Sunday, July 29, 2012

macho salad with cornbread croutons and champagne vinaigrette



After a long day spent at the beach, I like to cook a quick and light meal for dinner. This salad comes to the rescue; it’s packed with flavorful and healthy ingredients, is light but satisfying.

Macho salad with cornbread croutons is served at a popular West Los Angeles restaurant, Brandera. It’s my favorite salad, so I had to recreate it and this one comes pretty darn close to the real thing. Bandera’s bakes their own cornbread with chopped jalapeño and two kinds of cheeses in individual sized skillets, but you can use any cornbread or do what I often do, buy pre-made cornbread from your grocery store’s bakery.


Maybe this salad was named “Macho” because even men will order and devour this salad. Ingredients such as roasted chicken, goat cheese, dates, avocado, and corn make this salad filling and a complete meal. The champagne vinaigrette, quickly mixed in a mason jar, adds a crisp touch and don’t forget the final topping of crunchy cornbread croutons. It is a bowl full of deliciousness. No wonder it's a Bandera menu favorite.



This summer, I brought the beach into my home by decorating in beach chic décor. You don’t need to live by the beach to create a charming beach atmosphere; just some beach inspired basics is all that is needed.  Try mixing some of the following into your home to create a simple beach look.
  • Wooden whimsical beach signs 
  • Wood bowls, hurricane lamps, glass jars and lanterns filled with sand and seashells 
  • Pillows decorated with fish, seashells, or coral 
  • Frames decorated with seashells 
  • Rattan or bamboo serving mats with shells or coral napkin rings






    Have fun decorating large or small spaces or even just a table top for summer entertaining. Hopefully these simple beach chic decor tips, even for a small space, will add a calming beach mood to your surroundings.


    macho salad with cornbread croutons and champagne vinaigrette
    Serves 4 to 6

    For the cornbread croutons: 


    Cool cornbread completely 

    Cut into 1 inch cubes

    Place on baking sheet sprayed with Pam

    Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes (flip sides ½ way through cooking)

    Set aside until salad is assembled.

    For the champagne vinaigrette: 

    1/4-cup spicy brown mustard

    1 teaspoon lemon juice

    1/4 cup champagne vinegar

    1 tablespoon brown sugar

    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    1-cup extra virgin olive oil

    Place all ingredients in a mason jar, close lid and shake vigorously until well blended. Set aside. 

    For the macho salad: 

    1 large size prepackaged spring lettuce

    1 purchased rotisserie chicken (any left over chicken will do), skin removed and cut into large chunks 

    1 can fresh corn kernels, drained

    1 cup grape tomatoes cut in 1/2

    1 cup medjool dates, roughly chopped

    2 ripe avocados, diced

    1 cup sliced almonds

    6 oz goat cheese, crumbled

    To assemble:

    In a large bowl, add lettuce, corn, tomatoes, avocado, dates, and mounds of crumbled goat cheese.  Top with chicken, almonds, add desired amount of vinaigrette and mix.  

    To serve top with several cornbread croutons.

    Sunday, July 22, 2012

    sour cream blueberry coffee cake


    Imagine a moist coffee cake with a slightly crunchy blueberry topping and sweet glaze. If that sounds scrumptious, you’ll love this cake. It’s perfect for packing and taking on a trip for an easy, delightful breakfast treat. That’s exactly what I did with this cake. We spent the weekend on our boat in Catalina Island and I baked this cake the night before and packed it up for the trip. Not only did we enjoy it for breakfast, but it made a delicious mid-day snack as well.


    This gorgeous blueberry topping of fresh blueberries, pecans, and cinnamon bakes right into the moist cake.  Speaking of a gorgeous topping, have you noticed my new blog header?  It was artistically designed by Shay Bocks Creative Services.  Check out her site and services if you are considering a fresh new look for your blog or website.


    My beautiful daughter Melia loves blueberries! I’m always so happy to cook something containing blueberries for her. This coffee cake was a wonderful blueberry treat with the precise combination of sweet and tart.


    Here are a couple of pictures from our weekend in Catalina.  My favorite is the picture of Melia with our dog Rocco.

