Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great Gift Idea: Taste Books

I'm a huge fan of Bon Appétit Magazine, and a few years ago came across the site in an issue. At you can put together all your own personal recipes, or add some you find on their site, and have it published into a nice bound Taste Book. In my opinion, one of the best gifts a person could get, is a personalized cookbook! This makes a perfect wedding or bridal shower gift too. They also have a number of ready-made Taste Books to choose from with an endless number of fabulous recipes to choose from! Here's an example of their book The Best of the Farmer's Market.

Check them out sometime and find some spectacular ideas!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dinner with Risotto

Well... thought we should start this week off strong with a recipe for Basic Risotto! I've always loved the creamy rich texture of risotto with really anything in it, but never made it myself. Until tonight :) Looking though Giada De Laurentiis' cookbook, Everyday Italian, I found what I was looking for. A basic recipe that you can really put just about anything in.

On Tonight's menu:
A Green Salad topped with sliced grilled chicken a side of Risotto with Saffron & Asparagus and Grilled Peppers.

What you will need for Basic Risotto:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon reserved)
1/2 Cup yellow or white onion - finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups Arborio rice (or another medium grain rice)
1/2 cup dry white wine (one that you will be willing to drink with your meal is wise.)
4 Cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
*Pretty much any vegetable, seafood and/or spice you desire. These you will want to cook separately in a little butter or oil, and add at the end, so as not to get mushy.

To Make:

Start by bringing the chicken stock to a simmer in a sauce pan, cover and let sit on simmer until needed. In a separate medium pan over medium heat melt 2 tablespoons of butter.

Add in the onion and stir until soft, but do not brown. Then add the rice, stirring constantly, and toast but not brown. Then add white wine, and let almost completely evaporate.

Once the wine is almost evaporated, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock at a time, stirring constantly. Let each cup absorb into the rice before adding the next.

As the stock absorbs the rice will start to release its starches and get creamy! After the last of the stock has been added and absorbed, add in your vegetables that you have cooked separately, the Parmesan cheese, and last tablespoon of butter.


The End Result!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Fancy French Toast

Fancy French Toast is a new favorite of mine! The original recipe I got from Claire Robinson of 5 Ingredient Fix. Of course I didn't write down the recipe because I was so busy swooning over the television, so I'm winging it a bit. It is so simple yet so delectable! Perfect for making a weekend morning special or perhaps a loved ones birthday memorable. :)

The end result. YUM.

For Fancy French Toast you will need:
  • 1 loaf of Brioche - sliced approx. 1 inch thick (My other favorite to use is Italian Sweet Bread with raisins and cranberries - today I'm using Cinnamon Swirl Bread from a local bakery.)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 Cup of Half & Half
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 Cup strawberries - washed with stems removed, and sliced
  • 1 Cup blueberries - washed with stems removed
  • 1/4 Cup granulated sugar - (I like to use agave nectar)
  • About a tablespoon of butter for the pan
To Make:

Slice the bread into 1 inch in thickness.

In a pie plate, or shallow pan of some sort, crack the eggs, and Half & Half and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
In a sauce pan stir together berries and sugar and let sit on low heat, stirring occasionally. This will be a heavenly topping! And the berries do all the work for you!

Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture - letting it soak it just a bit on each side.

    Place each slice on a heated and lightly buttered pan or electric skillet. About 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown.

      At this point the berries should be syrupy and succulent! So I like to cut the french toast diagonally and place artfully on a plate, drizzle fruit on top and dust lightly with confectioners sugar. I like to serve this dish with a side of fresh seasonal fruit with cottage cheese, orange juice, and maybe some bacon.

      Enjoy! And have a great weekend!

      Thursday, July 14, 2011

      Jeff's Pozole

      One of mine and Jeff's favorite dates is Dinner. Not just going out to eat, but we like to get excited about a meal idea we come up with, write out a grocery list, go to the store together, make the meal together, partake of the meal together, and clean up together! It's SO much fun!

      Yesterday, Jeff got a wild hair to look through a cookbook I bought for him over a year ago. The NFL Gameday Cookbook by Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe. In it he found a recipe for Pozole, a Mexican stew made with hominy. He decided that should be the first recipe posted to share. It is really delicious, and totally a "man food" that we will be making come football season! (We made some changes to the original recipe.)

