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memorial day recipe round-up

I have nothing to say but this: try one of these delish recipes this weekend. Your friends and family will begin to worship you in ways you never thought possible. Coffees will arrive at your doorstep. Pedicures will be booked in your name. Parties will be thrown in your honor. You will get to meet the President.

Probably.

Bacon-wrapped potato bites. Man pleasin’. Party pleasin’. Tummy pleasin’.

Lemon sour cream cups. Cheesecake + sour cream – crust + lemon + cute = a totally fun dessert everyone will spoon right up.

Double chocolate brownies. Just do it. I beg of you.

Sweet potato and onion fries. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Even better in my belly.

Rhubarb shortcakes with lemon ricotta cream. If they serve dessert in heaven, this is it.

Poblanos stuffed with chipotle mac ‘n’ cheese: creamy, spicy mac baked in it’s own individual pepper.

Mini strawberry pies. Because pies are better when they’re individually sized.

And finally, greek yogurt and honey pie. Because you’ve been very, very good this week and you deserve something rich, fluffy and sweet as honey.

Have a delicious, fun and happy holiday weekend!

-RDG

artichoke crusted chicken a la sugarlaws

I dream about cooking soufflés. Coq au vin. Seven-layer tortes. I live a fictional life as a professional chef while I sleep full of commercial kitchens and walk-in pantries stocked by DeLaurenti’s. I bake loaves and loaves of bread. I pipe rosettes onto cakes. I have $100 bottles of olive oil at my fingertips. I simmer mussels in wine and shave white truffles over homemade pasta.

But then I wake up. The baby is crying. I step on a musical toy donkey on my way to the bathroom. The coffee needs to be ground, the eggs need to be scrambled. And as I sleepily stumble my way around my kitchen with it’s laminate countertops, electric burners and too little square footage, I long to go back to that dreamworld of stainless steel and white aprons.

This is why when I run into a recipe that takes basic and easy to a whole new level of delicious, attention must be paid. In my evening alternate universe, there is endless time and unlimited ingredients. But for me, non-professional chef Jenny, living in the real world where time is scarce and trips to the grocery store are often few and far between, I need a go-to recipe that I can get on the table fast. I’ll save the sous vide and napoleons for my dream life of professional chef-dom.

This recipe for insanely tasty artichoke crusted chicken breasts comes from one of my blogger crushes Sugarlaws. She is beautiful. She is fashionable. She is not afraid to post pictures of herself for all of the world to see (I am quite the opposite). And she has a huge stock of recipes that are all delicious and easy. For this dish, you don’t need complicated ingredients, a well-stocked pantry, abundant workspace or even gas burners. 15 minutes, one pan and an oven should suffice.

Start by chopping some artichoke hearts (canned or jarred), and mixing them together with a little mayo, grated cheese, salt and pepper.

Toss some chicken breasts in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Brown well on one side…

…and then the other. Remove from heat, transfer to a baking sheet, and top with a dollop the artichoke mixture.

Broil for a few minutes until the cheese has melted and the topping turns a nice golden brown.

Stick them on a platter or directly on your dinner plate, and that’s it.

Does it get any easier than that? I don’t think so. This dish is so simple and satisfying that it should be given a medal.

And talk about tasty. The chicken is moist, the topping melty, salty and rich from the artichokes. Make a few potatoes or steam some veggies, and that’s dinner.

Make this tonight for your hungry ones. I know I will.

And afterwards, when the dishes are done and we have all gone to bed, I may just dream of this life—the fabulous, fun, crazy delicious life I live everyday. In my own tiny, outdated kitchen.

-RDG

You can find the original post and recipe for Sugarlaw’s Artichoke Crusted Chicken right here.

parfait

Watch out Seattle. There’s a new gourmet food truck puttering around these pot-holed streets. And this time, it’s not a diner on wheels or the best food cart in the grand ole U.S. of A. The Parfait ice cream truck serves up spoonfuls of the sweet variety: organic, homemade ice creams.

Right off the bat I was a little in love with this joint. Er, truck. I have such fond memories of Popsicle Joe when I was young: chasing after him in flip flops, spraining my ankle, the 16 year-old pimple-faced driver laughing at me as he drove off into the sunset with his Strawberry Shortcakes and Firecrackers. I figured that if nothing else, Parfait would be stationary, serve me ice cream that was not on a stick, and not necessitate an injured joint to enjoy it’s frozen bounty.

