Sunday Shinanigans.

Yesterday was fun.

We invited my Mom and her husband Aaron over for lunch. The fog cleared just in time for us to sit outside under the plum tree in our backyard/garden, sipping champagne and eating this, that, and the other thing.

Gift bucket for Mom and Aaron. Zucchini, plums, garlic, purple sage, and green beans all freshly picked from our garden.

We started off the meal with Roasted Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Herb cheese dip. Not normally something I would make, but, it was the weekend, so… we were allowed to break a couple rules, right?

The dip was followed by Bi-color corn with Cilantro-basil and lime cream sauce. The corn was so sweet Aaron thought I put sugar in the water (I didn’t).

After the corn, we moved onto the “main course”. Atlantic Salmon filets with Roasted Garlic and Basil, then wrapped in Prosciutto, served with Asparagus. It could not have tasted better. So so so good.

The Salmon was followed by a dessert of Tart Plums with crisped Angel Food Cake and whipped cream.

Delicious food and great company made for a great weekend.

 

 

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Sage, basil, and sunflower seed pesto

My wonderful husband Paul and I just got back from vacation.

While we were gone we asked friends to tend to the garden. Well, they watered for us, but allowed the herb garden to run wild. So, in an effort to thin the jungle that was now my herb garden, I decided to make a pesto. A quick and easy way to use a ton of the purple sage and basil that was now growing in an overwhelming amount.

I picked an ample amount of purple sage and about half of the amount of lettuce leaf basil.

In a small food processor I combined the sage, basil, roasted salted sunflower seeds, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Pulse until you get your desired texture. I was after a rough texture, in order to add crunch and texture later when I use it.

I had some chicken thighs ready for dinner and rubbed and covered them in this sage pesto and let them sit for 3 hours before I cooked them.

For dinner I pan-cooked the chicken thighs and served them with pan-fried polenta, lightly caramelized onions, and a blend of four different cheeses.

The pesto would be great with pasta, on crostinis, or even with something like steak.

Enjoy!

A Delightful Summer Pasta

It’s Summer!

Summer to me equates to fresh vegetables. Which I love.

The husband loves them too. Just not as much as he loves pasta.

So. Let’s make everyone happy. Load up some delicious pasta with some delicious fresh summer veggies.

FRESH VEGGIE PASTA

Ingredients: Fresh pasta of your choice (I used Linguini), olive oil, salt, Parmesan cheese, lots of veggies! I used orange bell peppers, purple asparagus,  mushrooms, yellow onions, corn, peas, and fresh basil

Gather your ingredients and chop accordingly. Rough chops are fine 🙂

In a rather large pan, begin sauteing your onions with a pinch of salt.

A rough julienne chop on your basil is fine 🙂 For me, more basil is better… yummy.

The same goes for your bell pepper… although I was a little more precise. I find it cooks better and looks nicer if it’s even and pretty.

Having things prepped and ready to go helps later down the line. When all of a sudden your water is boiling, you need to add the pasta, stir your veggies, and chop something, all at the same time… you’ll discover it’s helpful to have things that you can prepare ahead of time done and ready when you need them.

Finding purple asparagus was fun. It looks so pretty when it’s added to dishes… especially when mixed with something bright.

Add your veggies to your onions and incorporate. Begin boiling your water for your pasta with a pinch of salt.

For this dish, it’s alright to add all your vegetables at the same time because the amount of time they will spend in the pan is minimal, and will result in them coming out just fine. I promise. Just keep your heat on medium-low and stir occasionally.

Add your pasta to the water and cook normally. Strain then add to vegetable mixture, incorporate gently and add basil and a pinch of salt to your liking.

With everything in the pan, add your cheese and stir. At this point you can turn the heat off and get some bowls 🙂

Eat and enjoy.

Macaroni and Cheese Pizza

There seems to be a trend here. A delicious trend at that.

Macaroni and Cheese.

My Mom, bless her heart, started making this delicious concoction from scratch when I was about ten years old. Needless to say, I was hooked from the first time I tried it. I mean, what’s NOT to like? Pasta? Yes please. Cream? Absolutely. Loads of melty, creamy, delicious, CHEESE? Bring. It. On.

