April 27, 2011

Daily Fluff

This is the look you get from Beau at the mention of several magic words including breakfast, dinner, walk, park, car ride, and pretty much anything that follows the phrase "do you want...?"

April 25, 2011

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes.  Derby 137 is just a few short weeks away!!  The festivities are just starting to get in full swing around here and it would be nice if it actually didn't rain.  Just once.  That's all I ask.  It rained during Thunder, so it was a little more subdued than last year.  But nothing stops the fireworks!  Due to Easter, the Thunder kick off was last week, three weeks before the Derby instead of the usual two.  The first batch of mini Derby pies has been made and I am looking forward to the next few weeks!

And my apologies for my long absense.  I was spoiled last week - Stud had a week off from taking temperatures and checking blood pressure and he cooked me dinner all week!  I did nothing!  It was a really nice treat.

April 19, 2011

Mac and Cheese

Last week, Stud and I decided that our wedding cake topper was not going to get any better sitting in our freezer, so we decided to break it out and celebrate our 6 month anniversary.  Any excuse to eat cake, right?  We had to have a special dinner to go along with our cake, but I didn’t feel like cooking too much.  It was Friday.  We resorted to duck confit with mac and cheese and a salad.  The duck confit comes frozen and all you have to do it bake it for about 45 minutes, and it is amazing.  I would never go through the effort of confit-ing my own duck when this decadence is so easy.  (They are from Hudson Valley Foie Gras)  All I had to do to complete our meal was make some mac and cheese.  And I went the personal serving route because why not?  The little Le Cruset pots are so cute!

Spicy Mac and Cheese
1 lb elbow spaghetti
5 T. butter
6 T. flour
5 c. milk (I used mostly skim)
1 ½ t. powdered mustard
¼ t. cayenne
Pinch nutmeg
2 T. Cholula
2 c. gruyere cheese
2 c. cheddar (or another sharp cheese)
1 c. parmesan cheese
Panko bread crumbs

Cook the pasta according to package instructions and once finished, rinse under cool water to prevent sticking.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter and once it’s simmering, add in the flour.  Then add in the cayenne and powdered mustard and whisk until incorporated.  Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly.  Once the roux and milk are combined, bring the mixture to a boil to complete the thickening process.  Once the sauce comes to a boil, remove from the heat and add in the nutmeg, cheese, Cholula, salt and pepper to taste.  The amount of salt needed will vary depending on your cheeses, so make sure you taste it.  Once all the cheese has melted, add in the elbow pasta and put back on low heat stirring until it’s all heated through.  Put in a baking dish and sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs.  Put under the broiler until the crumbs are all toasty and then enjoy!

I loved the subtle heat and creaminess of this mac and cheese.  Also, it is essential to taste.  After our first attempt at seasoning, it was still really bland.  We added more cheese (duh), more salt, and more Cholula and ended up with something amazing.  This can also sit in a warm oven if you want to make it ahead and just pop it under the broiler right before you serve it.  Also, mac and cheese is one of those things with endless options.  Maybe add some more spice.  Or some bacon.  Or add the duck confit to the mac and cheese!!!  Wasn’t mac and cheese one of those fashionable-again foods not too long ago (along with cupcakes, grilled cheese, etc)?  I bet there are some awesome recipes out there. 

April 17, 2011

Quiche Lorraine

I tried to be educational and figure out where the name “Lorraine” came from in this most basic of quiches.  But alas, I found nothing really that concrete.  Wikipedia talks about how the Lorraine Francophonian dialect is where the name came originated, but that is so boring.  I’d much prefer to think that an amazing chef named it after his favorite customer, his mom, wife, or his petite chienne.  But it doesn’t look like it.  Despite my affinity for all things French, quiche had never been a favorite.  I feel like I had some scarring quiche experience as a child since I have always been skeptical of their jiggly-ness, but when you get to the ingredient list, there is NO WAY I could dislike quiche.  To be careful, I went with the fool-proof Cooks Illustrated recipe and you know what, I don’t hate quiche at all. 

Quiche Lorraine
1 frozen pie crust (back to my trusty Pillsbury)
8 oz bacon, sliced into pieces
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream (NO WAY I could dislike this)
½ t, salt
½ t. pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
½ c. grated gruyere cheese

I followed the instructions on the pie crust box for the crust.  They specifically say for quiches to not blind bake the crust.  But I think it could have done with 10 minutes lined with foil.  I used an actual quiche pan, but a pie pan or tart pan would work as well.  Make sure the excess crust is all folded under and not hanging off the edge.  On to the good part.  Fry up the bacon pieces and once they are nice and crispy, set aside to drain on a paper towel.  Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese).  Layer the bacon and cheese on the bottom of the pie crust.  Pour in the custard mixture (should come up to about ½” below the edge) and bake for about 32-35 minutes.  Now comes the hard part.  Let it cool and set for about TEN minutes.  Stud and I failed at this step and it broke apart as soon as we sliced it.  So be patient.

