Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Recap-We Survived!

This year was a particularly monumental Christmas for me.  As many of you know it was my very first Christmas married, which is amazing, but the Holiday pressures can also amplify when its your first Christmas together.  We spent Christmas Eve over at Mr. Love from Scratchs' parent's home, which was lovely.  We were there with his siblings and their spouses and kids, so it was a crowd.  In my own family I like to think of myself as the "fun" or "cool" aunt.  My nieces and nephews all tell me I am too, not sure if they are sincere or buttering me up for a treat, probably the latter since I am a total pushover with my  nieces and nephews who I adore.

As I have mentioned before I have all brothers, and I love having all brothers.  When I was little I used to always ask Santa for a baby sister, I got a baby brother instead, thus ended my fascination with Santa.  No really I used to always want a sister, but my mother told me as a little girl that it just wasn't in the cards.  I went on for years totally happy in my "only girl" status, (yes I was indulged and well-loved)  my brothers say spoiled, but really what do they know?  As we all got older it occurred to me that someday my brothers would get married and my "only girl" status would be obliterated as new daughter in laws joined the family.  As the first got married I still got to stay on my pedestal for awhile, and enjoyed that status, though I was fiercely protective of my brothers and didn't want just anyone joining my family, mercifully so my brothers have excellent taste so I didn't have to go "Mommie Dearest".  However as soon as grand kids came into the mix, I fell completely off the pedestal, there is no competing with a beautiful grand baby, so I don't even try.  I do however try very hard to be a favorite Aunt.  One of my greatest joys in life are actually watching my brothers with their children.  I never would have expected them to be the great fathers that they are.  My brothers who made fun of my dance lessons and girly stuff, I now see playing with their own daughters and actually enjoying it.   I have been very blessed that as my family expanded it only got better and better, and I adore every niece and nephew I have, and am very blessed to have them in my life.

So onto my new family that I have joined into.  Mr. Love from Scratch has all sisters, no brothers, so the total opposite of me.   I was a little worried about how the transition would go.  After all it's kinda like being the new kid at school again, you never really know how its going to go. This was my first Holiday with the family and it went really well.  We all brought side dishes and desserts to add to the turkey and ham that was the main dish.  I brought several things including a spinach artichoke dip (always a crowd pleaser), a green salad with berries and red wine vinaigrette, fudge, and a strawberry cheesecake dessert.  I also made gingerbread dough and royal icing so I could make gingerbread cookies with my new little nieces.  Maybe with the oldest of the bunch only being four, it may not have been the smartest idea I have ever had, but it was a lot of fun, messy, really, really messy, but a lot of fun.  The girls were excited to leave their creations out for Santa's Visit.  We had fun, and the girls loved decorating, and also having the dog lick the icing brush between cookies (It took me a few minutes to realize that was going on), so Santa's cookies are indeed very special this year.

Christmas is always a time of food and family, and I am very blessed with the family that I have.  I wish I had taken photos of the finished cookies, in all the mess I forgot to, but this recipe is a definite keeper and will help you create as many memories as we did with it.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
Ingredients
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups flour
Directions
Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.

  Mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Then roll & cut into desired shapes.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven @ 350 F. Enjoy the memories to come!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So Many Different Cookbooks, So Little Time, What I Have Been Reading Wednesday.

Yay!  Its another cookbook review, it seems like ages since I did my last one.  Cook Like a Rock Star is a book that I was really excited to see come into print.  Now I have to disclose my bias, I am a huge Anne Burrell fan, I love her way of cooking and I love her way of teaching and direction.  Some of us have seen her on Worst Cooks in America, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, or most recently, The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs, which incidentally I was completely rooting for her to win.

One of the reasons why I love her programs so much is because I think she has a skill that a lot of TV chefs do not have, and that is the skill of being a master teacher.  Don't get me wrong, there are some truly brilliant chefs out there who are doing amazing things, but it is obvious that they are not able to convey that skill set to us as an audience.  Plain and simple if you do what Anne says, you will get a spectacular result.  Chef Burrell taught at The Institute of Culinary Education, and that is evident in all that she does.  She explains proper techniques, history of  foods, how to make substitutions, how to be more efficient in the kitchen.  Really cooking with her is a very pleasurable and educational experience.  Throughout the entire book you can hear her voice telling you what to do and how to do it.

Chef Burrell is noted for doing her own thing in the life and in the kitchen, she cooks everyday in a skirt in the kitchen with her trademark blonde spiky hair.  I love the nonconformity of her, this is who she is, take it or leave it.  I personally like to cook in heels and vintage aprons and pearls, so I guess we all have our own way of doing things.  In the kitchen Chef Burrell is all about mise en place, anyone who has seen her shows knows that this is the case.  Literally it means to "put in place" or "setup", Chef Burrell is insistent on an orderly and logical work station and when mise en place is followed, not only is the work station cleaner, the recipe usually moves along quicker and easier.  It takes awhile to get adjusted to the idea of setting out everything first and having things just so before even starting to cook, but you will begin to appreciate this order especially when you no longer start cooking a recipe to find out that you don't have an ingredient.  That frustration is virtually eliminated.

In short, I really can't say a enough good things about this cookbook.  This is the cookbook I would give to any of my friends, it works with all skill levels, but I would particularly recommend it to those who are starting out on their own and want exceptional food, just don't know how to get it.  This will tell you how to get it.  Step by step it will help you get a rave result and this cookbook I really feel is one that will help build your confidence in your skill sets and help the home chef to branch out and try more things.  Buy this cookbook, you will use it I guarantee it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It is Beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Here we are, less than 3 weeks away from Christmas.  Can you believe it, or are you too, as I overwhelmed by the Holidays?  As you all I know I got married last month, I am working very hard to make it the perfect Christmas for both of us, and trying to start some family traditions of our own.  So many traditions of Christmas begin with food, and the smells of the season, not just the sounds of the season.  For me one of the prettiest sights of the season is my humble little Christmas tree.

