Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Since learning to poach eggs a few weeks ago, I have been dying to try making eggs benedict and as I read through this month’s Bon Apetit Magazine it was as though the universe was smiling down on me. I came upon a recipe by four-star chef Eric Ripert for hollandaise sauce. This is a recipe that he makes at home for himself and if it’s good enough for him then its good enough for me!

I couldn’t believe how easy the recipe ended up being! I will be making this hollandaise sauce often now that I know how. The whole thing took about 15 minutes or less and I made it all in my blender.

Fill the blender with hot water from the tap, as hot as you can get it.  Ifilled it all the way to the top and set it aside until you’re ready to use it. Separate your egg whites and yolks and squeeze some fresh lemon juice; cube up your butter and put in a small saucepan over medium heat to melt. Once the butter is foaming, remove it from the heat.

Dump the water out of the blender and dry it thoroughly. While the blender is still warm, put in the egg yolk and lemon juice and blend together.

Slowly add the butter in a thin stream while the blender is running.

Be sure not to pour all of it right in, keep milk solids out and discard after they collect in the pan. Blend everything until creamy and then season with a more lemon juice, salt and pepper. Here’s a close up shot of the finished sauce:

Serve it immediately, the longer it sits, the thicker it gets.

For our brunch, Eric picked up some delicious sundried tomato and basil sausage at our central market and I poached some eggs. We topped a whole wheat english muffin with butter, sausage, egg and then hollandaise sauce. It was superb!

Here is the recipe from Epicurious.com:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Fill a blender with hot water; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Remove pan from heat. Drain blender and dry well. Put egg yolks and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in blender; cover and blend to combine. Working quickly and with blender running, remove lid insert and slowly pour hot butter into blender in a thin stream of droplets, discarding the milk solids in bottom of the saucepan. Blend until creamy sauce forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and with more lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Turkey Burgers

I am by no means a vegetarian however in an effort to watch my cholesterol and to try and stay healthy, I only eat red meat about once every 1-2 weeks. This may also be a result of the fact that I was raised that way. My mom rarely made beef growing up and often substituted ground turkey for ground beef in weeknight meals.

Eric, on the other hand, grew up eating ground beef often. When we were first married and I made plain old turkey burgers instead of hamburgers he was less than enthusiastic about it. I try to make meals that we both enjoy and so I set out to reinvent the turkey burger into something we both liked. I knew that in order for it to be a successful recipe, I couldn’t try to make it taste like a hamburger; it would never come close, turkey will always taste like turkey. I had to work with the turkey and not against it.

We were in California visiting my brother a few years ago and he took us to a burger restaurant. I don’t remember the name but they gave each customer a sheet of paper with all the burger options and you could build your own. I noticed they had turkey burgers and began selecting a turkey burger that would remain a part of my recipe reperatoire for a long, long time. I chose a turkey burger, guyere cheese, apricot jam and craisins. It was delicious and a combination of ingredients that I had not even considered until they were placed in front of me.

Everything in this turkey burger works in harmony together. The gruyere compliments the apricot along with the turkey and the craisins bring out a sweetness when combined with everything else. After our trip to California, I began making these turkey burgers at home.

I start with ground turkey thigh or dark ground turkey meat. I like it because it has more fat and therefore more flavor and the fat keeps the turkey moist; the last thing anyone wants is a dry turkey burger. If you prefer, ground turkey breast works too, I’ve used it before successfully. In a medium size bowl, combine the turkey, olive oil, chopped flat leaf parsley and some dried marjoram.Form them into 1 inch thick patties with your hands, one pound of turkey makes 4 burgers for me.

Grill the burgers (if its Winter I use my George Foreman grill) until they’re just cooked through 7-10 minutes.

Once you flip the burgers, top with a slice of gruyere cheese so that it begins to melt. When you pull them off the grill, smear with apricot preserves and a handful of craisins. I like to eat mine on a potato roll but feel free to pair with any kind of roll you prefer. As a side dish, lately I’ve been making sweet potato fries and they compliment the burgers very well.

Eric has approved this turkey burger recipe and I am allowed to make it again! This is a great weeknight meal because it takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. Here’s the recipe:

Turkey Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey thigh
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tblsp. flat leaf italian parsley, chopped
  • 4 slices of Gruyere cheese
  • Apricot preserves
  • 1 cup craisins

Preparation:

Combine turkey, marjoram and parsley in medium bowl and form into 1/4 pound patties, 1 inch or so thick. Grill over medium high heat until cooked through, 7-10 minutes. While grilling, top each pattie with slice of Gryuere cheese so it begins to melt. Take off grill and place on your favorite roll. Smear with apricot preserves and top with a handfull of craisins. Enjoy!