We were lucky enough to have them near our neighborhood this weekend, so Husband, Little Bear, some pals and I absolutely had to make the short trip to give these cones a try. The truck is gorgeous, the menu cute and simple, and the staff incredibly friendly and cordial. But what to order?

Our friend Dave, a parfait junkie, went with the mint stracciatella: mint-flavored ice cream with Dagoba chocolate flakes. But this was no ordinary pseudo-mint flavoring—it was made with real, fresh mint leaves. The result was quite a different flavor than your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip mint. It was fresh, earthy, and (as we all remarked with curiosity and laughter) tasted remarkably similar to another green leafy plant.

Yes, that one. Maybe that’s why Dave hangs outside this ice cream truck every Sunday.

For me? I went the herb-free route cuz that’s how I hang. The meyer lemon had my name on all over it, and I was pleasantly surprised by it’s soft lemon flavor. Parts of the ice cream were a little, well, icy; I found a few ice chips lurking in my compostable cup. But overall it was good.

Husband, because he needs chocolate like he needs air and internet, went with a bowl of decadent chocolate ice cream. It was creamy. It was rich. Smooth. Dare I say the best chocolate ice cream in Seattle?

It’s the best I have tasted in a long while. Are there any other new contestants that I need to know about?

When Lucy became aware that there was ice cream to be had, she got a little excited.

And I do believe that as she tasted Daddy’s chocolate, she said “mmmmmm.” I’m not even joking. I have no idea where she gets it from.

Check out Parfait’s schedule to see if they’re headed to your neck of the woods sometime soon. When you go, just make sure that you have a designated driver. The mint stracciatella has quite a kick.

And tell Dave I said hi. He’ll be the one begging on hands and knees for more ice cream. And eating cheetos. And ding dongs. And beef jerky.

-RDG

rhubarb shortcakes with lemon ricotta cream

I’ve been out of town, eating most of my meals in restaurants, and constantly on-the-go in preparation for a dear friend’s wedding yesterday. I feel as though I have lost touch with my husband, my daughter, my kitchen, and my sanity.

I’ve also been completely oblivious as to what season we’re heading toward and what lovely new produce is gracing the markets. So when I saw these gorgeous fresh red rhubarb stalks, it dawned on me that we are entering the most exciting season of produce there is: summer.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of working with rhubarb, it’s something that you should try at least once. It’s naturally very bitter, so you wouldn’t want to eat it plain or even unsweetened. But when stewed with a little sugar and vanilla, it makes me want to simultaneously dance an interpretive rhubarb jig and weep out of pure culinary bliss.

But what could I do with this rosy-pink compote that would compliment its flavors without being overpowering? A pie with strawberries and buttery crust is certainly delicious, but to me, rhubarb always feels like second fiddle in that situation. And nobody puts rhubarb in a corner.

Plus, the corners of my kitchen are probably really gross, so you wouldn’t want anything edible over there anyway.

Summer’s favorite dessert is strawberry shortcake, so why not nix the berries, pump up the volume on the whipped cream, and top it all off with a dollop of dreamy rhubarb compote?

That would certainly do. For the whipped cream, I began by whipping some regular heavy whipping cream and then added some texture and body with ricotta cheese. Lemon curd (which you can find next to the jam in your local store, or at a great price here) lent a tart, rich bite.

The result? I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but…

TOOTY FLIPPIN TOOT.

These were to die for. The compote was fresh and light, the cream silky and rich. The two flavors blended together in my mouth with wisps of cake and I was lost forever in a dessert dreamworld.

For the cake, I simply used store-bought angel food. I thought it had a nice fluffy texture and didn’t overpower any of the other flavors. If you’re not an angel food fan, you could also use slices of pound cake, homemade scones (county fair-style), biscuits, or sponge cake.

I will be trying this with all of those varieties of cakes this summer. I have my go-to dessert for the warm months ahead. Plus, the rhubarb compote is so versatile: I’ve already used the leftovers in another recipe, spread it on my toast, dolloped it on my yogurt, and poured it over vanilla ice cream. There can never be too much rhubarb in my world.

It felt so good to be back in the kitchen that I don’t know if I will ever leave it. I’m still in a bit of a fog from my girl’s getaway, but my daydreams consist of honeydew gazpacho and seared ahi with pears. It’s a nice fog to live in as I chop, stir, and photograph some lovely new recipes for the weeks ahead.

Happy monday, all!

