Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roasted Chestnut Bisque

Don't you just love when it's cold outside and all you want to do is curl up with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and watch the fireplace?  I do.   I was perusing through some of my favorite blogs the other day when  I ran across this perfect winter soup recipe and was inspired to try it myself  (thank you P.C at The Runaway Spoon).   This is one thing that I absolutely love about the food blogging world, there are so many talented and professionally trained chefs out there that I am able to find great inspiration, fabulous cooking tips and techniques, and a few hilarious stories to enjoy. :)

I personally have never cooked with chestnuts, and have only ever eaten them while studying abroad in Spain (they love to roast them over an open fire around the holidays).  AND, this was my first time ever using marjoram and OH MY GOSH, I can't believe I've been missing out on this fabulous herb!  The minute I took it out of the package I was in love with the smell.  I wanted to rub it all over my hands and arms (Blake was watching me in my nostalgia from the couch at this point and laughing at me).  I mean, marjoram might be the best new food thing to happen to me in 2010!  So again, thank you to P.C. at The Runaway Spoon.

{Recipe} Roasted Chestnut Bisque
Adapted from The Runaway Spoon

For the Bisque:
  * 1 medium-sized yellow onion 
  * 2 carrots
  * 1 medium-sized leek
  * 1/4 cup olive oil
  * 4 cups chicken stock
  * 1 (7.4 ounce) jars roasted and peeled chestnuts
  * 6-7 sprigs marjoram
  * 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For Marjoram Oil:
  * 6 Tblsp olive oil
  * 4 sprigs marjoram

Directions for Bisque:
1.) Dice the onion, carrots and leek.  Saute the vegetables in a large put with the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and tender, and the onion and leeks are translucent.  Add the stock, chestnuts and marjoram sprigs (count how many so you can take them out later).  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer the soup for 45 minutes.  Leave the soup to cool until it’s safe to put in the blender. Meanwhile, prepare the marjoram oil (see below).

2.)  Fish out the marjoram stems, then transfer the soup to a blender in batches and puree until smooth.  After blending each batch, pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer set over a large bowl and push the soup through with a wooden spoon or spatula.  There won’t be much in the way of solids left behind, but straining the soup creates the velvety texture that makes this bisque so elegant. (For an even velvetier texture, you could push the soup through the strainer a second time).

3.) When ready to serve the soup, heat it gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally, but do not let it boil.  Slowly stir in the cream, incorporating it fully into the soup, then warm through.  Serve immediately drizzled with marjoram oil.

For the Marjoram Oil:
  *6 Tablespoons olive oil
  *4 sprigs marjoram

1.) Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan just until bubbles appear on the surface and the oil is shimmering.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool for two minutes, then drop in the marjoram sprigs, cover the pan and leave to cool.

2.) Strain the cooled oil into a jar or small spouted measuring cup for drizzling on the soup. The oil can be kept in an airtight jar for up to a week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Faovrite Childhood Salad: Satsuma-Poppy Seed Salad

Please, let me begin by saying that I was NOT a salad eater until about college.  I always found salads boring and at heart, I am a true carb lover.  Pasta?  Bread? YES, PLEASE!  I grew up in a meat family, and my poor mom always fought to get a salad on the table that we would eat.  I would fill up garlic bread first, then move around my plate to the protein, and last, the veggies.  I can recall a few times where I was actually stuck at the table after everyone else was dismissed until I finished my vegetables.  Being an extremely stubborn child, this would usually last for about 45 minutes or so (which is forever to a child). I would finally cave in, because of course my parents' patience was far superior to that of my own, and shove the vegetables down so I could go watch Home Improvement (my childhood crush was J.T.T). ;)

Then one day, my mom put this Satsuma-Poppy Seed Salad on the table.  God bless her heart, she found a salad I would eat!!!  I love avocado and satsumas, and she had found a way to serve them with spinach.  I assume she is still pretty proud of herself for this salad (as she rightfully should be).

So yesterday I was at work and eating a satsuma when it hit me, I have not had this salad since I moved away from home.  It was definitely time to go to the store and re-create it!

{Recipe} Satsuma-Poppy Seed Salad
Serves 4
  * 1 small, roasted chicken (optional)
  * 7 cups spinach
  * 3 satumas
  * 1/2 avocado
  * 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

  * 1/3 cup olive oil
  * 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  * 1/2 tblsp. sugar
  * 2 tblsp. poppy seeds

1.) Remove meat from roasted chicken and discard skin (this salad usually does not contain chicken, but I chose to add it in last night in order to serve as a main dish).

