Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Conga Bars

One of my favorite desserts is Cookie Cake. Conga Bars are exactly that, but cut like brownies. I made these recently for a football game tailgate. They are a hit with every crowd. The ingredients are simple and easy to have on hand, and they bake up in a snap. Also great when frozen.
Conga Bars
1 and 1/3 sticks (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 lb. (1 box) light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons best vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional: one bag of coconut shavings, chopped walnuts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan.

Melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla and allow to slightly cool. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each.

Sift together and blend flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend with wet ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread batter into greased pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until toothpick clean.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kings of Leon and a Mediterranean Tailgate Spread

Last Night Kings of Leon played at Walnut Creek. I prepared a spread of goodies for the pre-show parking lot events, it was fantastic.

Fresh off of a recent breakup, and as a treat for the hard work I've been putting in to training for my upcoming ten-miler and half-marathons, I spent yesterday getting a new coif and shopping for some new duds! I haven't felt so good in a while!  Read on for our awesome tailgate spread!

Event: Kings of Leon Tailgate
Location: Walnut Creek Amphitheater Parking Lot
Reason: Our Sex Is On Fire
Menu: Greek Style Orzo and Shrimp Salad
          White Bean Dip
          Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Greek Style Orzo and Shrimp Salad
1 lb. dry orzo (I like to use the whole wheat kind if it is handy)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I zap a large lemon in the microwave for about 20 seconds and use the juice)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (one of the herbs I tend to use dry)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb. cooked and cleaned shrimp
3 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped or a pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small container of feta cheese, crumbled
1 small can sliced black olives, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 Tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
From One Kooky Cook

Boil orzo and garlic cloves about 9-11 minutes.  Drain and rinse twice.  I like to add a splash of vegetable oil to make the pasta less sticky and give it some sheen.  Set garlic cloves to the side.  Prepare shrimp.  I like to buy one pound packages of large cooked frozen tail-on shrimp to keep around for this recipe.  It is so easy to keep the ingredients on hand and whip up in a hurry. Allow the shrimp to thaw while preparing the rest of the salad.  A shot of cool water every couple of minutes will help to speed up the thawing process without cooking the shrimp further.

From One Kooky Cook
Mash garlic cloves with 1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt to form paste.  Whisk together with lemon juice, thyme, and olive oil to make dressing.

Combine orzo, shrimp, tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, black olives, mint, and parsley.  Toss well with dressing.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with additional minced mint and parsley if desired.

From One Kooky Cook

White Bean Dip
1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 good sized shallot, rough chopped
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (juice of one large lemon)
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsely, minced

Combined beans, shallot, lemon juice, salt, olive oil, and oregano in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Garnish dip with parsley.

Serve with pita chips or crackers (I like Carr's Roasted Garlic Table Water Crackers), strips of red, green, and yellow bell pepper, grape tomatoes, and cucumber slices.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
8-10 large sized strawberries, rinsed
4 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate

Melt baking chocolate, microwave 30 seconds, stir and repeat until melted.  A small spoonful of shortening can be added to make smoother, but chocolate will not re-harden as readily.  Dip strawberries into chocolate and transfer to parchment paper.  Cool in refrigerator until ready to serve.

From One Kooky Cook
From One Kooky Cook

Fish Tacos Revisited

What's better than being able to use your leftovers to make an entirely new meal?

Sunday evening I re-twisted my fish tacos into a delicious Seared Tuna Salad with Black Beans and Corn. I

On top of a bed of baby spinach, I added about half a cup of left over Black Bean and Corn Salad and a few slices of the leftover seared tuna.  I topped it all off with a splash of Newman's Own Light Lime Vinaigrette. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's new and exciting in Raleigh?

Rocky - I got a dog! In May I adopted a Boxer from a girl here in Raleigh. His name is Rocky (perfect homage to Balboa). He is a giant 70 pound barrel of energy. Mom calls him a horse! He has been a terrific addition for me. He is a great running and walking partner, and loves to play with his toys! He is making new dog friends everyday, the best of which are Jackson, Allison's 8 lb Yorkie (they are the odd couple) and Melissa's Boxer, Mya.
From One Kooky Cook
From One Kooky Cook
From One Kooky Cook

The Harvest - last week I made a surprise trip down to Savannah with one of our surgeons to procure a heart for transplant. What an amazing experience!! We flew out of ground transportation on a Leer jet around 9:00 last Sunday night. Carolina Donor Services catered our trip with Jason's Deli, only adding to the coolness of the entire experience! We landed in Savannah about an hour later and were taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital. I scrubbed in with our surgeon to watch and assist in the harvest. It was amazing, there is no other opportunity to see the anatomy of the heart so clearly than when you are actually removing it.

