Monday, November 30, 2015

Random Chance Pasta

Do you have trouble coming up with a menu plan? Stumped about what to cook? That was my situation, lately. Recipe Dice from Leafcutter Designs came to my rescue!

Designed to be playful and whimsical, I found the dice surprisingly practical. I'm keeping them on the kitchen counter now, and frequently roll the dice to see what combinations might fall, which sparks some kitchen creativity. Here's how one dice roll worked for me. First, I put the dice in a larger jar, so they would have room to jiggle and turn while I shook them well. The twelve dice hit the table in a nice scatter.
Oh, look! I see pasta and chicken, a great start. Onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, thyme. Yes to all those. Black pepper? Sure, a grind or three of pepper is always a good idea. We're on a roll here (oh, dear, a pun). The rules of this game let me put five dice back into the jar to shake again. Shake, shake, shake. Sprinkle them on the table. Oh! Parmesan and rosemary, I got lucky there. Now I have...eggplant, spinach, and asparagus.

So my ingredients are set. I'm allowed to discard two dice, if I wish, leaving 10 ingredients. I can add other ingredients like cooking oil, salt, cream. I could make several dishes - main and sides - or try for an all-in-one. I set the dice for eggplant and spinach to one side, added asparagus to my 'go' pile, and made this wonderful pasta supper.

Random Chance Pasta
by Maurita Plouff 
Serves 4

2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 half skinless boneless chicken breast, or 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 cup frozen asparagus tips
1 medium onion, sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
6 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces pasta, any shape you like
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large ripe tomato, roughly chopped

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet. If you are using raw chicken, slice it thinly crosswise, and saute the chicken , stirring often, until it's just cooked through - 3 to minutes. Remove chicken and set aside. Briefly zap the asparagus tips in the microwave, until they are barely tender, and set aside.

Return the skillet to the heat. Add a bit more oil, then add the onions to the pan, and cook until they begin to be translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms and onions are thoroughly cooked. Add chopped herbs and cream, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain, reserving a bit of the cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot.

Add the chicken and mushroom in herbed cream sauce to the pasta, along with the Parmesan cheese, the cooked asparagus tips and the chunks of ripe tomato. Toss well to combine, and to melt the cheese.

Serve with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Meet our newest cook, Jenny!

Hi, I’m Jenny. I love cookbooks and have a bit of a cookbook addiction. Everyone: “Hi Jenny!” Cookbooks are inspirational to me in my meal planning. I love to try new recipes and often change up recipes to make them my own. For as long as I can remember I have always loved cooking, cookbooks and anything that has to do with the kitchen. My love of cookware, tart pans and rolling pins is bordering on scary – but only for my husband. He fears I may move him out to make more room.

My mother was not much of a cook. Out of high school and working for a doctor, I often would babysit he and his wife’s little daughter. The doctor’s wife was an incredible cook and always had some tasty, exotic dish in the refrigerator for me to snack on. She also had a cookbook collection and when she purged some titles – I was happily lugging a dozen cookbooks home and that is where the cookbook love started with me. One of those titles is still in my collection, Miss Hulling’s Favorite Recipes – I can’t part with it – it was my gateway to all things cooking.

After Andrew, my eleven year old, was born, I started a Facebook group called, The Cookbook Junkies in order to socialize and share my passion. Today, we are nearly 22,000 members and growing. I review cookbooks at my website of the same name, The Cookbook Junkies, and also have a weekly column for TasteBook. The true benefit of starting The Cookbook Junkies besides the career I am able to achieve at home, has been the incredible friends I’ve met in real life and online. A few of these friends are members of the 37 Cooks team.

Home cooked meals are preferred over almost anything we can purchase at a restaurant. My favorite cuisines are anything international but being married to a man of simpler tastes, I cook a great deal of comfort food. Always on a quest to cure my husband’s anti-potato issue (really, who doesn’t like potatoes – some Irish man he is), when I saw these Cleveland Stuffed Potatoes on Food Network, I’d thought I’d give them a try. They incorporate a lot of ingredients that my son and husband enjoy – kielbasa, cheese, cole slaw – what’s not to love?

These stuffed potatoes were easy to throw together and so tasty. Perfect football food and a great appetizer for a party. We had them for dinner with a salad – and they were fantastic!

