Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

If you haven't heard, Thanksgiving is next week.  So much food, so many different varieties of dishes and no two Thanksgiving menus are ever truly identical.  However, besides the turkey, there is one dish that will be at nearly every house.  It is the magical mashed potato.  Most families have their tried and true recipe and they are the delicious bed for the other treats you will eat on Thanksgiving.  But what about the leftovers?  Sure, they are great on their own, but my recipe for Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes is the way to use the leftovers up.  The mashed potato cake has a crispy, crunchy surface with a smooth and creamy middle.  The best textures with the perfect flavors and it could not be simpler to make.   They will make a fantastic side to breakfast any morning of the long weekend or can be a fantastic snack on their own.  These crispy pillows are so tasty, it might be a good idea to set some of mashed potatoes aside to make sure you have leftovers!

This is what you need:

2 cups Mashed Potatoes (makes about 4 cakes)
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2 Eggs- beaten
1 cup Flour
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Optional Garnish
Sour Cream
Green Onion
Hot Sauce

This is what you do:
Form your potatoes in little cakes, kind of like burgers,  I used about 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes per cake.  Set your coating assembly up, flour, salt, pepper and cayenne in one bowl, eggs in the next bowl and the panko bread crumbs in the last.  Dip each cake first in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumbs.  Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat until bubbling.  Set the cakes down gently and let cook for about 6 minutes, until the bottom is crispy.  Carefully turn over and cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Remove and top with your garnished of choice.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes total
Serves: 4

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Wrapped Asparagus

I first had these little bundles of joy at a book club my friend Lindsay hosted.  I immediately became focused on eating as many as I could and because of this, I cannot recall anything about the book we discussed.  My only clear memory of that night are these amazing Prosciutto and Goat Cheese wrapped Asparagus, and I have been obsessed ever since.  They are unbelievably delicious with the crispy and salty prosciutto and the creamy and tangy goat cheese.  The asparagus cooks up a little sweet and adds a fresh bite to the the whole package.  When I saw asparagus at Trader Joe's in November, I knew I had to make this recipe and share it with you!  These are a perfect appetizer for any dinner and would be fantastic to serve at a holiday or Super Bowl party.  They seriously could not be easier to put together and cook up fast.  Some advice, these will be eaten up very quickly so I recommend snagging a couple of them for yourself before you put them out for your guests.  They will be gone before you know it and you need to get in on the action.

Here is what you need:

1 lb Asparagus, trimmed
4 -6 oz of Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
2 oz of Goat Cheese (if you are not a Goat cheese fan, cream cheese would be fantastic also)
1/8 tsp of Pepper
Cooking Spray

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim the asparagus.  Take 3-4 asparagus stalks and lay them on a slice of prosciutto.  Add about a 1/2 tbsp of goat cheese on top of the asparagus and wrap them up.  Repeat until finished.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place the bundles on the sheet and cook for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove and serve!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mushrooms Seared with Garlic and Herbs

The mushroom is basically the work horse of vegetables.  It can literally be prepared anyway from raw to roasted and there are countless varieties to choose from.  Mushrooms can be added to nearly any dish or take center stage as a main course.  They work great as a meat replacement for vegetarians yet are a wonderful accoutrement to steak or on a burger.  Mushrooms are a fantastic source of Vitamin D and B which is great for skin, hair and nails and helps to metabolize fats.  My Mushrooms Seared with Garlic and Herbs can be made with any variety you like and could not be easier to prepare.  The taste is rich and garlicky and the fresh herbs really enhance and brighten the flavor.  They work beautifully as a side dish to any meat from steak to chicken and can also be a great alternative to meat in tacos, pasta or over potatoes or rice.   My husband and I make these every time we have steak or burgers.  These mushrooms would make a fantastic, affordable addition to your holiday menu for any vegetarian friends and your meat eating friends will be fighting for them too.

