SUGARED: The Christmas Episode

Watch this step-by-step video for making my White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Sea Salt.

Happy Holidays!!!

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‘Tis the Season to be Baking!

Looking for some last minute cookie recipes?  Here are my 4 favorites to make during the holiday season.  Just click on the highlighted names to be directed to the recipes.

My White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Sea Salt are hands down my most requested cookie recipe.

Two I love to make this time of year are my Soft and Chewy Gingersnap Cookies and The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies.

And no Christmas is complete for me without sharing my favorite cookie from childhood, My Auntie Kate’s Cream Cheese Cherry Cookies.

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Auntie Kate’s Cream Cheese Cherry Cookies

If I get my baking talents from anyone, it’s definitely my Aunt Kate.  This is her recipe and these cookies were my favorite as a little girl.  I still remember dangling from my auntie’s bellbottomed pant leg begging her to make these whenever she came to visit.  As I got older, we made them together.  She shared with me what would become my most treasured recipe.

A few years ago, my aunt passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly.  She was my second mother and words cannot express how much I miss her everyday.

When I make her cookies now, I can feel her over my shoulder, going through the steps and making them with me.  I’m transported back in time to conversations we had, her gigantic laugh and her brilliant smile that could light up any room.  Food and cooking is something that truly connects us to the people we love, even when they are no longer with us.

Of all the memories I have with my aunt, and there are many of them, it’s when I make these cookies that I feel closest to her.  And now I share this recipe, and the abundance of love that comes with it, with you.  Happy Holidays, Xoxo, J

Auntie Kate’s Cream Cheese Cherry Cookies

Servings: About 4 dozen


Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (not runny or whipped)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened (not whipped)

about 2 cups powdered sugar

2 jars (12 -14 ounces each) of maraschino cherries

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix together flour and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl with electric mixer, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Add flour mixture to butter and cream cheese and blend in just till combined.  Don’t overwork the dough.

Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk about 2 inches thick.  Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness on a cutting board or flat surface sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Using a ruler for accuracy, cut dough into 2×2 squares with a knife.

Place 1 maraschino cherry in the center of each square and fold 2 sides so that they meet and cover the cherry.  Be sure to secure dough to prevent opening up during baking.

Bake at 375 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for about 10 minutes or until bottoms are just lightly browned.  Do not over-bake.

Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

When completely cooled, sprinkle cookies with powdered sugar.

Baked cookies can be stored frozen for up to 3 months sealed in an airtight, freezer safe container or freezer safe baggie.

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How NOT to look like Santa’s stand-in this holiday season…

xmasjessica1

How do we food lovers indulge and have fun without paying the price of the dreaded holiday pounds at the end of the year? My New Year’s Eve little black dress will be VERY unforgiving should I go too far.

I decided to call on my dear friend and celebrity trainer Christine Hazelton to give us some tips.  Chris whips people like Matt Damon, Dane Cook, Sonya Walger, Thomas Jane, and yours truly into camera-ready shape right here in Los Angeles.

Here’s her advice for all of us:

1. Think eighty/twenty. Eighty percent of the time challenge yourself and make good choices, and twenty percent of the time allow yourself to color outside of the lines. Moderation is the key to long term success.

2. Eat slowly and stop when you feel ALMOST full, rather than eating until you feel “stuffed.”

3. Stop before you eat something and ask yourself. Is this worth it? Is this the best choice I can make right now?

4. Eat healthy before you go to a holiday party and decide that nothing tastes as good as being lean feels.  Keep repeating that to yourself.

5. Decide how you would like to look and weigh (body fat percent). Act as if you already weigh that amount NOW. How do you feel? How do you eat? How do you interact?

6. Make a contract with yourself and have a friend or your spouse sign it. Commit to certain rules for a given period of time -like having only a couple of bites of dessert at Christmas parties and/or completing a certain number of workouts over the holiday season. At the end of the contract period give yourself a reward (not food obviously) for completing the contract successfully. Only give yourself the reward if you complete the commitment.

7. Make a goal for January 1st rather than waiting to make a New Years Resolution. Write it down and place it somewhere visible along with a list of goals that you’ve accomplished in the past.  If you’ve done it before, you can do it again!

8. If you hear yourself say “Fu&% it!” when about to eat something, do the exact opposite of what you’re about to do!

Chris is also the creator of the amazing phone app BODYFATE: a fitness game that entertains and challenges you while getting you into the best shape of your life!  It’s a killer workout you can do anywhere, anytime.  I use it when I can’t get to the gym and I even use it at the gym as my “personal trainer” to help me with my workout.

Don’t let the characters in this cartoon fool you- this is one ass-kicking circuit workout! Featured in The New York Times, Men’s Fitness and ABC News, this app is like having your own personal trainer programmed right into your phone.

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Talking “Leftovers” on THE TALK…

Leftover Day: Cranberry Margaritas!!!

cranberry margarita

What to do with all that leftover cranberry sauce?  It will keep for two weeks in the fridge so don’t throw it away too soon!  Stir it in your oatmeal, swirl into greek yogurt, spread it on some toast.  And for something really fun, try these easy margaritas.

*Note: You can omit the tequila for your non-alcoholic friends and kids.

Cranberry Margaritas

Makes 2 drinks over ice

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons cranberry sauce (you can also use cranberry jelly)
2 ounces orange juice
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
limes wedges for garnish

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker 3/4 of the way full with ice. Add cranberry sauce, orange juice, tequila and lime juice. Cover shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass over ice.  Garnish with a lime wedge.
*For a salt rim: Spread about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt on a saucer. Run a lime wedge over the rim of cocktail glass to moisten. Then dip rim into salt to coat.

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Leftover Day: Pilgrim’s Pie

The day AFTER Thanksgiving has become just as popular in my home as the actual event. Now, I know what you’re thinking: the last thing anyone wants to worry about on Friday is cooking.  Unless you’re making a Pilgrim’s Pie!  Forget cramming 47 leftover dishes into the microwave.  Instead, layer everything in one baking dish (much like a Shepherd’s Pie), heat it in the oven and serve.
Use whatever you’ve got in the fridge (turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, gravy, even cranberry sauce!) and no additional ingredients are needed.

PILGRIM’S PIE

Preheat oven to 350º.
Grease a baking dish with butter or non-stick spray.
Chop up turkey meat into bite size pieces.
Start to layer leftovers, one by one, into a baking dish. (I like to begin with the stuffing to give it a nice base.)
Add remaining layers and top with mashed potatoes.
Bake at 350º for about 20-30 minutes- until hot all the way through.  Let the potatoes brown a little on top.  If they start brown too much before dish is completely heated, cover with foil for the remaining time.

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Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie for Thanksgiving?  Oh yeah baby!  This light, citrusy dessert is the perfect balance after a heavy meal and one of my most requested dishes on turkey day.  It adds a whole lot of pizazz to the dessert table, no to mention, it’s one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make.

Key Lime Pie

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

5 egg yolks

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (squeezed from about 1 pound or 18-20 key limes)

1 teaspoon zest of key lime

1/4 teaspoon salt

*1 Graham Cracker Crust Pie Shell

** Whipped Cream Topping

lime slices for garnish

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, lime zest and salt and mix until well combined.

Pour into graham cracker crust and bake for 15 minutes until filling is set.

Cool completely, slice pie and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a lime slice for garnish.

*Graham Cracker Crust Pie Shell

Makes one 9 or 10-inch Pie Crust

Ingredients:

2 cups crushed graham crackers

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter- melted

Directions:

In a medium to large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar.

Mix in the melted butter a little at a time, using your hands to combine all ingredients.

Press crust mixture evenly into a 9 or 10-inch pie shell.

 

 

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Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Chickpeas

Roasted Cauliflower For my Thanksgiving dinner, I love to mix up traditional favorites along with some tempting new creations.  Here’s a scene stealing side dish of cauliflower and chick peas that adds a modern twist to any holiday table.  It can be served hot or at room temperature (making it a nice d0-ahead dish.)

Roasted Cauliflower with Curry and Chickpeas

Makes about 8 side servings

Ingredients:

1 medium cauliflower head, cut into florets

1 onion, chopped large dice

1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon curry

2 teaspoons paprika

1 /8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine cauliflower florets, chopped onions and chickpeas.  Set aside.

Melt butter over stovetop in a small pot.  Remove from heat and stir in olive oil, all the spices and salt, followed by the balsamic vinegar.  Pour over cauliflower mixture and toss until all is evenly coated.

Lightly spray a large baking sheet and place cauliflower mixture in a single layer in pan.

Roast for about 30 minutes, gently turning 2 or 3 times during roasting for even cooking, until cauliflower is caramelized in color and fork tender.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

 

 

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Watch “THE TALK” Monday on CBS!!!

This is gonna be fun!  I’ll be cooking on THE TALK this MONDAY on CBS sharing some great recipes for Thanksgiving!  Oh, and ladies… Matthew McConaughey will be there too!

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

pumpkin cookiesFor a fun Thanksgiving treat, try these yummy Pumpkin Cookies. A soft cake-like cookie topped with cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 40 cookies

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 15-ounce can of pumpkin (not “pumpkin pie” filling)

*Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.  Mix well and set aside.

In a mixer with paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer) cream together butter and sugars on medium-speed for 3 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to make sure all is combined evenly.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Then add the pumpkin and mix until well combined.

Turn the mixer on low-speed and slowly add in the flour mixture.  Mix just until all is combined- again, scraping down the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula.

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, scoop heaping tablespoons of dough, placing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Let cookies cool completely on a wire rack.

When completely cool, frost cookies.

*For a less sweet treat, these cookies are pretty delicious all on their own, unfrosted.  You can also dust a bit of powdered sugar on top instead of frosting.

**Cookies can be frozen for at least 1 month.  (If you are freezing frosted cookies, put them on a plate- unwrapped- and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes so that the frosting can stiffen up a bit. Place sheets of parchment paper in between layers of cookies to prevent smudging the frosting.)

*Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachement (or a hand-held whisk) cream together the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to low and add the vanilla until well blended. Do not overmix.

Frosting can be refrigerated for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before frosting cupcakes.

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TWO WEEK Countdown To Thanksgiving 2014…

 

Lucy cooks!

Is hosting Thanksgiving this year making you feel a bit… overwhelmed?  Relax- it’s supposed to be fun.  And with a little forethought and a good game plan, it will be.

jessie

First, here are some of my classic Turkey Day recipes.  It’s got you covered with all the essentials: Turkey, Stuffing, Sides and Dessert.  More recipes to come so keep checking in! And be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the upper right hand corner) to this blog so you don’t miss out on any fun stuff that’s happening here at jessicacollins.com!

Click on any of these for the complete recipe:

Oven Roasted Turkey

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Bread Stuffing

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Braised Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Maple Syrup

Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Apple Pie with Scotch-Spiked Cherries

Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart

Next, here’s my 2-Week Countdown.  A “to do” list and the same one I follow for my own holiday meal preparation.

By now, you’ve invited your guests right?  No?  Ok, stop reading immediately, go do that, and then come back… I’ll wait.

And here we go…

TWO WEEKS BEFORE:

Take this whole week to get a little done each day.  By spreading it all out, it won’t seem so overwhelming.

*Get a head count of how many guests you’ll be cooking for.

*Plan your menu.  Start gathering recipes including some of  the ideas listed above.

*Order your turkey.  2 lbs/adult and 1 lb/child will guarantee some yummy leftovers.

*Choose linens, dishes, glasses, serving dishes, flatware, etc.  Make sure you have all the pots and pans you need.  Purchase or borrow from friends/family anything you’re missing this week.

*Replace any spices, baking powder or flour that has been in your pantry over a year.

*Buy wine, liquor and any other beverages you will be serving.

*Clean out your  refrigerator and freezer- you’re going to need the room!

ONE WEEK BEFORE:

Okay now we’re in it.  And you’ll be happy that you got so much done last week.

Early in the week:

*Finalize your menu and then make your shopping list.

*Pick up your turkey and nonperishable groceries

3 DAYS BEFORE:

*If you’re dry brining your turkey with the recipe here on my blog, you’ll want to do that today and get it in the refrigerator so it gets the full 3 days of brining.

2 DAYS BEFORE:

*Shop for your perishable groceries.

*Make cranberry sauce and pie crusts dough and refrigerate.  Cranberry sauce lasts for 2 weeks and the pie dough will keep for up to 5 days, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

1 DAY BEFORE

*Prepare all reheatable side dishes, bake pies, prep ingredients (washing veggies, chop onions/celery, etc)

*Set the table.  I do this at the end of the night.  A nice way to wind down after all the pre-cooking.

Thanksgiving Day:

RELAX!  You’ve done the work.  All that’s left is the turkey, a side or two and the gravy.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your day.  You pulled the whole thing off!

Happy Cooking!

