Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pineapple Express

There is nothing more inviting than a pineapple, and it is no wonder that the fruit became the symbol of hospitality in the United States over 200 years ago. If I had to choose only one fruit to eat and enjoy for the rest of my life, it would be pineapple.

I don't think there is any form the pineapple comes in that I dislike, whether it be grilled, upside down in a cake, baked on top of a ham, and of course on a pizza pie! The only form of pineapple I think is mediocre, but I would still eat, is dried pineapple. It tastes good, but is there really a point to pineapple without its luscious juices? I enjoyed doing a little bit of research about pineapple and found an enjoyable page written by a journalist about the social history of the pineapple.

This recipe is one inspired by what I gave up for lent: cookies and cakes (mainly in 100 calorie pack form...which always ended up being 300 calories by the time I ripped open 3 bags in 1 sitting). Not that I feel I had to give up anything, to be honest. I have had enough tragedy in the past year to last me an eternity, so I don't exactly feel I need to repent for much. Still, I decided to forgo those types of sweets even though I have a sweet tooth. So what is the understudy until Easter? Puddings, iced treats, and yogurt! I made this easy recipe within ten minutes, and it is absolutely delicious.

What is the one fruit you could live on for the rest of your life?

Pineapple Pudding (Courtesy of

1 package of sugar-free and fat-free instant vanilla pudding
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, not drained
1 cup of plain, low-fat yogurt

In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Spoon in serving dishes and chill for at least 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite garish: berries, lime wedges, whipped topping, etc.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Straw and Cheese (Spaghetti Series # 3)

Snowed in with about a foot outside my door, I was upset this late afternoon knowing I was missing out on making macaroni and cheese with my sister tonight - we had planned to make it together at her house for my family. Instead, I am home alone and craving the dish badly. I went to my kitchen and realized I had all the ingredients for my own macaroni and cheese. Not exactly the same, because I miss their company tonight, but at least I get my cheesy noodle fix!

I was grateful to have the time to leisurely browse recipes. I borrowed a little bit from here, a tad from there, and what I came up with was one incredible dish! Of course normally I would use elbows or fusilli, but this IS A Twist of Spaghetti, fellow foodies, and we need to stay true to our roots!

I am sipped a glass of Shiraz with this meal, and it certainly paired well! Cheers!

Straw and Cheese

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons flour
1 cup fat free half and half
1 cup shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon prepared mustard (I used Jack Daniel's Old No. 7)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 slices of deli ham, sliced into julienne strips
1/2 pound cooked spaghetti, cooked 2 minutes less than directed
1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking dish
- Generously salt a pasta pot and bring to a boil; cook spaghetti as directed above
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add flour, whisking for 5 minutes until you get a light caramel-colored roux
- Slowly add in milk and whisk for another 2 minutes
- Stir in cheese, mustard, paprika, cayenne, and salt.
- Drain spaghetti and reserve 1 tablespoon of the pasta water and add this to the sauce mixture
- Add pasta to the cheese mixture and gently fold in ham
- Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Add the breadcrumbs and Romano cheese and mix well.
- Pour pasta mixture into the baking dish; place topping over pasta
- Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly
- Place oven on low broil for 2 minutes until topping is nicely crisp (a light brown color)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweet and Sour

It is a sweet and sour day.

It is sweet because it was my last day at work for the week and I look forward to a nice, long three day weekend.

It is sour because New York City has yet another snow storm and tomorrow I am supposed to spend the day with my nephew and now I am worried we will all be snowed in. It is also sour because the snow made me miss a Peking Duck dinner tonight with my team from work! I came home in the slushy mix of weather cranky and upset, too tired to cook but not wanting take out.

So, sweet and sour is the inspiration for this recipe. I absolutely love Hawaiian Pizza and decided to try my own twist on the recipe tonight! Success, indeed, though next time I will add less sweet and sour sauce...a little goes a long way and I used a cup and would halve it...but it was absolutely a sweet dinner for such a sour evening!

