Tuesday, October 30, 2012

French Onion Soup with Cheesy Croutons

Is there anything better than hot soup with a nice hunk of crusty bread on a crisp fall night?  Last night, I thought i'd make a big pot of french onion soup.  Typically, a restaurant style french onion soup will come in a bowl with the cheese and bread baked right on top. Much to my dismay, I realized when I got to cooking that none of my bowls were oven proof!  Since I couldn't broil the whole bowl in the oven, I decided i'd make some cheesy, crunchy toast to float on top of the soup.  It was oh so delicious, comforting and best of all, made plenty for leftovers.

* 4 onions, sliced (I went with two white, two sweet)
* 1/2 stick butter
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 tsp. kosher salt
* 1/2 tsp. pepper
* 1/3 c. flour
* 1/3 c. red wine
* roughly 5 c. beef broth (I actually used 1 (32 oz) box, plus 1 (14.5 oz) can)
* 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken stock
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
* 1 baguette
* 1/2 c. grated gruyere or mozzarella cheese

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add olive oil to pan and swirl to combine.  Add the sliced onions and salt and cook until very soft, about 20-30 minutes, stirring often.  When onions are cooked, add flour to pan and stir well.  Let flour cook for 2 minutes, then add red wine to the pan.  Add beef broth, chicken stock, bay leaf, garlic powder, and pepper to the pan and increase heat to medium high.  Let the soup come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to broil. Slice baguette into individual toasts, place on a cookie sheet, and top with grated cheese. Broil until golden, about 2-3 minutes.  Serve soup with toasts on top.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hot Gruyere & Bacon Dip

Last night, I had a few friends over for my annual pumpkin carve-off! Even though everyone came over after dinner, of course I had to make a snack or two. This recipe is inspired by a recipe I found on Pinterest; I've been dying to try it so this was the perfect excuse.

The original recipe can be found here, but I altered it just slightly.  I skipped the the chives, largely because I forgot them at the store, added a bit of dijon mustard, and also sautéed the onions in the bacon fat, which gave the dip a really delicious, warm, bacon-y flavor. Everyone loved the dip and I even had to pull out some crackers when the bread ran out so we could gobble up every last bit!

* 4 pieces of bacon
* 1 1/4 c. grated gruyere cheese, divided
* 1 white onion, finely diced
* 1/2 c. mayonnaise
* 1/2 c. sour cream
* 1 tsp. dijon mustard
* Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400.  Heat a sauté pan to medium high heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp; reduce the heat if it starts to smell burnt.  Drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside.  Reduce the heat to medium low and drain all but a teaspoon or so of the bacon fat off (I just absorbed most of it with paper towels, but be careful- the bacon fat will be scorching hot!).  Add the onions and sauté until they are soft, about 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine 1 c. of the grated gruyere, mayonnaise, sour cream, and dijon mustard in a bowl.  Crumble in the bacon. When onions are done, let cool slightly, then add to the cheese mixture. Stir well to combine.  Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray and add the dip.  Top the dip with the remaining gruyere cheese.  Bake until bubbly and hot, about 20 minutes.  Serve with baguette slices or crackers.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Veuve Clicquot...It's the Bubbliest!

"I only drink Champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty"
Lily Bollinger 

I'm sad to say i've been MIA from the kitchen this week, but I promise I have a good excuse!  Last week, when Mike and I were in Savannah, he decided to put a ring on it (yay!) and since we've been back, i've been basking in congratulatory cakes, dinners, lunches, social sips and celebrations! Being engaged is so exciting for us and it's been wonderful celebrating with friends and family and drinking some delightful bubbly on the way.

Champagne is of course the loveliest of social sips.  My friend Magen gave me the bottle on the left when I got a new job last year, and it only felt right to wrap it up in the ritziest of wine accessories- my Pottery Barn fur (faux fur, don't worry) stole.  Magen also introduced me to the ultimate in champagne, Veuve Clicquot.  Now, for some of you, Veuve Clicquot may be an every day sip, but for me it is strictly special occasions given my budget.  The first time I tasted it was when Magen smuggled a few bottles to my house from her parents new years eve party, and i'm not sure we knew at the time that it was a high quality champagne.  It's super crisp, effervescent and dry, just like a good champagne should be. I think given the occasion, i'm going to treat myself to the ever fabulous bottle of Veuve Clicquot and relax before the planning begins!  Though really, do you ever need an excuse to pop a bottle of bubbly?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shiitake Mushroom & Goat Cheese Risotto

Last week, Mike and I ventured to Savannah for a quick trip to see a comedy show.  The show was great, but Savannah was even greater!  I had never been before, and even though I didn't run into Paula Deen like I hoped I would, I did get to eat some wonderful food, enjoy some Savannah Sweet Tea (with Sweet Tea Vodka of course!), and stop by the Lady & Sons for souvenirs - because who doesn't need a "Hey Y'all!" koozie?