2.) Peel and separate the satsumas and dice the avocado, set to the side

3.) For dressing: whisk together olive oil, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and poppy seeds

4.) Toss the spinach and chicken in a large bowl with the dressing.  Add satsumas, avocado and sesame seeds to the top and enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fennel, Prosciutto and Pomegranate Salad

Finally!  Work is slowing down!  WOO HOO!

I was able to come home early today and I decided to cook Blake a nice meal (since he's been the only one cooking for quite a while now).  I decided to make seared duck breast in a Pinot Noir and Shiitake mushroom sauce, and nice light salad. The duck turned out beautiful and I received lots of compliments on it, unfortunately I was too hungry to stop and take pictures of it. :)

My best friend also came over for dinner and spent the evening hanging out with us.  I'm sad to say that she's leaving in a few weeks to spend a couple of months traveling Asia, but I am extremely excited for her at the same time.  We will actually be meeting her and her boyfriend in Bali for two weeks to relax and spend some time at sea  (we're taking a boat trip around the island!).  So, on the bright side, I won't have to live without her for too long!!

 Now, to give credit where credit is due, I found this recipe and somewhat altered it from one 
of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen.

{Recipe} Fennel, Prosciutto, and Pomegranate Salad

  * 2 cups very thinly sliced fennel bulb
  * 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  * 6 cups arugula (about 4 ounces)
  * 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
  * 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
  * 1 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  * 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into strips
  * 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1.) Combine fennel, arugula, green onions, and mint  in large bowl; toss.
2.) In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, and olive oil.  Pour over salad and toss again.  Season with salt and pepper.

(Pretty simple, right?!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Weekend Getaway and Mushroom Picking

Oh wow, it has been OVER A MONTH since the last time I posted anything on here!!!  Work has been overwhelmingly busy, and I haven't had a chance to cook at all.  Lucky for me though, Blake loves to cook.  He has been so sweet since I started working long hours and makes dinner for us almost every night (and I don't mean a pizza or a HungryMan).  I'm a pretty lucky girl. 


I thought our trip to the Washington coast would be a good lee-way back into blogging.  We spent a weekend in Longbeach, WA with blake's sister and husband, playing on the beach with our dogs, cooking, playing games, and mushroom picking.  The mushroom picking was not planned until about 3 days before we left.  I was surfing the web for things to do while in Longbeach, and it just happened to be mushroom celebration month.  Perfect timing!

(Our crazy Yorkie, Zeus, on the beach)
The mushroom picking was quite an interesting experience.  It felt like we were on a treasure hunt or Easter egg hunt, and it was just as exciting every time we would find another one. Our guide was a feisty little woman from Hungary who has quite a reputation for mushroom picking.  Of course we had no idea what we were looking for, so we definitely had to follow her lead.  We even ran across some of the psychedelic mushrooms (they look like the mushrooms from the Mario Bros. video games)!  Our evening would have turned out much different if we didn't have our guide to turn us around.

                     (Our Mario Bros. Mushroom)             (Blake's sister with one of our giant mushrooms)

Work is finally starting to slow down a bit, so I'm planning all sorts of goodies to start on for Christmas gifts.  Apple butter, peanut butter brittle, apricot-bourbon mustard, who knows what else I'll  dip my hands into.  :)  I mean, you can't forget about all of the holiday baking that will need to be done as well!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Cupcakes for Co-workers

The holidays are upon us!  And what better way to kick them off than with a treat to co-workers?!  Having baked goods around the house is always a little dangerous in our home.  We really don't need to have them lying around as snacks or food to pick at {not very healthy}.  But, what does one do when she loves to bake???  Bring the goodies to work!

Halloween is such a fun time for baked goods.  Sugar cookies, orange color frosting, snickers bars (my favorite), and to add to the list, almond-hazelnut cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting!  Yum.  


I was perusing Martha Stewart's web-site the other day (this is kind of becoming a way to pass the time for me), when I came across this cupcake recipe.  They immediately caught my attention because of their color, and I thought they would be perfect for Halloween.  I had also just purchased this great little cupcake set (see wrappers and toppers above) from Sur la Table and needed to use them before the holiday passed.

