...good spoon: girls night in...

I'm doing a cooking class tonight for one of my mom's friends.  The menu will have items that are both impressive for guests, but also practical for your family.  I'll be starting and ending with some more time consuming "guest" recipes but the main course will be something they could whip up and impress guests with, or simply whip up and impress their family!  I'll of course stop teasing you and post the menu and recipes later.  Until then..it's prep time!

p.s.  Here's a picture of the flowers Benjamin had with him on the plane the first time we met.  With...a wooden spoon in them!  What a guy.  He had me from "spoon"... or something like that. 

ft. benton. the birthplace of montana.

Last time I was in Montana Benjamin and I made our way out to Ft. Benton, and to a little restaurant in a the Grand Union Hotel.  A few people had recommended this place and I was excited to go to what was supposed to be a really good restaurant in a quaint little hotel.  Well, it did not disappoint.  We made our way there before sundown and although this town isn't what it once was, or so I assume, I could see how the hotel along the river, near a bridge and where a ferry once was, would have been a bustling place some time ago in the 1800's.  We had probably the best meal yet in Montana and enjoyed the decor of the place.  When we walked in, of course my initial thoughts were, "This place is haunted for sure."  Well, no ghost sitings so it's safe to say I'd like to go back, grab a booth, and pretend like I have the next train to catch...

...happy birthday mother dearest...

So, today is my Mom's Birthday.  Happy Happy!  After church we packed a picnic and headed out to Virginia Wine Country.  I've got to admit.  Living in California changed my palette when it comes to wine.  I'm not complaining, but when I've tasted some wines from this region that I haven't liked well, I've poured them out.  Today, was a breakthrough.

We went to Hillsborough Winery and it was actually really good!  I liked a white and a red by them and enjoyed the beautiful views and nice tasting room.  We went to another one which was, well, nothing to write home about, and drove through the extremely quaint town of Waterford, Virginia.

At lunch my Mom said, "Isn't this pretty?  I love Virginia!"  My dad and I just looked at each other and laughed.  That's a breakthrough.  I know my Mom didn't expect to be here 10 years ago, or 5 years ago, and I sure didn't expect to be here, oh, 6 months ago!  SO.  Here's to Birthdays and being happy, eventually, with where we're at!  Happy Birthday Mom!  Love!

spring has sprung

So.  Since I'm not living the life of luxury anymore in Santa Barbara, I need to be hyper about looking around and appreciating where I am.  Well, I must say, Spring has been a good time to move.  Every single tree or plant seems to be in blossom with red, pink, and white flowers.  Sans allergies, this is really wonderful to me.  I've been on some walks around the neighborhood with my mom, and it's fun to see people enjoying their porches, sitting outside, and well, seasons.

A couple weeks ago we decorated Easter eggs with dear family friends, the Rooneys.  Their youngest takes quite well to my dad and it was a fun time decorating with them after breakfast.  That same weekend we headed down the the cherry blossom festival.  been there- done that.  The crowds were crazy and it was one of those Disneyland like experiences- probably best if you can miss the crowds!  The only other time I'd seen the trees in bloom was probably 3-4 years ago with a couple friends at night.  It was still pretty, and definitely not crowded!  This year my dear friend Kristin met up with us and we walked around the blossoms.  So pretty...once you were able to not watch where you were walking, try to avoid being in someone else picture, and look at them!

pizza crust turned cinnamon bites

We had some remaining dough, and Eric suggested we make cinnamon rolls.  Although it wasn't morning, this was a great idea.  They turned out to be little bites which was actually perfect for post pizza indulgence.

He rolled out some dough, poured on some melted butter, sprinkled on cinnamon and sugar, and rolled them up.  Next, there was some cutting of the rolls and popping them back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until golden.  I made some quick glaze- powdered sugar and milk and drizzled and healthy dose over each.  Deliciousness.  Seriously- try this recipe!

