Friday, July 29, 2011

Greek lamb burgers with arugula, tomatoes & feta cheese

...but I made it!  The party being fabulous Greek cuisine made at home.  First there were the chicken yee-rows gyros.  I loved 'em the night I had them, and loved them the next day when I polished them off for lunch.  I couldn't stop thinking about the flavors and -- oh my gosh -- the feta cheese.  Yum!

Good thing I had another Greek dish on the menu for later in the week: lamb burgers!

If you've been around here for a hot minute or two, you know that I've had a real thing for burgers this summer.  Of any shape and kind.  ChickenTurkeyStuffedFrom the sea

So maybe it's more than a thing.  Maybe it's closer to an obsession.  Puppy love, perhaps?  Or lamb love.

What, too much?

Back to this lamb burger.  It's exotic and different without being weird or unobtainable... does that make sense?  And it's flipping delicious.  And will knock your socks off.  That's really all you need to know, frankly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Go big or go home!

 [images via Serious Eats]

...or just make your order a little more abbreviated.  But really, who on earth would do just a sane thing like that? :)  Someone recently went to Cold Stone Creamery -- you know, the ice cream shop known for outrageous creations and a sea of various toppings -- and ordered a creation with every single add-in in store.

Check it out:

In the mix, we've got:
  • marshmallows
  • chocolate chips
  • white chocolate chips
  • peanuts
  • brownies
  • M&Ms
  • chocolate chip cookie dough
  • gummy bears
  • graham crackers
  • sponge cake
  • Butterfingers
  • cherry topping
  • Kit-Kats
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • apple pie filling
  • pineapple
  • Reese's Cups
  • fudge topping
  • caramel topping
  • (others unable to identify, probably from this list)
Whew!  Just typing all of that worked up an appetite (wishful thinking, perhaps?).   And I bet you're wondering what the grand total for that mess creation was.  If you guessed $28.90, you're correct!  That's right.  $0.69 per topping, people.  Insane!!

I was lucky enough to be treated to some Cold Stone as a belated birthday celebration this weekend.  I ordered the apple pie creation -- yum!  Graham crackers, apple pie filling, caramel sauce, and cinnamon ice cream.  Toooootally hit the spot.

Being that it's National Ice Cream month for a few more days, I must ask this question -- what is your favorite topping or mix-in for ice cream?  Mine has gotta be rainbow sprinkles, though a giant blob of peanut butter is a close second.
    One Year Ago: Corn cakes with goat cheese

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Chicken gyros

    Okay, maybe my phonetic spelling leaves a little to be desired, but it should have at least provided a tiny clue as to what I made for dinner last night: gyros!  Chicken gyros, to be exact. 

    Greek food?  In Katy's kitchen?  Made by said petite cook?  I'm just as shocked as you are!  Say it with me: "Opa!"

    But seriously, I'm trying to venture outside my pasta, cheese, and broccoli-lined box with regards to this week's dinners.  It all started when I spotted a recipe for chicken, not lamb, gyros over on the blog Annie's Eats.  "Huh, chicken gyros... that's unique."  Admittedly, I've never been a gyro fanatic, at least the traditional kind made with seasoned thinly-sliced lamb.  It's not that I don't love lamb (because I do, oh do I ever), but it's that, well... let me explain.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Peanut butter banana protein smoothie

    Do I have your attention?  Thought so ;)

    Technically this couldn't be considered a milkshake because there is no ice cream in the mix (don't go! stay!  you'll see...), but you'd surely never know considering how thick and creamy this breakfast was: banana peanut butter smoothie for the win!

    I had another recipe ready for today but my gut told me that it was imperative for you to hear about this cool breakfast treat.  The heat and humidity have been downright oppressive and what a better way to start your day with a refreshing (and, healthy, to boot!) smoothie.

    Seriously, look how thick this concoction was?!  And this was after it patiently sat through a photo shoot and warmed just a smidge from its original ice cold state:

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Ham, pepper & potato hash

    Happy Monday!  Feeling rested and rejuvenated after a long weekend?  Or are you feeling like you need some more time to regain your energy after a fun and packed weekend?  Either/or.  My weekends have belonged in the latter category for the past month, but this most recent one was a much-needed lounge fest!