-RDG

Rhubarb Shortcakes with Lemon Ricotta Cream

  • 8 stalks rhubarb, trimmed of leaves and chopped into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 10 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup lemon curd
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
  • 8-10 slices shortcake (angel food, sponge cake, biscuits or scones would all work well)

Make the rhubarb compote ahead of time: bring 1 cup of the water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the rhubarb, stir and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until rhubarb has softened and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup water into a shallow dish and sprinkle in gelatin packet. Let sit for 5 minutes. Once rhubarb mixture has cooled slightly, stir in activated gelatin and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

To make the cream: Beat the heavy whipping cream on medium-high until stiff peaks form. Fold in the ricotta cheese, lemon curd, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

To assemble the shortcakes: Top each slice of cake with a hefty dollop of the cream and a few tablespoons of the rhubarb compote. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs if you want to make it all purdy.

the five pounds I gained, and where they came from

We are all destined to put on a few pounds during vacation. An extra cocktail here, an appetizer there, a slice of tres leches cake that I can still see on my hips.

My recent trip to mexico was no exception. I had visited Cabo with almost the identical group of women (then, girls) in our late teens, and at that point in our lives we were more interested in finding cute guys and free drinks than searching out terrific Mexican cuisine. But during this visit, most of us married, soon to be married (and hence the girl’s getaway), in serious relationships, and too old to party till dawn, we were on the hunt for great food, the perfect margarita, and lots of time by the pool.

There are no shortage of restaurants in Cabo San Lucas, but there is a shortage of great ones. I’m always leery of eating establishments in touristy areas—they have a captive audience, most of whom will never eat there again, so why push to make the restaurant great? That being said, there are a few that do an exceptional job and are worth a second (or third, or fourth) trip.

The first one of these that the crew and I found was Mama’s Royal Cafe. You have to love a restaurant that has a sense of humor about itself, and I was smitten with this joint from the moment I sat down on their breezy patio, covered with a straw roof and adorned with plastic parrots. Kitschy, for some reason, works in Mexico.

An aside about signage in this place: a placard in the bathroom read “Please don’t flush paper products. There’s no Gary in Indiana.” Translation faux pas? A midwestern phrase I don’t know about? If you can tell me what it means, you win…

…a plate of chilaquiles: crispy strips of freshly pressed tortillas topped with grilled chicken, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and melted cheese. They were served with fresh guac and (for the record) the best sour cream I have ever tasted. And I am the toughest critic there is—we all know how much I love my sour cream. It was slightly runny, but tasted as though it had just been made in the kitchen, and the creamiest, smoothest variety I have ever had. If my Spanish were better I could have gotten the server to give me their secret. But as it stands, he probably thinks that I said something offensive about his grandmother.

The chilaquiles were just as awe-inspiring: the tortilla strips crispy but not oily, the chicken tender and spiced with green chiles, and the cheese and avocado lending a texture that nicely counter-balanced the crispiness of the tortillas. This breakfast could probably cure the meanest hangover in the country, and with coffee and bottled water my breakfast only totaled about $6.

Since we had been so thrifty at breakfast, we decided to splurge for dinner. We had reservations at a restaurant in San Jose, a 45 minute drive from our resort.

Casianos is surrounded by a ton of buzz, known as one of the best restaurant on the peninsula. I’m weary high-end concept restaurants (as this one is), after too many experiences of tiny food, snotty service, and overly-large checks. But one of my girlfriends had been there during a holiday a few months earlier and was still dreaming about the wine list and the tuna. So credit cards in hand, off we went.

Immediately struck by the decor, we settled into a rustic little booth and just stared. This photo cannot do it justice: heavy stripes on the wall that change seasonally (a few months ago they had been red, my girlfriend explained) frame a small dining room laced with exposed wood beams, dark linens, tapestries, rusted iron, and framed sketches. I didn’t just want to eat dinner there, I wanted to live there.

We sat, sipped a nice chardonnay recommended by the sommelier, and waited for the feast to begin. At Casianos there are no menus; you simply choose three courses or five. You let them know if you have any allergies, dietary restrictions, or food aversions, and then you just sit and let chef Casiano Reyes dazzle you with small plate after small plate. We chose three courses (wisely—it turned out to be more like ten courses, so I can’t imagine what five courses would have equaled), and though I didn’t photograph any of the dishes (I couldn’t bombard the other patrons with a camera flash every time something arrived at the table at a place as serene as this), I remember my favorites as clear as day.

