Category Archives: Recipe

Just Messing Around

This week, we decided to put one of our favorite year round dishes on the menu, Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce. However, considering that it is summer, we decided to deviate from the tried and true recipe and cook both the chicken and brussels sprouts on the grill. I thought we shouldn’t stop there, so I decided to play around with the mustard sauce as well. I browsed around a bit and then I remembered a time when we made a mustard and shallot sauce to put over poached eggs that was divine. Since we are trying to eat a little healthier I decided not to go with that recipe, which contains a cup of heavy cream, but I was inspired. And that was all I needed!

I thought about the shallots a bit and knew that using them raw or even cooking them on the stove top wasn’t the way I wanted to go for this sauce. As such, I decided that roasting the shallots might be the best preparation this time. I also did some looking around at some different mustard sauce recipes and was most intrigued by recipes that mixed varieties of mustard. We always have both dijon and whole grain on hand, so I decided I would use equal parts of each. Finally, I thought about what would complement the mustard and shallot and settled on white wine, lemon juice, and butter as my final ingredients.

Here is what I ended up using, but note that my quantities are estimates because, after all, I was making this up as I went along.

  • 2 large (really large) shallots
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp butter
  • salt & pepper

I began by roasting the shallots in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes. Trim the ends of the shallots and stand them on end. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. After 15 minutes or so, I turned the shallots so they stood on the other end. I used my small cast iron skillet so I would have the goodness left in the pan to add more depth to my sauce.

I let the shallots cool until they could be handled, then I chopped them roughly.

Next, I heated the cast iron skillet on a burner at medium to medium-high heat. When it was good and hot again, I added the wine and deglazed the pan. Then, I added the shallots to the liquid and brought that all to a boil.

Once the shallot and wine had boiled for a couple of minutes, I added the mustards and stirred until they were well incorporated. Then, I let the mixture heat until it began to thicken just slightly.

Just before I was ready to serve the sauce, I turned the heat off and added the lemon juice and butter. Then, I added just a touch more salt and pepper to suit my taste.

image

All in all, I was really happy with the way the flavors worked in this experiment. It accompanied both the chicken and the brussels sprouts well. The only thing  I wasn’t particularly happy with was the final consistency. It definitely came out more like a topping than a sauce.

I’m definitely going to be trying this again with the ingredients in the same proportions. However, the next time, I think I will combine about half of the shallot with about half of the wine and use my immersion blender to puree it all and add the puree to the sauce with the rest of the wine after I have deglazed my pan. Then, I will more finely chop the rest of the shallot to add back into everything. That should definitely leave me with more of a liquid consistency.

What have you been trying out in your kitchen lately?

Advertisements

Cake Challenge

I read a great article published by Food & Wine back in January about cake baking. The theory behind the article is that if you want to get really good at baking cake, you need to bake cakes on a regular basis. That way, you learn how cake baking really works and learn important lessons to help you improve your cake baking craft over time.

image

Now, I don’t know about you, but when there is cake in the house, the cake goes into my mouth. So, while this is great in theory, it does pose some challenges for someone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, I’ve been baking cakes when I have an occasion to attend, as most of our friend gatherings tend to be of the “bring something to share” variety.

For Superbowl Sunday, which was actually in February, I made the January cake, Citrusy Angel Food Cake. While I have baked cakes before, I had never attempted Angel Food. This one came out just a little more dense than I would have liked, but the important lesson I learned was to be careful about how long you beat your egg whites. I believe mine were just slightly overbeaten and that is what caused the cake to be slightly more dense. The other issue that may have given me some challenges is that I chose to use orange zest instead of lemon zest for this recipe. As I looked at the zest, it occurred to me that the orange zest was more wet than I typically see with lemon zest. Perhaps I should have modified my wet ingredients just slightly. Nonetheless, everyone raved about it, so it wasn’t a tragedy.

