenient, but making them yourself makes you feel accomplished and you will know where your food is coming from!
Ready for a simple recipe? 
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Roasted Red Pepper Spread
You will need:
2 red peppers
1 plastic bag or brown bag
1 Tbs light mayo
1.) Begin by washing peppers.  Dry completely and place on open flame, one at a time.  I suggest only doing this if you have a gas stove because that is what I have and I’m not sure what exactly would happen if you did it on an electric stove.  You can also do this on a grill.
2.)  Turn the pepper as it becomes charred on each side.

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3.) When peppers are charred on each side, remove by the stem or use tongs because the pepper will be hot!
4.) Place in a plastic bag or a brown paper bag and seal.  Allow the pepper to sweat.
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5.) Then skin will start to come off on its own.  If it needs a little help, run it under cool water.
6.) If you are using the peppers for a recipe or just eating them on their own, cut on a cutting board and be careful because there will be hot liquid inside the pepper.  Drain liquid, take  the membrane out and remove seeds.
If you are going to make my red pepper spread, remove the membrane and the seeds but keep the liquid and put both the pepper and liquid in a food processor.  Combine with mayo and pulse until the mix is smooth.  If you would like more of a creamy spread, add more mayo.  Season with salt and pepper.

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I topped a veggie burger with the red pepper spread and caramelized onions.  It was so fresh and satisfying!

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Boy or Girl? Cookie or Pizza?

I am happy to announce that I am going to be an Aunt!  My sister is pregnant and this will be the first baby in our immediate family.  Very exciting!!
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To reveal the baby’s gender my sister, Carrie and her husband, Ryan, decided to have a gender reveal party.  So after a little snacking we all anxiously stood around, cupcake in hand, and broke into the fate of our family.

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My sister baked the cupcakes with a colored gumball inside.  Depending on what the gender was, the gumball represented that color.
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So… boy or girl?
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Girl!!!
I am so excited to start buying frilly, girly, dressy clothes!  My niece is going to be so spoiled and loved.
And after we experienced the baby excitement there was still another surprise.  Why on earth would there be a pizza for dessert???
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Surprise, it was a cookie pizza.  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t really a surprise but I bet I had some people wondering.
The recipe is really easy to make and turns out looking really cute.  And the pizza box is just a nice added touch.  I was able to get mine at the local pizza place for free.
This recipe came from the Neely’s recipe on the Food Network’s “Down Home With the Neelys”.
030Preheat oven to 375°
You will need:
•2 (16 1/2-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookie dough (recommended: Nestle Tollhouse)
•1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
•4 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
•1/2 cup toffee chips
•1/4 cup chopped pecans
1.) Begin by spraying a 12 inch pizza pan with nonstick spray.  If you don’t have a pizza pan it is ok!  I didn’t either and here it what I did: Begin with a piece of foil that is fairly large.  Draw a circle on the foil that will be the shape of the pizza.  DO NOT cut the circle, just use this as a stencil for the cookie dough.  You want to keep some edges of the foil in case the dough spreads.  Spray the foil.  And if you are using a regular pizza pan I suggest putting foil under it in case is spreads.
2.) Spread both containers of cookie dough on either the pan or foil and bake for 25 minutes.  When pizza is finished, remove from oven and allow to cool.
3.) While the pizza is cooking, prepare the toppings.  Begin by bringing the heavy cream to a gentle simmer.  When it has heated, remove from heat and pour over  chocolate.  Begin stirring chocolate and cream until all of the chocolate has melted.  Allow to cool and thicken.
4.)  Top pizza with chocolate, then toffee and pecans.
5.) Slice, serve, and enjoy!

 

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032I hope you enjoy this recipe and the exciting news.  Now I’ve got to start some online baby shopping so I’ll talk to you all  soon!

