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Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sautéed Mushrooms and Poached Chicken

Let's face it- it's hard to make brown food look delicious in a picture but that doesn't change the fact that this dish smells and tastes amazing. It's easy enough to make in this simple version and can also be spruced up by adding caramelized onion and/or pancetta.

  • ½ poached chicken breast
  • 5 large crimini mushrooms
  • 8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
  • 3 garlic cloves (coarsely chopped)
  • generous pinch of dried rosemary
  • pinch of thyme
  • splash of white wine
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
How to Poach a Chicken Breast:
  1. Fill a frying pan about ¾ in deep with water
  2. Place the chicken in the water and cover with a lid or upside down plate/shallow bowl
  3. Cook over very low heat for 12 min (water may come to a simmer but not a boil)
  4. Flip chicken breast over and cover
  5. Turn off the heat and let chicken poach covered for 20 minutes
Directions for Sautéeing Mushrooms:
  1. Slice and mushrooms into ¹⁄₈ in pieces
  2. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan
  3. Sautée mushrooms with garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper
  4. Slice ½ of poached chicken breasts into ½ in pieces
  5. Add the chicken to the pan when the mushrooms begin to brown and release their juices
  6. Add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan
  7. Cook until the wine evaporates completely
  1. Follow package directions to cook spaghetti
  2. Drizzle cooked spaghetti with olive oil and season with salt and cracked pepper
  3. Toss with mushrooms and chicken
  4. Serve immediately

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Frenchtastic Weekday Breakfast

I'm not much of a breakfast person unless it's weekend brunch time but I love Nutella on toast and a latte in the morning. The secret is to use both butter and Nutella on a good chewy bread like baguette or pain au levain- though Challah is always a good choice for sweet rich goodness. Lattes may sound fancy but our espresso machine cost a whopping $20- I'm not saying it's the best on the market (or anything remotely near) but it does the trick. So whip up yourself some coffee and toast French style.

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Best of Summer Sandwiches

These sandwiches are simple and delicious. The ingredients can easily be changed slightly to make delicious variations. There are two different sandwiches here- one with mayonnaise, avocado, tomato and basil and one with melted brie, avocado, tomato and basil. They're especially tasty at the height of tomato season. (Don't worry- the tomatoes pictured are heirloom, not sad pasty tomatoes)

  • Pain au Levain
  • Tomato
  • Basil
  • Avocado
  • Brie or Mayonnaise (other tasty ideas- fresh mozzarella or goat cheese)
  • salt
  • black or cayenne pepper
  • Optional: Coppa or Prosciutto
  1. I like my sandwiches toasty- if I'm going to melt the cheese I broil or toast the bread first and then stick it under the broiler again with the cheese on top. This keeps the bread from getting soggy.
  2. I'm not going to write directions because sandwich assembly is fairly self explanatory.

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'Cause Some Days You Just Feel Lazy

Refrigerated or frozen raviolis/tortellinis, jarred sauce and sauteed green beans are quick, easy and delicious for those days when you don't have time or don't want to put in the effort to make a more complex meal.

  • one package of your favorite refrigerated or frozen raviolis/tortellinis
  • a jar of marinara sauce
  • green beans
  • rosemary
  • salt
  • granulated garlic
  • cayenne pepper
  • white pepper
  • olive oil
Directions for Green Beans:
  1. Prepare green beans by breaking or cutting off the ends
  2. Place a frying pan over medium heat and pour in just enough water to cover the bottom
  3. Put the green beans in the frying pan and let the water come to a boil and steam the green beans just until they turn bright green
  4. Pour out any excess water
  5. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan
  6. Salt and rosemary to taste
  7. Sautee to preferred doneness
Directions for Sauce:
  1. Pour sauce into a sauce pan and heat over low heat
  2. Season with granulated garlic, rosemary, cayenne pepper and white pepper (or your own favorite seasonings) to taste
  3. Bring to a boil stirring regularly
Follow package instructions for raviolis/tortellini

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Restaurant Review: Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers

After our ridiculously decadent brunch on Saturday, what could be more appropriate than eating an equally delicious and caloric dinner?

Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers
is exactly what the name would lead you to believe- though maybe they should change the name to "Barney's Gourmet Fried Things" because the true stars of the show are the spicy curly fries and deep fried vegetable basket both served with oh so sinfully good house made ranch. The curly fries are always crisp and served in huge quantities (as far as I can tell, the difference between the ½ basket and full basket depends on the mood of the chef) and the onion rings are thick cut, battered in a similarly spicy batter to the curly fries, fried to perfect golden brown and sprinkled with parmesan.