Cleveland Stuffed Potatoes 
By Jenny Hartin 
The Cookbook Junkies ™
Adapted from Patricia Heaton's recipe on the Food Network

6 medium sized russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces kielbasa, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cups coleslaw salad mix
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 scallions, chopped, 3 Tablespoons of the sliced greens reserved for garnish
2 cups shredded cheese, divided
About 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, divided
1 Tablespoon of honey mustard or stone ground mustard
1 jalapeño sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Poke several holes in the potatoes with a fork, place on a baking sheet and rub with the olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Bake until a fork easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly.

Put the diced kielbasa in a large skillet with the oil and then turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat starts to render, and the sausage is golden in places, about seven minutes. Add the coleslaw mix and stir until just wilted, about four minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving a wall of potato and skin so they can hold on to the filling you will be spooning in soon. Add the potato to the bowl with the kielbasa mixture and stir in the butter, scallions, 1 cup of shredded cheese, 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce, 1 tablespoon of mustard and 1 teaspoon salt. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the stuffed potato on the baking sheet and spoon the filling into them. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the tops. Bake until the cheese is melted and the tops are browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved scallions and sliced jalapeños and serve immediately.

Can be served with extra barbecue sauce on the side.

Grilled Chicken Cheesy Pasta

Leafcutter Designs came up with a great product, Recipe Dice! This was a fun challenge. All you do is roll the dice and create a dish with the ingredients on the dice. I love this idea! When I rolled the dice, all sorts of ingredients were in front of me. Then the fun started by starting to figure out what to do with all of these ingredients. I saw chicken, tomato, pasta, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and Parmesan cheese and thought that this one could be fun, because I love using pasta in my dishes. Here's what happened:

Grilled Chicken Cheesy Pasta
By Luke
Inspired by Cooking Classy - Lemon Ricotta Parmesan Pasta with Spinach and Grilled Chicken

1 package of linguine pasta
2 Tablespoons of butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
2 grilled chicken breast, stripped
2 handfuls of spinach
15 ounces of chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of skim ricotta
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
1 cup of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
2 lemons
Start by cooking pasta according to package directions.

Once pasta is cooked you can begin melting the butter in a skillet, add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add fire roasted tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently. Now, throw in the chicken and spinach, cook for 5 minutes. Then add chicken broth and ricotta. Cook until cheese has covered all of the meat. Once you get the desired thickness, throw in the pasta, top with black pepper, parsley, and Parmesan cheese. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice out and stir in to the pasta. Now, sit back and enjoy a very flavorful dish!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Savory Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Couscous and Artichoke Puree

Don't know what to make for dinner? Just roll those dice! Leafcutter Designs supplied us with these amazing 12 Recipe Dice for this challenge. They also have a vegetarian version, along with cocktail dice, dessert and chai ones.

You roll all 12, and can eliminate up to 5. You can then re-roll the remaining ones to add to your original recipe, create something new or switch things up. What a creative way to make dinner fun! Here's a little more about the company: Leafcutter Designs - Our Story

Savory Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Couscous and Artichoke Puree
by Holly K of Holly's Table
Adapted from: Roasted leg of lamb recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Roasted Leg of Lamb

For the lamb:
1 bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of fell and excess fat (7-8 pounds)
2 Tablespoons course salt
2 teaspoons course black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish
2 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup red currant jelly, for serving

For the couscous:
1 box of Mediterranean-style couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup peas, cooked and chilled
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

For the artichoke and garbanzo bean puree:
1 medium sized jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained, reserve liquid
1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed and skinned
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juice and zest
Sea salt and pepper
Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
Finely sliced red pepper for garnish
Pita chips for dipping

For the lamb: After removing the excess fell and fat from the lamb, it's time to make the rub. In a small bowl blend together the salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, oregano, mustard and oil. Slash the meat all over with 1 inch long and about 1/2 inch deep cuts. Slather the meat on all sides with the rub. Be sure to get into the grooves. Let the lamb rest for 1 hour before roasting. Heat oven to 425°F. Place the lamb into a medium roasting pan outfitted with a rack. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of pan. Roast the lamb 20 minutes to get an initial crust and seal in the flavors. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to cook until internal temperature at the bone reaches 130-135°F (medium-rare). About 50-65 minutes, depending on your oven. Increase oven temperature to broil, and cook another 5 minutes to crisp the meat. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes before carving.

