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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It’s not mine, but it’s good.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I just did a MASSIVE two-week long road trip.

Our first official stop, after saying “hi!” to the Grandparents, was The Saguaro in Palm Springs.

Yes. It’s as awesome as it looks.

As a matter of fact, it’s awesomer. It houses the restaurant Tinto. Lucky us.

Regrettably, we didn’t order a ton of things off the menu, just a simple Charcuterie plate and a Cheese plate. But boy oh boy were they good.

It was a simple meal, paired with a White Sangria and Red Sangria that left us both feeling like we had finally entered Vacation Mode.

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!

Orange, Honey & Rosemary Infused Vodka.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

It’s Friday, and that means cocktail time.

With the weather being how it is (sunny, dress-wearing, summerish) I decided on something spritzerish for our cocktail tonight. Although we cannot sit outside and enjoy them in the sunshine (the Mr. doesn’t get home until after dark), we can pretend like we are somewhere warm and tropical and that we are sipping on our delicious, refreshing, and invigorating cocktails. Throw on some Buena Vista Social Club and we’ve got ourselves an evening!

ORANGE, HONEY, & ROSEMARY INFUSED VODKA

Ingredients: Vodka, very ripe oranges, rosemary, honey

THE SHMECIPE:

There really isn’t much to this whole thing. It’s just a matter of getting everything together and makin’ it happen.

I decided the weather was soooo nice, that I needed to take advantage of it. So, outside with my cutting board, knife, and other necessities!

Now, there are lots of ways you could go about getting those orange slices out just the way you like ’em. I opted to slice them out… Take a sharp knife and, starting at the top of your orange, slice with the curve of the fruit just under the rind to the bottom. Do this all the way around, on all of your oranges. At this point you can try your darnest to get your slices out in the typical fashion, or, you can slice them out with a knife… Much easier, and you’ll be happy later when you can pop a vodka-soaked slice of orange in your mouth.

Into the Ball Jar with your slices! I used one of the larger jars and 6 oranges.

It’s an orange wasteland.

Now, in with Rosemary. I used about a quarter cup from the HUGE Rosemary plant that’s in my garden. You want it to be as fresh as possible in order to deliver the most flavor possible.

Honey. The honey that I’ve got is the best honey in the world, hands down… But, choose your favorite and I’m sure it’ll be good too (haha). Use about a half of a cup (more if you like sweeter things) and pour it into your jar.

To finish everything off you need the essential ingredient, vodka. I used a less-expensive vodka for this, and I usually do when I’m doing infusions because good vodka is expensive and I’m mixing it with a bunch of stuff so… what’s the point. If I could afford Grey Goose for my infusions, I would use it, but, I can’t, so here we are.

Top everything off with the vodka, leaving a little room at the top so you can give it all a good shake (once the lid is secured) and get those flavors workin’ and get that vodka infused.

Mix with club soda. You don’t want to miss out on all the good flavors you just used by mixing it with Sprite or something. Although, I think Ginger Beer would be delicious (pretty much anything with ginger beer in it is good). If you like your drinks on the sweeter side, add a little simple syrup!

Have a great weekend and enjoy this delicious beverage!

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.

Pickled Jalapenos with Red Onions and Garlic.

Back where I used to work, they pickled everything. Well, at least it seemed like it to me. Partly because most of the pickling was for the Pantry station, so, when I would come home, my fingers would pretty much be pickled.

This turned into a problem. An annoyance. A turn off. And ultimately turned me off of the idea of pickled anything.

So, today, after a not-so-great start to my day, I decided to try it for myself. To see if I could do it better. Often times when I go out to eat, I end up disappointed, critiquing the dish, thinking “I could do this better”.

That may not always be the case, but, it’s what I think.

PICKLED JALAPENOS WITH RED ONIONS AND GARLIC

Ingredients: Jalapenos, Red Onions, Garlic, Limes (for lime juice), Rice Vinegar, Salt, Dried Chives, Sugar, Water

THE SHMECIPE:

As always, begin by gathering your ingredients.

