Archive | October, 2011

Apple and Pear Sauce

31 Oct

Every now and then I cook or bake something that reminds my of my blog name.  Something in the recipe fell a little flat, but the result was still delicious.  This was one of those recipes.

The good news is that this sauce can be served over waffles/pancakes, and in oatmeal for breakfast.  It’s a perfect side along chicken or pork at dinner, and a true winner over ice cream for dessert.  All in all a perfect sauce for Fall.

Apple and Pear Sauce

  • 2 ripe pears
  • 2 sweet apples like gala or jonathan
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider
  • 3 tbs butter

First peel and chop your pears and apples into small pieces.  They will cook down faster and produce a nice thick by chunky sauce.  Next melt your butter over medium heat and add apples and pears to pot.  Stir the fruit in the butter to coat the pieces, and turn up the heat to medium high.  Let the fruit cook for about 5-7 minutes until it starts to break down and the juice comes out from the fruit.  Then add your cinnamon and stir.  Let it cook for about 10 more minutes.  Your sauce will look syrupy and gooey. 

Now add your apple cider, and stir.  [Sidebar-I got distracted here and added a full cup of the apple cider.  You do not need that much if you want a thick sauce, which is what I was going for.]  Let your sauce come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to thicken for about 5 more mins. 

Ready to serve?  I had mine with plain yogurt and it was a great way to start my day.

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My 10 Essential Ingredients

30 Oct

Whether you are an accomplished chef or a novice cook, everyone has a list of their must-have staples for the kitchen.   These are my 10 essential items that I cannot live without in my kitchen.

1. Fresh HerbsThese can add woodsy flavors in the background, or serve as a light, bright touch on the top of a dish.  I use a lot of rosemary, sage and thyme in the kitchen, so I generally purchase the poultry blend as it’s a cost-effective way to get all three.

2.  OnionsI love them sautéed in pasta sauce, caramelized on a pizza (or on anything), and fried on top of burgers.  I buy a these in bulk and store then in a dark, dry place.  Make sure you wash them carefully as they grow in the ground!

3.  Chicken, Veg or Beef StockThese stocks provide a depth of background flavor to any dish and all you need is a few cups.  Making your own stock is a long process, why not take a short cut?

4.  Red or White WineWine is perfect for de-glazing pans aka getting the browned yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.  It’s essential in risottos and excellent in sauces.  Plus a bonus sip or glass for the chef!

5.  ButterPaula Dean is no fool, and there’s a reason why she’s the butter queen.  Butter is an essential fat and I need it for both my savory and sweet creations.

6.  Garlic. Garlic is used in almost all cuisines from Italian to French and even Asian meals.  Plus who can resist that smell?  It brings everyone into the kitchen.

7.  Soy Sauce.  Soy sauce is great for marinades, stir fry, and I even use it in my satay sauce.

8.  Olive Oil.  Most if not all of my recipes start with a base of butter or olive oil.  It’s relatively healthy and can be used to cook meats, to finish salads, or in salad dressings.

9.  Lemons.  Again, I use these in a variety of savory and sweet dishes.  I love the citrus flavor with fish or chicken, and I frequently use the zest in my baked goods.

10.  Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Salad DressingPerfect with my favorite tomato and burrata salad or drizzled over roasted veggies.

What are your essential ingredients?

Crock Pot White Chili

27 Oct

I’ve been traveling a lot, working a lot, and frankly, playing a lot.  Which means I have not had a lot of time to cook dinner.  I need something that can do the cooking for me when I’m running around. And friends, that is the exact beauty of the crock pot.  Most are fairly cheap at about $30, and they will let you multi-task with ease.

One of my favorite crock pot recipes is for White ChiliIt’s easy, it feeds an army, and is perfect for football on Sundays.  

