Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cheese Tasting Printable with Pairing Suggestions

Getting ready to head out on vacation and couldn't be more excited. My brain is swimming with details, though, and I'm making lists like a bandit. Oh the LISTS! 
On top of the packing for myself, the little man and my guy, I've been planning a wine tasting for my family (we like---scratch that---LOVE---our wine) and then on top of that, we added a cheese selection to the list (same goes for cheese.) So, I thought, I would include a little sheet to help us along as we try new cheeses. 

There's nothing worse than going in blind. "What does this go with?!?!" If it's overwhelming, no one enjoys it, no one "gets" it. That was my motivation on making this little info sheet. I thought I would share these with ya'll as I make them, in the happen-chance that you might be looking at doing a cheese tasting sometime. Just print out this handy dandy sheet and set it out for guests to read as they eat. It's a little bit of what to expect, and some ideas on what cheeses work with what. A little disclaimer - I ran into a problem when saving, and lost my Photoshop file :( so since it was a just-for-fun thing, I skipped remaking the file - which means there are some spelling errors and visual errors that I normally would have tweaked : /  tend to be a little OCD with this stuff, so it's driving me a little crazy, actually, but still - good information for a cheese tasting that can become a convo starter at your next gathering- so I am sucking up my OCD and sharing anyways - :)

I am still working on one more of these handy dandy info sheets - for another 5 - YES FIVE- more cheeses! Needless to say, there will be cheese....there will be wine....there will be A GOOD TIME :)

Until next time....Happy Cheesin' !!!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuscan Rubbed Chicken

Good Morning! Sitting here on my second cup of coffee and trying to get my brain fired up for the day. Topic of the day? Whole Roasted Chickens. When not feeling super creative, I’ll just do my go-to Three: Grapeseed Oil/EVOO, Lemon, Garlic (S&P, too). Other days, I'll go for my fella's favorite - Garlic, Lime Juice, Grate Lime Peel, Salt & Pepper. Just roast it for a couple hours on 350. These are the standards at my house. Along with Dick Dale & Otis Redding. 

But, I just purchased this big beautiful Basil plant from TJ’s so, today, we are jumping out.

One question, though, "What to DO?!" After some foraging in the pantry ::which lead to a much deserved organization of the cabinets::sigh:: then, finally....tomato paste…AH HA! It was there, where lighting did strike.

The Juice

A whole chicken gifts us with all its yummy juices that gather in the pan. To waste all that good stuff would be a travesty! Luckily, it’s no hard task to make good use of the juices. Throw in some carrots & potatoes in the bottom of your roaster and toss with the chicken in the drippings as they all cook together. 

Or, separate the fat from liquid and freeze both for another day – a.k.a. broths, rice, crispy breakfast potatoes, sautéed veggies… Later this week I'll be posting the recipe for a No-Noodle-No-Nonsense Chicken Lasagna with Tomatoes roasted in the pan drippings. TO DIE FOR. 

What I'm trying to say is the possibilities are endless – we like that.

Tuscan Rubbed Chicken

1 Whole Chicken


½ Yellow or White Onion
½ Cup Approx. Celery bunch
Handful Fresh Basil Leaves


2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Splash of Water (1-2 Tbsp)
1 ½  Tbsp Grapeseed or Olive Oil
1 ¼  tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Dried Basil

Sprinkle of Salt/Pepper

First, prep chicken on a roasting pan to catch the drippings and liquid, which also allows the skin to brown all around and not sit in a pool of juices (ie….rubber flappy skin on one side – no bueno!)

Sprinkle all around with salt and pepper. The recipe calls for just a sprinkle of each in the rub so you can be liberal. Salty skin is good skin in my book. The salt and pepper will sit and soak in to the chicken while you prep the stuffing and rub.

Stuff chicken with half of a yellow onion, ½ cup approx.. celery and a healthy handful of basil. I was down to the little end-bunch-of-celery-full-of-flavor-leaves, so I used that and it was PERFECT – I love that leafy part of the celery!

Just kind of haphazardly chop them all and fill that chicken UP! 

In a food processor, puree tomato paste, basil, oil, water, garlic powder, dried basil, salt and pepper.

Rub a nice layer over the whole chicken.

Start the chicken at 350 degrees for 25 minutes; lower temp to 325 and roast for another 45 minutes. 

Normally, I roast on 350 the entire time, but found with the tomato rub, roasting on 350 for the full time browns the rub a too dark, whereas 325 is the sweet spot.