My tree isn't the tallest, or the fullest or the fanciest, but to me my tree is magical none the less.  Each ornament has a story and a meaning behind it.  Mr Love from Scratch and I were lucky enough to add a few special holiday items this year.  Several people gave us Holiday ornaments and such which are now proudly displayed on our tree.  Together Me Love From Scratch and I have had an amazing year and we are very excited for what 2012 has in store for us.  One of the traditions I hold dear is my annual Wedgewood Ornament.  Now here is my disclaimer, I am in no way shape or form affiliated with the company, just a devoted admirer, however if anyone from Wedgewood ever needs a product review or anything of that sort, send anything at all my way, and I am sure you will get rave reviews. There is something so serene and delicate about the Wedgewood Ornaments, this is the ornament for this year, its special for us, since its clearly commemorating our wedding day.  Take a look at their ornaments, they are truly beautiful!

For Thanksgiving Mr. Love from Scratch and I had the opportunity to go visit my parents.  It was so nice to be with them for the Holidays, and of course it brought up so many memories.  I always remember spending the Holidays with my Mother's parents, and I miss that they are no longer around to celebrate with.  I remember the traditional recipes my Grandma had, and I remember my Mom's devotion to those traditions.  Call it a family trait, but I too hold tightly to those recipes of old. 

When I was little, my mother would make our "neighbor treat plates", you know the plates of goodies that you give to the neighbors.  I may be biased, but my mother's were by far always the best in the neighborhood, there wasn't even a close second.  Heads and shoulders above the rest.  The favorite of the plate for everyone was always Penoche.  Now be warned, this is an addictive recipe, and a fattening recipe, trying to make substitutions on this recipe will not work, it is what it is.  It is worth every calorie, and the extra time at the gym.  Its also a very budget friendly treat to make to share with others, which in today's world is definitely a welcome sight.  Try this recipe, you will fall in love with it just as I did as a little girl in my mother's kitchen.

Penoche

Ingredients:

1 stick butter (NO SUBSTITUTIONS)
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Boil and stir 2 minutes exactly the butter and brown sugar.

Add evaporated milk and bring to boil again, remove from heat and beat until lukewarm, then add 2 cups powdered sugar.

Place in greased 9x13 pan

*note cut into small squares, it is very rich so small squares are the way to go.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What a month of excitement!

I know that I have been so bad at posting this month!  So much has been going on, I got married this month and it seems as though it has been nonstop activities.  So now I have a Mr. Love from Scratch, and I am as any newlywed bride trying to figure out how to keep him (and his stomach happy.)  As I have mentioned before, no mushrooms for him, we can now add to that no cooked spinach to the list(another thing that I love.)  But I am having so much fun exposing him to new flavor combinations and creating his meals.

Also I have been in the process of moving everything from my apartment into my new home, my poor husband, he must feel as though I am taking over the place.  There are boxes all over the place as I try to find a home for all of my things, but we are very happy in our cozy home.  Needless to say this November has been one of the busiest of my life, so I am scrambling to make sure I am ready for December which is always a busy month.  We are having a melding of traditions and trying to incorporate the traditions of both of our families into our own home.  The tree is up, my pink ornaments are still proudly displayed and the stockings laid out.

What traditions do you do in your families?  What things have you done for your "First Christmas?"  I want to make sure I make it a special one for him, any and all suggestions are appreciated.  So the next several months you will be hearing about all of my adventures in cooking as a newlywed and the adjustments we make together, wish us luck!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What I have been reading Wednesday, Gifts Cooks Love


I know that the past two weeks I have been very remiss in my posting, there has been so much going on, I can hardly believe everything there is to get done.  Next week I am getting married, a whole new chapter of life is beginning, and I am so excited to see what my future will hold.  The next couple months will be crazy, with adjusting to marriage and a new home, the holidays and so much more. 

One thing that always calms me down is cooking, it allows me to relax and enjoy the art of creation.  I know I have said time and time again how much I feel that the best way to cook is to cook with love.  I can always taste when something is cooked carefully and with love, and there is no better flavor or spice to have in your cooking arsenal.  With the holidays coming up I am looking for food gifts to give out to neighbors and friends, this book is full of beautiful, elegant gifts that your neighbors and friends will be thrilled to receive.  This is a must for the holidays.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wowzers the time is flying!

Do you ever have those days when it all of the sudden dawns on you that time is moving so quickly?  Today was one of those days, as I have mentioned before next month I am getting married, yes in a little more than two weeks I will have a "Mr Love From Scratch".  There are a million things to get done and so many details to oversee.  It is such an exciting time, I can hardly believe the wedding is almost here.  How crazy is that?

So many things to get done and it seems almost as though the time is running out.  I have been so busy trying to get everything done and accounted for, it seems like there is an endless amount of details for a wedding.  As we have been getting ready for the wedding I have been thinking of the courtship and dating that has lead up to the wedding and it has brought back so many great memories, one that I have been thinking of was one of the first meals I made for Mr. Love From Scratch.  It was a picnic and we had several different dishes, but the star of the meal was my signature cerviche.  I love cerviche and I was excited to share a favorite dish of mine with him.  This is a dish that has so many memories for me, and I hope you try it and develop memories of your own.

Love From Scratch Cerviche

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh shrimp
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup diced avocado
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup cilantro
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1/2 cup bell pepper diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup diced cucumbers peeled and diced.

Directions:

Pat the seafood dry and place in a glass bowl. Cover with the lime juice and let marinate until opaque, about 3 hours, refrigerated.  Add the remaining ingredients to the seafood, gently stirring to mix. Add reserved lime juice to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour, and serve chilled in a tall martini or cocktail glass 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meatless Monday- Experimental Edition!

I am always looking for healthy and delicious meatless Monday recipes, or recipes for any occasion really.  Several people have been suggesting that I look at the website www.meatlessmonday.com  I decided to give it a shot.   I really suggest taking a look at this site, they have some recipes that really do sound amazing.  The recipe that I have decided to try for the week is the Black Bean Corn Tamales, I love tamales, and maybe this will be healthier to make than the traditional tamale recipe.  Tamales are usually easier to make if you have two sets of hands, so enlist the help of a friend, or get the kids to help out on this one.

