Friday, December 30, 2011

Basil and Goat Cheese Spread

Unless you are delusional and include Valentine's Day, the Holidays are nearing an end.  It is sad, but I had a wonderful time.  Christmas was cozy and relaxed with some truly excellent food.

2011 Christmas Menu
Basil and Goat Cheese Spread
Chipotle Maple Glazed Ham
Slow Cooked Green Beans
Cheesy Hash-brown Casserole
Fruit and Jello Salad*
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Blackberry Crisp

*Waaaay more delicious than the name implies.
We are a family that loves cooking, so the responsibilities were shared between me, my mom, my sister-in-law, and mother-in-law.  I only had to make an appetizer and the ham.  Both were very, very easy.  This little spread is easy to whip up at any time and is perfect for any type of get together.  (Like that last minute New Year's Eve party....)  Serve it with bread, crackers, veggies, or (my favorite) apples.

Basil and Goat Cheese Spread
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz goat cheese
1 heaping Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 heaping Tbsp fresh chopped basil*
3 cloves roasted garlic**
pinch of salt

   Cream cheeses together.  Fold in the rest of the ingredients.
   Makes ~1 C, 8-12 servings.

*I used basil that I pureed in olive oil over the summer to preserve it.  If you are using fresh, fresh basil  up the amount to 2 Tbsp.  OR substitute the basil and garlic for 1.5 Tbsp store bought pesto.
**To roast garlic, take cloves still in paper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and wrap in foil.  Bake at 350 fro 25 minutes.




Friday, December 23, 2011

Rosemary and Garlic Beef Roast

Sorry it is taking so long for me to get these Dickensian recipes up.  This roast is a great weekend make-ahead for a comforting weeknight meal.  Seriously, I think the leftovers are better.  Which is why I served it leftover-style for the Christmas dinner I catered.  I cooked it on day one.  Let it cool, then thinly sliced it and reheated it in the juices.  So few ingredients, but so yummy!

Rosemary and Garlic Beef Roast
2.5-3 lb beef shoulder roast
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried rosemary
8-10 dried mushrooms (like porcini caps, ~0.5 oz)
1/2 C beef broth
salt and pepper
oil

   Use a paring knife to poke holes in the meat.  Put slices of garlic in the holes.  Do this evenly over the whole roast.  Liberally salt and pepper.
   Heat about 1 Tbsp oil over med-high heat.  Sear roast on all sides to get a good caramelization.  (This step is optional, but adds a lot of flavor.)
   Place in roasting pan with broth, mushrooms, and liberally sprinkle with rosemary.  Cover with foil.
   Put in a 325 deg F oven for 2.5-3 hours. (Remove foil for the last 30 minutes.)
   Allow to rest for 10 minutes, slice and serve immediately.
-OR-
   Allow to cool and slice as thinly as possible.  Place in juices and store.  When the day comes for eating, reheat in juices.  Add more broth if necessary.  Toss meat during reheating.  You can do this in a pan or in the oven.
   Serves 6-8.

Exclusive Recipe

Hey guys!

I recently made bacon cookies, and let me just say they are take-your-clothes-off-amazing!  But, it was for Save the Artist.  So this will be an STA exclusive recipe.  If you want it (and you know you do) go to the Save the Artist "subscribe" page (here) and enter your email in the right-hand box to receive our newsletter.  Don't worry!  We won't flood your inbox with spam or junk.  You'll receive the newsletter with exciting, exclusive content a few times a month, maybe once a week.

Not to make this an ad for STA, but it is really cool.  And we are always looking for new artists to become a part of our community.  So if you have a person you'd like to feature, a kickass unique recipe, a fabulous skirt you whipped up one afternoon, a crazy-intense drawing that you are really proud of, .....anything!, share it with us and we'll share it with the world!

Love,
Lauren <3

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fig, Port, and Bleu Cheese Cheese Ball

Last weekend my best friends and I had a girly pajama party Christmas party, complete with drinks, Dirty Santa, mustaches and tarot cards.  And, obviously, appetizers!  I made this heavenly little cheese ball.  It is really elegant and so, so simple.  Perfect for any winter or holiday get together.  Also, it has a slight pinky, purple hue from the port that is gorgeous.