    Sure, there was a very thorough cleaning of the old apartment on Saturday morning, but the rest of my time was spent finally enjoying the new apartment and enjoying the overwhelming feeling that this is my new home!  Everything has been long unpacked and found its place in the new abode, and I've become familiar enough with my surroundings that I'm getting into a comfy little groove.  There were evening walks around the new 'hood with ice cream pit stops (weekend tally = 3: Razzy Fresh, Baskin Robbins, and Cold Stone, in case you're wondering).  And I discovered my walk to church is even shorter now -- 0.7 miles.

    And then came the lounging.  Ohhhhhhhhh, the lounging.  I shook things up and bought groceries on Saturday (gasp!) and had the whole afternoon to do whatever I wanted.  And what did I do?

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Tomato & corn pie

    Remember that song and dance I gave you yesterday about turning off your oven?

    Well, uh, scratch that momentarily, but only if you have a functioning air conditioner in your residence.  I'm not trying to give anyone a heat stroke.  Besides, if you were too sick, you wouldn't be able to properly enjoy this mind numbingly-delicious tomato and corn pie.

    (Can you tell I was trying to keep the apartment as cool as possible by closing the shades?  Oven on, shades closed.  A fair trade-off in my book.)

    This time of year, my tastes have shifted from stews and meatloaves to anything littered with fresh fruits and vegetables.  I've even been known to forego cake and ice cream in favor of diced strawberries with a little whipped cream. The heat makes people do strange things, I tell you.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Quick chicken & green onion stir fry

    First, let me begin by saying thank you to everyone for the sweet and thoughtful birthday wishes and gifts!  It has been a 4 day birthday extravaganza, and I don't want it to end.

    A special thank you to my coworkers, who surprised me with this adorable "cake" yesterday morning:

    I say "cake" because it's actually a round layer cake decorated to look like a cupcake!!!  Uh-door-uh-bull! :)  And incredibly delicious.  That icing is my very favorite kind of icing and, guess what, it hails from a local grocery store chain!  Take that, overpriced underflavored trendy cupcake shops.  Although I can be a total baking snob, I try to keep an open mind and this is one of my rewards.

    Paired with some fresh strawberries and blueberries, I had a giant slice around 9:00 and another (after a lunch of carrots and a turkey sandwich) around 1:00.  By 2:00 I could feel blood icing coursing through my veins and knew I had to act quickly because a) I planned to go to the gym after work, and b) I had an ice cream date in the works for later that evening.

    So, what should you do if you've had a delicious but verrrrrrrry sweet day like I had?

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    The 27th year

    Today is my 27th birthday! :)

    But the celebrating started early when we visited my family and oohed and aaahed over fireworks on Saturday night!

    There is no cooler birthday gift, I swear.  A local church festival takes place every year on the weekend closest to my birthday (how awesome and convenient, huh?), so we enjoyed those on a perfect summer's eve.  On Sunday, my mom served up a lunch of my choosing -- ham and cheese quiche and salad -- and dessert, also of my choice, of her famous iced brownies.

    Because there is no such thing as enough celebrating, Matt treated me to dinner last night at my verrrrrrrrry favorite Pittsburgh restaurant, Monterey Bay up on Mount Washington.  Due to his tricky evening class schedule for grad school, we chose to celebrate early (again!).  Love this (rain droplet-spotted) view!

    Loved it even more since there was quite a storm outside, so we had a show of bright lightning and whipping winds and rain to entertain us as we dined.  For him, shrimp and scallop alfredo with housemade spinach fettuccine.

    For her, macadamia nut crusted halibut.  Don't we look so artsy and cool without the flash?  Yeah, something like that...

    Obligatory self picture for which I actually remembered to use the flash:

    And, to keep the tropical nut vibe going, white chocolate macadamia nut mousse with praline biscuits and chocolate Chambord sauceTo die for, people.  I'm telling you, this makes the top 5 for my "last dessert on Earth" list.  That's huge!

    Um, can we also applaud the gorgeous chocolate script?  I want this talented man or woman to be my personal assistant so I can send office memos in chocolate from this day forward.  Yes, I think that would be the key to my professional success.  How could it not?

    A perfect evening to reminisce and think back to what an amazing year it's been!  Full of adventures involving lots of travel, both local, and far away, new foods, weddings, blizzards, moving into a new apartment, and a perfect proposal :)  Looking forward to this next year even more!  (Cough, 144 days, cough!)

