Sunday, November 23, 2008


As mentioned in the previous pumpkin post, I made a big batch of chili and an even bigger batch of minestrone to feed the hungry pumpkin carvers and satisfy both the carnivores and herbivores at my table.

I've only made this minestrone soup once before for a college potluck and I don't know why I didn't revisit it sooner, as it is super tasty and perfect in these chill November evenings. Canned tomatoes, dried herbs, vegetable broth, a couple of potatoes, orzo, all affordable and easy to work with ingredients that result in a wonderfully full-bodied vegetarian soup.

adapted from a recipe found on the internet many many moons ago. thank you internet!
Serves 4 -5

1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, diced (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon olive oil
14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 teaspoons dried basil
pinch dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
6oz diced mixed root veggies (I used potatoes and carrots)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 1⁄2 oz tiny pasta shapes (I used orzo in this batch, but used ditalini in the past)
2oz cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)

1) Put the onion, garlic and celery in a pan with the olive oil and sauté for about 5 minutes.
2) Add a little cornstarch, stir and cook for a minute or two.
3) Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, root vegetables, water and stock.
4) Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.
5) Season to taste, add the pasta and chick peas and simmer until pasta is tender, about 8 - 10 minutes more.
6) Add a little water if the soup is too thick. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin (Pie) Party!

So let's travel back in time a bit to a week before Halloween, when Sister Heart and her roomies came over for a pumpkin carving party! When Sister Heart and I initially discussed this, she said "We can carve pumpkins and bake pumpkin things!"
"Like what?" says I, "I have never baked with pumpkin."
"Erm, I don't know," she says, "Pumpkin... pumpkin?"

I don't think you can get more pumpkin pumpkin than pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin puree. Having never even tasted pumpkin pie before, not to mention never having baked with pumpkin, and my constant reminder to you all that I am kind of scared of baking, I was somewhat apprehensive, but this turned out AMAZING. Even after being stuffed from eating chili and minestrone, we managed to fit large slices of this pie (and heaping spoonfuls of fresh whipped cream) into that second belly that we all have that is reserved for dessert.

Note: The pumpkin purée does take about an hour and a half to prepare, so I just did this earlier in the day and then refrigerated the purée until we baked the pie after dinner. It made a bit more than I needed, so my pie was almost over flowing, but it was delicious anyway. I also used store bought pie dough (I feel no shame) but I would encourage you to use your own homemade variety, if you are so inclined. I bet you could easily get away with subsituting canned pumpkin in this pie as well.

Pumpkin Pie
from The Joy of Cooking with slight mods.
1 9" pie

1 unbaked pie dough (I used Pillsbury)
2 large eggs
2 cups cooked pumpkin purée (see recipe below)
1 1/2 heavy cream or evaporated milk (I used a can of evaporated milk and the rest in cream)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt

1) Position rack in center of the oven. Preheat to 425ºF.
2) Building up a fluted rim, line a 9-inch pie pan with the pie dough.
3) In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
4) Warm the pie dough in the oven until hot to the touch, leaving the filling at room temperature. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust and bake 35 -45 minutes, until firm. Cool complete on a rac. Pie can be refridgerated up to 1 day. Serve cold or at room temperature with fresh whipped cream.

Pumpkin Purée
from The Joy of Cooking
a little over 2 cups

1 small sugar pumpkin, ~ 3lbs

1) Preheat oven to 325ºF.
2) Wash and split the pumpkin into quarters with a cleaver or heavy knife. Cut out steam and scrape out stringy pulp and seeds. Cut each quarter down into 4-inch pieces.
3) Place pumpkin rind side down on an oiled cookie sheet and cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until very soft.
4) Remove from oven and allow to cool until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh free of the rind and purée in a food processor.
**Note: If the purée seems too loose and wet, you can allow it to strain through a cheesecloth for 30 -60 minutes. I didn't need to do this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Corn Muffins

Last fall, at the my place of employment (which shall herein be known as The Workplace), I initiated something I like to call Taste of The Workplace. It's an opportunity for anyone who wants to to bring in a tasty dish or baked good to share with others, potluck style. It is also combined with a food drive and recipe swap. What a great way to get all the coworkers sitting down to eat and chat together and spread good will at the same time!

In the past I have done spinach and artichoke dip and apple bread (two recipes which I am shocked to discover I have yet to share with you all... I will remedy that eventually). I tend to shy away from desserts because I get the sense that people often bring desserts to these things, since tasty baked sweets lend themselves to this style of potluck better. So I decided on corn muffins which can be sweet (I served them up with butter and Trappist strawberry jam) or savory (there was supposed to be chili at the event, which would have been the perfect duo, but alas, that fell through). They seemed to be a big hit.

I'll admit that despite starting this tradition, I don't feel like appetizers/baked goods/side dishes/snacks are really my forte, so I am never completely satisfied with my contributions to these events. I'll have to leave my thinking cap on.

The honey addition to these was inspired by this fabulous corn bread we would get at a restaurant called Red Star in Pittsburgh. They'd bring the cornbread out to you in a hot cast-iron skillet. It would be topped with a crisp sugar-honey crust and was generally moist and delicious. That is what I think corn bread/muffins should be like. Did these live up to the memory? Not quite, but they were still very tasty. Alas, I think Red Star has since updated their menu and the corn bread has disappeared. Let us have a moment of silence and a corn muffin in it's memory.

Corn Muffins

from The New Best Recipe
Makes 12 muffins

2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fine stone-ground, yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
honey (my addition!)