Fig, Port, and Bleu Cheese Cheese Ball
6 oz neufch√Ętel cheese (or light cream cheese), room temp
4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled* (room temp)
4-5 dried golden figs
1/4 C port (or full-bodied red wine)
1/2 C walnuts, finely chopped and toasted
(cooking spray)

   Roughly chop figs, remove stems if present.  In a small sauce pan, heat figs and port wine over med heat.  When it comes to a bubble, reduce heat to med-low.  Allow port to reduce to ~1.5 Tbsp.  Cool.  Finely chop figs.
   Combine cheeses.  Mix in figs and reduced port.
   Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray.  Pile cheese mixture in center and wrap.  Form into a ball.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes.
   Unwrap cheese.  Roll in toasted walnuts.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.
   Makes 1 ~4 in cheese ball.

*A softer bleu cheese, like Gorgonzola or Stilton, works best.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sweet Potato and Smoked Sausage Hash

Every once in a while we do breakfast for dinner.  Honestly, I don't know why we don't do it more often. The food is easy and delicious and generally faster to make than regular, normal dinner food.  This hash is hearty and yummy, perfect for a big, comforting dinner or a great kickstart to the morning.  For breakfast, I suggest this one recipe serve 4 people.  Dinner is generally a bigger meal, so it is good for 2 people.  And did I mention it is pretty healthy?

Sweet Potato and Smoked Sausage Hash
1 small onion, chopped
1 lrg sweet potato (~1 lb), chopped
2 tsp garlic
1 7oz link smoked turkey sausage, chopped*
4 eggs
a scant 1/3 C water
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

   Heat about 2 tsp of oil over medium heat in a large skillet with a lid.  Saute onions until translucent, ~5 min.  Add potatoes, a little salt and some pepper, heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add water and immediately cover.  Allow potatoes to steam until tender and water evaporated.  It will take about 10-12 minutes.  Remove lid, let any excess water evaporate.  Add sausage and heat through.  When edges of sausage and potatoes are browned it is done.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   While potatoes and sausage are crisping, cook eggs.  Heat ~1 Tbsp oil over med heat.  Crack eggs directly into pan.  When whites have set up, flip and cook for ~1.5 minutes.  Eggs should be between over-easy and over-medium.  Salt and pepper eggs to taste.  Top hash with eggs.
   Serves 2-4

 *You can use beef or pork if you like, but it will not be as healthy.

Black Box Malbec

Today is my birthday, but I had yesterday off so I celebrated then.  Maybe "celebrate" isn't an accurate description of what I did.  I didn't leave my pajamas, I marathoned The Lord of the Rings (extended editions, of course), ate Blue Coast Burrito for lunch, and indulged in several glasses of Black Box Malbec.  It was exactly what I wanted/needed.

Boxed wine has come a long way from the check-red-or-white Franzia.  Several companies are completely devoting themselves to boxes, like Bota Box and Black Box.  The liquid bladder inside keeps air away from the wine and thus, the wine stays fresher, longer.  Also, cardboard is much cheaper/easier to deal with packaging-wise than glass.  So I say, bring on the boxed wine!
Malbec is not a new variety of wine, but it has recently gained a new popularity here in the States.  Black Box was the first malbec I had, and I fell in love.  It has a medium body and is on the drier side, but has a slightly sweet finish.  Also, the tannins are not over-powering.  Personally, I think this is a great introductory-red for those looking to branch out from whites.  Lastly, it isn't expensive.  You get a high quality wine, the equivalent of 4 regular bottles, for about $22.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mushroom Braised Chicken Thighs

My first really big catering job was this past weekend.  I, along with the help from my wonderful mom, spent all say Saturday and Sunday morning cooking for 105 people (though, only 75 actually showed up.)  It was exhausting and sometimes frustrating, but I had so much fun!

