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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Pappardelle with Ricotta Cream

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a Cookinglight recipe I recently came across. I decided to create my own spin on this beautiful, herbaceous pappardelle. Pappardelle pasta noodles are very wide and meant to be eaten al dente, or firm instead of soft. I used a Trader Joe's variety of noodle I have used in the past made with egg. Follow my recipe below for a simple delicious dinner!

(Serves 3-4)
8oz package pappardelle
1 bunch asparagus
1/2 cup ricotta 
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic clove

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces and saute in skillet with olive oil and garlic until tender. Turn off heat. Cook pasta to box instructions, salting your pasta water. When pasta is done, strain reserving 1 cup pasta water. In blender, mix ricotta with 1/2 cup reserved pasta water until well blended. In pasta pot, add asparagus, spinach and ricotta mixture under low heat until spinach wilts. Add pasta, 1/2 basil and remaining olive oil to toss. Plate using a generous portion of parmesan and basil. Drizzle olive oil over the top if your feeling decadent. Bon appetite!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vietnamese Style Dinner Party!

Fresh spring rolls
Last night I hosted a Vietnamese style dinner party. Vietnamese cuisine is known for utilizing fresh herbs such as lemongrass, mint and basil. Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world, due to the abundance of fresh produce in Vietnam. Fresh spring rolls are often found on Vietnamese menus, paired with some type of dipping sauce such as a sweet chili sauce, peanut sauce or soy. Last night I tried my hand at making these rolls at home. Surprisingly simple to make, these rolls are healthy, creative and fun. You can add just about anything your heart desires to the rolls, much like a sushi roll. The only rule is, make sure the ingredients can be served cool or at room temperature. The thin rice paper rolls must be served cool, never warm like a fried spring roll. I paired my rolls with a homemade peanut sauce, perfectly sweet and spicy to compliment the herbs in my rolls. 

Below is a photo of a traditional Vietnamese meal. For my main course last night, I prepared flank steak in a lemongrass marinade, with broken rice, a fried egg, pickled vegetables and an assortment of condiments for my guests to try. I was unable to snap a picture of the meal before we scarfed them down, so a sample photo is used for your reference. 

Fresh Spring Rolls

Package rice paper round sheets
Package vermicelli noodles (thin rice noodles)
Shrimp or other protein 
Julienned carrots, red pepper, red onion and cucumber
Chopped lettuce 
Bean sprouts 
Chopped peanuts
Sliced green onion for garnish 

Submerge rice paper sheets individually in warm water for 1o seconds or until softened. Lightly dry sheet on paper towel and arrange on a flat plate. Fill roll with ingredients listed or make up your own! Roll sheet into burrito like wrap and cut in half for plating. 

Peanut dipping sauce 
Rachael's Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp garlic chili paste
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp catsup 
2 tbs soy sauce
Crushed peanuts and scallion to garnish 
Mix all ingredients well, taste and garnish!
Lemongrass Beef Marinade

*Place sliced beef or pork in marinade below and refrigerate for 24 hours for maximum flavor

3 lemongrass stalks, mincing bottom 4 inches only
3 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp grated ginger 
1 tbsp vegetable oil 
Picked Asian Cucumbers and Carrots
(Serves 4-6)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
Thinly slice cucumber rounds
Julienned carrots
Whisk vinegar, sugar and soy in bowl until sugar dissolved. Toss cucumber, carrots and mixture in a tight seal tupperware and let marinade overnight before serving. These veggies are absolutely delicious and so easy to make. Serve with sandwiches, salads or rice!

Traditional Vietnamese meal 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Coconut Shrimp Salads with Fresh Mango Salsa

Dinner tonight was inspired by my husband's love for the Sunshine Factory's Coconut Shrimp salad (a restaurant in New Hope). 
I have never tried the infamous salad, but wanted to try my best to play off the theme. Follow my recipe below for your own delicious, fresh, tropical salads!
Mango Salsa
1 ripe mango 
1 cup minced cilantro
1/2 cup minced red onion
1-2 limes 
1 tbsp honey
Dash salt ...mix ingredients in bowl and serve!

Coconut Shrimp
(serves 2)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

15 large shrimp, tail on
3 egg whites
1/2 cup corn starch 
1 tsp salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut 

Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy, and set aside. Combine corn starch and salt in another bowl. Place coconut in another bowl. Drench shrimp in corn starch batter, then egg white and lastly, coconut. Place on sprayed cookie sheet, spraying tops with a thin layer of cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes, and flip. Bake again for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. To plate, pile lettuce, mango salsa and shrimp in a shallow bowl and drizzle with your favorite tropical dressing! 