      For Jeff's Pozole you will need:

      • 1/2 Cup olive oil
      • 1 garlic clove - minced
      • 2 pounds pork roast - cut into 1 inch cubes
      • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
      • 2 Cups carrots - roughly chopped
      • 1 Cup yellow onion - chopped
      • 2 - 3 jalapenos - diced, with seeds and veins removed
      • 2 small cans of diced green chiles
      • 1/2 Cup chili powder
      • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
      • 2 teaspoons salt
      • 1  teaspoon black pepper
      • 1 - 32 ounce can of hominy - drained and rinsed (If you have dried hominy, boil 2 - 2 1/2 Cups in a medium sauce pan of water until tender.)
      • 1 - 15 ounce can of pinto beans - drained
      • 5 Cups chicken stock - divided

      For Garnish:
      Green onions - chopped
      Your choice of cheese
      Sour cream
      Cilantro - chopped

      To Make:
      1. Dice pork and place in a bowl with the flour. Toss until coated.
      2. In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté garlic until soft.
      3. Add pork and brown. Remove pork and set aside.
      4. Sauté onions, carrots, jalapenos until tender.
      5. Add green chiles, chili powder, hominy, beans, and 3 Cups chicken stock.
      6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
      7. Add pork back into the pot along with remaining 2 Cups of chicken broth.
      8. Cover and simmer for approximately 45 minutes - 1 hour.
      9. Garnish with your favorite toppings.
      10. Game Time!

      Wednesday, July 13, 2011

      Utensil Essentials

      Anyone close to me knows I enjoy a good kitchen gadget! For you newbies out there, it's probably pretty obvious that one cannot cook without the right tools. And it is much more fun and time efficient when you can cook with the appropriate tools. So I am going to share a list of basic kitchen utensils I think every cook should have. Baking is a whole other ball game. (You ladies setting up Wedding Registries take note!)
      1. Good Pots & Pans - These are an investment, but something you will use almost daily! A good set will last you at least 10 years, if not a life time. Heavy and sturdy are key. We received a set of Emril's Tri-Clad cook ware as a wedding gift and I love them. And make sure you have 2 stock pots.
      2. Crock Pot - I use mine all year! Autumn and winter are a given with stews, soups, and roasts. But I even just made tender and juicy country style ribs in our crock pot a few days ago. These can range anywhere from $25 - $200. Ours was around $40 and I can't imagine what the difference would be with one that costs more.
      3. Good Knives - These too can be a splurge. Something mid price range is a good investment if you can't afford Wusthov. A stainless steel blade is good and make sure it's one that runs down the length of the handle which gives them much more durability and balance. Ours are Chicago Cutlery and are not necessarily something to scream about, but good quality. We have had them for almost 2 years and they are just now needing a little sharpening.
      4. Whisk - My favorite is a small wire one from Pampered Chef that works great in sauce pans and drink glasses alike.
      5. Rubber Spatulas & Bamboo Spoons- Every shape and size! I have a skinny one from Pampered Chef that fits in the smallest tomato paste can all the way to a jumbo one that scrapes my biggest mixing bowl with ease.
      6. Nylon Tongs - Perfect for turning chicken breasts in a pan and even tossing noodles in sauce.
      7. Cheese Grater - Need I say more? It's a must!
      8. Various Measuring Cups & Spoons - I have some I use for dry and some for wet ingredients.
      9. Parchment Paper - Multi-purpose and SO useful in the kitchen.
      10. Aluminum Foil - Again a must in the kitchen. From covering a dish to prevent unnecessary browning to neatly packaging individual portions for the grill.
      Those are the basics I use multiple times a week, if not multiple times a day! Now if you have the means to do so there are a few others that have made my life a lot easier in the last few years.
      • Blender
      • Food Processor
      • Citrus Juicer
      • Citrus Zester
      Of course there are always more tools and utensils one can acquire. These are certainly not the only things filling my kitchen drawers, but if you have good basics, you can cook anything!

      Well... come back tomorrow for a yummy dinner recipe!

      Monday, July 11, 2011

      Let There Be Food!

      In the words of Harriet Van Horne,
      "Cooking is like love. It should be done with abandon or not at all."
      Breaking bread with others is an instant ice breaker. And those we share a meal with typically soon become friends - if they aren't already. Food has always been the main event of any party, or week day really, of my entire life. My family is obsessed with food, good food. I don't know how a person could grow up in this kind of environment without cultivating some sense of respect and love for food and those who prepare it.

      My mother, Jen, is an excellent cook. And in the kitchen during my childhood I was her sous chef. At an early age I was her right hand man er... girl, chopping peppers and onions, buttering pans, grating cheese, and most importantly - acting as the taste specialist. I can lick a spatula or beater as good as any! I fell in love with the kitchen... I can't describe the feeling I get when holding a sturdy pan with sauteing onions in my hand over a hot stove. And even more so when I'm pouring chocolate cake batter into a buttered cake pan. There is something so gratifying about that cake being cooled and set atop a beautiful cut crystal dish with whipped frosting adorning it like chocolate clouds. I digress...

      Mom is one of those cooks that "wings it". She can adjust a recipe and add a twist here or there that personalizes a dish to perfection! With this blog, my intention is to cook and bake with abandon, and learn this skill of hers. All the while blogging my findings and sharing them with you! My husband, Jeff, is hoping this also lands him some delicious "samples". :) That's all for now - Come back hungry! ~Amber