Best-Ever White Chili (adapted from 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes)

  •  2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey or ground chicken
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 1 tbs both salt and black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can of Cannellini Beans (19 oz)
  • 1 can of diced or crushed tomatoes (28 oz including juice)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack or sharp cheddar cheese

In a skillet, heat 1 tbs veg oil over medium-high heat.  Add ground turkey and cook breaking up the meat until it is no longer pink. Drain the meat and transfer it to the crock pot.  Reduce the oven heat to medium and add the remaining oil to the pan.  Add chopped onions and cook until softened.  Then add garlic, cumin, jalapeno, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook stirring for about a minute.  Add the tomatoes and broth, and bring to a boil.  Cook until the liquid is reduced by one-third (approximately 5 mins).  Add the beans to the stoneware and pour the tomato mixture over them.

Stir the ingredients in the crock pot and put on the cover.  Cook on low setting from 6-8 hours, or high setting for 3-4 hours.  Afterwards, stir in cheese and cover and cook for 20 more mins. 

For those of you with unpredictable hours (ahem), don’t forget that you can let the crock pot work while you sleep!  Talk about multi-tasking.  I often cook while I sleep and then just put the porcelain dish in the fridge.  Dinner is served!

 

Excerpted from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

 

Pamela’s Punch!

26 Oct

Hi all!  I recently joined Pamela’s Punch as the new Punch Palate Correspondent.  I’ll be covering events and restaurant openings in the DC area for Pamela’s blog.  Check out today’s post on the upcoming Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show and some tasty bites from PS7’s!

Here are a few pictures to prime your palate :).

 

For more info see my post at www.pamelaspunch.com!

Roasted Squash, Carrot and Spinach Lasagna

23 Oct

I spent this weekend hanging out with my best friend Rach in North Carolina for Elon University’s Homecoming.  As we feared, the Phoenix lost the game.  Thank goodness we were smart enough to bag the game, walk around campus (read the tailgates), and eat delicious food (read fried food). 

I came home and was craving some veggies for dinner.  I stared at the frozen remains of my Roasted Squash and Carrot Soup looking for inspiration and had a food epiphany!  I quickly headed to the store for my final attempt to use up my soup.

Roasted Squash, Carrot & Spinach Lasagna (serves 6-8)

  • 1 1/2 cups Bechamel Sauce (see below)
  • 1 1/2 cups Roasted Squash and Carrot Soup (see previous post)
  • 15 oz Reduced Fat Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbs Fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 1 cup Shredded Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 cups Frozen Spinach, thawed
  • 6 Lasagna Noodles, ready to bake
  • Sprinkle of Salt, Pepper and Garam Masala to taste

Bechamel Sauce Ingredients (from Mario Batali recipe)

  • 5 tbs Butter
  • 4 tbs All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

The first thing I did was to nuke my frozen soup in the microwave, and you could also heat it up in a pot on your stove top.  Next I mixed the ricotta cheese with the rosemary and egg.  I added salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of garam masala to bring out the flavors of the soup, and put this mixture back into my fridge. 

Afterwards I started on my bechamel sauce, which I thought would help to cut back on the sweetness of the soup. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.  You will have left over bechamel sauce and can pop it in your freezer.

Now we are ready to start assembling our lasagna!  Preheat your over to 350 degrees.  Pour half of the soup into a 9×9 baking dish.  Lay 2-3 oven ready lasagna noodles on top of the soup and spread ricotta mixture and half your frozen spinach over noodles.  Sprinkle half the shredded mozzarella cheese on top and then cover with half of your bechamel sauce.  Season with salt & pepper, then lay 2-3 more lasagna noodles on top.  Pour your final layer of soup over the noodles and cover with remaining ricotta and spinach mixture.  Add the last layer of noodles and cover with remaining bechamel sauceSprinkle the rest of the shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and season with salt, pepper and garam masala.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  I recommend using a little cooking spay on the foil to avoid loosing any cheese stuck on your foil.  After 30 minutes, remove foil and put back in the over for another 5-10 minutes to lightly brown the cheese.

