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!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family Time, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and a Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Skillet

The last week or so has really had a lot of family time and it's been a ton of fun.  My mom came over and brought Blake and I dinner and my little niece along with her to visit.  I'm pretty sure she is the most adorable little girl I've ever seen, especially when she's walking our dogs.  :)

We went and played at the playground together that evening and it really made me think how precious the time spend with our family really is.  Watching a toddler grow up is an amazing thing, their verbal progression to their coordination exponentially grows each time you see them.  It's just such a fun and exciting thing to be a part of!!!
{I have no idea how i got a picture before the ice cream started melting 
considering this was fresh out of the oven!}

I didn't actually make this dessert that same night, but I thought nothing much goes better with a little girl than a sweet chocolate chip cookie.  Blake had been wanting chocolate chip cookies for a few days, so when he said his sister and her husband were coming over for dinner I figured it was the perfect opportunity to make him some.  Although, I did deviate from his desires and put the batter into a skillet and cooked it.  OH MY GOSH!  I've had the skillet cookies before at restaurants and they're always wonderful, but having one at home was the best!  I topped it with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream and the four of us completely polished off the dessert!  (And I'm pretty sure he was happy that I changed up his idea for chocolate chip cookies ever so slightly.)  ;)

{Recipe} Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yield: Two 9in. skillet cookies
   * 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
   * 1/2 cup sugar
   * 1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
   * 2 eggs
   * 2 tsp vanilla
   * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
   * 1 tsp coarse sea salt (or Kosher salt)
   * 1 tsp baking soda
   * 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
   * 2 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until it is nice and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Do not skimp on the time here, you want the mixture to be very light in color.

3.) Add eggs and vanilla to sugar mixture and beat for an additional 3 minutes.

4.) Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour (slowly) until all ingredients except for chocolate chips are fully mixed together.

5.) Fold in chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

6.) Add half of batter into a greased (with butter, Pam, or Crisco) 9 inch skillet and place in the oven for 13 min.  Stick a toothpick into the center, if it comes out clean the cookie is done.  (I left mine the tiniest bit gooey on the inside so the cookie didn't have a chance to dry out, plus it is just more fun to eat it that way).  :)

{Recipe} Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream (recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse courtesy of
Yield: About 1 quart ice cream
   * 4 cups half & half (I substituted non-fat half & half to make it a little healthier)
   * 1 cup sugar
   * 1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
   * 6 egg yolks

1.) In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the hand & half, sugar, and vanilla bean with pulp.  Bring to simmer.

2.) In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.   Add 1 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.

3.) Add the yolk mixture to the saucepan of liquid and whisk until incorporated.  Bring the liquid back to a simmer and continue to cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

4.) Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming while cooling.  Cool the mixture completely.

5.) Process the mixture according to your ice cream machines instructions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

For a Good Friend: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

A good friend of ours recently had his birthday.  I have heard him say on multiple occasions that he hates cake, but I still wanted to make him something for his birthday.  Over football Sunday (one of the many) he told me that his favorite dessert is Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie.  Well, that wasn’t too hard to figure out!  And strawberry rhubarb pie is was he got. 

Blake and I went down to the Pike Place Market the day before his birthday to pick up some fresh local strawberries and make a run through Sur-la-Table.  I was not going to skimp on this pie.  The market was a fun little trip and we were able to pick up some of the last fresh flowers of the season (you really can’t beat the flowers that are available at our market).

This was my first attempt at pie crust..  After reading horror stories on-line about so many failed attempts and {literally} tears shed over ruined crusts, I was a little intimidated to try one myself.  Lucky for me I knew our friend wouldn’t give me too hard of a time if I screwed up (which I did, on the filling).

All was going well, the crust rolled out nicely and fit into the pan almost perfectly, our kitchen wasn’t a total disaster and the pie was starting to fill our house with the beautiful smell of baked goods.  Then it hit me.  OH MY GOSH – I FORGOT TO ADD THE SUGAR TO THE FILLING!  I FORGOT TO ADD SUGAR TO A FRUIT PIE FILLING AND THE PIE HARD ALREADY BEEN BAKING FOR 35 MIN!!!

