...Spring Risotto....

As you may know we're risotto people.  As in it's a 'go-to' when I'm not sure what else to have for dinner.  I was telling a friend last week how I find it humorous that this is a go-to.  When we have a baby something tells me I won't be standing in front of the stove for 45 minutes able to stir stir stir.

In an attempts to mix things up a bit and get some more greens into the bod I made Cooking Light's Spring Risotto the other day.  Packed with edamame, asparagus, and cream cheese it seemed like a "must try."

On top of wanting to add more greens this came as Budget Friendly, raving that it only cost $2.40 per serving.  Say it ain't so.

Well, the risotto was tasty but I've modified the recipe some adding more salt along the process so it doesn't come out too bland.  Since you don't use the large amounts of butter and parm at the end of traditional risotto here you don't get that sweet and salty thing happening naturally, so feel free to season more!

Recipe thanks to and loosely modified from Cooking Light.  Serves 4.

Ingredients You'll Need:
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, trimmed
  • 1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • pepper for seasoning
  • 1 ounce shaved or shredded parmesan cheese
1.  Boil 4 cups of water in a saucepan.  Add the asparagus and blanch for 2 minutes then drain.  In the same saucepan bring 2 cups water and broth to a simmer.

2. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add onion and cook 4 minutes, then add garlic just for a minute then stir in rice, edamame, and salt.  Cook for a minute then add in 1 cup of broth and stir until absorbed.

3. Add remaining broth about 3/4 cups at a time until absorbed then add in some more until it's all gone.  You'll be stirring constantly!

4.  Once absorbed take a quick taste and check for the seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed.  Now add the asparagus and cream cheese and cook for another minute.  Check it again and you're done!  Easy as that.

...sticky toffee date cake...

If you've followed this blog for some time you'll know my favorite dessert of all time is Sticky Toffee Pudding.  I got hooked on it from a trip to London and if I lived there, well, I'd order dessert a whole lot more. 

It's moist and delicious.  Sweet but not too sweet.  The dates boiled in water make it light and airy, not dense at all, and the sauce drizzled over top oozes into the cake making it all the more decadent.

When Ina had a friend of hers, Laura Donnelly on her show to make the cake they serve at a restaurant in the Hamptons where she's the pastry chef, I knew I had to make it.

And so I did.  Not once, but twice now.  The first cake didn't last long in our house and this one should last longer.  I just couldn't let dates and heavy cream sit around and not turn into this cake!

 Recipe for 2 cakes thanks to Laura Donnelly.  Of course you can halve the recipe just fine.

  • Boil 1 lb. chopped dates with 3 1/2 cups water
  • when the dates boil add 2 t. baking soda
  • stir and remove from the heat
  • Cream 2 sticks unsalted butter with 3/4 cup sugar
  • add 4 eggs, one at a time, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 1/2 cups flour, and 1 teaspoon salt
  • incorporate well then add the date mixture and 3 1/4 T baking powder
  • grease and flour 2 cake pans
  • pour the batter into the pans and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven and when a toothpick inserted comes out clean
  • When you take out the cake poke a lot of holes in it with a toothpick
  • Start the sauce.
  • In a saucepan bring to a boil 1/2 pound butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup cream and 1 t. vanilla
  • Once it boils simmer for 1 minute then stir and it's ready
  • Pour on top of the cake and enjoy!
This cake is best warm in my opinion, but can be eaten at any temperature really.  Make it and you might just forget about chocolate.  Yes, I'll be that bold.

...bun in the oven...

Remember when the blog suffered for a few weeks a month or so ago?  I wondered if it would suffer for longer. I couldn't cook and all I wanted was boxed mac and cheese and whatever else a 5 year old would eat.

Needless to say I think this is the best recipe Benjamin and I have cooked up yet.  This little nub will be entering our lives in late September, but until then it's growing in my belly in a major way!

I'm thankfully back to cooking and eating pretty normal and am not falling asleep around 8:30/9:00.  We're enjoying weekends where we can sleep in knowing those days are numbered and won't enter our lives again for 18 years or more.

As far as this blog and cooking goes, I have high hopes this little one will be a good eater and will not even ask for the crust to be cut off from it's bread.  These are my naive high hopes.  I'm also looking forward to making baby food for it- i.e. pureeing vegetables.  Exciting!

So, that's your Sunday News.  Back to blogging about a cake I made this week and then again this afternoon because, "the baby wanted it...."

(Photo courtesy of this site.)

...sloppy joes...