    One Year Ago: Happy birthday to me + chocolate wafer icebox cake

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Almond cake

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love baking for others!  If I could afford to double triple my grocery bill and just hand a half dozen cupcakes or pies out on the street to strangers on a regular basis, I totally would.  I find it so satisfying.  "It" being the process of creating something from scratch.  With my own hands.  That normally spend eight hours a day atop a keyboard.  (Not complainin', just sayin'!)  Of course, I'm assuming that people would ignore the fact that I'm a perfect stranger and see through to my good intentions.  Right?  I mean, how could you not trust this face?

    Luckily for me, there was no need to employ questionable baiting tactics on the streets of Pittsburgh since a good friend celebrated his 27th birthday this past Saturday and gave me a prime excuse for baking.   The old man Tony loves all things almond-flavored.  His wife requested almond layer cake for his graduation party.  They served almond cake at their wedding reception.  Notice a pattern?

    So, knowing this, I went into brainstorming mode.  There are loads of almond recipes out there, in case you're wondering.  Cookies are grand, but a cake just says "birthday" to me!  I wanted a different almond cake than last year's and this was certainly the ticket.  While that cake was ideal for layering and frosting with thick chocolate icing, this cake was a complete contrast.

    It hailed from David Lebovitz, and he is one of the very few professional and popular chefs whom I trust implicitly, so I knew it was going to be good.  But I didn't know just how good it would be.

    It was light and spongy and incredibly moist!  Buttery with a deep fragrance of almond that could be smelled miles a room away.  I swear that I could still smell it even after the cake was covered in plastic wrap.  It truly needed nothing on top but a dusting blizzard of confectioner's sugar.  (That's what happens when you use a fork rather than a strainer to "dust" a cake.  I really need one of these numbers.)

    Oh, one more thing.  That whole "sharing is caring" nonsense I preached earlier?  As I wrapped up this cake, I decided the sentiment was a load of garbage.   I did not want to give away this cake!  I love my friends, but I loved this cake more.  Sorry, folks :)  I really really did not want to part with my newest creation, but 'tis better to give than to receive.  And I could bake it again any ol' time I wanted... which I will be doing very soon.

    Like the grown-up and almost 27-year-old that I am, I mustered up my best gift-giving face and presented the birthday boy with his cake  -- he was going to cut the cake the next day when his family visited.  After celebrating with a group of friends, I headed home and went to bed since I worked the next morning.  And then I woke up to two of the most hilarious text messages I've ever received:

    Sent at 1:01am -- "Omg this cake is amazing!  We r both on slice #2!" -Val
    Sent at 12:58am -- "Just had a piece of birthday cake.  I love almond thanks for coming out tonight and thanks for the yummies." -Tony

    After reading those, well, I guess I did the right thing :)  Hope you had an awesome birthday, dude!

    Almond Cake
    (adapted, barely, from David Lebovitz's recipe)
    -makes one 9-10 inch cake

    A few notes: There is a lot of batter, so if it's one cake you want, I strongly recommend using a springform that has sides at least two inches high.  If you want to use a standard cake pan whose sides are shorter, be prepared to reserve a bit of the batter or make sure that the bottom of your oven is lined when it overflows.  Or, you could make a few cupcakes or butter a small 6-inch round cake pan for a mini version of the cake. 

    1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
    8 ounces almond paste
    3/4, plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon almond extract
    6 large eggs, at room temperature

    Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9- or 10-inch cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess.  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

    In the large bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment, if using a stand model), grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles sand.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt.

    Once the almond paste is completely broken up, add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts, then process until the batter is very smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. (Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled, it’ll come back together after the next step.)

    Add half the flour mixture and pulse the mixer a few times, then add the rest, pulsing the machine until the drying ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overmix. (You can also mix in the dry ingredients by hand.)

    Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 65 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.

    Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan.  Let the cake cool completely in the pan.  Once cool, tap the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.

    Storage: This cake will keep for four days at room temperature, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Summer squash, zucchini & bean saute

    To be clear, that garden isn't mine, per se.  Instead, it's the gardens of many local Pittsburgh farmers (with a little help from Kraft and an unnamed canning company) that helped me whip up a healthy weeknight dinner with (almost) all of the colors of the rainbow -- squash and white bean saute!

