Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter


It has been over a year since my last post, but fear not! I am back…with an amazing new recipe! I hope everyone is doing well and that your holiday spirit is in full swing. As I type this, I am listening to my Vince Guaraldi Trio Holiday Radio station on Pandora.

When I found this recipe, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the balsamic vinegar, but I ended up really loving it. You reduce the balsamic vinegar and mix in a bit of brown sugar  — it adds an incredible, but not overpowering, sweetness to this pasta. Also, anything with asparagus is good in my book!
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Ingredients:
– 1 lb asparagus
– 1 Tbs. olive oil
– 1 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/2 tsp. pepper
– 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
– 1 lb whole wheat penne
– 1/4 cup butter
– 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

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Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Snap the ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the asparagus spears into 1-inch pieces. Spread out the asparagus onto a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast until tender (approximately 10 minutes).

Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer and reduce until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Remove from the heat.

Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain the pasta and toss with butter, balsamic vinegar mixture, remaining salt, parmesan, and asparagus. Serve and sprinkle with additional parmesan.

ENJOY!

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Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters


Leave it to me to make vegetables bad for you! I found this recipe in my Food & Wine magazine and just couldn’t get it out of my head, so I finally got around to making it. I was not disappointed – these things are DELICIOUS!

Instead of thinking of it as an alternative for vegetables, I think of it as a way to get your salty/crunchy/fried fix with vegetables, instead of turning to fried chicken or french fries. Feel better about this already, don’t you?!

Ingredients:
2 zucchinis (about 7 ounces each)
2 cloves of garlic
3 scallions
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tsp. lemon zest
salt and pepper
3/4 cup flour
olive oil (for frying)
lemon wedges (for serving)

Directions:
Begin by shredding the zucchinis into a large bowl. I used a cheese grater for this – my suggestion is to use what ever grater will make the pieces larger and coarser. If your zucchini-gratings are too thin, it will likely be too mushy. Chop garlic and scallions very thinly.
In a large bowl, combine zucchini, garlic, scallions, ricotta, eggs, lemon zest, and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper.

Next, add 3/4 cups of flour and fold into mixture until just combined.


In a large skillet, heat thin layer of olive oil. Once the oil is simmering, begin to drop 2-tablespoon mounds of the zucchini mixture into the pan. I used an ice cream scoop to add the batter to the pan. Spread them to form approximately 3-inch fritters. Flip fritters when browned – it takes about 1-2 minutes per side.



Once done, remove from pan and let the fritters drain on a paper towel or on a cooling rack. Serve right away with lemon wedges.

The fresh lemon is a MUST! I can’t even describe the flavor combination that it creates.

Did I just say “flavor combination”? I think I’ve been watching too much Food Network…Keep in mind that this recipe makes about 20 fritters (A LOT). Thankfully, can be saved for a short period of time and you can put them in the oven at 325 degrees to make them crispy and warm again.

Peach Cobbler (and the lost recipe…)


I made these peach cobblers weeks ago and just never got around to writing a post about it. Now, of course, I don’t remember where I found the recipe. Also, I think I mixed a few recipes together and made somewhat of my own creation. That too, I cannot remember. Sorry to anyone who would want to re-create this deliciousness, but for now you can just enjoy the pictures!! The only thing I can say for certain — use a REAL vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. They are expensive, but well worth it!


Fresh Pesto Pizza


Ever since I got my food processor, I’ve wanted to make my own pesto. Well now, here it is! Fresh basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and a little bit of love — yuummmyy!  It’s kind of difficult to write this recipe down since I made it by feel to some extent. Like I have no idea how much olive oil I actually added, but below is my recipe, as close as I could get it in words. Basically, watch and taste as you go to get the best result.

FRESH PESTO
Ingredients:
-2 cups of fresh basil leaves
-1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
-1/3 cup of pine nuts
-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
-salt and peper to taste

Just a word of warning, pine nuts are ridiculously expensive!! I spent $8 at Trader Joe’s for an 8 oz. bag. I guess I’ll have to make some more pesto…

Directions:
-Add basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic to food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
-Slowly drizzle olive oil as the food processor runs.
-Scrape sides with a rubber spatula and add grated parmesan cheese. Pulse again until well combined.
-Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Now, on to the pizza! I just used store-bough wheat pizza dough. Very easy — Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread pesto around the dough, sprinkle quartered cherry tomatoes, and top with chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

A delicious summertime dish. Even when it’s 98 degrees and pouring outside.

Baked Apple Pastry


This all-american recipe is just in time for the Fourth of July. It’s like hot apple pie on a summer afternoon — but more portable and delicious! I wasn’t really sure what to call  this, so I settled for “apple pastry.” It’s not quite a turnover, not a croissant, maybe a danish? I don’t know — you decide for yourself. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious!

Ingredients

2 sheets of Puff Pastry
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg

Directions:

Peel, core and cut apples into small cubes. I used Fuji apples, but I think it would also be good with Gala or Granny Smith apples. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add brown sugar. Mix brown sugar and butter for about a minute until fully combined and a little thickened. Next, add the chopped apples and stir for about two minutes so that all the apples are covered in the mixture. Transfer the apple mixture into a bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes to cool.