I will be trying this recipe as well this week, so let me know how it works for you and I will keep you posted on how this recipe turns out, I am crossing my fingers that it is good.

Black Bean Corn Tamales
from www.meatlessmonday.com

Ingredients:

18 corn husks, dried
3 cups corn kernels cut from the cob
or 3 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 cups masa harina*
1/2 cup vegetable broth, warmed
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 red onion, diced
1 32 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste

*a corn flour found in Mexican markets or the Mexican section of some grocery stores.

Place the corn husks in a bowl of water to soften for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse well. Pat dry and set aside.

Place 2 1/2 cups of the corn kernels into a food processor. Pulse until pureed.

Place the purred corn, masa harina, warmed vegetable broth, baking powder, salt and canola oil into a large bowl. Mix together with your hands until all ingredients are evenly distributed and the mixture has a dough-like consistency.

Prepare a frying pan with a light layer of canola oil or nonstick cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, black beans and the remaining 1/2 cup of corn kernels to the pan. Season the corn black bean mixture with the chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft and lightly browned.

Preheat a steamer or set a large double boiler over medium-high heat.

Place about 3 tablespoons of the masa harina mixture in the center of a corn husk. Flatten the masa harina dough with your hand to form an 1/4 inch thick disc. Place about 1 tablespoon of corn bean filling inside each disc. Fold the long side of the corn husk over the filling to cover and fold the ends together, overlapping. Tear a thin strip for one of the extra soaked corn husks. Tie the tamale together using the thin strip. Repeat 13 times, or until you are out of masa harina flour and black bean corn filling.

Layer the 14 black bean corn tamales over each other in the other in the steamer or double boiler. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and steam for about 50-60 minutes, or until the tamales are heated through. Divide into 7 servings and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Key Lime Creme Brulee

I love desserts, and I love the rich, creamy desserts especially, custards, flan, pot de creme, creme brulees are my favorites.  It always feels so indulgent when I have them, its a true treat.  So many people don't make creme brulee because they think it is to complicated or too time consuming.  Creme brulee is one of the easiest desserts that I make, yet it always impresses people, plus the child in me loves using the culinary torches, after all everyone loves fire. 

I know that I have shared creme brulee recipes before, there are just so many decadent recipes out there for creme brulee, but I do love usually key lime flavored anything so this is a real home run, try these next time that you have company, the guest will love it!

Key Lime Creme Brulee

Ingredients

3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 6 teaspoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
8 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lime peel
Garnish: lime peel or fresh mint sprigs

Directions
Preheat oven to 325ºF.   Place cream and 1/4 cup sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in lime juice. Remove bean.

Beat egg yolks and lime peel in medium bowl until smooth. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. Divide among six 6-ounce ramekins. Place cups in large baking pan. Pour in enough hot water to come half way up sides of cups.

Bake until just edges are set custard jiggles but is not too runny, about 35 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar evenly over each custard. Use torch to melt and caramelize sugar, or broil about 2 minutes, watching carefully and rotating cups. Let stand until sugar hardens or chill 15 minutes to 2 hours. Garnish if desired with mint and lime slices.

What I have been reading Wednesday,..The Red Hat Society Cookbook

It is time for "What I have been reading Wednesday."  I love my cookbooks, and now that I am working on organizing my apartment and getting it ready for the move I certainly am realizing how many I have.   I love my cookbooks, each one tells a different story and opens my eyes to a whole new culinary adventure.  I have always been passionate about books of any kind, but cookbooks are a particular favorite of mine.

As a child I used to read cookbook after cookbook and study the pictures and dream of making these creations myself.  I would daydream for hours and have visions or being grown up in my own kitchen dancing in my head.  I had my kitchen planned down to the last detail, I had everything picked out, and I love that my kitchen is a place where I still love to be, it is still and always will be the heart of the home.  I used to play with my grandmothers things, her gloves, and purses, all of her pretty things.  It made me feel so grown up and elegant, though I could never be as elegant as my grandmother was.  One of the things that I love most about the Red Hat Society is that they believe in living fabulously, and enjoying every minute of it, I try to do the same thing in my own life.

The Red Hat Society Cookbook, does not disappoint, it is full of recipes for fabulous living and fabulous entertaining, the wilted spinach salad, and the creme brulee french toast are some of my favorites, the shrimp etouffe is excellent too.  The recipes in the cookbook are all easy to follow and definitely good for a novice cook or experienced cook alike.  These are all familiar favorites that will evoke lots of memories, definitely try this one out!

Friday, September 30, 2011

October is Coming! Fall Greens Soup

 
  I really can not believe that September is almost over!  Tomorrow begins October!  Seriously though, where is the time going?  When I go to the stores and see the Christmas decorations out it strikes fear in my very soul.  Don't get me wrong, I love early decorating for the holidays far more than the average person, but here I am planning a wedding and so many other things that are happening before Christmas, that when I see the Christmas decorations it just reminds me of how much I have to get done...and soon!

     Every person has things that they do to relax or for stress relief, me I love to bake.  For me baking is therapeutic and stress relieving.  Just spending time in the kitchen helps me to calm down and put the world into perspective.  I might be a dork, but I love to put on Frank Sinatra, or Andrea Bocelli, or lately Michael Buble and create away, and let the stress melt away.  I also dance in the kitchen, so does my little dog Chloe, we have a blast, it is such a great way to spend the afternoon.  My dear friend however is stressed by the mere thought of cooking and the idea of cooking a meal from scratch gives her a cold sweat.  I have never understood the fear of cooking, I wish I did, so I could help my non-cooking friends, but then again if I did they probably would not visit me anywhere near as much.