An amuse-bouche of honeydew gazpacho was the first to arrive. If you could cream honeydew, this is what it would taste like: rich but sweet, silky, and never enough in my bowl. My bouche was definitely amused. And intrigued: if the amuse-bouche was this good, what could the chef do to top it?

The rest of the meal, that’s what. The first course of appetizers were slid onto our black slate chargers by five waiters working in unison. One large plate carried a variety of mini-plates, cups, glass cylinders and bowls. Each waiter quietly, and in very polite, clear English (thankfully—my Spanish food vocabulary is limited), explained what was on our plates. We were taken aback: each person had a different preparation of the various ingredients. Tiny seared rounds of ahi each rested on their own beds of slaw: some watercress and pear, some cilantro and melon, some on marinated vegetables. The little discs of fish melted on my tongue, punctuated with bites of crisp fruit. It was the best tuna I had ever tasted, and luckily the bride’s sister didn’t care for raw fish, so I got to taste it twice. Also served in the appetizer courses were sea bass on a bed of pesto rissoto (rich, but an incredibly fresh and tender cut of fish), chicken mole baked in banana leaves, scallops in a buttery cauliflower puree, three different freshly baked breads, skewers of cantaloupe dotted with triple-cream brie and roasted macadamia nuts, herbed salads, and too many other tiny bites to remember.

This barrage of tiny tastes had added up exponentially in our stomachs, and we had not even reached the main course. When it arrived—a small cut of overcooked beef on a bed of something forgettable—I was relieved. It was the only dish that I didn’t feel I needed to finish because it was too good to waste. I didn’t count it against the kitchen, either. By this time the dining room was packed and I couldn’t imagine how swamped they were in the back of the house creating all of the masterful mini-plates that were swarming out of the double-doors.

Before we knew it, the beef was removed and we were being inundated with plates of desserts: three each, all in different forms. My strawberry compote, for example, was served with a tiny scoop of vanilla bean mousse. Kirsten’s was in the form of a strawberry ricotta shortcake in a small glass cylinder, Nancy’s topped chocolate cinnamon ice cream, and Siri’s was on a tiny puff pastry. Other flavors intersected in a lemon cheesecake with blueberry sauce, a puff pastry topped with a chocolate cinnamon mousse, boats of dried corn husk carrying molten chocolate cake, and to top it all off, an entire cake for the bride-to-be with layers of cinnamon, cream cheese and chocolate.

Throughout the entire meal, I was in a dream world. I don’t remember a single conversation that took place between my friends and I—all I remember is buttery tuna, tender bursts of scallop, cinnamon swirling with chocolate, and washing it all down with sips of crisp white wines and earthy red ones.

The rest of the vacation was equally dreamy. My waistline expanded as the days went by and I didn’t care. The food, the drink, and the atmosphere left me so relaxed that by the time we reached the horrendous line at customs all I could do was smile.

I’m still serene, even with a crazy week behind me and a crazier one ahead. I’ve been more dreaming about cooking that actually being in the kitchen, so for now, here are a few inspired recipes that I’ll be trying soon. Until I can make it back to Cabo, I’ll have to make do with cooking those fabulous dishes myself, or trying to.

-RDG

home again, home again

Jiggity jig.

I’m back. I’m sunburned. I’m still hungover from one too many tequila shots at Cabo Wabo. And because I have been habitating at a swim-up bar instead of my cozy kitchen, I have no recipes to share with you. There’s nothing occupying my mind but a sunny beach, a tepid infinity pool, sand in places where sand should never be, and a list of things I loved and loathed about a little town south of the border.

I loved, and will forever be indebted to:

  • Road sodas.
  • Golf cart sodas.
  • Taxi cab sodas.
  • Pool sodas.
  • Ocean sodas.
  • How all my Spanish vocabulary came back to me after imbibing all of these “sodas.”
  • Food smothered in melted cheese.
  • Pepto Bismol.
  • Fresh, fresher-than-fresh, freshity-fresh seafood.
  • Chicklet kids.
  • 80 degrees in the shade.
  • Swim-up bars.
  • Miami Vices.
  • Celebrity sitings (especially of the D-list variety).
  • Celebrity look-alike sitings (especially of the D-list variety).
  • My tan. And the way it makes me look 5 pounds thinner, if you don’t look at the parts that look more like a tomato than a human.