~Jessica
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Elvira and Her Very Wary Pumpkin…

elvira and pumpkin

Throughout the month of October, my house is all about pumpkin … Pumpkin Ice Cream, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Pumpkin Pie, and my Pumpkin Cookies which you can find the recipe to in this week’s  “Dishing with Jessica” in Soap Opera Digest!  Here’s what’s happening today in my kitchen…

pumpkin-bread

Pumpkin Spice Bread

This bread is mildly sweet with a whole lot of spice.  I like it on its own or sometimes I’ll spread a little butter or cream cheese along with some jam to add a little something special.   
Servings: About 8

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (plus a little extra for greasing)

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9X5-inch loaf pan with a pat of butter or spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, add pumpkin and whisk in melted butter.  Add brown sugar and whisk until combined and no lumps appear.  Whisk in eggs followed by the vanilla until all is combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until evenly combined.  Fold in nuts if using.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour until a fork or toothpick come out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes and then remove bread from pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Bread can be frozen for up to a month, sealed tight in a freezer safe baggie or container.

 

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National Chocolate Day!!!

This recipe comes from Bon Appétit Magazine with a warning attached- “YOU WILL EAT THE ENTIRE TRAY.”  They weren’t kidding- it was next to impossible for me to snap these photos without eating all of my props!

I love the browned butter in this recipe.  It adds a rich nutty flavor to this super fudgy brownie.  And the recipe couldn’t be simpler- all the ingredients are mixed together in one pot!

P.S.  I also made a batch with no nuts (see picture below) and they were equally as dangerous!

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts

Adapted (very little) from Bon Appétit Magazine

Servings: about 16

Ingredients:

Nonstick oil spray

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1- inch cubes

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

2 large eggs, chilled

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 cup walnut pieces, toasted (optional)

Directions:

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides, leaving a 2-inch overhang.  Coat foil with nonstick spray.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often- about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add the sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla and salt.  Stir to blend.

Let cool for 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot.)

Add eggs to hot mixture one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition.

When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended.  Beat vigorously for 60 strokes.

Stir in the nuts and transfer batter to the prepared pan.

Bake brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on a rack.  Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan.  Cut brownies into squares.

Brownies can be stored airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days or you can freeze them for up to 1 month in a freezer safe container or freezer safe ziplock bag.

*How to toast nuts:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes.  Halfway through toasting, give nuts a little toss for even cooking.  Watch them like a hawk for the last few minutes of toasting so that they don’t burn.  Nuts are done when they smell toasty and have a deeper more concentrated flavor.  Cool completely before using in recipe.

Here’s a batch I made without nuts.  Ridiculously fudgy and good!  These were gobbled up faster than the first tray.  (I had help in eating these- I swear!)

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Harissa Roasted Chicken with Spinach and Peas

chicken-harissa

Harissa is one of my favorite exotic ingredients to use.  Available at most supermarkets in the form of a spicy paste or hot sauce, harissa is very popular in North African and Middle Eastern cookery.  It’s often served with couscous and pairs beautifully with beef, chicken and lamb dishes, roasted potatoes and vegetables.  Personally, I LOVE to add a dollop to my scrambled eggs!

Harissa Roasted Chicken with Spinach and Peas

Serves 2

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.  Just be sure to use a bigger sauté pan.  You can serve it over rice or couscous but it’s also terrific just on its own.  Not a fan of peas or spinach?  Omit them- or add something else like kale, broccoli, corn or asparagus.

Ingredients:

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 cup harissa paste or sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

2 heaping cups of fresh spinach (or 1 cup frozen)

1/2 cup chicken broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Dry chicken thighs with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

In a cast iron skillet or medium to large saute pan, heat pan over medium- high heat.   When hot, add olive oil.  Place chicken thighs skin side down and cook for 5 minutes until skin is nice and golden.  Turn over and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove thighs from pan and transfer to a plate.

With pan drippings still in pan, on medium heat, add onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes until softened.  Stir in harissa and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Add peas, spinach and chicken broth and simmer until spinach is wilted- about 3 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and place chicken thighs back in the pan skin side up.  Turn thighs once or twice so that each piece is covered in the sauce.

Place pan in oven, uncovered, and cook for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through.

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1-2-3… Peanut Butter Cookies

peanut-butter-cookies

Here’s a great recipe when you’re craving a quick treat.  Only THREE ingredient cookies and perfect for my gluten-free readers!  For a healthier version, I like to use natural peanut butter and sub the sugar with honey- but do keep in mind, this will make your dough a bit stickier.  You can refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes to help with that.

3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about a dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy depending on your taste)

1/2 cup honey (you can also use 1/2 cup white sugar)

1 large egg

Ok… I cheat a bit and add a 4th ingredient! A tiny pinch of sea-salt on each cookie before baking. Not a must, but I do think it takes this easy-bake cookie to the next level!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, combine first three ingredients and mix with a large spoon until well combined.

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough per cookie, and roll into a ball.   You may find the dough is too soft (especially if you are using natural peanut butter) -if so, chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to stiffen up before rolling into balls.

Gently press down on each cookie with a fork in a criss-cross pattern.  Dip fork in water in between presses if dough gets sticky.  Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt if you are using the magical fourth ingredient!

Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Cookies will still be soft on the inside.

*Cookies can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for at least 1 month.

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Turkey Bolognese with Roasted Eggplant

Now that the weather is getting cooler I’m craving some warm comfort food.  This hearty sauce, full of protein and veggies, hits the spot!  Use whole wheat pasta for a healthier version and feel free to substitute the turkey with ground beef, chicken or bison.

turkey-bolognese-eggplant

Turkey Bolognese with Roasted Eggplant

Serves 4

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 large eggplant

2 medium size onions, diced small

2 celery stalks, diced small

1 carrot, shredded

4-5 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 six-ounce can tomato paste

1 pound ground turkey (preferably dark meat)

salt and pepper

2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes and their juices

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leave

2 thyme sprigs

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup basil leaves, chopped (plus some whole leaves to garnish with)

1 pound pasta of your choice

Grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off stem and ends of eggplants and then cut the eggplant lengthwise into approximately 1/2-inch thick slices.  Then cut into 1/2-inch bites.  Place in a large roasting pan single file.

Salt eggplant and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Roast for 20-30 minutes until soft all over and browned in some spots.

While eggplant is roasting, heat up a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onions, celery, carrot, and garlic until softened- about 8-10 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Increase heat to medium-high and add the ground turkey, stirring to mix and break up the meat, and cook until starting to brown and no longer pink.  Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Add canned tomatoes and their liquid, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, thyme sprigs and balsamic vinegar.  Break up tomatoes with spoon, bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes partially covering the saucepan with cover.

Gently stir in chopped basil and eggplant and simmer while cooking your pasta.

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Toss sauce with pasta, divide into bowls and garnish with a couple of fresh basil leaves.

Serve pasta with parmesan cheese and fresh black pepper.

bolognese

 

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Fish Sticks with Tarter Sauce

fish-sticks

Not your elementary-school-cafeteria fish sticks (although I can’t be the only one who thought those were delicious, right?) this dish combines the best of children’s comfort food along with culinary sophistication.  I like to pair it with some roasted broccoli or corn, maybe a butter leaf salad and a Rosé or Sancerre white wine.

Fish Sticks with Tarter Sauce

Makes 4 servings

Tarter Sauce Ingredients:

3/4 cups mayonnaise

3 tablespoons pickle relish or finely chopped up pickles (sweet or dill both work great)

3 tablespoons drained capers

3 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Tarter Sauce Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill until ready to use.

Fish Stick Ingredients:

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 1/2 pounds firm-flesh whitefish like halibut or cod, about 3/4 inch thickness cut into 3 by 3/4  inch strips

salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil, divided (2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons)

Fish Stick Directions:

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl with a fork and set aside.

Spread out panko breadcrumbs on a plate.

Season fish with a small amount of salt and pepper.

Working in 2 batches, coat fish slices in egg followed by panko breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add half of the fish sticks and cook, turning often, until crust is a nice golden brown color on all sides and fish is opaque in the center- about 3-5 minutes total frying time.

Transfer fish sticks to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm while you repeat these steps to make the second batch.  If needed, return the first batch to the pan when ready to serve to warm them up.

Serve fish sticks immediately with tarter sauce.

 

 

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Chocolate Molten Cake

Seriously my friends… for anyone who loves chocolate, it doesn’t get any better than this! Plus, it’s the perfect dessert for a date or a dinner party because it can be made earlier in the day, then baked right before serving.

chocolate-molten-cake

CHOCOLATE MOLTEN CAKE

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons flour, plus more for for dusting (you can also dust with cocoa powder- I like this because you wont see flour residue when you turn out the cake.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease with butter and lightly flour (or cocoa powder) four 5-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Tap out any excess flour/cocoa powder. Set ramekins on a baking sheet.

In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt butter and chocolate. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer or a hand held mixer, on medium to high speed, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt until thickened and pale in color- about 3 minutes.

Stir the chocolate and butter until smooth and quickly fold it into the egg mixture. Add the flour. Gently fold all ingredients together just until combined evenly and not streaky.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared ramekins and bake for 7-9 minutes. The center will still be quite soft but the sides will be set.

Let the cakes cool for 1 minute out of the oven and then cover with dessert plate. Carefully turn each cake over. Let stand for 10 seconds and slowly lift up the mold. Serve immediately. Top with a dollop of whip cream or ice cream and garnish with some mint leaves or fresh berries.

Note: You can make this dessert earlier in the day. Batter can sit for several hours in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking.

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Chicken Cacciatore

In honor of “Throwback Thursday,” two years ago on “The Young and the Restless” it was revealed that, outside the courtroom, my character Avery Bailey Clark was a pretty serious “closet chef”… and had a kitchen to die for in her Penthouse!  NAVERY fans will remember that this is the first meal Avery made for Nick, which made quite the impression on the most eligible bachelor in Genoa City.

avery-kitchen

Perfect for your own “date night” at home, this one-pot meal can be made start to finish in under an hour.  Pair it with a green salad and a nice bottle of red wine.

chicken-cacciatore

 

Chicken Cacciatore

Serves: 4

 Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 pound cremini or white mushrooms, quartered (cremini will have a deeper flavor)

1 large celery stalk, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

8 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

3/4 cup dry red wine

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Directions:

Pat dry chicken thighs and season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Place flour in a small bowl and dip each chicken thigh in the flour just to lightly coat. Shake off any excess flour.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken thighs to pan skin-side-down and brown for 5 minutes, then turn over and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Leave oil and fat in the pan. Note: If all the chicken does not fit in the pan without crowding, you can brown it in 2 batches.

In same pan, still on medium heat, add the onion, pancetta, mushrooms, celery, carrot, red pepper, garlic, oregano, thyme and red chili flakes. Saute on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add canned tomatoes (including juice) and the wine and bring mixture to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until chicken is tender and cooked all the way though-about 35-40 minutes.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

 Serve over fettuccine or your favorite pasta or rice.

* If sauce is still not thick enough to your liking when the chicken is cooked, remove chicken from pan and let sauce boil for 3- 5 minutes to thicken. Return chicken to pan and serve as directed above.

* The pancetta can be omitted for folks that don’t eat pork as can any of the vegetables if there is something your not crazy about. Make it your own, the way you like it best!

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Shrimp Scampi over Pasta

This dish can be made from start to finish in about 15 minutes and is as good as anything you’ll find in a restaurant.  For a lighter version, skip the pasta and add a green salad on the side.

shrimp-scampi

SHRIMP SCAMPI OVER PASTA

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3/4 lb linguini or penne pasta

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lb (about 20 -25 count) peeled and deveined raw shrimp

salt and pepper (for seasoning shrimp)

5 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

5 tablespoons cold butter cut into cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions just to “al dente” (chewy not mushy), drain pasta, return to pot and drizzle in about a tablespoon of olive oil and toss. Set aside.

Pat shrimp dry and season lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a large skillet on a medium flame, heat olive oil and then add shrimp. Saute just until cooked through- about 2 minutes.

Remove shrimp from pan and set aside, leaving olive oil still in pan. Add garlic, pepper flakes, white wine and lemon juice. Cook of high heat for 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low and add cold butter cubes, stirring constantly until fully melted.

Season with 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper and add the chopped parsley.

Add shrimp and pasta back to pan and toss to coat evenly with sauce.

Serve immediately.

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Blueberry Cobbler

Why do I love cobblers and crisps to much?  Because no matter what, they ALWAYS come out delicious.  Perhaps the most forgiving dessert on the planet, this is THE recipe for my first-time bakers to try.  No special equipment needed- just a mixing bowl, a pie dish and your hands.

Blueberry Cobbler

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter to grease pie dish

For Filling:

4 cups of fresh blueberries (frozen berries can be used in off-season)

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

For Cobbler Topping:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup  heavy cream

2 Tablespoons heavy cream + 1 Tablespoon sugar (for brushing over cobbler)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven (this will catch any spillover during baking.)  Grease a 9-inch pie dish with 1 Tablespoon of butter and set aside.

To prepare the filling, in a large bowl, combine blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt.  Mix well and transfer to pie dish.  Dot filling evenly with tiny pieces of butter and set aside.

To prepare the cobbler topping, in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and mix well.

Add cold butter cubes to flour mixture and pinch with your fingers until butter is the size of tiny peas.

