Sunday, July 11, 2010

Post-Wedding Pasta

For the last month or so, I've been very focused on my other hobby -- jewelry making -- for a very good "girl" Danielle was getting married and I was asked to make her necklace and earrings as well as those for the maid of honor. Danielle is the oldest daughter of my best friend of 30 years, so I am a de facto auntie and was so honored to make this special gift! Tonight, when I arrived home, nuptials behind us as of yesterday, there were two things I knew for sure: 1) I was HUNGRY; 2) I was exhausted.

This meant that I needed something super fast, easy and nourishing that I could whip up for dinner. Something warm, filling and comforting. And something that would replenish my energy stores. The perfect solution? Pasta!

Pasta Sinatra

1/2 lb. linguine
3 small zucchini, sliced
1/3 cup fresh chopped basil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup of fresh, grated Parmesan
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, clean, cut and slice zucchini. Steam zucchini until tender. Once steamed to taste, drain water and set aside. Drain cooked pasta thoroughly. Return pasta to empty pot, add zucchini, basil olive oil and red pepper. Toss thoroughly. Divide evenly among four pasta bowls or plates. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and top with fresh ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately while warm.

Give it whirl. Crank the heat up or down with red pepper. Mangia!
Until next time

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunday Pot Roast - My Favorite Comfort Food!

Who doesn't love comfort food? The aromas, the flavors, the textures that remind you of those times when your mom would make your favorite meal for your special day or to cheer you up on a bad day. Well, my folks came down to visit me this weekend and I wanted to make my version of my all-time favorite meal: Sunday Pot Roast.

My mom always makes hers in a pressure cooker, which takes less time but makes the meat oh-so-fall-apart-tender. I don't have a pressure cooker, so I do mine in a slow cooker. Takes most of the day, but you get the same tender meat and melding of herbs, spices and meat because it does take hours. The upshot of the slow cooker (which is one of my favorite kitchen appliances, by the way) is that you can put your dinner on to cook before you leave for work in the morning. And, by the time you get home at night, you're welcomed home by delicious homemade dinner. Ready to eat! Slow cooking is one of the best methods for singletons, it gives you that "welcome home" fragrance even when Mom is 200 miles away.

Suzie's Sunday Pot Roast
Yields approx. 8 hearty servings

2 1/2 lb. chuck roast or pot roast
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
1 Tblsp minced fresh garlic
2 Tblsp butter
6 medium red potatoes, cut into big bite-sized pieces (about 3/4" square)
2 cups baby carrots
32 oz. prepared beef broth
2 Tblsp parsley flakes
1 Tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf

Rinse meat and pat dry. Set aside. Heat medium skillet or iron frying pan over high heat, add butter and melt. Add onion and cook until almost caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add garlic. Place meat in pan, turn heat down to medium. Brown meat evenly on all sides taking care not to burn the garlic.

While the meat is browning, layer potatoes and carrots in slow cooker. Once meat is browned on all sides, remove the pan from the heat (be careful and use a pot holder!). Add the meat and onions to the slow cooker on top of vegetables, pour butter and garlic evenly over ingredients in the cooker. Sprinkle parsley, thyme and salt and pepper evenly over the top of the mixture. Add beef broth and bay leaf. Put lid on the cooker and turn the cooker on high. Let cook for approx. 6-8 hours or until meat is fall apart tender.

The secret to working with a slow cooker is to NOT remove the lid during the cooking process. I know that it's really hard to resist, but the secret of the slow cooker is the build up of heat inside the pot. I will usually remove the lid once or twice (really quickly!) about 2/3 of the way through the cooking process to check the meat and pull it apart to aid in cooking more quickly. To serve:

Remove bay leaf and discard. Serve in bowls with an even amount of meat and vegetables. Make sure to add the broth to the serving! I like to serve with a large "crostini."

Yields 8 servings

4 large slices of sourdough bread cut in half or 8 sandwich size slices
Parmesan cheese
Seasoned salt

Heat a toaster oven or oven to 450 degrees. Spread slices of bread with butter. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, don't be shy! Sprinkle lightly with seasoned salt. Place in oven and toast/bake until the top is brown and crispy. Serve immediately with Pot Roast.

It's really hard to go wrong with either recipe. It tastes great every time.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out!
Suzie Q

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Spicin' it Up with Salsa Verde

Before I moved back to Santa Clarita from San Clemente, I spent a good deal of time with my friend Andrea, who had a nanny at the time. Mimi is an amazing cook and would often make homemade chicken taquitos and the most amazing salsa verde. Of course, it was my duty to make sure I scarfed down a ton of the salsa with the freshly made taquitos. Mimi was nice enough to share her own recipe with me and now I'm going to share it with you.

The heat profile will vary depending upon what time of year you're making this salsa because chiles are hotter at certain times of year. Don't ask me why, but during my years on the menu committee at both La Salsa and Baja Fresh this was proven true. Try this delicious salsa as a traditional dip with your favorite Mexican dishes or top some grilled chicken or white fish with the mixture. Experiment!