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
2) Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl to combine; set aside.
3) Whisk eggs in a second medium bowl until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar to eggs; whisk vigorously until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition.
4) Add half the sour cream and half the milk and whisk to combine; whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until combined.
5) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix gently with a rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened. Do not over mix! Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, dropping it to form mounds (do not level or flatten surface of mounds).
5) Bake until muffins are light golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Remove muffins from oven. While still warm, drizzle about a teaspoon of honey over each muffin. Cool muffins in tin 5 minutes; cool 5 minutes longer on a cookie rack, then serve warm.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homemade Fettucini with Pesto, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Balsamic Chicken

I had a day off from work last week and felt compelled to use my time towards culinary purposes. I had hoped to mimic a wonderful recipe from my friend Bobicus, which is deliciously entitled "Angel Hair with Grilled Chicken and Macadamia-Arugula Pesto" and which fails to mention that it also contains mango. But this is me we're talking about. There was no arugula in the grocery store, and when it came down to a tiny bottle of Macadamia nuts versus a large bag of walnuts for half the price, you know which I went for. I did try getting a mango. But apparently I don't know how to tell if a mango is ripe. Because when I sliced it open it was a hard, unappetizing white and I mourned the loss of such a wonderful fruit. Le sigh.

So I dug up this recipe for homemade pasta and this recipe for homemade pesto sans lemon juice and went to work. I tossed some chicken in a pan with a bit of salt, pepper, and brown sugar, then let it simmer in white balsamic vinegar. On a whim, I added sundried tomatoes at the end. And it was kind of all of alot of delicious.

Homemade Fettucini with Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes, and Balsamic Chicken
Serves 2

1/2 batch of fresh fettucini
1/2 batch of fresh pesto (or your favorite jarred pesto), about 1/4 of a cup
1 TBS olive oil
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp brown sugar
2 TBS white balsamic vinegar (red would work too)
1 1/2 TBS sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and minced.

1) Fill a large pot half way with water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
2) While water is coming to a boil, heat olive oil in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add chicken, salt and pepper, and sprinkle brown sugar over top. Sauté chicken until starting to brown, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add vinegar and turn heat down to low. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes, until liquid in pan has thickened and reduced.
3) Once water is boiling, add fettucini. Cook for 2-4 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Transfer fettucini back to warm pot.
4) Put pesto in a small bowl. Add 2 TBS of reserved cooking liquid and stir until creamy. Add more liquid if necessary. Add pesto to the pasta and stir until thoroughly coated. (I didn't add quite all the pesto, I had a couple TBS left over).
5) Add chicken and sun-dried tomatoes to the pasta and toss. Serve with crusty italian bread!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


And I'm back! With what the nerd and me can only term a "flurry of blows." Meaning I will probably follow my usual M.O. of posting many tasty recipes all in a row and then going off into hiding.

But what a recipe to come back into action with! Yes, ladies and gentleman, I, the professed "non-baker" have, in fact, baked bread. Not just any bread, but the delicious challah bread of Jewish fame. My cousin asked me to bring a challah to their break fast post-Yom Kippur, and not knowing where to buy a challah in my new neighborhood, decided to bake one.

Yes, I'm a little crazy. Please don't call the men in the white coats. Unless they are professional chefs, come to whisk me away to a glorious fantasy cooking land. Then please. Give them my number, even.

But believe it or not, I did bake a challah and it didn't suck! In fact, my family was very much impressed an my mother was totally shocked. "I would never bake a challah," she said, "Good for you."

Not that it's hard or rocket science. Well, baking is a bit like rocket science to me. I am very interested in rocket science, but the math/physics of it are completely beyond me. Same with baking. No matter what I read or watch about baking, I am still in the dark about how adding eggs HERE instead of HERE will make something tough or runny or fluffy. Or how too much liquid/flour/mojo can make something rise or fall or have a "nice crumb."

So when I misread The New Best Recipe's directions and began to add an extra quarter cup of flour, even though the dough didn't need it, so I then began to add tablespoons of water to get it to stick together again, I was fearful. I was also afraid that our yeast was not going to be fast rising enough, as the date on it was from July. However! I Persevered. And baked a very challah-looking and tasting-challah. I think the crust was a little tough (perhaps due to the extra flour/water mishap?) and the first bout of rising didn't result in much, er, rising, but when I left it out the next day, it just about tripled in size.

I did all the work the night before, then fridged it overnight, and took it out the next morning to rise some more and come to room temperature. I did this, knowing I was coming home early from work. I'm not sure if you are really supposed to leave it out for a WHOLE day, but according to Smitten Kitchen, if you fridge it you should leave it out for 5 hours to come to room temp so I did.

It was tasty! I made mine in a round shape for the Jewish New Year and we ate it with honey. Mmm.

Makes 1 large loaf
from The New Best Recipe with mods.

3-3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I think I actually used regular all-purpose and it came out fine)
1 envelope instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg seperated (reserve white for eggwash)
4 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 1 TBS water, room temp

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter (cooled!!), and 1/2 cup water. Add the flour mixture; using the dough hook, knead at low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 4-5 min *adding the remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 TBS at a time if necessary*
2) In a small bowl, whisk th egg white together with remaining 1 TBS water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
3) Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large owl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Gently press the dough to deflate it, cover again and let rise until doubled in size again, about 1 hour.
4) Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half the size of the other. Divide the large one into three pieces. Roll each piece into a 16" rope, about 1 inch in diameter. Line the ropes up side by side and braid them together, pinching the ends of the braid to seal. Twist into a circle and pinch the two ends together. Repeat this process with the smaller piece of dough, with ropes of dough about 1/2 inch in diameter. Place the smaller braid circle on top of the larger one. Then loosely drape the loaf with plastic wrap and either:
a) (For baking today) ...let rise in a warm place for 30 -45 min, un til increased in size by about a third.
b) (For baking tomorrow) ...refrigerate overnight! The next day, take the dough out about 5 hours before baking and let come to room temperature and rise (mine doubled in size! though it didn't rise much during the first rising periods)
5) Adjust oven rack to middle-lower position and pre-heat to 375ºF. Remove plastic wrap from dough and brush with the remaining eggwash.
6) Bake the loaf for 30 -4 0 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted in thes ide of the loaf reads 190º. Allow loaf to cool completely over a wire rack before slicing and devouring!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mayo-free Tuna Salad

Again, no photo, but bear with me, it's tasty!