    I could never ever be a vegetarian, but there are some nights when a meatless meal makes me feel so incredibly healthy!  You know, especially after a day when lunch consisted of a big bowl of cookies & cream and vanilla frozen yogurt, topped with cookie dough bits and rainbow sprinkles.  Packing all of those necessary vegetables into one meal helps to dilute all of that sugar :)

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Salmon with basil aioli

    How do you turn a relatively basic meal into something gourmet and restaurant menu-worthy?  Dress it up with a homemade sauce -- basil aioli!

    I love the word aioli -- pronounced eye-oh-lee -- because it sounds so sophisticated and foreign.  Truth is that what it describes is very simple: garlic mayonnaise.  Many chefs and restaurants refer to any flavored mayonnaise as an aioli, but this is a little misleading.  Technically, it can only be considered an aioli if garlic is present.  Right.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Loaded twice-baked potatoes with broccoli, beef & cheese

    With tangy, hearty, cheesy ooey gooey loaded twice baked potatoes, of course!  

    But, before I get to that, let me give you a little tour of my new kitchen.  After a long day of shopping on Sunday until I literally almost dropped (candles and towels are surprisingly heavy in large quantities), I was excited to cook my first dinner here.  Look how shiny and bright it is!  Helloooooo natural light.  (It's so so much better for pictures, btw!)

    I totally love everything about this kitchen.  The counter space, the multitude of cabinets, and -- goodness -- a dishwasher!

    Even the marbled counters.  No more putrid green backdrops for pictures.

    So, while learning and remembering where I put all of my kitchen tools, I decided to make a dinner that Matt would love.  You see, he has a thing about requesting certain foods.  "You know, you never really cook with potatoes."  "Of course I do!"  Turns out that I actually don't cook with potatoes very often.  Making a big batch of mashed potatoes for one, or even two, is a little excessive.  And a plain baked potato is a bit boring.  Except when you bake that potato twice and stuff it with cheese, ground beef, sour cream, broccoli, and even more cheese!

    I feel like I've encouraged playing with and stuffing food before.  No? Yes? Maybe? ... it'll come to me eventually.  :)

    Once I dug in, I was in Heaven.  The broccoli provided a subtle snap to the incredibly hearty beef and potato filling.  And the gooey cheese?  We needn't discuss it.  Because if, by now, you don't know the delights of melted cheese, I'm not sure if we can be friends.

    I kid, I kid!  Well, sort of.

    And, because adding toppings to an already-great stuffed potato only improves the deliciousness, I had to follow Matt's lead and try topping it with a dollop of Baconnaise.  Um... off the hook awesome!  (If, like me, you've searched for this high and low, check your local Wal-mart.  After months of seeking, I finally found it there!)

    One Year Ago: Mushroom and spinach quesadillas

    Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes
    (adapted slightly from EatingWell)
    -serves 2 as a stand-alone meal, or 4 with a side

    A few notes: One (1 half shell, that is) of these super-stuffed potato was enough for me with some broccoli on the side, but two was the magic number for Matt's manly appetite.  Adjust accordingly.

    2 medium russet baking potatoes
    8 ounces lean ground beef
    1 cup frozen broccoli florets, cooked, drained, and finely chopped
    1-ish cup shredded cheddar cheese, "ish" because more is always better
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    2 Tablespoons chopped chives

    Pierce potatoes all over with a fork.  Place in the microwave and cook on medium, turning once or twice, until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, brown the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add broccoli to the meat.

    When the potatoes are finished cooking, carefully slice them in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the insides into a medium bowl.  Place the potato shells on a large plate and set aside.  To the potato insides, add 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper and mash with a fork.  Add chives and the potato mixture to the broccoli and meat.  Stir to combine.

    Evenly divide the potato mixture among the potato shells, packing if necessary, and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  Microwave on high until the filling is hot and the cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Moving recap!

    After months of anticipation and weeks days of packing, I moved into a new apartment this weekend!  Goodbye small poorly-lit abode with mysterious angled walls and awful carpet from the '70s:

    Hello new spacious clean and super bright digs!  (This is part of the living room, FYI.)

    Being out of town for the 4th of July weekend meant that I didn't start packing until Tuesday evening.  "You are crazy!" I heard from so many friends.  "Pffff, piece of cake, you wait and see."  In the back of my mind, I was a little worried that I wouldn't get everything boxed up in time, but I was sure to put on a brave front because I am Katy, queen of organization.  Right?