     When the cold weather comes I love my soups and chilis, basically anything nice and toasty warm.  Last week I was definitely on a risotto kick, this week I have been doing a ton of baking and have been in love with soups.  Sometimes the soups of the fall get well how can I put this mildly...fattening!  I am always on the lookout for ways to lighten up a traditionally fattening soup, some work better than others that is for sure.  This recipe is one of my favorites for really anytime of year. but right now is a great time for it, especially with fennel being so cheap right now in my grocery store.  Now I realize that some are hesitant to try fennel, several people think that it will be too strong of a flavor, quite the opposite is actually true.  With cooking it mellows out to a rich, mellow creamy flavor.  Since I am a definite expert of leftovers I can attest that this is a soup that gets even better the the day after serving, plus this definitely makes sure that you get your veggies in for the day.  I have this sometimes for lunch with a side of crusty french bread, total bliss I tell you, total bliss.

Fall Greens Soup

Ingredients

2 red bell peppers
2 large fennel bulbs with stalks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup peas
2 cups chopped leeks
1 cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 ounces fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

Preheat broiler. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop; set aside.

Trim tough outer leaves from fennel. Mince feathery fronds to measure 2 tablespoons; set aside. Remove and discard stalks. Cut bulbs in half lengthwise; discard core. Chop bulbs to measure about 4 cups.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add fennel bulb, leek, and next 3 ingredients (through salt); cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, water, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in spinach, peas and black pepper. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes at room temperature.

Pour half of fennel mixture into a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining fennel mixture. Return pureed soup to pan; heat over medium heat 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Combine roasted bell peppers, yogurt, lemon rind, lemon juice, and ground red pepper in a food processor; process until smooth, top each serving with 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture. Garnish with fennel fronds and fresh peas.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatless Monday...Butternut Risotto


  I am in love with the fall and I love making risotto in the fall, it is truly one of the best fall dishes out there.  I know that last week for Meatless Monday it was a risotto, but I really couldn't resist doing another.  One of my readers mentioned a butternut risotto that they usually make in the fall, and it made me think of my own butternut risotto.  It is so rich and creamy, and just plain delicious! 

     I also love that this is a pretty economical meal to make, sometimes mushrooms can get pricey, but in the fall squash is usually pretty inexpensive and accessible.  This is usually a main dish risotto when I make it, just because I usually find it to be so rich that I am good with just the risotto alone for a meal.  I would love to hear what your traditional fall dishes are, I am always looking for amazing new recipes!  Let me know what you think!

Butternut Risotto

Ingredients

7 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided into 4 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, and finely diced
2 cups aborio rice
 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Salt & Pepper to taste
Directions

Heat broth in medium sized saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a large saucepan; add onion and butternut squash. Cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add rice to onion and squash. Cook 1 to 2 minutes.  Add a few ladles of broth, just enough to barely cover rice. Cook over medium heat until broth has been absorbed. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add remaining tablespoon of butter, 1/3 cup Parmesan, and chives.  Add salt to taste. Serve with remaining grated Parmesan.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Love From Scratch Wild Mushroom Risotto

With the weather turning cold in the evenings now, and the fall fast upon us I find myself reaching for comforting satisfying dishes for dinner.  This is a great meal to have as a nice entree, or you could also have as a side dish as well. 


Risotto I love for many reasons, once you have learned the process it is easy to recreate with many different combinations.  You can make a risotto vegetarian as well if you want to incorporate a risotto into your "Meatless Mondays" recipes.  I know that some newer cooks, are intimidated by a risotto, but really its a pretty simple recipe, but I can't stress how important patience is with a risotto.  If you try to cut corners and save time you will destroy your risotto.  Just be patient and stand at the stove with your risotto, the other way newer chefs destroy their risotto is by not stirring constantly through the process, a risotto is easy, but labor intensive.


Try this recipe for yourself, let me know how it goes.  I love this recipe and it is the perfect way to introduce yourself to a risotto, it is an easy recipe but gets amazing reviews every time I make it.  I love a great risotto and a glass of sparkling apple cider and good company, for me that is a great evening.

Love From Scratch Wild Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 pound assorted wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound portabello or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (no substitutions please)
1/2 cup dry white wine
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Mitzhra cheese (Parmesan is fine)

Directions:

Warm the broth and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Stir in mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove and set aside
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes, add in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.               
Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meatless Monday, Tomato Basil Spinach Bisque

There is something so satisfying and comforting about about soup, it always makes me stop and calm down and enjoy the day.  Tomato soup and grilled cheese has always been a favorite of mine, but as I have grown up I have put a more sophisticated flair on things.  The tomato soup has morphed into tomato basil soup, and grilled Swiss on sourdough, so good, and so amazing.  Granted its totally simple but it always brightens my day, and on the chilly fall days that are coming up this has to be a staple!  This is also especially good this time of year with the tomatoes left over from the garden.  It is so delicious with fresh garden spinach and basil and tomatoes and can be both the perfect comfort meal, or can be a great first course to a nice dinner for company.  Sometimes when we have company we try to so all of these crazy things that no one has ever tried, and forget to use the tried and true staples that everyone already loves.  When I have company I want people to feel comfortable and welcome in my home, this sets a great mood for the meal.

Love From Scratch Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups milk
6 cups tomatoes, seeded
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups fresh spinach, torn
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Stir in milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes  and sugar. Mix well, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 40-45 minutes. Add spinach, basil, salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese, or basil.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Baking Nostalgia

I love baking, there is something so relaxing and rewarding about mixing all of these separate ingredients together, and coming up with a masterpiece.  I love also the waiting and watching, the anticipation of the rising of the scones, and watching them turn golden brown as the aroma fills the home.  I find great satisfaction in cooking, maybe that is why I love it so much.  I always feel like I can express myself in the kitchen, sometimes I feel sassy so I make spicy food, other times, like today I feel nostalgic, and it seems like whenever I feel nostalgic I bake.