A Dinner Fit for Honeymooners;)

King crab legs... what a treat! If you're in the mood for a little shell cracking, crab legs are unbeatable. For dinner, I found frozen crab legs at a discounted price at the super market. All you have to do to prepare them is de-thaw, then place in boiling salted water leaving legs intact for about 5 minutes. I recommend whipping up a butter garlic dipping sauce for the crab meat. I made a dipping sauce using butter, diced shallot and garlic. Simmer all ingredients under low heat until warm, serve in a small shallow bowl. As a side dish I made garlic cheese toast and parmesan roasted asparagus. For the asparagus, pre heat your oven to 425. Cut asparagus ends, place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and bake 10 minutes. Open the oven and drizzle parmesan over asparagus and bake 5-10 more minutes until melted. Be sure to have a few cracking tools around... you'll make a mess but they are soooo worth the effort! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Can you think of a better way to round out a wedding weekend than an evening tasting at Heidis? I certainly cannot! First a bit of background, Heidis is a restaurant in Minneapolis which originated back in 2007 on 50th and Bryant. As you may know, a string of fires took down a strip of buildings in 2010 including Patina, Heidis and Black Bird. Thankfully, Heidis bounced back at 29th and Lyndale and is better than ever. Head chef, Stewert Woodman and wife Heidi have made a real attempt at keeping prices low and food better than ever. My husband Adam and I want to Heidis Sunday night following our delightful nuptials Saturday night. We sat outside on the patio which was pretty but could use a little snazzing up! Inside, is much larger than their first location and a bit more urban/hip with a large white branch seemingly growing out of the center of the restaurant as a focal point. The kitchen is open which I love, letting diners in on the action. Adam and I decided to order a sampling of small dishes as a tasting. We began with the bacon and scallop custard amuse-bouche, or one bite starter. The first mouthful was a pleasant with an almost sweet taste with a hint of salt from the bacon dusting atop the custard. Finding the scallop hidden at the bottom of the shooter was the highlight and blended perfectly with the bacon and rich custard. Next, we dared to sample the beef tongue, a sure spender of tender  melt in your mouth texture next to the silky soy noodles... a favorite for sure! Next, we tried the asparagus soup, which was poured table side by a knowledgeable server eager to explain its magic. By far my favorite of the night, with an earthly herbal flavor unlike anything I have tried. Who knew asparagus could render such incredible delicate flavor. Adding the bit of king crab on the top, was the icing on the cake. Next we sampled the shefzilla surprise, a secret menu item unknown until served. Unfortunately the mystery factor was not enough to send me singing. I found the pheasant too tough and bland to be paired with such a rich flavorful pho broth. For a main course, we shared the quail lasagna. Now you'd never know you were eating  lasagna from  looking at the photo, but all the components were there, ie: layering of the saffron noodles, pancetta, tomato and quail. The dish featured an extensive variety of textures which I enjoy and played with all the right taste elements. As a side, we shared the spinach gratin, which we were a bit underwhelmed by. The dish was bland and lacked the richness and originality of the previous dishes. Overall, we were extremely pleased by the meal as well as our pocket books. Six beautiful plates only landed us $58 dollars poorer and well worth it. I cannot think of anywhere else in the cities where you can get this kind of elevated local cuisine for the price. I highly recommend trying Heidis. Click here to learn more!
Bacon & scallop custard 

Pickled tongue with soy noodles 

Asparagus soup with king crab 

Quail lasagna with saffron noodles & pancetta

Shefzilla surprise: pheasant pho with
 sesame noodles
Spinach gratin

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Breakfast in Bed!

For those of you who may not know, I got married June 4th! The wedding fulfilled all of my dreams, including my dream of breakfast in bed ;) To be honest, one of the highlights of my wedding experience was waking up at the W hotel looking out over the 22nd floor of the foshay tower and calling for breakfast. My eyes darted straight for the most expensive item on the menu, Maine lobster benedict. Available for a mere $23, it was worth every last bite. Coated in hollandaise and dripping with spinach and generous chucks of maine lobster, I was in heaven. The oven fries coated with just the right portion of spices which I of course toppled with the whole "mini" bottle of tabasco ;) Adam, my new hubby ordered a simple omelet which filled his tummy but which couldn't stand up to the lobster bennie! What a wonderful way to conclude our wedding bliss.