Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sun Dried Tomato Jam Crostini

I am simply mad about appetizers - not upset, just obsessed. They are my absolute favorite thing to make. I believe it is the small package that packs brilliant flavor in one to two bites.

Last night my husband and I hosted a dinner party. One of the couples is relocating from the East Coast to the here in the West Coast. While they were out here for the week house hunting, we thought it would be fun to have them over for dinner and welcome them to beautiful Northern California. Once both couples arrived, we poured a glass of wine and toasted the couple relocating on finalizing their offer and soon becoming residents in the Bay Area.

Planning, preparing, cooking and hosting a dinner party are one of life’s little pleasures for me. The entire process is quite relaxing and let’s my creativity surge. Purchasing all of the ingredients the day prior is one of my tips on time management, since it leaves the entire day to simply cooking and preparation.

Just in case you are curious, here is my menu from last nights dinner party:

Sun Dried Tomato Jam Crostini
Pecan and Parmesan Dip with Endive Spears

Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes, Carrots, Mint and Feta


Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Coffee Rub and Rhubarb & Fig Chutney
Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Truffle Oil and Parmesan
Roasted Potatoes

Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Macerated Strawberries

Thought I would share with all of you the Sun Dried Tomato Jam Crostini that I adapted slightly from Giada De Laurentiis. Enjoy!

Sun-Dried Tomato Jam

1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. sugar
1/4 C. red wine vinegar
1 C. water
1/2 C. chicken broth
2 t. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 2 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, olive oil, onion, and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, chicken broth, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.


1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1/4 C. olive oil
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Place the baguette slices on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes.

Spread the crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and top with the goat cheese. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ultimate Orzo Salad

Do you ever have one of those crazy busy weeks? I am sure that most of you do. This last week was all positive but super busy. From work getting super busy, to attending a baby shower, celebrating Father’s Day and entertaining friends in between, the week just flew by.

On Saturday, I attended a beautiful baby shower. There were about thirty attendees who celebrated this very happy occasion. It was held at a lovely home outside in the backyard and the weather was just splendid – not too hot or too cold, just perfect. I was asked to bring my famous Ultimate Orzo Salad by the hostess and I was quite happy to oblige.

This Orzo Salad is the one “go to” salad that is most requested for large events, parties and celebrations of all kinds. It is such a simple salad yet the combination of flavors will often bring folks back for seconds. I highly encourage you to make the dressing a day prior, so the flavors combine and develop.

At the shower, we had such a wonderful assortment of summer salad with vibrant color, flavors and textures. The mother-to-be is not a big fan of the traditional baby shower games, so those were kept to a minimum. Instead, one of her friends shared a brilliant and unique idea with everyone.

It was an interactive activity that everyone could participate in. When I walked in, there were ironing boards set up with irons – I thought it was a bit strange that you would not put away your iron for a shower. I continued on my way to the backyard, but while eating our lunch, soon realized the purpose for the irons. She purchased 30 white onesies from Target and provided cute decals that were specific to the personalities of the parents to be. We were able to, at our leisure, personalize our very own onesie and when completed hang on the clothes line with a clothes pin. What a super cleaver idea!

Ultimate Orzo Salad

1 pound box of Orzo pasta
¼ C. Olive oil
2 C. Red cherry tomatoes or assorted colors
¾ C. Toasted pine nuts
2 C. thinly sliced radicchio
1 Large red onion – small dice
1 ½ C. Basil leaves – chiffanade
1 C. Crumbled feta cheese


1 C. Red wine vinegar
1 C. Vegetable oil
2 t. Garlic powder
1 T. Salt
Fresh ground pepper

Cook the orzo pasta according to the package. Best done al dente. Rinse and add about ¼ cup olive oil to coat pasta after it is cooled, into large bowl.

For the dressing - in a plastic airtight container, add red wine vinegar, vegetable oil, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Shake well and refrigerate.


In a large bowl, add cooled pasta. Add tomatoes, pine nuts, radicchio, red onion, basil leaves, feta cheese and toss quickly. Shake the dressing before adding. Add all of the dressing and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

Don’t you just love when you have a salad that has the “wow” factor? I know I do. Sometimes we get set in our salad making ways. I have my dozen favorite recipes that are repeatable and proven.

Late last year, my friend Helen invited me to join her book club that she has been involved in for over ten years. There are a total of eight women who are dynamic, smart, well read and great cooks. How wonderful it is to have gained six new friends to share a passion for reading and cooking.

Last month our book club selection was The Tigers Wife. Unfortunately, the reviews from the group were not as favorable as the selection for the month prior which was The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. This month we are reading Unbreakable.

Last month our hostess made the most incredible salad with roasted cauliflower. I asked her what she put in it and came up with my own version. My husband and I enjoyed on a Friday evening and it was completely satisfying. It would be perfect with a Pinot Noir.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

1 Head Cauliflower
2 C. Mache
2 C. Curly Endive
2 C. Arugula
8 to 10 Shitake mushrooms
½ C. Toasted pecans
1 C. Gruyere cheese, grated
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper


2 T. Sherry Vinegar
6 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Mix together in a glass container with a lid and taste. Adjust seasonings as desired.

Preheat oven to 350.

Use a non-stick baking pan with sides. Pull apart the cauliflower and break into desired pieces. Sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool.

De-stem the shitake mushrooms and slice. In a sauté pan, add about 2 T of olive oil and heat over medium to high heat. Add mushrooms with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown. Remove and let cool.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Rhubarb is a unique vegetable. Typically considered a vegetable, however in 1947 a New York court decided that since it was primarily used as a fruit, it would be counted as a fruit for the purposed os regulation. To me it looks like a pink peice of celery yet it has toxic leaves. You can usually find it early spring through mid summer.

