Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pomodoro Fresco Pasta Salad

A while back I received a copy of the cookbook In a Small Kitchen to review. It's written by the 20-something girls, Cara Eisenpress & Phoebe Lapine from the food blog, Big Girls Small Kitchen. I'm just finally getting around to it now, which is an indication of just how insanely busy my summer has been thus far!
As much as I love cookbooks, I am extremely selective in the ones I purchase...or, even accept for I don't want to amass an enormous collection of cookbooks unless they'll be used on a fairly regular basis. {Is there a term for the opposite of being a hoarder? A minimalist? If so, that's me.}
But, I happen to be a fan of these girls. I love that they've been bitten by the food bug at such a young age and I appreciate their love of entertaining. I heard about their blog for the first time while watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network, in which they were guests. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover...but, looking at the cover of this cookbook, I could tell right away I would like it.
The recipes within it's pages are very accessible, even for beginners in the realm of cooking. At the same time they're still sophisticated. The cookbook has an original approach, where it's recipes are organized by the occasions for which one would cook...such as meals perfect when you're cooking for one, or having a date night, or hosting a dinner party. This one was from the section titled, Potlucking...under the subcategory, Packing a Picnic. Each section of also full of stories and food inspirations. It's one of very few cookbooks I've known that reads like an actual book, in that you could read it cover to cover.
What drew me to this recipe is that it's exactly the type of meal I would naturally make for a summer dinner, albeit a bit more refined than my typical version. When I looked at the ingredients list I realized it was basically my mother's bruschetta {with a few extra ingredients} mixed with pasta. My mom makes her signature dish many times every summer with her garden tomato harvests. She serves it with toasted bread slices as an appetizer. It's something that we all look forward to!
This recipe is called a pasta salad, as it's supposed to be served at room temperature, and can be made ahead of time. But, you could certainly serve it warm by adding in the hot pasta and plating it up right away. I love their idea of adding in some balsamic vinegar and a touch of sugar, as I knew it would add a nice sweetness to balance the acidic nature of tomatoes. It couldn't be easier to make and it's sure to be popular with anyone you serve it to...even with the a picky kid crowd.
ALSO...Today, I am offering up TWO free copies of "In a Small Kitchen" by Cara Eisenpress & Phoebe Lapine! To enter for a chance to win one, just leave a comment below. Winners will be randomly selected on Monday, August 1st {my birthday!}. Don't forget to leave contact information!
UPDATE: And the WINNERS are...Comments #1 {Lindsay!} and #14 {Joanne!}. Please send me an email with your contact info, so I can mail you your cookbooks! You can find my email in the "About Me" section above. Thanks All!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Strawberry Paletas

As a kid, one of my favorite summer treats was a FrozFruit Bar. I loved the chunky strawberry one,...and I also really loved the coconut one. It all depended on my mood. It's amazes me sometimes the things from childhood that stand out as clear as day. Walking to the store, with a few pieces of change and picking out a fruit bar is a memory that makes me happy.
Years later, as an adult living in Brooklyn, I still loved walking to the nearest bodega and picking up one of those exact same bars. I know similar fruit bars, or even the same ones, are available in some supermarkets. But, eating one out of a box is different from getting an individually wrapped one out of a freezer chest at a convenience store. I don't know exactly what it is, but they taste different to me.
I recently purchased a set of ice pop molds and couldn't wait to try them out. When I decided on this recipe, I had no intention of re-creating a strawberry FrozFruit bar at home. But, the end result? It tastes exactly like one! I was so excited...and so were my boys. We've already started planning out which flavors we will make next.
For more ideas, I recommend the cookbook, "Paletas" by Fany Gerson...where you can find this recipe, and many more. By the way, Paletas are frozen fruit pops in Mexico...but, have become quite the rage in the United States. They are sometimes made with milk, but always with fresh, real fruit. Have you tried making Paletas at home? What are some of your favorite flavors, or flavor combos?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Some Things I Just Love...