For the couscous: Cook one box of Mediterranean-style couscous according to box directions. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add the parsley, peas and bell pepper. Mix in the couscous.

For the artichoke puree: In a food processor, blend the artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and zest until well blended. If needed, add some of the marinade from the artichoke hearts. Note for the garbanzo beans: For a smoother texture, make sure the skins are removed from the beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a small serving dish and garnish with the feta and bell pepper.

Serve lamb with a couple of spoonfuls of red currant jelly, a side of the couscous, artichoke puree and chips for dipping.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mint Chocolate Chai

It was fun to receive the Chai Dice from Leafcutter Designs this month. While staying with my sister, we spent time in the kitchen rolling the dice and making various combinations, and this one was our favourite.

Mint Chocolate Chai
Recipe created by Nancy Follwell

1/2 cup black loose leaf tea
2 cups water, cold
2 Tablespoons honey
4 fresh mint leaves
1 stick cinnamon
Milk, to taste
Vanilla bean
2 teaspoon cocoa powder

Simmer the black tea with the water, honey, mint, and cinnamon. Pour into tea cups and add a small amount of milk. Garnish with a vanilla bean and sprinkle with cocoa powder. Serves 2.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Smoky Lentils with Mushrooms and Spinach

Leafcutter Designs, a unique creative design studio in Berkeley, CA, has a ton of nifty gifts and art products. When they offered to sponsor 37 Cooks for a challenge, I was really excited. Who doesn’t need a little added inspiration in their cooking regimen? Their Recipe Dice come as a set of twelve dice made of solid wood, and feature more than 60 seasonal vegetables, hearty grains, juicy meats, flavorful spices, and succulent herbs. With a simple roll of the dice, these cool cubes will provide endless suggested menu combinations, and will be a terrific addition to your creative kitchen. Perfect for gift-giving, make your favorite foodie’s day with this jar of fun. In addition to a vegetarian version, they offer Cocktail and Chai Dice, too!

My roll for this recipe included: Lentils, chicken, mushrooms, spinach, smoked paprika, cumin, and chili flakes. I’d never cooked lentils before, so this was a new, inspired dish for me. And it turned out to be a delicious one, too! A hearty side dish, these lentils are great drained and mixed with your favorite fresh greens and protein for a cool salad entrée.

Smoky Lentils with Mushrooms and Spinach
by Gary Gee
Serves 8

2 cups green lentils
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
Pinch brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound smoked chicken (such as this from Teet’s Food Store)
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Rinse lentils with cool water; drain and set aside.

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and pinch of sugar and cook until aromatic and slightly brown, about one minute. Add garlic, smoked chicken, mushrooms, paprika, cumin, Aleppo, pinches of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until all ingredients are coated and fragrant. Add stock and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is well-infused, about 20 minutes.

Add lentils, return to a simmer, and cook with lid ajar for 20-30 minutes, or until slightly tender. Add spinach, and continue cooking until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes more. Correct seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pork Cutlet with Wilted Kale and Farfalle with Roasted Vegetables

What a great idea! I wish I had invented “Recipe Dice." Leafcutter Designs has come out with several types of inspirational dice to help get your creative juices flowing when it comes to cooking, cocktail making or Chai (though I’m not familiar with “Chai” so if you know what Chai is…you’re at least one up on me!) The three sets you can choose from are Cocktail Dice, Chai Dice, and Recipe Dice. The idea is that you roll the dice and make something out of the ingredients that you roll. It’s harder than you think. Once you get over the fear of rolling the dice and getting some really odd combination of ingredients, it’s a lot of fun and super inspiring. I chose the Recipe Dice, and the meal ideas are seemingly limitless.