Mimi's Salsa Verde

1 lb. tomatillos
2 jalapenos, halved and seeded
1/2 bunch cilantro, stemmed
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
Juice of one lime
Salt to taste

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Place tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. While tomatillos and chiles are boiling, place 1/2 bunch of cilantro in your blender and blend until chunky. I like to remove or cut most of the stems. Remove tomatillos and chiles from the pan with a slotted spoon and put into blender with lime juice, onions, cilantro, garlic and salt and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.

If the salsa is a little too acidic for you, add a little sugar and mix it in.
Makes approx. 3 cups.

Give it a try. You'll be addicted!

Eat well!
Suzie Q

Photo courtesy:

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Easiest BBQ Ever

So, yeah, I know it's Memorial Day weekend and everyone's supposed to grill their own meats and have lots to eat and drink. But, after talking about getting out the meat, marinating it, blah blah blah, there was a little change up last night at my weekly "hang out" with my buddy R. You see, I have been dying. OK, so not really "dying" but really really really wanted to go to Morton's for a long time. In case you're not familiar with Mortons, it's a prestigious (translation-expensive) and famous steak house.

The cool thing about Morton's is that they literally bring the cuts of meat to you. It was kind of funny and interesting that our server brought over a cart that was festooned with a tray of meat, fresh vegetables and fresh seafood. There was a story of each and every piece on that tray. Yeah, everyone who knows me knows that I read cookbooks like they're novels, but even I was getting a little bored after the 20 minute dissertation. Blame it on A.D.D. or hunger. Or both. BUT, I did learn something new last night. There's actually such a thing as a bone in filet mignon. I had no idea that this delicious cut of meat was ever served on the bone, but it may have had a little better flavor than the regular cut. But if you've ever filet mignon...properly prepared know it melts like buttah on your tongue. So I ordered the bone in filet. And, as promised, it melted like buttah on my tongue. The outside was a perfect char with a tender, medium finish on the inside. I know I sound crazy talking about a piece of red meat in such reverent tones. But, if you had wrapped your lips around this bad boy, you would feel the same!

Our sides were broccoli (more about R's broccoli fetish another time) and mashed potatoes. Honestly, the potatoes could have been better. A little too smooth for my taste but then again, I've never met a potato I didn't like so I managed to "choke it" down. ha ha

Now let's talk about dessert. Our server, Kristin, described this amazing chocolate souffle that we'd have to order at the time that we ordered our entrees because it takes so long to make. So, of course, we ordered that. But, upon arrival, it looked like a giant (dare I say) breast! It was very funny. After the souffle was served, it looked more like mush on the plate. And nothing like what I was expecting. I guess that is what happens when we put expectations on something. You see, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the chocolate lava cake at seafood restaurant, Roy's. THAT particular dessert is enough to bring tears to my eyes and makes my mouth water just thinking about it. If you ever happen upon a Roy's seafood restaurant, go in for the Butterfish and the Chocolate Lava Cake. Just trust me on this one. Do not ask questions. Just order it.

So at the end of the meal, lots of laughs and very full tummies later we went and worked it off over a few rounds of pool. I stink at pool, let's just put it out there. But it is still fun and definitely a good thing to do when you're hanging out.

What does this posting mean? Well, I guess I can just say that sometimes the best way to use your kitchen is to not use it at all. Enjoy the company of your friends and loved ones because life is way too short. Laugh like crazy. Enjoy your food.Taste it. I mean, really savor it. Just like life. Just like love.

Until I'm back in the kitchen,
Suzie Q

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Today's a Two-Fer!!!

I was reading back through my posts and realized that I haven't posted my award-winning chicken recipe. Hell-llloooooo! Yes, a few years ago (can't believe it's been since 2003) I had just started entering recipe contests. At the time, I worked at a public relations and marketing agency that specialized in representing food clients. One of our clients at the time was Mrs. Dash, and we put on recipe contests each year. Of course, because I love food and love cooking and saw some of these recipes coming in, I caught the bug myself.

What I remember with some fondness about this recipe and adventure is that it was, quite possibly, the only bright spot in one of the worst summers my family endured. Ever. And one day, in the midst of it, I received a phone call telling me I had placed second in the "Cook Like a Californian" cooking contest that was sponsored by the California Poultry Federation (think the Foster Farms chickens). I was so excited to win $500 plus a year's supply of chicken and a bunch of Foster Farms toys, including the stuffed Foster Farms chickens. What fun.

Any-hoo, the category was: Chicken with an Ethnic Twist and below is my little recipe. Please give it a whirl! I hope you love it as much as I do.