I'm a huge fan of beauty products, yet many days the most you'll see me wearing is mascara {if that}. This certainly doesn't stop me from buying it! During the summer months, I love that very little is needed. On occasions when I do go out, or get a sudden desire to get gussied up, these are the products I use and love...
{a.} I picked up some of this unbelievably fabulous smelling bronzing shimmer oil while on vacation. It gives your skin a sun-kissed glow and even tone. I love that its organic and can be used on your face, body and even hair! {b.} Some may think that a fair-skinned redhead doesn't have to deal with the summer battle against hairiness. Well, think again. This battery-operated water-proof razor/trimmer is a dream. It's been my friend for many years. {c.} My sister left this lip gloss at my house over a year ago...and let's just say she never got it back. I am typically not a fan of the texture of lip gloss {I'm more of a lip balm girl}. But, this moisture rich lip gloss by Smashbox has changed my ways. It's shiny, but not too shiny and is completely non-greasy. It gives your lips a perfect pink tint...a pink that would look good on anyone. {d.} This is my go-to nail color for summer. Jelly Apple by Essie is the best color I've ever found for complimenting fair skin tone. Although, I think it would look good on just about anyone. {e.} Nars blush in Orgasm is probably the most well-known and beloved blush out there...the reason being, it's the perfect shade for everyone. The same color comes in a multiple stick, which can be used on eyes, cheeks, or lips. It has a bit of sparkle added, which makes it perfect for summer skin. {f.} MCMC frangrances makes amazing scents using natural ingredients. I'm not much of a perfume wearer in the summer...but I do love their Garden perfume oil. To me, it smells like summer...and if you're like me and like to try before you buy, they sell sample sets! {g.} You could stop me anywhere, look in my purse and find this Mini Nail Rescue Kit from Tweezerman. It's tiny, has everything you need to resolve any nail dilemma, and {in typical Tweezerman fashion} works great. {h.} COOLA makes {by far} the best suncare products around. I discovered this brand recently and wonder how I ever managed without it. I use their sport sunscreen on the whole family, but my favorite is their tinted moisturizer mineral sunblock. Because it's a mineral based product, it has a very smooth finish, without any heaviness, or oiliness. It also gives enough coverage that you can use it as your summer foundation {with nothing else needed}.
So, tell me...what are your favorite summer beauty products?? I love hearing what other people use! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Despite the {mostly negative} chatter I seem to be hearing regarding the new Bon Appétit magazine, I have to say I'm loving it. Frankly, new or old style, I've always enjoyed BA. But, now I'm really enjoying it.
For those of you who may not be as engrossed in the world of food magazine's as I am, Bon Appétit has a new editor-in-chief. They have for about 6 months now, but it's only been in the past couple of months that the changes have really become evident.
What are these changes? What stands out most for me is the food photography and the overall styling of the magazine. When I pick up a food magazine and want to not only cook every recipe, but also re-create the exact meal, dish by dish...then it's a winner in my book.
Along with many folks in America, I was on the lookout for some delicious looking, picnic-style foods for the Fourth of July holiday. It just so happened that this month's issue had a delicious and brilliantly photographed spread devised specifically for a Fourth of July perfect!
I wanted to make every single item on the menu, but this year I had many dinners to attend during the holiday week {thanks to a 2 week long visit from my sister & nieces} and for most of them I was in charge of bringing a veggie side, or salad. In the end, I made this salad twice...for two different groups of people. Which was actually ideal, as it gave me a chance to change some things I wasn't wild about the first time around. The photographs here are from the first go-around. I used feta cheese, because the ricotta salata that the recipe called for was unavailable to me. I also added the full 2 tablespoons of fresh mint suggested...I thought it was bit too much. I'm a big fan of things like iced tea, ice cream, or for making mojitos. But, when it comes to a simple salad such as this, it can easily dominate to the point where you can't taste anything else.
My final version is what's shown in the printable recipe at the bottom of this post. If you can get your hands on some ricotta salata, than you most definitely should {I was able to find it at Whole Foods}. As it takes this salad from perfectly good, to a crave-able kind of way. I also recommend adding the mint, and dressing to suit your personal tastes. You can always add more, but taking away is a bit more tricky.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Caprese Burger

Some of you might remember the Cheddar & Guinness Dip recipe I wrote for the folks from the Wisconsin Cheese Board back in March. They were nice enough to ask me to submit another guest post for their blog, Wisconsin Cheese Talk. This time, the subject matter was...Cheeseburgers! Of course, I did not hesitate to say yes. I love a good cheeseburger.
It also happened to be good, I've been meaning to get a recipe for a burger up here for some time. I actually had a reader write me, saying they loved the recipes I featured, but that they were perplexed as to how an American home-cook didn't have a single burger recipe in the archives! I promised to get on that...
So, now I have...and this happens to be a darn good one, if I do say so myself.
I tend to get settled in my ways with food...ordering the same take-out items for dinner, or the same sandwich from my favorite deli, the same entree from one of the restaurants in our regular rotation. I'm nervous to branch out, because what if it's not as good as my old standby? I'm not a "specials" person, and hardly bother to look at them, unless it's a new place.
The case is also true when it comes to how I like a cheeseburger. When I make burgers at home, my toppings are fresh mozzarella, pesto, and tomato. But, for this post, I wanted something more creative than just that. Something worthy of being called a "recipe"...otherwise, I'm basically just telling you how to build a sandwich.
For a twist on the traditional Caprese ingredients, this burger is made with pickled tomatoes. Something that seems to be catching on these least according to all my Food Network TV viewing. The basil and balsamic vinegar elements come in the form of a basil mayo...which works out well for me, as I'm also known to enjoy mayonnaise on a burger. The rest is the usual...forming the patty by hand, between two pieces of wax paper {makes a perfect patty every time, in my book} and searing it in a hot, "salted" cast iron skillet {a method I learned from my MIL}. Lastly, my favorite parts...creamy, salty fresh mozzarella cheese, and a crusty, airy bread, like ciabatta. You can see my guest post by clicking here.
Hope you enjoy this burger as much as I did...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and enjoy some great food, family & fireworks!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Big Sky

This is my second installment of vacation photos. I think you'll see why I'm calling it Big Sky. Even though Montana is known as Big Sky Country, I've been to both states and the landscape in Wyoming is very similar to it's Northern neighbor. Growing up, and still living in New England, I can appreciate the skyline of Jackson. Here in Connecticut, you just don't get this vast uninterrupted horizon. It's truly breathtaking.