December 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I could eat sweet potatoes in nearly any form. Fried, mashed with a heaping mound of toasted marshmallows, baked, fried again, or better yet ...of the pancake variety. These pancakes are light and fluffy and they make me feel better about eating a mound of carbs covered in butter and syrup. I mean, they've got some vitamin A and C in them right?

The batter is really easy to prepare once you've got your sweet potatoes cooked and mashed. They can also be swapped for pure canned pumpkin if you've got some left over from Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sweet potato puree (from approximately 2 medium sized sweet potatoes or 1 large)
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoons vinegar

In a bowl, mix together the milk, sweet potato, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt, stir into the sweet potato mixture just enough to combine (lumps are okay people!).

Heat a lightly oiled griddle pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot. Optional: Top with toasted pecans.

December 1, 2009

This Firefly is Not So Brilliant

For me, red wines are most desired during dismal times. Not sure what it is, but it seems as though I usually crave reds when I'm stressed after a long day, week, or lets be honest... month! Red wines are like the friend I can always lean on when I get home. Anyone else feel the same? Perhaps it's a seasonal thing? Anyway, lets raise a glass to my second wine review!

Firefly Ridge, Central Coast 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

I know, another Cabernet... I blame it on my own curiosity. I've already explored the wonderful world of pinot noir and this is just the next step.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is a beautiful ruby-red color. I get a berry/amaretto aroma after swirling.* It has notes of currant and a light oak taste. It's rather spicy but not overpowering. The problem lies with its strong alcohol taste. I wouldn't say it's terrible but just okay. BUT, there are better cabs for your buck out there.

*Side note: swirling isn't just for wine snobs. It aerates the wine, which means it absorbs oxygen and lets the wine develop it's aroma. It's said that smelling the wine will give you the most information about the wine since your nose can recognize thousands of different smells as opposed to the few flavors our tastebuds can identify. You'd typically open a red wine about an hour before serving to let it breathe, preferably in a designer carafe or decanter.**

**I know everyone will be putting this blood vessel-looking wine carafe on their Christmas lists this year!

November 7, 2009

Kitchen Clean Out!

How many cans of food or boxes of pasta do you have in your pantry? Exactly. This month I'm going to try to clear everything out of my pantry. I've got about 6 boxes of different pasta, soup to feed about 10, and my fridge is full of vegetables I bought at random, without knowing what to do with them. Finally, I will put them all to good use!

This is one of my favorite pasta recipes. It's one of Rachael Ray's although, I've adapted it to what I had on hand.

Pasta Puttanesca Adapted from Rachael Ray


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped (you can use half an onion if that's what you have)
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 /2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
20 oil-cured black or Kalamata olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
1 medium zuchinni, sliced into rounds or quarter rounds
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce (instead of using tomato sauce from the can, I used about 2 cups of basic basil marinara sauce from TJ's)
A few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup (a couple of handfuls) flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound spaghetti(or whatever pasta you have on hand), cooked to al dente
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, shallots, garlic, and crushed pepper. Saute mixture until shallots and garlic are tender, about 3 minutes. Add olives, capers, zuchinni, tomatoes, tomato sauce, black pepper, and parsley. Bring sauce to a bubble, reduce heat, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Once the pasta is finished cooking, toss pasta with the puttanesca sauce and a grate some parm over the top. Delicious!

November 4, 2009

Epic Fail

Sorry everyone, this past week and a half has been extremely busy! I promise to have a new post up by this weekend. Hope everyone had a wonderful halloween!

October 26, 2009

My First Wine Review!

*Just a forewarning, I am no expert on wines. I'm doing these posts to further my own wine knowledge. I know a bit more than the average person since we're required to take a food and wine class for my major. A semester long of wine lectures, food presentations, and to finish...a food and wine tasting. Damn, life in HTM is hard. Okay, I'll stop bragging and get back to the review.

Fetzer Vineyards, Valley Oaks 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Hopland, Mendocino County, California)

I'm usually not a Cabernet fan. Most are known for being full bodied and can be a bit too peppery/spicy for my young wine drinking tongue. Upon first pour there's a distinctive vanilla/berry aroma. This cab is very smooth with an amazing burst of juicy black cherry. If you take a second to let it sit in your mouth, you'll also get a subtle vanilla and chocolate flavor. As with most Cabernets, there's a nice but fairly mellow spice and oak taste.

I also love this wine because it's "earth friendly." Fetzer has succeeded in becoming a carbon neutral company. 100% of the energy they use comes from renewable resources(think solar and wind energy). Their vines are also certified free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Snaps for them!

You can pick this wine up at most grocery stores for under $10.

Hooked on Butternut Squash

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. The sun here in San Francisco finally awakes from it's summer slumber and I get to breathe in the crisp clear air. More importantly, fall foods such as apples and root vegetables are in season. My most craved vegetables this time of year are winter squashes(acorn and spaghetti may soon make an appearance), simply roasted in the oven. I'm not sure when my obsession with butternut squash began. But once I fell, I fell HARD. It's one of my go-to fall comfort foods and just one of them goes a loooong way when you're cooking for one. Once you get past the peeling and dicing(and trust me, I know it can be hard to get a knife through one of those bad boys without chopping off one or a few of your fingers) you'll find yourself smitten.

Ina Garten's roasted butternut squash risotto is probably the most common concoction coming out of my kitchen since moving to San Francisco about 2 years ago. I half the recipe and still have leftovers for the next two days.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Trader Joe's has AMAZINGLY flavorful chicken stock)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads (optional...I don't know of any college student who has this just lying around)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

After peeling and dicing the squash, toss it with the olive oil and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Put it in a 400 degree oven and it should be soft and slightly browned right when the risotto is finished cooking(about 25 minutes).

Meanwhile, put your chicken stock in a small sauce pan, cover, and leave it on low heat over the stove.

To start the rice, heat the olive oil and butter to sweat the shallots. DO NOT substitute regular onions, trust me, it's not the same. The shallots give a distinctive sweetness and more flavor than regular onions. While the shallot is cooking, go ahead and bust out the white wine, pour a glass full for yourself :) then measure your 1/2 cup for the dish. I recommend a dry chardonnay or even a full bodied pinot gris. Next, put your rice in and toss it around until it's covered in oil and happy looking. Ina uses pancetta in her dish but I never really have that just lying around(although maybe I should?). The dish is still awesome without it but I'm sure the pancetta would be divine. Once the shallot and rice are translucent, pour in the wine and let it soak up all of the liquid. Make sure you stir to develop the starch (that's what will make your risotto creamy!). Next, add the chicken stock a couple ladles at a time and stir to make sure the rice isn't clinging to the bottom of the pan. Once the stock is absorbed, continue to add more stock a couple ladles at a time and stir until the rice is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, roasted butternut squash, and if you're feeling crazy, a pad or two of butter. Depending on how salty your stock and cheese are, season with salt and a dash of pepper to taste.