August 29, 2010

Sometimes it's not about what I cook....

Because I grew up in Alaska I can say I've tasted almost every kind of game, although it's been a long time since I've had freshly killed meat, so it was a real treat last night when we were invited over to a friend's house for duck.  Scott cut 1/2 inch slices of the breast and seasoned them with McCormicks Steak Seasoning.  On top of each breast he placed a chunk of white onion and green pepper, then rolled them into rounds and wrapped bacon around them.  He grilled them (coals, not gas) briefly and they were delicious.  Tricia made red potatoes, quartered, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with fresh rosemary, salt and pepper.  She bakes them long and slow in a stoneware casserole dish.  She also made steamed cauliflower with Bearnaise sauce.  I brought a salad made with head lettuce, romaine lettuce, and fresh spinach.  For toppings there were feta cheese, dried cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette.  Garlic bread and a wonderful cabernet sauvignon rounded out the meal.  Lynda made a dessert with pound cake, pudding, and raspberries.  The best part, though, was spending the evening with fabulous friends: Tricia and Scott, Lynda and Pedro, and Henry (his lovely wife couldn't make it).
I just wish I had remembered my camera, but the craziness of the day's events made it slip my mind.  Hopefully these pictures taken with my iPhone show just how fantastic the meal really was.

 Ok, I guess there was more than one bottle of wine.  Probably closer to 5, which is why my head aches just a bit today!

August 28, 2010

"Maybe it's a Babybel"

Have you ever had Babybel cheese? It's a mini wheel of cheese with a red wax wrapper.

On Wednesday, a few few girlfriends came over for hors d'oeuvres and wine. Upon taking the baked brie out of the oven and discovering that it had bubbled, I exclaimed, "Oh no! The brie had a baby!"

My friend, V., without missing a beat, replied, "Maybe it's a Babybel."

Baked Brie a la L.S.M.:


Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets
Sliced almonds
Hot pepper jelly


1. Defrost a puff pastry sheet to the the point that it's still chilled but pliable
2. Coat one side of the puff pastry sheet with hot pepper jelly and sliced almonds
3. Place the round of brie in the center of the puff pastry sheet and fold all sides around the brie, securing tightly
4. Place on cookie sheet, folded side down
5. Bake at 400 degres for 20 minutes

August 27, 2010

And She's On Her Way....

We had another wonderful, child created dinner last night.  I wish I could say it was complicated, but it was Costco Orange Chicken, rice from the rice-cooker, and canned peas.  Still, I didn't have to make it, and Jessica continues her culinary education, learning how to gauge finishing times during food preparation.  She also takes the food pictures (which I think are pretty darn good)!


August 24, 2010

Chocolate Mousse Fail

In preparation for tomorrow night's get-together, I decided to make the chocolate mousse in advance...

Live and learn. Ice cream sundaes instead!


August 23, 2010

Too much going on....

I haven't blogged for about a week and I see my sister hasn't either.  Usually I hear from her almost every day, but she must be pretty busy right now.  This past week required an adjustment from our lazy days of summer to the more rigid structure of the school year. There hasn't been anything exciting or interesting on my table this week, although, for Boy Scout Family Camp I made a Corn & Black Bean Salad that was tasty (and a bit spicy).  I'm hoping to be more inspired as I settle into the school year. I'm a bit disappointed in myself for not planning ahead, because boring meals are the result.

August 17, 2010

Banana Nut Cheerios

Lest you think my late-night dinners are all of the sushi variety: Behold! I give you Banana Nut Cheerios. The truth is, I'm somewhat of a Cheerio connoisseur. Honey Nut Cheerios are definitely "breakfast food," but Banana Nut Cheerios work equally well for breakfast or dinner. :)


August 14, 2010

Who Loves A Picnic?

