Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carrot and Squash Soup - Thanksgiving Recycle!

We had over quite a group for Christma-Channuk-Thanksgiving-mas. Twelve people for a sit down dinner which was our largest crowd ever. It was so much fun and we really enjoyed having all of our friends over. This year I tried more than ever to have the left overs from dinner go home with my guests as I usually need a break after prepping for a big party. But I was left with a few of the baby squash and it was an east decision to make a delicious soup in time for the cold front that moved in.

Baby Squash and Carrot Soup
1 c maple glazed carrots     (I also add a tiny splash of aged balsamic vinegar to the glaze)
6 roasted baby squash halves - skin removed (split in half, cover with olive oil and savory herbs and roast at 350F for 45 min)
2 c milk 2%
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp all spice
1 tsp cinnamon
salt & pepper
special equipment: immersion blender

1) In a large pan, heat the milk over a medium flame.
2) Add the squash pulp and carrots and let come to a simmer
3) CAREFULLY! Remove from heat and blend till smooth
4) Add seasoning

I also recycled my stuffing into croutons by spreading it out onto a cookie sheet and baking at 350F for 15 min
1 loaf brioche loaf - cut into 1" cubes, covered in olive oil and toasted for 15 min
4 tbsp butter - melted
1 c carrots - sliced
1 c onion - diced
1 c red bell pepper - diced
2 c mushrooms - chopped1 tbsp fresh sage - minced
4 cloves garlic - minced
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 c walnuts
1 c vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

1) In a pan with some oil, saute the onions, peppers and carrots until soft.
2) add mushrooms and allow all moisture to evaporate
3) In a large bowl - mix together melted butter, bread cubes, vegetable mix, herbs and walnuts
4) Place in a large buttered casserole dish and add broth
5) Cover with foil and place in oven 350F for 35 -40 min - remove foil for last 10 min or so to brown top

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Its seems that it is always hard to find time to get everyone together but during December this is especially true. One of the best parts of the holidays is visiting with friends and family that we might not see often enough during the rest of the year. This year it seemed like we had even more than usual going on and so we decided to combine our usually holiday parties into one big dinner....for 12! Officially our biggest sit down dinner to date.

Last year, we held a Latkes/Christmas Cookie party - everyone really enjoyed dinner and loved decorating cookies so we knew that was definitely part of the evening. Since my Thanksgiving was a little short of leftovers,  I was really itching to cook a turkey so there was another huge part of my menu. With so many holidays to celebrate we certainly didn't have a shortage of traditional foods to choose from! Everything came out really well except for my stuffing... which needed a little more time in the oven to get nice and brown.

I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the sugar cookies and they came out wonderful! Just make sure you watch them because a sheet of mine (or maybe two) ended up in the trash when I got distracted. For the latkes, I used about 7.5 lbs of potato and 2 onions to make about 60 latkes. I didn't have any matzah meal on hand so I went with panko breadcrumbs....it didn't seem to cause any issues.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winner Winner even more Chicken for dinner?

I know I have mentioned this already before but I really love boneless skinless chicken thighs. This cut is less expensive and more tasty than the breasts. Because it has a slightly higher fat content it will stay moister as well. I find that it is well suited for searing and then oven finishing. Though I have had my spice blends for a while now I am still amazed at how easy and delicious it is make dinner

To make this broccoli rabe a little more interesting I gave it a bit of a kick by adding some fresh squeezed lemon and a bit of crushed red pepper while I was cooking it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Treats has Carla been Tasting? Part 2 Florida

My final trip was to Florida for Thanksgiving. Over a year ago, my family decided to spend this Thanksgiving in Disney World and we were happy to be able to take the time off from work and join them. With 19 of us "squeezed" into a 9 bedroom rental home we were able to enjoy the real spirit of the holidays - being with your loved ones! While none of the dinners were anything special, it was so great to all be together that it didn't really matter. I had offered to make a big family dinner for everyone but apparently I was deemed too expensive and messy! Haha.... they must be my family cause they know me too well!