Here is what you need:

1 lb Mushrooms - sliced  (These are Baby Portabellas, but Button or Crimini work great too)
2-3 cloves of Garlic - minced
1 tbsp fresh Rosemary - chopped or 1 tsp dried  (Thyme would work here too)
2 tbsp fresh Flat Leaf Parsley - chopped
1 tbsp Butter or Ghee
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Pepper

This is what you do:
Slice your mushrooms to about 1/2 inch thick.  Heat your butter and oil over medium high heat in a large frying pan.  Add the chopped rosemary and let cook for a minute, add the garlic and let cook for a minute or 2.  Add the mushrooms and toss to make sure they all get coated in the oil and butter.  Let the mushrooms sear over the heat for about 5 minutes, not moving them.  Stir and let sear for a few more minutes.  After about 10 minutes, add the Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper and lower the heat.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Add the flat leaf parsley and remove from pan.  Serve them up!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: About 4 for a side dish portion

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

It has been said that baking is an exact science.  Measurements need to perfect, dry ingredients and wet ingredients need to be kept separate until the right time and one false move and the dish can be ruined.  This is why so many of us reach for the boxed cake mixes to make our cakes and cupcakes, it takes the guess work and the risk out of baking.  I certainly did until I found this recipe.  It is the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe, rich and moist, yet light and fluffy.  It is not too sweet and incredibly easy to make.  It takes maybe 10 minutes longer in prep work but cooks faster than a boxed mix recipe.  The Buttercream frosting is incredible.  It is rich and creamy and adds the perfect sweetness to the chocolate cupcake.  I never knew how easy buttercream was to make until I tried.  The name gives away 2/3 of the ingredients and it takes about 5 minutes to prepare.  I have made these cupcakes for every birthday and holiday over the past year and they are always a major hit.  Give these a try next time you feel the need for some cupcakes.

This is what you need for the cupcakes:

Dry Ingredients
1 cup of All Purpose Flour
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp finely ground Coffee

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
1/2 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup boiling Water

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, add the cupcake liners to your muffin tin and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Mix the dry ingredients together and then add all the wet ingredients except the boiling water.  Once completely mixed, add the boiling water and mix on high for one minute.  Fill your cups about 3/4 of the way full and cook for 12-15 minutes.  Use the toothpick method to make sure the cupcakes are done.  If it comes out clean, they are ready.  Let cool for 10 minutes in muffin tin then remove to plate or wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Makes 12-15 cupcakes

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pineapple Champagne Cocktail

Oh, how I love champagne and the many delicious ways to enjoy it.  Champagne is such a celebratory drink and practically the only alcohol acceptable before noon.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy it is my Pineapple Champagne Cocktail.  Because champagne can be a little pricey and the bottle seems to go very fast, I came up with a way to stretch the adding pineapple juice and vodka!  The pineapple adds a little sweetness to compensate for the bitterness of the vodka and the sparkling, dry champagne adds the bubbles and the crispness.  It is a great drink to serve in the beginning of a party before your guests switch to wine or beer.  I serve it at almost all my parties and it is always a big hit.  Not too strong, not too sweet, just the perfect balance.  The best part?  It is only 3 ingredients and can be self served.  Just mix it all up in a pitcher and set on your table for guests to help themselves.  The holidays are fast approaching, which means family gatherings, which means drinks are mandatory.  Make this cocktail, you and your guests won't regret it!