So I'm not big into mayonnaise. Occasionally I'll mix it with a little Dijon on a sandwich, or put it into a pasta salad, but when I can substitute something else, I try to. That's why, when I was craving a tuna melt, I considered my options. Tuna salad is one of the few foods I really don't mind mayo in, but I didn't feel like buying a big jar of the stuff just for the couple of tablespoons I would use for this one application.

So considering other options, I came up with the idea to use plain yogurt! Now I doubt I'm the first person to think of this, but I felt pretty proud of myself. I actually tried it with a Greek-style yogurt, since they now come in handy single serving containers, but regular yogurt would work just fine. For my tuna melt, I packed all my ingredients separately and assembled at the office, with a little help from the office toaster oven. Very tasty. The yogurt adds a certain tang which is really unique. Not for everyone, but I enjoyed it! Definitely something to experiment with.

Mayo-Free Tuna Salad

2-3 servings

1 can of tuna, drained
3 TBS plain regular or greek-style yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 TBS minced dill pickle or dill pickle relish
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp paprika
dash or two of ground red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mash together with a fork, until fully incorporated. Add more yogurt and seasonings to desired consistency/flavor.

Tuna Melt
Serves 1

1 plain english muffin, split open into halves
4 TBS Mayo-Free Tuna Salad (see above)
4 thin slices of tomato
2 thin slices of cheese (Cheddar, American, Monterey Jack, you really can't go wrong)
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar (optional)

1) Top each english muffin half with 2 TBS tuna salad and two slices of tomato. If using, drizzle balsamic vinegar over tomatoes and tuna. Top with a slice of cheese for each half (make sure the cheese covers the enter half... use more slices if necessary).
2) Place on a toaster oven tray and toast in the toaster oven for about 3 minutes, until cheese is melting and starting to brown.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Classy Vegetable Stir-Fry

No picture, my apologies. The hard drive with all our photos on it is not yet set-up, but will be shortly. Once it is I will include some super photos of us attempting to unpack the kitchen. Which I am sure you are all dying to see.

In the mean time, here's a dish we whipped up in honor of my sister coming to dinner for the first time in the new house! She is vegetarian and so I have made it my mission to find some tasty vegetarian dishes to make for her when she visits that she, as a college student, may not have time/money/facilities/motivation to. Alas, she is not big into pasta, so that eliminated about 90% of my initial ideas, but Mr. Heart suggested a vegetable stir-fry. So we took it up a notch by including a wide variety of vegetables, and made it simple by only adding the bare minimum of seasonings. It came out delicious. We served it up with couscous and a dark rye bread. And then we ate cookie dough and played cribbage like old people.

"I'm so proud of myself," Mr. Heart said, as we drove back from dropping off Sister Heart, "Before I met you I wouldn't have even touched a dish like that." And he liked it! Excellent. So I AM having a positive culinary influence. My main challenge with him? Legumes. Some day, some day...

Classy Vegetable Stir-Fry

Serves 2-3

1 Portabello mushroom cap, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (or half of a red and half of a yellow)
3-4 green onions, chopped
1/2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch crescents
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, cut in half
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 lb spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cashews
1 - 2 TBS olive oil
a good squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper

(for omnivores: add a link or two of your favorite chicken sausage, sliced)

1) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking.
2) Add bell peppers and green onions. Sauté until peppers start to brown, stirring often.
3) Add zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to sauté, stirring often, until vegetables are just tender.
4) Add spinach, snap peas, and lemon juice. Toss together, then cover for 1 -2 minutes, or until spinach is wilted and cooked down.
5) Add cashews toss to combine. Cook for 1 -2 more minutes, until cashews are heated through. Add more salt and pepper as desired.
(For omnivores: Transfer vegetables to a separate dish and cover to keep warm. Add sausage and a splash of oil. Sauté until lightly browned, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add vegetables back to pan and toss to combine. Cook an additional minute to heat through.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pesto Salmon

Mr. Heart and I are not big seafood eaters, but we have been braving the new world of fish with small baby steps. First tilapia, now salmon. This recipe is ridiculously easy. Below I've listed a whole wonderful pesto recipe, inspired by The New Best Recipe, but ultimately, I just used jarred pesto. Classico to be precise. Serve with lemon slices.

Pesto Salmon
inspired by Prevention's Ultimate Quick and Healthy Cookbook and The New Best Recipe
Serves 2

¼ cup walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, or almonds
3 medium garlic cloves
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
6 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBS lemon juice
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ lbs skinned salmon fillet, cut into 2 pieces
Lemon wedges, for garnish

1) Toast the nuts in a small heavy skillet over med heat. stirring frequently until just golden and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
2) Put nuts, garlic, basil, oil, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt and pepper into a food processor and process until puréed.
3) Preheat broiler. Spray a jelly roll pan with non-stick spray.
4) Place the pieces of salmon on a plate. Spoon 3 TBS of pesto over the salmon and coat both sides of each piece. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temp for 15 minutes. Reserve remaining pesto at room temperature.
5) Place the salmon in the prepared pan, spreading any extra pesto from the plate onto the fish. Broil the salmon 4 to 5" from the heart for 6-8 minutes, or until just opaque (cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish).
6) Transfer salmon pieces to dinner places and top each with some of the reserved pesto. Garnish with lemon wedges

Serves 2

1 cob of corn, cooked and de-kerneled (or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn)
1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 -2 TBS butter
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
ground red pepper (to taste)
1/4 tsp salt

Melt butter in a hot pan, over medium heat, until frothy. Add corn, peas, and seasonings to taste. Toss to coat. Cook until corn begins to brown and peas are thoroughly cooked (4-5 minutes).

La Raison

*blink blink* Anyone still there?

I should have known better than to attempt to get all involved with this blog and make you all think that I actually could actively keep it updated on a weekly basis. This is completely untrue and a misrepresentation. I tend to post in random, sporadic, guilt-ridden bursts.