If you still have room after your appetizers, the burgers are also delicious. My personal favorite is the Western Burger- sauteed onions, cheddar, BBQ sauce and crisp bacon. The burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef and are almost always cooked the way you order them. Consistency is the name of the food service game and you can always count on your Barney's burger to taste the same...

Things to Know:
  • Don't worry about reservations (at least for the one on Shattuck Ave.) I've never had to wait for a table even with larger parties
  • Burgers don't come with fries, if you want your fried foods with your burger instead of before you must specify
  • Don't sit downstairs at the Barney's on Shattuck, the servers seem to forget you are there- upstairs is totally fine
  • A ½ basket of curly fries is usually plenty for two- bring more people if you want to sample the other fried vegetables

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Brunch has a three drink minimum.

Lara likes brunch because it is the only meal where you can get away with having three beverages- coffee, O.J. (or mimosa if possible) and water. How to rock Saturday like a yuppie: When you are woken up by the family in the apartment above you singing "ten little indians" stumble into the kitchen and begin packing a shot into the espresso machine. Make lattes using organic milk and locally roasted coffee for yourself and housemate(s). After drinking your latte decide that you are going to make brunch- ascertain that you don't have all the ingredients. Walk to Andronico's (don't forget your re-usable bag) to purchase your favorite organic free range eggs and bacon, challah, raspberries and an apron with cupcakes on it (a different impulse buy is also acceptable). Walk home, put on your favorite indie rock or alt country record (as in vinyl) and make this delicious brunch:
Ingredients for French Toast (makes 9 pieces):
  • 1 loaf challah
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 T vanilla
  • 1 T sugar
  • cinnamon
Other Ingredients:
  • ½ pint raspberries
  • bacon (cooked to preferred crispiness)
  • real maple syrup (grade B, if you can find it- mine came from Berkeley Bowl)
  1. Cut nine ½ in. slices of challah
  2. In a shallow bowl (or other container) whisk eggs until well beaten
  3. Whisk in milk, vanilla and sugar
  4. sprinkle a layer of cinnamon over the top of the egg mixture
  5. place as many challah slices as you can fit in your frying pan into the egg mixture, soak for 20 sec on one side then 10 sec on the other
  6. in a frying pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of butter fry soaked challah until golden brown, flip and fry the other side until also golden brown
  7. repeat steps 5-6 until you have used all of your bread and/or egg batter
  8. Plate 3 pieces of french toast with butter, a drizzle of warm maple syrup, a hand full of raspberries and 3 strips of bacon
Serve with:
Mimosa: pour one part orange juice and one part champagne (for non-alcoholic version use club soda or 7up) into a champagne flute.
  • Be careful when heating maple syrup. I recommend heating your maple syrup in a glass measuring cup for 30 sec intervals in the microwave. If you heat it in the bottle it tends to bubble up and make a burning hot mess. If you don't have a microwave and your maple syrup bottle is glass, place the bottle into a saucepan and fill the saucepan with water until about halfway up the bottle, place the saucepan with the water and maple syrup over low heat and let warm. DO NOT heat the water and then put the bottle in it- if it is cold or your bottle comes straight from the fridge the glass may shatter.
  • You can use any type of bread for this recipe, but rich, eggy challah is my favorite.
  • I find you get a more even cinnamon flavor if you don't try to mix it in and instead just let it float on top and place the bread on top of it
I like brunch because I like my coffee coffee flavored and my orange juice champagne flavored. Also, I could eat french toast all day.

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Heirloom Tomato, Chevre and Herb Pizza

There are few things that bring me back to childhood like the complex yeasty, savory, sweet smell of The Cheese Board. As a child I hated the "yucky" pizza my grandparents loved but I adored the "Chocolate Thing" and other morning bakery items. Now, as an adult, I occasionally like to branch away from beloved pepperoni and try more unique flavors- though sometimes The Cheese Board is still too unique for my tastes. "Why all this talk of The Cheese Board?" you may ask. This delicious pizza's crust and toppings were inspired by recipes in The Cheese Board Collective Works, the crust is crispy even if you don't cook it on a stone and the toppings are basic but delectable.