When I opened my little box containing the newest 37 Cooks challenge, I was very excited. I played with the dice a bit, trying to coax them into a meal I thought I could create with little to no anxiety. But, with every toss of the dice, with every attempt to manipulate the ingredients list, I felt guilty for not playing the game the way it was intended. So I left the dice in their cute little spice jar on my kitchen counter for a couple of weeks, knowing full well I had to face them eventually. Every time I walked into the kitchen I would see them there, staring back at me. Goading me into trying to create something new and different. I decided enough was enough. I re-read the instructions, rolled the dice, then, according to the directions, I picked five ingredients that I wanted to change, and re-rolled those five. I decided to stick with what fate handed me (no fudging with the ingredients to make them fit). The dice I rolled included pork, rutabaga, Parmesan cheese, summer squash, asparagus, black pepper, kale, oregano, pasta, artichoke, lemon, and bell pepper…E-I-E-I-O! It was as if the dinner gods spoke to me. I couldn’t believe it, but I managed to whittle out a dinner with all of the ingredients that tasted really good. And it forced me to use ingredients together that I would ordinarily have never considered combining. Spoiler alert! Everyone I know is getting a set of these dice for Christmas! That’s just how I roll!

Roll of the Dice Pork Cutlet with Wilted Kale and Farfalle with Roasted Vegetables
by Maryjo

Pork Cutlet:
1 pork tenderloin, silver skin removed, cut into 6 equal pieces (each package comes with 2 tenderloins, so I put one in the freezer and used the other for this recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons water
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 200ºF. Remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloin and cut the tenderloin into 6 equal 2 1/2 to 3-inch disks. Working with one piece of pork at a time, place each pork disk between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them flat until it’s about 1/4-inch in thickness.

Combine the flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a shallow dish. In another dish, beat the eggs and water lightly together until combined. In a third dish, combine the Panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and the garlic powder. 

Heat two Tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge one of the pork cutlets in the flour, shaking off excess flour. Dip into the egg and water mixture. Then coat the cutlet in the Panko and cheese mixture, pressing the cutlet into the bread crumbs to make sure they stick, and place in the hot skillet. If your skillet is large enough, you can cook two cutlets in the skillet at one time. While the first two are cooking, start working on the next two cutlets. Cook for two to three minutes per side. When golden and crispy, place on baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until all 6 cutlets are cooked. Add 2 more Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet and cook the next two cutlets. Once again, place the cooked cutlets in the oven with the others. Finally, add the remaining two Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet and cook the last two cutlets. Serve hot with sliced lemon.

Wilted Kale:
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced into long thin strips
1 bunch kale, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium high. When the oil is hot (it should be shimmering), add the onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the kale, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir until the kale is wilted, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice and salt. Toss to coat and serve hot.

Farfalle with Roasted Vegetables:
2 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced into 1 1/2-inch chunks
3 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound farfalle pasta (bowtie pasta), cooked according to directions on box
4 ounces asparagus, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow squash, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini squash, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces artichoke hearts
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
Zest and juice from two large lemons
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat the rutabaga in 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes (turning half way through). 

Cook the farfalle pasta according to the directions on the box, drain, and set aside in a large bowl. 

Combine asparagus, bell pepper, yellow squash, and zucchini squash in large bowl with remaining 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. After the rutabaga has roasted for 20 minutes, add these vegetables to the sheet pan with the rutabaga and continue to roast for another 20 minutes. When done, add the roasted vegetables to the pasta. Add artichoke hearts (I used the canned artichoke hearts in a brine) and the chopped oregano. Stir to combine. 

In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by combining the lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and olive oil. Mix well and then pour the dressing over the pasta and roasted vegetables. Stir to combine and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The “Tom Collins”

I came home from work Friday and decided to roll the dice. The Leafcutter Designs Cocktail Dice that is! I couldn’t believe my luck. TWO “Wild” dice!! That means I get to go “Wild” with my cocktail idea. When one of the dice revealed a Collins glass, I decided to go old school. Really? Old school? Well…How about the New Old School! When I was a server in college, so many restaurants made their “signature” Tom Collins using a generic pre-made sour mix and average gin. Maybe the straw elevated the cocktail? I am not too sure about that, but I know I served plenty. I figured I could remain loyal to the basics, but add my spin to this iconic cocktail. Are you ready for the Tom Collins of the next generation? I know my guests were all smiles Saturday night! I guess it could have been the gin…

The “Tom Collins”
By Susan R-H

Simple Syrup ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
The peel of one lemon, I used a potato peeler. Be careful not to include the pith.
One handful of fresh basil leaves and that can be subjective, so if you adore basil (like me) use a big handful.