Summer in Sacramento means eating outdoors, a lot.  There are so many great things to do around the region, such as concerts and wine tasting, that require picnics.  Joe and I have it down to a science.  I keep a bag in the closet with acrylic wine glasses, bottle opener (wine and beer), plates, napkins, utensils, bug spray, sunscreen, wine caddy, and pocket knife. I only have to throw in my camera and serving utensils, plus whatever dry food we're having. Last night I made antipasti salad, double-tomato bruschetta, and homemade almond roca.

Antipasti salad
Ok, so I cheat sometimes and use a box of Suddenly Salad (classic), but it can be made homemade too.

One bag of tri-colored corkscrew noodles, cooked and drained
One bottle italian salad dressing (can be store bought or homemade)
One small jar marinated artichoke hearts, quartered and drained
Finely shredded carrots
Chopped pimientos
Green and black olives, sliced into rings
Small cubes of cheese, mozzarella or jack (I used pepper jack last night)
Small cubes of summer sausage, sliced pepperoni, or sliced salami.  (I used summer sausage, the pepperoni and salami are kind of greasy)
Sliced and chopped peppercinis
Can use sliced green/red pepper
Cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters (however much you like)
4 or 5 leaves chopped Basil

Combine all ingredients, gently stir in freshly grated parmesan cheese (canned is not a good substitute here)

Double-Tomato Bruschetta

6 roma (plum) tomatoes (or, use whatever you  have)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil , chopped (do not use the oil, too greasy)
3 cloves minced garlic (or, however much you like)
1/4 c. good olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (white vinegar or rice vinegar doesn't cut it)
1/4 c. fresh basil, stems removed, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp salt (should use kosher, but regular is ok)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (I always use twice the pepper)

Combine all ingredients the day of (this is not a recipe you can make the day before), I usually allow 3-4 hours for the flavors to blend.  It's better left on the counter than in the fridge.  Serve on garlic toasts.

*Preparation note*
Buy good quality olive oil, it makes a difference

Garlic Toasts

Thinly sliced french or sourdough baguette.  For tomato bruschetta I like the french.  Slice thin (1/2 inch). Lay slices on a cookie sheet. Combine olive oil and chopped garlic in bowl and liberally brush on bread slices.  Bake in 400 oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how toasty you like the bread.  (side note here-you can buy those garlic bagel chips, and I suppose they are tasty, but nothing beats freshly prepared food)

*Serving note*
The tomato bruschetta can be heaped on the garlic toasts, sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, and broiled until the cheese is melted. 

Generic Almond Roca 

1 lb sweet cream butter
1 cup chopped almonds, plus an additional 1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 bag of chocolate chips

In large saucepan combine butter, sugar, and water. Stir, on medium heat, until the butter is melted, then occasionally until a candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees. It should be brown at this point, if not then wait for it to turn brown, take off heat, stir a few times.  While the candy mixture is cooking prepare cookie sheet.  Put down wax paper or parchment.  Arrange 1 c. chopped almonds on cookie sheet, spreading out to edges of pan (here is when you can decide if you like more/less almonds).  Pour the candy mix over the almonds in a back and forth motion, front to back of pan, allowing the candy to naturally spread, using a rubber spatula to spread if needed. 
Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips (I like using 3/4 bag) on top, waiting 5 minutes for them to soften, then spread using a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top of chocolate chips, again using more/less, depending on preference.
Place in refrigerator to harden, probably an hour or two.  Because it's warm in Sacramento, I always keep it in the fridge (tupperware) once it's broken up, otherwise the chocolate melts a little.

*Preparation note*
 Invest in a good candy thermometer, and rubber spatulas that can stand the heat (pampered chef)

Every time we use the wine caddy we get comments.  It holds 4 glasses and one bottle of wine. The handle holds the opener, cork, and is wide enough for my knife (although, I'm not leaving my Leatherman Juice out for anyone to steal).  The wine shown here, 7 Deadly Zins, is a local wine from Lodi, Ca.  This area is known for Zins, and this one is my favorite.

August 11, 2010

One Pot Wonder

I love using the crock pot, especially when most of dinner can be cooked inside. This is one of the easiest chicken recipes.