So I came up with an excuse when I brought the pie out to everyone. . . . since I was serving a Lemon Curd Tart as well, I didn’t want people to be on sugar overload.  And due to the fact that it was a bunch of guys eating the tart, they didn’t even mind that it wasn’t very sweet, they preferred more savory food.   AND THEN, the birthday boy told me loved it and ate almost a third of the pie!!  Hahaha, I was off the hook and they didn’t even know I had messed up!  Lucky me!

So here is the recipe for the Strawberry Rhubarb pie.  I found it on and it had been submitted by Valerie Enters.  I followed is almost exactly (see story above for the embarrassing details) and it still turned out great.  I even liked it and I have an ENORMOUS sweet tooth.

{RECIPE} Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Yields: 9” pie
   * 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour as needed
   * ½ cup cake flour (recommended: Soft as Silk)
   * 3 tsp. sifted powdered sugar
   * ½ cup butter flavored shortening (recommended: Crisco)
   * 1/4 cup salted butter
   * Pinch of salt
   * 1 egg
   * 2 tblsp vinegar
   * ¼ cup ice cold water

   * 2 ½ cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh
   * 2 ½ cups de-stemmed and cut strawberries (large pieces)
   * 1 ½ cup sugar
   * 2 tblsp minute tapioca
   * 1 tblsp all-purpose flour
   * ½ tsp lemon zest
   * ½ tsp lemon juice
   * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   * 2 tblsp butter, cubed small
   * 1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp water

Crust Preparation
1.)  Using a pastry blender (or kitchen aid/ mixture), blend the flours, sugar, shortening, butter, and salt.  Blend until the mixture becomes chunky.

2.) Whisk the egg, vinegar and water in a 2-cup measure and pour over the dry ingredients, incorporating all of the ingredients without overworking the dough.  Toss a tiny but of additional flour over the ball of dough and wrap and chill, if possible.  Divide the dough into 2 disks.  Roll out 1 piece of dough to a a bottom crust.  Place into pie dish and let refrigerate (preferably overnight).

3.) When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  You can use the other round disk to make a solid top for the pie, or checkerboard strips like I did.

Filling Preparation
1.)  Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, zest and juice from lemon, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Once all ingredients are well mixed, pour into chilled crust.  Dot the top of the filling with little pieces of the butter.  Brush edges of pie crust with egg white wash.  

2.) Roll out the other pie crust (or roll and cut it) and place over filling.  Crimp to seal edges.  Brush the egg white wash over the top of the pie crust.  Collar tin with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.  Let cool before serving.

**I topped my pie with sifted powdered sugar (to try and make up for the lack of sugar) which you can do as well for decoration**

For A Good Friend: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie on Foodista

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lemon Curd Tart with Raspberries and Fresh Picked Huckleberry Sauce

 {The Last Few Days of Summer}

I’m sitting on a plane right now on my way to San Jose for work.  I actually really enjoy flying, and this is a great time for me to catch up on some blog posts.  I think this is actually the first time I’ve had a chance to really be relaxed while writing a post (usually work is calling my name or I’m about to fall asleep in my bed).  

 {One man's trash can make a beautiful picture}

Last weekend Blake and I spent Saturday with his family.  We all drove up to Snoqualmie Pass (pronounced snow-qwall-me for those of you not from Washington State) to go huckleberry picking together.  The drive up to the mountains was beautiful – the trees were just starting to change colors for Fall.  We took a turn off of the highway and then followed a dirt road for about 3 miles up to the top of the mountain.   We got out (I put my rain boots on), let the Yorkies out of the car and set out to find some huckleberries.
Well, unfortunately for us we were about 2 ½ to 3 weeks too late for the berries.  The season had JUST ended.  L  There were 5 of us hunting and we ended up with only a cup and a half of huckleberries!!!  We finally threw in the towel and decided to have some lunch.