I enjoy this blog and I want to give it my all, I really do. But things keep getting in the way. Much like my realtor in this picture.

Welcome to the new Salle de la Cuisine Heart. This is what we've been doing all summer: house hunting. Oh yes, and water-skiing, graphic designing, writing classing, driving, traveling, and planning 85th birthday parties (okay, just one). In fact, this is the first week in just about FOREVER than I am actually home every evening and cooking. Well, mostly. Sunday we had Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken and frozen potstickers. Last night I made steak and cheese subs. Tonight we have leftover pasta salad, more potstickers, and... maybe an avocado? We are minorly obsessed with avocados right now. More on that later.

Needless to say, this is what passes for cooking these days. Geez!

We've also been shopping for necessities for the new abode. Because I am a nerd, I have photoshoped the photo below to show you roughly what it will look like:

I blame Mr. Heart for taking in sufficient photos, as that is all I am able to show you of our kitchen-to-be. Imagine a large island in the middle. And that door there? That's a pantry. I didn't think one could get excited about a pantry. But I am. Oh I am.

I also desperately want these, since I suspect our dishes may have to be stored in drawers rather than the cabinets. However, it looks like IKEA has discontinued them in the U.S. and only sells them... in Australia. Any ideas? Where can I get these sorts of plate holders/caddies in the states? Pretty please?

More pictures eventually, je promise. For now, a recipe!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I have not forgotten you, I have just become overwhelmed with summer activities. I have been eating alot of fresh mozzerella and tomatoes with bread as well as fresh strawberries. In the past week or so I have attempted to learn to water ski, visited several farmers markets, been to Maine twice, assembled a compendium for recipes as a birthday gift, read Prodigal Summer and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and haven't had hardly a day to cook for myself.

Happy summer!

Some upcoming posts:

Pesto Salmon
Veal Saltimbocca

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cinnamon-Lime Sweet Rolls

It's hard to write about delicious food when your stomach is like a maelstrom. However, I shall persevere, since I know it's been a while.

This recipe had been nagging at me since I spied in on the last page of Cooking Light some months ago. I'm not much of a baker, I'll admit, but I've always wanted to try my hand at cinnamon buns (or get Mr. Heart to, since his father's are notoriously delicious). So when I was hosting brunch for a friend, I jumped at the opportunity. But, being the person I am, I of course forgot an important ingredient (sour cream) and so had to get up especially early to both hike over and buy said ingredient and prepare the buns for our 11:30 Sunday brunch. Also, the original recipe calls for cardamom. This was not to be found in my local market. It was also later reported to me by Sister Heart that in another grocery store, cardamom was going for $11.99 an ounce.

I also love cinnamon. So there.

Also be careful that your melted butter is cooled when you are assembling the dough. Because then you must add a beaten egg. And hot butter + beaten egg = scrambled eggs in your dough. Ew. Gross. Not that I know from experience...

These came out really well. The lime in the icing was quite intense, so I might cut back a little and use some water instead (or if you dislike lime, you could forego it all together). I loved the fact that these were miniature. Much less guilt in eating, er, four in a sitting.

Cinnamon-Lime Sweet Rolls
from Cooking Light: Cardamom-Lime Sweet Rolls, but, you know, with cinnamon

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces), divided
Cooking spray

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 TBS grated lime rind
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp butter, melted, divided

1 cup powdered sugar
3 TBS fresh lime juice (or 2 TBS lime juice, 1 TBS water

1) To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.
2) Combine sour cream and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Gradually stir yeast mixture into sour cream mixture. Lightly spoon 2 1/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 cups flour to sour cream mixture, stirring to form a soft dough.
3) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly tacky).
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)
4) To prepare filling, combine brown sugar, rind, and cardamom.
5) Divide dough into two equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, roll dough into a 12 x 10–inch rectangle; brush with 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle half of filling over dough. Beginning with a long side, roll up jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Repeat procedure with remaining dough, 1 tablespoon butter, and filling. Cut each roll into 12 (1-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. 6) Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350°.
7) Uncover dough. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack.
8) To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Turkey and Rice Stuffed Peppers

This is one of those recipes where I love all of the ingredients but somehow, when put together, it was still lacking a little something. I love the concept of stuffed peppers--sweet red pepper stuffed with rice, meat, and veggies. And it looked beautiful. But somehow this came out kind of blah. Maybe next time I would add more seasoning to the turkey or add cheese to the rice mixture. I still want to share it with you all because I think the recipe, for the most part, is a good one (and it comes from one of my favorite cookbooks). If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

Turkey and Rice Stuffed Peppers
from Preventions Ultimate Quick and Healthy Cookbook, with mods.
Serves 2

2 large red bell peppers, plus 1/2 a small bell pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup long grain rice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 lb fresh spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 TBS grated Parmesan

1) Preheat the oven to 350º. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2) Cut off and discard the tops of the two large bell peppers. Remove seeds. Seed and dice the half of bell pepper. Set aside.
3) Blanch the whole peppers in the boiling water for 2 minutes until slightly softened. Remove the peppers from the water and drain over paper towels. Place, top up, in a 9x9 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray or rubbed with olive oil.
4) In a medium sauce pan, combine the water and rice and 1/4 tsp of salt. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to med-low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed (add more water if necessary).
5) In a non-stick skillet, warm the oil over medium heat until hot. Add turkey and sauté for about 3 minutes until opaque, breaking up any clumps. Add onions, garlic, thyme, pepper, and remaining salt and cook for an additional 3 minutes, until onions are softened.
6) Add diced bell pepper, spinach, and cranberries. Continue to cook until spinach is wilted. Remove pan from heat.
7) Add the rice to the spinach mixture and stir to combine.. Spoon rice mixture into whole bell peppers and top with Parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes or until peppers/filling are hot and the cheese is browned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tortellini with Broccolini and Summer Squash

I have this bad habit. I find these delicious looking recipes, write down all the ingredients on my grocery list, go to the store, buy them, return home, go to prepare the recipe, and find out I am missing half of what I need. Does this habit to other people, or am I just a forgetful ninny?

