Monday, February 27, 2012

It's About Time!

I finally got around to making the rack of lamb that I purchased about 3 weeks ago. There were a few reasons why I was putting it off, one of them being I was nervous. I really wanted this to turn out well. Also, I felt like I needed all this time dedicated to making it, and lately I have not been able to set aside a lot of time for preparing dinners. Lets not forget that it's kind of daunting to live up to lamb dinner at Le Chateau Frontenac.

Well, it turns out that it doesn't take an inordinate amount of time, it's fairly simple to prepare and it was delicious! I was so relieved and we both really enjoyed it. It was so tender and flavorful. I found a simple recipe for a roasted rack of lamb but altered it a little. I really feel like the flavor of the lamb is so good that it shouldn't be smothered with other ingredients.

Roasted Rack of Lamb

You will need:

  • 1 rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and move oven rack to center position.  In a bowl combine  2 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a cast iron grill pan over high heat. Season rack with herb mixture and sear in pan for 1-2 minutes on each side. 

Set aside for a few minutes and wrap the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring. Arrange the rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb for 12-18 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness you want. I cooked mine for 12 minutes and it was perfectly medium rare. Let it rest for 5-7 minutes, lightly covered, before carving between the ribs.

We had the lamb with rosemary and thyme infused rice and a green salad.

Source: Allrecipes

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Speak Too Soon

It seems as though the transition into spring has begun. Granted, we will probably see snow a few more times, but hopefully nothing significant. Hey, we've made it this far without everything screeching to a halt from the snow, I think mother nature can manage a few more weeks.

You can smell it in the air. It's crisp and fresh, with a hint of worm:). Soon it will start to smell green, I love when you can smell the green! I can't think of many things that make me happier than the first time I'm driving around and notice all the buds are bursting and color is back!

But for now, on the grey and gloomy, rainy days I relish in the opportunity to grab a blanket, a good book and a bowl of hot creamy broccoli cheddar soup :).

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

You will need:

  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets, about 1 large head of broccoli
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine broccoli, carrots and chicken broth in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium pot. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook one minute. Add flour and stir to combine with onion mixture. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Pour broccoli, carrots and reserved cooking liquid into pot with onion mixture. Add milk and heat until piping hot, but not boiling. Reduce heat to medium low. Add shredded cheese a little at a time, stirring after each addition. Remove from heat once all cheese has melted.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, maybe a dash of red pepper flakes if you want to give it a kick. Serve with crusty bread or crackers.

Making sure you add the cheese in small additions over a medium-low heat is vital to the creaminess of your soup, and the cheese melting properly! Thanks to ommynoms for that! No more soups with unincorporated clumps of cheese for me.

Source: OmmyNoms, adapted from Allrecipes

*Edit* Of course it was pretty much a blizzard last night after I wrote this post. Not much as far as accumulation goes, but the driving was horrible. 

Also, I feel like I should add that this recipe only makes about 4 servings. So if you're planning it for company I would double the recipe. You can sort of tell from the picture that it just barely filled up my 4 qt. pot half way. We got dinner for the both of us, then lunch twice for me out of it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's That Time Of The Week Again

I actually made this drink a couple of days ago but figured I'd wait until today to post, given the nature of the drink:).

Matt picked up a bottle of Disaronno a couple of weeks ago and I sort of love it. It's a fruity amaretto with a bittersweet almond taste. I'm not always in the mood for a strong drink, sometimes I want something sweet. Plus, I love the almond flavor. It reminds me of bear claws on Saturday mornings at the bakery.

You can go to their website here for tons of great sounding recipes.

Disaronno Mocha Italiano

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 parts Disaronno
  • 1 tsp instant hot cocoa mix
  • 3 parts fresh hot coffee
  • whipped cream and chocolate shavings
Stir hot cocoa mix into hot coffee until thoroughly dissolved. Add Disaronno. Top with fresh whipped heavy cream and chocolate shavings.

 The answer to your question is: Yes, it does taste as good as it looks.

Source: Disaronno

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons

Make Lemony Slice-and-Bake Cookies!

I'm not going to lie, I was a wee bit nervous when I made the dough for these cookies last night. It seemed so dry with only 4 egg yolks and 1 tsp of vanilla as the only liquids. I sort of set myself up for failure, only to be pleasantly surprised when they turned out well this morning!