Hawaiian Pizza
1 premade pizza dough crust (I used Boboli thin crust)
1/2 cup of Sweet and Sour Sauce (I used World Harbors)
4 slices of deli ham, torn into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup sweet corn kernels
1/3 cup diced pineapple
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 stems of diced green onion, white and green parts only

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place pizza dough crust on a pizza pan. Spread sweet and sour sauce with the back of the spoon all over the crust. Top with ham, corn, pineapple, cheese, and onion.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Spaghetti Series - Sausage and Cream Sauce (#2)

A member of my supper club is one phenomenal cook (they all are), and I give her extra admiration since she balances cooking with three young boys...the youngest just a few months old! At our last gathering, she made two recipes from a cookbook called Creme de Colorado Cookbook that were out of this world. One was a Greek chicken recipe and the other was lemon bread. I could not stop eating either. They were delectable.

I then looked back and previous lists from gatherings and saw that she had made other recipes from the cookbook that were successful. It was all I needed to hit Amazon the following day! I ordered a used copy of the cookbook on Amazon and am thrilled with it. I admit I love climbing into bed before I sleep with a cookbook. Tonight's Spaghetti Series recipe comes from the pasta section of the cookbook. I had a vacation day today and it was good to be home and not have to rush through the aisles at the supermarket or wine store. I took my time, and this dish takes no time at all. It was great comfort food on a cold winter's night.

Pasta with Sausage and Cream Sauce (adapted from the Creme de Colorado Cookbook)

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used chicken)
2 cups heavy cream (I used half and half)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh, minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried sage (I added this)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces of cooked spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained (I used angel hair)
salt and pepper to taste
Extra parsley and Parmesan for serving

In a large skillet, melt butter. Stir in sausage and fry until brown. Remove sausage and drain grease. Return sausage to skillet and stir in cream, wine, parsley, nutmeg, sage, and Parmesan. Salt and pepper to your tastes. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Place pasta in heated serving dish and toss with sausage sauce, topping with extra parsley and Parmesan.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Great Recipe from a Great Friend

I owe two dear people in my life for tonight's post.

The first for the recipe - the easiest sweet and sour chicken recipe! I had it at a barbecue he hosted two years ago and it was, by far, one of the best chicken dishes ever! So moist and flavorful and tangy. I asked him for the recipe and could NOT believe how easy it was, and how much flavor the few ingredients added to a piece of chicken!

The second for the new tablecloths I am setting my plates on. He currently works in the fabric industry and got me some beautiful pieces that were leftover cuts. It was thoughtful and sweet and I am so excited to use them as part of a tablescape for photos of my recipes.

It has been a tough week, but their thoughtfulness makes life easier. I am tired from work and a bit fried like an egg, but looking forward to some days off next week and cooking up a storm! I couldn't handle much more than this tonight, but at the same time, it was the ultimate comfort food and ultimate plating thanks to two ultimately wonderful men in my life.

Sal's Amazing Chicken (courtesy of my dear friend, Sal)

1 1/4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs or legs
salt and pepper to taste
1 packet of Lipton onion soup mix
1/2 cup Ken's Country French Dressing
2 tablespoons of Apricot marmalade

Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients.
Place chicken in dish and spoon mixture on top.
Bake in oven for 35 minutes, spooning juices of chicken halfway through.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh Captain My Captain!

I love Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, and my favorite boat is the Cornelia Marie.

Captain Phil Harris was my favorite captain, and his death this week saddened me greatly. What I loved the most about him was how good a father he was, and how much hard work he put in to raising his sons and providing for them in addition to teaching them about crab fishing on the bearing strait. The love for his children was evident on each episode, and for that I think he will be remembered for the most.

There are many forums to honor his memory, but the one I joined seemed most appropriate: Eat Crab Legs in Memory of Captain Phil. While I cannot afford crab legs at the moment, I splurged on some great lump crab meat for crab cakes. Sipping some chardonnay, I raise my glass to Captain Phil...a great captain, but an even greater father. The show will never be the same for me, nor will the seas, nor will your sons.