In February, I ended up skipping the cake of the month. My husband and I bought a blow torch and we tackled creme brûlée instead. He has made it again since our Valentine’s Day attempt, and we still feel like the consistency isn’t quite right. It tends to come out more like a pudding than a firm custard. So, it is still a work in progress. I, however, still want to come back to the February cake recipe, because who wouldn’t love a Molten Chocolate Cake as the conclusion to an intimate dinner party?

image

I made my March cake for a gathering of the same group of friends who were together for the Superbowl party. There was a beer tasting party, so it seemed the perfect time to make a Porter Bundt Cake with Whiskey-Caramel Sauce. OMG, this cake was amazing, but definitely not kid-friendly! The Whiskey-Caramel Sauce packs a real punch. If I hadn’t been pregnant at the time you might have found me eating the sauce with a spoon instead of just drizzling it over the slice I ate. I had never baked a bundt cake before this attempt, and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. I will make this cake again around the holidays!

image

April was a crazy month, I was miserably pregnant, so even though I had plans to make April’s Carrot Cake for a birthday party, I ended up skipping the party and sleeping instead. So, no cake. However, after the baby came, my sister decided to bring my nieces down to visit over Memorial Day weekend. My youngest niece adores carrot cake, so I decided it was time to break out the recipe. However, my older niece and my husband are not huge carrot cake fans so I needed a backup plan. Since the older niece loves chocolate, I settled on the chocolate cake recipe I grew up on. Now, in my family, we call this Grandma’s Chocolate Cake; truth be told, it is really the chocolate cake recipe from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa can. And, it is amazing. So, with a nearly 3 week old baby, I decided to tackle making two cakes in one day.

image

I was kind of surprised that I managed to pull it off with only a little bit of support from my mom. She ended up having to take the chocolate cake layers out of the oven for me while I fed the baby. But, other than that, I did it! Important lesson learned from this cake baking day, however. My frosting for both cakes was so soft that I had trouble icing the cakes. It was a very warm day, and I had left the butter out for quite some time. While room temperature butter ensures a smooth icing, I may have let it get a little too soft. In the future, when I have an icing that feels soft after mixing, I will be sure to throw it in the refrigerator for a short rest before I put it on a cake!

Another important lesson I learned from this cake baking adventure is that the quality of your ingredients really matters! I grew up eating this chocolate cake made with Hershey’s cocoa. However, I had a good supply of Dutch process cocoa already in my kitchen cabinet so I decided to use that instead. Holy cow! It made the cake the regularly decadent cake truly unbelievable. I’ll never go back to using regular Hershey’s cocoa for baking again!

The cake on the calendar for May was Tres Leches. This is my mom’s favorite, so I’m looking forward to making it for her next visit. June is a white cake with chocolate ganache icing. I’m looking forward to finding an event for making that one.

I do feel like I am learning a lot from participating in a cake baking process on a more regular basis. And, now that I have a little one, I think it is safe to say that making cakes might become a regular thing even after these 12 months! As for the rest of this year, I’m looking forward to sharing my monthly cake adventures with all of you!

Have you ever set out to practice a skill that you wanted to improve by engaging in it on a regular basis? What do you think I should take on next?

Eating Healthy Looks Good

You may have noticed that dinner picture on my What I Ate Wednesday post yesterday. Well, here is where i get to tell you all about it!

Sometime in the last couple of weeks, while perusing for recipes, Nathan came across the idea of grilling salmon on lemon slices. Grilling any kind of fish is challenging unless you really lather it up in oil. We try to limit the amount of unnecessary oil in our diet, so this seemed like a perfect solution. When Earth Fare put Wild Sockeye Salmon on sale this week, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try!

