Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Product Review/Gift Idea: Custom Cookbooks from Tastebook

Are you still looking for the perfect gift for your mom, grandma, sister, friend, or just someone that plain loves to cook?  If so, I have to highly recommend a custom cookbook company called Tastebook.

I ordered this product for my mom and mother-in-law for Mother's Day this past year.  They aren't the most computer literate people but wanted copies of the recipes I was sharing online.  This was the perfect way to capture some of my favorites from this blog as well as to organize family recipes.  If you don't want to enter your own recipes, Tastebook also has pre-made themed books or you can select individual recipes from favorite sources like Food Network, Epicurious, and Food and Wine.

The books start at $19.99 (up to $34.99) and come in a very attractive hardcover binder that can include up to 100 vibrant colored pages and has dividers. The price is very reasonable given the quality (far exceeded my expectations!) and that a regular cookbook will run this much anyway.  You can add/move around the pages to your hearts content. You can also buy a book with 100 pages and create it with say 50 recipes. The recipient would then get 50 page credits to add their own recipes later.

Checkout my book here as an example to get your creative juices flowing and making your own (or, flatter me and actually buy my book!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Linguine with Clam Sauce

This steamy bowl of pasta will comfort you on the coldest of winter days.  It's easy AND elegant.  I almost have to laugh at myself for being intimidated by making a clam sauce at home.  There was nothing hard about this.  And canned clams?  A bit pricey but surely easier and cheaper than fresh and I couldn't tell a difference.  I guess if you wanted to make the presentation more impressive you could put a few fresh steamed clams in the dish.  It took minutes to cook and was restaurant quality.  Watchout, Maggiano's and Bravo, you may be my favorite Italian restaurants now but I might not need you anymore soon ;).

I personally added a touch of white wine to my sauce because I feel like that's a standard ingredient in most white clam sauces?  If you'd rather you can leave it out and I'm sure it will still taste fantastic.  I also added some dried basil because what Italian dish doesn't need some basil??  Oh, and I used spaghetti because my store was out of linguine.  How that's possible I don't know...

By the way, I thought this dish tasted EVEN BETTER the next day when I reheated it in the microwave for lunch.  Crazy, I know.

One Year Ago: Cincinnati Style Chili, Chinese Chicken Corn Soup, and Spicy Rapid Roast Chicken

Linguine with Clam Sauce
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  • 12 oz. linguine pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams, juices reserved
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan and fresh parsley, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved clam juice and if desired, dry white wine to the pan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by about half. With the heat on medium-low, stir in the clams, heavy cream, and basil. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Portion the pasta into serving bowls. Spoon some of the sauce over the pasta and top with grated Parmesan and parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.
Source: Very slightly modified from Annie's Eats originally from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine by Jeff Smith

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Cincinnati Nest/Bump Cookie Exchange

You know what the beauty of cookie exchanges are?  You make a big batch of one type of cookie and then you come home with the same size batch of a bunch of DIFFERENT types of cookies!  They're perfect for when you want to set out a holiday platter for guests or the office but don't want to slave in the kitchen all day making many types of treats.

This year I finally made it out to meet some of the ladies from the local Nest and Bump boards.  I've been a member of the online community and chatting with some of these ladies since my wedding planning days on The Knot like 4 years ago.  So, it was nice to finally meet some of them IRL (in real life...for those that don't know the lingo!).  They were as awesome as can be and it wasn't nearly as awkward meeting "strangers" as you'd think.  Then again, since Chris and I met online, the whole meeting people from online concept is not at all foreign to me!

I brought Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles to the exchange.  Believe me, Chris had a hard time letting me take those away from him since he loves them so much.  Thankfully, the ladies loved them just as much.  My personal favorite so far is the White Chocolate Macademia Nut.  It's not at all Holiday but what can I say?  It's just my favorite cookie of all time and therefore good anytime of the year!  In all, there were probably 30+ different cookies that were exchanged.  You better believe that these cookies are being shared with others because we certainly don't need them all for ourselves!  The recipes from all the cookies are being compiled by one of our awesome coordinators this week but for now, I'll post a picture for you to salivate over.  Mmmm...cookies!

PS:  Did I mention that we're doing a Dinner Club cookie exchange this weekend, too?!  Yeah.  Hello lardy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Island Spice Pork (Tender)loin

Stop the presses!  This might be one of the most succulent meats I have ever eaten.  The combination of sweet, savory, and spicy makes my taste buds go wild.  Yes it's snowing and fricking cold outside but this dish takes you to the Caribbean has a jerk type of flavor.  Previously the only way I had ever had pork loin was the way my mom served it - marinated overnight in pickling spice.  While that is also delicious, it didn't have the flavor complexity that this dish offers.  I have found a new "serve to company" entree...and it's simple (no marinating needed!) yet can make a beautiful presentation.  You can do it too - it's that simple.  Your guests will think you're a culinary genius!

I put the (Tender) in my title because the original recipe calls for tenderloin.  However, I made it with a regular old pork loin that I had stored in my freezer and wanted to use up.

Do you know what the difference between pork tenderloin and pork loin is?  I didn't until recently.  Most pork recipes that I bookmark call for tenderloin and thus have very short cooking times.  I remember once I made a recipe and used a loin instead of tenderloin and wondered why it took three times as long as the recipe called for.  Apparently, pork tenderloin is much thinner and thus can cook much more quickly.  Once I figured out the difference, I simply adjusted the cooking time.  Personally, I like the pork loin because you can serve so many people out of a single cut of meat.  Oh and did I mention the leftovers as sandwiches also taste delicious?

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Island Spice Pork (Tender)loin
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For the spice rub:
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (about 2-2½ lbs. total) - Note: Used 2.5 pound pork loin
2 tbsp. olive oil

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. (2-3 cloves) finely minced garlic
  • 1½ tsp. Tabasco sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir together with a fork to blend. Pat the mixture over the pork tenderloins or pork loin.
  2. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tenderloins in the skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total. Remove from the heat, leaving the pork in the skillet.
  3. Stir together the brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl until blended. Spread the mixture evenly over the tops of the tenderloins.
  4. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 20 minutes (increase to approximately 1 hour if using pork loin), until an instant-read themometer inserted in the center of each tenderloin registers 140˚ F. Loosely tent the skillet with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Source: Adapted by Annie's Eats from Pennies on a Platter, originally from The Gourmet Cookbook