Monday, January 30, 2012

Loving Right Now - Box Wine for Cooking

I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes, just a splash of it can completely change a meal. A lot of wine can produce the most amazing braises. Today I want to share with you what I think it is the most practical and economic way of always having cooking wine in hands without having to open a new bottle everyday - box wine. It is affordable, it keeps well without any efforts from your part, and it is easy to pour. I couldn't recommend it more.

Here are mine, strategically located:

These are the two brands I have tried. They each cost around $12 - $14 dollars for 5 liters! 

Of course you can splurge on a more refined bottle (or box) of wine when cooking a special meal to a guest of honor. But for most days, these are life savers!

Some recipes that ask for cooking wine:
Bolognese Sauce
Squid Salad
Best Wild Rice Ever
Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms with Cream

15 Minutes to Dinner - Easy, Quick, and Healthful Turkey Sausage Pasta

The peas can be omitted or substituted for any vegetable
When kids are hungry, they mean it. I often feel overwhelmed with the urgency of getting their food on the table quickly in order to avoid major melt downs! If you are a parent, you know what I mean! So whenever I can figure out a quick and, most importantly, healthy meal that is easy to make and that they enjoy eating, I stick with it. That is the case with this pasta. I now keep Jenni-O lean turkey sausages always in my fridge and thin whole wheat spaghetti in the pantry. It saves me every time

Following is a recipe that serves 2 kids. You may double or tripe the measurements according to the size of your family. This pasta would be a perfect week night dinner for parents or any busy adult!

Easy, Quick, and Healthful Turkey Sausage Pasta
Serves 2 kids. Double or triple the recipe according to the size of your family


1 lean sweet turkey sausage out of its casing (I use the Jenni-O brand)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/3 of a pack of whole wheat thin spaghetti
1/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas
1/4 cup or more of pasta water (water used to cook the pasta)
2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese


Bring some salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook it until al dente. Reserve some of the cooking water to use on the sauce, then drain the pasta and set it aside.

Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the sausage (out of its casing) and cook it for about 5 minutes while braking any big lumps of meat with a wooden spoon. When the sausage is almost cooked through, add garlic. Cook it for another 3 minutes. Add peas and pasta water* to the sausage. Cook until peas are tender. Add pasta and cheese. Stir it all around and serve.

*fresh peas take longer to cook, so you might need to add little more pasta water in order to keep the meat moist while cooking.

This spaghetti is so thin the kids can't even tell it is whole grain!
Heat olive oil, add sausage (out of the casing) and break it down with the help of a wooden spoon
When sausage is almost cooked, add the garlic and cook it a little further
Then add peas, fresh or frozen
Add some of the water used to cook the pasta and cook until peas are tender. Keep adding pasta water if necessary.
Add cooked and drained  pasta
Add cheese and stir it all around until combined and cheese is melted

Plate pasta. Top with a little more Parmesan cheese.
Finish with a drizzle of your favorite olive oil. Your child will appreciate the thoughtfulness.

If your kids are like mine and don't like peas, skip adding them. Serve the sausage pasta along with their favorite veggies. My little ones happen to love tomatoes. So this is what I do:

She likes is. Check.
He likes it. Check.

I am always happy to eat this pasta with the kids. Lots of simple but great flavors!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Eggplant Stack

We are eggplant lovers around here, and this is one of my favorite ways of serving it. Juicy slices of roasted eggplant are layered with creamy goat cheese, fresh basil, lemony dressing, and velvety balsamic reduction. All topped with crunchy walnuts! It sounds good, it looks good, and it is very easy to put together.

If you don't like goat cheese, substitute it for slices of fresh mozzarella (that would look gorgeous stacked with the eggplant!). 


Eggplant Stack
makes 2 to 3 stacks


For roasting the eggplant:
1 large eggplant
olive oil
salt and pepper
herbes de Provence (a mix of dried thyme, fennel, lavender, basil etc). If you don't have it, use your favorite dried herb.

For the dressing:
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon of lemon zest
2 pinches of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

For balsamic vinegar reduction:
2 cups of balsamic vinegar

For topping:
4 large basil leaves, thinly chopped
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
Fresh goat cheese


1- Start by making the balsamic vinegar reduction:
Place the balsamic vinegar into a small heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat until it has reduced by half and it has a light syrup consistency (about 25 minutes). Keep in mind that the reduction continues to thicken as it cools. I usually make lots of this reduction and keep it around for when I need it.
If you are not in the mood to make your own balsamic reduction, I recommend keeping  a balsamic glaze in hand (this one happens to have fig in it also).  You  can find it at Williams Sonoma for $16 or a TJ Max for $8 ;)

2- To make the dressing whisk all the ingredients until well combined and set aside.