On another note - Blake and I are off the spend Halloween on the Washington coast.  He found this great little house to stay in and we're going to go mushroom foraging!!!  That is, if the weather doesn't decide to rain all weekend.  Wish us luck and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

{Recipe} Almond-Hazelnut Cupcakes (from
Yield: Makes 16

   * 1/2 cup whole unblanched almonds, toasted
   * 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
   * 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
   * 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
   * 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
   * 1/4 teaspoon salt
   * 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
   * 1/4 cup granulated sugar
   * 1/2 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
   * 3/4 cup milk
   * 4 large egg whites
   * Dark Chocolate Frosting (see recipe below)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a food processor, pulse together almonds and hazelnuts until finely ground (do not overprocess, or the nuts will turn into a paste). Into a mixing bowl, sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the ground nuts.  
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating well after each.
  3. In another mixing bowl, with electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. In two additions, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  5. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting over each cupcake. Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and top with caramel-dipped hazelnuts just before serving.

{Recipe} Dark Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 5 cups


   *1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
   * 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
   * 2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
   * 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
   * 1/4 teaspoon salt
   * 1 1/2 pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month, in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.



Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes and Halloween Flashbacks

My first adventure cooking with pumpkins.

I actually had a lot of fun making these pancakes.  I haven't carved or hollowed out a pumpkin in years, and having to do just that brought me back to when I was a little kid.  It also made me think about costumes and trick-or-treating.  Do you remember how much fun it use to be to try and decide what you were going to be for Halloween?  Am I going to be a princess?  A soccer ball? Minnie Mouse? A peacock???  (I was actually all of those, but not in the same year of course.) 

My mom was truly amazing when it came to Halloween (and everything else for that matter, especially in my eyes).   She actually hand-made almost every single costume I ever wore!  Haha.  If I can track down some pictures I will definitely post them on here.  I know I'll never be the one to make my children their costume's, but I'm sure their grandma would jump at the chance. ;)   Right mom?

Pumpkin Pancakes
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Best Buttermilk Pancakes)


   * 2 small cooking pumpkins
   * 1 1/2 cup sugar
   * 2 cups all-purpose flour
   * 2 tsp baking powder
   * 1 tsp baking soda
   * 1/2 t
   * 1/2 teaspoon salt
   * 3 tablespoons sugar
   * 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
   * 3 1/4 cups buttermilk
   * 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1/2 teaspoon for griddle
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut pumpkins in half and remove insides.  Cut off skin and cube the pumpkin "meat".
  3. Put pumpkin on baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove baking sheets from over and allow pumpkin to cool.  
  4. Add pumpkin and 1 1/2 cup sugar into a food processor and blend.  Add 1/4 cup buttermilk as needed to smooth out mixture.
  5. Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps.
  6.  Test griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If water bounces and spatters off griddle, it is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter or reserved bacon fat onto griddle. Wipe off excess.
  7. Using a 4-ounce ladle, about 1/2 cup, pour pancake batter, in pools 2 inches away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.
  8. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nutty Granola

Breakfast parfaits may be one of my all time favorite breakfast dishes.  They are so simple, yet so delicious.  I made these over the weekend because for some unknown reason to man, Seattle has had the most beautiful Fall of any that I can remember, and parfaits to me are a sunny weather breakfast.  :)

And when I say a beautiful Fall, I mean that we have had bright blue skies almost every single day (which is very unusual for Seattle)!!!

I'm going to have to admit that I think breakfast may be my favorite weekend meal.  I love it because it's a chance to actually RELAX and ENJOY your morning.  You can lie in bed, sip coffee with your sweetie, spend time in the kitchen, and really use the time to decompress from the week.  You don't have the stress of making it out of the door on time, wondering if you'll have time to grab a coffee before your first meeting, or just generally worrying about your to-do list for the day.  I'm starting to relax just thinking about it now. :)

This recipe is extremely simple and takes hardly any time at all to make.  It also turns into a great snack to have around your house (or bring into the office).  Maybe I'll even make some and put it in a gift bag, what a great gift {idea}!!

{Recipe} Nutty Granola
   * 3 cups oats
   * 1 tsp cinnamon
   * 1 1/4 cup maple syrup
   * 1/2 cup pistachios
   * 2/3 cup macadamia nuts

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.) In a large mixing bowl combine oats, cinnamon and maple syrup.   Mix well to coat oats with maple syrup.

3.) Pour oats mixture onto two baking sheets and flatten out.  Place into the oven.  After 15 minutes, remove baking sheets from the oven and stir around oats so that most of the granola flips over and bake for another 10 min.

4.) Remove baking sheets from the oven and let cool.  Pour granola into a large plastic bag with pistachios and macadamia nuts and shake (well) to combine.   

You can eat this as cereal, with your yogurt, or anything else you may want to try!