Add the heavy cream and gently mix with your hands just until you make a soft dough.  Do not knead the dough.

Drop dollops of dough over blueberries.  Don’t worry about it looking too perfect - this is a RUSTIC dessert!  Brush with remaining heavy cream and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes on center rack in the oven until biscuits are golden and filling is bubbling.

Let cool slightly and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Note: Feel free to make this recipe your own!  You can replace the blueberries with raspberries, peaches, blackberries, strawberries or a combination of fruits for this cobbler.  I like to use juicier fruits like the ones I’ve listed since they release more liquid in the filling: perfect for the cobbler biscuits to sop up during serving!

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Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad

Heirloom tomatoes are everywhere right now!  And this salad is effortlessly delicious since tomatoes are as ripe and in season as they will be all year.

tomato-burrata

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata

 Serves 4-6 side servings

Ingredients:

4 large heirloom tomatoes (or 5 to 6 Roma tomatoes), sliced 1/4 inch thick

sea salt (or table salt)

cracked black pepper

about 8 ounces of burrata cheese (mozzerella will also work beautifully)

about 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Take about 10 basil leaves and stack them one on top of each other. Roll the pile of basil leaves lengthwise into a fairly tight cigar shape. Take a knife and make very think slices across the “cigar”. Once all sliced, fluff up the shreds with your fingers. This is known as “basil chiffonade.” Repeat with any remaining basil leaves.

Arrange tomatoes on serving platter and season with salt and pepper. Scatter dollaps of burrata cheese followed by basil chiffonade over tomatoes.

Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top of tomatoes just before serving.

 

 

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Buttermilk Pie with Fresh Berries

An easy and delicious cream pie, perfect for a mid-August barbecue!

buttermilk-pie

Buttermilk Pie

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:
For the Vanilla Wafer Crust

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (about 9 ounces of cookies)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

For the Pie Filling:

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

2 Tablespoons flour

For the Topping:

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

about 1 cup of your favorite berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)  or use a combination of berries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For crust, combine cookie crumbs and sugar and mix well.  Add melted butter and mix with hands until well blended.  Press into a 9-inch pie dish and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk eggs and sugar together.  Add buttermilk, lemon zest, vanilla and salt.  Slowly add in melted butter and whisk until combined.  Add flour and whisk until no lumps remain.  Pour batter into pie dish.

Bake for about 50-55 minutes until custard filling has set and doesn’t jiggle.  Custard top will be light golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.  Pie will deflate a bit upon cooling.

Just before serving prepare the topping.  Mix heavy cream, sugar and vanilla together in a cold mixing bowl and whisk either using an electric mixer, hand mixer or by hand using a whisk (and a lot of elbow grease.)

Once pie has cooled to room temperature, cut slices and top with whipped cream and berries.  You can also top the whole pie with the whipped cream and create a design on the top with the berries.  Make it your own!

Refrigerate any leftover pie and whipped cream.

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Roasted Buffalo Style Cauliflower

Here’s a killer appetizer or side dish to any meal.  And it’s a “healthy” alternative to hot wings that doesn’t sacrifice yumminess or your waistline.  The secret?  Franks RedHot Sauce is a must!  Easy to find in most grocery stores.

roasted-buffalo-style-cauliflower

 

franks-redhot-sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Buffalo Style Cauliflower

Serves 6 appetizer portions

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite size florets

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

salt and pepper

3/4 cup Franks RedHot sauce

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large roasting pan, add cauliflower florets.  Drizzle olive oil on top and season with a small amount of salt and pepper.

Roast cauliflower for about 30 minutes, until tender.  Cauliflower may brown a bit.  Remove from oven.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in Frank’s RedHot sauce.

Pour warmed sauce over cauliflower and toss until well coated.

Return to oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes until heated through.

Serve immediately with celery sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing or Ranch Dressing.

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Watermelon and Goat Cheese Bites

Here’s a fun take on a quick appetizer for your next summer get-together.  The watermelon and goat cheese really compliment each other and the mint adds a nice pop of freshness in your mouth.

watermelon-goat-cheese-bites

 

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Bites

Serves 4-6 appetizer servings

Ingredients:

1 small, seedless watermelon cut into 1-inch cubes

about 2 ounces of goat cheese

fresh mint leaves

about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Top watermelon cubes with a small dollop of goat cheese and a small mint leaf.

Drizzle balsamic vinegar over watermelon cubes and serve immediately.

Note: For a little more “finger food” friendly bites, omit the balsamic vinegar as seen in the picture below.

watermelon-goat-cheese-bites

 

 

 

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Mussels Steamed in White Wine

Here’s a great go-to recipe that makes a delicious meal in about 15 minutes.  Spoon the mussels, along with some of the broth, over cooked linguini into individual bowls. Or place the whole pot (as seen in the picture) in the middle of the table and share with friends, sopping up the flavorful broth with some crusty French bread.

steamed-mussels

Mussels Steamed in White Wine

Makes 2 main meal servings or 4 appetizer/side dishes

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 fresh thyme sprigs

2 fresh Italian parsley sprigs

2 lbs mussels

 Directions:

In a large Dutch oven or heavy -bottomed large pot, melt butter over medium heat.

Add onion, shallot and garlic to pot and coat with melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium heat until softened- about 3-5 minutes.

Pour in the wine, thyme and parsley sprigs, and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add the mussels and stir them into the liquid. Cover the pot with lid and cook for about 3-5 minutes shaking the pot once or twice to mix the mussels.

Mussels are cooked fully when they finish opening.

Serve immediately.

 

 

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Strawberries Soaked in Red Wine

Strawberries are the sweetest they’ll be all year right now.  Here’s a quick recipe you can prepare in a few minutes that will pair beautifully with any summer meal.  It also makes a great snack on its own!

strawberries-soaked-red-wine

 

STRAWBERRIES SOAKED IN RED WINE

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 lb (4 cups) fresh strawberries

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 cup red wine

Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)

Directions:

Cut off and discard green stems. Slice strawberries in half and place in a large bowl. Add sugar and wine and combine well. Serve immediately or allow to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours for the flavors to develop and intensify.  Serve on its own or top strawberries with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

A word of caution- once you make your own Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, you will never be able to go back to the fake green, store bought stuff again.  Consider yourselves warned.

This ice cream is like crack to me in the summer months.  The perfect treat at the end of a long hot day.

mint-chocolate-chip-ice-cream

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves

6 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup (about 5 ounces) good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1 Tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

Directions:

In a medium sauce pot, stir together milk, half of the sugar, and salt.  Add mint leaves and heat mixture over medium flame, stirring occasionally, until milk is scalding. Remove from heat, cover and steep for 1 hour.

Strain mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium to large bowl pressing the mint leaves down to release flavors.  Discard mint leaves.

Return mixture to sauce pot and warm on low heat.

While milk mixture is warming, whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium to large bowl.  Very slowly, pour the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks, gently whisking the whole time.

Pour mixture back into the sauce pot and on medium heat, gently stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Strain mixture one last time into a bowl.

Gently stir in heavy cream.

Cool mixture in bowl over an ice bath.

Let sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours to let the flavors intensify.

When ready to churn, remove mixture from refrigerator and follow directions on your ice cream maker.

While ice cream is churning, melt chocolate and oil.  Stir until blended and set aside once completely melted to cool to room temperature.

During the last minute of ice cream churning, pour chocolate in a small stream into ice cream.  Chocolate will break into pieces immediately hitting the cold.

Store ice cream in a freezer safe container and freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.

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Fresh Corn and Avocado Salad

Here’s the recipe for my most requested salad during the hot summer months.  Taking advantage of the seasons freshest produce, this dish will be a hit for sure at your Fourth of July barbecue!

fresh-corn-avocado-salad

Fresh Corn and Avocado Salad

 Makes 4-6 side servings

Ingredients:

2 ears of fresh sweet corn

2-3 large ripe avocados, pitted and diced

1 basket of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 red onion, medium dice

the juice of one lime

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/4 rice vinegar (cider or red wine will work as well)

salt and pepper

Directions:

Using a Chef’s knife, carefully slice kernels of corn off the cob and place into a large bowl.   Add avocados, tomatoes, red onion and the juice of one lime.   Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over salad and gently toss just until all ingredients are coated with dressing. (You may not need all of the dressing.)

 

 

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Peach Blackberry Cobbler

This 4th of July, spend more time at the party than in the kitchen with this easy-to-throw-together fruit cobbler.  A perfect ending to your holiday meal, this dish is sure to give the fireworks a run for their money.  Mine is peach and blackberry but you can get creative with the filling, choosing fruits that are fresh and in season. Blueberries and raspberries for example, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top make for a true red white and blue Independence Day dessert.  It’s so quick to make, you can have your cobbler and eat it too!

Peach Blackberry Cobbler

Makes 10-12 servings

Filling Ingredients:

3 lbs fresh peaches, cut into 1/2 inch slices (about 4 cups sliced) peeled or skins left on*

2 cups fresh blackberries

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Topping Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon white sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour mixture into a 9X13 baking dish.

In another large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and mix well.

Add cold butter cubes to flour mixture and crumble with your fingers until butter is the size of tiny peas.

Add heavy cream and gently mix to make a soft dough. 

Drop dollops of dough over fruit mixture and sprinkle dough lightly with remaining sugar.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes until biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbling.

*To peel or not to peel your peaches. I like it both ways. Peeling adds a few quick steps, and leaving the skins on will add a little pop of color to your cobbler. To peel, cut a small “X” in the bottom of each peach. Dip them in boiling water for 45 seconds, then into an ice water bath to prevent further cooking. Once cooled, remove from water and skins will slide right off.

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Where Chefs Eat

My dear friend Natalie Compagno, owner of The Traveler’s Bookcase in Los Angeles is my go-to-gal for all things TRAVEL.  Knowing my love for food-focused vacations, she gave me this book last year as a gift.  An international restaurant guide by people who know food the best- the top chefs of the world!  From dives to high end establishments all over the world, I have already used this book through Spain, Chicago, San Francisco and my home base of Los Angeles and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet!  Wanted to share it with all of you.  A fantastic gift for anyone who travels and is into dining of all kinds.  Enjoy.

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Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream

This summer, I’ve been dabbling with my ice cream maker again, creating another fun flavor: Brown Sugar Vanilla.  An alternative to plain vanilla (and don’t get me wrong- I LOVE my old school vanilla) this ice cream has a nice caramelly richness to it.  It would be delicious on poundcake, paired with my Chocolate Soufflé Cake, or simply served in a bowl with some warm Dulce de leche drizzled on top (as shown in the photo here.)

Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups whole milk

½ vanilla bean , scraped and all pieces added

¾ light brown sugar, divided in half

scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large egg yolks

1 ½ cups heavy cream

Directions:

In a medium sauce pot, heat milk, scraped vanilla bean and its pod, half the brown sugar and the salt until scalding over medium heat.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining brown sugar.

Very slowly temper the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the eggs don’t curdle.

Return entire mixture to the sauce pot and cook over low heat until the cream is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Strain entire mixture into a large bowl.

Stir in the heavy cream and mix until thoroughly combined.

Cool completely in the refrigerator for at least an hour but as long as (and preferably) overnight so that the flavors can intensify.

Freeze/churn ice cream according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s directions.

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Send me your Food Pics using my Recipes!!!

I really love when my readers share their photos of my recipes they’ve tried.  If you’ve made a dish using one of my recipes, find me on Twitter and Facebook (just click the icons you see on this page in the upper right hand corner) and send me a picture of your creation.  Lots of fun stuff coming up for summer.  Stay tuned!  -Jessica

 

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Hallmark’s Home & Family

Here’s the cooking segment from my appearance on Home & Family the other day.  In the kitchen with Cristina Ferrare and Mark Steines making a recipe I created just for the show… Blueberry Cobbler!

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Hallmark’s Home & Family

Hey Gang,

If you missed the show yesterday, here’s the first segment (before we got in the kitchen) talking with Cristina Ferrare and Mark Steines about “The Young and the Restless”, hot and steamy love scenes, and cooking!

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Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family”…

Hey Gang!

I’m on “Home & Family” today cooking Blueberry Cobbler & sharing behind-the-scene stories about “The Young and the Restless” and Avery Bailey Clark! Check it out at 10/9c on Hallmark Channel. #YR

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Easy Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass

Chilean Sea Bass is coveted by many chefs.  And I find the simpler you cook it, the better.  On its own it has a mild, rich and buttery flavor with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and large flake.  It has a high oil content so it remains moist after cooking.

In the picture below, I cooked a fillet and put in on top of some store-bought tabouleh I doctored up by adding sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.  A meal I made in under 10 minutes!  But get creative!  You could put this atop grilled asparagus, braised kale, any salad, rice, grits, couscous, etc., making it the perfect healthy and delicious option for lunch or dinner.

Easy Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass

Serves 2 people

Ingredients:

2 (6-ounce) Chilean Sea Bass fillets

salt and pepper

olive oil or canola oil

Directions:

In a medium-large sauté pan over medium flame, heat the pan.  Add oil and when hot, place fillet skin side down and cook for 3-4 minutes, until skin is crisp and golden brown in color.