We ended up purchasing a whole filet of salmon, so Nathan got started by trimming it into four smaller pieces (two of which went into the freezer). We also sliced some lemons and made a citrus herb butter.  The citrus herb butter was based loosely on this recipe for orange-herb butter. However, Nathan went with what we had, so he added lemon zest, but no juice, substituted tarragon for the cilantro, and also added some dill. He also drastically reduced the amount of butter called for in the original version.
DSC02963

When Nathan went outside to start getting the grill ready, I got to work on our side dish. Perhaps you’ve seen that recipe on Pinterest for The Best Broccoli of Your Life. Yeah, I totally stole this recipe from there (who, of course, gives credit to Ina Garten for the recipe). We always make it with just one bunch of broccoli because there are just the two of us. Therefore, I only use one good sized clove of garlic. I also cut the olive oil in the initial part down to 1 tablespoon and don’t add any more at the end (remember, cut out the unnecessary stuff). Once it is finished roasting, I throw it back into a bowl with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon. Then, I plate it and top it with just a little shredded parmesan.DSC02961

While I was busy with the broccoli, Nathan got started with the grilling. Looks awesome, right? He dotted the fish with the butter periodically as it grilled so all of that goodness would cook right into the fish.DSC02966

We managed to time the meal perfectly. I was just ready to start plating the broccoli when Nathan came in from the deck with the salmon.
DSC02982Such a tasty meal!

WIAW and an Ugly Omelet Dinner

First, let’s get down to the What I Ate Wednesday business.

I really thought things were going to slow down at work this week, but yesterday proved me wrong. The day started off pretty regularly, but by 10:30 everything took a turn towards the crazy. A 2:00 deadline on a major project coming at you with just a few hours notice is never fun. Thankfully, I have an amazing teammate, and we were able to know the whole thing out with almost 45 minutes to spare. It threw a link in my “heading home for a healthy lunch” plan, but such is life.

Here is what I ate:
Breakfast: No surprises here… An egg with turkey bacon and half a grapefruit. Of course I forgot that it was picture time until after I was more than halfway through. Hence, all you get is a picture of a half eaten grapefruit.
Morning Snack: Banana and almonds
Stressful Working at my Desk Lunch: Roast beef sandwich on 7-grain bread from Jimmy John’s. I can order online and they bring it right to my desk. It’s hard to complain about that even if it isn’t the healthiest food. I also stole a couple of fries from a coworker who ran out for fast food. Oops! Unfortunately, I was so stressed and ravenous by this time that there is no photographic evidence of this meal.
Afternoon Snack: A slice of cheese and Nut Thins with red grapes
Dinner: Grilled Salmon with citrus herb butter and roasted broccoli
Dessert: 3 small squares of Green and Black’s Hazelnut and Currant chocolate

WIAW and Ugly Omelet

Now, let’s talk about my dinner on Monday night.

Nathan had a late meeting at the university where he teaches part-time, so I decided it was a good night for a “random things from the refrigerator” omelet. After surveying what we had, and knowing what ingredients I needed to save for later in the week, I finally settled on sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. I briefly thought about sautéing some onion and red bell pepper, but I was hungry and decided that would take too much time.

I used 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 small clove of garlic (minced), 1 tablespoon of oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, and just a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper.

DSC02951

I whisked everything together and melted just a touch of coconut oil in my small Calphalon sauté pan. When the pan was hot, I added the egg mixture. As the eggs cooked, I gradually pulled the cooked outer edges toward the center and swirled the pan to keep the raw egg floating toward the outside of the pan. When the bottom looked pretty set, but the top was still fairly wet, I sprinkled one half of the egg mixture with 3 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Then, I placed the whole thing under the broiler until all of the egg was completely set and the cheese was melted. (I like my egg cooked thoroughly. If you don’t, you can skip the broiler part or just broil for less time.)

Then came the hard part. Unless you use a  ton of oil, sometimes omelets are just hard to fold and get out of the pan. This is where omelets end up messy in my kitchen. Amazingly, this one came out with some jagged edges, but only one hole. It still isn’t the prettiest omelet I’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t bad (for me).  I mixed up some baby spinach with grape tomatoes and goat cheese and dressed that with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar as my side.