{Our "hidden" lake}

Blake’s dad suggested we go to a nearby lake for lunch which was absolutely gorgeous.  The camping area had already closed down for the season so we had to walk a little ways to get to the lake.  We sat down and had some baguette sandwiches and truffle deviled eggs and let the dogs run free and swim in the lake.  If you’ve never seen a wet Yorkie it’s pretty hilarious – they end up looking like little rat dogs.  
Somehow I was the lucky one who ended up with our cup and a half of huckleberries (which I wasn’t expecting since Blake’s sister and dad both love to cook).  It wasn’t too hard to figure out what I wanted to make.  I remembered seeing an image of a lemon curd tart with a berry swirl on top and I knew I was going to do the same.

Our day up in the mountains and at the lake was one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a long time.  It was so nice to get out of the city and up into the fresh air while it was still warm out, and also be able to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest.   I can’t wait for huckleberry season to come again next year, but this time I’ll make sure to put it on everyone’s calendars for the end of August not September.

{RECIPE} Lemon Curd Tart with Huckleberry Sauce
Yield: 6”in pie (3-4 people)
   * 1 tblsp fresh lemon zest
   * 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
   * 1 1/3 cup sugar
   * 4 large eggs
   * 3/4 cup plus 2 tblsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces 
   *1/3 cup sugar
   * 1/3 cup water
   * 3/4 cup huckleberries
   * 1 tblsp corn starch

Lemon Curd
1.)  In a medium size sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs. 

2.) Once sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to low and add the butter.  Whisk continuously until all butter has dissolved (10-15 minutes).  Curd will become thick while you’re whisking and you will know it is done once you can see traces of your whisk in the curd.

3.) Remove curd from heat and pour through a fine sieve into a bowl.  Curd can be used immediately or covered and stored in the fridge for about a week.

Huckleberry Sauce

1.) In a shallow pan, add water and sugar over medium heat.  Stir mixture until sugar has dissolved (thus creating a simple syrup). 

2.) Add huckleberries to the simple syrup, stirring occasionally.  Once berries start to burst, use a potato masher to mash the rest of the berries to get all of the juice out..

3.) Once the berries have been mashed, pour sauce through a fine sieve (to get rid of the skin and seeds).  Mix corn starch with 1/4 tblsp warm water and mix until corn starch is dissolved.  Add sauce back into sauce pan along with the corn starch to thicken.  Stir until sauce is combined and thick enough to spread (about 5 minutes). 

4.)  Pour sauce slowly over lemon curd.  Using a butter knife, swirl sauce.

Huckleberry sauce can also be stored for up to 3 days.

Lemon Curd Tart With Raspberries and Fresh Picked Huckleberry Sa on Foodista

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rice Pudding with Candied Butternut Squash and Toasted Walnuts

After making apple-butternut squash soup this week, I had about half of a squash left over.  I had already made roasted squash and squash soup, so I decided it was time for a little dessert.  I have actually never had rice pudding before, so I have absolutely no idea how I decided that's what I was going to make.  Poor Blake was my taste tester for this one, but luckily he said the flavors turned out great (with the exception of slightly overcooking the pudding - luckily we found an easy fix).  

Rice pudding is something that I will be making again soon.  The richness of the cream and rice and sweetness of the candied butternut squash made me want to try this with all sorts of different kinds of fruit (caramelized apples anyone?). 