My mother is an excellent baker, being the only daughter, and sister to very hungry brothers my mother had lots of reasons to bake.  Most days when I would come home from school my mother had some sort of treat fresh from the oven out waiting for us.  Even though I haven't been living at home for a long time whenever I smell baked goods, I remember those days coming home from school with my backpack on seeing mom waiting for us.  My mom taught me so much about baking and cooking with love, it was always her number one ingredient.  Whoever you make these scones for, they will make them feel special I can guarantee, today I am making these for a dear friend of mine recovering from a surgery.  I hope they brighten her day, I think I am going to make some soup to go with them as well.  Soup and scones brighten up every one's day though, don't they?

Cranberry Orange Scones

Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange peel
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large bowl. Mix in orange peel. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in dried cranberries. Gradually add buttermilk, turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, and form dough into 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until tops of scones are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baked Apple Goodness

I know I keep blogging about how much I love the fall, but as it is my favorite time of year I just can not help myself.  There is something so wonderful with changing colors and fresh apples baking in the oven.  It is a time of change and transition.  There is something also so comforting and relaxing about a baked apple, it just makes you smile with all of its cinnamony spicy goodness.
I am a big fan of traditions, and I try to have traditions for every season. Fall is the season for tailgating, football games, jumping in leaf piles (yes I still do that), a season for cleaning and organizing the house and decorating.  However my favorite tradition might have to be me kicking back with a baked apple and watching the entire series of Anne of Green Gables, I watch that every fall at least once and it always brings back so many memories, course I have also used this recipe while watching Pride & Prejudice (BBC Version) and so many other movies, it just it nice to sit back and savor a moment.  These are super easy to make, and also a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen, and definitely a lighter dessert than some of the others out there, plus your home will smell amazing!

Love From Scratch Baked Apples

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
6 apples, ( I use grannys or golden & red delicious usually)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup apple cider, juice is fine too though
1/4 cup toasted oatmeal
1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine cinnamon, nutmeg, oatmeal, nuts and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Core apples, making sure not to puncture the bottom of the apples. Remove skin from 1/2-inch around top of apples at the opening.

Fill each cavity with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top each apple with a teaspoon of butter.  Place apples in glass dish and pour apple juice around them. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat and serve.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meatless Monday Tackles Comfort Food

As I have mentioned several times before I love mushrooms, I love their earthiness and meatiness, and I love how you can use them to replace beef and make a recipe vegetarian.  My fiancee hates mushrooms, which I just don't understand, but I am cooking as much as I can with mushrooms up until the wedding, when I won't be able to use them as much as always.

The fall has always been my favorite season, its a season to get out the cardigan sweaters, and start making the "Snugly Recipes" as I call them.  Comfort food for so many seem to be something horribly fattening and bad for you.  For me comfort food has always been about the whole experience of food.  I love the all of the 5 senses having an involvement with food, cooking really should be more than just the sense of taste.  This is one of my favorite recipes to cook, just because I love the smell as it cooks and wafts through the air, and I love the different textures of the mushrooms.  Its such an enjoyable experience to see, taste, smell, touch and hear as you cook.  This particular ragout can stand on its own over pasta or polenta or you can also serve it over a nice steak as well.   Cook this dish and your home will smell amazing!

Mushroom Ragout

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce dried porcini or morel mushrooms
2 cups hot water
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped sweet yellow onions
8 ounces fresh portabello mushrooms, chopped
6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
3 tablespoons all flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup freshly grated Asagio or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives
12 ounces penne pasta

Directions:

Place porcini/morels in small bowl. Add 2 cups hot water and let soften 20-30 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove porcini/morels. Reserve liquid. Coarsely chop porcini/morels.  Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add portabellos and shiitake mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes. Mix in porcini/morels and reserved soaking liquid, simmer over medium-high heat 10 minutes.           

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir constantly until golden, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Stir until sauce thickens and boils, about 3 minutes. Stir into mushroom mixture. Simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup Asagio cheese and chives. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Ragout can be served over pasta or polenta as desired.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tailgating Food- Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

I love this time of year, I wish it was always fall with the crisp air, the changing colors, and the COLLEGE FOOTBALL!  When I was in college I loved to dress up and go to the games, now that I am miles and miles aways from there I make sure I dress up on game day and cheer on my team. 

There are so many different tailgating foods, and I LOVE all of them, bit I especially love these poppers, they are completely addictive!  I could eat the whole batch all by myself I am afraid, once you start eating these you will keep going back for more. 

These are really simple to make, the only advice that I give on this recipe is to use gloves when making these.  I suppose it isn't really necessary, but I find my eyes never water make this recipe if I have gloves on my hands, crazy I know, but it works.  Bring these to any tailgating party and it will be a complete hit!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese softened
6 oz shredded Monterrey Jack
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
12 large jalapenos
12 slices of bacon
toothpicks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet (for cleaning up melted cheese).

Mix together cheeses, garlic, salt, and pepper. Unless you have the super strength or some exceptionally soft cream cheese, you will probably need to use a hand mixer for this.  Cut each jalapeno in half from stem to tip forming a long, shallow container. Use a small paring knife or a small spoon to scrape out seeds and membranes without breaking through the flesh of the jalapeno.  Use gloves if needed.

Use a spoon to fill each jalapeno half with cheese mixture, mounding slightly.  Cut bacon slices in half and wrap one half slice around each jalapeno, securing with a tooth pick.

Place jalapenos, cheese side up, on the rack over the baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until the bacon is fully cooked.

Remove the tray from the oven and let the jalapenos cool to room temperature before serving.

Alternately, you can grill the jalapenos about 10 minutes or until the underside bacon is crisp, then finish them in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the tops are crisped and browned.
Depending on the size of your jalapenos you will have some filling leftover, so it is always good to have few extra jalapenos on hand.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Food Adventure....Korean Melon

I am always looking for new foods to try and new techniques to use in my cooking, so I was very excited to see these little beauties at the grocery store.  I had never seen these before, they are Korean melons they actually fit in the palm of my hand. Be warned though that these are very expensive melons for their size.

So after bringing home my melon I looked on google to see what they had to say about these melons.  Apparently you can eat it with or without the rind, so I actually decided to try it both ways.  Inside there are very small seeds that I scooped out, and a light yellow firm flesh.  It had an almost floral perfumey scent to it once it was cut open. 