 

In the meantime, your puff pastry should be thawing — if you try to work with it while it is still frozen, it will tear and not fold over well. Once the pastry is thawed and the apples are cool, lay the puff pastry out on a floured surface. I’m not sure the best way to explain this in words, so hopefully it is clear in the pictures. Basically, you want to cut each pastry sheet in half — I used 2 pastry sheets, so I ended up with 4 pastries in the end. Then, you cuts slits on each side of the pastry about 1/4 inch apart. Next you fold over the left side, then the right, then the left, and so on. Get it?? It’s simple — kind of like braiding or weaving…but easier.

Your oven should be preheated to 350 degrees. Once all 4 pastries are prepared, move them onto a baking sheet and brush with a lightly beaten egg. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for about 30 minutes.

Egg in a Basket


So this recipe isn’t not difficult at all, it’s just fun and looks cute. When I was searching online for this, I found that lots of people started making this because of some scene in the movie “V for Vendetta.” I’ve seen that movie, but don’t remember that scene, so I guess I’ll have to go back and watch again. Anyway, the other thing I found online is that there are tons of names for this ‘technique’, but I like Egg in a Basket the best!

Here’s how you do it! Take a piece of bread and make a hole in it. You can rip a hole with your hands or use some sort of cookie cutter to do this. I have a heart and a star cookie cutter, so I used that. Unfortunately, the star didn’t work out as well — I think that there was not enough space for the egg to spread out into the shape, so it just ended up in a blob on top of the toast…not really in the shape of a star.

So after you have your hole(s), butter one side of the bread and lay it face down into a warm pan. Next, crack one egg into each hole and let it cook. You want to keep the heat kind of low so that the egg cooks through and the toast doesn’t burn. You could also flip the toast over if you really want your egg to be fully cooked, but then it won’t look as cool. It’s up to you!

Eggs Benedict with Asparagus


Last week for Mother’s Day, I was so lucky to have my mom come visit me in D.C. On Sunday, we went out and had brunch at KramerBooks in Dupont Circle. We both had a delicious plate of french toast, but then I saw the waitress walk by with someone else’s food — eggs benedict with prosciutto, asparagus, an english muffin and a creamy hollandaise sauce. Mmm! I have never even tried eggs benedict before, so I decided that was going to be my next kitchen mission. The only eggs I’ve ever had are scrambled, fried and hard-boiled…basically I’ve never had an egg where the yolk was moving around. So after making this, I must say — I’ve been missing out!

In my opinion, this is not really an ‘easy’ recipe. I wasted 2 eggs and really struggled with the hollandaise sauce. So I think that I need more practice, but in the end, it came together. Sorry for the lack of pictures during the process — it is very hard to poach an egg and take a picture at the same time.

EGGS BENEDICT WITH ASPARAGUS

Ingredients

-1 english muffin (cut in half and toasted)
-asparagus
-2 eggs
-prosciutto
-salt & pepper
-cayenne pepper
-olive oil

Hollandaise Sauce Ingredients:

-1 stick of butter (melted)
-3 egg yolks
-1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
-1/2 Tbs. dijon mustard
-1 Tbs. cream
-pinch of cayenne pepper
-pinch of salt

Directions:
I made the hollandaise sauce first and then let it sit while I did the rest. I think that my biggest mistake with making this could have been that I used a food processor to mix everything instead of doing it in a double-boiler. I think that a double boiler may have been the key to making the sauce thick and creamy. So here are my directions for making it in a food processor:

-Combine lemon juice, egg yolks, mustard, cream, cayenne pepper and salt in food processor on low.

-While the food processor is still on low, slowly add the melted butter in a steady stream.

Now, onto the rest.

-Toss asparagus lightly in olive oil and cook in a skillet until tender.

-Toast english muffin and lay a piece of prosciutto on top of each side. Lay english muffins over top of the bunch of asparagus.

-Boil a pot of water. To poach the eggs, crack the egg into a bowl (do only one at a time and be sure not to break the yolk when you crack the shell). When the water is boiling, take a wooden spoon and stir the water until a whirlpool starts. Drop the egg into the center of the whirlpool and then turn the stove down to low heat. The egg should only take about 3 minutes to cook. Remove egg from the pot (carefully!) and place on top of the prosciutto on the english muffin. Repeat again with the second egg.

-Once both eggs are done and placed on the prosciutto, pour the hollandaise sauce over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

I think I did a fairly good job for my first try…at least I liked it!!
Enjoy!  😀

Cranberry-Orange Scones


Delicious – plain and simple.

Years ago, when I first started working at Starbucks, they carried these delicious cranberry-oranges scones. Some stores still do, but I haven’t seen them in any stores near me in a looonnngg time. So, I figured that I could just make them myself. Can’t be that hard, right? Well…it was kind of a disaster, but in the end I made it work. I don’t know how, but they turned out great.