This is the chicken dish that I made, and it went over very well.  And let me tell you, it is easy... even on a large scale.  Also, cheap.  You can make it fancier and more expensive by using different mushrooms, but the plain old button mushrooms work just fine.  I lucked out on Saturday and the potabellas and baby bellas were on a really good sale.  You can even use a variety of dried mushrooms if you like.  This would be perfect for a holiday gathering or for a fuss-free Christmas dinner.
(Picture taken when testing recipe using dried mushrooms, not final recipe.)
Mushroom Braised Chicken Thighs
8 large chicken thighs
1 10oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 C water
~10-12 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
chopped parsley for garnish

   Cut off excess skin from the bottom of thighs.  Salt and pepper chicken.  Place skin side up in a roasting pan.
   Combine soup, water and mushrooms.  Pour over chicken.
   Bake at 375 deg F for 50 min-1 hr on a middle rack.  (If skin starts to get very brown, cover with foil.)
   Serves 8.  Top with parsley.
   (Really fantastic over rice or couscous.)

I told you that was easy. =)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quick Cheddar Dill Drop Biscuits

I love biscuits.  I went through a phase where I made them from scratch every weekend.  Cutting butter into flour is definitely not one of my favorite things to do.  Somewhere along the line, I began wondering why I wasn't using a mix.  There are good mixes out there.  Enter, my favorite short cut:  Bisquick Heart Smart.  (I prefer it to regular, I don't know why.)  Now my weekend mornings (when I don't have to work) are much more relaxed and just as delicious!  (Also... healthier.)

Cheddar Dill Drop Biscuits
2 C Bisquick Heart Smart
1 C shredded cheddar
1 tsp dill
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 C + 2 Tbsp low fat buttermilk
cooking spray

   Combine Bisquick with spices and cheddar.  Add buttermilk.  Mix well.
   Drop onto a lightly sprayed baking sheet.
   Bake at 400 deg F for 10-12 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
   Makes 8 biscuits.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Wine-- Spanish Style

Wow, with my new crazy schedule (which isn't being helped by the holidays) I have very little time to do the things I want to.  I do think that no matter how insane things get, you need to take a few minutes of the day to just slow down and breathe.  This little concoction is an easy key to start that slow down process.
Red Wine Spanish Style
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
5 1/2 oz dry red wine

Combine and enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Porcine Thanksgiving

Jesus, guys.  I am sorry.  I'm having a hard time adjusting work and everything else I have to do.  I swear I'll get better at it and we'll be back to a more regular schedule. 

I promised to tell you about Thanksgiving.  We had a pig.  I'll spare you the before picture of our little friend whole and uncooked.  My father-in-law concocted some semi-tropical, sort of Asian marinade, then roasted the entire thing overnight in a BBQ pit he made. It was uuuhhhh-mazing!  Walking around, it was about 60 lbs, so not too big.  The inter-tissue fat didn't have enough life span to get globby and greasy which meant the meat fell apart into tender shreds but was insanely lean.  If this became our new Thanksgiving tradition, I don't think anyone would complain.

Pork, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole


The hubs and I contributed the main appetizer:  smoked salmon (variation of the recipe we made here.)  At the request of my mother.  My sister-in-law brought some fancy olives, which I could have polished off on my own.

Thanksgiving is nothing without chicken and cornbread dressing and that is why it takes up half of my plate.  My mom brought that and cranberry sauce with apples and cardamom which was fantastic!  Sarah (sister-in-law) made a really delicious butternut squash gratin.  Don't worry, I'll make a version soon and share it.

Sarah also made the stand-out dessert of the day:  Paula Deen's Mystery Pecan Pie.  It's like a pecan pie with a cheesecake hidden inside.  Seriously.  Make it.  I have nothing else to say about that.

I hope everyone is having a beautiful holiday season so far!  I am getting very very excited about this year because this will be the first Christmas the hubs and I have really, truly spent together.  Yeah, weve been together five years but with the Marine Corps, we haven't been able to simple enjoy the season with each other.