So now for the reason why I overcooked the rice pudding . . . {TOO MUCH VINO}.  Time flies when you're having fun - and especially so when you're drinking good wine.  Next time I need to make sure I set a timer instead of trusting myself to look at the clock.  Once we realized the rice pudding was overcooked we just added a tiny bit of whole milk to the pudding and all was well. :)


Rice Pudding Ingredients:
   * 1 cup arborio rice
   * 5 cups whole milk
   * 1 cup fat free half and half (may also substitute heavy cream)
   * 1/2 cup sugar
   * 4 large egg yolks
   * 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice (optional)
   * 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Candied Butternut Squash Ingredients: (adapted from Martha Stewart)
   * 1/4 cup orange marmalade
   * 1/3 cup sugar
   * 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced, peeled
   * Pinch of ground cloves
   * 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
   * 1 small butternut squash, (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

Candied Butternut Squash
1.) Combine marmalade, sugar, ginger, cloves, and lemon juice in a large pot.  Add 2 1/2 cups water and bring to boil.  Stir until the marmalade and sugar has dissolved. 

2.) Add the butternut squash to the pot and stir to combine.  Bring the mixture to simmer (NOT a boil) and partially cover with a lid.  Stir occasionally, until squash is soft when pierced with a fork (About 35 minutes).  Remove lid and continue to cook until the liquid becomes like a syrup.  Remove from heat and serve warm over the rice pudding. 

Rice Pudding:
1.) In a large pot, combine rice and whole milk and bring to a boil.  Once milk is boiling, reduce heat to medium so that the mixture is simmering.  Stir the rice occasionally so that it is all cooked evenly and does not stick to the side of the pot and burn.

2.) In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, sugar, egg yolks and pumpkin spice.  Slowly add the cream mixture to the rice mixture while stirring constantly. 

3.) Continue to stir rice occasionally for the next 15 to 20 minutes until liquid is fully absorbed by the rice.

4.) Once rice is done, ladle into ramekins and top with toasted walnuts and candied butternut squash

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup

I'm so happy it's finally Fall!  Fall in Seattle is absolutely beautiful, unfortunately it only lasts for a few weeks (we really only have the rainy season for 8 months and the sun for 4 months . . . nothing in between).  The color of the leaves are extremely vibrant, and set against the blue water of the bay and the lake, there's nowhere I'd rather be.

So, I've been waiting and waiting and WAITING for pumpkins to show up in the markets and grocery stores, but I finally caved when I realized Butternut Squash was available.  Oh Butternut Squash.  I definitely had a HUGE mishap a few years ago when I tried to make a soup with it (my poor parents were the taste testers), so I've stayed away from it for a while.  It must have been the amazing mood the sun put me in yesterday, but I decided that it was time to conquer the squash.

Lucky for me, two of my closest friends (one of which I hadn't seen in a few months) said they'd come over for dinner {little did they know about my prior mis-hap}.  The soup ended up turning out great and my previous squash soup disaster was never mentioned.  It's great how food can bring people together sometimes, and it's just amazing how you can pick up old friendships exactly where they left off.  :)

{Recipe}Apple-Butternut Squash Soup
   * 3 tblsp unsalted butter
   * 1 medium onion, diced
   * 1 2lb. butternut squash; peeled, seeded and diced (1" squares)
   * 4 golden delicious (or green apples); diced
   * 2 tsp coarse salt
   * 1/4 tsp ground coriander 
   * 1/4 tsp ground ginger
   * 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
   * 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
   * 3 cups chicken broth
   * 1 cup water

1.) Melt 1 tblsp butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion.  Cook onion, stirring occasionally until butter is melted.  Cook onion until it begins to soften (a couple of minutes).  Add in squash and 1 tblsp. butter and cook, for about 10 minutes.  Stir squash occasionally.

 2.) Add apples, salt, coriander, ginger, cayenne pepper, pumpkin spice, and chicken broth to the squash mixture.  Bring to a boil.  Lower temperature to Low and simmer until vegetables become soft (about 30 minutes).

3.) Once vegetables are soft, pour mixture into a food processor.  Process until mixture becomes a smooth texture, and return to saucepan (you may need to do this using two saucepans if you are making a large quantity of soup or have a small blender/food processor).

4.) Top with sour cream (if you choose), and enjoy!!!