Case in point: for this recipe, which was originally "Tortelloni with Vegetable Sauce" I forgot the stewed tomatoes and tomato paste that created the sauce, fresh basil to toss in, and wound up substituting cheese tortellini for meat tortelloni and broccolini for zucchini (because my grocery store is still going under renovation and there was no zucchini). It's not even the same recipe.

Never the less, it still came out tasty. I should have blanched the broccolini first, and will correct for that in the recipe. However, I would use zucchini if you can find it--that was the whole point of this dish anyway.

Tortellini with Broccolini and Summer Squash
Serves 2

olive oil cooking spray
1 cup jarred tomato sauce (of your choice... we like Classico)
1-2 TBS broth or water
1/2 medium summer squash, cut into 1/4" rounds
1 cup broccolini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and blanched
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 cups cheese tortellini
1 TBS grated Parmesan

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Prepare tortellini according to package directions.
2) Spray a non-stick skillet, generously with olive oil. Heat over medium heat until the pan and oil are hot. Add broccolini and summer squash. Sauté until the squash begins to brown, about 2 -4 minutes. Add garlic and Italian seasonings; sauté an additional minute or until fragrant
3) Add tomato sauce to the pan and stir. Add broth/water as needed to loosen the sauce. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
4) Add tortellini to the vegetable sauce. Toss until thoroughly coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Heart... Seriously Sharp Cheddar

Now, I know this is total blasphemy after raving about the fabulous cheeses of Switzerland. But I must say, after the major cheese hankering induced by said country, this cheese is one we buy, week after week, and never grow tired of. Every once in a while we alternate with a gouda or a nice havarti, but our local grocery store's fine cheeses are very pricey and not that exceptional. The gruyere I have bought, for example, in no way compares to that of Gruyere. So when I can't get my delicious fine, European cheese fix (which is often) I turn to dear old Vermont.

What I love about Cabot's Seriously Sharp Cheddar (other than its fashionable lumberjack wrapping) is that it's got this wonderful ripe, rich flavor. Its texture is not always consistent--sometimes it can be kind of crumbly--but it is always delicious. And it's sharp. Seriously sharp. Most other cheddars taste pretty bland in comparison. Whenever switching back from other cheeses, I am amazed at the amount of flavor that this cheese packs in every bite. I'm not saying I don't like, love, respect, drool over other cheeses. I just mean that this is my tried-and-true affordable, always-on-my-shopping-list, American favorite. 

This plus rice crackers are my snack of choice. Great, now I want some.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I know you all missed me greatly. Well, Mr. Heart and I went with the immediate Heart family to la Suisse where Sister Heart has been studying abroad for the past semester. Mr. Heart brought his trusty new camera and I must say most of these photos are due to his growing photographic enthusiasm. Except for the ones of my dad. This is one I took.

He's pointing at Bern, which was our middle-most stop. We found this stupendous park at the top of a funicular ride. We climbed a tower that looked kind of like Saruman's Isengard tower from Lord of the Rings, but have the best 360 view. Bern is also where we took our one and only food photo:

Yup, that's me with a large, Bernese pretzel. I should be a hand model. The pretzel was not at all what I expected. It was quite sticky and bready, not at all like American soft pretzels. While in Bern, we also had a crepe with cheese and herbs. I cannot convey to you the difference swiss cheeses make to something as simple as a crepe with cheese. What they call "Swiss Cheese" in the states is a mockery. Honestly. I hate "swiss cheese" but fell in love with the gruyere, emmental, etc. that I sampled in various dishes while abroad.

As this was the only food photo, I will show you some of the other places we ventured and require you to imagine the wonderful food we consumed there.

As we took trains all across the French part of Switzerland, we encountered these hillsides covered in terraced vineyards. This is a mere snippet. It was pretty incredible to look up out of the train and see these almost sheer mountainsides covered in short stone walls and growing grape vines. On one of our train rides, we made a tasty (but somewhat messy) picnic of strawberries, brie, baguette, and salami.

Mr. Heart is a fan of taking photos of flora and he does an amazing job. These were in the Geneva Botanical Gardens, my sister's favorite hang out while she studied in the city. Before venturing over to the gardens, we grabbed paninis by the water front. I had one avec tomate, mozzerella, et lardons (which we discovered through a series of hilarious occurrences, is pieces of thick bacon). It's pronounced lardohn, but Sister Heart and I like saying "lard ons" because it sounds funny and vaguely obscene. The panini was delicious. We sat in a tree and looked at this:

Also in Geneva, while picking out chocolates to bring to friends and family back home, Mr. Heart bought me a couple of truffles of my choosing. I selected a caramel, an almond cream, and a hazelnut. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. You know how they say chocolate can be an aphrodisiac? Whoever figure that out must have been eating Swiss chocolate. It was that good. Mr. Heart and I were walking the streets of Geneva, so that could have gotten awkward very fast. Fortunately for us, I had limited myself to merely three chocolates.

This beautiful castle is in Chillon, which is a short bus/train ride away from Montreux where we had delicious pizza and ice cream and got caught in the only rainstorm of our trip. The brand of ice cream is called Movenpick! I kind of found that hilarious. I had 'Caramelina' which was caramel ice cream with caramel chunks in it. Wow. I now have 18764 cavities. My dentist can buy a yacht. We got ice cream again when we were in Geneva and I got Stracciatella, which I love (it's like chocolate chip, but better).

This photo blows my mind because it almost perfectly conveys the amazingly gorgeous view from the top of Jungfrau. It was quite the climb up there... by train and by cog railway. But the view was worth it, as you can tell. We were all kind of light headed from the altitude.