Ingredients for Eric's Mom's Special Secret Pizza Crust turned cinnamon bun crust.
1 1/2 c. warm water
4 1/2 t. yeast
2- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
4 T honey
4 T cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 T olive oil

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Let rise for about an hour. 

...happy birthday kate!....

I'm not so good at remembering my friends Birthdays.  It's something I hope to get better at as I get older..err- is that possible?  Just kidding.  Well, Kate's a dear dear friend and her birthday has been easier for me to remember not just because of that, but because it's so close to my Mom's.  Also, because well, I'm pretty sure I recall Kate reminding us of when her birthday was growing up.  See- those reminders paid off because today I can still hear her telling me when it is.  I couldn't help but post a couple oldies but goodies on this her dear Birthday.  That's right Kate- put your arms up...and celebrate!

I had to post this winner too with Anne.  Both of these fine ladies will be standing up with me on my wedding day!  It's time to laugh now because if this picture shows up sometime over wedding weekend I'll be full of emotion and tears will come when I see it!  Love you, Kate!  Happy Happy!

pizza night. make this crust.

While in Montana, we decided to make pizza one night.  I'd heard about the crust Eric makes.  His mom's special recipe.  Well, he shared that recipe with me and I'm going to have to make it again sometime soon.

Ingredients for Eric's Mom's Special Secret Pizza Crust
1 1/2 c. warm water
4 1/2 t. yeast
2- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
4 T honey
4 T cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 T olive oil

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Let rise for about an hour. Roll it out to desired size and add toppings of your choice.

We decided to go with one pizza having pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, Parmesan and tomatoes.  It was a hit.  The boys then went crazy with pepperoni and sausage and lots of cheese on another pie which ended up tasting much better than I would have thought.  Overall, a successful night!  Stay tuned tomorrow to hear what else we did with the dough...

shrimp risotto

The other night Benjamin was in need of some comfort food.  His dad isn't doing well and comfort food needed to be on the menu.  We went to the grocery store and looked for risotto.  Much to my surprise (sarcastic) they didn't have any.  When we went to the cute little market I've mentioned before, of course they had a huge barrel.  I got us some risotto, a bottle of wine, and shrimp to go in it.  In fact, we got 2 bags of shrimp when it was a 'buy one get one free' deal so there's going to be more shrimp on the menu in the days to come.

I really do love risotto.  It can be so creamy and cheesy and that hint of wine on the undertone just does me right in.  The shrimp was sauteed in some olive oil and butter until pink then diced and added to the risotto at the last step.

I followed Jamie Oliver's Basic Risotto Recipe and highly recommend it as copied below:

• 4 cups chicken or veg broth
• 2 T butter
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 3/4 cup risotto rice
• 2 wineglasses of dry white wine
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1-2 T butter
• 4oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Stage 1

Heat the stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions and garlic, and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

stage 2

The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.

stage 3

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and almost massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

stage 4

Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be. Eat it as soon as possible, while the risotto retains its beautiful texture.

frittata take 2, California inspired

While in Montana, there's a lot of "everything but the kitchen sink" inspired cooking.  Even if that means I have to go get things to put in the fridge that could be considered, everything we have...but the kitchen sink.

When making brunch, Benjamin asked if I make a frittata again.  I was happy to oblige, knowing some onion, passilla pepper, tomato and cheddar cheese would taste good.  Also the avocado on top with a few sprinkles of Louisiana hot sauce, we'd be in business.

 I've said it before and I'll say it again, frittata's are just such a good idea.  It's not scrambled eggs, and it's not even an attempt at an omelette.  It's pretty simple; saute your veg, add your eggs, make sure the sides are cooking, then throw it in a 375 degree oven on the top rack until the top is done.  Slide the treat onto a cutting board, top with avocado, and enjoy.

I had some yogurt with granola and honey as well.  I like this fun little shot of the breakfast, and Benjamin taking a big bite.

eggs in purgatory

This one dish wonders was portrayed to me as something like tuna noodle casserole.  I was supposed to think, "oh yeah, eggs in purgatory."  Well, I had no idea what it was, but when I read the recipe and ingredients I figured I'd give this dish I was supposed to know about a whirl.