It was sweet and juicy with a hint of a floral taste, I had it plain and then also with a honey vanilla custard sauce I had made and it was delicious both ways.  I definitely enjoyed it, but this will probably be a fruit reserved for special occasions and company.  If you do see it in your grocery store give it a try I think you will definitely enjoy it!

In love with Macaroons!


I am completely in love with macaroons, it seems like they have become the new "it" dessert.  They have been on all the cooking shows, all the magazines, it seems like everywhere you look there they are.  Macaroons are actually surprisingly easy to make, you just need to make sure that you do the steps in the order stated and you will be fine. 

These are great to make for luncheons, book clubs, dinner parties, baby and bridal showers, really they are great for anything.  I have been seeing a lot of people using these little beauties used as favors at weddings as well.  I like to make a big batch, and they do keep in an airtight container for a week, they are great with hot chocolate and a good book, also they make great gifts.

Raspberry Chocolate Macaroons

Ingredients:

For Macaroons:

2 cups blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
 Pink food coloring

For Filling:

3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon raspberry extract

Make Macaroons

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Grind almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.
Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely combined.

Spoon batter into bag, press out excess air and pipe out meringues the size of a Hershey's kiss.  Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300°F.
Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks, about 30 minutes.

For Filling:
               
Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Bowl should not touch water.) Remove bowl from heat, then add butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.

Carefully peel cookies from parchment (they will be fragile). Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 teaspoon) between flat sides of cookies.           

Me Time Salad

Do you ever have those days when you want to curl up with a good book and a nice salad, a glass of Martinellis and just enjoy some "me time"?  It seems like its been such a crazy and hectic week, I at times I feel like the chicken with it's head cut off.  Sometimes its just nice to stop and recharge, I know it makes me so much more productive when I do. 

This is a great end of summer salad, and I love the juicy farmers market peaches with the creamy cheese and tart pomegranate seeds, with the peppery arugula, it is a delicious salad just for your self, or a beautiful salad for company.  Give yourself permission to relax this afternoon and enjoy!  I personally am putting my feet up and cuddling with my dog and reading yet another amazing book!

Love From Scratch "Me Time Salad"
Ingredients:

1/2 cup plus balsamic vinegar
2 firm, ripe peaches
2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
3 cups arugula
2 Tbs. grapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 lb. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
3 Tbsp pomegranate seeds

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the 1/2 cup vinegar to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vinegar is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Let cool.

Cut the peaches in slices and place in glass dish and sprinkle with the brown sugar and drizzle with  with vinegar.
Prepare a medium-hot skillet and grill peaches till starting to caramelize.

In a large serving bowl, combine the arugula and oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the grilled peaches on top of the arugula. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with the goat cheese, and finish with a few grindings of pepper & pomegranate seeds.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

From my Southern Kitchen

As I have mentioned several times before, I do like to think of myself as a Southern girl, and I love the Southern Belle lifestyle, especially the hospitality and entertaining and cooking.  As well all know there has certainly been interest lately in all things Southern, a lot due to the current book and movie, The Help

I will actually be reviewing the book later this week, but for now I will just say that it is an amazing book that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  A dear friend of mine has also read the book and asked me about a recipe that they mention in the book, Corn Pone.  Being a northern girl aka. "Yankee" she knew nothing of corn pone and johnny cakes, two staples of Southern cuisine.  These are my personal recipes for corn pone and johnny cakes, they are not the healthiest dishes ever, but they do taste amazing, I especially love to have them with fresh butter and local honey, delicious!

Love From Scratch Corn Pone

1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bakng soda
2 tbsp butter, butter or bacon fat
1/3 - 1/2 cup water or milk

Mix cornmeal, baking powder and soda. Rub in margarine, until it is crumb-like. Mix in milk until it is at a dropping consistency. Fry in a hot frying pan by spoonfuls in margarine, butter or bacon grease until golden brown.

*healthier variation: instead of frying place the mixture in cornbread molds and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Love From Scratch Johnny Cakes

1/2 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup hot water or milk
1 tablespoon shortening

Mix the dry ingredients, then stir in the rest. Drop or pour on the hot, greased griddle or iron skillet and fry to a golden brown on both sides.

Watermelon Feta Greek Salad

I love salads, I love how refreshing they are after a long day and how bright they are.  Whenever I think of Summer I tend to think of watermelon, salad, and corn on the cob.  Lately it seems wherever I look there are different watermelon salad recipes being featured.  I especially love to make these salad with the end of the season watermelons which sometimes I find to be the sweetest and the meatiest. 

I especially recommend using a farmers market or local watermelon for this recipe, you will definitely taste the difference.  This makes a great recipe for the backyard BBQs, or the church potlucks.  I personally love this just made up in the fridge so I can snack on it throughout the day, its a healthy snack and always hists the spot, it also tastes better as it marinates in the fridge.

Watermelon Feta Greek Salad

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
10 cups seedless watermelon, (I usually use a melon baller for a nice presentation)
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled (2 cups)
1 1/4 cups pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 small purple onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
1 english cucumber diced
5 cups arugula

Preparation:

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and let chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Meatless Monday...Grilled Tofu Steaks

It is another Monday!  Can you believe its Labor Day and the summer is gone already?  Where did the time go?  I am always on the lookout for healthier main
dishes, and I have to admit I have never been a huge tofu fan.  In my town there is a restaurant that cooks nothing but tofu, so I decided to give it a shot and see what I would like to try for myself.

I tried a few different variations, but the one that really hit the spot was a grilled tofu steak.  I haven't done too much cooking with tofu so it took some practicing in the kitchen to come up with this recipe, but I love it!  Definitely will please all of your friends vegetarian or not.

Grilled Tofu Steaks

Marinade
1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon natural hickory seasoning liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Dash Tabasco Sauce
2 pounds (1 kg) extra firm tofu cut into 12 slabs

To make the marinade, combine the lemon juice, water, olive oil, tomato paste, liquid smoke, soy sauce, salt, and Tabasco Sauce in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and stir well to distribute the seasonings evenly.

