Friday, December 30, 2011


I'm finally on to posting about what I've been cooking this Christmas season. I've been experimenting with lots of new appetizers and hosted quite a few get-togethers. I'm getting a lot of practice entertaining!

I think I've got the food part down pretty well in terms of entertaining...although it's still a little difficult to plan a menu with more than three dishes that all work together. But the part that is most daunting to me is the whole role of being a hostess. Being relaxed, conversational, and happy while people are tearing apart the food you spent hours planning and preparing and tracking dirt all over the house you took all day to clean.

My problem is that I want everything to be perfect...except...I was reading this book the other day that said the whole key to being hospitable is being imperfect. If your house looks like a magazine, your guests won't be comfortable. They may be awed, but they won't be at ease. So I've been trying to take that to heart. It's hard to let things go, but I'm learning.

Anyway, these little puffs of goodness called gougères, which are baked savory choux pastries.

The recipe is from William Sonoma's Bride & Groom Cookbook.


3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups grated Gruyère cheese (I used cheddar)
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the butter and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add all of the flour at once, quickly stirring with a wooden spoon until the batter is glossy and smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. The dough will form a ball around the spoon.

Remove from the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. (I had to use my electric mixer here.) Stir in the cheese, cayenne, and salt.

Use 2 spoons or a pastry bag without a tip (I chose the spoons as you can tell by the time I will use the bag to make them puffier.) to form 1" balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the balls double in size and turn golden brown and a thin bladed knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly or completely before serving.

All Ryan could say was, "Yum!" before he popped another into his mouth! :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Roasted Shrimp, Tomato, and Feta Pasta

Today I bring you a recipe from from one of my fellow KY Food Bloggers, who adapted it from Ina Garten. It was absolutely delicious! 

The only changes I made were omitting the fennel seeds and Pernod and using only one type of bread crumbs instead of two.

Roasted Shrimp, Tomato, and Feta Pasta
adapted from My Fiance Likes It So It Must Be Good and Ina Garten

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup madeira wine
14 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveiled - tails left on
5 oz. feta cheese crumbles
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley 
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lemon
 dried egg noodles 

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil under medium high heat. Add celery. Saute for about 6-8 minutes, or until celery is starting to soften. Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in madeira wine and bring to a boil.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the liquid is half reduced.

Add diced tomatoes with their liquid, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Simmer mixture for about 15 minutes.

Add shrimp to pan in an even layer, over the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle feta atop the shrimp.

In a small bowl, combine both bread crumbs, lemon zest, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Scatter bread crumb mixture over shrimp. Place skillet in oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until shrimp are pink.  Squeeze lemon juice atop shrimp before serving.

Cook pasta while shrimp are in the oven.

Well, I'm caught up to Christmas now, but I have been cooking up a storm recently so be on the lookout for some new recipes! I'm also looking forward to experimenting with my Christmas present from my brother, Plate to Pixel, a book on food photography!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate-Almond Bark

This is one of my very favorite holiday desserts. Even Ryan, a self-proclaimed pumpkin- and ground ginger-hater, served himself some seconds. It's so different from all the other desserts you are eating right now. The graham cracker crust is topped with a simple but homemade pumpkin ice cream (without the use of an ice cream maker), whipped cream, and chocolate-almond bark. It can be served with a toffee sauce, but I find it quite delicious without.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit.

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate-Almond Bark
12 whole graham crackers (about 7 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 cup pure pumpkin
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 quarts premium vanilla ice cream

Whipped Cream
1.5 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar

Cooking spray
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

Crust Prep
Preheat oven to 350. Finely grind crackers in processor. Mix in sugar. Add butter, mix to blend. Press onto bottom and up sides of  10" diameter glass pie dish. Bake until light brown around edges, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.

Filling Prep
Whisk first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl. Slightly soften ice cream in microwaves in 10-second intervals. Measure 1 cup ice cream and freeze for a different recipe or future eating. :) Spoon remaining ice cream into a large bowl. Working quickly, add pumpkin mixture and fold just until swirled into ice cream (don't blend completely). If ice cream begins to melt, freeze again until almost firm. Spoon ice cream filling into cooled crust, cover with plastic, and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

*You can make the recipe to this point and freeze for two days before serving.

Bark Prep
Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray. Stir chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler) until melted and smooth. Pour onto baking sheet. Using offset spatula, spread chocolate in an even layer into a 12x9" rectangle. Sprinkle with nuts. Place in freezer until hard, at least 30 minutes. Invert onto work surface and peel off paper. Coarsely chop. Place in a medium container, cover, and freeze. The bark can also be made 2 days ahead.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar in a medium bowl until peaks form. Spoon over pie and decorate with bark.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple Steak with Carrots en Papillote and Butternut Squash Risotto

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm going to go back to a dinner that is a prime example of the necessity of flexibility in the kitchen. I was planning on making salmon en papillote (which means baking it inside a parchment pouch to trap all the flavors and juices!), but, much to my dismay, it smelled funny after I thawed it. If it smells too much like fish...think twice before eating it. :)

So I rummaged around in my freezer and found some small steaks (perfect portion size, actually). I had been planning on putting julienned carrots in with the salmon, but I just cut up a few more and put them in there with some soy sauce, a drop of honey, lemon slices, a little rosemary, salt, and pepper.

To make the pouch, tear off a square of parchment paper. Fold it in half. Draw a half heart on there and cut it out so that you have a heart-shaped piece of parchment. Put what you want to cook on one flap, fold the other side over, and start twisting/folding the edges together, starting at the dip in what would be the center of the heart. When you get to the bottom tip, twist the excess.

I baked my carrots at about 400 degrees for around 10 minutes.