    The sour cream blueberry coffee cake quickly disappeared...this was my piece.


    sour cream blueberry coffee cake
    Adapted by Lone Star to Five Star  


    Ingredients:

    For the Coffee Cake:

    1-½ cups flour

    1-teaspoon baking powder

    ½ teaspoon salt

    ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

    3/4-cup sugar

    2 eggs

    1-cup sour cream

    1-teaspoon vanilla extract



    For the Topping:

    1-pint blueberries

    ½ cup chopped pecans

    ¼ cup brown sugar

    1-teaspoon cinnamon



    For the Glaze:

    1-cup confectioners' sugar

    4 teaspoons milk


    Directions: 

    To prepare the coffee cake, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Cream together the butter and sugar for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture gradually and mix well. Spoon into a lightly greased 8-inch spring form pan.


    To prepare the topping, crush ¼ cup of the blueberries in a bowl. Add the remaining blueberries, pecans, sugar, and cinnamon, and mix gently. Sprinkle over the coffee cake batter.


    Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Place on a serving plate and remove the side of the pan.


    To prepare the glaze, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a bowl until smooth. Using a tablespoon, drizzle over the coffee cake.

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    cilantro-lime grilled chicken


    This is a perfect dish for a summer night when you don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking. On weekends, I like to prepare this authentic flavored Mexican marinade with chicken breast prior to heading out to the beach for the day. Chicken breast marinate in the refrigerator during day, so all that I have to do for dinner is make some of my fast pico de gallo, and maybe some Mexican rice pilaf, while hubby grills the chicken.


    Within minutes we have a delicious fiesta-in-our-mouth chicken that is so moist and tender.


    I took this picture during an early morning bike ride on the strand.  It was nice to be able to come home from a long day at the beach and make an easy grilled chicken dinner that was so full of mexican flavors from marinating all day in a cilantro and lime marinate.

    cilantro-lime grilled chicken
    Adapted from Entertaining at Home Cookbook

    Ingredients:

    4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast

    ¼ cup fresh limejuice

    ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

    3 cloves garlic, minced

    ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

    1-½ teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar

    1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

    1/2-teaspoon ground cumin

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Fresh fast pico de gallo, sour cream, and tortillas for serving

    Directions:
    Lay chicken in a single layer and cover between two sheets of plastic wrap or place in large zip lock bag. Using a mallet, lightly pound chicken breast to 1/2-inch thickness.

    Place chicken in a new 1-gallon zip lock bag or in a shallow dish prior and set aside while preparing the marinade.

    To prepare the marinade, in a bowl, combine the limejuice, olive oil, garlic, chopped cilantro, brown sugar, salt, cumin, and pepper and whisk until thoroughly blended. Pour the marinade over the chicken and seal the zip lock bag, or if using a shallow dish, cover. Allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 8 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.

    Prepare charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill on medium.

    Remove the chicken from the marinade and drain off the excess marinade. Brush the grill grate with vegetable oil. Grill chicken uncovered for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side, until tender and the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife.

    Remove the chicken from the grill and transfer to a platter. Spoon some fast pico de gallo over each portion, followed by a dollop of sour cream. Serve immediately with corn or flour tortillas and enjoy the fiesta-in-your-mouth!


    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    muesli with raspberry puree


    During the summer on weekend mornings, we are normally out of the house early, either heading to the beach or for a day on the boat. To help reduce time preparing breakfast this past weekend, I decided to try making muesli, a chilled oatmeal made with rolled oats, yogurt, fruit, nuts, and skim milk. Rolled oats are soaked in skim milk overnight and in the morning final preparation is minimal. Having a quick, utterly delicious breakfast that is healthy, helps make getting out of the house a whole lot quicker.


    This muesli is filled with flavor from apples, bananas, dried cherries, and almonds, and is topped with a sweet raspberry puree.

    If you have been following this blog, you may recall the picture I shared in my chilled avocado soup post, of a hummingbird nest with two eggs in it. Several weeks ago, the eggs successfully hatched and we have been watching our precious baby hummingbirds grow.