So I'm going from fancy food to not so fancy food, but can you blame me?  They're Sloppy Joes and I love them.  Truth be told I hadn't had one since the high school sloppy joe fundraiser dinner held in the cafeteria, but still- it was like pot roast memories revisited, only better.  I felt like I should be walking over to the stadium, standing in the usual spot to watch the football game, or maybe helping serve the nacho cheese because I was on student council and that's what we did.  

Oh wait, you're not from the Midwest and have a connection with Sloppy Joes?!  Let's start your love affair now...

I wasn't thinking I'd be making these until I realized with ground beef in the fridge and not wanting burgers, I should do something different.  I looked up PW's recipe and sure enough, all the ingredients were in the fridge- a sign that things are meant to be in my kitchen.

Recipe thanks to and loosely adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Ingredients You'll Need:
  • 1 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • ½ whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1/2 Green Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 3/4 cup Ketchup 
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoons Chili Powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes to your liking
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • Tabasco Sauce, dash
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 Hamburger Buns
    Other things you can add are A1 for a smokier taste.  These are very forgiving so just taste as you go and you'll end up with something you're happy with, I'm sure!

    1.  Add butter to a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard if there's a lot, if there isn't much, don't worry about it.
    2.  Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until softened.
    3. Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Also add Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Taste and adjust seasonings and flavors as needed.
    4  Spread rolls with butter and brown on a griddle. Spoon meat mixture over the rolls, topping with some cheese if you'd like.
    My husband decided we needed salt and vinegar chips to have with these- a great pairing I highly recommend!

    ...Vanilla Cupcakes with Chardonnay Frosting...Wine Pairing: Riesling...

    For the final recipe of these Food & Wine Pairing Posts I'm sharing with you some vanilla cupcakes and chardonnay frosting.  Sounds appropriate, don't you think?  The frosting really make the cupcakes and adds a nice grownup kick to a stand by kid favorite.

    I used the Magnolia Bakery Cupcake Recipe because it's the best I've found, and then a Chardonnay Frosting recipe hailing from Enjoy Cupcakes out of the one and only Los Olivos, California.  This cupcakery does awesome cupcake and wine pairings with Saarloos and Sons Winery.  A fun place to taste and this recipe is a great one they shared - and the only one of theirs I could find available online! 

    So, onto the cupcakes, and the frosting...

    For the Cupcakes (Recipe thanks to Magnolia Bakery)

    Ingredients You'll Need:
    1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
    1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 cup unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    4 eggs at room temperature
    1 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1.  Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake papers.

    2. In a bowl combine the flours and set aside.

    3. In a mixer on medium speed cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat 3 minutes.  Add the eggs 1 at a time then add the dry ingredients in 3 parts- alternating with milk and vanilla.  With each addition, beat until ingredients are incorporated and scrape down the sides of your bowl when need be.  Do not over beat.

    4.  Carefully spoon the batter 3/4 way full into each liner.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for 15 minutes then remove to cool completely on a wire wrack.

    When they're cool, make the frosting:

    Chardonnay Cupcake Frosting Recipe from Enjoy Cupcakes

    Ingredients You'll Need:

    1/4 pound European Style Butter at room temperature
    2 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
    2 cups Powdered Sugar plus more if need be
    Pinch of Kosher Salt
    1/4 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
    3 tablespoons Chardonnay
    1. Cream the butter with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium to high for 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and continue to mix on medium to high speed for another 2 minutes.
    2.  Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Mix on low speed until incorporated and then increase speed to high speed and mix for another minute.
    3.  Add salt, lemon juice and chardonnay.  You'll think this is too much liquid, but mix on medium until the salt and liquid are incorporated- which they will.
    4.  Add additional powdered sugar if you need it, getting to a good spreading or piping consistency.

    Wine Pairing:  This wine was nice and dry, not too sweet, and a bottle I'd definitely seek out!
    Maker: Two Princes                    
    Region: Germany
    Vintage: 2009

    ...Key Lime Tartlets...Wine Pairing: Riesling...

    These little tartlets are pretty amazing.  That's not be bragging about my baking skills, that's saying this recipe is a good one.  This was one of the desserts for the wine and food pairing event and my favorite.  Reminds me of the best ever lemon bars which I should probably be making again here real soon.

    These tarts really cook up in no time and can be made in mini muffin tins as seen here, or if you have extra batter as I did you can put it in ramekins and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until set.

    Recipe again thanks to Small Parties.  Makes 24 tartlets

    Ingredients You'll Need:
    2 teaspoons lime zest
    5 egg yolks
    1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    1/2 cup lime juice

    2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    vegetable spray

    1 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Raspberries on top please

    1.  To make the filling beat the lime zest and egg yolks with a whisk until thickened and light green in color, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the condensed milk and cream for about an minute.  Now mix in the lime juice until the mixture slightly thickens.