However, friday morning we left the family behind and headed to an all together different type of playland in Miami Beach - decidedly for the adults this time. Our ride down led us to Le Tub, home of the best burger in the world (as voted by GQ and Oprah). I can't say that I disagree - this huge burger (13 oz) was perfectly cooked to a medium leaving the center a perfect warm pink and delicious even without any toppings (I decided to go without the cheese as to taste the burger better but I did make use of the lettuce and tomato slice). This stop was recommended by a fellow music writer on Hidden Track and I have to say it was the perfect way to start our Miami Beach vacation - from the gritty Ex-New Yorkers telling a story in the booth next to us telling a story that would be more appropriate for a frat boy than a 50 year old man to the gorgeous boats that floated by allowing us to day dream as we waited to meet our burger.

We spent the next few days drinking frozen concoctions at the Clevelander, checking out a local sushi spot, and trying Greek favorite,which was featured on Rachel Ray's $40 a day show, Taverna Opa! (which did have a pretty awesome happy hour deal). We also made sure to check out the local gelato shop that was featured on the MTV's Jersey Shore for a double guilty pleasure. To start off our birthday day of fun, we had brunch on Ocean and enjoyed an interesting take on a Eggs Benedict at the Park Central Hotel. While the English muffin and poached egg were there, pancetta, spinach and fresh mozzarella replaced the standard ingredients.

Our last night we decided to dine at WISH in The Hotel of South Beach. Wish is located on Collins which is one of the main streets in South Beach filled with stylish art deco hotels. The first night when we were walking around we noticed the patio area at The Hotel and assumed it was some sort of bar however WISH is much more. As a four Diamond restaurant, you anticipate an exciting experience and WISH delivers. From the glowing menu to the electric cocktails, you never forget that you are on one of the trendiest street of South Beach. I really enjoyed the maple cream on the Pan Seared Diver Scallops and just couldn't get enough of the pickled radish on the Maine Lobster Ravioli. The pairings were exciting and had me peaking back at the menu at times amazed at the synergy between the ingredients.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What Treats has Carla been Tasting? Part 1 Boston, Cincinnati and Los Angeles

So as you may have noticed I have been absent for a few weeks! Some of that time I was off working but there were a few personal trips stuck in there as well - in all I was only home for about 8 days in the whole month of November. The month started with my sister's bachelorette party and bridal shower back home in Massachusetts. Even though I don't live nearby I still wanted to be able to contribute to the sweet table and so when my flight got in late Friday night I got to work baking brown bottom pumpkin cheesecakes. These individual cheesecakes are just the right size....especially when you have over 50 other desserts to choose from! I also made a classic Red Velvet mini cupcake with cream cheese frosting which after a slight learning curve (I was borrowing pans from my mom and the first batch came out a little "toasted") came out moist and delicious.

Next, I visited Cinncinnati and couldn't pass up a chance to visit the original Montgomery Inn for their famous ribs. While I personally am more of a dry rub fan, I never say no to ribs! (sorry no picture!)

My next stop was a week in Los Angeles, California. I started my week there feeling a bit ill so I was less than adventurous and happily sat in my hotel room watching TV and ordering take out. But as things progressed I decided that I wasn't leaving the West Coast until I had tried one of these famous In'n'Out Burgers.While this burger joint looks like any other fast food place from the outside - the line extending out of the driveway was an indication that this wasn't the same old greasy hockey puck burger. What I got for about $5 was definitely an equal to many of the burgers I have eaten in bars and grill joints all over New York...however next time I will skip the fries and the shake as I didn't feel that they added much to the meal.

I also enjoyed a decadent night in Manhattan Beach with some business associates sampling some of the local fare. After enjoying a delicious beer at Manhattan Beach Brewing Co. We continued the night at Darren's and enjoyed a lovely dinner. We had to try their signature Sweet and Spicy Lobster Chowder which absolutely amazing though nothing like the New England classic! We also sampled a bottle of Ken Wright Pinot Noir which absolutely amazed me as it opened up and transformed over the course of dinner. For my main course, I was instantly drawn to the Short Ribs which was quickly passed around the table so that everyone could enjoy. I was also able to taste the Rock Shrimp Ravioli and loved the truffle goodness that was amply added to the sauce giving a beautiful rich, earthy edge.

Just halfway through the month and I have already enjoyed many great meals but nothing that I made at home! At least I was able to get some inspiration.....

(Please excuse some of the photos as my blackberry isn't always the most reliable but I had to document these wonderful meals regardless!)