    Most mornings I like to check up on the baby birds. This past Friday morning, I performed my usual check, but this time the nest was askew and the birds were gone. Overhead, a huge black crow was flying around and squawking. I was very distraught over the thought that the crow ate those adorable baby hummingbirds as his breakfast. Well, over the weekend my hubby noticed two small hummingbirds flying around our yard. We observed them closely and realized that they were our babies! I was thrilled to know that the crow hadn't eaten them after all.



    muesli with raspberry puree

    Ingredients:
    2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
    1 3/4 cups skim milk
    1/2-cup whole plain yogurt
    1 banana, cut into bite size pieces
    1 large apple
    1/4 cup dried cherries or raisins
    Squeeze of lemon or lime juice
    ½-cup slivered almonds

    For the puree:
    2 cups fresh raspberries
    2 tablespoons sugar

    Directions:
    In a bowl, pour the skim milk over the oats to cover. Let soak overnight, covered, in the fridge.

    The next day, combine the raspberries and sugar in a small pan. Place over medium heat and cook until the raspberries become soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

    Grate the apple and squeeze the lemon or lime juice on top to prevent discoloration. Add the grated apple, banana pieces, dried cherries, and yogurt to the soaked oats then stir. Top with raspberries puree and slivered almonds.

    Muesli can be kept for 2 to 3 days refrigerated.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    skillet pineapple upside-down cake


    Recently, returning from a family vacation in Hawaii, home of the pineapple, left me craving for pineapple upside-down cake. Deciding on a time-honored method, I baked my pineapple upside-down cake in a cast-iron skillet.


    A bowl full of cherries.
    As far back at the late 1800’s, the first pineapple upside-down cakes were cooked in cast-iron skillets, and referred to as skillet cakes. Ovens were not as reliable back in those days. Cakes were often made in cast-iron skillets on stovetops.

    Pineapple topping is cooked stovetop in a cast-iron skillet.
    Skillet pineapple upside-down cakes are moist white cakes topped with a caramelized brown sugar and butter topping with sweet, gooey pineapple. As soon as the cake was pulled out of the oven and converted from skillet to platter, spoons were handed out to my family and everyone dug into the scrumptious cake all at once. Only remnants of the cake remained.



    I took the above photo of a picture hanging in the historical section of the Royal Hawaiian Resort Hotel in Wakiki.  The photo was taken in the 1800's, when Wakiki was quickly becoming a famous beach location for tourist from Europe and the United States.



    skillet pineapple upside-down cake

    For the pineapple topping:
    One 20-ounce can pineapple rings, with their syrup or juice
    6 tablespoons butter
    ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    10 maraschino cherries

    For the cake:
    1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ cup milk
    4 tablespoons butter, softened
    1 egg
    1-teaspoon vanilla extract

    To make the topping:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Drain the pineapple well, reserving 2 tablespoons of the juice or syrup for the cake batter. Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

    Remove the pan from the stove, and sprinkle the brown sugar over its buttery surface. Carefully place the pineapple rings on top of the scattered brown sugar topping, arranging them so they fit in a layer. Place a cherry in the center of each ring, and set the pan aside.

    To make the cake:
    In a mixer with whisk attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and quickly mix until blended. Add the milk and butter, and beat well with a mixer at medium speed, scraping down the bowl once or twice, until you have a thick, fairly smooth batter. Add the egg, reserved pineapple juice/syrup, and the vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes more, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl.

    Carefully pour the batter over the pineapple arranged in the skillet, and use a spoon or a spatula to spread it evenly to the edges of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in the skillet for 5 minutes on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel. With oven mitts, carefully turn out the warm cake onto a serving plate by placing the plate upside down over the skillet, and then flipping them over together to release the cake onto the plate. Serve warm, or cool to room temperature before serving, and watch it disappear.

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    meatballs in tomato sauce with spaghetti


    Can you tell that I love to cook and eat Italian dishes? With all of the Italian inspired recipes in this blog, it's not hard to figure out. As a child, I would always order spaghetti and meatballs when dining out. I remember one time, my Mom asking me to order something different off of the menu, but I was confused, why would I when I loved spaghetti and meatballs so much? It’s still one of my favorites!


    There is this great Italian restaurant in Malibu, Guido’s Malibu. My hubby and I frequent Guido’s Malibu on Monday nights. We almost always split a chopped salad and spaghetti and meatballs. Of course a glass (or two) of red wine with dinner is a must.
    Guido's Malibu on Urbanspoon


    Guido’s décor is 1980’s with teal colored vinyl booths and floral lamps. The glass windows circle around the restaurant and over look Malibu creek. Somehow the 1980's ambiance works, making you feel very relaxed and hungry for Italian.