Carefully turn fillet over and cook other side for 3 more minutes.

Remove from heat and serve on top of your favorite veggies, rice or couscous.

*Note: You’ll see with my fillet in the picture, the skin was not on the top or bottom, but rather a thin piece on the side.  So for this, I first placed the fish skin side down until crispy-about 3 minutes in the hot pan.  Then gently turned it on the side for about 2 minutes.  Then finally the other side for about 2 minutes.  Don’t skip cooking the skin-when you cook it up crispy it’s absolutely delicious!

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Spaghetti Carbonara & Simple Green Salad

It was Sophia Loren who said “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” And who am I to argue with one of the sexiest women of all time?  Here’s a recipe I’m sure Ms. Loren would approve of.  This whole meal can be made start-to-finish in under 20 minutes. Pair it with a Simple Green Salad, crusty Italian Bread and a Sancere white wine.


SPAGHETTI CARBONARA

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 16oz package of dry spaghetti

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup (about 8 oz) pancetta, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup white wine

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Prepare the sauce while the spaghetti is cooking.  You want the spaghetti to be hot when you add it to the egg mixture as the heat from the pasta is what will cook the raw egg yolk in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente (tender but firm) – about 7 minutes.  Drain spaghetti reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

While the spaghetti is cooking, in a skillet or sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.

Add pancetta and cook until edges are crisp- about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add white wine and cook until liquid is reduced by about 1/2.

Remove from heat.

In a large pasta serving bowl, whisk together egg yolks, parmesan and pecorino Romano cheeses, and parsley.  Drizzle in the 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and whisk until smooth and no lumps appear.

Add pancetta mixture and spaghetti and toss well until everything is evenly combined.

Season with salt and pepper.  (It is traditional to be extra generous with the pepper in this dish and fresh ground pepper is preferred.)

Serve in pasta bowls immediately.

Simple Green Salad with Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

Lettuce Greens of your choice (I like to use a Baby Spring Mix or Butter Lettuce)

Vinaigrette Dressing (see ingredients below)

Dressing ingredients:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Squeeze of fresh lime juice

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar and oil until well combined.  Add lime juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly toss dressing over lettuce greens and serve.  (You may not need to use all of the dressing.)

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PAN SEARED SCALLOPS OVER MANGO AVOCADO SALSA

This week, “The Young and the Restless” traveled over to “The Talk” when my character ‘Avery’ made a special appearance on the show.

But savy viewers of both shows might remember this is actually a real-life appearance I made last summer on the hit daytime talk show.

Here is Avery’s… I mean MY… recipe for the Scallops seen on “The Talk.”  I think it pairs so beautifully with a chilled Sancere wine.  Find me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know what you think.

PAN SEARED SCALLOPS OVER MANGO AVOCADO SALSA

Serves 2 people and makes about 2 cups of salsa

For the Salsa:

Ingredients:

1 mango, cut into medium dice

1 avocado, cut into medium dice

1/2 small red onion, cut into small dice

2 tablespoons jalapeno pepper, seed removed, diced fine

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Toss gently with a spoon until mixed well.

For the Sea Scallops:

Ingredients:

1 pound large sea scallops

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

Directions:

If not already done at your grocer, remove the small side muscle from the scallops (known as “the foot”)

Pat dry sea scallops with a paper towel and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Warm a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.

Pour in canola oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.

Add scallops to pan, making sure they are not touching each other (crowding them will cause them to “sweat” and NOT brown.)

Cook scallops 2 minutes on each side.  (You might need to adjust: a little more time for extra large scallops or a little less time for smaller ones)

Serve immediately over the Mango Avocado Salsa with slices of French baguette on the side.

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Judy Rodgers- Zuni Roast Chicken and Ricotta Gnocchi

Chef Judy Rodgers, owner of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco was a hero of mine.  And like so many of us in the food world, I was deeply saddened last December to hear of her passing.  Her incredible cookbook, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, changed the way I cook, shop and eat.  Her love for food is infectious and lives on in every single page.

Even now, no trip to San Francisco is complete until I’ve had a meal at Zuni Cafe.  The famous Zuni Roast Chicken is, in my opinion, the most exciting poultry entrée on any menu in the country.

I want to share with my readers two of my favorite recipes from this great culinary icon which you can also find in her book.  Thank you Judy Rodgers for being a mentor to so many of us.  You will be missed.


Zuni Roast Chicken

Adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Serves 2 to 4

The recipe is super easy to follow and you can pair it with any side dish or salad, making it a complete meal.  I make this chicken at home at least once a week.

Ingredients:

One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds

4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long

Salt

3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Season the chicken: [1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3-1/4 to 3-1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days]

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken.  Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out.  Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets.  Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh.  Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper (use 3/4 teaspoon salt per pound of chicken).  Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings.  Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside.  Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders.  Cover loosely and refrigerate 1-3 days.

To Roast the chicken:

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle.  Preheat the pan over medium heat.  Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan.  It should sizzle.

Place in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes.  If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does.  The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees.  After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking).  Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.  Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat.  Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate or cutting board.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Carve and serve chicken.

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
Serves 4-6 side dish servings

The recipe is a bit more time consuming than my usual postings but totally worth the effort!  A perfect dish for Sunday Supper, it pairs beautifully with the Roast Chicken above.  But I’ve also served it as a main course for my non-meat eating friends.  In my version (pictured), I’ve added some fresh sweet corn kernels and chopped fresh basil to my butter sauce.  See even more fun suggestions at the end of the recipe.

Ingredients:

To prepare the gnocchi:

1 pound fresh ricotta (2 cups)

2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, chopped, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches freshly chopped lemon zest (all optional)

1/2 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about 1/4 cup very lightly packed)

About 1/4 teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)

All-purpose flour, for forming the gnocchi

To sauce the gnocchi:

8 tablespoons butter, sliced

2 teaspoons water

Directions:

Testing the cheese (the day before you make the gnocchi):

Check the cheese for wetness.  If you are lucky enough to have an individual basket-drained ricotta—you’ll see the basket imprint or dimples on the cheese—it may be sitting in a little whey; in this case, slide it out of the container and wick away the surface moisture with a dry towel.  With any ricotta, place about 2 teaspoons of the cheese on a dry paper towel and wait for about 1 minute.  There will always be a little wet spot under and around the cheese, but if the cheese has thrown a wide ring of moisture, it is too wet to use as is.  Place it in a strainer, or double-wrap in cheesecloth, and suspend over a deeper receptacle to drain for 8 to 24 hours, refrigerated.  Cheesecloth is more efficient, as it also wicks moisture from the cheese while gravity does its job of draining.  You can also speed up the draining operation by cinching the cheesecloth tight and squeezing some of the moisture from the ball of cheese.

Making the batter:

Beat the ricotta vigorously, then smash a little cheese against the side of the bowl with a soft rubber spatula.  If you can still make out firm curds, press the cheese through a strainer to break them up.  Stir in the eggs.  Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter—with the chopped sage, if using—and add to the batter.  Add the nutmeg or lemon zest, if using.  Add the Parmigiano and salt and beat the whole mixture very well.  This is what makes the gnocchi light.  You should have a soft, fluffy batter.

Forming and testing a sample gnocchi:

Make a bed of flour about 1/2 inch deep in a shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan.

Scrape the sides of the bowl, mass the batter, and smooth its surface.  Use a spoon held at an angle to shallow-scoop out 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter.  Use your fingertip to push the almond-shaped scoop of batter cleanly from the bowl of the spoon onto the bed of flour.  Shimmy the pan gently to coat the sides, then flip the gnocchi with your fingertip to coat the top.  Lift from the flour and cradle and rock it in your palm.  Don’t squeeze it.  You should have a dusty oval pod.  As long as the general shape is uniform and rotund, don’t worry that the gnocchi has a few wrinkles, dimples, and bumps.

To check the batter, poach this first gnocchi in a small pot of simmering well-salted water.  It will initially sink, but will then swell, roll, and bob to the surface.  Maintaining the quiet simmer, cook until the gnocchi is just firm, usually 3 to 5 minutes from the time it floats, depending on the cheese and the size of the gnocchi.  Don’t boil hard, or the gnocchi may explode.  If, even at a gentle simmer, the gnocchi spreads or starts to decompose, the cheese was probably too wet.  This can usually be corrected by beating a teaspoon or so of egg white into the remaining batter.  If the batter was very fluffy, but the sample seems heavy, beat in about 1 teaspoon beaten egg.  In either case, poach another sample to make sure the fix is successful.

Taste the sample for salt, and adjust the batter if needed.

Forming the remaining gnocchi:

Use the same spoon-and-finger technique to form the rest of the gnocchi.  I usually form them in groups of 4 to 6, placing them all at the same angle, and a few inches apart, in the bed of flour, then shimmy the pan to coat all of them at once; don’t leave them sitting too long in the flour, or they will absorb too much.  Keep scraping the bowl and smoothing the surface of the batter to permit smooth scoops.  As with the sample, roll each gnocchi in your hand.  Arrange them on a sheet pan lined with a flour-dusted sheet of parchment paper or wax paper.  Be sure that the individual gnocchi are not touching one another.

You can poach the gnocchi right away, but if you refrigerate them uncovered for about an hour, they will firm up, making them easier to cook and handle.  (They will keep for up to 8 hours that way.)

Cooking the gnocchi:

Place the 8 tablespoons of butter and the 2 teaspoons of water in a 12-inch skillet; set aside.

Bring 2 to 3 quarts water to a simmer in a wide pan, 10 or more inches in diameter, so the gnocchi won’t crush each other too much as they push to the surface.  A sauté pan, flared brasier, or saucier pan will work, as long as it is at least 2 inches deep.  Salt the water liberally—about 1 teaspoon per quart.  Add the gnocchi one by one, adjusting the heat to maintain the simmer.  Dip your fingertips in water if you find they are sticking to the gnocchi, but don’t fret if the gnocchi stick a little to the paper.  Do avoid holding the tray of gnocchi in the steam.  Cook the gnocchi as you did the sample, until just firm, 3 to 5 minutes from the time they float.

Meanwhile, as soon as the gnocchi float to the surface, place the pan of butter and water over medium heat.  Swirl the pan as the butter melts and begins to seethe.  As soon as the butter is completely melted and has turned into an opaque pale yellow sauce, turn off the heat.  Swirl the pan a few more times.

Lift the gnocchi out with a slotted spoon or skimmer, slide into the ready skillet, and roll in the warm butter sauce.  Serve instantly in warm bowls.

Serving Suggestions:

The mild flavor of the ricotta marries well with many other flavors and ingredients, especially sweet, subtle, or nutty ones.  Whatever the companion, it should be tender and delicate—like the gnocchi themselves.

Try serving the dumplings with a few leaves of sage, arugula, or spinach wilted in butter, or roll in melted butter with just-cooked baby carrots and fresh chervil.  Or pair with tender flageolets finished with extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper.  Or fold in matchsticks of just-cooked zucchini; its subtle flavor becomes clearer next to these gnocchi.  In the spring, we offer them with barely cooked peas, tiny favas, or finely slivered asparagus, or all three.  During summer, we match them with fresh white corn kernels cooked in butter with basil, or scatter them with chopped nasturtium blossoms.  When tender-skinned Sungold Sweet 100 tomatoes are at their sweetest, we halve them, warm them in extra-virgin olive oil with basil, and toss them over the gnocchi.  In the fall, fresh wild mushrooms slivered, stewed, and finished with white truffle oil are delicious with the gnocchi, and in the winter, whenever we have black truffles in house, we shave some generously over the dish.

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Roadtrip!

Last month, having a few days off from work, I hopped in the car with Lucy for a last minute getaway to one of my favorite places in the world… which happens to be only 90 minutes away!

San Ysidro Ranch is nestled in the Montecito Foothills between The Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.  Rich with incredible history, this legendary hideaway is where Vivien Leigh and Sir Lawrence Olivier exchanged vows and the setting for John and Jackie Kennedy’s honeymoon.

Private cottages are scattered around the 500 acres of unspoiled coastal landscape where fragrant magnolia and orange blossoms perfume the countryside.  Here’s our cottage- The Pine…

To say the Ranch is pet friendly is an understatement.  This was all wating for Lucy in our cottage when we arrived- complete with a homemade dog biscuit with her name written in her favorite kind of ink…peanut butter!

Just in time for lunch at the Stonehouse Restaurant, right on the premise, I chose SYR’s “Famous Chicken Tortilla Soup” with farmer’s market avocado, organic grilled chicken and cheddar cheese topped with tortilla crisps.  To drink, a “Gentleman’s Lemonade” made with Mitcher’s Rye, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup.

Just steps away from the Ranch, are 17 miles of hiking trails which Lu and I took full advantage of…

Back from a 2 hour hike, just in time for Cocktail Hour, you can see what I did to a Blood Orange Margarita (the signature cocktail at the ranch) and a jar of Santa Barbara Olive Company Salsa!  Afterward I did what any of you would have done too… I hopped in my private jacuzzi to relax.