Wednesday night, Mike and I had a really delicious late night dinner at a restaurant called The Public.  The weather was absolutely perfect, cool and crisp, for eating outside so we dined al fresco and ordered some warm, hearty food and a nice glass of red wine.  I had the Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Risotto with Chicken and it was absolutely to die for.  I was still thinking about it last night so I made my at home version, and it turned out exactly as I hoped!  I skipped the chicken, but feel free to add it (shrimp might be good in this too!).  Risotto really isn't difficult to make, but it is sort of labor intensive.  You need to stay by the stove and stir continuously until it's finished, but it's so worth it!  This recipe can be served as an entree or side, and makes enough for two people.

At Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons
* 1 c. arborio rice (arborio is a must for risotto, I wouldn't try to substitute)
* 1 small sweet onion, diced
* 4 or 5 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
* 1 (32 oz) box chicken stock
* 3 tbsp. butter
* 2 oz goat cheese

Add chicken stock to a small pot and heat to medium heat.  In a large sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes (if they start to brown, reduce heat).  Add 1 more tablespoon of butter and the mushrooms to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.  Next, add the last tablespoon of butter and the rice to the pan and toast it for 2-3 minutes.  Add a ladle full of stock to the pan (if stock starts to boil, reduce heat to med-low) and stir continuously until the stock is absorbed. Continue to add stock to the pan, one ladle full at a time, being careful to let the rice absorb the stock before adding more.  Continue this process until the rice is cooked through and has a creamy texture (I used all of the stock, which took about 30 minutes total).  Once the risotto is done cooking, fold in the goat cheese.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Plum Tomato Pizza

Homemade pizza is such a fun and easy weeknight meal, but also doubles as a great party food.  Tonight, Mike and I had this plum tomato pizza for dinner with a caesar salad, but just by cutting the pizza into bite size pieces transforms it into a quick and delicious hors d'oeuvre.  I love using canned plum tomatoes because they have such robust flavor, you can skip the pizza sauce!

I will admit that I find pizza dough incredibly frustrating to work with.  I've tried rolling it, tossing it, pulling it....but the most effective method i've found thus far is delegating this responsibility to Mike!  He uses his fingers to press the dough out into the shape of the pan - his patience is our pizza night virtue!

* 1 ball prepared pizza dough (canned or fresh, from the deli section)
* 1 (14.5 oz) can plum tomatoes
* 1 (8 oz) bag mozzarella cheese
* 1 tbsp. parmesan cheese
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 tsp. italian seasoning (if you do not have a blend, use a combination of dried parsley and oregano)

Preheat oven to 425 (if you are using a canned pizza dough, use the provided instructions).  Drizzle olive oil onto a sheet pan and use your fingers to spread the dough out within the pan.  Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, use your hands to break apart the tomatoes into thinner pieces; set aside.  After five minutes, remove the dough from the oven and top with plum tomatoes (let any excess liquid drip off first), mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and italian seasonings.  Return pizza to the oven and continue to bake until cheese is bubbly and crust is cooked through.  Cut into squares and serve.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken Noodle Bowl

I swear, it was barely lunch time today when Mike started texting me about dinner, and his request?  Chinese food! I must admit, I am a lover of takeout, but Mike was in luck because it just so happened that I was feeling inspired to make some at-home noodle bowls when I was perusing the fresh-steamed veggies at the store yesterday.  Stir fry is a great weeknight dinner because it's fast, is usually a one pot meal, and with the help of some prepared mixed veggies- super easy as well as economical.  These noodle bowls calmed our takeout cravings and made enough for two large portions, plus some leftovers for lunch.