To off-set the cream, bacon, cheese, and pie crust, we had this with a huge salad.  It was amazing.  I now love quiche.  And you can serve it at room temp, but I much prefer it warm.  Unless they are mini-quiches.  Those can be deadly and addicting and are good at any temperature.  Now I am officially ready to begin experimenting with quiche.  Who knows what else I can add.  Mushrooms.  Asparagus.  More cheese. Spinach. 

April 15, 2011

Daily Fluff

Beau got to hang out with Chuckles last weekend. Love. 

April 14, 2011

Grill Bread

Pretty much anytime Stud and I grill, we have grill bread.  I have no idea where the idea came from except from the depths of my mom’s cooking brain.  One day she just decided we should make bread on the grill.  One of the best ideas of all time.  You can really use any bread for this recipe, but I like to use a puligese or other loaf cut into thick slices.  We have even used a baguette before, but thick loaves are better.  

Grill Bread
Sliced bread
Olive oil
1-3 garlic cloves

Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.  Place on a grill (we do this while the meat is resting after grilling) and flip when toasted.  I just check them periodically, it usually takes just a few minutes.  Once both sides are good and toasty, remove from the grill and (best part!), rub the bread with the clove of garlic.  If the cloves are big enough, it works better if you cut them in half and rub with the cut side.  More garlic!

It probably good to make sure everyone loves garlic before you make this, you could just to plain toasty bread.  And that everyone is ok smelling like garlic after dinner.  But this bread is the perfect summer accompaniment to just about any meat/fish/chicken/anything.  Also, since the grill is already fired up, this bread is a VERY easy yet fancy tasting side dish.  I think we have already had it three times this spring.  And I think that is every time we have grilled.

April 12, 2011

Sweet Salmon

Spring has arrived.  And Stud is home from being a Danville doctor.  So the grill has been getting quite the workout.  Last weekend, he had a new recipe for salmon he wanted to try out, courtesy of his Danville host mom.  She prepared it in the oven but with the beautiful weather outside, he thought he'd give it a whirl on the grill. We used the same grilling method from the previous salmon recipe, but added a little sweetness. 

Sweet Salmon
2 T. butter
¼ c. brown sugar
Olive oil

Melt the butter and sugar in the microwave so it forms molten deliciousness.  Season the salmon with the salt and olive oil and place flesh side down over medium heat.  Cook, covered, for seven minutes and then flip so it’s skin side down.  Brush on the sugar/butter mixture.  The flames may shoot up from the butter, so be careful, but it’s burning all the skin off!  Cook for an additional four minutes and then remove.  The skin should peel right off the fish. 

The butter and brown sugar adds such a delicious candy crust to the fish.  The glaze combines well with the flavor and texture of the salmon for a savory sweet dish.  You know what would be really good if you like spicy??  Add in ¼ t. cayenne to the mixture for a little spicey savory sweetness.  That is on the menu next time we have salmon.  It’s like the butter and brown sugar are good for you since they are on salmon…logical, right??

Arugula Pesto

I hate to throw food away.  I hate the throw leftovers away.  I hate to throw produce away.  It irks me.  I feel like I am being wasteful.  So I try my hardest to avoid it, hence my addiction to our deep freeze.  But there are some things you just can’t freeze and that’s when I start scouring the interwebs for recipes involving random ingredients.  Last week, I ton of arugula leftover and I knew there had to be another option out there besides just a salad.  Healthy.  Bleh.  And what did I find out there in web space??  Arugula PESTO with cream – from one of my favorite food blogs no less!!  Win win win.  I actually had all the ingredients already in my fridge and it was a piece of cake to make. 

Arugula Pesto
6 oz. arugula (or whatever you have leftover)
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese (she calls for Asiago, but I was working with what I had in the fridge)
2 cloves garlic
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a food processor, give the garlic a rough chop.  Then add in the arugula and drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running.  Once it’s a nice sauce, add in the cream and cheese.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve over your pasta of choice!

This pesto, with no red pepper flakes added, had some major kick.  I underestimated the flavor impact arugula would have in pesto compared to basil.  But the cream was a nice way to cut that spice a little bit.  You could probably even omit the cream entirely.  It did make the pesto an almost unnatural shade of very bright green.   It was a great use of leftover arugula and yet another pesto recipe to add to my ever growing list.