Cornelia Marie Crab Cakes


1/2 pound lump crab meat, picked over
1/2 juice of a lemon
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/8 cup of plain bread crumbs

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for pan frying
Lemon wedges, for serving
Tartar Sauce, for serving


Combine first ten ingredients and form into desired crab cake size. Place on a plate and cover with saran wrap and place in freezer for ten minutes. Heat a nonstick skillet with enough oil to coat the pan. Pan fry (time will depend on the size you make). Serve hot with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

(For a crab recipe right from Captain Phil, click here.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love = Guacamole!

What better food to dip into for Valentine's Day than guacamole? It is rich like love, spicy like a good romance, and layered with goodness like any good relationship. Maybe it turns brown here and there to symbolize some darker times, but there is always pockets of fresh green to make up for that. Guacamole could very well mean "I love you" to some people!

It is also unique, like love, because you make it your own depending on what your likes are. For example, cilantro is a deal breaker for me since it tastes like soap (I usually refer to it as soaplantro), so I add parsley instead. The amount of cayenne really depends on what your tolerance is, and adding mild chilis or zesty jalepenos is your call as well. Just like a relationship, its what you bring to it that makes it special. In any event, I hope you have the chip to your guacamole this Valentine's Day and enjoy!

AK's Guacamole

4 ripe haas avocados - halved, seeded, and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 14.5 ounce can of zesty diced tomatoes with mild green chilis, well drained (I used DelMonte)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley flakes

1) In a large bowl, squeeze out the juice of a lime
2) Cut, pit, and scoop out the avocados right into the bowl of juice so they do not brown
3) Mash avocado with a mashed potato masher
4) Add onion, diced tomatoes, and garlic
5) Add salt, cayenne, and cumin and half of the parsley
6) Mix well and sprinkle with remaining parsley when plated
6) Serve with your favorite chips...and margaritas!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To Bake a Cake on a Snowy Day

The Northeast is experiencing the blizzard of 2010. I am home from work today and after reading the weather reports, I am rather skeptical about getting in tomorrow morning. Hopefully by the afternoon I will be back at my desk on the trading floor. It is nice to be at home and bake and read food blogs, but at the same time being cooped up past one day will drive me a bit stir crazy.

Speaking of stirring...

In the meantime, it is coming down about an inch an hour and I craved baking a cake today. However, I did not want all of the fat and calories. I searched high and low and found a winning recipe for a gorgeous and delicious cappuccino cake! This was featured in a contest, so trusting it seemed just fine. It is the perfect cake for a snowy day. You can have it with a coffee, hot chocolate, or a nice glass of Shiraz! Also, for you vegans out there, just use soy yogurt and you are good to go! I must say that this cake is delicious and extremely moist, and you don't even need the glaze. The powdered sugar would be fine as a topping!

If you are experiencing a snow day today, too, enjoy!

CAPPUCCINO CAKE RECIPE (Courtesy of Cut the Calories Cook Off Contest, GMA, 2000)


1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
(I used Hershey's)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
(I used Fage)
3/4 cup strong coffee
(cold - I used vanilla flavored)
1 teaspoon coffee liqueur
(I used Kahlua)
1/4 cup oil


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix all dry ingredients together in large bowl until well-blended.

3. In separate bowl, whisk yogurt and cold coffee, oil and liqueur together until smooth.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until cake batter is well-blended.

5. Pour batter into on 8-inch round pan (wax paper bottom and grease/flour sides) and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

6. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan, then remove wax paper from bottom of cake.

Ingredients for the glaze

Ingredients for glaze:

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate (melt for glaze)
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
(I used Kahlua)
1/4 cup icing sugar (to dust on top of chocolate)


1. When cake has totally cooled, melt chocolate in microwave.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of coffee liqueur and mix well until you get a glaze-like consistency.

3. Drizzle melted chocolate in zigzag pattern over top of cake.

4. Once the chocolate has set, sprinkle with icing sugar.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Who dat? Dat is the best chicken jambalaya! In the "Supperbowls" of Nawlins-style jambalayas, this is a winner!

To honor the New Orleans Saints today, I made a pot of jambalaya with lots of spice to hope they heat things up against Indiana. I took a chance on a recipe that I actually found on a website for a northern city covering the topic of Louisiana. I am not sure how authentic it is according to anyone living in Acadia, but I can assure you that it is absolutely delicious with quite a depth of spice! I do not use chili powder from the average supermarket, and I hope you don't, either. The chili powder I use is from the Indian market, Patel Brothers, and is the finely ground powder. It is ten times spicier than the supermarket kind, thankfully!