Combine one can of cream of chicken soup (recommend low sodium) with 3/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup white wine.
Add a little bit of mixture to bottom of crock pot.
Layer frozen chicken breasts in crock pot, pouring a little of soup mixture over each one.
Cook on low for 4 hours.
Sprinkle one box of stuffing mix over top of chicken breasts and drizzle with 1/4 melted butter/margarine.
Cook an additional 1 to 2 hours, stirring if necessary.

The last time I made this was in the oven with thawed chicken breasts using a sauce I made, not cream of chicken soup mix.  That was just as easy and not as salty.

It's important to remember that crock-pots work best when filled.  I have a large one for pot lucks and beverages, and use my smaller one for everyday meals.  As you can see by the picture, I was too lazy to cut up and steam fresh broccoli.  My go-to veggie of canned green beans works well in a pinch (although I am now thoroughly embarrassed to see how un-appetizing canned green beans actually look on the plate).  I will do better next time!


August 9, 2010

Sunday Dinner

This is S.'s broiler pan.


This is my broiler pan (that's Colette in the photo).

You can make a juicy flank steak using a broiler pan.

Paired with a nice Bordeaux, horseradish mashed potatoes, and sauteed summer squash, and you have a respectable Sunday dinner.


August 8, 2010

Fun With Friends!

(Left to right: Jessica, Joe, friend Paige)

Sacramento summers are perfect for hanging outside with friends.   Concerts, picnics, and wine tasting are some of the activities we enjoy.  Saturday afternoon/evening a friend put together a softball game, which really means the guys play softball, the kids run around the park, and the ladies sit and visit with beverage of choice.  Joe and I brought shish-ka-bobs we made at home.  Beef marinated in A-1, shrimp marinated in olive oil, garlic, and pepper. The veggies were marinated in olive oil and steak seasoning.  We used zucchini, yellow squash, onion chunks, and mushrooms.  I made pasta salad as a side dish (from a box, but don't tell anyone), although adding chipotle mayonnaise makes it less mundane and more unique. For dessert I made creamy lemon bars.

Cooking away from home, on an unknown grill, is difficult, especially when the grill is not set up properly (as Joe found out when the grill tipped over on him and some of our bobs ended up in the ash).  All was  not lost, however, due to his quick thinking.  One of the pitfalls of picnicking.  We just go with the flow....

Creamy Lemon Bars
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter or margarine, melted
1 pkg (8 oz) softened cream cheese (ok to use lowfat)
2 Tbsp milk
1 tub (8oz) whipped topping (ok to use nonfat/lite)
1 pkg (4.3 oz) lemon flavor cook & serve pudding and pie filling mix ( do NOT use instant or sugar free)
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups water, divided
3 egg yolks

Mix crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and butter into a 13x9 pan.  Press firmly into bottom of pan and refrigerate.
Beat cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and milk until smooth. Gently stir in 1/2 of the whipped topping. Spread evenly over crust.  Stir pudding mix, 3/4 sugar, 1/2 cup of the water and egg yolks in medium saucepan. Stir in remaining 2 1/2 cups water.  Stirring constantly, cook on medium heat until mixture comes to full boil.  Cool 5 minutes, stirring twice.  Pour over cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set.  Just before serving, spread remaining whipped topping over pudding.  Makes 15 servings.


August 4, 2010

You plan to fail when you fail to plan...

School year meal planning is much easier than summer-time meal planning.  Time constraints mean grocery shopping only once a week, and in the summer I tend to be lackadaisical about planning, shopping, and most everything else that involves tending the home.  Stopping to pick up dinner items whenever I need them usually involves buying more than I need, spending more money than I should.  Especially now, with my hours cut and furlough days, I really need to be more conscious of what I'm spending in all areas, not just the grocery store. We regularly shop at Winco, the farmer's market, Costco, and watch the ads for Raley's.  Convenience foods are, well, convenient.  But generally speaking they are not that great for you and cost much more. Plus, the taste is not quite there.  This is where meal planning becomes essential.