Lucy was pretty dirty after running through the creek on our hike, so into the shower she went where I gave her a bath with the Bvlgari shampoo in the shower.  This is her with no conditioner and after a few hours air-drying.  Look how curly my girl gets!

Later in the evening, dinner at the Stonehouse Restaurant- dining under the romantic gaze of Southern California’s stars with a wood-burning fireplace and heated stone flooring providing warmth and comfort.

For my entre, I chose another SYR favorite dish- the House-Made Fettuccini Carbonara with  Iberico Ham, Organic Poached Egg, White Truffle Oil and shaved Black Truffles on top.  For dessert, a Mint Chocolate Chip Gelato with the fresh mint picked from the on site Chef’s Garden.

Back at the cottage, bedtime for Lu and her pal Lambchop…

In the morning, a pancake breakfast ouside at the main house and freshly baked dog biscuits for Lucy.  This was our view…

…followed by a walk through the organic Chef’s Garden where herbs and vegetables are grown for the restaurant.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone at San Ysidro Ranch for your kindness and flawless attention to every detail.  You made this an amazing getaway to remember.

Because sometimes the art of doing nothing- can be everything.

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Happy Mother’s Day

To all the Moms and Honorary Moms out there, thank you for all that you do.

With my mother Eileen…

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Mother’s Day Brunch

Skip the stress of fighting for a table at an overcrowded bistro on Sunday May 13th, and show a Mom in your life how much you care with a homemade Mother’s Day Brunch.

Here’s the perfect menu for her special day.  Start out with some Mimosas (equal parts orange juice and chilled champagne- and don’t forget to break out the fancy glasses!) For the meal, here are two easy-to-prepare recipes.  These classic cream scones can be made ahead of time and served with jam and clotted cream or butter.  The frittata cooks fast and is cut into pie slices and served warm or at room temperature.  Add some freshly brewed coffee and seasonal berries and you’ve got a scrumptious brunch that will make Mom proud!

CREAM SCONES WITH CURRANTS

SERVINGS: 8 SCONES

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup sugar

the zest of half a lemon

1/4 cup currants

1 cup heavy cream, plus a little for brushing

sugar to sprinkle on top

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Add cold butter cubes to flour mixture and pinch cubes into the flour with your fingers until you have a crumbly mixture.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, lemon zest and currants.  Toss sugar to coat zest and currants and then add to the flour mixture and mix well.

Make a well in the middle of the bowl (make a hole in the center of dry ingredients.)  Slowly add the cream, tossing the flour with a fork to combine until moistened.  Knead dough a few times just to bring the dough completely together.  Dough will be sticky.  Pat into a round disk about 1 1/2 thick.  Don’t work the dough too much.

Cut dough into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart.

Brush top of scones with cream and sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes (rotating baking sheet halfway through for even baking) until scones are a light golden brown in color.

Serve warm with clotted cream and your favorite flavor of fruit jam.

Egg Frittata

Serves 1-2

A frittata can be made with just about any ingredients you have on hand and a few eggs.  For this recipe, I chose some veggies and pesto sauce but feel free to get creative.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil or olive oil spray

1/4 cup chopped onions

1/2 of a yellow squash cut into thin round slices

1 cup spinach

1 heaping Tablespoon of Pesto sauce

3 eggs, whisked together

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In small, oven-safe, nonstick omelet pan (7-8 inches in diameter) over medium flame, heat up olive oil.

Add onions and sauté for about 2 minutes.

Add yellow squash and sauté just until onions and squash have a little browning to them.

Add spinach and cook until leaves have wilted but are still bright green.

Spread vegetables out evenly in the pan.  If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the pan.
Remove pan from heat and immediately drop a dollop of pesto sauce in the center of the vegetables.

Pour whisked eggs over the vegetables and with a spoon, gently spread the pesto sauce around creating a swirl around the eggs. Make sure the vegetables are evenly distributed throughout the frittata.

Place in oven and bake for 5-10 minutes, just until set.

Remove from oven and flip frittata over onto a plate and sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

Cut into pie slices.

(Note: I always throw a small kitchen towel or an oven mitt over the handle once the pan is out of the oven to remind me not to grab it.  It will stay very hot for some time so be careful.)

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Tres Leches Cake

Just in time for your Cinco De Mayo bash, this cake is one of the most popular desserts throughout Mexico.  Feel free to put your own spin on this yummy vanilla goodness soaked in three kinds of milk.   Serve with fresh berries, peaches or Dulce du Leche (as show below.)

Tres Leches Cake

Makes 16 servings

Ingredients:

butter or cooking spray to grease baking dish, plus about 1 tablespoon of flour for dusting

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

6 large eggs, separated yolks and whites

1 cup sugar, divided in half

½ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 12 ounce can evaporated milk

1 cup whole milk

1 pint heavy whipping cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9X13 baking pan with butter or cooking spray and dust flour just to lightly coat pan. Tap out any excess flour.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment or a hand held mixer, beat egg yolks on medium speed until pale yellow in color.  Beat in 1/2 of the sugar (about 1/2 cup) until evenly combined.  Mix in 1/2 cup milk and vanilla.  Fold liquid mixture into flour mixture and mix gently just until combined.

Back to the electric mixer, beat egg whites until medium peaks form.  Mix in remaining 1/2 of sugar.  
Fold egg white mixture into flour/egg yolk batter and gently mix just until combined.

Pour into greased and floured pan and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until a toothpick or fork comes out clean when piercing the middle of the cake.

Remove cake from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

While cake is cooling, make the “Tres Leches” (Three Milks) by mixing in a medium bowl sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1 cup milk.

To prepare the icing, in an electric mixer with whisk attachment, or a hand held mixer beat on medium to high speed the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until just until thick enough to spread.  Be careful not to over-whip.  You want it to look like thick whipped cream.

When cake has cooled for 30 minutes, pour the milk mixture evenly over the cake.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the cake to soak up the milk.

Remove cake from refrigerator and frost cake with the whipped cream icing.

Cut into 16 squares and serve.

Feel free to add peaches, berries, Dulce de Leche sauce (as pictured), maraschino cherries or any other topping you might enjoy on the top as a garnish.

Cake will keep for about a week tightly covered in the refrigerator.

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Cooking for the Chef

Is there anything more lovely than someone making YOU a home cooked meal?  That’s just what my sweet friend Amy Sloan did for me as a belated birthday gift last week.  And what a treat it was!  A beautiful, sunny day in LA, we dined in her backyard- a gorgeous oasis- right under an old oak tree.   Lunch included delicious Brie and Mushroom Sandwiches along with a salad made of Fresh Peas & Pancetta.  The recipes can be found in the cookbook “Little Flower: Recipes from the Cafe” by Christine Moore, owner of Little Flower cafe in Los Angeles.

Paired with Rosé Champagne (my fave) and a bottle of water infused with a single sprig of fresh rosemary (try this immediately!) it was a perfect afternoon with one of my favorite people in the world.  And I’m obsessed with her sassy new dinnerware she scored at Pier 1 Imports!  These plates are perfect for outdoor dining and you can shop for your own set HERE.

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Chocolate Soufflé Cake

What do you get when 3 super cool ladies from “The Young and the Restless” get together and cook a meal?  A whole lot of deliciousness!  And that’s just what happened when Sharon Case (Sharon on Y&R) wrangled Y&R Stylist Elif Inanc and myself for a last minute Sunday Supper at her house.

With Sharon on Appetizers and Salad…

And Elif cooking up the Main Course of Short Ribs and Creamy Polenta…

…all that was left was my department: The Dessert.  Wanting to treat my pals to something really fabulous, I went to a beloved go-to chocolate treat in my bag of tricks: my Chocolate Soufflé Cake (which Y&R viewers recently saw featured in “Avery’s” bag of tricks too!)

Such a fun night!  And the company was even BETTER than the food!  Thank you Sharon for being the “Hostess with the Mostess” (and having a kitchen to DIE for!) and Elif for the delicious main course!

And here’s the recipe for my Chocolate Soufflé Cake… XoJ

Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Makes about 10 servings

Adapted from an old Gourmet Magazine (rest in peace!) recipe, this is one of my favorite chocolate desserts.  You don’t have to be a great baker to have great results with this cake.  A simplified version of a chocolate soufflé, this recipe uses only 5 ingredients to achieve the most velvety chocolate bliss.  I like to make this cake the day before serving to allow the flavors to develop.  Served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, this is one sexy dessert!

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter cut into pieces, plus additional for greasing pan

9 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not more than 60%) chopped

6 large eggs, separated

1/3 + 1/3 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place a small roasting or baking pan filled halfway with water in the bottom rack of the oven (to provide moisture during baking.) Position another rack in the middle of oven, then preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease a springform pan with butter and then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  Then grease the paper as well and set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring often, until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In an electric mixer with whisk attachment or a hand held mixer, on medium-high speed, beat egg yolks, 1/3 cup of the sugar and salt for about 6-8 minutes until thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve into the mixture when whisk attachment is lifted.

Transfer egg yolk mixture to a separate large bowl and stir in chocolate mixture until well combined.

Now in a cleaned mixing bowl with cleaned whisk attachment, at medium speed, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Slowly add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks.

Gently fold egg whites mixture into chocolate mixture and keep folding just until thoroughly combined (no streaking.)

Pour batter into springform pan and bake in middle of oven (do not place springform pan in hot water) and bake for about 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with crumbs on it.

Transfer cake to a wire rack and cool completely.  Cake will deflate as it cools and may crack a bit- this is all fine.

When completely cooled, run a knife carefully around edge of cake, then remove side of pan.   Invert a rack over cake and invert cake onto rack, then remove bottom of pan and carefully peel off paper.  Invert a serving plate over cake, then invert cake onto plate.

I like to make this cake 1 day ahead to allow flavors to develop.  Cool completely, then chill, covered in plastic wrap.  Bring to room temperature and dust top with powdered sugar before serving. (P.S… the powdered sugar hides ALL the imperfections- the cracks, the crumbs, the broken top, etc. ;)

Serve cake with freshly whipped cream.

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Crème Brûlée French Toast

Easter is this Sunday and there’s no better time to try my killer Crème Brûlée French Toast!  Easy to assemble the night before, all that’s required in the morning is baking it in the oven.

Served hot out of the oven, this dish is perfect on its own.  But pair it up with some of the following- Freshly Brewed Coffee, Mimosas, Fresh Fruit, Bacon or Sausage, Eggs (any style you like), Smoked Salmon, Cheeses- and you’ve got an Easter Brunch as decadent as you would find in the finest hotels in the world- without the crowds, the waits and the hefty dining bill at the end.

Happy Easter!

Crème Brûlée French Toast

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 loaf French, Challah or Brioche day old bread, cut into 1-inch slices

7 eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon orange liquor (like Grand Marnier) or you can use 1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Toppings of your choice: powdered sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream, fresh fruit, jam, etc (if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself using ALL of them!)

Directions:

Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter.

Add brown sugar and maple syrup and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Pour mixture into baking dish.  Arrange bread slices as close together as possible, in one layer, in the baking dish.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs by hand until fluffy- about 1 minute.  Add half and half, vanilla, orange liquor, cinnamon and salt and whisk until all is evenly combined.

Pour egg mixture evenly over the bread slices.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight (or for at least 6 hours.)

When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature- 30 minutes to an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for about 35 minutes until the french toast looks lightly golden brown and is cooked all the way through.

Serve immediately, nice and hot.

When scooping out a serving, flip bread slice over and serve “bottom-side-up” onto plate. This way, the brown sugar/butter coating is now on top. (Hence the “crème brûlée”  topping!)

Accompany french toast with toppings of your choice.

Note: I like to make this with all kinds of breads and I think it comes out a little different with each one.  Here you can see two versions I’ve made— the one to the LEFT with CHALLAH BREAD and the one to the RIGHT is FRENCH BREAD.

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When Art steals from Life…

If you watch me on “The Young and the Restless”, you know that my character Avery Bailey Clark recently won an online cooking contest with her famous Key Lime Pie.  What my loyal readers probably picked up on is that “Avery” was using a recipe I’ve already shared with my subscribers- and a great go-to dessert when you’re in a hurry (I banged out 3 of these pies in less than an hour for a party not long ago.)

It was pretty cool shooting a “cooking show” in character as Avery and we had a lot of laughs on set making this short video, which is being used to forward a fun storyline on the show.

Here’s the link to the video which includes the complete recipe at the end.

Avery Bailey Clark\’s Famous Key Lime Pie

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Guinness Ice Cream Float

Drinking Guinness is pretty much a requirement for the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  Here’s a really fun way to incorporate it into a super- easy dessert!  A creamy ice cream float perfect for your over-21 friends.

Guinness Ice Cream Float

Makes 4 servings
Ice cream floats usually come in big, guilty serving sizes but I like to prepare them in a small glass or a tea cup.

Ingredients

4 rounded scoops of vanilla ice cream

1 12-15 ounce bottle or can of Guinness stout

Directions

Place 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream in each of the 4 small glasses or tea cups.

Slowly pour Guinness stout over them.

Serve immediately.