* 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
* 2 vegetable stir fry steam bags (I use the fresh veggies by the bagged salads at the store- a mixture of broccoli, snow peas, carrots, and cabbage)
* 1/2 lb. linguini
* 1/2 c. teriyaki glaze (marinade, not the thin sauce)
* 1-3 tbsp. soy sauce, as needed
* 1 tsp. ginger spice blend (with the fresh herbs)
* 1 tbsp. sesame oil
* 1 tsp. sesame seeds
* Pepper, to taste

Heat sesame oil in a wok or sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and season liberally with pepper (no salt needed, there's plenty in the soy sauce).  Add 1 tbsp. of soy sauce to the chicken and continue to cook, stirring frequently.  Meanwhile, prepare the pasta and steamed vegetables as directed; I used the minimum cook time of 3minutes for the veggies since they will continue cooking in the wok. When chicken is almost completely cooked through, add teriyaki glaze and ginger spice blend to the pan.  When the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened a bit, add the vegetables and noodles to the pan and stir well to combine with sauce.  If needed, add remaining soy sauce to thin out the sauce mixture. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Date Night on a Budget

Mike's Half Bird got two thumbs up!
Mike and I are always trying to find new restaurants, but one old faithful that never fails is the Basics.  Their food has never disappointed, but what's even better is the amazing deal they have.  Between appetizers, dessert, and of course wine for me, Mike and I can easily rack up a $100 bill on even a casual date.  At the Basics however, a mere $60 will get you two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, AND a bottle of wine!  I really can't even fathom how they make any money given the price and the quality of food.

Filet Mignon with Goat Cheese

If you haven't been to the Basics, they serve gourmet southern food  with a seasonal, local theme. We started with my absolute favorite, fried green tomatoes. They serve theirs with balsamic onions and a tangy honey mustard and they are oh-so-good.  Mike picked (well, I made him pick) an autumn bruschetta with butternut squash, sweet figs, caramelized onions and gorgonzola, that was phenomenal (stay tuned for my at home version!). For entrees, I went with a filet mignon, which if you don't go for the $60 deal, is a steal at $18.  The filet was topped with goat cheese, cooked to perfection, and served with classic mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans.  Mike went with the half-bird, which he gave two thumbs up, served with creamy mac n cheese. Mike was in heaven for dessert, mint cookies and cream cheesecake, and flour-less chocolate for me.  All washed down with a great pinot noir, and i'd call it a success!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weeknight Pot Roast

Ok.  Before I share this recipe, I feel like I have to come clean. I have to admit, as much as I love making everything from scratch, sometimes i'm just too tired (whew, that was hard).  This week has been particularly hectic at work and when I come home, it's more of a race to the couch than to the kitchen.  I know some of you must feel my pain, so when that time comes, here is my easiest-ever crock-pot pot-roast. With the help of store-bought mashed potatoes (in the refrigerator section, not a box- no thanks!), and a brown gravy packet mix, this was literally the easiest dinner i've made in weeks.  I think the key, when you're too exhausted to cook, is knowing where to take help from the grocery store, and where to avoid it.

* 1 3lb. chuck roast or rump roast
* 1 16 oz. bag baby carrots
* 1 white onion, chopped into wedges
* 2 (14 oz) cans beef broth
* 1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
* salt, pepper
* Brown gravy mix and mashed potatoes, if you're as exhausted as me!

In a crockpot, place carrots in a layer on the bottom of the pan, followed by onions, and topped with the beef.  Pour beef broth and worcestershire over beef, then season liberally with salt and pepper (I do this the night before so I just have to transfer it to the slow cooker and plug it in the next morning).    Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours.  Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roasted Red & Sweet Potatoes with Onion

The chilly air has arrived and i'm craving warm, earthy comfort food.  I love roasting potatoes, especially in the fall and winter, because it's so simple, yet incredibly comforting.  Roasting in the oven helps the potatoes get those brown, crispy edges we all love, and brings out the natural sweetness in the onion.  These potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to any fall or wintry entree, and are actually perfect for brunch too.  I'm always making roasted red potatoes and onions, but in honor of fall I thought i'd add in a sweet potato for good measure, a whole new level! You can always mix it up by adding different types of onions or potatoes, carrots, mushrooms or your favorite veggies.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
* 1 large sweet potato, peeled
* 1 red onion, peeled
* 5 medium to large red potatoes
* 1/4. c. olive oil
* 1 tbsp. herbs de provence (a blend of rosemary, thyme, and other goodness)
* Salt/Pepper
Preheat oven to 425.  Roughly chop the sweet potato, onion, and red potatoes into chunks.  Arrange in a casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil (start with half the olive oil and add as needed to evenly coat all potatoes).  Season with herbs de provence, salt, and pepper.  Transfer to oven and cook for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sugared Pecans

I love Sundays when there's nothing on the agenda.  Today I was able to sleep in, catch up on the DVR, and do some leisurely cooking- the best kind of cooking!