Eggs in Purgatory with Artichoke Hearts, Potatoes, and Capers- adapted from Bon Apetit
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 t. chopped fresh thyme
1 - 2 cans artichoke hearts, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
8 ounce red skin potatoes peeled and cut into cubes
2 T capers
6-8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and add chopped onion, thyme, and sprinkle with salt.  Saute about 10 minutes.  Add artichokes and garlic and stir 1 minute.  Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes until done and drain.  Add potatoes and capers to tomato sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 and pour mixture into a 13 x 9 glass dish.  Using the back of a spoon make little dips and then break an egg over top.  Bake until egg whites and yolks are set, about 12-16 minutes.  Carefully remove dish from oven, sprinkle with cheese and enjoy right away.

I would say... this dish is best on the first day and I think would make a great stand in when you know a vegetarian is coming to dinner.  It would be a satisfying meal for them, and an a-okay side for everyone else if you have a meat or fish option.

when life gives you amish butter

Last time I was in Montana Benjamin and I went to this little market that has lots of vegetables, grains in barrels, and butter by the pounds.  Amish butter by the pounds.  When it's wrapped like it was made yesterday, of course, I can't resist.  And so, we left this little market with butter I was perhaps a bit too excited about.  What would I make with this glorious mass?  It would have to be something that would be, well, buttery.  I wanted the taster to think, "mmm butter."  And so, I came home and thought about what I should make.  Anne suggested I make puff pastry.  In a house with no food processor and where I'd end up using an empty whiskey bottle to roll out the dough, I'm glad I went with this more simple recipe.  

I ended up doubling this recipe, but if you don't have this big a mass of butter, I'd suggest using the original, thanks to Jamie.

Jamie's Shortbread Recipe  

Preheat oven to 300. Butter a 9 inch pan. Cream 1 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter and 1/2 cup plus 1 T sugar with a whisk or wooden spoon until pale, light and fluffy. Add 2 scant cups all-purpose flour, sifted or whisked, until you have a smooth dough- use your hands!

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll it out about 1 inch thick. Press the rolled dough into your pan moving it around so it fits. It won't look pretty now but just wait... Prick the dough all over with a fork then pop it in the preheated oven for 50 min, until lightly golden.

Then say, "mmm butter"

from a box?! coconut cupcakes

For my birthday Roth got me a box mix of coconut cupcakes.  Not just any box mix, because we all know I'm not so pro box mix.  I heard Martha say the other day how she couldn't believe she was coming out with a box mix.  I can't believe it either, Martha.  

Anyways, I got a box mix and we agreed since this wasn't just any mix, but Barefoot's Coconut Cupcake mix, it had to be good.  And my oh my was it.  So good in fact that people who tried it really did say, "this is from a box?  Really?"  Yes.  

So dear reader.  I recommend this box mix.  It still had steps and wasn't as easy as "add oil and water and eggs."  My mom always tells me someday when I have kids and am running around all day, I'll turn back to the box mix.  Now I know I'll head straight for this one.

not your mama's tuna noodle casserole

When Bon Apetit had an article on "one dish wonders" I knew it was going to be a good month.  When one of the recipes was for Tuna Noodle Casserole with Leeks and Fresh Dill, I was sold.  I admit that tuna noodle casserole to this day is one of those frozen stouffer's dinners that I still might like to this day.  It was just so creamy and good, and yes- so midwest.  Well, I had a friend in need of comforting, and when I told her I'd bring dinner over, I knew what I'd be making.  In fact- I made this recipe 2 times in one week.  Yup, it was just that good.  