Place the tofu steaks into the marinade and turn to coat them on both sides. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days, turning once or twice each day.
Place the tofu steaks in a grill basket and grill over hot coals 4 to 7 minutes on each side, brushing with the marinade each time you turn the basket.   Garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Autumn is Here!

It is September already, can you believe it?  I love the fall, its my favorite time of year, the football games, the falling leaves, the crisp air, the orange pumpkins lining the front porches, the caramel apples.  What a magical time of year.  I love to curl up on my couch with a good book and a nice quilt, for me Autumn is the only season.  For me I have always associated this time of year with great memories, which always leaves me with a profound sense of gratitude.

September also happens to be mushroom appreciation month.  I love the earthiness of mushrooms, and how they can just melt in your mouth, I love the aroma as you cook them in your kitchen.  Indeed I will eat anything with mushrooms, my fiancee however will not eat anything with mushrooms.  I am trying to turn him into a mushroom convert, I am sure he will see the light...I hope.  Mushrooms make anything taste better, I have tons of recipes on how to use these little delectables, but this recipe is one of my staples.  It is just a basic mushroom sauce, but you can use it on everything.  This is one of my favorite sauce recipes.

Love From Scratch Mushroom Sauce
Recommended mushrooms: Black trumpets, chanterelle mushrooms, or anything flavorful and delicate.  Morels or porcini are also a great choice. Portabellos and button mushrooms work as well.

Ingredients:

1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
3 Tbsp Butter
1 cup broth
1 shallot minced
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup white wine 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms and sauté until they have started to brown, around 3 - 5 minutes.
Transfer the mushrooms and garlic & shallot mixture from the skillet to a plate or a dish and begin making the roux. Melt the remaining butter or oil over medium low heat. Whisk in the flour, allowing it to cook for a minute or two.
Slowly whisk in the broth, wine, lemon juice, and cream. Do it thoroughly, as you want the whole mixture to be smooth, not lumpy.
Add the mushroom/shallot mixture to the roux. Stir and simmer until the final result has the desired gravy consistency, about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy National Eat Outside Day!

     Happy National Eat Outside Day!  I didn't even know that there was such a great day, but what better way to end the month of August then to have a picnic?  I know I have mentioned before, but I love picnics, there is something so relaxing about relaxing and enjoying a meal in nature.

     I love to pack up a picnic lunch, a good book and my dog and enjoy a nice afternoon, and of course its even better when you have someone special to share the picnic with.  I love when I go to the park and I see mothers having picnics with their small children, the kids love it!

     This summer I have had several great picnics, and look forward to more in the fall as well, but these three recipes have been three of my favorites for this season.  Also the soup recipe is even more amazing when you use fresh tomatoes from the garden.  What do you like to have for your picnics? 

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients:
1/2 head roasted garlic
2 lbs. vine-ripened tomatoes
2 tsp. good-quality balsamic vinegar
Hot pepper sauce, to taste
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 C. chopped fresh basil

Instructions:

Coarsely chop tomatoes and peel your half-head of roasted garlic.

In a blender, puree garlic and tomatoes (in several batches, if necessary). Pass each batch of puree through a sieve.

Stir in vinegar, pepper sauce, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Cover and chill until very cold. Can be refrigerated at this point up to a day.

Taste for seasonings and add extra basil, salt and pepper, if needed.

Shallot Tart

Ingredients:

1 (8 oz.) prepared pie crust
12 oz. cleaned, trimmed leeks, sliced into 1/2" slices
4 shallots, diced fine
1/2 tbsp. butter
Pinch salt
8 oz. Chevre cheese (firm goat cheese), rind trimmed
3 lg. eggs, beaten
3/4 C. creme fraiche
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack at the center of the oven. Lightly grease (with butter) a 7 1/2" quiche pan.

Melt butter in a skillet. Toss leeks and shallots with a small amount of salt. Cook on med-low heat 10-15 minutes, until cooked through. To keep the tart firm, you now need to get every last bit of liquid out of them. Drain your veggies in a fine-mesh strainer, pressing lightly to get out as much liquid as possible. (very important step)

On a floured surface, roll out your pastry dough until it's very thin. Carefully place it in your prepared quiche pan, and press dough against bottom and into grooves. Don't pull or stretch the dough, or it will break or thin out too much during cooking. Trim the edges to about 1/2 to 3/4" over the edge of the pan. Pinch the edges down until the edge rises just 1/4" above the pan.

Prick prepared dough all over with a fork. Fill the bottom with pastry weights or dry beans to weigh it down. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and remove weights. Place a baking sheet in the oven to preheat while you prepare the filling (cooking on a baking sheet will help to cook the filling more evenly).

To make filling, crumble your goat cheese into a small mixing bowl. Stir in drained leeks and shallots.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, creme fraiche, salt to taste, and pepper.

Sprinkle leek, shallot, and cheese mixture into the bottom of your pastry shell. Pour your egg mixture over the leek mixture

Carefully place your filled tart onto your preheated baking sheet. Bake about 30 minutes, until the middle is firm and the tart is golden brown. Depending on your oven, it may take a little longer. Let rest 15 minutes, or cool completely before slicing and serving. To remove it easily from the quiche pan, run a knife along the grooves under the crust to loosen it before removing the sides.

Chocolate Nutella Mousse

Ingredients:

1 C. whipping cream, very cold
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. Nutella (or other chocolate-hazelnut spread)
Whipped cream, to garnish
Fresh raspberries, to garnish (optional)

Instructions:

With an electric mixer on medium speed for 4 minutes then  3 minutes at highest speed, beat all ingredients until soft peaks form. Scrape bowl occasionally with rubber spatula as you mix.

Divide among 4 dishes. Chill at least four hours, or overnight, garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls or fresh raspberries, if desired.