It turned out to be a tasty dinner! (Printable recipe coming to my recipe page soon!)

DSC02957What do you end up eating when you’re cooking for one?

 

Recipes Coming Your Way!

I’ve been really wanting to add a recipes page to the blog for a while now. I have a lot of individual recipe posts, but I have been looking for a way to compile and consolidate them all in one place. I even went so far as to add a Recipes page a while back with the tag line “Coming Soon” thinking that would spur me to action. And, it did. It just took a while.

Thankfully, on Friday morning, I found a few hours to dedicate to working on my collection of original recipes to share with everyone. I’m looking for a better way of organizing them still, but for now, I have them organized by major categories:

  • Pork, Beef, and Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Vegetarian
  • Seafood
  • Side Dishes
  • Soups and Stews
  • Dips and Sauces

As I have a need, I’ll add more categories.  Also, I’ve only added a handful of recipes at this point, but as time passes, I’ll be adding more and more. In fact, just this morning, I added a perfect recipe for summer–a lightweight version of Slow-Cooker Lamb and Vegetable Curry!

So this week, I guess I treated myself with time to get something accomplished I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Take a visit over to Olives n’ Wine to see how everyone else is treating themselves. And, be sure to stay tuned for many more recipes coming your way!

Perfecting Paella

Hey guys! Welcome to a guest post by my dear husband, Nathan. We treated ourselves with paella on Sunday night to celebrate (almost) 4 years together. Here’s the story!

This post has been four years in the making…

Back in the late summer of 2010 I was busy composing a new flamenco-infused percussion ensemble piece for the University of Oklahoma when I started dating this cute little someone from my running group. When I finished the piece, Katie & I joked that we should celebrate by eating paella, a popular Spanish rice dish.

Are there any places in Greensboro that serve authentic paella? No.
Did we own a paella pan to make it ourselves? No.

Fast-forward a few months to Christmas 2010…

I thought I was being clever and romantic buying Katie a paella pan & cookbook for Christmas. As we’re exchanging gifts during this, our first Christmas together, we simultaneously opened dueling paella pans. Katie even one-upped me by seeking out a much more authentic pan than the Sur La Table model I bought for her.

Can I get a collective “Awwwwwww”?

We decided to try out these new gifts on my family. Let’s call it a valiant yet failed attempt. I was trying to make do with a tiny kitchen and a crappy stovetop. Not optimal. And I haven’t tried since. Until now…

Paella Attempt #2

A couple of months ago we broke down and bought a gas grill after years of solely using charcoal. One of my reasons for this was to have a constant heating source with a large surface area to be able to make what? That’s right – paella!

Paella Ingredients

Step one was finding the right kind of rice for paella. Calasparra or bomba rice is recommended, as they can absorb much more liquid than traditional rice or even arborio (risotto rice). Paella is not meant to be creamy like its Italian friend risotto, so we wanted to get the rice right. After 3 failed searches at Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and Cost Plus World Market, Katie tracked down some bomba rice at Sur La Table.

Here are all of the ingredients:

  • Bomba rice
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • seafood stock
  • white onion
  • tomato
  • garlic
  • fresh red bell pepper
  • roasted red bell pepper
  • parsley
  • capers
  • saffron
  • dried oregano
  • kosher salt
  • Spanish chorizo
  • shrimp
  • mussels

The traditional Valencian paella doesn’t mix seafood and meat, but I really wanted to include some Spanish chorizo with the shrimp and mussels for the occasional salty/smoky/spicy burst of flavor. I’ll let the photo collage walk you through the process.

paella_collage

The flavor profile was spot on, but it was a little creamier than I wanted it. Next time, we’ll use a little less seafood stock.

We started with a deliciously light salad that Katie threw together with arugula, baby spinach, shaved manchego, and chorizo crumbles tossed with EVOO and lemon juice.

Salad

We paired the meal with a delightful Spanish tempranillo wine.

