Archive for July, 2011

Who’s your daddy?!

July 31, 2011

In honor of my dad’s birthday tomorrow, I am cooking him a birthday feast. He hates birthdays so I am selling it as Sunday dinner and he won’t know the wiser since it is not yet Aug 1, he will just think I am making a fabulous dinner. I am making homemade pasta with Alfredo, chicken and broccoli, garlic bread, salad and also dessert. My dad has quite the sweet tooth, as does my mom, so I am doubly screwed :). In fact his favorite hobby is checking Fresh and Easy’s markdown shelves for the days dessert markdowns, so of course I had to make him something yummy. For some reason I remembered him liking pecan pie. I could be wrong but he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to pie.

I have never made pecan pie and I always love the challenge of a new recipe to tackle. This time I went for Tyler Florence’s individual pecan pie recipe because I thought it would be fun to make a bunch of cute little tasty pies. The fun part was cracking a huge bag of pecans in their shells and digging them out, I am sure you could use already shelled ones but I had some whole ones in my pantry. I think the addition of ground pecans to the crust is going to make it extra yummy, as I have another favorite recipe for Pecan Waffles, that also uses ground pecans. The pies are baking as I type so I will edit my post later to tell you how they taste. I used my extra crust to hand cut into some hearts to show my dad extra love. I think you could almost take any favorite pie recipe and make it into mini pies in the muffin tin, as this recipe does. This would be great if you were going to a party or hosting a cookout. I also think you could use store bought crust and cut it into the circles if you did not want to make your own crust too. There are so many ways to make a new recipe work for you. Gotta go now, my sweet tooth is calling…

Breakfast in France

July 28, 2011

Crepes. That word often instills fear in the hearts of many. Not fear like those Paranormal Activity movie trailers that make me want to run and hide but fear of a different sort. Crepes sound elusive and fancy and people may think they are impossible to make. But in reality crepes are more tangible than you think. They are simply pancake batter, but thinner, and all it takes is the technique to coat the pan and you can have a delicious treat. The best thing I love is that there is no right or wrong way. Sometimes my one batch of batter might make just a few really thick tasty crepes or if I feel like being proper I might make them the right way and have them be nice and thin and make a dozen or so. My Aunty Sandy often made crepes for me and my cousin when I had a sleepover at her house and she inspired me to learn how to make them.

I have tried many different recipes but have found that my trusty red and white checkerboard Better Homes & Gardens cookbook recipe is best. The thicker crepes were inspired by ones I had at the Parisian in Vegas, it was almost like a folded triangular Nutella sandwich in their version. You can fill them with things such as bananas, nutella, peanut butter, fresh strawberries or just plain with syrup and or confectionary sugar. Sometimes I throw a dash of vanilla or almond extract (any flavor of extract you like would be tasty) into the batter to add a unique flavor. Either way, once you get the coating of the pan with the batter trick down, you can be a master at crepes too! I have to admit every time I make them my first crepe is usually a dud, but the rest come out better. Here is my BH&G recipe:


2 Beaten Eggs

1 1/2 C milk

1 C flour

1T vegetable oil

2T sugar

Combine eggs, milk, flour, oil and sugar, beat with whisk gently till well mixed and lumps are gone. Heat lightly greased (with butter, gotta have this or it will stick) 6 inch skillet (or any size if you want larger crepes) and then remove from heat. This is key, you want to spoon the batter into the pan while you are holding it off of the heat. Spoon 2T of batter into skillet (I use about 1/4c for thicker crepes) and lift and tilt skillet to coat completely (in the circle in the bottom) and return to heat. Brown on one side only, once it looks like it has set you can lift the edge to see if it is browned. Once it has set and is browned flip and only cook on the second side for less than a minute or so, check by peeking at it. Stack on paper towels till you are finished, this recipe says it makes 18 crepes but my pan must be too big or crepes too thick, because it usually makes only 10 or so. You can also omit the sugar and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt for savory crepes to fill with cheese, grilled veggies, meat… but I am strictly a sweet crepe girl. So break out your skillet and Nutella and take a trip to Paris for a quick culinary vacay.