One thing I wish I had taken a picture of (though it would not have done it justice), was the amazing fondue we had in Laussane. It was absolutely delicious. What I said earlier about swiss cheese applies here more than anything else. I usually hate strong 'traditional' swiss fondues as they are prepared in the states. But this didn't have that strong sweet swissy taste embodied by american swiss cheeses. It was pungent, kind of nutty, flavorful, and just all around delicious. We were scraping the bowl and went through two baskets of bread. Any we had a wonderful bottle of a local Swiss white wine, called Villette.
Obviously, this just scratches the surface of our vacation, but I thought I'd give you all a taste! Bon appetite!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bon Voyage!

I'll be traveling for the next week or so, to far off European destinations! Stay tuned for some neat travel photos. In the meantime, have some fondue in my honor!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Better Than Sex Cake

If you google "Better Than Sex Cake" you fill find about 4984415318716519 recipes. Everything ranging from chocolate cake with caramel sauce to strawberry cake with jello. You can use pudding, canned pineapple, or even cherry pie filling. Whatever strange combination you choose to use, there are some basic guidelines: You bake a cake (whether from a mix or from scratch); you poke holes in it; you fill the holes with some sweet, gooey topping; you let it sit in the refridgerator; you ice it; you eat it.

I don't remember where I found this particular combination, but I made it for a friend's birthday (using yellow cake instead of lemon) in college and it was devoured in ten seconds. I also made a chocolate ala sweetened condensed milk ala sugar glaze version, which was super super sweet but sinfully delicious.

So when it came time for Mr. Heart's birthday cake, he chose this one. We picked lemon cake because we thought it might cut the sweetness a little and compliment the strawberries. It did.

Is it really better than sex? Well, it's easy, sinful, sweet, intense, and kinda trashy and yet strangely satisfying... but I guess you'll have to try it for yourself!

Better Than Sex Cake
Serves alot

1 box lemon (or yellow) cake mix
2 cups of strawberries, trimmed
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 3.5 oz box of vanilla pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 8 oz container of Cool Whip

1) Prepare boxed cake mix in a 9x13 pan according to package instructions. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes.
2) Using the back of a wooden spoon, punch holes in the cake liberally (about 1 inch apart).
3) In food processor, purée strawberries until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and strawberries.
4) Pour half of the strawberry mixture over cake, allowing it to fill the holes. Spread the mixture across the top until mostly absorbed. Pour the rest of the mixture on and repeat. Poke more holes with back of spoon or with a fork as necessary.
5) Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or for at least a couple of hours)**.
6) Whisk together milk and pudding mix in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip until fully incorporated.
7) Remove cake from fridge and uncover. Spread whipped topping evenly over the cake. Garnish with fresh strawberries.

**This cake gets better the longer you leave it in the fridge. Leftovers are awesome.

Peanut Chicken with Vegetables

So the recipe I had hoped to use was a Chinese five-spice chicken stir-fry, but alas, our ever friendly Shaw's Market is going through major renovations and none was to be found. So instead we picked up some peanut sauce.

I know, I know, peanut sauce is easy enough to make, but hey, we were feeling lazy AND we're going to Europe this week, so the last thing we wanted to do was buy more ingredients. After sifting through several mixes and jars, we settled on Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce. We chose this because it seemed to have mostly natural ingredients and very few (if any) preservatives. We've also had some success with their products in the past (I buy their rice noodles to make Pad Thai.)

However, it seemed to lack a little something when used as a sauce over all of the ingredients in this dish. I'm not sure what it was, maybe it needed a little more spice, a little more zing. It wasn't bad, it was just kinda plain.

But when we used this to make wraps for lunch (peanut sauce, cucumber, shredded chicken, rice, and fresh red pepper) I thought it tasted great. Mr. Heart was still not a huge fan. So I would say it might be worth a try. Or you can always just make your own.

Feel free to substitute any vegetables in that you like! This is what we had on hand. I actually served it over orzo, which was tasty. I am sure it would be equally delicious over rice.

Peanut Noodles with Vegetables
Serves 2

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" chunks
1 TBS plus 1 tsp canola or peanut oil
1/2 cup cornstarch
salt and pepper
pinch of ground red pepper
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (~1 cup)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup fresh green beans, trimmed
1-3 TBS water
1/4 cup peanut sauce mixed with 2 TBS water or chicken broth
1 TBS peanuts, chopped fine (for garnish)

1) In a ziplock bag, combine cornstarch and salt/pepper/red pepper to taste. Add chicken and toss to coat.
2) In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 TBS of oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Remove chicken from ziplock bag, shaking off any excess cornstarch. Add chicken to pan. Cook until a golden crust has formed, turning frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.
3) Warm the remaining teaspoon of oil in the skillet until hot, but not smoking. Add the vegetables a cook, stirring, for 1 minutes. Add 1 TBS of the water to the pan and cover. Cook for 2 more minutes, or until vegetables are tender (add more water as needed, if the pan gets too dry).
4) Add the chicken and peanut sauce mixture to the pan, tossing to coat. Cook an additional minute until heated through.
5) Serve over rice or orzo and garnish with chopped peanuts.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Red Potatoes Au Gratin

So when I made roasted red potatoes to go along with my Unceremonious Steak with Balsamic Vinegar, I was left with two hefty ones at the bottom of the bag. So I made a gratin! I've only maybe made a gratin once before ever, so I used Joy of Cooking as my guide, but monkeyed around with the amounts. This made enough for two as a good sized side dish, but could probably also serve three if you had a heavier main course.

This was creamy and delicious. It would also have been great with gruyere or a more kick-ass cheese, but all I had was Parmesan, which was still pretty darn tasty. All it lacked was salt, so I've modified the recipe to include a more daring salting approach than my initial attempt. It's always hard halving and cutting back recipes. Some flavors always seem to get lost!