Recipe, adapted from Bon Apetit

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half and half
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
8 ounces wide egg noodles
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese- about 2 1/2 ounces
2 T chopped fresh dill
2 5-6 ounce cans tuna (mine were packed in water but you can do oil as well)
2 cups coarsely crushes salted potato chips

Butter your casserole dish.  We all know you have one either of your own or passed down from a relative.  This is the time to take it out- about 8x8x2.  Melt butter over medium heat, add leeks and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Cover and cook until leeks are tender, stirring often for about 8 minutes.  Add flour and stir for 1 minute.  Gradually add milk and half and half and simmer about 5 minutes, until roux thickens.  Stir in lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.  

Meanwhile, cook egg noodles and once done drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid.  Pour noodles in sauce pan with sauce, add Gruy√®re and dill and stir to blend.  Add reserved cooking liquid little by little until the consistency is creamy.  Now, add the tuna and incorporate well.  Pour into the casserole dish and bake at 375 covered with foil for 20-30 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle potato chips on top and continue baking for another 10 minutes.  If you don't have chips, you could use some bread crumbs mixed with a bit of butter- words well for that crusty top.

Remove from oven and serve hot.  Comfort food at it's finest.  

hoppy beer bread

Last week I was in Ohio.  The trees were in bloom and people were more than happy to be outside, sitting on their decks.  In fact, while we were there we enjoyed one of the first signs of summer by eating on the Rieses back porch.  Oh the glories.  Well, it still is Cleveland and in the coming days it began to snow.  Seeing as I've lived in Santa Barbara for the past 8 or so years with a marginal hiccup to DC, I didn't bring a coat.  Oh well.

We got back Saturday night and I turned right around and left for Montana Sunday morning.  After a week of non-stop planning it's been nice to not plan right now.  Good to be here and with him.  I was expecting rain, but yesterday it decided to snow.  Tis the season- of not so much spring.  I don't think they get spring here in fact- maybe a few months of summer where everyone really lives it up and enjoys things.  I wonder when people know how to plant their gardens with these interruptions of snow.

Anyways.  Per usual, we've done some cooking and I'd like to highlight this simple and oh-so-Benjamin of a recipe I made this morning.  He had a dentist appointment and I felt a bit too domestic when he came home and I said, "oh, there's bread in the oven."  Needless to say, one wouldn't be too impressed when they realized the ingredients are flour, sugar, butter, and beer...


Mix 3 cups flour, 2 T baking powder, 2 T sugar, and 1 12 ounce bottle beer until combined.  Place in a loaf pan then on top drizzle 3 T melted butter and a pinch of salt.  Place in preheated oven at 350 for 1 hr.  Enjoy- on it's own or with a brew.

The results were interesting.  The salt on top is good and yes, I do think this would go well with a brew.  If you like pretzels, I think you'd like this.  We had it warm with some butter... and it was pretty darn good.

...on the road again...

It seems as though my Mom and I will be singing this tune again today.  We're off to Chagrin for wedding planning!  We have things scheduled everyday and I know we'll get a lot done.  I'll try and update with some recipes soon dear reader- until then- Happy Tuesday!

Happy Easter!

He is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed.  

Thankful for this day, for all it means, and for that simple fact.  May we not take those words lightly. 

After church I'll be attacking a menu of various recipes. Rack of lamb with rosemary butter, carrot root, apple, and fennel salad, and a brown butter pear tart.  Pictures and recipes for each to come...

i could go for some molly time, please.

It's been a full few days, a full month, and heading into another interesting season- or such is my life these days.  Today I went down to the cherry blossom festival at the tidal basin.  The only other time I'd been was with my friend Meredith and we went at night.  This time, Kristin and I braved the crowds and well, beautiful yes- but stressful and crowded and crazy? double yes. 

Right about now, instead of unpacking and organizing, I'd like to go over to Leslie's and have some couch time with Molls.  Missing my friends in SB but ready for this new season of transition and excited about the end in sight!  Here are some pics from the last week or so of my time in SB.  She's cute- real cute.  Can we please note how she's totally learning to lean in and pose for pictures?!  Miss you Huis