    Returning from a ski weekend in Mammoth, I took this Monday off from work. The time off work gave me the opportunity to cook a more time consuming dinner. I offered my hubby grilled fish tacos (I’ve been dying to recreate the ones from Duke’s in Malibu) or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Guess which one he picked? Bingo...spaghetti and meatballs! Typical for a Monday night :). I will save the grilled fish tacos for Taco Tuesday. Stay tuned for that recipe!

    This recipe for meatballs in tomato sauce is perfect for a dinner party. The sauce and meatballs can be prepared a day ahead. The only required prepping prior to dinner is to fry the meatballs, simmer the sauce and cook the pasta. Serve with a simple salad and warm sourdough bread and you have a perfect Italian dinner.

    Here are some easy to follow steps in creating the perfect meatball...


    Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese for a more authentic flavor and added moisture.


    Crustless white bread slices are soaked in milk. Squeeze milk before adding to the meat mixture. The soaked bread helps the meatballs keep their shape.


    The veal, pork, and bacon (yes, bacon is the secret ingredient) is placed in a food processor and pulsed about 8 to 10 times to combine the meat.


    I suggest using an ice cream scoop for uniformly shaped meatballs.


    Meatballs are rolled in flour which helps to keep their shape while frying.


    The meatballs are rolled in flour, placed on a baking sheet and refrigerated for at least an hour or overnight.


    Meatballs are fried in extra-virgin olive oil which results in meatballs being crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.


    Any pasta of choice will work. I decided on Perciattelli, which is an extra thick spaghetti noodle.


    Just wait until you smell the aroma from this tomato sauce simmering. You will think you are in Italy…or in an Italian restaurant. This sauce has a very authentic Italian flavor. I’m very passionate about this recipe and have thought twice about sharing it, but am more so passionate about this blog and it’s viewers, so I made the best and final decision to share it.

    meatballs in tomato sauce with spaghetti
    Cooking time: 2 ½ to 3 hours
    Makes approximately 18 to 20 large meatballs
    Serves 6

    Tomato Sauce
    Ingredients:
    ¼ cup olive oil
    1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    2 28 oz cans crushed Italian tomatoes
    1 6 oz can tomato paste
    1/8-teaspoon red pepper flakes
    ½ cup red wine
    ¼ cup (approximately 4 to 5 leaves) fresh basil, chopped
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Directions:
    In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, pour in olive oil and heat over medium flame. Add onion and sauté until soft for approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomatoes paste, red pepper flakes, red wine, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to simmer. Continue simmering for 2 ½ hours, stirring often.

    Meatballs
    Ingredients:
    4 slices white bread, crust removed
    ¼ cup whole milk
    1-pound ground veal
    1-pound ground pork
    3 slices bacon (I used thick cut), finely chopped
    2 large eggs
    ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1-teaspoon kosher salt
    ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    2 cups all purpose flour, for dredging
    1-cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed, for frying

    Directions:
    Place bread slices in an 8 x 8 pan and pour in milk. Allow to soak for 5 minutes. Squeeze dry and break into bits.

    In a food processor, add veal, pork, and bacon. Pulse 8 to 10 times to combine the meat, but do not over process.

    Remove meat from processor and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the bread, eggs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, combine the mixture until well blended. Make balls about the size of a large egg and roll in the palm of your hand until they are firm and fully rounded (or use an ice-cream scoop).

    Pour the flour onto a large plate; dredge the meatballs in the flour, shaking off excess flour. Place meatballs onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Once all meatballs have been placed on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. The flour will help the meatballs maintain their shape while cooking.

    To fry: Pour olive oil into a large frying pan or Dutch oven. The olive oil should reach approximately ¼ inch, or more, deep in pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, place the meatballs in a single layer. With a wooden spoon, gently roll meatballs around pan until all sides are uniformly crisp and brown. Remove meatballs and drain on a plate covered with 2 paper towels.

    Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Cook pasta as directed. Add pasta to sauce and top with meatballs.


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