Saturday, December 12, 2009

Stuffed Dates

Ok, one more in the picky food department. These were really good, although my disclaimer up front is that dates have kind of a weird texture, almost like a potato, which wasn't a big hit with the boy I was feeding. That said, I ate the whole plate with the exception of a couple that I chopped up and put into a warm pancetta & orange spinach salad. But that's another story. One more disclaimer, is that I originally saw this recipe with the dates wrapped in procuitto, which I think might be better, but I had the pancetta, so you know...

Alright, so mix a little goat cheese with some fresh basil. Then, slice the dates open and remove the pit. Fill the dates with the cheese and wrap in procuitto. If you use pancetta, you need to cook it, which is a bit tricky, but it does give the dates a nice camelization. Drizzle on a little sweet chili sauce and voila! Add this one to your next picky dinner, just don't be too picky about the texture!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Speaking of appetizers.... Actually at my house we often have something we call "picky dinners". Not because you get to be fussy about what you eat, but because you get to pick at a lot of little dishes. If we were in Spain, we would call it "tapas", I suppose. But at the country house, it's a picky dinner. This was part of one recently.

Mix together some goat cheese and some ricotta with some fresh basil and parsley. Slice a baguette and drizzle with olive oil. Spread a little cheese mixture on each slice and bake at
350-ish until toasted.

Meanwhile toss some chopped tomatoes, & onion with a little basil, salt, pepper, olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Spoon onto baguettes and serve.

Super simple and delish!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Asian Chicken Cabbage Rolls

I went to Little Village - a Chinese restaurant - a couple of weeks ago & my friend ordered the chicken lettuce wraps. Then a few days later I saw a recipe for something similar but wrapped in cabbage. So here is my version of something in between the two.

First, poach some chicken (1 thigh was enough for four wraps) in boiling water with a little ginger, green onion, celery, salt & pepper - and what ever else you feel like throwing in. When its done, allow to cool a bit and then remove from bone and chop into small chunks.

My cabbage was kind of flimsy, so I suggest getting something with a pretty sturdy leaf, otherwise you will have some structural challenges. Anyway, cut out the bottom of the tough center core form each leaf, then throw the leaves into the poaching liquid for about 1 minute, then into some ice water to stop the cooking. Remove from the water and dry off with a paper towel.

Make up a sauce with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, brown sugar, ginger, hoisen sauce and green onion. Mix the chicken with some sliced carrot, celery & cucumber and a bit of the sauce (don't make them too drippy). Spoon chicken mixture into cabbage leaves and roll like a burrito. And there you go. Have this with a cold Tsingtao or Kirin beer & you will have the perfect lunch!

Baked Brie

Since you happen to have a fabulous cranberry sauce recipe at your fingertips, you might be wondering what else you can do with them, right? Well fear not, I have just the thing!

Take a hunk of brie, pile some cranberry sauce and pecans on top, then wrap in puff pastry. Brush with a little olive oil and bake until golden.

This was a huge hit at my Thanksgiving gathering this year. I did it with plain pecans, but I think it would be killer if you candied them first. You know, throw them in a pan with a little butter, brown sugar & cinnamon. Either way, it rocks! Serve this at your holiday party and you will be the star!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mamala's Cranberries

Well I figured it might not be too late to share this one with you since I'm still seeing fresh cranberries in the store. And people still have this kind of stuff at Christmas, right? My mom has made homemade cranberry sauce for as long as I can remember. If you're saying to yourself that you're not such a fan, you may want to rethink that after you try this. This is not your aunties gelatinous stuff slithering out of a can. Here's what you do:

Put a 1 pound bag of cranberries, 1 cup of water & 1 cup of sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring continually to keep from sticking together.

When berries have popped, mix 1 Tbs. cornstarch with 1/4 c. water. Add to berries and stir until thickened, then remove from heat.

And here's the big secret: Next add a couple of drops of red food coloring and a couple of drops of almond extract. And if you want to get whacky, throw in some orange zest.

How easy is that?! Try your next turkey sandwich with a little of this and you will never go back to the weird stuff in the can.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm Sorry !!!

I know!! I've been getting scolded right and left about my neglect of Swigs and Grinds over the last few weeks. I had such big plans for sharing with you my mom's amazing cranberry sauce recipe for Thanksgiving, I had some pretty killer leftover recipes to share, and even a couple of appetizers. But noooooooo. Life swooped me up and carried me along at a breakneck pace and I am just now catching my breath. So I'm sorry...

That said, it's feeding frenzy week in my house so buckle your seat belts people I'm back! I was running around like a crazy person yesterday, meeting with clients, running on a measly bowl of cereal from hours before. My last appointment landed me dangerously close to Whole Foods with a growling stomach. The warning sirens were blaring in my head but I was pulled by the gravitational pull of hunger toward the food mecca.

I entered cautiously, knowing at least enough to grab only a basket instead of a cart. An aside here, I live about 45 minutes away from Whole Foods, so it's a rare occasion that I get myself over there. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bloody shame, because I would be there everyday and spend a million dollars a month on groceries. So needless to say, it was a special occasion. And I was famished.

I managed to have a little self control and tried to only get ingredients that I couldn't get elsewhere. The thing is, I ended up with such a crazy assortment of things in my basket that the guy in the check out had to ask what I was cooking tonight. I told him: "Actually I'm being cooked for tonight, this is just what happens when you come here hungry".

Here's what I had:
A fabulously crusty, perfect baguette
A hand full of Medjool dates. You can buy them in bulk!!
2 1/2 pounds of steel cut oats
A wedge each of Port Salute & Sini Fulvi Taleggi cheese
A bottle of horseradish
Bonnie Maman's blueberry preserves
A jar each of Garam Masala, Guatamalan Cardamon, and Spanish Saffron
A bag of fresh pizza dough
A bunch of organic spinach
And last but not least, a container of spicy beet, spinach & feta salad that's going to leave me fantasizing about it for days.

So what I ended up with was a bag full of Swigs and Grinds potential. Stay tuned, the feeding frenzy begins in a couple of hours.....