Little Havana El Jefe Pollo

1 box (7 ounces) black bean and rice mixture
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, casing removed and crumbled
5 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese, divided
4 boneless, skinless California chicken breasts
1 California Roma tomato, sliced into 8 pieces
1 ripe plantain, peeled and sliced to 1/4" thickness
olive oil, as needed
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 California avocado, quartered and sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare rice and bean mixture according to package directions. While rice is cooking, fry crumbled chorizo in frying pan until crisp and pieces are small; drain on paper towel. Wipe fry pan clean. Place chorizo in small bowl and mix with 4 ounces Jack cheese. Set aside. Cut into the fattest side of each chicken breast making a "packet", making sure to not cut all the way through. Stuff each breast with an equal amount of chorizo mix; press firmly to close or secure with toothpicks. Place breasts in 9x9-inch baking pan. Place two tomato slices on each breast and sprinkle remaining 1 ounce cheese over top of all. Bake for 25 minutes.

While chicken is cooking, heat enough olive oil in the bottom of the fry pan, about half-way up a plantain slice. Heat oil over high heat. Place plantain slices in hot oil and fry for two minutes per side, until slightly crispy and browned. Remove from oil, drain on paper towels; sprinkle with sugar.

When chicken is done, divide bean and rice mixture among four dinner plates and place a breast on each of the mounds. Garnish with fried plantains and avocado slices.
4 servings.

Second Place, Chicken with an Ethnic Twist Category
Developed by: Suzanne Finne, Saugus, California

For more recipes from this contest, visit this link -

Snack Attack!

Ok, I have to admit it: I love to snack. It's not the greatest addiction for those of us watching our waist lines, but every once in a while I just have to make one of my favorites: Buffalo Popcorn Chicken. Yeah, it's a crazy name, but think Popcorn Shrimp meets Buffalo Wings...and not a Hooters girl in sight.

This is one of Rachel Ray's recipes that I have incorporated into my repeteroire, it's pretty darn simple and one of the best items you can bring to a pot luck or serve at a party. In fact, if you're going to a Memorial Day bbq this weekend, these will be a big hit. Give them a try, you can oomph up the heat or dial it back a little depending upon your taste.

Do note that they can be a bit messy in the making because of the pancake batter. But TRUST ME, this will be one tasty way to get your hands dirty. Have a great time in the kitchen and let me know what you think of these delicious little bites.

Buffalo Popcorn Chicken

Vegetable oil, for frying
2 1/2 cups complete pancake mix, any brand, divided
1 1/4 cups water
8 teaspoons hot sauce, divided (recommended: Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot)
1 1/4 pounds chicken tenders or chicken breast cut into small bite-sized pieces
1 cup store bought, good quality refrigerated blue cheese dressing (recommended: Marie's brand)
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper, 1/3 palm full
Cut celery sticks

In a deep sided skillet heat 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil over medium heat. If you wish to test the oil, add a 1-inch cube of bread to hot oil. If it turns deep golden brown in color in a count of 40, the oil is ready.

While the oil is heating make the batter. In a wide mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the pancake mix, 1 1/4 cups water and about 6 teaspoons hot sauce. (Use a regular teaspoon you would stir coffee with – that's what I did. I don't, technically, have a set of actual measuring spoons.) Place the remaining plain 1/2 cup pancake mix in another wide mixing bowl. Arrange the batter and the bowl of plain pancake mix near the cook top and the heating oil. Line a plate with a few sheets of paper towels and keep within reach.

Once the oil is heated and ready, toss the chicken pieces in 2 teaspoons of hot sauce then toss in the plain pancake mix, coat evenly and shake off excess. The plain dry pancake mix will help the batter stick to the chicken pieces. Add some of chicken to the batter, you are going to want to work in 3 to 4 batches coating and frying. Using a fork, toss the bites in the batter. Remove the first batch from the batter, shaking off the excess batter as you carefully add them to the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes on the first side, or until the first side is a deep golden brown, flip and continue to fry for another 2 minutes or until deep golden brown all over. Remove from the oil and drain on the paper towel lined plate, season with salt. Repeat until all the popcorn chicken bites are fried. Serve immediately with refrigerated, good quality creamy blue cheese prepared dressing with chopped scallions and black pepper stirred into it for dipping. Garnish platter with celery sticks.

Photo credit: Rachel Ray's website

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Checking In!

Hello readers,
Once again I realize it's been a while since my last post, but I have been getting ready for a gigantor presentation this week for work and it's taken up all of my cooking time. BUT today I wanted to check in with you and share one of my favorite appetizer recipes that I actually copped from one of my properties in Florida: The West Bay Beach & Golf Club. While the community has an amazing array of Clubs and restaurants on property, we also have a private beach house out on Little Hickory Island that has a really great restaurant. Of all the fresh seafood items on the menu, this is my hands-down favorite. It's surprisingly easy to make and will knock the socks off of all your guests!

Crab Martini

2 whole avocado
1 Roma tomato
6 oz Jumbo Lump Crab (you can buy this canned at Trader Joe's if you can't find super fresh)
salt & pepper
2 t olive oil
2 t fresh lemon juice

Mix diced avocado, diced tomato and crab in a bowl. Add lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste. Divide evenly among four martini glasses and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Voila! Instant Iron Chef!