The whole process started off a little shaky, so I should have expected trouble all the way through. I went out to the store and ended up having to go to three different stores — still didn’t get everything I wanted. Who knew it’d be so hard to find fresh cranberries? I ended up having to use dried cranberries, which worked just fine. The other thing I couldn’t find was buttermilk, so I found a way to make it at home. Basically,  just add a little lemon juice to regular milk and let it sit for a few minutes. After I had mixed most of my dry ingredients and the oven was preheated, I opened my fridge to find that I had no eggs. So I had to go back out and get eggs — at that point it had started raining….wonderful. So then I got home and mixed everything up and it was the step where I was supposed to pour the dough out and get it ready to cut. My dough was SO moist. I don’t know if I did something wrong or if I had a bad recipe, but I added some more flour (change reflected in my recipe below) and got it to the right consistency.

Like I said–it turned out just fine in the end, but it sure was a frustrating process. CRISIS AVERTED!

CRANBERRY ORANGE SCONES

Ingredients (Scones):

-2/3 cup sugar
-1 large orange, washed
-1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
-1 Tbs. baking powder
-1/4 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1 stick butter
-1 cup cranberries (fresh cranberries if you can, but dried works too)
-1 egg
-2/3 cup buttermilk
-a little milk for glazing
Ingredients (Orange Glaze):

-2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
-3 Tbs. of orange juice
-zest of one orange

Directions:
 -Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Nest two baking sheets of the same size together, then line the top one with parchment paper. (Using two pans for baking will keep the scones from browning too quickly on the bottom.)

-Measure the sugar into a small bowl. Zest the orange into the sugar. Stir the orange zest into the sugar and set aside.

-In a medium bowl, mix together both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ⅓ of the orange-sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and add it to the flour mixture; use your fingers to break the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like cornmeal.
-In another bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk until smooth. Toss the cut-up cranberries with half the remaining orange sugar. Add the buttermilk-egg mixture and the sugared cranberries to the flour mixture and stir until moistened.
-Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together and the cranberries are evenly distributed. Pat dough into a ½-inch round, brush milk over the surface, and sprinkle with the remaining orange sugar. With a floured knife, cut the dough into 8 to 10 wedges.

-Place the scones on the prepared pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

-For the glaze, place the confectioners sugar in a bowl. Add the orange zest and enough orange juice to make the icing thin enough to drizzle. Add more sugar if too thin and add more juice if too thick. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the scones.


Homemade Salsa


I generally have a jar of store-bought salsa, which is fine and good, but I love getting chips and fresh salsa at a good restaurant. It’s just so much better — you can taste (and see) every part of the salsa, instead of that over-processed jarred stuff. So with my handy-dandy food processor, I decided to make my own homemade salsa. The cool thing about this is that you can totally control what you are making. You can decide just how spicy, how chunky and how-whatever you want it. And it’s such a SIMPLE recipe!

 

HOMEMADE SALSA

Ingredients:

1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes and green chilies
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. mexican-style chili powder
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tsp. lime juice

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until you get the consistency you want. Taste and add ingredients as needed.

Just remember — you can add more spice, but you can’t remove it. So be careful with the jalapeno and chili powder.

YUUUMMMM!!

Snickerdoodle Cookies


IIIII’mmmmmm BAAACCKKK! I know you guys missed me — I’ve been MIA from the blogging world for over three weeks. I think I have a pretty good excuse: between  going home to California for a week, coming back and moving into a new apartment and starting a new job, my plate has been a little full in the last month. But now things are starting to settle down again and I’m back in the kitchen!

Yesterday I made something I’ve always wanted to make — Snickerdoodle Cookies! And they turned out very, very well. In fact, I was told that these are the best cookies I’ve ever made. But that’s not exactly saying much…I have a history of ruining the simplest of cookies.

When I first started looking at recipes, I was caught off guard by an ingredient called “cream of tartar.” I had never heard of that before and frankly, it sounded disgusting–especially in a cookie. All I could picture was mixing tartar sauce into my cookie dough. But then after looking at numerous recipes that all called for cream of tartar, it appeared there was no way around it. Turns out cream of tartar is potassium  bitartrate and it is a byproduct of winemaking. I think that the reason for it is to activate the baking soda and act as a leavening agent so you get puffy little cookies. Long story short, if you don’t include the cream of tartar, it’s not a snickerdoodle cookie — it’s just a sugar cookie with cinnamon on it.

Oh and sorry for the lack of pictures…I forgot to take pictures throughout the baking process!

SNICKERDOODLE COOKIES

Cookie Dough Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Cinnamon Sugar Coating Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover your cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well-combined. Mix in the cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

3. Add the eggs and thoroughly combine into the mixture.

4. Measure the flour and add in three parts, mixing after each addition.

5. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl for the coating.

6. Make small balls of dough, either by hand rolling or with an ice cream scoop. Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place 12-15 on a cookie sheet. I don’t have an ice cream scoop, so I had to use my hands. Let me just warn you that this is a very messy process. I had to flour and wash my hands several times while rolling the dough.

7. Bake at 400 degrees for 9 – 11 minutes.