    2. To make the crust mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together.  Place about a tablespoon into each mini muffin tin (sprayed with veg spray) and then using your finger press each crust in, making sure there's enough on the bottom and coming up the sides.

    3.  Pour your filling into each cup making sure you can still see the crust.  Bake in a preheated oven at 325 for just 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly then place in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

    4.  They're easiest to remove from the tins when you put a knife around the sides and when they are really cold.  Before you're ready to serve them beat the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until just light and fluffy.  When you're ready to plate them garnish each with a raspberry on top!

    Wine Pairing:
    Maker: Two Princes                   
    Varietal: Riesling                     
    Region: Germany             
    Vintage: 2009  

    ...Crab-Filled Envelopes...Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir...

    These little gems are a great party treat.  You can assemble them hours before the party starts so you're not scrambling at the last minute rolling out puff pastry, cleaning up your counters, etc.  You store them in the fridge, take them out, brush some egg wash on them, and into the oven they go.

    The flavors inside are great; creamy crab dip with fresh hits of basil and roasted red peppers.  Outside you have buttery puff pastry- nothing wrong with that.

    This recipe is thanks to the Cookbook Small Parties.  Makes 18 pastries.

    Ingredients You'll Need:
    1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed (Pillsbury brand works great)
    1/2 pound cooked crabmeat
    4 ounces softened cream cheese
    2 tablespoons finely chopped bottled roasted red peppers
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    2 tablespoons chopped almonds
    1/2 cup shredded white cheddar
    1/4 teaspoon paprika

    Egg Wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream

    1.  Make sure your sheets are thawed then roll them out onto a floured work surface.  Cut each sheet into 9 3x3 inch squares.

    2.  In a mixing bowl combine the crabmeat through paprika.  Place a tablespoon of each into the center of the pastry then fold over and secure with a fork.

    3.  At this point you can cover them with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 3 hours, or put on the egg wash now and bake away.  If you are baking them they go into a preheated 425 oven for 15-18 minutes.

    Serve warm and watch them disappear!

    Wine Pairing: (My favorite of all the pairings)
    Maker:  Sean Minor                     
    Varietal: Pinot Noir                  
    Region: Carneros             
    Vintage: 2009

    ...Smoked Salmon and Cucumber on Pumpernickel...Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc...

    Some of you may be interested in this recipe after the words smoked salmon.  For me, it's after the word pumpernickel.  It's my favorite kind of bread- usually toasted with some good butter on it.  Having it this way with Boursin, smoked salmon, cucumber, and dill isn't bad either.

    This recipe is very versatile- either for a nice bite at a light dinner or at a brunch, you choose when you want to eat it.  If you live close to a Wegmans you can get nice little salmon portions for 2 and make this up for yourself and a friend on the weekend.  Sure to impress.

    Recipe thanks to the Small Parties cookbook by Marguerite Marceau Henderson

    Ingredients You'll Need:
    16 thin slices pumpernickel loaf
    4 ounces herbed-garlic soft cheese, such as Boursin
    3 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced
    1 English cucumber, thinly sliced and patted dry on paper towels
    dash of dried dill on each

    Place the bread on a platter then spread a thin layer of cheese and top with some salmon, thin cucumber, and a dash of dish.  

    Wine Pairing:
    Maker:  Sea Glass
    Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc         
    Region:  Santa Barbara     
    Vintage: 2009   

    ...Chilled Fennel & Leek Soup...Wine Pairing: Chardonnay...

    Chilled soups are sometimes hit or miss.  They're something you can't always have a lot of, but they do taste nice and refreshing especially as an appetizer and in the spring and summer time.

    It's recommended to make this soup the night before as it's nice to have the flavors all come together and the soup needs to be very cold.  The soup isn't the best color, although it does have a nice flavor and can be spruced up with a dollop of creme fraiche and parsley as a garnish.  Another note is you can serve it in a martini glass as I did.

    I sadly don't have any pictures of that presentation, but I do have pictures of the process which is pretty and green.

    Recipe thanks to and loosely adapted from Martha.  Makes 4 1/2 Quarts.

    Ingredients You'll Need:
    6 Medium Leeks (about 1 1/4 pounds), white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1 large yellow onion, diced
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
    pinch of pepper
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    3 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds) trimmed and roughly chopped
    8 cups vegetable stock
    4 cups cold water
    parsley for garnish

    1.  Place the leeks in a large bowl of water where you can stir and let the dirt fall out of them.  Change the water a couple times as need be.  When they are clean drain them.