Tempranillo

And the beautiful finished product…

Paella Mixta with Shrimp, Mussels, & Chorizo

Thanks for reading, everyone! Check out more treats this week over at Olives ‘n Wine!

WIAW: Weekend Eats

Holiday weekends are pretty awesome, but when we get the time to make some fabulous food at home, they are even better! Once I reflected on all of the great food we ate this past weekend, I realized that What I Ate Wednesday would be the perfect time to share it all!

We kicked off our holiday weekend with some grilled vegetable quinoa. While I cooked up the quinoa and toasted pepitas, Nathan grilled some asparagus, grape tomatoes, red bell peppers, zucchini, red onions, and a jalapeño. We plated the quinoa and vegetables, sprinkled a small handful of the roasted pepitas on each plate, and then drizzled just a little balsamic vinegar over the top. It was absolutely delicious.

20140709-053251-19971846.jpg

Grilled vegetable quinoa

On Friday morning, we went to one of our favorite breakfast spots in the area. Unfortunately, Mary’s Gourmet Diner is about 30 minutes from home. But, since we were heading in that direction to hike and Nathan’s sister was heading to the mountains, it worked perfectly to meet up there. Nathan had their breakfast club and I had a tempeh scramble. Yum!

By the time we got home from hiking, we were exhausted! Fortunately, we had planned ahead and had all of the fixings for throwing burgers on the grill. We love the bleu cheese burgers from Fresh Market, so those made our base.  We gathered everything we needed for the rest of the dinner prep and brought everything out to the table on our deck. Then, while the meat cooked we sliced tomatoes and avocados and munched on chips and salsa. We served the burgers with some broccoli and cranberry slaw. We could totally make this slaw, but we knew we didn’t want to deal with all of that on this particular evening, so grabbed some from the counter at The Fresh Market when we were buying our burgers.

20140709-053248-19968521.jpg

Bleu cheese burgers

20140709-053247-19967710.jpg

Grilled peach with vanilla ice cream

We even ended up with dessert on Friday night! Peach season is upon us, so we grabbed a couple that were perfectly right and a small container of vanilla ice cream. While we ate our burgers, Nathan placed the halved peaches over the grill (set on low). He turned them once or twice and cooked them until they were nice and soft. Then, he sprinkled a combination of brown sugar and cinnamon over them. Finally, we placed them in a bowl and topped them with a little ice cream. They were the perfect ending to the meal.
Saturday morning, I got up to run early (just enough to maintain my streak), and when I got home, Nathan was on his way out to the grocery store.  He ended up recreating a slightly more healthy version of the breakfast club he enjoyed the day before at Mary’s.  He used basil, garlic, and fat-free mayo to create the pesto mayo and we had turkey bacon instead of traditional bacon. The rest of the toppings were a combo of baby spinach and arugula, fresh tomato, avocado, and an egg with a slightly runny center. Nathan also made home fries with onion and fresh herbs.  While he was cooking, I decided it was a good morning to break out the French press, so we had a perfectly brewed cup of coffee while we ate. Ideal morning!

20140709-053246-19966847.jpg

Breakfast club and herbed home fries

We had our last at-home meal of the weekend on Sunday afternoon before we left for the baseball game.  Fish tacos!  They were delicious, but the real standout was the roasted tomatillo salsa we had to go with them. We grabbed 4 nice looking tomatillos, some small onions, and a jalapeño at the farmer’s market on Saturday, so Nathan placed them all on a cookie sheet under the broiler for about 20 minutes (he turned everything about halfway through).  Once they were cool enough to handle, he tossed everything into the blender with the juice of a lime and a little salt.  He ended up adding more lime juice and a little more salt, but that part is totally a matter of preference. It was a real treat! In fact, we decided that when we head to the beach on vacation with my family, we will make some for everyone to enjoy!

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

What kind of special foods did you end up making over the holiday weekend?