What you need:
1 bottle of Champagne
2 cups of Pineapple Juice
1 cup of Vodka

Mix and serve over ice or in champagne flute.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Strawberry and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Living in San Diego, it can feel like summer goes on forever.  I'm not complaining because that would be obnoxious when most of the country is experiencing a season called Fall, however I would love to be wearing boots and sweaters right about now (don't hate me).  My point is, I can get strawberries year round and since I love them so much, this makes me very happy and always looking to add them into my food in interesting ways.  Now, if strawberries are hard to come by in your area this time of year, you can always use fresh figs or pears and it would be an incredible  seasonal salad.  This might be the easiest, most flavorful salad you will ever make.  The strawberries are sweet and delicious, the goat cheese is creamy and tangy, the arugula is peppery and delicate and the candied pecans add the perfect crunch.  I use a balsamic vinaigrette to contrast the sweet strawberries and tie all the flavors together.  Balsamic and sweet fruits pair extremely well together.  The effort required for this salad entails dumping your bag of arugula in a salad bowl, slicing the strawberries and crumbling the goat cheese and adding the pecans.  Toss with dressing and serve.  This simple salad is beautiful to look at, has many layers of flavor and is completely adjustable to your tastes.  It is perfect to serve for the holidays and is an amazing side to steak or chicken.  Make this salad and enjoy your crisp, fall weather!

This is what you need:

1 bag or 4 cups of Arugula or Spinach would be wonderful too
2 cups Strawberries - sliced
3-4 tbsp of Goat Cheese - crumbled.  Feta is a delicious substitute
2-3 tbsp Candied Pecans or walnuts
Balsamic Vinaigrette of your choice or a Champagne Vinaigrette works great too
Fresh Cracked Pepper

This is what you do:
Add ingredients to a bowl, toss and serve!
Serves 6-8
Total Time: 5 minutes

Monday, November 10, 2014

7 Tips for the Beginner Home Cook

In no way am I a chef or master cook.  I am a proud Home Cook through and through.  I love creating recipes and feeding my friends and family.  Of course, not everything I have done or will do has been easy or came out perfectly the first or even the tenth time.  My cooking ups and downs has led me to seven solid rules I use in my kitchen everyday.  These are tips that make the food taste better and the cooking process easier.  And if that isn't the goal for Cook Like it's Easy, than I don't know what is!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pancetta and Goat Cheese Frittata with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Eggs are a big part of my diet.  I happen to love them and since I try to stick to a low-carb lifestyle, they are not just a breakfast food for me.  They are packed with protein and healthy fat and can be prepared in so many ways.  One of my favorite ways is the Frittata.  It sounds fancy and looks pretty yet rustic, but in reality, it's just a flat omelet that is super easy to prepare and really hard to mess up.  All you need is an oven safe pan to start the cooking process on the stove top and transfer the whole pan to the oven to finish. You can put anything you like in a frittata, but this one has some of my favorite ingredients in it.  Pancetta is an Italian bacon that is salt cured but not smoked, like American variety is.  It has a delicate flavor and is absolutely fantastic paired with tangy and creamy goat cheese.  The caramelized onions add a wonderful sweetness and the spinach adds to our health and gives off a beautiful color.  Don't be intimidated to try this out.  The ingredients are magic together and are all cooked in the same pan, which means less to clean!  That makes me so happy and means it is a great breakfast or brunch dish to serve to a crowd or make for yourself and have yummy leftovers. 

Here is what you need:

8 large Eggs
4 oz of Pancetta - cubed or sliced
3 tbsp of Goat Cheese - crumbled
2 small or 1 large Onion - sliced
2 cups fresh Spinach Leaves or 1 box frozen - defrosted and drained
2 tbsp of Butter
1/4 tsp of Salt
1/4 tsp of Pepper

Here is what you do:
Add butter to pan and cook pancetta for about 5-7 minutes over medium heat, until crispy.  Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Preheat oven to broil.  Lower the heat on the pan to low and add onions, 1/8 tsp of both salt and pepper to the pan and cook for about 20 minutes,until caramelized.  Add spinach to pan and wilt.  Whisk eggs and 1/8 tsp salt and pepper each in a separate bowl.  Add egg mixture to pan and cook over low eat until the the eggs are about half way set, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the goat cheese and transfer the whole pan to oven for about 5 minutes.  Remove when cooked through and enjoy!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
Serves: 6-8