MACARONI AND CHEESE PIZZA

with Brussel Sprouts, Prosciutto, and a little bit o’ seasoned Arugula

Ingredients: Pizza dough, noodles, cheeses, heavy cream, prosciutto, b. sprouts, arugula, lemon oil, salt and pepper, olive oil, mustard seeds

We all know the drill here…Gather your ingredients.

These are the noodles I used. If I was going to make this again, I would use something smaller. Once they boil, they get much larger. It wasn’t bad, it’s just, there’s options out there…so why NOT pick something better!

Get those noodles going in a pot of boiling water with some salt.

Once they are done set them aside. I toss them in a bit of olive oil to keep them less-sticky.

While your noodles are boiling, you can get started on your prosciutto with brussel sprouts and mustard seed.

Quarter those sprouts up and chop that proscuitto into small-ish pieces.

Yum. This pile started out a bit bigger… oops.

A bit of mustard seed goes a long way. You don’t need very much, but it is definitely a bonus to the dish…so don’t leave it out.

In a frying pan, saute all these delicious things together until there is browning on the sprouts and the prosciutto is gettin’ nice and crispy.

Don’t forget about your noodles!

Now it’s time to make your cheese sauce… yum.

Gather your selected cheeses. I used Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Pepperjack. Yes, very standard-issue cheeses, they made for a deliciously creamy sauce. BUT, I would suggest adding something with a little punch to it… This was definitely missing that, and since you haven’t made it yet, I’m tellin’ ya, ADD SOMETHING WITH A PUNCH.

Get your cream in a sauce pan until it’s hot then turn the heat down to maintain the temperature and keep it from burning (gross). With a whisk, slowly add your cheese, stirring constantly.

Make sure your sprouts and such aren’t burning.

In a large bowl, combine noodles, brussel sprout mixture, and cheese sauce.

Roll out pizza dough. You can make it, or, you can pick up some up at Trader Joe’s, which is the cheating, easy way to do it if you simply don’t have the time to make some pizza dough.

On a sheet of some sort (it really doesn’t matter, if it did, I’d tell ya so), cover it with foil and spray with non-stick spray.

Pre-heat that oven to 375 degrees.

Top your pizza dough with your mac n cheese creation.

yum city.

After roughly 30 minutes, maybe 40 depending on your oven, your pizza should be ready.

Pull it out and let it rest on a cooling rack. If you don’t use a cooking rack, the bottom will get soggy and gross.

I’m drooling writing this post. Good thing I have left overs.

For dinner I topped it with arugula tossed lightly in lemon oil and salt and pepper.

It was a wise choice. The acidity in the arugula was a perfect compliment to the creaminess of the cheese sauce.

For this post I tried something different. Recently I join the club. The “people with iphones” club; and, I must say, I enjoy my fancy new toy. So, for this post, I took all of my pictures with my phone. It’ll take some work, but, I like it. Fancy things are fun.

Caramelized Shallot & Pinenut Mac N Cheese Cupcakes

Yup. You heard that right.

I haven’t put anything up lately. Been busy. So, to make up for it, I give you this, the most delicious, easy, satisfying snack in the… kitchen?

CARAMELIZED SHALLOT & PINENUT MAC N CHEESE CUPCAKES

Ingredients: The noodles you want to use! I used Vegetable Radiatore (Organic Pasta) from Trader Joe’s. I like the added color and flavor. Pinenuts (Pignolias), 1 Shallot (largeish), butter (not too much), heavy cream, ricotta, the cheese you want to use! I used the Quattro Fromage from Trader Joe’s. It may not be the fanciest, but it worked for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the results! Plus, as an added bonus, it comes shredded.

Be careful with these guys… they’re dangerous. Before you know it you’ve had, well, the entire cupcake tray… or close to that.

As always, begin by gathering ingredients and preheat your oven at 375 degrees.

Once you have said ingredients, get your water going and salt. This way while your shallots and pinenuts are cooking, your water and noodles can also be goin’.

Next, melt your butter (only enough to caramelized your shallots and coat your pinenuts). Once the butter is melted and your pan is on low heat, add your pinenuts.

Next, finely chop your shallot. Make sure that you get a nice, small, dice on it. Nobody likes a mouthful of shallot… do they?