  • 4 oz. low moisture mozzarella (shredded)
  • 6 oz. traditional mozzarella (sliced)
  • 2.5 oz. chevre
  • 1 large heirloom tomato (or a few smaller ones)
  • 1½ t. fresh marjoram
  • 1½ t. fresh oregano
  • 1½ t. fresh thyme
Ingredients for Garlic Rosemary Pizza Dough:
  • 1½ t. active dry yeast
  • ¾ c. warm water
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • ¾ t. salt
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. rosemary, finely chopped
  • ½ t. white pepper
Directions for a stand mixer:
  1. In mixer bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water and mix until yeast is dissolved and let sit for 5 minutes
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the water and yeast and mix with the hook attachment for 7 minutes
  3. The dough should come together into a smooth ball
  4. Cover bowl with a damp dishcloth and place in a warm location
  5. Let rise for 30-60 min or until doubled in size
  6. Divide the dough and shape into two small balls, let rest 20 min
  7. Preheat oven to 450˚F
  8. Roll the dough into two 8" circles and place on floured sheetpan
  9. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over pizza dough
  10. Arrange sliced tomatoes, traditional mozzarella and chevre however you like
  11. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly and crust is golden brown
  12. Sprinkle fresh herbs over baked pizza

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Poached Egg Salad

I first had this salad for Sunday Brunch but it makes a fantastic summertime dinner. It's light enough that it's pleasant to eat when it's hot outside, but the croutons, eggs and bacon make it substantial enough to be a full meal.

Ingredients (for one serving):
  1. Cook bacon, after cooling crumble into medium sized pieces
  2. Dice tomato
  3. Poach two eggs
  4. On a plate assemble salad greens, tomato, bacon, croutons- place poached eggs on top and drizzle with citronette
Directions for Poaching Eggs:

This will create a "medium cooked" poached egg with firm white and a runny yolk

  1. Fill a small pot ½ way with water and bring to a boil
  2. Crack an egg into a small bowl or ramekin (make sure to keep yolk intact)
  3. Remove the pot from heat and whisk creating a whirlpool in the middle of the pot
  4. Gently pour egg into whirlpool
  5. Cover the pot and let sit for 3 min
  6. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon
  • The fresher the eggs you use the easier it will be to keep them together when poaching- the whites of older eggs tend to thin and spread away from the yolk
  • The flavor of the yolk mixing with the citronette and soaking into the croutons is the highlight of this recipe, I strongly recommend using organic, farm fresh eggs for the best flavor- the pale yellow yolks of factory farmed eggs just don't compare

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Lara's Meyer Lemon Citronette

  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • juice of 4 meyer lemons (should be around ¾ c.)
  • ¼ c. champagne vinegar
  • ½ c. olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in liquid measuring cup
  2. Use an immersion blender to lightly emulsify

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Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I created these cookies after Tuesday night pub trivia solely for the purpose of having a blog posting (only now am I realizing I could've written about the food I ate at pub trivia... next week). I started making them not realizing we were low on all sorts of ingredients, like granulated sugar and chocolate chips instead of peanut butter chips, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because we were low on granulated sugar, I bulked up the amount of brown sugar I would normally put in my chocolate chip cookies and because I put in more brown sugar, which tends to make cookies spread and get chewier, I added more flour to keep the shape of the cookies- the result is a delightfully soft Mrs. Fields sort of texture. I may even change my base chocolate chip cookie formula (which is pretty much my signature item) to this one instead.

  • ½ lbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbl. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ c. bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. peanut butter chips

preheat oven to 350˚F

  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt) in a medium mixing bowl
  2. Cream butter, granulate sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs and vanilla to butter and sugar and beat until well incorporated
  4. Add ⅓ dry ingredients and beat until mostly mixed in, repeat with remaining ⅔mixing until flour is completely incorporated after the last third
  5. Add peanut butter and chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed
  6. Portion into ¼ c. or one level yellow scoop¹ domes onto a lightly greased baking sheet or silpat²
  7. Bake for 10-13 min.
  8. Cool on rack
  9. Enjoy!
Makes approximately 18 cookies

  1. The secret to getting those perfectly round even cookies found in bakeshops is the use of different sized ice cream scoops such as this:
  2. Using silpats or silicone baking mats keeps you from needing to grease pans and keeps clean up easier

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Stale Bread Croutons

This recipe is a simple solution for what to do when you don't quite make it through a loaf of bread before it starts to dry out.

  • Left over bread (I used Pain au Levain and an Italian Batard)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dried Thyme
  • Dried Rosemary
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 250˚F

  1. Cut bread into approximately one inch cubes.
  2. Spread bread cubes in an even layer onto a baking sheet
  3. Pour olive oil over cubes and toss until all are evenly coated
  4. Sprinkle generous amounts of salt, garlic and dried herbs over bread and toss again until herbs are evenly distributed
  5. Bake for 1hr 20 min or until golden brown and crisp

  • There are no proportions for this recipe because it is totally dependent on the amount of stale bread you have and personal taste.
  • You can substitute any herbs you like for the herbs listed though I do recommend dried herbs for the fullest flavor in this recipe.
  • Cooking time may vary based on the type and age of bread, I usually take a peek at mine every 30 min to check color and texture. Don't be afraid to cook them longer if need be.

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