Mouthwatering Carrot Cake

Birthdays are really important to me and my family.  In our opinion, when it is your birthday, you get all of your favorite things, including food of course.  That means a special birthday dinner and whatever kind of cake you choose.
So when my friend Nichole’s’ birthday was coming up I knew I had to make her favorite cake. Carrot cake.  I will admit that I was a little nervous.  I had never made carrot cake before so it was a little intimidating, but with a little help from my good friend Martha Stewart, I was able to make an amazing carrot cake.  I did tweak the recipe slightly but it did derive from her recipe.
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You will need:
For cake:
•2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
•3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
•3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
•1 cup packed light-brown sugar
•1/2 cup granulated sugar
•3 large eggs
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1/2 cup water
•1 pound carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
•1 cups pecans (1/2 cup finely chopped for batter, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped for decorating sides of cake)028
1. Preheat oven 350.  Spray 3 pans with cooking spray and flour or use Baking Joy spray.  I actually used one pan and just filled it with batter as I went.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
2. Beat butter and sugars with mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure that each egg is incorporated before mixing in the next.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Add vanilla, water and carrots and make sure it is well combined, mixing for about 2 minutes.  Make sure the speed is on low and mix in flour mixture  and half of pecans.
3. Divide batter into 3 parts and bake one at a time or all at once, depending on how big your oven is and what you prefer.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove and let cool for 15 minutes.  Once cooled,  run a knife around the edges and remove carefully.  Make sure cake has completely cooled before you begin icing.038
4. Place one cake on a plate.  Top with icing, followed by the second piece, more icing and the last piece.  Ice entire cake and then press pecan pieces on the outside of the cake.137
5. I used some food dye to make carrots on my cake.  I put a small amount of the icing in two separate bowls and added green to one and yellow + red to another to make orange.  I then used two Ziploc bags and cut a corner off each bag to carefully create the carrots on the cake.138For icing:
•1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
•2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1. Using a mixer, combine cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy.  Gradually add butter until well combined.
2. Reduce speed to slow and add sugar slowly.
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The cake turned out being perfectly moist and smooth.  Topped with the sweet, creamy icing and crunchy pecans, it was the perfect birthday cake.  I was so glad that it not only turned out, but turned out well!  So well that when others tried it they asked if  they could place an order.  My first carrot cake attempt was a success Smile

You say tomato, I say pizza!

If your summer is going anything like mine, you have a lot of tomatoes hanging around.  And while I enjoy tomato sandwiches on most afternoons, I have been trying to use tomatoes in practically everything I eat!002
Another one of my summer addictions? Pizza! I’m not sure if it is because it is so simple to eat or because I can make it however I like, but pizza has been a staple in my diet and I’m not complaining.  So instead of buying another jar of pizza sauce I decided to dive right in and make my own!
You will need:
•5-6 medium tomatoes
•1 garlic clove
•1 TBS olive oil
•A handful of fresh basil
•1/2 cup onion
1.) Begin by marking each tomato with two slits to make an “X” and then steam tomatoes.  This may be the hardest part and I promise it isn’t hard.  The steam will begin to peel the skin off where you made then X.  Once the skin begins to peel, remove from water and allow to cool.
2.) Next, chop the onion.  You don’t need to make perfect pieces because you will throw it in the food processor later.
3.) Heat your oil and sauté the onion on medium heat.  While your onion is cooking, cut each tomato and remove seeds and excess juice.  I also allowed the tomatoes to sit in a bowl so the juice would drip out and would not make my sauce watery.
4.) Then add the garlic and cook for a few seconds so you do not burn it.  Add tomatoes and basil and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  This allows the flavors to start intensifying.
5.) I then put the sauce in the food processor for about 30 seconds.  I didn’t want it to get too thin because I wanted a thick pizza sauce.  I then allowed the sauce to cook for a good half hour until it was nice and thick.
6.) Remove from heat and use on your pizza!  This recipe made enough for 2 personal size pizzas so I used one portion and then froze the other half.

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The sauce turned out really well and I was happy with both the flavor and the consistency. Now if only I could bottle the sauce for pizza year round!

Artichoke, something green. Happy Birthday, SWEET SIXTEEN!

Happy Sweet 16 to my cousin Margaux – a fun, beautiful and brilliant girl.  It is hard to believe that I can actually remember her being born and celebrating her first birthday when today it doesn’t feel like we are that many years  apart.
Our love of clothing, makeup, photography and of course, cooking, is what brings us together.  Whenever we get together we swap favorite makeup brands, latest finds and what’s cookin’ .
There is one recipe in particular that Margaux has been begging me to cook, post and share with her:
Artichoke Dip
Preheat oven to 350
You will need:
•14 oz. artichokes in water
•1/2 cup light mayo
•1/2 cup sour cream
•1/8 tsp. Tabasco Sauce
•1/3  cup grated parmesan cheese
1.) Begin by draining artichokes and finely chopping. 
2.) Next, add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly.
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3.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbly around the edges and the dip begins to brown on top.

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As you can see this recipe is simple but the results are so delicious.   The sweet, tender artichoke hearts melt perfectly into the creamy dip that pairs well with crackers or  bread.  It is a recipe that you can whip up if company is coming unexpectedly or if it is just simply your 16th Birthday.
Happy Birthday Margaux, here’s to many, many more.