    2. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium low heat.  Add the onion, fennel seeds, salt and pepper.  Cook until softened about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook for just 2 minutes.

    3.  Add leeks and fennel to the pot and cook until tender, 10 minutes.  Add the stock and water and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

    4.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  When it's cooled a bit you can puree in a blender in batches.  Place the pureed soup into the fridge to cool until it's time to serve!

    Wine Pairing:
    Argiolas Costamolino Chardonnay from Italy   

    ...Goat Cheese and Pistachio-Stuffed Dates...

    This recipe is a hit.  It's an unexpected combination, a great bite of an appetizer and the goat cheese filling can be made a day ahead and then put in the refrigerator so it makes things easy on the host.

    I left some of the pistachio and chive bits on the board so after I fiilled the dates you simply just have to "dip" then in the pistachio mixture.  Adds a nice touch of green.

    Another great thing about this recipe- you can assemble everything 3 hours before the party.  Just cover them up with plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge.

    Recipe thanks to Martha.  Makes 16.

    Ingredients You'll Need:

    4 ounces soft goat cheese
    3 tablespoons shelled, salted pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
    1 tablespoon chives, chopped.  (Plus more for garnish)
    Freshly ground black pepper
    8 plump soft dried dates (Medjool work well)  Pitted and halved lengthwise

    1.  Stir together the goat cheese, 2 tablespoons pistachios, and the chives in a small bowl until smooth.  Season with pepper.

    2. Arrange the dates, cut side up, on a platter.  Using a small spoon place the filling into each date then 'dip' the dates into the remaining pistachios and chives to garnish.

    Wine Pairing:
    Coleaux Du Languedoc    (Joan's House wine)    France

    ...Bruschetta with Artichoke Hearts & Parmesan...

    If I'm honest I'll say that this was a last minute swap as far as appetizers go.  I was planning on making a fava bean puree with oil cured olives and French feta but alas I'm not in the land of super seasonal and more importantly farmer market friendly land anymore.  I couldn't find fava beans so I went with this recipe instead thanks to a recommendation from Leslie.  

    It's a winner of an appetizer- very easy to assemble, fresh, great tasting, and can be eaten cold or warmed up in the oven til some Parmasen on top just melts.

    Recipe thanks to Cooks Illustrated 

    1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
    2 t juice from one lemon
    1 medium garlic clove, minced
    2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
    2 T finely shredded fresh basil leaves
    salt and pepper
    2 oz parmesan cheese, 1 oz finely grated (about 1/2 c), 1 oz shaved into strips
    1 baguette sliced and toasted in the oven so it's nice and warm.

    Pulse artichoke hearts, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, basil, 1/4 t salt and 1/4 t pepper in food processor until coarse puree forms, about 6 1-second pulses, scraping down board with rubber spatula.  Add grated parmesan and pulse to combine, about 2 1 second pulses.  Divide artichoke mixture among toasts and spread to edges.  Top with shaved parmesan.  Sprinkle with black pepper to taste, drizzle with olive oil and serve at room temperature or pop in an oven and heat through until cheese has melted.

    Wine Pairing:  
    Maker: Charles De Fere              
    Type: Blanc De Blanc          
    Region: France                
    Vintage: 2010

    ...It's Food & Wine Pairing Week....

    That's right.  I had the opportunity to cook for a wine and food pairing event earlier this week and I'm here to share all the recipes, and wine pairings with you.  One recipe a day for the next week!

    Here are some pictures that highlight what was served up for this Spring themed event.  First post coming up next...

    ...a better way to bacon...

    How do you make your bacon?  I have been a fan of using our grill pan so the fat gets in between the cracks- but then you have a really fatty pan to clean up.  I also like using our cast iron skillet just so it stays nice and seasoned.

    Last weekend however I think how I bacon has been changed forever.  In the oven, on a baking rack at 375 for 8-12 minutes or til crispy.  Put aluminum foil down and your clean up will be much easier.  Another bonus?  Your house won't smell like bacon grease all weekend.

    How do you bacon?!

    ..channeling spring...

    The temperatures are inching closer to my happy place, 73 and sunny.  I have to come to terms with the fact life doesn't work like that here, but regardless I'm glad the temperatures are warming up, the sun is staying up longer, and even with rain there are sure signs of spring.

    I've been channeling spring by buying yellow flowers.  These here are my favorite flowers of all time- I love how they open up and miss the sweet old man at the SB Farmers Market who would have a truck full of them.