In addition to us, there was a team from Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta harvesting a few other organs. The surgeon from Piedmont brought me down to his end of the table and went through the entire abdomen with me. I know it sounds gross, but it was amazing! As soon as the heart was packed on ice, we hustled out of the hospital, this time with lights and sirens back to the airport. We arrived back at RDU around 2:30, and I headed home to sleep for about two hours before heading back the next morning at 6!

I'm back!!

After almost a year of not posting, I have been re-inspired to get cooking and writing. New goals for my food and recipe diary: low-cost, healthy, and easy-to-pull-together entertaining menus.

To kick things off the impromptu Fish Taco party I threw last night. I did my grocery shopping for the week on Friday afternoon, and noticed some wild-caught tuna steaks on sale for $5.99/lb. They looked bright pink and delicious. Tuna is my go-to fish for it's heartiness and fabulous taste. Tuna never goes to waste in my house.

Grilled Tuna Tacos with adobo lime cream
Fresh Seasonal Peach Salsa
Black Bean and Corn Salad
Drink pairing - Bottled MGD 64

Grilled Tuna Tacos
1 lb fresh tuna steak (tips on tuna below)
Vegetable oil non-stick spray
Pinch of Sea or kosher salt
Chili Powder
1 head of purple cabbage, roughly chopped
8 corn tortillas
Adobo lime cream (below)
1/4 cup rough chopped cilantro, for garnish

Adobo lime cream
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (I save the chipotle peppers and remaining adobo to create other sauces and condiments)
Juice of one lime.

Combine all ingredients. For a cream without the kick, omit the adobo sauce. Increase lime juice for taste and consistency.

Wrap corn tortillas with aluminum foil and place in oven heated to 250 degrees to warm through until ready to serve.

Rough chop purple cabbage and set aside.

Season tuna steaks with vegetable oil, salt and chili powder. Preheat grill pan to medium-high. Sear tuna steaks about one minute each side. I prefer mine seared just on the outside with a cool center. Allow to rest for a minute or two before slicing into strips.

Assemble tacos. Place two corn tortillas open faced on each plate. Top with shredded purple cabbage followed by tuna. Top with drizzle of adobo lime cream and sprinkle of cilantro.

Tuna tips - tuna steak should have a nice, bright pink color. It should be firm to the touch. It should have a fresh ocean smell, never a fishy odor.

Cooking - I prefer to cook my tuna on a grill pan which will give the tuna pretty grill markings, however a regular fry pan works as well. I always opt for the non-stick variety. I like to let my tuna rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This allows for faster and more even searing. While the tuna is resting I season it with sea or kosher salt and pepper. Depending on the dish I may change the seasonings up a bit. Rather than oiling my pan, I like to spray my tuna with vegetable oil on each side. This prevents the tuna from sticking and also helps the seasoning stick to the fish.

Fresh Seasonal Peach Salsa thanks to Eclectic Recipes

This is terrific when peaches are at the peak of ripeness.

2-3 ripe, yet firm peaches, diced - I prefer to leave the skin on
1/4 red onion, diced
3 tablespoons mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
Pinch sea or kosher salt
Juice of one lemon
1 jalapeno, diced and seeded (for added heat leave jalapeno seeds to taste)

Combine all ingredients, refrigerate until ready to serve
Best when allowed to rest and refrigerate before serving. Flavors will meld with increased resting time.

Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer and accompaniment to tacos.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed
Three tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/3 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (any color, depending on visual preference)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
Two limes, zest of one lime, juice of two limes
1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
optional add-in: 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese at room temperature

Combine all ingredients, refrigerate and rest in refrigerator until ready to serve

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Apartment

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Infamous Oatmeal Pancakes

If you haven't heard me talk about these pancakes, that's a surprise.  I was obsessed with making these almost everyday (sometimes for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) for almost a year.  My favorite way to make them is Banana Oatmeal Pancakes.

1/4 c oat flour (I grind up whole oatmeal in the food processor and store)
3/4 c quick or rolled oats
1/2 cup buttermilk (you can use regular if you don't want to get buttermilk)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 whole egg, beaten or 2 egg whites

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl.  Let stand until thickened, and if possible chill in the refrigerator for several hours, up to overnight.  If batter thickens too much, add buttermilk throughout chilling.  Preheat a non-stick pan to medium heat and spray with oil.  Mix fruit of choice into batter (I like ripe banana slices).  Cook until nicely browned each side.