My Food Adventure


     Last weekend, I discovered that I am even more abnormal then I thought.  Brace yourselves ladies and gentlemen, I have never eaten SPAM, I had never really thought about it, my mother never fixed it growing up and it never really appealed to me to cook as a grown adult.  My fiancee couldn't believe I had never tried it, and several others felt that I had been missing out.  So the question remains, am I missing out?  I can't malign something I never tried, but in all honesty canned meat has always kinda grossed me out, and I have never been a big fan of processed food. 

  That aside, it is time for a new food adventure.  I am the proud owner of a can of SPAM, it was more expensive then I thought it would be.  Actually at my grocery store I could have gotten either a pound of chicken or a pound of ground beef for cheaper than my new can of SPAM.  I was very suprised to see how many people at the grocery store were buying SPAM, maybe its a hot commodity here, I have no idea.  I bought my SPAM and the rest of my groceries, and came home.  Now the big question is what do I do with it?  I have no idea how to cook it, so of course I googled SPAM recipes,  I did learn some very interesting facts about SPAM though, I was already familiar with the history of the product, but did you know that 3.8 cans of SPAM are consumed every second?  Neither did I, I guess that means I missed the whole SPAM movement.  Anyway, I saw lots of different recipes and I am just not sure what to fix with this can.  Do you have any favorite SPAM recipes?  Any ideas would be most appreciated!

     As I said I can't mailgn something I have never tried, but I don't forsee myself ever making this a staple in my diet, but I will be giving it a shot.  Tonight my dinner is SPAM, I will definitely let you know the results of my food adventure!

What I have been reading Wednesday...Modern Hospitality

 
    It has been far too long since I have done a "What I have been reading Wednesday", I have so many new amazing cookbooks to share with all of you.  As I have mentioned before I love to watch cooking competition shows.  I love especially Masterchef, I make sure that I never miss it!  I love to see the different challenges and I try to think what I would make if I had to participate in the dreaded mystery box challenges.  Also I have to admit, I want to be on that show, I would love to take a shot at winning the Masterchef title in the next couple years. 

    In season 1 of the show I was very impressed early on by Whitney Miller.  All of her dishes were both well thought out and well executed, and she always maintained composure under pressure.  She definitely deserved to be crowned the winner.  I was excited to get her cookbook, and try some of her recipes myself.  Her cookbook promises, "simple recipes with Southern charm."  That is exactly what you get with this cookbook.  They are simple recipes elevated to the next level, making them perfect for both daily dinners and entertaining.  I have tried most of the recipes and I have been very pleased with everything so far, this is both a beautiful book, and a practical one. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wedding Cakes & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes


     This is beautiful isn't it?  I was looking at www.bellarosabridal.com, and this picture jumped out at me.  I am busily planning my own wedding, and the cake has been a particularly difficult decision for me.  Wedding cakes are ridiculously expensive, and there are so many different ways to express yourself in a cake.  As someone who cooks and bakes all of the time I want my cake to not only reflect me and taste delicious.

     As I am sure you are all aware cupcakes are huge now, and lots of brides look to have cupcake towers for their special day.  I have made several cupcake "cakes" for people myself, and I have decided that this is something I want for my own wedding reception.  So far my colors are going to be white, light pink, and a taupe color.  I am doing a country vintage theme.  The hardest decision is what flavors of cupcakes I should have.  It is going to be a fall wedding so maybe pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting?  How yummy does that sound?  My goodness!

Recipe for a Happy Home


     Its interesting that we have recipes for everything in life, to a recipe for happiness seems natural doesn't it?  Wouldn't it be nice if life were that simple, that we could go to the store an get exactly what we needed, combine it and achieve happiness?  I have found that when you tell people that you are getting married you get lots and lots of advice, mostly good, but some clearly questionable too, (the questionable I think I will ignore for now.)

     Seriously though, I have been giving a lot of thought to happiness in life and in marriage.  I am very blessed, I have a great life that I love, but to be completely honest I don't know how to have the perfect marriage or be the perfect wife, this is a beginning of a brand new adventure for me, luckily I will have Mr. Love from Scratch alongside me the whole time, and I couldn't ask for a better partner in crime. 

     The question remains...is there a recipe for happiness in a marriage?  What do I do, what do I not do?  A good friend of mine shared this poem with me, I had seen it circulating on various websites, I have never seen it attributed to anyone directly.  I love the ingredients that are listed, so important in any relationship, anyone have suggestions of their own?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Meatless Monday...Stuffed Acorn Squash


  Where does the time go?  I can not believe that the summer has come and gone, and that school has started again.  A week from today is Labor Day!  Crazy isn't it?   I know the past few weeks I have been shall we say MIA (Missing in Action).  Well, first and foremost, the exciting news is that I am about to have A "Mr. Love From Scratch"  That's right!  I am getting married!  So exciting!  I am getting married later this fall, and am so excited for everything, but so many details to organize before the big day! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Chocolate Chip Day!!!

     Happy Chocolate Chip Day!  I adore this recipe, it is totally decadent, worth every single calorie.  This is great for those special occasions, ladies luncheons, bridal showers, the croissants make all of the difference.  Definitely give this a chance!  Serve it with ice cream and hot fudge and you are in for a real treat. 

     There are so many different variations on this recipe too, you can add dried cranberries, nuts, etc.  I love this recipe and is amazing on a cold winter day!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dutch Baby Goodness!

     I know that this might not be the most photogenic recipe ever, but so amazing and so easy to make.  I have so many memories of this recipe, the first time I ever had it was when I was in elementary school, and my older brother was in junior high, he had learned this recipe in his home economics class that was required for all students.  Gone are the days of home economics in school, but we loved this recipe.

     I am not sure what his original recipe was that he used, but this is what I have come up with and use in my own kitchen.  This is perfect for a nice Saturday morning breakfast, and you can always garnish is however you wish.   Amazing! Also this is a nice recipe for kids to make on their own if they want to make a nice breakfast for Mother's or Father's Day, or any such occasion, or just make it for yourself and indulge!