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Pizza turnovers

    As of this morning, the packing is officially finished!  Although I'm struggling a bit to look put together (little sleep, no gym time, and haphazard breakfasts), my apartment looks like a very organized warehouse.  Clothes, books, electronics, and kitchen goods are all boxed and taped up, ready to go.

    That's right, my entire kitchen is packaged -- pastry brushes, cookie sheets, rolling pin, etc.  See that box at the bottom of the stack?  All of the things that I totally needed to make these pizza turnovers are in that box.

    Even though I knew what I was making for dinner last night, I completely ignored said plan and packed them anyway.  Is it possible to be too organized/quick to pack?  Mm hmm.  Fail #1.

    Not willing to let my stupidity organization get the best of my meal plans, I quickly adapted with what I had left.  A makeshift cookie sheet composed of a wire cooling rack, a layer of foil crimped at the edges and corners, and a layer of parchment paper.  Look out, MacGuvyer :)

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Summer pasta with corn, tomatoes & bacon

    T minus two days until I move into the new apartment and things are a bit... messy.

    I feel a bit like I'm living in a maze!  Bobbing and weaving to get from one room to the next.  Thank goodness I'm not a sleep walker :)  The box count is up to 17 so far.  Books, movies, games, and most of my kitchen items are stowed away until they reach their new home.

    Even with so many of my tools buried, I was still able to whip up a bright and balanced dinner: summery rainbow pasta!

    Chock full of fresh corn, tomatoes, basil, and smokey salty bacon.  This really hit the spot after all that rolling, padding, packing, and lifting! 

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Watermelon, arugula & goat cheese salad with balsamic drizzle

    I'd never complain about eating rabbit food again!  I know I'm about to eat my words, but -- gulp -- I love this salad!  That's right, s-a-l-a-d!  This cool, crisp, tangy, peppery, sweet, creamy summer-on-a-plate salad. In fact, I'd order this over a steak any day of the week.  What, can't a girl change her mind? :)

    After a weekend of grilling, grilling, ice cream, and more grilling, I just wanted something light, juicy, and cold.  (And that used minimal dishes because I finally started packing last night.  So far I've got nine boxes filled... with movies, books, and games.  Tonight's adventure is kitchen items!)  Thankfully, future Katy somehow got through to past Katy and made her incorporate a salad into this week's meal plan.  Well played, self!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Coming attractions

    And a good morning to you, fellow Americans!  How was your holiday weekend?  Sunny?  Relaxing?  Delicious?  Hopefully all of those!

    The Kemp family did quite a bit of grilling this weekend... In fact, dinner came from the grill four nights in a row.  Spinach and feta salmon burgers, stuffed turkey burgers, barbeque chicken, and classic beef burgers and hot dogs.  Include quintessential sides like corn, baked beans, watermelon, potato salad, and we had quite a holiday spread.  Oh, and how could I forget dessert -- there may not have been flag cake, but there were fresh strawberries and whipped cream, as well as ice cream and/or toasty s'mores every single night.  When in Rome America, right? :)

    Though I didn't do any new cooking this weekend to share with you, I've got a few recipes in the wings to feature this week.  I'm taking full advantage of fresh summer produce, so get ready for new and exciting (not to mention absolutely gorgeous) dishes!

    Tonight: Watermelon, arugula, and goat cheese salad with balsamic glaze
    Wednesday: Summer pasta with corn, basil, tomatoes, and bacon
    Thursday: Pizza turnovers
    Friday: Blue plate special a.k.a. whatever's left in the pantry and fridge!

    That last one isn't quite so glamorous, but it's necessary since this weekend is moving weekend!  Though I'm not going very far, I want to minimize what perishable items I need to transport to the new place.  Speaking transporting things, tonight I begin the three day packing marathon.  Wish me luck!

    Have a great day back at it!

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Red, white, and delicious!

    Nothing like the Friday of an extra long holiday weekend to put some jump in your step!  Some treats to fix for your holiday get-togethers this weekend.  In the tradition of a Friday list, let's see what's out there on the great interwebs

    1. Classic caprese salad.  Check out The Pioneer Woman's absolutely s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g photographs -- they're practically art! -- and amusing commentary while you're at it.

    2. Firecracker whoopie pies... or moon pies... or gobs, depending on your beliefs, on Annie's Eats.  
    3. Refresh yourself and others with a tall glass of watermelon lemonade courtesy of Confections of a Foodie Bride.  Have you ever seen a brighter more summery looking drink?  I think not!