*Feel free to make this treat your own!  Some ideas…  Substitute chocolate ice cream for vanilla.  Add whipped cream, cocoa powder or hot fudge on the top.  Serve with chocolates, malt balls or shortbreads on the side.  And of course, for your UNDER-21 friends, use Root Beer or Ginger Beer over the ice cream.

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Traditional Irish Coffee

Arguably the best drink to come out of St Patrick’s Day, this hot beverage is perfect to serve after a big Irish meal or as a fun nightcap.  Strong coffee is sweetened with sugar and Irish whiskey, then topped with frothy whipped cream which sits above the coffee.  The idea is to drink the hot coffee (which has a nice kick from the whiskey) through the cooled cream.

Traditional Irish Coffee

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

Boiling water

3/4 cup of hot, strong coffee

1 teaspoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons Irish whiskey

1/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, lightly beaten with a whisk but still pourable (a little stiffer than a milk froth but not quite as stiff as whipped cream)

Directions

Pour boiling water in an 8 ounce coffee cup or glass to preheat it.  Let it sit for at least a minute, then pour the water out.

Pour hot coffee in coffee cup or glass.

Stir in brown sugar until dissolved.  Stir in Irish Whiskey.

Using a tablespoon, gently spoon heavy or whipping cream on top of the coffee.  Do not stir. The trick is for the cream to float on top of the coffee, allowing you to sip the coffee through the cream.

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Be My Valentine…

February 14th is right around the corner and whether you’re single, coupled, or even cranky about the whole situation, there’s no reason NOT to indulge in a great meal.

Let’s start with some Champagne.  I’m a sucker for the pink stuff and I’ll give you two wonderful options.  Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé Champange is my absolute favorite bubbly to drink and at $65 a bottle, I reserve this one for the most special occasions.  Another fantastic pick (and a lot more budget friendly) is Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé coming in at around $14.

Next, the dinner.  For me, Valentine’s Day is probably the WORST night of the year to go out to a restaurant.  I think a home-cooked meal is the way to go.  For couples, there’s something wildly romantic about being in the kitchen and preparing a meal together.  How about a juicy Grilled Rib-Eye Steak & Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin?  Or are you sharing the night with group of friends?  Plan a family style meal with a Grilled Caesar Salad and Spaghetti All’Amatriciana.  For dessert, anything with chocolate is going to be perfect. My Chocolate Pots de Crème are easy to make ahead of time.  Or for something really unique (and it travels beautifully) a Red Velvet Skillet Cake.

Whatever your plans for Valentine’s Day, this is a day to express love: for friends, lovers, a dog named Lucy and anyone that brings joy to your heart.

Big kiss to all of you!

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Sweets to the Sweet… Happy Valentine’s Day!

Looking for something really unique to do this Valentine’s Day?  How about a Dessert Wine & Sweets Paring? If I do say so myself, this episode of Sugared is just plain awesome!  I teamed up with some gal pals- the best in their fields- to make this dessert pairing party phenomenal.  From Bon Appetit Magazine, wine columnist Heather John picked out some of her favorite dessert wines and Valerie Gordon, owner of my favorite chocolate shop in town – Valerie Confections – was on hand to pair the perfect treats with the perfect wines.

I can’t describe how much fun we had!  I mean, come on!  Chocolate, wine, giggles.  Think about doing your own tasting at home.  Invite a group of friends and have everyone bring a dessert wine and a paired sweet. Watch this latest episode of Sugared below for tips on how to pair and what to think about when doing so.

Here’s a complete list of our parings in the episode:

Robert Mondavi Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2000 paired with a Rose Petal Petit Four

Justin “Obtuse” Paso Robles Dessert Red 2008 ($24) paired with a Chocolate Tart filled with milk chocolate ganache and topped with grey sea salt

Fonseca LBV Port 2003 ($22) paired with a Blushing Berry Chocolate Bar

La Tour Vieille “Vendanges” Banyuls 2006 ($18-25) paired with Orange Toffee covered in 61% Valrhona chocolate and topped with candied orange peel

Broadbent 10 Year Malmsey Madeira ($40) paired with a Caramel Parfait and Almond Fleur de sel Toffee

If you live in Los Angeles, a trip to Valerie’s confectionary gem is a must.  But you can also find her sweets online at valerieconfections.com.  And be sure to check out Heather’s amazing food AND fashion blog The Foodinista.

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Beets: Love ‘em or hate ‘em…

In our final week of Healthy January, does any food generate a more passionate reaction? Fans of beets rejoice when they see them on a menu.  Haters claim they taste like dirt.

Let me just say to all the haters… Beets are one of the best foods you’re not eating.  Packed with nutrition and full of incredible flavor when prepared PROPERLY!  Forget everything you’ve tried in the can or those gross bins you see neglected at the salad bar.  Roasting beets is the way to go- bringing out their sweet, rich taste.  Red are the most popular but my personal favorites are golden beets so I like to serve a combo of both.  I think they are best appreciated with some mixed greens tossed in a vinaigrette dressing, topped with crumbled goat cheese and crushed black pepper.  Here’s an easy and quick recipe that will make you a believer.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Goat Cheese

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 medium or 6 small beets, roasted (*see instructions below) and peeled – about 1 pound of beets

6 ounces mixed greens, washed and dried thoroughly

About 1/4 cup of **Simple Vinaigrette Dressing  (or use your own)

2 ounces crumbled goat cheese

crushed black pepper

Directions:

Slice beets to your liking (sliced, diced or quartered) and add to the mixed greens.  (Note: If you are using red beets, add them AFTER adding the dressing so that the color doesn’t bleed onto the other beets/greens.)

Add vinaigrette and toss until well combined.  You may not need to use all the dressing- you never want to “drown” the greens in it.

Top with crumbled goat cheese and crushed black pepper and serve.

*How to Roast Beets

Ingredients:

1 pound beets

water

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Trim the greens of the beets (the leaves and stems) down to about 1/2 inch. Wash and scrub beets thoroughly.

Place beets in a baking dish and add a little water- just enough to cover the bottom of the dish about 1/8 inch.  Sprinkle with salt.

Cover tightly with a cover or foil and bake for 30 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of your beets) until they can be easily pierced with a knife.

Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle with your hands

Cut off the tops and ends and slip off the skins.  (I like to wear latex gloves- a staple in my kitchen- for this process, especially when working with red beets.  Their color will bleed onto everything and stain so be sure to wear an apron or cover up- this is a slightly messy job.)

Cut beets into wedges, dice or slices.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I also sometimes like to toss beets with a teaspoon of vinegar (balsamic, cider, red wine, sherry, etc- they all work nicely.)

Serve alone or over salad greens.

Beets can last 5 days in the refrigerator.  Leave already roasted beets unpeeled until you are ready to use.

P.S…. Those leafy greens that come attached to your beets?  Yes, you CAN eat them and they are delicious!  Rinse them really well to get all the dirt out, chop and sauté over medium heat with olive oil, sea salt and pepper until tender.

**Simple Vinaigrette Dressing

Makes a little more than a 1/4 cup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic, cider or red wine work beautifully)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In small bowl, whisk all ingredients together.  Serve over mixed greens or veggies.

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Baked Salmon with Pesto Sauce

Healthy January continues!…

Here’s a recipe for a main course that I keep in my back pocket for special occasions, especially those that come up suddenly, where I don’t have a lot of time to shop or prepare. Only 5 ingredients are needed and it can be made from start to finish in about 30 minutes. It goes nicely with a variety of side dishes such as rice pilaf, couscous, sauteed veggies or mashed potatoes along with some crusty French bread on the table. A bottle of California Pinot Noir pairs perfectly and completes the meal.

On a side note, I was inspired to create this dish the night I was hired to play Avery Bailey Clark on The Young and the Restless.  In my excitement, I came up with it on the fly, called a few of my nearest and dearest over, and since then it’s become a “fan favorite” among my inner circle.

BAKED SALMON WITH PESTO SAUCE

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 – 3 pounds salmon fillet with skin
1 10-ounce bag of baby spinach
1 cup pesto sauce (If you love making your own, go for it – but I won’t tell if you buy the packaged stuff at the store.)
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a large baking dish (or use a cookie sheet if you need something bigger) with foil and generously brush with olive oil.

Season the salmon fillet (both sides) with salt and pepper.

Place skin side down onto baking dish and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until ALMOST opaque in the center. (Chef’s note: I prefer to serve my salmon medium rare, but if you like a more done piece of fish, cook until completely opaque in the center- but be careful not to overcook as fish will dry out.)

While salmon is baking, on a large serving platter arrange the bag of baby spinach. Drizzle some olive oil over the top and season with a pinch of salt.

Warm the pesto sauce.

When salmon is finished baking, remove from oven and carefully transfer the fish onto the bed of spinach. The heat from the fish will wilt the spinach a just a bit.  Garnish with sliced cherry tomatoes around the fillet and drizzle the pesto sauce over the top of the salmon.
Serve immediately.

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Sauteed Spinach w/ Caramelized Onions

Here’s a yummy side dish for “Healthy January” that will pair beautifullly with just about any meat, chicken or fish.  Packed with lemony flavor, this veggie dish makes a great presentation on the table and can be served warm or at room temperature.

Sauteed Spinach with Caramelized Onions

Makes 6 side servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, sliced to about 1/8 inch thickness

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 lb fresh spinach

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the sliced onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Saute until nicely caramelized- really allowing the onions to get caramel colored.  Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.  Blot any excess oil.

Wipe down or scrub skillet if the bottom has been browned by the onions (not doing this will turn your spinach brown.)  On low-medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, spinach, lemon juice and zest.  Work in 2 batches if you need to.  Cover and cook just until spinach is wilted.  Do not overcook. You want your spinach to be bright green in color.  Remove from heat and season spinach with salt and pepper to your liking.

Place spinach on a platter (you can leave the excess lemon juice in the pan) and top with the caramelized onions.  Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top and a squeeze from a lemon wedge.

This dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

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The Ultimate Greek Salad

“Healthy January” continues with a salad I have been ADDICTED to for the past 2 weeks!  Easy to throw together, full of deliciousness and a fabulous detox all at the same time.  Chop the veggies however you like and feel free to add more or less of any of the  ingredients listed (omtting anything you don’t like) to make this salad your own.

The Ultimate Greek Salad

Makes 2 dinner servings or 4 side servings

Ingredients:

1 medium cucumber, chopped

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

1/2 of a medium red onion, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup olives- I like to use a combo of green and Kalamata

1/4 cup Italian parseley, chopped fine

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped fine

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup red wine vinegar (you could also use balsamic, rice, cider or white wine vinegar)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (nows the time to use the good stuff!)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Chop up the first 9 ingredients and place in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar and olive oil well.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking and then pour over chopped veggies and toss to combine.  Note: you may not need to use all of the dressing.

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Turkey Meatballs with Baby Artichokes

In keeping with my “Healthy January” start for 2014, here’s a fantastic recipe to try over the weekend.  The meatballs are braised in stock creating a super moist texture.  Another great example that “healthy” and “delicious” really can go hand in hand!  Find me on Twitter and Facebook and let me know what you think! 

Turkey Meatballs with Baby Artichokes

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey
1 large egg
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4  cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons parsely, chopped
1 tablespoon sage, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup fennel, sliced thin
1/2 cup onions, diced
4  cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
1 12 ounce bag frozen artichokes , fresh can be used too
1  14 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup green or kalamata olives (or a combination of both), halved
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, sage, salt and pepper.  Mix, preferably with your hands until all ingredients are blended evenly.  Roll out 12 meatballs.

In a medium Dutch oven or large sauté pan, on medium to high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Don’t crowd the pot- work in 2 batches if necessary. Once browned set meatballs aside on a plate.

In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the fennel, onions and garlic on medium heat for about 3 minutes until softened.

Add chicken or turkey stock, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, sage and lemon juice and combine all ingredients.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the meatballs back to the pot and cover with other ingredients.  Cover pot and put in oven.  Cook/braise for one hour.  Check about halfway through and see if the mixture needs more liquid.  If so, add some more stock.  This dish should have some broth at the end.

Serve immediately in pasta bowls with some French bread on the side for dipping up the broth.

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Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

Happy 2014… Make it a great start!

I’m really not a “New Year’s Resolution” type of gal, nor do I allow the word “diet” to enter my vocabulary-  but I do like to take the month of January to get back on track with my healthy eating habits.  And after all of the culinary and cocktail debauchery from the holidays, I’m actually craving clean food- fresh veggies, fruits, lean proteins, etc.

I’ll be posting some “healthy while still being delicious” recipes this month to get us all back to reality.  This dressing is a great place to start: so packed with flavor, you’ll be surprised how delicious “healthy eating” can be!

This recipe is super fast and easy to make and can turn the simplest salad into a sensational meal!  The dressing is the star and you can use it on any combination of salad fixings you choose.  I paired it here with some butter lettuce, avocado slices, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion.  Add a side of chicken breast, shrimp or turkey and you have a complete healthy meal. The dressing also makes a great dip for veggies like raw broccoli or cauliflower.

Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

Servings: about 4

Ingredients:

2 medium sized carrots peeled and roughly chopped or shreaded

2 tablespoons fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons shallots peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons white miso

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup neutral oil (like grapeseed oil or canola oil)

Directions:

In a blender, add all ingredients except the 1/4 cup of neutral oil.  Pulse ingredients until combined and you have a thick puree.  With blender running on a low speed, slowly add the neutral oil until everything is combined.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over salad or in a bowl for dipping.

Note:  All of the ingredient amounts are flexible and to be used as a guideline.  I sometimes add a little more or less ginger, rice vinegar, etc.  Taste as you are making it and feel free to adjust it to your liking.  I personally like it on the chunky side but you can also thin it down a bit with a tablespoon or so of water if you choose.

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Happy Holidays…

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2014 filled love and happiness.
Xoxo,

Jessica & Lucy
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Snowballs (Mexican Wedding Cakes)

I grew up calling these cookies “Snowballs” but you may know them by a few other names including “Mexican Wedding Cakes”,  “Russian Tea Cakes” and “Butterballs”.  These melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread like cookies are one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes.

Snowballs

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confetioner’s sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup walnuts, pecans or almonds, toasted and coarsly chopped

Directions:

In a standing mixer with paddle attachment or a hand held mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar, the salt, and vanilla extract and mix until combined.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add the flour, followed by the nuts.  Mix until all ingredients are combined.  Do not overmix.

Divide dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Working with half of the chilled dough, pinch off a piece of dough – about 1 Tablespoon- and roll between your hands into balls.  Place balls on parchment lined baking sheets, 1 inch apart, and bake for about 18-20 minutes just until bottoms are light golden brown.  Lift one cookie up to check for doneness.

Remove cookies from oven and cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.

Place the remaining confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl and drop warm cookies in one at a time and roll until completely covered with powdered sugar.

Cookies will keep at room temperature for about 2-3 days but can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for about 2 months.  Re-sugar cookies before serving.

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Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

This past week, I’ve been sharing my favorite Turkey Day recipes with you.  Now let’s talk about the one dish I HATE to make on my favorite cooking day of the year: Mashed Potatoes.  Oh, I love em’ just as much as you do BUT… in the final hour of cooking, when I’m trying to get 15 dishes on the table, at the same time, and all hot… peeling, sweating over a boiling cauldron, getting them through a ricer, seasoning- it’s just not enjoyable for me!

Many chefs insist (and I used to be one of them) that potatoes taste best when made just before sitting down to dinner.  But I’ve since changed my mind after working out this do-ahead version.  I think it rivals any mashed potato side I’ve ever had.  This year, do yourself a favor and get this dish out of the way the night before.  Oh and one more thing… nobody use the word “diet” around this recipe.  It’s a holiday for crying out loud!  Thanks. ;)

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Serves 12

Ingredients:

5 pounds potatoes (I like to go old-school and use russet potatoes for this)

2 teaspoons salt

1 stick unsalted butter

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

Peel potatoes and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks.

Place potatoes in a large pot and add COLD water, enough to cover potatoes by about 1-inch.

Stir in 2 teaspoons salt.

On medium heat, bring potatoes to a low boil, uncovered, and cook unitl tender, about 8-12 minutes.

Drain potatoes and pass through a ricer, food mill or china cap back into large pot.  (You can also go “old school” and use a potato masher- won’t be as creamy, but still effective.)

Gently fold in butter, cream cheese, sour cream, milk and salt until all is evenly combined.  Add more salt to your taste as needed.  (Note: you can serve them now and they will be delicious but continue on for make-ahead…)

Spoon potatoes into a lightly greased 13x9x2 baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

When ready to heat, let dish sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350, uncovered for 30 minutes or until hot all the way through.

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Apple Pie with Scotch-Spiked Cherries

Look who’s photobombing my food photography!  Even Lucy can’t help but get excited over this just-out-of-the-oven pie.  I think she’s hoping a crumb will magically fall in her direction- nice try Lu!

This is a new addition to my Thanksgiving sweets table this year- fancifying the traditional Apple Pie, adding dried cherries soaked in Scotch.  Bourbon or Jack Daniels would also work beautifully in this recipe.

Apple Pie with Scotch-Spiked Cherries

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

Flaky Pie Crust for 2 crust Pie (*see below for recipe)
1 cup dried cherries
4 tablespoons Scotch whiskey
3 pounds (about 5 large) apples (use a combination such as granny smith, pink lady and fuji), peeled, halved and cored
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, for glaze
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, for glaze

Directions:

Prepare pie crust dough, shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and put in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.  You can do this the day before.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix cherries and Scotch and let sit for 30 minutes.  Toss a few times during soaking to make sure all cherries get covered.

In another small bowl, mix together sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

Slice apples thin and add them to a large bowl.  Toss in the sugar/flour mixture followed by the cherries and their liquid and combine all ingredients until mixed well.  (I like to use my hands for this.)  Set aside.

Remove pie dough from the refrigerator, cut it in half, roll out the bottom pie crust and fit it into a 9-inch pie plate.

Pour apple filling into pie crust.  Dot with butter (pinching butter into tiny bits with your fingers and dotting evenly over filling.)

Roll our remaining pie dough and arrange over filling, crimping bottom and top of pie crust edges together.

Mix the milk or cream and tablespoon of sugar to make glaze and brush top of crust (except edges.)  Cut several slits in top crust.

Put a cookie sheet on the very bottom rack of the oven to catch and drippings.  Place the pie dish on the rack above that and bake for about 1 hour until crust is golden brown and juices bubble through the top crust.  If edges are browning too quickly, cover them with foil or a pie crust sheild.

Cool pie for at least 30 minutes to an hour on a wire rack.  Serve warm with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Flaky Pie Crust (for 2-crust pie)

I’ve been making this pie crust since I was 16 years old.  My secret is to use equal parts of COLD butter and COLD shortening for a crust that’s flavorful AND flaky.

Ingredients:

2 1/2  cup sifted all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 cubes

1/2 cup  cold vegetable shortening, (like crisco) cut into roughly 1/2 in cubes

4-8 tablespoons ice water

Directions:

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt.

Add cold butter and shortening cubes to flour mixture and with your fingertips or a pastry blender (I like using my fingers for better control), pinch or cut in fat until mixture forms clumps about the size of tiny peas (clumps will be uneven.)

Quickly sprinkle ice water 1 tablespoon at a time over all of the flour mixture, tossing lightly with a spoon until you can form the dough into a ball.  (Don’t overwork dough.)

Flatten the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest refrigerated for at least 30 minutes.  (I like to make my pie dough the day before.)

Take the pie disk out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes just to soften a bit.

Choose a smooth surface to roll out the dough like a cutting board or counter.  Dust surface and rolling pin lightly with flour.

When ready to roll dough, remove disk from plastic and place in the middle of your surface. (Cut disk in half for a two crust pie.) Dust the top of the dough with some flour and begin to roll, starting at the center and working your way out on all sides. After a few rolls, turn the dough over, lightly reflour the board and continue to roll into a 12 inch circle of about 1/8 inch thickness.  Close up any cracks by pinching them together and smoothing out gently with the rolling pin.

To move the dough, fold it in half, then in quarters and place into pie dish.  Gently open up the folds and fit dough into the bottom of the pie dish.  Crimp edges with your fingers and cover up any holes or cracks at this time.  (A little water can be used to help with cracks just by dipping your finger in the water and gently pinching the dough back together.)

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Happy Anniversary Jessicacollins.com!

This week marks the 3-year anniversary of my blog.  An enormous THANK YOU to all of my readers for Subscribing, Tweeting, Facebook “Like”ing, “Pinning” and all of your incredible feedback and enthusiasm.  I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to share with you my love for all things food.  Below are some of the highlights (in and out of the kitchen) for 2013.

Cheers!

Jessica

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart

Every Thanksgiving, I try to add a few fun twists to my sweets table.  So this year, I’m combining two of the best desserts I know: Pumpkin Pie and Cheesecake.  Made with a Gingersnap Cookie crust and baked in a tart pan, this will be a standout dessert at your holiday table too!

Store bought gingersnap cookies will work beautifully but if you have a little extra time and want an INSANELY good crust, use my recipe for Soft and Chewy Gingersnap Cookies (add an extra minute or two to the baking time- you’ll want them a little crispier for the crust.)  I mixed up a double batch of cookie dough, baked off about 6 large cookies and froze the rest of the raw dough balls (that’ll come in handy for a last minute holiday party in December.)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups gingersnap cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, softened (2 eight ounce packages)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin, (not pumpkin pie filling)
¼ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, (can substitute with vanilla extract if you don’t have paste)
powdered sugar, to dust on top after baking

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  (You can also use a pie dish if you don’t have a tart pan.)

For the crust:

In a medium bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients.  Add the melted butter and mix until all is combined.  (I like to use my hands for this part.)

Press the mixture over the bottom of the tart pan.

Bake crust for 12 minutes. Set aside to cool completely while you make the filling. Keep the oven on.

For the filling:

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a hand held mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and no lumps remain- about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula during mixing.

Add the sugars, flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes.  Again, scrape down the bowl with a spatula once or twice so that everything is evenly combined.

Add the pumpkin and sour cream and mix until combined.

Add each egg one at a time, followed by the vanilla bean paste and beat on low speed just until everything is combined.

Pour batter into tart pan with cooled gingersnap crust and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until set (give cake a jiggle- if the center stays put, it’s done.)

Cool cheesecake on a wire rack.  Once cooled, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

When ready to serve, remove the tart ring. Run hot sink water over an offset spatula to get it hot.  Dry spatula completely and while it’s still hot, slide it right under the cheesecake to release it from the bottom of the pan.  Transfer cheesecake to a serving plate.

Dust top with powdered sugar and serve with freshly whipped cream.

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Boo!

Wishing you all a very Happy Halloween!!!


Xoxo,
Jessica & Lucy
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Candy Corn & Peanuts

This party treat takes all of 2 minutes to prepare: that is, if you move REALLY slow.  I learned this trick from my dear friends Tom and Jenny at one of their famous Halloween parties.  The PERFECT combination of salty & sweet.

Candy Corn & Peanuts

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup candy corn

1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts

Directions:

Mix candy corn and peanuts together in a bowl and serve.  Try not to eat the whole bowl in one sitting.

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Pumpkin Ice Cream

Just in time for Halloween, this ice cream is a terrific treat alone but you can also have some fun adding toppings.  Freshly whipped cream, crushed graham crackers or caramel sauce would all pair nicely.  For mine (see pic below) I had some leftover Gingersnap Cookies in the freezer that I thawed and crumbled on top.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart



Ingredients:

3 cups heavy cream, divided in half
1 cup dark brown sugar, divided in half
6 egg yolks
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 15 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin, (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

In a medium sauce pot, heat HALF of the heavy cream and HALF of the sugar until it JUST begins to scald over medium heat.  Do not let boil.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, remaining half of brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.

Very slowly temper the hot heavy cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs don’t curdle.

Return entire mixture to the sauce pot and cook over low heat until the cream is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. About 7-9 minutes.

Remove sauce pot from heat and add pumpkin to the pot. Gently mix until no lumps remain. Add remaining half of heavy cream and vanilla to the pot and mix until evenly combined.

Strain entire mixture through a sieve into a large bowl.  Cool in an ice bath.

Cover mixture tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour but as long as (and preferably) overnight so that the flavors can intensify.

Freeze/churn ice cream according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s directions.

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CUT YOUR TEETH!

Ok Gang,

This is NOT like any dinner party I have ever been to.  Combing two of my greatest passions- food AND art- I want to share with you a super cool gathering I went to this week. And I can’t stop thinking about it!

Led by Chef Craig Thorton, WOLVESMOUTH is an underground dining experience which can take months to snag a ticket to.  It’s not a restaurant- as the locations, held in both New York City and Los Angeles, change all the time.  Chef Thorton’s latest sold-out culinary project “Cut Your Teeth” teams him up with artist Matthew Bone at Santa Monica Museum of Art.

20 guests share a communal dining table surrounded by the art installation while feasting on a  9-course tasting menu inspired by the relationship between “predator and prey”.  All of this is devoured while sitting under an incredible chandelier made up of thousands of …coyote teeth.  That’s right… COYOTE TEETH!

First course.  Let’s just get into it!  Venison…

…which we were told we must eat with our fingers… OH YES!!!

Butternut Squash Soup…

How about THIS for your next family dinner centerpiece? …

Halibut…

Rabbit…

One of the many incredible Michael Bone installments…

This is one of the most exciting, artistically “plated” dishes I’ve ever seen.  I could frame this as art!  Oh, and it was delish!!! …Pork Belly…

Shrimp Ceviche…

Quail…

Crepe with Poached Pear…

Olive Oil Lime Parfait…

Is there a greater compliment to give to a chef?  I say NO!…

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The French Laundry

Cross a BIG one off of my Bucket list!  I’ve just returned from a weekend in the Napa Valley where, after years of anticipation, I finally had the joy of dining at The French Laundry.