For each cocktail you will need:
1 1/2 ounces good quality gin, I chose Bombay Sapphire
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce basil lemon simple syrup, more or less depending on your sweetness desire
2 ounces carbonated water, I used Perrier

First, make the basil lemon simple syrup. Combine the sugar, water, lemon peel and basil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let the simple syrup cool completely. Strain and set aside. You will need to adjust the simple syrup recipe measurements based on the number of cocktails you plan to serve. It is always equal parts of sugar and water.

When it is party time, fill Collins glasses with crushed ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, basil lemon simple syrup and carbonated water. Stir and garnish with a thin slice of lemon wrapped around a basil leaf. Add a straw if you are feeling nostalgic. 

This was a terrific challenge for the 37 Cooks and I believe the Leafcutter Designs Cocktail Dice make a wonderful holiday gift for any of your adventurous family members or friends!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Quick Pasta Dinner

My sweetie would eat pasta everyday of the week if I let him. Sometimes it just makes sense to do it. I work, just like y'all do and there are some days that I just don't want to cook. I will always have a simple pasta dish at the ready for those days. This is one of them. I rolled the dice and gotta say I love the recipe ideas!!!
If you do anything, get these Recipe Dice and have some fun. They are a fantastic way to break the ice with children, guests, and family. We had and will continue to have fun with them. Be sure to visit Leafcutter Designs on Facebook. 

Quick Pasta Dinner
by Traci Bump
Pasta Sauce adapted from Allrecipes Quick Pasta Sauce

1 package Buitoni ravioli, boiled per instructions on package and set aside
1 16-ounce can of Marzano Italian tomato sauce
1 8-ounce can can of petite diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup of fresh spinach, chopped
3 links of Italian sausage cooked and set aside
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large sauce pan combine tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add onion and simmer to allow the onions to soften. Add the basil and rosemary. When this has simmered down a bit and become denser add spinach. It will wilt quickly. Add in your cooked sausage and warm through. You can either add in your ravioli or re-warm it in the microwave. Serve it with some garlic bread and you have a simple yet filling dinner on your plate.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tequila Splash

This cocktail dice set from Leafcutter Designs was so much fun! I had a great roll the very first time - it had so many ingredients that I already love, so I made my very own drink, Tequila Splash! I think these dice would be a perfect gift for someone special, and you're sure to impress your friends and family with your bartender skills. I hope you enjoy this easy, refreshing drink recipe!

Tequila Splash
By Rachael Tanis

1 part tequila
1 part triple sec (or other orange liquor)
2 parts cranberry juice
2-3 mint leaves
Splash of ginger ale
Orange twist or slice, for garnish

1. Add the tequila, triple sec, and cranberry juice to a shaker filled with ice.
2. Shake, shake, shake!
3. Pour into a double old fashioned glass, over ice.
4. Rub the mint leaves between your fingers to bruise them a bit (this brings out the flavor more!) and add to your drink.
5. Add a splash of ginger ale. Add more if you like an extra "zing".
6. Garnish with an orange twist or slice.
7. Cheers, drink and repeat (optional)!

Tip: I always make mine a double! ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Frittata Loaf

I am an eggoholic. Self-proclaimed and verifiable. When we got the recipe dice from Leafcutter Designs, I was worried. I made Bill roll them. I was gonna blame him for anything odd that happened. Well, it didn't. I got eggs and some other ingredients. The first thing he said was "you need to make that omelet thing you do". "I don't do an omelet thing", I said. He said "the loaf thingy". I said "oh, heck yes!!!"

I would love to introduce you to a go-to dinner, lunch or breakfast that is simple and terrific. Please know that you can use ANYTHING you want in this recipe. This is just a guideline.

Frittata Loaf
By Traci
My own design

6 large eggs
1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
1 cup Swiss cheese shredded
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced asparagus
Salt and pepper to taste

Yep, that simple. Oven to an easy 300°F. Prep a small loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray.

I combine the eggs until well mixed. Salt and pepper at this point. Add all the other ingredients. It will be thick, but that's what you want. The egg is a just filler for all the other good stuff in the frittata. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until it is not wiggly in the middle, about 25 minutes. Each oven will be different.