Since the steak was literally a last-minute decision, I thawed it in the microwave, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and flashed it in the pan with a little olive oil.

The Butternut Squash Risotto was the recipe I planned for that did not go awry.

Butternut Squash Risotto
From Cooking Light
3 cups of 1/2" cubed butternut squash, divided
3.5 cups fat free, low sodium chicken broth
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
5 oz (about 5 slices) applewood-smoked (or other high quality) bacon, cooked and crumbled

Combine 2 cups squash and 2.5 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Place mixture into a food processor or use an immersion blender to process until smooth. Return to pan, stir in broth, and bring to a simmer. Reserve 1/4 cup squash mixture. Keep pan warm over low heat. Heat a large dutch oven (guess what I got for Christmas?!?!) over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add remaining squash mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring until each cup is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in reserved 1/4 cup squash mixture. Top with parsley and bacon.

For dessert we finished off with the chocolate pot pie from Jonathan's cookbook.

Here is the recipe.
Note: I did not make the "lid," so I did not include that recipe. I also quartered the ingredients so that it would only make two, and they turned out beautifully!

Chocolate Pot Pies
Makes 8
18 oz semi-sweet chocolate
10 oz butter
2 tbsp bourbon
6 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
1/4 cup sugar
vanilla ice cream
Chocolate sauce (I melted more chocolate and added a little bourbon to thin it a little)

Preheat oven to 400.
Brush the inside of 3 4-oz ramekins with butter. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (one pan set inside another filled with water) with the butter and bourbon.
Mix the egg yolks, whole eggs, and sugar for 2-3 minutes in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the mixer bowl. Mix well enough to blend. (Or just blend with a hand mixer)
Fill each ramekin almost to the top. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The outside perimeter should be cooked with the inside still runny. Top each off with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

This recipe is a keeper! Be prepared to feel very indulgent!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate Crumble Pie

Ryan's grandfather, or Vovo as they call him, recently turned 90 and this is what I brought to his church's potluck celebration.

I made it the day before, with my sister sitting in my kitchen and carrying on in enjoyable sisterly conversation. After I had distractedly gone through my cabinets a couple times I realized that my loose-bottom tart pan was MIA! My sister lovingly helped me go through every cabinet again and think through where it might be...but I've moved so many times that I can't think where it might be. I thought I would find it when I unpacked in our new house a couple weeks ago, but to no avail. That tart pan is still hiding and I just know it will turn up the day after I buy a new one!

Anyway, I had to make do with a springform pan, which did the job, but not beautifully.

People liked the pie anyway, or at least Ryan did. And sometimes that's all that matters. :)

Here's the recipe.

Chocolate Crumble Pie
adapted from Everyday Chocolate

7 oz or scant 1.25 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Generous 1/4 cup sugar (superfine if you have it)
1 egg yolk
1-2 tsp cold water (I ended up using more)

5 fl oz or 2/3 cup heavy cream
5 fl oz or 2/3 cup milk
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 eggs

Crumble Topping
Generous 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup toasted pecans
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa

To make the pie dough, sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, rub in the butter, and stir in the sugar. Then add the egg yolk and a little water until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out and knead briefly. Wrap the dough and let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375. Roll out the pie dough ad use to line a 9 in loose-bottom tart pan (if you can find it!). Prick the pastry shell with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans (at this point I couldn't find my special baking beans and have not found them to this day...I'm still convinced someone was trying to sabotage my recipe that day). Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and take out paper and beans. Reduce oven temp to 350.

Bring the cream and milk to a boil in a pan, remove from heat, and add the chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate mixture. Mix thoroughly and pour into the shell. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven, and let rest for 1 hour.

Place the topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse to chop, or chop the nuts and chocolate then add to the other ingredients and crush in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the pie right before serving.

I managed to nab this shot with my phone when I set it out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Simple Things

Will I leave this world regretting the recipes I never made? Or will my zeal to make as many as I can hasten that day? Is it bad that the main reason I'm looking forward to having kids is so that I'll have more people to cook for and can thus make more things? So many times I have to wait and wait to make recipes since I don't want to make them just for me and Ryan. I mean...if we ate everything I wanted to make, we would balloon up and float away. So I have to stick to the healthy stuff when it's just us two and then take joy in carting fattening hors d'oeuvres and desserts to whatever potluck or family gathering I go to.

The pains of a dietitian who loves to cook.

I feel as if I'm trying to make up for the past month of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I ate for lunch by making three different things a day since my last final.

So...I made a goal.

I will post every day (except Christmas Eve and Christmas...probably) until I am caught up telling you all about what I've been up to.

Hold me to it!

Whole Wheat Harvest Bread
adapted from Making Fresh Bread by Love Food

Makes one medium loaf or two extra small loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp milk
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp lukewarm water

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, oil and lukewarm water. Stir well with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to come together, then knead with your hands until it leaves the side of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter  (or baking sheet to cut down on mess) and knead well for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Don't clean up the flour yet!

Brush a bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into the bowl, and put the bowl into a plastic bag or cover with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubles in volume.

Spray a 6.5x4.25x3.25" loaf pan with cooking spray...or two extra small pans...which is what I did. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter, punch down with your fist and knead for 1 minute. With lightly floured hands, shape it into the appropriately sized rectangle(s) and flatten slightly. Fold it lengthwise into 3 and place in the prepared pan(s), seam side down. Put the pan(s) into a plastic bag or cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in the warm place for 30 minutes, until the dough has reached the top of the pan. You can clean up the flour now.

Preheat the oven to 425. Bake for 30 minutes (less if using small pans), until it has shrunk from the sides of the pan, the crust is golden brown, and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with your knuckles. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.