August 3, 2010

Typical Lunch

Okay, I'll admit it. I have a serious lunchtime pizza problem. Oxford Cafe is right across the street, and the guys working there are good. They can handle the lunchtime rush like no other. And the woman at the cash register? I think she could work it in her sleep. It's just so easy to grab a slice when my tummy starts grumbling around 12:30. Most days I pack a lunch, but sometimes there isn't time to make it to the store, and sometimes I just want a slice of warm, chewy-on-the inside, crisp-on-the-outside, cheesy, delicious pizza.

This morning I made a lemon-parmesan dressing, which I used on the leftover arugula from Saturday night's meal and a street vendor's sweet cherry tomatoes. My dressing turned out a little chunky, but I don't have a food processor. If you're inspired to try it, let me know how it turns out.


August 2, 2010

Working Late

Guess what's in the bag?


Seamless Web is a part of life in New York City. Order your dinner and have it delivered in 30 minutes or less with just the click of a button. As much as I love Seamless Web, I did NOT love this meal. I'll stick with my favorite Japanese restaurant, Isohama, thank you very much.


August 1, 2010

The Family That Cooks Together....

An important part of raising children is ensuring their ability to survive on their own, which is why teaching basic cooking skills is so important.  This blog is primarily about two sisters, but one of the sisters has two teenage children, and a husband, who all like to cook.  Experience has taught me that kids are more interested in eating what they help produce, and mine have been in the kitchen from the time they were old enough to stand on a chair and help make muffins (usually banana).  Once in a while I'll tell one of them to plan dinner using what they can find in the pantry and refrigerator.  They are pretty creative when it comes to mixing stuff up.  We receive Cooking Light and Food Network magazines which have inspired every amateur chef in this house. Today's lunch was created by Jessica, adapted from a recipe she saw in FNM. It was delicious!


Chinese Dumpling Soup (FNM Nov/Dec 2008)

Sunday Morning Breakfast!

Sunday mornings in Sacramento are one my favorite parts of the week.  J and I take Bailey (dog) on a long walk, usually 7.5 miles.  It's hot when we get back, so a nice cold smoothie helps cool us off.  It's also a favorite of the kids, who love a local smoothie spot called Jamba Juice.  Going out for smoothies is fun, but pretty expensive, and some of the smoothies have added sugar (which we do not need).  I always start with soy milk (can't tolerate regular dairy), vanilla yogurt, a banana or two, frozen or fresh strawberries, fresh or canned pineapple, frozen blueberries, and ice.  The San Joaquin Valley is known nation-wide for it's fresh produce, and we take advantage of all the wonderful fruits we find by freezing our summer finds.

What I had for dinner last night . . .

Last weekend, S. and I went to dinner at Cafe LULUc in Brooklyn after seeing a show at Cobble Hill Cinemas. It had been a hot, humid day, so we knew a cold salad would hit the spot. After ix-naying the beet salad (our go-to when dining out), we chose the chickpea salad. It was so good, I decided to try making it at home last night. Without a recipe, I chopped, mixed, and let the ingredients sit in their own juices for a few hours (refrigerated, of course). The end result was pretty good, though lacking in the garlicky, cilantro flavor of the original that made us go, "Wow!" Since I'm all about stretching meals to get the most out of them, I added more garlic and cilantro to the leftovers. I think it will be downright delicious tomorrow.


Chickpea salad (inspired by Cafe LULUc):
  • Chickpeas
  • Corn
  • Arugula
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Feta cheese
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice

First Post!

To all our friends and family:

Welcome to our joint venture! Julie and I have started this blog in the spirit of sisterly bonding. We may lead markedly different lives, but we hope that our common joy of sharing a good meal with family and friends will serve to strengthen our bond and keep us better connected to those we love. Two Sisters, Two Kitchens is dedicated to our mother, Diana, who likes nothing better than to converse at the table with family, friends, and a good cup of coffee in hand.

Thank you for reading,
Julie and Marie