Take out of the pan and let set for a few minutes. Slice and serve. I love serving with some sliced tomatoes and additional green onions. Add a hunk of French bread and you are set!!!

Let me know how you make yours.......I would love to know!! And if you'd like a little fun with a recipe, I highly recommend grabbling some of these recipe dice from Leafcutter Designs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rum Punch

I love Leafcutter Designs Cocktail Dice. They are so versatile and fun. As soon as they arrived, I rolled and went with the first try! Don’t take it too seriously, use ingredients that you have. Mix and match as you see fit. You can create delicious libations with just one roll.

When I rolled my dice, I immediately thought of all the rum punch that is flowing freely on the islands of the Caribbean. Spiced rum and fruity ingredients make for a delicious, refreshing beverage. Even though I did not have any lemon lime soda, I did not fret. I substituted pineapple juice because I had some in the pantry. So, if you are longing for the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, make this tasty punch. The fresh nutmeg is traditional to Caribbean rum punch and the pomegranate juice adds a little twist. Just roll with it!

Rum Punch
By Tracy Hersh
Makes 2

2 ounces light rum
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce triple sec or other orange liquor
6 ounces pineapple juice
6 ounces pomegranate juice

Orange wedge
Star anise (optional)

In a small pitcher or 2-cup measuring cup, stir together rums, triple sec, and juices. Fill 2 highball glasses with ice and pour.

Garnish each glass with freshly grated nutmeg, orange slice and star anise. Add a straw and enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Asian Chicken Thighs with Bok Choy

Leafcutter Designs, based out of Berkeley, CA, has a wonderful little item: Recipe Dice. This set of twelve dice is made of solid wood, and features more than 60 seasonal vegetables, grains, meats, spices, and herbs. With a simple roll of the dice, these cool cubes will provide endless suggested menu combinations! What a terrific gift idea for the foodie in your life. In addition to a vegetarian version, they offer Cocktail and Chai Dice, too!

My roll for this recipe included: Chicken, oregano, broccoli, bok choy, onion, bell pepper, parsley, rice, and lemon juice. Taking a cue from the bok choy die, I made this dish with an Asian flair, adding garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Delicious!

Asian Chicken Thighs with Bok Choy
By Gary Gee
Serves/makes 2-4

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce PLUS
1 teaspoon light soy sauce, divided use
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil PLUS
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, divided use
1 Tablespoon peanut oil, more as needed
1 cup fresh broccoli florets, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup red pepper, julienned
Brown sugar
1/2 pound baby bok choy, halved, soaked, rinsed, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley, PLUS
Whole parsley sprigs, for garnish
Steamed rice, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a shallow baking pan by lining with foil, arranging rack on top, then spraying with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place chicken in a shallow baking pan. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, Aleppo. Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin, and sesame oil. Turn to coat evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Arrange chicken thighs on rack and bake for one hour, or until cooked through, basting once or twice with fat from the pan. This will help “lacquer” the chicken skin. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

In a large wok or Dutch oven, heat peanut oil over high heat. Add broccoli and season liberally with salt and pepper. Let rest in wok until browned on one side. Toss until edges are browned, but broccoli is still firm, about one minute. Remove to a dish. Add onion, red pepper, and pinch of brown sugar. Stir fry until browned, about one minute. Remove to a dish. 

Add more oil if needed to coat wok. Heat until smoking, and add bok choy. Toss to coat; cook until leaves are slightly wilted. Add garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Add water, continue cooking until edges are slightly brown and stems are fork tender, about one minute. Add remaining teaspoon soy sauce and sesame oil. Remove to dish.

To serve, arrange bok choy, peppers, chicken thighs, broccoli florets, and onions as desired. Sprinkle with lemon juice, garnish with parsley, and serve with rice.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Bus Stop

This is one of the hardest posts I've ever written. I'm dedicating this drink, which I made using the Cocktail Dice from Leafcutter Designs, to my dear friend and fellow 37 Cook member, Christy Hughes, who recently, suddenly, and totally unexpectedly passed away. Christy was from Texas and she loved jalapeno peppers, so I knew I had to incorporate a jalapeno in my recipe as a nod to her. Also, I think everyone that knows me expects something a little spicy in most of my recipes! I had tears running down my face as I was assembling the drink but, as Christy would expect, I held the drink up and toasted her. I love you, Christy.