I used to get reeeally angry when I would mess something up in the kitchen. Like, fuming mad and wanting to strangle something angry. I think this blog has helped me in that area. I've had the opportunity to try a lot of new and different recipes and have experienced a lot more successes and a few more failures. I think I'm becoming a little more....well rounded in the kitchen, and more low key about the results.

Lemony Slice-and-Bake Cookies

You will need:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 4 large egg yolks
For the icing:
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • food coloring (optional)
  • sanding sugar (optional)
Whisk flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl, occasionally scraping down the sides, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks; beat just to blend. Reduce speed to low; add the flour mixture and beat, occasionally scraping down the sides, just to blend. 

Divide dough in half; roll each half into a 10"-long log about 1 3/4" in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 1 hour. Do Ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap 1 dough log. Using a sharp knife, cut log into 1/4"-thick rounds. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, 1" apart.

Bake until cookies are firm and golden brown around the edges, 16-18 minutes. I baked for 9 minutes, rotated the sheets, and baked for 9 more. Let cool for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough log. Makes about 50 cookies.

To make the icing, whisk sugar and 2 tbsp lemon juice in a small bowl. Add coloring, if desired. Spread or drizzle the icing over cookies. Decorate as desired. Let stand until icing sets, about 10 minutes.

I spread the icing, but I think next time I would drizzle it. It has a very strong lemon flavor, and is a bit tart, which is good but too much can be over powering. The cookies are also delicious by themselves warm, right out of the oven!

Source : Bon Appetit magazine

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Foil Baked Basil Pesto Salmon

I think I've officially been converted to foil baking. I don't know why I've never cooked fish like this before? It cooks perfectly, keeps the fish so moist and the flavors are incredible.

Whenever I'm not sure what to make for dinner I usually pick 2 or 3 ingredients that I have, put them into google search and let the ideas come to me. This was the first hit I got when I put in salmon and basil pesto recipe. Matt and I both really liked it.

When I'm in a rush it's nice to buy the prepackaged fish entrees, but I really like finding new recipes and making them myself. Fish may be my new favorite meat to work with.

Interesting fact:

  • Pescetarians: One whose diet contains fish, but no meat. They eat fish and other seafood, but no mammals or birds. I never hear people say, "I'm a pescetarian". But I always hear people say, "I'm a vegetarian. But I eat fish!".... 
Foil Baked Basil Pesto Salmon

You will need:
  • 2 4-6 oz salmon fillets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4tbsp basil pesto
  • 6 small tomatoes, sliced or halved
  • handful of four cheese blend

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place baking sheet in to heat up. Tear two large sheets of aluminum foil and layer them. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil in the center and place salmon on top. Spread 2 tbs basil pesto on each piece and lay sliced tomatoes on top. 

Top with cheese. Fold over sides and double the seams and ends so it is sealed completely. Place on preheated baking sheet and bakes for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Unfold the foil carefully and serve immediately.

This smelled so good!

We just had it with white rice and a small side salad. We loved this, and Matt even ate some of the warm tomatoes! (warm tomatoes are not his thing) Whoa.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Another Friday

Unlike most people, Friday is not a day that I really look forward to. Granted I don't dread it, but it's not awesome either. But this Friday is exciting for another reason. Star Wars Episode 1 in 3D! 

I think I'm in the minority when I say that out of the 3 new movies, this one is my favorite. I don't have really deep, knowledgeable reasons as to why it's my favorite, it just is. I like the pod racing scene, I also don't like Hayden Christensen in the 2nd and 3rd- he gives me the creeps a little a lot. Also, I like Darth Maul in a weird sith, dark side sort of yea, hate if you must, makes no difference to me:).

Clearly I should not go into the movie critiquing field.

Now, on to food related things, seeing as how this is primarily a food blog after all. 

Another thing that makes up for Friday being a less than average day is Friday Cocktails! This week I made a Blushin' Russian. I suggest all of you go to the store, buy these ingredients and make this drink. Pronto!

Blushin' Russian

You will need:
  • 1/4 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Kahlua (or any other coffee liqueur)
  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
  • 4 large strawberries, quartered
Add all the ingredients to a blender or emulsifier and blend til smooth. Garnish with a strawberry and top with whipped cream.

Source: Bartender app

Sunday, February 5, 2012

World Nutella Day

Were you aware that this was even a thing? I didn't, that was until I saw a post on Angie's Sweet Natured Treats. Now I think I will be a yearly participant :).

