Saturday, July 30, 2011

Poolside Lunch: Smokey Tomato Orzo and Mozzarella, Pesto Panini

Yesterday, I was planning my menu for a girls lunch at my pool (with my 7 best girlfriends: Melissa, Allison, Stephanie, Sarah, Rachel, Marin and Sheryl).  With my new "twitter" account, I sent Giada DeLaurentiis (@GDeLaurentiis) a note asking her what she recommended for a vegetarian girls lunch by the pool (Rachel and Marin aren't carnivores like the rest of  us). To my surprise, she wrote back within an hour that she recommended her Orzo with Smokey Tomato Sauce.  You can find the recipe at this Link.

The secret ingredient is Smoked Salt. I had never heard of smoked salt before, but heard you could buy it at Whole Foods.  I went to Publix and didn't find it, next stop World Market and didn't find it...last ditch effort in the same shopping center - TJ Max HomeGoods, and it was there in the specialty foods section!  This recipe is INCREDIBLE.  I served it cold. I made according to the recipe except I used one pint of grape tomatoes and one pint of cherry instead of both cherry.  The honey is a great touch!

To go along with the Smokey Tomato Orzo, I made Panini sandwiches.  I bought 2 fresh baguette loaves and split each in half length wise.  I spread each side with a pesto and basil mixture (from the refrigerated section - 1 container) and then layered fresh mozzarella slices, basil slices, tomato slices, portobello mushroom slices (marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil and then lightly cooked in a pan).  I then put a little olive oil on the outside of the bread and put them in my panini press (I cut each sandwhich into 4 slices for a total of 8 sandwhiches). I then served cold.

Lemon Bars for dessert!  It was great! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Double Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I recently joined the 21st century, and opened a Twitter account.  I now "follow" all kinds of nonsense -   A quote I saw this week on Twitter by Foodimentry " Don't wreck a sublime chocolate experience, by feeling guilty." might feel a little guilty after eating this cake. It is INCREDIBLE AND INCREDIBLY EASY...Double Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

OK, so I'll admit it upfront. I used a boxed chocolate cake mix...but sometimes those work better.  Just make sure you use one of the "extra moist" extra chocolaty varieties.  I made the mix according to the package directions and poured it into two, 8 inch cake pans (very well greased and floured pans), and baked for 30 minutes according to package directions (350 degrees usually).

Once cooled, I frosted the cakes with the bestest chocolate frosting.

Frosting Recipe:
1 stick of butter, softened
8 oz of cream cheese, softened
1 box of confectioners sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
About 1/2 cup of melted chocolate, (slightly cooled) - use more or less depending on how dark or light you want your frosting
1-2 Tablespoons of milk to loosen it as you mix it

Mix the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla, and then add the confectioners sugar and finally the melted chocolate. Mix with an electric mixer and refrigerate until ready to use.

To frost the cakes:

After the cakes have cooled for about 10 minutes, pop them out of the pans, and then let cool completely (1-2 hours or so).  Once cooled, slightly cut the "dome" off the cakes with a serrated knife so you have 2 flat even that excess for the "decoration" or just eat it or throw it out (see top of cake in picture for how I used it) :)

Put a good amount of frosting in the middle and stack the cakes together and then frost the top and outside. IMPORTANT: Work quickly or the frosting will get too soft.

Once frosted, let firm up in the fridge before slicing.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pan-Fried Onion Dip with the Wednesday Sisters

Pan-Fried Onion Dip with Stacy's Pita Chips

I read this in paperback at the pool today

Set in the 1960s, The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton  is about a group of five very different women, who become friends through a Wednesday meeting in the park with their kids.  As they become friends, they encourage each other to become more than just housewives, and begin to write essays, articles and novels, and provide feedback to each other during their weekly meetings. As they get to know each other better, they watch the Miss America Pageant each year together, and begin to become friends "outside of the park."   I have to admit, I did not love this book - it was ok, and a little slow in parts. I think it would be a great book club type book though.  You can learn more about the book at:

During the Miss America Pageant that the women would religiously watch each year, they drank Vodka Gimlets, Gin and Tonics and Sidecars.  They also brought casseroles, lemon bars, chips and french onion dip (you know the kind we all love - sour cream mixed with Lipton Onion Soup mix).

So, I decided to bring the onion dip to 2011 and make Ina Garten's Pan-Fried Onion Dip.  You can find the recipe at

I did a few things different from Ina:

1) I used half the amount of oil and butter to pan-fry the onions.  Instead of 1/4 cup of oil and 4 Tablespoons of butter, I used 2 Tablespoons of Oil and 2 Tablespoons of butter...that is plenty.
2) I caramelized the onions longer than the recipe calls for.  Instead of 10 minutes on medium heat and 20 minutes on low heat, I did 10 minutes on medium heat and then 50 minutes on low will make a big difference, I promise.  Just come and check on them every 10 minutes or so.
3)  It's a very rich dip, so I used regular Hellman's mayonnaise as the recipe calls for, but then I used reduced fat sour cream (Daisy) and 1/3 less fat cream cheese instead of will still be VERY indulgent tasting.

A tasty dip, and it adds a little change to the "old school" french onion dip.

Enjoy, and happy dipping!