Add your shallots to your pinenuts and stir relatively frequently. Burnt shallots are nasty. Let’s not let this happen.

At this time your water is probably boiling so, gather your chosen noodles (I like to use ones that have little crevices in them so cheese can get inside them) and dump ’em in.

Cheese sauce! In your handy-dandy sauce pan, create your sauce. This is done by slowly heating heavy cream and adding your cheese. Keep stirring! You want to keep your heat low and the cream moving. Once your cheese is completely melted turn the heat off and keep stirring. After the heat has gone down a bit, you can leave it there.

Pre-melting.

After melting. Your sauce should be creamy and silky.

Your noodle are done. Strain them and admire their pretty colors, like I did.

Retrieve a mixing bowl (something you can combine everything in) and your sprayed cupcake tin.

In this mixing bowl add your pasta and your pinenut/shallot mixture.

Then add your cheese sauce and a dollop of ricotta. This helps bind everything together and, well, it’s delicious.

Add more of the quattro fromage that you made your cheese sauce with and a bit of salt and pepper.

Mix it up!

Dish up into your cupcake tray.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes (until the tops are golden brown).

Let these suckers sit! They need to sit for ideally 10 minutes. This help solidify them and ensure that they keep their shape when you take them out of the trays.

Whelp. There ya go folks! Happy Weekend!

Hazelnut Boysenberry Thumbprint Cookies.

There was a storm last night. I thought that I slept great, I usually do when it’s storming…wind and rain are calming.

I guess not. Because today, I’m exhausted. So, instead of being super productive with my day (which was the plan), after class I came home, ate leftovers from last nights dinner, took a shower, and made cookies.

I know this picture isn’t very good… but I still think it’s interesting.

I love that even when Hazelnuts aren’t in or paired with chocolate, they still taste like it… at least to me. But, then again, what do IIII know?!

I was talking to one of my best friends today and we both decided that this particular Tuesday is just plain not a good day. Everyone I know, including myself, woke up in bad moods…

So I thought to myself, “What always makes you happy?”. Butter and sugar.

They look delicious and I haven’t even baked them yet!

And now they look super amazing. And they are.

They are the most amazingly delicious cookies ever made. I love them.

So, what started as a bad day is ending on a rather good note. Spectacular cookies always fix everything.

Baked Apple Cake Bites with Maple Glaze and Bacon Bits.

I’m at that point with my refrigerator and pantry. They are both basically empty, but I refuse to go to the grocery store until Friday. We have dinner for tonight and are busy tomorrow. I’m. Not. Going.

But.

There is something I’ve been meaning to do… and today was the day to do it.

I’m catering a party at the end of this month and I needed to test an idea I have for it. It just so happens I have all the ingredients in the house. Ha! Success!

BAKED APPLE CAKE BITES WITH MAPLE GLAZE AND BACON BITS

Ingredients: 2 apples ( I used Pink Ladies), butter (3 sticks), nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, bacon (2-3 strips of the good stuff), powdered sugar, maple syrup, and this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cooking-live/classic-white-cake-recipe/index.html

THE SHMECIPE:

Gather your ingredients. Whelp, scratch that, well, kind of. This is a lot of items to have on your counter while you’re cooking, so, just have things handy.

Start with your apples. Peel, chop, dice, and dice some more.

In a small pan, melt about 1/3 of a stick of butter and add your apples. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves to your liking. Once those are well incorporated and it seems like your apples are softening just a bit, add some brown sugar, roughly a quarter cup. Stir in, let melt, and turn off the heat. Let ’em sit.

Follow the recipe from Food Network (I know, I know, how horrible of me). If you have a better one for classic white cake, pass it on. After having used this recipe, I like it, but I would LOVE to try something else. Yes, I’m following a recipe for the cake, but, as I have mentioned before, with baking, I just have to. The rest of this idea is mine though.

In a small pan, get that bacon going. Get it nice and crispy-like, perfect for adding a nice crunch onto those little bites!

So. You’ve got your batter, your apples, and your bacon. Incorporate your apples into your batter and fill cupcake tins about a third of the way up.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until you do the toothpick test.

Your bacon should be completely cooled, ready for choppin’ so, chop away!