For some reason, i've got Christmas time on my mind today (I blame the Pottery Barn catalogue) and I wanted to start brainstorming some homemade gifts.  I keep pecans in the freezer and they last for ages, so I already had all the ingredients on hand for sugared pecans.  I've made these before, but today I switched up a few ingredients and they turned out better than ever.  These pecans are sweet, a little bit chewy, and best of all- very easy to make in large batches.

* 1 c. pecan halves
* 1 c. sugar
* 1/2 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
* 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 250.  Grease a cookie sheet, set aside (or use cooking spray).  Combine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.  Place egg whites in a separate bowl and add two tbs. water.  Whisk egg whites until they're frothy, then add pecans (work in batches if necessary).  Remove the pecans with a slotted spoon and add to the sugar mixture, tossing well to coat.  Transfer the pecans to the cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes until crunchy, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Asian Sticky Wings

Mike can (sadly) attest to the fact that I am not a football fan.  I've tried to get in to the sport, and also tried to be better at pretending I like it, but somehow I still don't get it.  Fortunately, if there's one thing I love about getting together with friends to watch football (I mean, who am I to be antisocial), it's the food. I love wings, dips, chips, beer, the whole package!

These wings are my favorite go-to football season snack, though i've made them many times just for parties or potlucks.  They're super flavorful and brown up really nicely in the oven thanks to the brown sugar in the marinade.  Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, they all have a fairly long shelf life so you can make these many times- and trust me, you will!

* 2 dozen chicken drumettes
* 2 tsp. sesame seeds, for garnish
* 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce
* 1/2 c. soy sauce
* dash of Worsteshire sauce
* 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
* 2 tbsp. honey
* 1 tbsp. sesame oil
* 1 tbsp. ginger spice blend (in the refrigerator section by the fresh herbs)
* 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
* 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Whisk together all marinade ingredients.  Add chicken to marinade and stir well to make sure all chicken is coated with sauce.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450.  Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and arrange the chicken on the pan, reserving any extra marinade. Transfer the cookie sheet to the oven and bake 20 minutes.  While wings are cooking, add marinade to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil (watch it carefully and whisk often- the sugars in the marinade will burn easily).   Let the marinade boil for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low. After 20 minutes, turn the wings, baste with the reserved marinade, and return to the oven.  Repeat this process every 10 minutes until wings are cooked through (about 45 minutes total).  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crispy Kale Chips

Now, I know some of you may be wary of trying a crispy kale chip, but rest assured- this healthful snack is worth trying! I too was skeptical when I tried my first kale chip, but what's surprising is that these leafy greens crisp up almost like a potato chip when they're baked.  Kale has a very mild flavor, so there's plenty of room to get creative with your seasonings. Not only do these chips make a nice snack, but they're also PACKED with nutritional value (calcium, vitamin C, even sulforaphane, which is said to have anti-cancer properties [thanks wiki!]).

Here's how I made them:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Rinse the kale and remove the leaves from the stem (in the pic, you can see I left a few stems on- but they turned out bitter so it is best to remove them).  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp, but not brown.  Remove chips and sprinkle with kosher salt or other seasoning and serve.  **Note- the kale will shrink down significantly in the oven, so you'll want to buy a large bunch.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Treat Yourself Tuesday - Coastal Cupcakes Edition

Treat yourself Tuesday has reached a whole new level!  I recently discovered that Tuesday's flavor of the day at my favorite cupcakery, Coastal Cupcakes, is Cheesecake.  Mike is a cheesecake connoisseur of sorts, so last Tuesday I scurried down to the Wrightsville Beach location right after work and just my luck, picked up the last two!  The cupcake was just as I expected: phenomenal.  The creamy cheesecake filling and fluffy vanilla frosting left me wishing I had picked up two more!  So this Tuesday, treat yourself to your favorite cupcake (check out the daily Coastal Cupcake specials here ).   After all, you deserve it!