Now, back to the dice challenge. The cocktail dice were a lot of fun, rollin', rollin' and rollin', trying to come up with different drinks. My oldest daughter is a bartender and she said if The Bus Stop came out good, she was gonna use it as a drink special in the restaurant where she works! Why call the drink The Bus Stop you ask? We have a really fun group on Facebook called Serious Eats Water Cooler. We travel all over the world in our imaginary bus to visit each other, cook, eat and drink and I think Christy would laugh at the name! If you make this drink, make a toast to my friend for me. Thanks.

The Bus Stop
by Matt the Butcher

1 scant teaspoon sugar
Fresh jalapeno pepper, sliced
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce white rum
Ginger ale
Sweet pickled jalapeno slices for garnish

In a tall glass, muddle the sugar, 3 or 4 slices of fresh jalapeno pepper and 1 ounce of triple sec. Strain into a rocks glass, add three or four slices of fresh jalapeno according to how spicy you want your drink. Mine wasn't real spicy. Add the rum, ice, and a splash or 2 of ginger ale. I garnished mine with some sweet pickled jalapeno peppers that my dear friend, Brooke, sent to me. They're spicy, sweet, vinegary and really topped off this drink well!

Matt's daughter, Tanya and her boss. They featured The Bus Stop at their bar in Idaho. It was a huge success!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Earl’s Green Chili

Okay, raise your hand if you have had a loved one respond “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” when you ask them “what do you want for dinner”?  It so frustrating! All you want is a little direction, a little help in the creative process. Leaf Cutter Designs now comes to your rescue when you need a little to nudge to get the creative juices going. It is as simple as a “roll of the dice”.  
Leaf Cutter Designs markets their dice as a way “to inspire spontaneity and exploration in the kitchen.” I have to say it helped me produce a delicious dish that I dedicate to my deceased Stepfather, Earl, who loved the traditional Green Chili from his native Colorado.  
There are a total of 12 dice. On my first roll, I was able to pick out six dice that immediately made me start thinking “Tex-Mex.” The first six dice where pork, potato, rice, bell pepper, chili flakes, and tomatillo. I placed the other six dice back in the jar, rolled a second time and got a tomato, lime juice, lettuce, oregano, cabbage, and cheddar. This was very good and very bad. I was glad to see that I could eliminate some the dice because at first I had no clue as to how to incorporate lettuce, oregano or cabbage into my “Tex-Mex” dish.  
I started looking through my cooking magazines and I ran across a recipe in the All Recipe September/October 2015 for Mile High Green Chili. Not Tex-Mex, but similar in spicy flavors. My plan was to make enough Green Chili for two nights. The first night, I would serve it my husband’s favorite way over rice. The second night, I would serve it my Stepfather Earl’s favorite way, in a burrito. I also figured out a way to incorporate all the ingredients from all the dice. The lettuce would work on the burrito, the Mexican Oregano would taste great in the stew and I could use red cabbage as a garnish for a nice crunchy texture. 

Earl’s Green Chili – Served Two Ways/Two Nights/4 Servings
By:  Linda M Seasons to Seasonings
Adapted from: Mile High Green Chili, September/October 2015 All Recipe Magazine, Page 55 or online at Mile High Green Chili - Allrecipes

Ingredients for Green Chili
1 pork tenderloin, cubed (bite-size pieces)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tomatillos, husked, peeled and chopped
2 Anaheim chili peppers, stem removed, seeded and chopped
1 Jalapeno pepper, stem removed and chopped
1 green pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped
1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of lager-style beer
1 ½ to 2 cups beef stock
10 fingerling potatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup red cabbage, sliced (for garnish)

First Night Extra Ingredients:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups cooked rice
1 lime, cut into wedges

Second Night Extra Ingredients:
4 large flour tortillas
Bag of mixed lettuce
Cheddar Cheese, grated