Terrific Tuna Vermicelli

July 26, 2011

I know many people cringe at the the word tuna, thinking of the canned variety with the happy little fish on the can, especially when I mention it in the same sentence as pasta. But this tried and true recipe has been my “go-to what the heck” can I make last minute recipe for years. The combination of the tuna along with the tomato and balsalmic vinegar just sings with deliciousness. When we lived in Italy I often saw Tonno or tuna in many dishes, even on pizza with hard boiled eggs! My mom taught me to make Tara’s tuna vermicelli at a very  young age and I would often make it afterschool to have dinner ready when she got home for work. I have fond memories of this recipe as I think along with my mom’s greek chicken one, it is one of the first things I really cooked on my own. Initially I made it with a can of tuna and then the vacuum sealed pack but lately I have been using one fresh tuna steak to make it.

Tara’s tuna vermicelli


2T olive oil

1 small chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic minced

1(14 oz) can of whole tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp dry basil or few leaves of fresh

2tsp parsley

1/4 tsp S&P

1T balsalmic vinegar – or more if you like

4 oz fresh mushrooms

1 can/vac pack of tuna or small tuna steak

8-12 oz vermicelli

First saute one small onion that is chopped up in olive oil, add garlic. Add fresh mushrooms to the onions to cook for a bit, if I have them I add artichokes to add more veggies. After the onion is cooked through and translucent add tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Let this simmer for a bit and add Balsalmic vinegar (I have to admit I am a huge fan so I often add quite a bit more and I don’t measure). Then add the pack of tuna or if you are using a fresh tuna steak add that (I usually cook it in a separate fry pan to get it medium). Let the sauce simmer for about 5 mins so the flavors come together. While your sauce is cooking get your pasta ready. You can use vermicelli or any pasta. I like to scoop the pasta out of the hot water and add it directly to the sauce for maximum flavor and also some of the pasta water adds nice flavor to the sauce. Top with grated Romano cheese and cracked fresh black pepper and enjoy. Yes it is a sin in Italy to put cheese on seafood (I know Scott Conant is gonna get me) but I like to live on the edge! Just wait until your taste buds get a sample of this incredible dish, you won’t be disappointed!

Butter Burgers, need I say more?

July 24, 2011

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, I have been busy cooking up a storm, Pork Marsala, Roasted Asparagus with homemade hollandaise, Tuna Vermacelli (will post that one later), and last night Butter Burgers with Garlic Fries, fresh corn and Berry Crostada. The butter burgers I made last night were phenomenal. I did not use the 2T of butter per bun as suggested, used a bit less and it was still good. I was surprised to find some tasty ground sirloin at the good ol’ commissary, usually when I need a specific cut of meat it is not there. I loved the simplicity of this recipe and also of the garlic fry recipe. Less ingredients equal more flavor and the main ingredient can really shine. The sirloin tasted just perfect with the onions and butter, they did not need any other help, other than the S&P.

The garlic fries are a staple if you go to the Giant’s stadium and I have always wanted to know how to make them. The oven version made them a bit healthier and they still tasted great. The fresh parsley and garlic really added some zing to the crisp oven fries. But if you have a date with Edward Cullen or Bill Compton planned in your future you might want to watch out for all the garlic, we all had serious garlic breath after. We had our burgers and fries with fresh corn from a local farm and ended our meal with the Upside down Berry Crostada I previously posted. I used peaches and blueberries in this batch and I always use less fruit than Giada calls for because I like the crust better. I also whipped one cup of heavy cream with 2T of sugar and 1/2t of vanilla till stiff peaks formed and I made homemade whipped cream. Needless to say my folks left with happy full bellies, as all my guests do, and I am happy to feed them with my love from the kitchen!

spicy cauliflower yum yums

July 10, 2011

Hello everyone! Tonight to go along with my Teryaki chicken that I made from my recipe on here I had to think of a new side to try. I had a sad looking bag of cauliflower in my freezer that was just calling me to give it some inspiration. Of course my trusty food network site provided me with this great cauliflower recipe. I was amazed how delicious and flavorful this recipe turned out. Who woulda thunk cauliflower could be spicy and also not boring anymore. I did cook it a bit less since it was frozen and I think the fresh would taste even better. Roasting the cauliflower in the oven added a nutty sweetness to it and the spices of garlic, thyme and red pepper really married well. I also served it with a bag of Alexia Reds. If you have not found Alexia sides in your freezer section you need to scope them out, they are healthy natural and delicious. So if you need to take your bland cauliflower and kick it up a notch, then check out this recipe (and tons of other cool cauliflower recipes on food network if you do a search) and make your dinner sing!