Nutella seems to have almost a cult following, people are literally obsessed. It's kind of fascinating. I enjoy some on my toast every once in a while (with sliced bananas-soooo good), as a filling in a cupcake, or made into truffles.

I laugh at the commercial with the mom who's all like "It's so hard to get my kids to eat breakfast, but when I put some Nutella on whole wheat toast they come running, and it's a great healthy way to start the day!" Yea, with 21g sugar, 22g carbs and 11g of fat in 2 tbsp. To the moms who are passing that up as a great breakfast- you're kidding yourself. But that doesn't mean it's not great as a treat once in a while!

So to...commemorate? World Nutella Day here is my Nutella treat I enjoyed:).

Nutella Latte

You will need:

  • 2 cups milk 
  • 1 cup strong black coffee
  • 1-2 tbsp Nutella
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour milk into a small saucepan and heat til it's simmering. Add hot coffee and whisk. Reduce heat and add in a glorious glob of Nutella, whisk until melted and combined. Take off heat and whisk in vanilla extract. Pour into 2 mugs and top with whipped cream and sifted Coco powder. I didn't have any whipped cream, but I did have a brand spankin' new tub of marshmallow fluff!

OK! We're pausing to take a trip down memory lane.

"Before I drink something, often times I eat something too!"

"They're fluffity! They're puffity! 1 2 3 4 5"

Click here Fluffy Puff Marshmallows

Happy Nutella eating:)

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Old Standby

This is one of those desserts that I know I can throw together last minute to take to a party or to dinner at a friends house. It doesn't require much time, great skill, or numerous ingredients and is relatively inexpensive. You would never know it by the taste or presentation, which is what makes it so awesome!

I usually make it with just a whipped cream frosting, but this time I wanted to give it a little something extra so I made a mascarpone-whipped cream frosting. If you want to cut down on the cost (and calories), you can omit the cheese. It can be pricey, but I find that it's on sale a lot.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-8 oz container mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Whip cream and confectioners sugar until soft peaks form. Add vanilla, zest and cheese and whip until stiff.

See, I told you this is easy.

I always buy an angel food cake premade at the store, it's just easier that way (we're going for easy here people). But if you're feeling special you can make one yourself. Otherwise, just run a knife along the outside of the cake and around the inside hole and turn over onto a plate. Use a serrated knife to cut into two layers. Spread a layer of cream in the middle and line with thinly sliced strawberries. Place the top half on it.

Use an offset spatula to frost the edges and top of the cake. Pipe a border on the top and bottom if you'd like and decorate with fresh strawberries, raspberries and blackberries (you can really use any berries you'd like). Garnish with some lemon curls.

No matter the time of year, it's always summer when you serve this cake :).

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Everybody Loves A Cookie Exchange!

A friend of mine hosted a cookie exchange this past weekend. There were 10 or 11 of us, 5 dozen cookies each, about 140 cookies in total. Daaangerous! ( I lost 2 lbs last week, ask me if I gained them back? Go ahead, ask, I dare you). It was so much fun though :). The variety of cookies was great- just to name a few: Italian chocolate cookies, fruit pillow cookies, chocolate mint crinkles, ginger cookies, Mexican wedding cookies and on and on.

My cookies were a bit of an adventure, and almost a complete failure! I was close to tears on the Friday before the party, thinking I was going to go to Wegmans and buy 5 dozen cookies. Thankfully I gave it another shot on Saturday (day of the party) and found my error. A 1/2 cup of butter is ONE stick NOT two. I don't know what I was thinking? I ended up with 40 useless, cranberry orange shortbread cookies. It was a definite face-palm moment, which ended with a lot of flour on my face...

Needless to say, once I realized my mistake and made two more batches using only 1 stick of butter each, they came out great, super tasty and smelled soooo good.

Cranberry Orange Biscotti

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted and softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 tbsp orange liqueur
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1  1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in the orange zest and liqueur. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir into creamed mixture until combined. Stir in almonds and cranberries.

Lightly flour your surface and hands and form your batter into a disk. Cut it in half and set one half aside. 

Roll each half into a log about 1 1/2 inches wide and 10 inches long. Set the rolls lengthwise on a baking sheet with parchment paper at least 3 inches apart, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm to the touch and slightly brown on top. Cool for 10-15 minutes, the transfer to cutting board and slice each log crosswise, at a diagonal, into 1/2 inch wide slices.

Lay them cut side down on baking sheet and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, turn them over and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks and dip or drizzle with chocolate if desired.