Led by culinary genius Chef Thomas Keller- the only American chef with two Michelin 3-star restaurants- diners spend months trying to score one of the 16 tables at this modest, stone farmhouse, tucked away in the tiny town of Yountville, California where a 4-hour culinary adventure like no other awaits them.

I’ve posted some of my personal photos to share with you below- or as I like to call it “my food porn”.   Special thanks to Chef Thomas Keller, Michael Minnillo, Lauren Van Ness, and the entire dream team at The French Laundry for making it a night to remember.

-Jessica

An Amuse Bouche of Salmon Tartare Cornets to start the evening…

Caramelized Artichoke & Black Truffle Soup…

Oysters and Pearls…

Hen Egg Custard…

Salad of Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm…

Rouelle of Dover Sole…

Alaskan King Crab Boudin…

Carnaroli Risotto Biologico with Shaved White Truffles…

Surf and Turf with Japanese Wagyu Beef…

Reblochon Cheese Course…

And an Assortment of Desserts…

Thank you so much Thomas Keller- a wonderful evening was had by all indeed!

If a trip to Yountville isn’t in your near future, check out Chef Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook:  featuring stunning food photography, his heart-felt personal stories and all of the recipes created for his restaurant.  A GREAT holiday gift idea for any food lover!

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MAPLE CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

We all know my character ‘Avery’ on “The Young and the Restless” loves to let loose with some cupcake baking when she’s stressed.  But let’s be honest, real life cupcake baking can BRING ON stress, not to mention a big ol’ mess in the kitchen.  So I’ve worked out a recipe that’s super easy (and dare I say FUN) to throw together in a short amount of time.  And the result is one heck of a delicious cupcake!  For something a bit different, I’ve added maple syrup to my batter, making it a perfect treat for the fall season.  Think “pancake inside a cupcake” with this one.  Find me on Twitter or Facebook (see tabs to the upper right of this page) and let me know what you think!

Maple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 whole eggs

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

*Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift flour.  Add brown sugar, baking powder and salt and mix well to combine.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a small pan or microwave and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add eggs and yolk and lightly whisk until just mixed. Add milk, syrup, sour cream, vanilla and melted butter and mix until all is combined.

Slowly add wet mixture to the flour and mix just until all ingredients are combined and batter is not lumpy.

Use a 12-cup muffin pan with liners and fill batter equally in each cup.

Bake for about 20 minutes until cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean when cake is pierced.

Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.  Once frosted, sprinkle toasted walnuts on top.

Frosted cupcakes are good in the refrigerator for a few days and can be frozen in a freezer- safe bag or container for at least a month.  Thaw before eating.

*Note: If you really want to be fun, try substituting chopped bacon pieces on top instead of walnuts.  Also, nuts can be omitted all together for any allergie concerns.

*Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Using a stand mixer with paddle attachement (or a hand-held whisk) cream together the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and salt on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Turn the mixer to low and add the vanilla until well blended.  Do not overmix.

Frosting can be refrigerated for up to a week.  Bring to room temperature before frosting cupcakes.

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“The Talk” on CBS!!!

I had so much fun appearing on “The Talk” last week.  A huge THANK YOU to the ladies, the entire crew, and amazing food stylist Patricia Reilly who made all of my dishes look so pretty on the show.

To see all of my RECIPES we made on the show click HERE.

To see a CLIP of my appearance on “The Talk”, click HERE.

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Jessica returning to “The Talk” this Thursday, July 11th -2PM ET 1PM PT/CT on CBS!!!

FEAST YOUR EYES ON “THE TALK,” SERVING UP A MONTH-LONG SUMMER FOOD FESTIVAL IN JULY

THE TALK kicks off July with “THE TALK Food Festival” series, a month-long summer cooking celebration featuring seasonal recipes from celebrity chefs. Throughout the month, chefs including Rocco Dispirito, Curtis Stone, Cat Cora, Anne Burrell, Pat Neely, Rick Bayless, Lidia Bastianich and Jessica Collins will join THE TALK co-hosts in the kitchen and share some of their favorite culinary creations from 2:00-3:00 PM, ET; 1:00-2:00 PM, PT/CT, on the CBS Television Network.

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The Emmys 2013!!!

It should come as no surprise that the way I celebrated my first Emmy nomination this past Sunday was with some of my closest friends and a fantastic Champagne Brunch Buffet.

It’s not everyday I get nominated, so we broke out the “good stuff” -toasting with my favorite bubbly: Laurent-Perrier “Cuvée Rosé “Brut Rosé Champagne and snacked on Quiche, Croissants, Smoked Salmon & Brioche, Cheeses and French Pastries all catered by “Little Door Next Door Restaurant” in Los Angeles.

With our Emmy-winning “Glam Squad”, (George Guzman on Hair and Laura Schaffer on makeup) my sister Olivia and my pal Marnie spent the early afternoon getting ready in style, while my dear friend Lisa captured the day in photographs.  Later my YR co-star Billy Miller joined the party and headed to the gala with us, where he would pick up his second Emmy for Best Supporting Actor.

Here are some of the highlights…

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New Orleans: Like a Local

If you read my blog, you know of my great love for the city of New Orleans.  A magical place I visit a few times a year, it truly is my favorite food city in the country.  This weekend, I made my way to The Big Easy for a charity appearance with fellow Young & Restless co-stars Christian Le Blanc and Jeff Branson.

Lucky for us, our plans fell on the same weekend as The French Quarter Festival, an annual music and food festival that happens each April.  Christian, a local New Orleanian, was our more than enthusiastic tour guide and introduced us to a variety of hidden gems around town.  Proving we really could eat our body weight in food, here are some of the highlights of our Cajun culinary adventure.

No trip to New Orleans should miss a traditional brunch at Brennan’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.  Christian, Jeff and myself were treated to a leisurely 4 hour meal that started with Community Chicory Coffee, Brandy Milk Punch and Creole Bloody Mary Cocktails.  Then came the Crab and Oysters Rockefeller, Seafood Gumbo, Turtle Soup, Oyster Soup, Eggs LaFourche & Eggs Hussarde, and Baked Apples in Double Cream.  Last but not least, we participated in making our dessert (see photo of us in flames above) of the legendary Bananas Foster and Crepes Fitzgerald.



Our extraordinary server Lee made us feel like family the moment we sat down.  Giving us the grand tour after our meal, including a glimpse inside the kitchen and the crown jewels on the third floor.

Later in the evening, after a good long walk through the Quarter, we made our way to Uptown for an elegant dinner at Upperline.  Owner and art collector, JoAnn Clevenger, has allowed artists throughout the years to pay their dining tabs with their art.  Her celebrated collection covers most of the wall space around the restaurant making it the perfect place to combine the joys of art viewing and food tasting.

A real Taste of New Orleans included Gumbo, Turtle Soup, Duck Ettouffee, Spicy Shrimp with Cornbread, Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade, Slow Roasted Duckling, Drum Fish Piquant and Louisiana Pecan Pie and Honey Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee Sauce for dessert.

The next morning, we started our day at Cafe Amelie with Orange Blossom cocktails: a mixture of Prosecco, St Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Orange Bitters before making our way into the French Quarter Music and Food Festival.

Food tasting at some of the best old school restaurants like Galatoires, The Court of Two Sisters, K-Paul’s, and the Antoine’s booth where I discovered TWO Baked Alaskas are so much better than one…

Early evening was spent in City Park with a stop at Morning Call Cafe for Chicory Coffees and Beignets…

Not a single beignet was spared…

Continuing our walk through the park, Christian strongly encouraged us to reconnect with nature…

Going super “local” meant a stop at Cooter Browns for Oysters, Sweet Corn Nuggets, Wafer Fries and Meat Pies and Gravy…

Finishing the night with my favorite drink from my favorite lounge: The Sazerac Bar inside The Roosevelt Hotel…

If you haven’t already figured this out Christian, Jeff and myself are all champion eaters, And with only a half day left in town, we knew had to fit in as much as we could in the last few hours.

Starting with Surrey’s for Shrimp & Grits and Bananas Foster French Toast…

Stopping for gifts at Tee Eva’s for Pralines and Sweet Potato Pies and a photo opp with Keonna, Eva’s granddaughter who now runs the family business….

No “local style” trip would be complete without a trip to Rouses Supermarket where I learned the phrase “Making Groceries” – an old New Orleans expression that the city’s residents traditionally used for food shopping. The expression derives from the French faire son marché, “to do one’s market shopping,” faire translating either “to do” or “to make.”

We ate, we drank, we conquered.  A heartfelt thank you to Christian Le Blanc for showing us HIS city.  And thank you New Orleans, for just being YOU!  And now… off to a good detox!

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Irish Scones with Currants

With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, these scones are the perfect treat for a traditional Irish Brunch!  To keep your scones from turning into “hockey pucks” handle the dough as little as possible- overworking it makes tough.  The dough should come together in a mound and be slightly sticky.

Irish Scones with Currants

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter cut into cubes
1/4 cup sugar
the zest of half a lemon
1/4 cup currants
1 cup heavy cream, plus a little for brushing
sugar to sprinkle on top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Add cold butter cubes to flour mixture and pinch cubes into the flour until you have a crumbly mixture.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, lemon zest and currants.  Toss sugar to coat zest and currants and then add to the flour mixture and mix well.
Make a well in the middle of the bowl and slowly add the cream, while tossing the flour with a fork until moistened.  Knead dough a few times just to bring the dough completely together.  Dough will be sticky.  Pat into a round disk about 1 1/2 thick.  Don’t work the dough too much.
Cut dough into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart.
Brush top of scones with cream and sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top.
Bake for about 30 minutes (rotating baking sheet halfway through for even baking) until scones are a light golden brown in color.
Serve warm with clotted cream and your favorite flavor of fruit jam.

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Dishing with Jessica: The Valentine’s Day Menu

Cooking with the Ladies of “THE TALK”

A HUGE “Thank You” to all who watched “The Talk” today on CBS!  Your kind words via Twitter/Facebook/Pin mean so much!  I had a blast!  You can click HERE to see a clip of me cooking with the fabulous ladies of the show!

All of the recipes I made on the show today– Mussels Steamed in White Wine, Simple Green Salad with Vinaigrette and Pots De Creme– can be found clicking HERE.

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I’m cooking on “THE TALK” this week!!!

Hey Gang!

So excited!  On Monday, January 14th, I’m in the kitchen cooking with the ladies from “The Talk” on CBS!  Tune in and watch while I prepare “Food to Set the Mood” with a delicious, sexy dinner for two!

“THE TALK”  Monday on CBS, 2 pm ET/1 pm PT

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Happy 2013!!!

Well gang, it’s been a great year for all things food!  A huge “thank you” to my subscribers, especially those of you who spread the word via “Pin”, “Facebook like” and “Twitter” about what’s going on here.  Much appreciation to my tweeps who send me pictures on Twitter of my recipes that you’ve tried- so much fun to see your creations! Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and looking forward to bringing you much more in the new year.

Cheers!

Jessica

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“How Much Longer?…”

Lucy waits for Santa with carrots for his reindeer and homemade Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies and milk.

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Dishing with Jessica: Red Velvet Skillet Cake

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Looking for a quick and easy appetizer for your holiday party?  Here’s a nice twist on the always popular shrimp cocktail.  I think roasting the shrimp brings out the best flavor.  Pair it with some easy-to-make-cocktail sauce and you’ve got a hit for sure!

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail Appetizer

Serves about 8-10

Ingredients:

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined with tails still on

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

Cocktail Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish (more or less to taste- I like mine spicy)

squeeze of a lemon (about a tablespoon)

5 drops Worcestershire sauce

5 drops Tabasco sauce (optional for an added kick)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place raw shrimp in a large bowl.  Add olive oil, salt and pepper to season, and toss until shrimp is evenly coated.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place shrimp on pan in a single layer.

Roast for about 7-10 minutes just until shrimp turn pink and are cooked throughout.  Do not over cook!

Transfer shrimp to a plate or platter to fully cool.

Make cocktail sauce by adding all of the sauce ingredients and mixing well to combine. Feel free to add or subtract amounts ingredients to your liking.

Arrange shrimp on a platter (I added some lemon zest over mine in the photo as an alternative to serving with actual lemon wedges which would also be nice) and serve with cocktail sauce.

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The 5 minute app…

Gourmet potato chips are all the rage these days, and they make a terrific base for an appetizer.  This recipe takes all of 5 minutes to make.  If your friends are like mine, it will probably take even less time for them to devour these tasty snacks.

Smoked Trout & Potato Chip One-Bite Appetizers

Makes about 25 bites

Ingredients:

1 bag of the best quality potato chips at your grocer.  (I like Kettle chips- either sea salt or black pepper flavor)

1 package of smoked trout cut into small pieces(to place on chips)

crème fraîche

fresh chives, finely chopped

Directions:

Sort chips in a single file on a platter or plate.  Top with a small piece of trout.  Place a tiny dollop (about a 1/2 teaspoon) of crème fraîche on top of trout.  Finish with a pinch of chopped chives on top.  Serve immediately.

Note: Any kind of smoked fish will work on this really.  As will substituting another kind of herb instead of chives.

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