I loathed, and have purchased voodoo dolls to torture:

  • Cab drivers drinking road sodas.
  • No functioning seat belts in any vehicle, especially vehicles being driven by cab drivers drinking road sodas.
  • Frat boys. And their hangers-on.
  • Old fisherman who think they are frat boys. And their hangers-on (body odor, logo hats, pickup lines from 1976).
  • Food covered in melted Velveeta.
  • Very un-fresh seafood.
  • Chicklets kids who tried to steal my wallet.
  • 95 degrees in the shade.
  • Bargaining for the price of water. Bargaining for the price of sunscreen. Bargaining for the price of beer. Bargaining for the price I can pay you to get you out of my face with your cases full of crap.
  • My painful sunburn.
  • That last tequila shot. It was a doosey.

I’m off to sort through pictures, spend about a year kissing little bear and Husband, and get cooking in the kitchen. I’ll be back at you soon with some brand new posts that will make you very, very hungry for Mexican food.

Hasta mañana, mis amigos fabulosos.

-RDG

sweet potato and onion fries, and a temporary farewell

I’m a sucker for a sweet potato “fry.” No, not the kind submerged in oil, tortured, scalded and grease-ified until there’s no longer any flavor. But a nice crispy, baked version enhanced with a little onion and fresh herbs.

My Ma has been making a variant of these for as long as I can remember, before sweet potato fries graced the menus of so many burger joints and pubs. My mother: sweet potato Pioneer Woman. Just don’t tell Ree. She’s got that whole PW market cornered.

As a child, I remember tugging at my mother’s leg while she was manning the stove, asking for a taste. If she wouldn’t give me one I would go into the pantry to grab some peanut butter. I would then smear a handful of peanut butter on her leg, snatch up a fistful of fries with my peanut-buttery hands, and play outside (and well out of sight) until dinnertime. And you wonder why I was raised in Alaska amongst a tribe of cannibalistic Eskimos*.

These “fries” (“bakes” just sounds stupid) are simple, quick, and pay gorgeous compliment to whatever else you’re serving on your plate. Most of all, they taste fresh and light: they won’t weigh you down and your kids will dig ‘em too. So much so that they will distract you with peanut butter leg just to cop a taste.

All you need are a few simple ingredients: three (or more) sweet potatoes, a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and dry minced onion. The onion can be found on the spice aisle of any grocery store. Sometimes it’s called “instant minced onion” which baffles me—it’s sort of like calling dry mustard “instant mustard.”

Chop each sweet potato in half and then into 16 wedges. Place in a large bowl.

Pour in the olive oil, toss to coat, and then season with the onion, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F, and lay fries on a baking sheet lined with Silpat or aluminum foil. Don’t crowd the pan—the fries will not get crispy if you do. Use two baking sheets and roast in two batches if you have to. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until fries are crispy and golden.

Serve with a dipping sauce (mine is sour cream, naturally) and a freshly chopped parsley on top.

Beauties, eh? I love the color and the different textures coming together.

Lightly crispy on the outside with flakes of crisped onion, soft on the inside, and never gooey or oil-soaked.

See why I tortured my mother so? Don’t worry—payback is a b####. And it’s coming to me in the form of a 14-month little girl with a knack for being sneaky and hiding my bras in the litter box.

At least in this family, life is always interesting, if messy.

I’m off to that lovely nation to the south for a little R & R with my best girls. I’ll be back next week tanned, hungover, and just rejuvenated enough to tear apart the kitchen with some new recipes.

Have a fantastic week, stay out of trouble, and eat fries. Lots and lots of fries.

xo

-RDG

Sweet Potato and Onion Fries

  • 3 sweet potatoes or yams, washed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dry minced onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut sweet potatoes in half width-wise and then each half into 8 wedges. Place wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and onion. Toss to ensure an even distribution of the spices. Place wedges on a baking sheet (do not crowd the baking sheet—it will prevent the fries from getting crispy) and bake for 20-25 minutes until crisped and golden. Top with the fresh parsley and serve immediately. Serves 8 as a side dish.

*I was not, fortunately, raised by cannibalistic Eskimos*****. I was raised in Seattle by my dear parents who have always loved me, supported me, and let me make up stories about torturing them with peanut butter****. I have never been much of a prankster**. And the torture I have caused my parents has been purely out of my horrid****** choice in men (Husband excluded)***.

**I did, however, once put superglue on my brother’s doorknob in hopes that his hand would stick. I didn’t know it would dry so quickly.

***Dave, I love you!

****Mom and Dad, please continue to read my blog. You’re the best.

*****I’m going to Mexico now.

******These asterisks don’t make any sense.