Cut your jalapenos and be careful not to touch your eyes afterwards. This is not a fun thing to forget.

Chop your onions, quarter your lime, dice your garlic, and get your hands on that Ball Jar.

I used about 7 jalapenos,  half of a medium sized red onion and 4 cloves of garlic.

In your jar add salt, sugar, dried chives, about a quarter cup of water and one cup of vinegar.

This is the lovely thing about this shmecipe. Because you’re using a Ball jar, I see no reason to heat all these things together in a pan, and then transfer them to the jar… just heat them in the jar, making sure its only about half full. Put jar in microwave for a minute and a half, or until it’s hot enough for the salt and sugar to dissolve completely.

Add your pickling items. A couple jalapenos, some onions, some garlic, a squeeze of lime… you want to make sure that all the flavors are talking to one another.

The liquid will be hot, so please be careful. Seal your jar tightly and leave it on the counter to rest until it is room temperature, then refrigerate.

Your tasty (I think) pickled friends will be ready to eat/use in roughly 24 hours. But, if I were to do this (ummm, hello, I just did), I would wait at least a week before I open this jar of awesome. Plus, truth be told, I’ve never made this before. So, that means… follow up! Yes, there will be a follow up to how this stuff actually turns out.

Horray for cooking adventures! Bon voyage!

Tequila Lime Party Favors.

Whelp, there’s a big birthday coming up, this weekend in fact.

My Mom’s Husband, Aaron, is turning 50. Now, he’s one of these people that NEEDS to celebrate his birthday ON his birthday. If ya don’t, it doesn’t count, isn’t the same, yada yada.

So, all of his closest friends will be gathered at their house in Carmel Valley for the celebration, and who is there to help, handy-dandy me!

Party favors were needed, and Mom wasn’t coming up with anything, and really, neither was I. But, when I stepped outside last weekend and it was 70+ degrees in January on the beach, I got inspired wanting a Margarita.

TEQUILA LIME PARTY FAVORS

Ingredients/necessary items: Lots of limes (twice as many as how many favors you’re doing, Half-pint Ball jars, Tequila, ribbon or twine, or whatever you want to wrap it with, tags (or whatever you want), water and pot for boiling

THE SHMECIPE:

Begin with your jars. Follow instructions on the package they come in…usually it says to boil the jars and let them cool or something like that; that’s what I did.

Slicing your limes… I made eighths out of mine for perfect little lime slices. Aside from looking cute, this size is good for many reasons. If you want to take one out and use it like you would an unsoaked lime after a shot of Tequila, this is rather efficient (the Tequila is already there!). Also, if you cook with these, it’s a nice squeezing size (would be great with Mexican inspired dishes such as Chicken Tacos or fish dishes).

So, your jars are ready with lids off and to the side and your limes are all sliced up.

I added about a lime and a half to each jar. You want to give them a bit more room than you think because you want each slice to be completely covered in tequila when that time comes…which is now!

I did 12 half-pint Ball jars and used just under a handle of tequila. Gently pour tequila into jars, making sure that the limes are submerged and covered completely, minimizing the air in the containers.

Now it’s time to seal these bad boys. Gently screw on each lid, making them tight but still giving them a little room for more tightening. Get your water simmering shallow enough so that the lids are not under water and can your favors. If you have not done this before, it’s simple. Just get a large pot (in size, not in depth necessarily, at least not for these squat little jars), simmer water, place your jar in the water (as many as you can comfortably fit), and let them bathe in the hot water for about 5 minutes. This will seal the jars and prevent air from getting in/out and making your limes turn brown from oxidizing. Take the jars out of the water, do the final twist on the lid to tighten completely, and let cool.

Once your jars have completely cooled and are all sealed up, wrap them up as you please. I did twine and a tag. Easy easy and very cute.

This Party Favor will be a hit. You can cook with it, or you can simple enjoy having your tequila already mingling with your lime and you can take out a slice and “shoot” it, giving yourself a green smile 🙂