I have been trying to play around with effects on my camera to start taking better food photos! I like how the photo came out, but I have a long way to go. Speaking of a long way to go, Geaux Saints! Lets hope they get lots of yards and plenty of touchdowns to make laissez les bon temps rouler!

Chicken Jambalaya (courtesy of

  • 4 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, diced
  • 4 large chicken thighs (skinless or skin on)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon medium-hot to hot chili powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

    Brown bacon pieces in large skillet. When crisp, add sweet red pepper, garlic and green onions and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken thighs and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Spoon out excess fat.

    Add thyme, marjoram, salt, chili powder and bay leaves. Mix gently. Add rice and chicken broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until rice is tender, liquid absorbed and chicken is done, about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
  • (Note: double if cooking for a crowd and cut up chicken in bite size pieces)
  • Saturday, February 6, 2010

    Goddess In the Kitchen!

    The New York Times published a wonderful guide to great snacks to prepare for Superbowl Sunday! Although tomorrow's dish that I cook will be Chicken Jambalaya in honor of the New Orleans Saints, I had to make something to snack on as well! There was a fantastic recipe for Greek Goddess Dip. After reading the recipe just yesterday, I knew I had to make it; the number of herbs in it was just irresistible. It took me all of ten minutes to make from start to finish. Although the dip itself does not contain traditional tailgating flavor, it is still absolutely delicious and would go wonderfully with any kind of pilsner beer. I made a few changes to make it a little healthier, so enjoy!

    Greek Goddess Dip (courtesy of The New York Times)
    1/2 cup fresh packed dill
    1/2 cup fresh packed parsley
    1/3 cup fresh packed basil
    2 garlic cloves, chopped
    2 scallions, white and green parts only
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    pinch of Kosher salt, to taste
    1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I used 1/4)
    1/2 cup of crumbled feta (I used lowfat)
    1/4 cup mayonnaise, optional (I used lowfat mayo and added 1 cup for extra creaminess)

    1. Place dill, mint, parsley, basil, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
    2. With motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Add feta and process until smooth; pulse in yogurt. Taste dip and add more salt, if desired. If you like a creamier, richer dip, add mayonnaise and pulse to combine.
    3. Serve dip immediately with vegetables or pita chips or cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    The Spaghetti Series - All'Amatriciana (#1)

    Lets face it: Monday's are as bad as those leftovers sitting in the back of your fridge for over a week.

    In order to brighten Mondays up a bit, I decided to create a weekly piece known as The Spaghetti Series. Each Monday I will post a new dish made with spaghetti for readers. It will be something simple, since Monday nights one is usually rather exhausted, but flavorful and fun to make.

    Tonight I begin the series with a sauce called Amatriciana - a traditional Italian sauce based on dried pork cheek, pecorino, and tomato - from the town of Amatrice. There are many recipes out there with many variations, so I took the basics and then made it my own. It had a wonderful heat to it for a cold winter's night, and of course bacon is one of the ultimate comfort foods (in moderation, of course!).

    Spaghetti All'Amatriciana

    2 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
    4 pieces of unsmoked bacon, center cut
    2 medium onions, diced
    2 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon dried marjoram
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    2 tablespoons fresh parsley
    2 cups of dry white wine
    salt and pepper to taste
    8 oz of cooked spaghetti
    grated pecorino romano

    - In a heavy saucepan, cook bacon until its well done and crispy. Remove and drain. Crumble.
    - Pour off all but one tablespoon of bacon goodness and place pot back on low heat
    - Add garlic and stir, 1 minute
    - Add onions and stir, scraping up the nice brown bits, 5 minutes
    - Add 1 cup of white wine (the 2nd cup is yours to drink), red pepper, marjoram, oregano, and parsley and let reduce (about 5 minutes)
    - Add tomatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes
    - Working in batches, puree the sauce in a blender
    - Return to pot and let simmer for another 30 minutes
    - Serve over spaghetti and top with grated romano cheese and some crumbled bacon.