Creating your Maple glaze is uber easy. Combine with a whisk your maple syrup and powdered sugar. Whisk together to form a smooth, silky, glaze that isn’t too watery, but isn’t just a bucket of powdered sugar. Once you have desired texture and your little cakes have cooled a bit, glaze the tops, and, while the glaze is still wet, sprinkle with bacon bits.

These perfect little treats would be a great addition to any Superbowl party or just for having around (I know my husband will be inhaling them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

side note: when making the batter, don’t hesitate to add more sugar than it calls for, not a whole lot, but a little  wont hurt; I’m not a big sweets person (like, super sweet), but this could use a bit more. Also, it’s going to look like you’re adding a ton of apples, but do it… I used small apples and wish I had used bigger ones, mine needed more. Ok, that’s all. Happy Eating!

Caramelized Onion and Feta Crostinis.

A while back I cooked for a small wedding reception party thing for my Mom and her husband Aaron.

I did a couple different things, not knowing the people who were going to be there, I went with a couple basic things, items that everyone and anyone would like.

One thing that I did stood out in particular though. It was an idea that I had tried before at a friends birthday party where I also was the cook/chef.

CARAMELIZED ONION & FETA CROSTINIS

Ingredients: Red onion, feta cheese, honey, butter, ground black pepper, your favorite bread to make crostinis with

THE SHMECIPE:

Once you have gathered all your ingredients together, begin by slicing your onion. Try and get the sliced relatively thin and as even as possible. This will ensure that nobody gets a big bite of crunchy red onion, and instead will get sweet, silky, evenly cooked yumminess.

In a frying pan (or whatever you’ve got handy), melt about a spoonful of butter completely on low heat (burnt butter is nasty), and add your onions. Toss to make sure they are coated, and let them caramelize, stirring occasionally.

After about 3 minutes of this, add a spoonful of honey and stir in. Add a pinch of ground black pepper, toss, and continue to let caramelize until onions are the desired texture… I like mine completely soft for this crostini, but if you like a bit of crunch, that’s alright too. Remember to turn off the heat once you’ve got what you want in the pan.

Gather your baguette, and slice into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. In a large frying pan, melt a third of a stick of butter and place your crostinis in the pan on medium to low heat. Allow time for the bread to brown on one side (about 2 minutes) and then flip. Remove your crostinis from the pan and turn off the heat.

Add a dollop of caramelized red onions on to your crispy bread and top with crumbled feta cheese.

This appetizer was a big hit at both parties I served it at. It’s unusual, but the flavor combinations work perfectly together, with the punch of the red onion balanced nicely with the sweetness of the honey and the salty coolness of the feta.

Enjoy.

Thumbprint Smore Cookies.

AKA The Devil.

Why? You ask.

Because. They are delicious and it’s hard to have just one. Even though they’re kinda giant. And they’re nothing less than horrible for you.

But heck! How else are we supposed to keep warm with these freezing Winter temperatures?!?!

THUMBPRINT SMORE COOKIES

Ingredients: Your favorite brownie mix (yes, brownie) or your favorite brownie recipe; Marshmallow Fluff, Whipped Cream Cheese, Graham Crackers, eggs, butter, cooking spray

By now you’ve realized this is kind of a gross idea. I mean, seriously, that list of ingredients nearly gives me a heart attack just reading it. But alas, sometimes ya just gotta do whatchya gotta do. Plus, I wont eat any, so, no guilt here! Ha. Awesome.

THE SHMECIPE:

Begin by gathering all your sticky, sweet, sugary, fattening, delicious ingredients together on the counter.

I cheated. I totes cheated. I used BOXED brownie mix.

I know, I know…it’s a horrible horrible thing to do… but, it’s Trader Joe’s, so it’s alright…right?!?!

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees!

Get your brownie concoction together. If you do decided to use a  boxed brownie mix, just use one less egg, and it should make the consistence thick enough to roll into little balls.

If you fail at mixing your batter together by hand, resort to your handy dandy friend, your mixer. After all, that’s what they’re there for.

FAIL.

GREAT SUCCESS.

Now, roll your cookie brownie batter into balls a little smaller than golf balls and place in greased cupcake tray. If you don’t have one, use a baking sheet, it’ll be fine.