Red Potatoes Au Gratin
Serves 2-3

2 large red potatoes, washed (About 1 lb? I'm really not sure. These were big red potatoes though.)
1 TBS butter, softened
1 cup milk, half-n-half, or light cream (I used half light cream, half skim milk)
1/2 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 tsp paprika
2 -3 TBS butter, cut into small pieces
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan

1) Preheat the oven to 350ºF
2) Slice the potatoes thinly. Combine with milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, or until thick, stirring frequently.
3) Rub a shallow baking dish or pie dish with softened butter. Transfer potato mixture into pan, spreading potatoes in an even layer. Press the potatoes down so that they top layer is submerged in the liquid.
4) Sprinkle the top liberally with bread crumbs, paprika, and parmesan. Place pieces of butter evenly over the top.
5) Bake until the top is golden brown and the potatoes are tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Upcoming Recipes...

Peanut Chicken with Vegetables

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins

I had leftover over-ripe bananas and I just made banana bread last week and wanted to try something different. I'm usually not a huge fan of banana in baked products (aside from banana bread) because it tends be too sweet. I don't like the sort of fake banana flavor that you get in store bought banana muffins. But these came out great. Sweet, but not too sweet, with delicious banana overtones. And of course, chocolate.

I found the recipe here and made a couple of changes. I didn't have plain yogurt, so I used vanilla instead and left out the extract. I added a dash of cinnamon and chopped up some regular sized semi-sweet chocolate chips. These muffins were a big hit. And it made our apartment smell absolutely wonderful.

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins
from Ruskin girl at with mods
Makes 24 mini-muffins

2 small, ripe bananas
3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 TBS unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped fine (or you can use mini chips)

1) Set oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat to 425ºF
2) Spray a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with cooking spray
3) Mash banana and yogurt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
4) Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
5) Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy using an electric beater on low. Add the egg and beat at medium speed until creamy.
6) Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low until incorporated. Then add 1/2 of the banana mixture and beat until incorporated. Continue alternating, ending with the flour mixture. Fold chocolate chips into batter.
7) Using a tablespoon, fill each mini-muffin cup to the top with batter (this fit perfectly). Bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until turning golden brown around the top and edges.
8) Allow pans to cool slightly on wire rack. Then remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to finish cooling on the wire rack.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Unceremonious Steak with Balsalmic Vinegar

[This conversation took place between myself (obviously) and my dear friend Dallas who lives in said city and is my might-as-well-be-big-brother. This conversation certainly didn't take place during the work day. Never.]

I made a very good dinner the other night which I will now recommend for you. Balsalmic steak. Yum!
me: ooOooOO. That sounds tasty!
Dallas: You'll need to be comfortable with red meat - are you comfortable with red meat?
me: um, yes
Dallas: It's like chicken, only from a cow- and with blood.
me: dude, i love steak! you took me to Ruth's Chris, recall?
Dallas: I do recall. That's when I met what I didn't-know-at-the-time would become your husband. If I'd have known, I would have expected him to pay in way of wooing my vote for your suitor.
Dallas: Anyway- as for the steak, you'll need find some nice sirloin cuts, and trim. You know- take off unwanted fat.
me: right
Dallas: Then you must pound them, somewhat relentlessly. With a meat tenderizer. Not just a hammer or something. And maybe not relentlessly, so much as throughly.
Dallas: When you're done, you can cut the steak into several pieces. I bought M and I two steaks and ended up with about 7 or 8 pieces.
me: mmm. I have a meat tenderizer thingum i think. With the spikes
Dallas: Now, throw them unceremoniously into a ziploc and add balsalmic vinegar, pepper, and a splash of worcester sauce. Seal and the marination will begin.
Dallas: After marinating for about an hour- you can cook. Apparently, you don't want to marinate too long. I cooked them in a frying pan, but a grill would work too.
Dallas: Then cook until they look as done as you want - adding pepper to taste.
me: mmm
Dallas: It turned out really good. I think you could also stand to add a little dill (not a lot!) to the marinade, for an extra kick.
Dallas: Of course, you'll have to guess on quantities. Like many of my recipes, I just kind of guess on how much I need. But my instructions are okay - especially the "unceremonious" way of tossing the steak into a ziploc bag.
me: it must be unceremonious. Can't be too much pomp and circumstance in the kitchen
Dallas: Exactly. So, I clearly now dub this recipe: "Unceremonious Steak (with Balsalmic Vinegar)"
me: mmm
Dallas: So now you can cook it for your honey.
me: i will! maybe this weekend!

And I did.

Unceremonious Steak with Balsalmic Vinegar
Serves 2

1 lb sirloin steak, about an inch thick
3 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
salt and pepper
dill (optional--I did not have any on hand)

1) Slice steak in half lengthwise and then cut each half in half again (to make 4 pieces). Pound each piece to about 1/4 inch thickness with a meat tenderizer.
2) In a ziploc bag, combine vinegar, worcester, salt and pepper to taste, and dill, if using. Toss the steaks "unceremoniously" into the bag and seal. Press the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate for 45 minutes (really, don't marinate for too long. this marinade is VERY strong).
3) Heat a grill pan/cast iron skillet/non-stick skillet. Remove steaks from bag and discard marinade. Grill/pan fry steaks to desired temperature (I like mind well-done so it was about 4 minutes per side).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chocolate Walnut-Date Balls

I know this is a little late, since Passover ended on Saturday, but I brought these to the family seder and they went over pretty well! They were much richer than I expected.
I spotted the recipe in the Washington Post and, inspired by my dear friend over at My Achy Bakey Heart who has been baking up a ball storm, I decided to try them out.

However, I first didn't get the right kind of dates, then I didn't get ENOUGH dates, so I supplemented with dried apricots, which was actually pretty good as well. I've attempted to adjust the amounts of ingredients according to the standard package of dates I was able to find in the store. If you find your mixture is too dry, add more dates. Too sticky? Add more nuts. I'm sure you could do this with any kind of nut/dried fruit combination you'd like.