I found my thrill on blueberry buckle hill…

July 8, 2011

Just a quick yummy post to brighten up your  weekend. I love when blueberries are in season. There is nothing better than getting a big container of juicy sweet berries for a steal instead of the arm and a leg they cost during off season. There are so many delicious treats you can make, my Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe, blueberry cobbler, blueberry pancakes and most importantly, blueberry buckle. Is this a crazy new fashion trend you are trying Tara? No a buckle in terms of baking is defined as “a buckle is an old-fashioned, single-layer cake with a streusel-type topping. The batter is quite dense. As the cake bakes, the batter sinks to the bottom of the pan, which makes the streusel buckle on top.”  You can’t go wrong with crumb topping, I would eat most anything topped with it! I have the recipe on one of my trusty Margie recipe cards but I will share the link with you so I won’t miss anything, click here to get the recipe. I don’t use shortening when I make it, I always use butter and also I use 9″ square pan and it comes right to the top when baking so I would not use the 8×8 listed here. So grab a pint (not beer) and make this yummy treat to sweeten up your Sunday!

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs

July 5, 2011

I have been debating whether to put this post or not, as it is sort of a secret family recipe, but I figure why not share the love? Hoepfully my mom won’t have me taken out for sharing it with my readers (love you mom!). We had friends staying with us for the holiday weekend so of course I had to cook some yummy treats for them, as I love to do. I made my mom’s famous spaghetti sauce and everyone cleaned their bowls. The secret to my mom’s sauce is simple, she doesn’t put a whole lot in it, the flavors speak for themselves. The other important part is that she uses a lot of meat in her sauce, which adds a big flavor. She puts meatballs, italian sausage, stew beef or steak tips (if you are an east coaster you know what these are, please mail me some tips from Market Basket!) and sometimes pepperoni too.

She uses 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and 1 can of whole tomatoes which I always got to break up with my hands as a kid, the best part for me of making the sauce. Any kind of tomatoes will do but San Marzano are the best (imported from Italy, found them here on the base) or Pastene tomatoes if you are back east. You also need one or two cans of tomato paste. You start by sauteing one small onion and some garlic in olive oil.

Then you cook the meat. To make my moms awesome meatballs you use a pound of ground beef, about 3/4 cup italian progresso breadcrumbs and one egg. You mix this all together until you can roll the balls together. I have tried adding a million different things to her meatballs and I always come back to this simple recipe (see photo about for some meatball love). I usually brown my meatballs on med-low heat first, take those out and then cook sausage and tips. Then I add the meatballs back in before adding the tomatoes. Pepperoni can be added at the end, whole pepperoni links that you slice yourself add the best flavor.

After the meat browns, add the tomatoes as well as the tomato paste and oregano, parsley and basil, S&P and also a few teaspoons of sugar to cut down on the acidity. I would say about a teaspoon of each spice but it is up to you. I like to use fresh basil if it is handy. Sometimes I add mushrooms to the sauce and sometimes I don’t. My mom says to let it cook for an hour or so, I had to do it a bit longer to get my stew beef to tenderize in my dutch oven the last time. Taste so you can adjust the spice. Sometimes I recruit taste testers in our house and they always love the job. Toss with your favorite pasta and manga! You can always freeze portions in tupperware so you can thaw for dinner another time, my mom does this and has at least 5-6 weeks of Thursday sauce night in her freezer from one batch of sauce.

To add to the yummy feast I also made a caprese salad using fresh basil, sliced mozzarella, and Campari tomatoes. What are Campari tomatoes you may ask? Well on the box it says “the tomato lovers tomato” and this couldn’t be more true. Campari tomatoes are sweet and have such an amazing flavor. These tomatoes are easily found anywhere, I always found them at stop and shop back east and find them here at most stores, even Wal-Mart. They are in a little plastic container and usually it comes with about 8 tomatoes or so. They look like vine ripened tomatoes but taste 10 times better. They cost about $4 but are well worth the splurge. The last treat we added to our feast was garlic bread made on fresh San Fran sourdough. So who’s coming over for dinner?