Place the tray in the oven and begin on your Marshmallow Fluff and Cream Cheese mixture (insert heart attack here).

Using your mixer again (clean it yo), combine a little over half of your fluff container (about a cup and a half), and about a cup of your whipped cream cheese. Mix until well blended and put into piping bag and refrigerate.

Your brownie cookies should take about 20 minutes in the oven, but, everyone’s oven are different, so, to check, insert a toothpick into the center of one of the middle cookies, and if the toothpick comes out clean, take ’em out! If not, check them again in a couple minutes and repeat the process.

Once they are done, remove them, and let them cool. As soon as you can take them out of the tray, do so and let them rest on the counter. This way the bottoms don’t keep cooking and don’t get all gross and crusty. If they are cool enough to touch but not break, use the back of a spoon and create your “thumbprint”, or, use your thumb!

While your cookies are cooling take some of your graham crackers (I used about three) and break them into little pieces and put them into your mini food processor. If you don’t have one, just crunch them up really well 🙂

In your “thumbprint” sprinkle a little bit of your crumbs into each cookie.

By this time, your cookies should be completely cool.

Take your piping bag and fill each void with Fluff Stuff generously then sprinkle with graham cracker crumble.

It’s ridiculously good and VERY, VERY sticky. You will want a glass of milk and some napkins with this tasty treat!

THIS is how you keep warm when it’s 30 degrees and you can’t go outside and make the real thing.

Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Crostinis.

A while back I wanted to make a crostini of some sort.

Scratch that. I ALWAYS want to make a crostini of some sort.

I play with different breads, different butters (herb (that I make), REAL, salted, not salted, sweet, etc.), but most of all, and most importantly, what goes ON the Crusty Crostini.

That is what is best about this delicious little bite (or three). THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

For example, here is one that I made a wee bit ago.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND AVOCADO CROSTINI

Ingredients: One ripe avocado (ready to eat/devour), one Heirloom Tomato, Cilantro, good Olive Oil, salt, your favorite baguette, butter, lemon juice

Now, the reason that this is so good, aside of course the delicious topping, is the bread (zee crostini).

I used a “Rustic” baguette from a local bakery. It’s basically fresh French bread, in baguette form, and I think it works perfectly.

THE SHMECIPE:

To begin, chop up your tomato. You may leave the seeds in  if you like. I did in order to increase the intense flavor that a perfectly ripe Heirloom tomato brings to the dish; but if you do not like them, or think the have the texture of “monkey brains” (Thank you Pops), then taking them out will not hurt a thing.

So, chop up your tomato and set it aside in a bowl big enough to mix everything together (there’s not that much stuff, so it doesn’t need to be huge). Next, set about chopping your cilantro. You don’t need a lot, but the kick that it adds is wonderful, so I encourage you do use it. Add the cilantro to your tomatoes and gather your avocado. Halve, twist, dice, and scoop out the innards of your ‘cado into the bowl with everything.

LIGHTLY dowse it with your handy-dandy olive oil and a pinch of salt. The salt is important. It not only brings out the velvety taste of the avocado, but it lends itself to improving and exaggerating the textures of the tomato.  At this point in time, take a tiny bit of lemon juice (if you have an actual lemon to squeeze it out of, that’s optimal) and cover your mixture with it. This will help prevent your avocado from turning brown. Cover the mixture tightly and place in the ‘fridge.

Getting to your crostinis. Slice your bread however you want yours to look. I did mine at and angle, but it really doesn’t matter if it’s just you and you don’t care what it looks like! Regardless, it’ll taste the same and it’ll taste delicious. Once your bread is sliced, heat a frying pan on medium heat with about 1/3 cup of butter. Do more or less depending on, well, what you want, but that’s about how much I used. Remember to always be checking it, your butter that is. Burnt butter is gross and we don’t want that happening, now do we?

All the butter is nice and melted. Place your slices in the pan… now, be patient. It takes about two minutes on each side… We are looking for a golden brown color on our bread. A beautiful, crispy, buttery crostini us what we are after.

Retrieve your perfect crostinis, take your mix out of the refrigerator, and top generously.