Remove from oven; let rest. Gather the dripping into a bowl and let the fat rise to the top.

Use a gravy separator or spoon out the solid fat slick off the top, leaving just the solids and juices below. 

 Reserve juices and use them! That chicken died to give you the JUICE so really go for it - freeze for broths or flavoring rice or check in later this week for that Chicken Lasagna recipe with Quick Roasted Tomatoes in Pan Drippings Here

A little before & after:

Until Next Time...Happy Cooking!!!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Big “O” Tortellini & Peppers Pasta Salad

There used to be a little local restaurant here in Las Vegas called “Three Tomatoes & a Mozzarella” that was a jammin’ spot when it first opened. They were eventually damned by the economy and couldn't keep up with the Big Chain-names and Strip restaurants. Such is life in Vegas. Once they started offering lunch specials at SUPER reasonable rates, it was kind of the tell-tale sign that they were bowing out slowly. But, before all that, they had THE BEST salads. One particular salad that blew my mind when I first tried it, by recommendation from Momma Theresa, was a tortellini salad on a bed of romaine lettuce, accompanied with a balsamic dressing. We would ALWAYS switch out the dressing with their house-made Caesar that, to this day, is still my benchmark at other restaurants, to which no one comes close. Oh how I wish I knew their recipe!

When I saw brilliantly bright peppers at the market, they really had nothing to do with that old favorite. But, they were THREE different colors and somehow a light went on upstairs... three tomatoes…three peppers… I‘d remembered that Tortellini salad, one of which I hadn't thought of in a looong time. Besides, who puts tortellini in their salad?! LUDICROUS! Well, it all worked out and the only ludicrous thing about it is….it’s so good and even quick to make! I guess we’ll call it The Big “O” (Tortellini Pasta Salad). You know...because they are shaped like "O's"...

The Big “O” Tortellini & Peppers Pasta Salad

The Big "O" Tortellini & Peppers Pasta Salad Recipe HERE

1 ½ Package Cheese Tortellini (20 oz.)
1 Each Red, Orange & Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Tomato, large dice
1 Can Small Pitted Olives
¼ Cup Red Onion
½ Cup Fennel Bulb, minced
4 TBSP Fennel Fronds, chopped
2 ½ TBSP Pimento
3 TBSP “Olive Garden” Italian Dressing
1 TBSP Olive Oil

Bring a big pot of water to boiling and drop the tortellini in. They only need a few minutes; keep an eye on them, once they rise to the occasion…top, I mean, TOP, they are ready. Rinse under cool water and chill in fridge while you prep the other veggies.

Set out a large bowl to catch all these veggies as you go.

Clean the tomato and slice into ½ in. thick slices. Run under water and rub seeds and gooey pulp out, so you’re left with just the firmer flesh. All those seeds will make the salad too wet…Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me today…Moving along; cut them into pieces about the same size as the small olives and add to the bowl.

Clean the peppers; remove the seeds. Chop them into pieces about 1 in. by 1 in. Sort of large dice, or about the same size as the tortellini. Add these to the bowl.

Slice half of a small red onion into thin, thin slices (or use a mandolin, if available). Add to bowl.

Measure out pimentos, add to the bowl.

Drain olives; rinse. Add to the bowl.

Use your favorite kind of olives here, or replace with artichokes, marinated asparagus,...whatever YOU enjoy

Mince ½ cup fennel bulb and chop 4 TBSP fennel fronds.

Chopped fennel bulb adds a GREAT sweetness to the salad 

Fennel Frond chopped up, with a bit of the stem included..chop fine

Add to the mix and Give all a stir to get the flavors going.

Add cooked and chilled tortellini and Olive Garden Italian dressing (other Italian dressing will work here, also, but OG is the Original Gangsta!)  Add to bowl with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper for good measure.

“Stir it Up, little darling, Stir it up.” ~ Bob Marley

Serve chilled and you have a wonderfully fresh and light twist on pasta salad that seems kind of genius but only realy takes about 20 minutes to make. Take to the office potluck, the neighbors BBQ, etc… you’ll definitely have some new friends.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, until next time…Happy Cooking!!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

On Art & Cooking

Two of my favorite things on the planet: art in any form and cheese in any form, but especially French

Image from the ultra talented John Burgoyne, illustrator for Cook's magazines. The imagery alone is scrumptious. Where art intersects cooking, that's where I wanna be. With RECKLESS abandon.

My thought for today, on art and on cooking, the two are one in the same - palette, technique and materials...Give it my all or I give it nothing...