My first memory of Rhubarb is from my Mom who would cook it in sugar with a bit of water until soft. We would eat it in a small bowl and enjoy the slight tartness. It was not until I was older that I realized there were so many variations of how to prepare rhubarb. One of rhubarb’s best companions is the beautiful and lush strawberry. From pies to jams, these two are a perfect marriage of complimentary flavors.

Recently I had one of my all hands on meetings with my team and thought it would be nice to bring a treat to everyone for the morning meeting. Found a recipe for rhubarb crumb bars on Martha Stewart’s site. After making, I realized it was much like a coffee cake than a bar cookie. All in all, simply delicious. I left the cake for the rest of the office and by 5pm, only crumbs were left on the plate.

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

(Adapted from Martha Stewart)


½ C. butter, melted
1 C. flour
½ C. packed dark-brown sugar
½ t. salt


1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T. dark-brown sugar
1 C. flour
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
½ C + 2 T. butter, room temperature
1 C. confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
2 t. pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with non-stick spray an 9-inch square baking pan.

Streusel: Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cake: In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.

Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Cut into 16 bars.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Guest Post on "Love & Olive Oil" - Cherry Strawberry Jam

Recently I was asked by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil to do a guest post.  I was thrilled.  Lindsay and I met virtually about a year and half ago through Adopt-a-blogger.  In case you missed it, please click here to see the post and feel free to browse her beautiful blog.  Thank you Lindsay!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding

Last weekend it was sunny, with our Bay Area weather being just perfect. Last weekend I feasted with foodie friends at a very special brunch. Last weekend was a long holiday weekend.

This weekend it is rainy, cloudy and I feel as though we have been propelled into a new month called – “June-uary”. The hammering rain that inundated the Bay Area yesterday set plenty of records and put the kibosh on plenty of outdoor activities. By mid afternoon yesterday, a little over an inch of rain had fallen in San Francisco, smashing the record of 0.49 of an inch set for this date in 1934.

Hubby and I nestled inside for the majority of the day. We snacked on frozen breakfast sandwiches in the morning while sipping our coffee and watching the weekend edition of Good Morning America. It was quite a different weekend that just a week prior. Yes – I do like a bit of frozen food every now and then. :-)

Yesterday was my birthday. As one of my friends on Facebook commented, - “Happy birthday, Miss Lisa! You look stunning for 29!” - It brought a smile to my face. My hubby showered me with little gifts all day long – certainly made it special. He set reservations at a new Italian restaurant in our city for dinner for us and my parents. Can’t remember ever having a rainy birthday before, but overall it was a wonderful day.

For the brunch last weekend, I brought a savory breakfast bread pudding to share. I promised to post this tasty recipe. I have been making this for years and is typically always a crowd pleaser. The ingredients can vary with either additions, substitutions or deletions but the core dish is completely savory. Enjoy!

Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding

2 Lbs. Ground Pork, cooked and crumbled
1 Loaf, French Bread (Semifreddi’s) – Cut into one inch cubes
2 Leeks, cleaned and finely diced
2 C. Cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 C. Baby spinach leaves, tighly packed
½ C. Grated pecorino romano cheese
½ C. Grated parmesan cheese
2 C. Gruyere cheese, grated


7 Eggs
4 C. Half and half
1 t. Nutmeg
1 t. Salt
1 t. Garlic powder
8 to 10 grinds of fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Use a 9 x 13 ceramic pan that is oven proof. Spray with a non-stick spray prior to adding ingredients.

Cook the ground pork in a large skillet until cooked all the way through. Add the leeks and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Take off the heat.

In a large bowl add all of the custard ingredients together and mix well. Set aside.

In a super large bowl add the bread cubes, ground pork and leek mixture and toss well. Next add the the parmesan and pecorino cheese and toss. Now add the spinach and tomatoes and toss. Add the custard filling to the bread mixture and toss well until all is coated. Let sit about 30 minutes until will soaked.

Add all of the mixture to the 9 by 13 pan. Sprinkle the grated gruyere to the top of the breakfast break pudding. Bake for about 55 to 60 minutes. Remove and let cool for about 10 minutes and then serve.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lazy Daisy Cake

Do you ever just have “one of those weeks”? Hopefully you don't too often. This week it was my turn. Quite glad today is Friday. I thought posting this cake would give a nice start to the weekend.

The Lazy Daisy Cake is one of the old fashioned cakes that your Grandmother or Mother would have made. Once I saw the recipe card, it brought back such wonderful memories. It is often referred to as a “hot milk” cake. The topping is similar to a german chocolate cake but a tad lighter. My Mom  would make this cake quite often when we were kids and it brought back such wonderful memories when I made it.

We are suppose to have a big storm blow through the Bay Area starting tonight and through the weekend. If you live either here or somewhere else where the weather is winter like, this might be a perfect cake to feast on.

Enjoy your weekend my foodie friends!!

Lazy Daisy Cake


2 Eggs
2 t. Vanilla
1 C Sugar
1 C Flour
1 t. Baking powder
½ t. Salt
½ C. Milk
1 T. Butter


3/4 C. Dark brown sugar
2 T. Heavy cream
½ C. Butter
¾ C. Shredded coconut
¼ C. Finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F. Use a 8 x 8 inch square cake pan.

Beat vanilla and eggs. Add sugar and beat well. Add flour, baking powder and salt to mixture to the sugar mixture. Blend until a smooth consistency.

Heat the milk and 1 T butter in small saucepan. When butter has melted, stir the milk mixture into the batter and mix. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until the knife test comes out clean. Remove cake from oven.

To make the topping, Mix ½ cup butter, brown sugar, cream, pecans and coconut together in small saucepan over low heat until all is melted. Stir until well blended. Spread over hot cake and brown lightly under the broiler for a minute, otherwise it may burn. Let cool then serve.