Chocolate Walnut Date/Apricot Balls
from Vered Guttman and the Washington Post with mods.
Makes about 18 balls

6 - 8 oz dark (semisweet or bittersweet) chocolate chips
8 oz package of whole, pitted dates or apricots
2/3 cup walnut halves (toasted, if desired)

1) Place the dates/apricots in a food processor and pulse until fine. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.
2) Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Reserve a tablespoon of some of the more powdery nuts. Transfer the rest to the bowl with the fruit. Press nuts and fruit together, until thoroughly incorporated.
3) Line a baking sheet with parchement paper. Pinch off pieces of the walnut/fruitmixture and roll into 1 inch balls. Place on baking sheet.
4) Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or a stainless steel mixing bowl over top of the pot so that it fits snuggly, without touching the water. Add chocolate chips to double boiler and melt until smooth, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat.
5) Working one at a time, drop the balls into the chocolate and coat with chocolate (I found rolling them around with a spoon helped). Once thorougly coated, transfer back to the parchement lines baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved nuts. Allow to set completely (about 2 hours at room temperature*). Store in an airtight container.

*I am sure you could also transfer these to the refridgerator to set. But it was easy enough for me to just leave them out.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Asparagus and Sausage Risotto

Whenever I mention to people that I love making risotto, they always give me this look and say "Well isn't that really time consuming" or "Wow, you must REALLY like to cook." Well yes, I do like to cook, and yes, this is no insta-meal. However, it only takes about 30 minutes if you're just patient and know what to look for. So to prove to you that I'm right (because I am) I spent extra time taking step-by-step photos.

Of course, I did all this before I realized that Pioneer Woman was going to post something so similar (and with much prettier photos). Her risotto looks quite tasty as well. Mine will show portions for two and also what to do if you're adding extra ingredients. It also has about a bajillion photos (and thanks blogger for making uploading and positioning pictures a real pain). Note: You can apply these guidelines to any kind of risotto. For the most part, just add your pre-cooked ingredients to the end. Want some other risotto ideas? See here.

Also, if you know how to make blogger do expandable post short-cuts without making it add "Read More" links to all previous posts, PLEASE let me know. It's been driving me crazy.

Okay, so here it goes! Click here to dig in!

The line-up!

Asparagus and Sausage Risotto
Serves 2

1/2 cup arborio rice
2 - 3 cups chicken broth
1 TBS olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped fine
1 - 1 1/2 cup asparagus, steamed and chopped into 1" pieces
1 link pre-cooked chicken sausage, sliced thinly
1/4 cup frozen (or fresh) peas
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 TBS butter
a splash of light cream
salt and pepper to taste

1) Pour chicken broth into a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Lower heat, but keep warm. We're going to be adding this to the risotto as we go along.

2) Heat oil in a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, until it shimmers.

3) Add shallots to the hot oil. You can use onions instead, if you'd line, but I'm starting to have this love affair with shallots because they have this delicious subtle sweetness to them.

Sauté until translucent.

4) Add risotto to the pan. Stir until coated. This slows down the absorption process and gives the rice a slight nuttiness.

5) Add white wine to deglaze pan. Stir until most of the wine is absorbed. The rice should start to feel a little sticky.

6) Okay, now we're going to start adding the broth. I usually add the most at the beginning and then smaller amounts as we go along. I usually start with about a cup of broth.

Now we're going to start stirring. According to many risotto experts, one needs to be stirring "constantly." I usually stir more like "often." You do sort of need to hover near the stove and keep an eye on things, but you don't need to be stirring every second.

You want to keep your eye on the heat level. I usually leave it at this low simmer over medium to medium-low heat. You don't want the rice to absorb too quickly/boil off the liquid or it won't really cook right. And hey look, I'm not stirring!

This is what the rice will look like about 10 minutes in. See how it's starting to puff up and turn opaque? If you tried a grain right now it would be still mostly raw and kind of crunchy. You'll also notice there's very little "creaminess."

See how the liquid is being absorbed and starting to make the rice kind of creamy? You'll notice when you stir that the mixture will feel thicker and the rice will start to stick a little to the bottom and sides of the pan. Time to add more broth!

I added about 1/2 - scant 1 cup of broth. Depending on the brand of rice you get, you may need more broth, you may need less. Same deal if, say, you had the heat on too high when you started. So I usually try to keep an extra cup of broth handy. Hot water will work in a pinch.

Let's take another look at the risotto itself. We're not about 20-25 minutes into the cooking process. See how it's softer and we're starting to get that "creaminess" from the starch that's been released from the grains? Lets give it another stir...

Most of the liquid has been absorbed and there's more of that creaminess in the pot. If you try a bit now, it should be a little too "al dente" meaning almost tender, but with a bit too much of a crunch. Right now, we want it to be tender and firm, sure, but not crunchy. However, this point in time heralds the coming of additional ingredients!

*Trumpets Sound!*

Add another 1/2 cup of broth (sorry about the flash folks)

6) Time to add the asparagus...

... chicken sausage...

... and peas!

Now we stir it all together. Isn't all that green pretty? This is going to cook for another 5 -10 minutes. You'll need to be a little more active about stirring now because there's so much stuff going on in here. I usually add whatever last splash of broth I have leftover to this beautiful mess.

Let's get another close up. The rice is opaque, soft, and now, if you taste it, tender. It should still have a firmness to it, a bit of chew, but it shouldn't be crunchy. Now just watch the amount of liquid in the pan. You don't want risotto soup.

Ah, perfect. There's some liquid left, but it's thick and kind of creamy. Don't worry if it's not super "creamy." Much of that will come from adding the cheese and, well, cream.

7) Turn off the heat and add salt and pepper.

8) Now we add that tablespoon of butter. Stir until melted and incorporated.

9) Then we add the cheese. And stir. Now. We could stop here. It will be plenty creamy and delicious, but I just happened to have some cream sitting around, all lonely like, in my refrigerator, so why not.

So lets add a splash of cream. Like 1/2 tablespoon. You really don't need it. But it's tasty.

Isn't that just gorgeous? I want to eat it. Off of my screen.

And this, this here is what it's all about. Your final product? Dreamy, creamy, cheesy, risotto deliciousness.

10) Serve it up with an extra sprinkling of parmesan. Just for good luck.