3- Now for roasting the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 400F. Trim both ends of the eggplant and cut it in 1/2 inch slices . Cover the bottom of a baking sheet with non-stick aluminium foil, add the eggplant in one single layer (do not overlap the slices on the baking sheet. You might need 2 baking sheets, or to cook them in 2 batches)Drizzle the slices generously with olive oil, flip them and drizzle the other side also. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and black pepper, and finally sprinkle some herbes de Provence on each of the slices. Place it in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip the slices and roast them for another 10 minutes or until they are very tender.

I got a little help from Super-Man. Eggplants can be hard to handle:)

4- Allow the eggplant to cool after roasting. When ready to serve, drizzle each salad plate with balsamic reduction, add one slice of eggplant, drizzle it with the dressing, brake some goat cheese over the top, add a little basil and little balsamic reduction. Then start another layer repeating all the ingredients. You can stack as many slices as you want. When you are done stacking them add chopped walnuts all over the top. One eggplants serves 2 or 3 people depending on high you stack each plate!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deep Fried Caprese Salad

Do you know that old saying: "if you like something very much, deep fry it"? Is that an old saying, or did I just make it up? I don't know. 

Anyway, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil is one of those combinations made in heaven. Now imagine  all that inside a crispy fried wonton wrapper. Did you imagine it? Biting into the crunchy warm dough, cheese all gooey,  tomatoes all steamy,  sweet and lemony aroma from the basil making you think it is Summer time...You must try it! 

The Brazilian equivalent to this is called pastel frito, the most beloved brazilian street food. Our pastel is made with a slightly thicker dough, it can filled with whatever you can think of, and it is served along with caldo de cana (juice that is extracted from freshly pressed sugar cane). 

There is no formal recipe today. Here is what you need:

Fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and wonton wrappers
Remove seeds and extra juices from the tomatoes. Dice them.
Dice the mozzarella, chop basil.

Lay the wrappers on a dry surface. Add tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, a tiny bit of salt and pepper.

Moisten all the edges of the wonton. Fold it into a triangle. Press the edges firmly while removing excess air pockets.
Fill 1/3 of a pot with canola oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot* add a few wontons at a time and fry it until both sides are golden to golden brown.
*You know oil is ready for deep frying when you put a small piece of bread or wonton inside the pot, that piece sinks into the oil and immediately starts to bubble and then comes up to the surface.
With the help of a slotted spoon remove the fried wonton from the pot and place it on paper towels to drain excess oil.

Be careful when biting into the hot fried wonton. A lot of hot steam will come out at first. Wait a few seconds and go for it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quick, Easy, and Delicious Lime Mousse

I enjoy hosting dinner parties at my house, but with all the work that comes with it, cooking dessert seems to always end up at the bottom of my priorities list.  The busiest I am the more I think of sweets as difficult to make or time consuming. I can't tell you how many times I've relied on the nearest bakery instead of making my own! The truth is that desserts can demand a lot of time, OR NOT. If we know quick to make recipes like this one, suddenly checking off the last course out of that list won't seem so impossible!

As you can gather, this lime mousse is super easy to make and it tastes fantastic! But this is not an airy mousse (which I love also). This one is perfectly creamy, thick, sweet and tangy. 

Here is what to do when life gives you limes and little time:

Lime Mousse
Serves at least 6


1 can (14oz) of sweet condensed milk
zest of 1 lime, plus more for garnishing
juice from 2 limes
1 cup of heavy whipping cream, very cold


Pour sweet condensed milk into a medium to large bowl. Add zest of 1 lime and juice of 2 limes. Stir until well combined. Set aside.

With the help of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream on medium speed until you obtain firm peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk and lime mixture until well incorporated and smooth. 

Put all mousse in one serving bowl, or distribute it into individual portions. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and bring it into the refrigerator to cool and set (At least 30 minutes. But of you don't have much time serve it right away). Garnish with lime zest and serve.

Tips: 1-It can be made one day in advance. 2-Since this is a rich dessert, I recommend serving small portions. 3- If you don't like lime, make it with lemon (same recipe).

Pour sweetened condensed milk into a bowl 
Add lime zest

And lime juice

Stir until combined

Put very cold heavy cream into a bowl of an electric mixer

And work it until you obtain firm peaks

Add the whipped cream to the condensed milk mixture

And gently fold it in
Put the mousse in a serving bowl (or small individual bowls), chill it, garnish with lime zest and serve