Directions for Green Chili:
1.   In large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat.
2.   Add chunks of pork and brown, 3-4 minutes.
3.   Remove to plate.
4.   Add another tablespoon of olive oil to Dutch oven.
5.   Add garlic, peppers and onions to Dutch oven, saute for 4-5 minutes until tender.
6.   Add beer and 1 and 1/2 cups of the beef stock.
7.   Add oregano, cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes.
8.   Add tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes and browned pork.
9.   Bring to boil.
10. Reduce to low, let simmer for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring. 
11. Add additional beef stock, as needed.
12. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Directions to serve Green Chili over Rice on first night:
1.  Divide Green Chili into two equal batches. Place one batch into refrigerator for second night.
2.  Place cream cheese in large bowl.  Add 1 cup hot Green Chili to bowl and mix well. 
3.  Add a 2nd cup of hot Green Chili to bowl and continue to mix well. 
4.  Slowly add Green Chili with cream cheese back to original pot.  Mix well. 
5.  Serve immediately over cooked white rice, garnished with sliced red cabbage and a lime wedge.

Directions to serve Green Chili Burritos on second night:
Heat 2 1/2 cups of green chili in microwave safe dish (cover with paper towel) for 5 minutes.   Place ½ cup of green chili in each flour tortilla.    Divide remaining sauce on four plates.  Roll the filled tortillas and place seam side down on plate.  Top with a lettuce, cheese and red cabbage.
NOTE:   I adapted the original Mile High Green Chili from a slow cooker recipe to one using the stove top/oven.    This allowed me to start around 4:30 and dinner be ready to serve by 6:30.  Using a pork tenderloin cut into pieces will give you tender meat.  The long slow cooker method is needed in the original recipe to get the pork shoulder nice and tender.  

I did not add cream cheese to the batch for the second night, just to change it up a bit  However, if you decide to, do it the night you serve it, it will be better.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chai Ice Cream

If it seems a little silly to roll dice to choose ingredients for a recipe ... well, it is. In a very fun way. I've been having a blast with the chai, recipe, and cocktail dice from Leafcutter Designs. It's fun to let the dice choose ingredients for me.

Since I'm not an expert in chai, I really haven't experimented with different flavors, so I liked the idea that I could just roll the dice and just go with whatever appeared.

Since I got the chai dice, I've rolled quite a few drinks, but this time around, I decided to give the recipe a bit of a twist and make ice cream. I used the ingredients the dice suggested, and I added a few more, and I think I rolled a winner.

Chai Ice Cream
By Donna Currie, Cookistry

2 cups heavy cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 star anise
2 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons dried lemongrass
2 black tea teabags* (I used a decaf breakfast tea, but use what you like best)
5 allspice berries
5 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sweetened condensed milk, star anise, cardamom pods, lemongrass, tea bags (tear off the little paper tag - you don't want bits of that in your ice cream. Ick.), allspice berries, peppercorns, and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer.

Let it simmer gently for just a minute or so. Give it a little stir to make sure all the spices aren't just lazily floating on top.

Turn the heat off, add the vanilla, and transfer all of it to a storage container. Let it come to room temperature (or close enough), then refrigerate until fully chilled.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all the spices and tea and whatnot, and discard the spices and tea and whatnot.

Churn the cream mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instruction. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.

*You don't actually need tea BAGS. If you buy loose tea, use that as-is. No need to put in in a tea strainer or other device - it will get strained out along with all of the other spices.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Leafcutter Designs Challenge

We were all so excited about our newest sponsor, Leafcutter Designs. They have all kinds of nifty products! We were given the opportunity to create some new recipes using their unique dice sets. The cooks had their choice of Recipe Dice (regular or vegetarian), Chai Dice, and Cocktail Dice (yep, our cooks LOVED the Cocktail Dice). 

Leafcutter Designs is a creative studio in Berkeley, California. It's run by artist Lea Redmond and her brother Devin. Their mission is to create a more playful and peaceful world by offering "curious goods, unique promotional and custom products, and participatory social art projects."

They offer custom invitations for events, promotional products, and direct mail concepts. Leafcutter Designs says "We love finding just the right idea, thing, or words to deliver your message with creativity, personality, and maximum impact.

Our participatory projects invite you to experience life in whimsical, thoughtful new ways, and are open to all. Whether you're a knitter, a writer, a romantic, or just about anything else, we'd love to include you in these creative adventures."

Pretty cool, huh? 

So, come along with us as we "roll" out some fun new recipes all created with a toss of the dice!

For more about Leafcutter Designs, follow them on FacebookPinterest and Twitter.