Fall Apple-Butternut Squash Soup on Foodista

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homemade Doughnuts

YUM!!!  I posted a little while back about wanting to make doughnuts, and I FINALLY did so today.  I've had the little doughnut tins for a couple of weeks now, but just never got around to actually making them.  I personally really like these doughnuts because they are baked instead of deep fried, so you don't feel quite so guilty when you have two . . . or three . . .or four.

And come on, who can really resist fresh made doughnuts whether they're deep-fried or not?!

I definitely filled the doughnut cups up too high and ended up only getting a hole on one side (whoops!).  But nevertheless, all 24 doughnuts are gone (thankfully we had people over watching Sunday Night Football) and everyone said they turned out great.  I also dusted cinnamon over the top of half of the doughnuts for some added flavor. 

The recipe I used for these was actually on the back of the tin, along with a frosting recipe that I slightly altered.

{Recipe} Homemade Donuts
   * 1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
   * 1/2 cup granulated sugar
   * 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
   * 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
   * 3/4 tsp salt
   * 1/2 cup buttermilk
   * 1 egg, lightly beaten,
   * 1 1/2 tbslp butter, melted

1.) Preheat oven to 435 degrees. 

2.) In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Add buttermilk, egg, and butter and stir until just combined.  Fill each doughnut cup approximately 1/2 full.

3.) Bake 4-6 minutes or until the top of the doughnuts spring back when touched.  Let cool in pan for 4-5 minutes before removing.  Finish the doughnuts with glaze or sprinkles.

{Recipe} Vanilla-Lemon Glaze
   * 1 cup confectioners' sugar
   * 2 tblsp milk
   * 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
   * 1 tbls lemon juice

In a small bowl, stir together sugar, milk, vanilla extract and lemon until sugar is completely dissolved.  Use immediately to glaze doughnuts.

Miso & Ginger Flank Steak

Geez, I can't believe it's been 4 days since I've been able to update my blog!  I've been running around like crazy and am trying to take some time to catch up.  Last Thursday was another late night at work and I didn't want to be in the kitchen all night.  I ran to the grocery store and grabbed some miso and flank steak and realized I was also going to need a glass of wine.  :)

My little brother is staying with use right now and I knew that miso steak was going to be out of his comfort zone (he's never had anything with miso in it before), but he ate a ton of the steak and actually liked it!  I had to call my mom and let her know and she couldn't believe it either.  His picky ways are changing . . . maybe he'll end up becoming a foodie as well!! 

This recipe is very easy to make and extremely simple.  It's a great preparation for flank steak and can be made in under an hour (including the time spent marinating) which is ideal for a busy week night.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

{Recipe} Miso-Ginger Flank Steak
   * 2 Tblsp miso paste
   * 1 Tbls ginger, grated
   * 1/4 cup sesame oil
   * 1/4 cup soy sauce
   * 1 1/2 lbs flank steak

1.) Combine miso paste, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl and mix together.  

2.) Rub mixture onto both sides of steak and place in a plastic bag.  Place steak in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 30 min.

3.) Remove steak from plastic bag and grill to your liking.  If it is cold or raining out (as it has been here lately), you can pan sear the steak with a little sesame oil on the bottom of the pan.

Roasted Vegetables, Potatoes and Eggs

Ahhh, the weekend.  It's Sunday night now, but I had a great weekend full of friends and family.  On Saturday we had people over at our house to watch the UW Huskies game and have some breakfast.  Cooking for a group of 10, I decided to make something less time-consuming so I would be able to hang out with everyone.  Blake ran down the store and picked up some fresh vegetables and potatoes for me and I decided to do a roasted vegetable scramble.