April 7, 2011

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

The other "salad" I brought on our picnic was an orzo pasta salad that came from one of those murder mysteries with recipes along with the book.  Leave it to my mom to read one and realize it's going to be awesome.  I hope none of you thought I was going to pack real salads for our wine tasting/picnic.  No way.  This pasta salad has such a weird combo of ingrediens and together, the result is addiciting.

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad 
1 c. uncooked orzo
3 T. finely chopped red onion
1 c. halved cherry tomatoes
2 T.chopped  fresh basil
2 T. capers
1 T. dijon mustard
1/4 t. sugar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3.5 oz goat cheese

Cook the orzo according to package instructions.  When it is done, drain it and rinse under cold water to prevent the grains from sticking.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl (I like to give the capers a rough chop) and combine.  The recipe instructions actually say to add everything but the mustard, sugar, and vinegar and to form a vinaigrette in a separate bowl and then add it which would probably make it better, but I am lazy and I like one bowl recipes.

So good.  But that would not be a hard conclusion to reach since it has orzo, goat cheese, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar involved, all some of my favorite things.  We had our potato salad and pasta salad with pork tenderloin on buns and cookies, and of course, lots of wine.  I am a new fan of picnics.  There could be many more in my future this summer!

April 5, 2011

Summer "Salads"

Last weekend, I had my first outside-amazing-weather weekend.  On Saturday Stud and I cashed in on our Christmas present from his sister and husband.  We spent the day at Talon Winery, one of sixty (I am shocked there are so many) vineyards in Kentucky with a wine tasting and a picnic outside.  It was so.much.fun.  Like I want to do it every weekend.  There are sixty to hit!  We did our tasting first and then sat outside for who knows how long talking, getting sunburned and enjoying our picnic.  Since I knew we would be sitting outside, I jumped on the chance to bring some summer "salads" that I have missed over the past winter months.  The first up was potato salad from my go-to source, Cooks Illustrated.  And please ignore the tupperware, it was all packed for the picnic!  Aaaaand I tried as many times as my patience allowed to get that picture right side up.  It refused.  Gah, technology.

Classic Potato Salad
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 T. white vinegar
2 T. grated red onion
3 T. sweet pickle relish
1/2 c mayonnaise
3/4 t. powdered mustard
3/4 t. celery seed
2 T. minced fresh parsley
3 hard boiled eggs

Cook the potatoes until they are slightly tender.  I also left the skins on mine, but they can be removed.  Once they are finished, drain the potatoes and immediately toss with the vinegar and set aside to cool, about 20 minutes.  Dice the hard boiled eggs and add to the potatoes with the rest of the ingredients and toss gently until it's all combined.

Yeah, so the eggs are amazing.  You can also dice the red onion instead of grating it.  I just didn't want to bite into pieces of red onion.  All these weird ingredients make so many layers of flavor, I kept snacking on it before it even made it into the to go container.  And we did use light mayonnaise in the name of health.  The one issue we encountered was the consistency, which was all our fault.  I cooked the potatoes for too long (I am used to mashed potatoes) and then Stud was a little over-enthusiastic with the stirring (his favorite sous chef activity) and the combination of the two made our potato salad a little more like chunky mashed potatoes.  So make sure you cook them just until tender and not so a fork slides through.

Daily Fluff

This is Beau giving you the stink eye.

April 3, 2011

Time for Salsa

Last week, I had these grand plans to make homemade nachos starting with making some corn chips, refried beans, salsa, guacamole, and yum!  Well, I made the salsa and that is as far as that dinner ever made it.  But now I am enjoying the salsa, and for whatever reason, this salsa is amazing with eggs.  Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, all delicious.  I actually used it on a Mexican Pizza and it was divine.

6 roma tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1/2 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 T. lime juice
1 T. chilies in adobo sauce (I have some pureed in the freezer)
2 T. Cholula
1/2 c. cilantro
Salt to taste (it takes a lot)

Throw all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it reaches the desired consistency.  I removed the seeds from my jalapeno just to take some of the heat out.  I then proceeded to taste the salsa using the same spoon and burned my lips off.  I suggest putting the seed-removing jalapeno spoon out of reach.

I love the freshness that comes with homemade salsa.  It has been so nice to snack on throughout the week.  The only issue is it makes quite a bit and without a huge batch of nachos, it has been hard to get through it all before it goes bad.  I would suggest cutting the recipe in half if it's just for snacks.  And it can also be adapted to your taste.  Like really spicy?  Add some more chilies and another jalapeno.  Not spicy?  Leave it all out.

April 1, 2011

Daily Fluff

The weather has cooled back off around here and you know what that means...someone is VERY snuggly again.


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