Simple ingredients: Artichokes

You aren’t aware that something is unusual until someone else declares it is.
Growing up, my family’s rituals and eating habits were the only way that I knew.  Drinking iced tea each night with dinner was what everyone else did.  And eating elbow noodles with butter and parmesan cheese was and still is, breakfast.
It was my Dad’s birthday and I gushed to my cousin Brian that we were having crab legs to celebrate.  Sweet, juicy crab legs that my Dad would crack open for me and pull out all the tender meat that I’d dunk in a pool of rich butter.  The concerned look on Brian’s face confused me.  Did he not enjoy crab legs?  That night as I stood on my chair, reaching for another leg, Old Bay seasoning dripping down my arms, I proclaimed, “Brian doesn’t believe me! I eat crabs!”
I was five.  And the pivotal moment when I realized that no, everyone does not eat the same thing.  While food does not define who we are, it helps tell our story.  Food allows us to express our memories, culture and tradition.
Artichokes are a food that even as an adult, seem unusual to others.  They are a versatile vegetable and unique in every way.  So when I pull out a container that holds an artichoke, I tend to get some looks.
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My first memories of eating an artichoke is at my Grandmother’s house.  The bright green leaves, stuffed with aromatic bread crumbs and cheese filled up orange rimmed ceramic bowls.  Sometimes she would squeeze lemon juice over the leaves for an added sensorial experience.  As I pulled each leaf between my teeth, the stack of “clean” leaves became higher and higher until it was time to eat the heart.  If you have ever ate a fresh artichoke you understand how treasured the heart is.  It is the softest part of the artichoke, located in the middle under the thick leaves, thin leaves, and hairy fibers.  And like any heart, it is worth protecting.  Its meat is sweet and soft.  With a little touch of salt, the heart is perfectly seasoned and a treat worth eating your way to.

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Here is my simple rendition of a family favorite and treasured food.
1.) Begin by thoroughly washing the artichoke.
2.) Use a knife or kitchen scissors to  snip the tops of the leaves.

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3.) Slice off the top portion of the artichoke, exposing the leaves.  Slice the bottom of the artichoke stem so that it is about 2 inches long and flat on the bottom.

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4.) There are many methods of cooking the artichoke but the one I like best is simply steaming them.  If you have a steamer that would make the process that much easier, but I simply put the artichoke in a ramekin so that it is steady and not submerged in the water.

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5.) The next part can be controversial but you can use whichever method works best for you.  I take about 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs, a few TBS parmesan cheese, salt and peppers and mix together.  I then spread the leaves and sprinkle the mixture in.  Lastly, I drizzle the artichoke with some extra virgin olive oil.  The oil will add a ton of flavor and make it taste extra special.  Simmer the water before adding the artichoke.  I make sure the water does not surpass the top of the ramekin and cover the pot with a lid so that it can steam properly.  Allow to steam for 45-60 minutes or until leaves are tender enough to pull off.
6.) To remove, use tongs because it will be very hot.  Place in a bowl and make sure you have a spare bowl for the leaves.

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To eat:  Begin by grabbing a leaf off of the artichoke.  The bottom of the leaf will be the thinner part.  Bite down on the top of leaf, making sure to eat the bread crumb mixture and scrape the artichoke meat off of the leaf by pulling the leaf through your teeth from top to bottom.  Continue to do this for each leaf.  As you get closer to the heart the leaves will become more soft and easier to eat.
For the heart, remove any remaining leaves.  Use a spoon to scrape out fuzzy parts.  Cut the heart up in pieces (because everyone will want a try) sprinkle a little salt on, and enjoy.
And while I can’t promise that you will love artichokes, though I can’t see why not, I think they are definitely worth trying.  You never know what may become a part of your food story.  And before you know it, your children will be eating artichokes  at dinner thinking that everyone else in the world is doing the exact same thing.

Spinach & Bacon Salad

Whether you’re barbecuing, relaxing or working this Memorial Day weekend, one thing is for sure… this weekend kicks off summer eating!  Ok, so maybe you already started eating caprese salads and fresh watermelon, I am guilty  too.  But, prior to this weekend it wasn’t official.
I  have a salad for you that will make you the star of any barbecue, work picnic or family reunion.  It is simple, fresh, and an explosion of flavor with each bite!
Strawberry Spinach Salad
You will need:
For salad:
•2 bags of baby spinach
•1 pint of strawberries, sliced
•3/4 pound of grapes, cut in halves
•1 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
For dressing:
•1 cup olive oil
•1 cup sugar
•1/2 cup wine vinegar
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp minced onion
•1 tsp worcestershire sauce
The hardest part of this recipe is just prepping everything.  Make sure  you wash your spinach well and dry it even better.  Mix together the ingredients for the dressing well.  The dressing will tend to separate so make sure you keep stirring.  Combine all of the salad components and you’re finished!
I always serve the dressing on the side because it will become extremely soggy if you put it over the salad ahead of time.  And if you have vegetarians you can obviously put the bacon on the side as well.  Feel free to substitute  the bacon for turkey bacon too!
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And you might want to print this recipe out because everyone is going to  want it.  Oh, and you might as well get used to making it because not only will your friends and family be asking you to make it…but you’ll probably have a stash of it waiting in your fridge all summer long.  Yup, it  is that good.
And if you haven’t entered my GIVEAWAY yet, make sure you do!