The game went horrible for us (56-21), but breakfast was fun!  The boys are extreme football fans (due to the amount of Fantasy Leagues they play in), but this allowed us girls catch up and talk about "girl things".  And when I say extreme, I'm not kidding around.  It's 6:45pm and ESPN and NBC have been on in our home since 9:00am . . . oh Sunday Night Football.  Although, I can't complain.  This did allow me to get all kinds of cooking done today.  :)

{Recipe} Roasted Vegetables, Potatoes and Eggs
   * Mini sweet pepper (you can also substitute bell peppers)
   * Asparagus
   * Red mini potatoes
   * 1 cup of olive oil
   * Eggs
   * 1 sprig of rosemary
   * Parmesan cheese
   * Salt and pepper to taste

I didn't specify the amount of ingredients for this recipe because it depends on how many people you're feeding as well as how many veggies you like in your eggs.

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dice up asparagus, and potatoes.  Slice mini peppers into 1/8 inch slivers.  Finely chop up rosemary.

2.) Toss potatoes in a bowl with 1/2 cup olive oil and rosemary.  Lay out on a baking sheet and put into oven.

3.) Toss asparagus and peppers in a bowl with 1/2 cup of olive oil.  Place asparagus and peppers on a baking and sheet and add to the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Make sure the potatoes are cooked completely through before you remove them from the oven (about 40 minutes as well).

2.) Scramble eggs and add cheese.  Fold in vegetables with eggs and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Simple Chicken Tortilla Soup

Since we got home from California (for my sister's wedding), my boyfriend has been feeling a little under the weather.  He decided that he wanted to make some tortilla soup for dinner and I wasn't going to stand in his way.  So while I was on one side of the kitchen baking muffins, he went to town on the soup.

(Homemade tortilla strips)

Chicken tortilla soup is by far the soup that is made the most in our home during the cold Fall and Winter months.  I don't know whether it's the spice or the heartiness of the soup that does it for us (probably a combination of both), but we seem to make this monthly.  And you really can't go wrong when you're able to make something that tastes so good and remains healthy!

As I've said, we make this soup A LOT, so we've had a ton of time to get it *just perfect* for us.  Grilled corn (my addition), plus the eventual food processing of the entire soup (Blake's idea), leaves you with a hearty and filling dinner. 

(Avocado adds a nice cool and creamy touch to the soup)

I hope you all enjoy this soup as much as we do!  Please let me know how yours turns out (if you try the recipe) and if you come up with any other additions that might make this better. :)

{Recipe} Simple Chicken Tortilla Soup
   * 2 chicken breasts
   * 1 16 oz. box chicken stock
    * 2 ears of corn
   * 1 large yellow onion, diced
   * 1 clove garlic, minced 
   * 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes 
   * 1/2 tsp cumin
   * 1/4 tsp chili powder
   * 1/2 cup cheese (we like cotija, but feel free to use cheddar or jack for a stronger flavor)
   * 1 avocado
   * A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
   * Homemade tortilla strips

1.) Cut up raw chicken into 1 inch squares

2.) In the bottom of a large pot, combine chicken and 2 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a medium heat and allow chicken to cook (about 15 min)

3.) While chicken is cooking, grill the corn (adds a much better flavor - you can also do this before you start the chicken), dice up the onion and mince the garlic
4.) Add the rest of the chicken stock and diced tomatoes (including the liquid in the can), onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder to the pot, and bring back to a medium heat

5.) Cut off corn kernels and add to the pot.  Let everything cook for about 30 minutes over medium to medium-high heat.  This will allow the soup to thicken.

6.) You can enjoy the soup "as is" at this point, or you can put it all in a food processor (or blender if you don't have one) and then serve.  

7.) Don't forget to add the garnishes!! You can use any, all, or none of the garnishes, it depends on your personal food preferences.

{Recipe} Homemade Tortilla Strips
   * 4 corn tortillas
   * 1/2 cup grape seed oil (or you can substitute corn oil)

1.) Cut up tortillas in into thins strips about 1/4 inch think

2.) In a medium frying pan, add grape seed oil and bring to a medium heat.  You MUST use an oil with a high smoke/burning point so that the tortilla strips don't burn.

3.) Add in tortilla strips and wait until they are bubbling vigorously.  At this point, turn over and cook the other side
4.) Remove from heat and add to soup! :)