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!