Anyone hungry?!  I’ve got plenty of lasagna to go around and am starting to turn orange due to all this squash!

Roasted Squash and Carrot Soup

18 Oct

This recipe smells, looks and tastes of Fall!  It started off with my standard roasted squash recipe.  I take an acorn squash and a butternut squash and cut both of them in half.  Then brushed the halves with a combination of brown sugar, rosemary and olive oil, and roast it for 35 minutes at 300 degrees. 

Usually I’m happy just eating the roasted squash on its own, but after two days I needed another way to use up my leftovers. 

So I decided this was the perfect time to try out my new immersion blender (my new one true love) and whip up a fallish soup.  This soup has it all, sweet and savory with a hint of spice.

Roasted Squash and Carrot Soup (serves 6)

  • 1 roasted acorn squash (see recipe above), chopped
  • 1 roasted butternut squash (same), chopped
  • 2 lbs carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 qt of chicken stock
  • 2 tsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbs garam masala
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Heat olive oil over medium high heat and add chopped onions and carrots.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium high heat for 20 minutes.  Add squash and garlic to the pot with your onion and carrots, cook for five minutes.  Add chicken stock to pot and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure your veggies are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork.  If so, take out your fabulous immersion blender (or let cool a few minutes and pour into regular ole blender), and puree mixture gradually.  Stop periodically to stir the soup in between rounds of blending. Once the soup is completely blended, season again with salt and pepper and then stir in garam masala

Good Eats in Austin

12 Oct

As previously mentioned, I ate and drank my way through Austin this weekend.  What a perfect way to explore the city and culture!

Austin is known for it’s Tex Mex cuisine, and it did not disappoint.  My first night in town we went to a beautiful restaurant called Vivo.  The restaurant decor was funky, and included little touches like ice in the bathroom sinks and pink parting roses for female guests.  I ordered a beef puffy taco and a chicken enchilada with tomatillo sauce. 

The puffy taco was lightly fried without being greasy, and the tomatillo sauce added a nice acidity to the deliciously cheesy enchiladaThe best part of my meal was definitely the prickly pear margarita Not only was the drink beautiful, but it was nice to try something new that I can’t find in DC.

The following morning we stopped into the South Congress Cafe for brunchJulie and I drank blackberry mojitos with fresh mint from the bar while waiting to be seated. 

I had a very difficult time deciding on my brunch entrée, but ultimately settled on the steak and migas benedict with a chipotle hollandaise sauce and potato and chive pancake.  The steak was tender and I actually liked the migas on top of the benedict for something different.  The whole meal was very yummy, inventive and surprisingly cheap!

After brunch we walked around the SoCo neighborhood, drove past Lake Austin, and even caught an Australian Rules Footy Match.  Then we headed to Erin’s home to learn how to make her family’s recipe for Capaletti pastaPlease note Erin’s adorable apron.

This stuffed pasta looks like a smaller version of ravioli, and has a delicious filling of cheese, herbs and breadcrumbsThe whole dish is served in a warm, comforting broth. 

I’m sure you’re all dying for this recipe (trust me, you wish you could try it).  These sisters make a killer pasta, and I hope I can convince them to make it the next time I’m in Austin.  Thanks so much to Erin and Jenna for letting me “help” roll out and cut the pasta.  I’d also like to give a shout out to Beth for her patience while teaching me how to work the machine. 

My last meal in Austin was at a new restaurant named Bacon.   MMMMM!

The restaurant incorporates bacon in all dishes including dessert.  We all split an appetizer of bacon, cheese and ranch fries, which were good but nothing groundbreaking.  My breakfast was the maple bacon stuffed waffles with bananas and syrup.  The waffle was both crisp and chewy and I loved the taste of the bacon inside, but found the strips a bit difficult to cut. 

The food and company in Austin were superb!  I can’t wait for my next trip there.  Anyone got any other restaurant recommendations?