Cochon 555 – The Ultimate Pork Experience

WARNING If you don’t like pork or seeing raw pig, I suggest skipping this post. If, however you love the other white meat and consider bacon a welcome accompaniment to any other food, read on!

While we were visiting Chicago a few weeks ago, we attended one of the most fun and unique food events, Cochon 555. Here’s a video from their website to give you an idea of what the event was all about, also it helps to know that in French the word cochon means pig.

This event was about pork and lots of it. Five chefs were competing for the chance to go to the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this Summer. (One of my life goals is to attend the Food & Wine Classic once.) The five chefs were all from the Chicago area and one of them was the winner of Top Chef Chicago, Stephanie Izard. Here is the list of the chefs who competed and their restaurants:

 Mike Sheerin – 3 Floyds Brewpub
Andrew Zimmerman – Sepia
Michael Fiorello – Mercat a la Planxa
Stephanie Izard – Girl and the Goat
Chris Pandel – The Bristol

When Eric & I arrived at the Blackstone Hotel, the hosting venue and a historic Chicago hotel known for being the headquarters for Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s right hand man and it was also seen in the movie The Untouchables, we were wristbanded and given the direction to go up to the main ballroom. Upon getting off of the elevator, we were in the prefunction space which house all of the alcohol. Five wineries were present along with alcohol sponsors St. Germain, Templeton Rye Whiskey, and Three Floyds Brewing Company, which was giving tastings of a bacon lager that Eric loved. We each grabbed a wine glass and headed around for our first taste then we walked inside the main ballroom, stomachs growling for the big event.

The ballroom was filled with people and the aromas of delicious food. Each chef had a station and lines  formed quickly with those eager to begin tasting. Unfortunately, we did not get the greatest pictures nor did they provide descriptions of what we were tasting so I’ll give you my run down of what we ate. The first station gave us a cold pork sandwich, pork popcorn and a pork taco. At the next station we tried kimchi bacon, smoked fat fries with sausage, pork tortellini with head cheese in skull broth with rosemary (AMAZING!) and a root beer float made with smoked fatback gelato, ginger beer and buffalo trace. Next, we tried pork broth with bacon and ramen noodles, which we both loved the most and a bacon and apple dessert with ice cream, also delicious. The next station gave us some more cold cuts and a bacon caramel which was surprisingly tasty. In between stations, we ate the food at a hightop table and got refils on wine, beer or mixed drinks. I imagine that heaven will be like this someday…

Here are some photos:

At some point as the evening progressed I noticed waiters coming around to each table and putting down a mason jar full of bacon, just for your eating pleasure. This is by far the best tasting bacon I have ever eaten and I’m considering using this centerpiece at every dinner party I have from now on.

While we were eating and drinking there was a butcher competition going on. Two butchers were competing to butcher 1/2 of an entire pig in the fastest time. I couldn’t believe how fast they went. Here are some photos from that, afterward they gave away all the wonderful meat.

After tasting everything, we voted for our favorite chef of the night and waited for dinner. Following the tasting portion of the evening, two whole roasted pigs were brought out for our eating pleasure. I was pretty full at this point, but did give it a taste and like everything else that night, delicious. Dessert consisted of a huge bowl of melted chocolate surrounded by pork rinds, YUM.

As the evening came to a close, it was time to announce the winner of the night. Michael Fiorello of the restaurant Mercat la Planxa walked away with the trophy and the chance to compete at the Grand Cochon this Summer. We were happy because he was the chef we voted for! I guess that means we have refined palates and should now be qualitifed to be food critics…

Following Cochon 555 and the walk back to the hotel, Eric and I both fell into a pork fat coma and didn’t eat pork for about two weeks after. I think it took that long for the fat to work its way through our bodies.

We had a great experience at Cochon 555, it was right out of an episode of Top Chef, complete with an actual Top Chef! If you live near one of the 10 cities that hold the Cochon 555 each year I encourage you to attend. This was the perfect foodie night out on the town for our weekend getaway to Chicago. Now all this writing about pork has gotten me hungry, I wonder if we have any bacon in the fridge…

My Kind of Town – Chicago

A few weeks ago Eric and I were lucky enough to get away for a long weekend in Chicago. This was my very first visit to the windy city and it was wonderful to get away, just the two of us. What’s better is that I was headed there to attend a conference for work (yes, I have a full time job, besides this blog). This meant that my hotel, airfare and some of my meals were covered by the office so Eric jumped on board to hang out with me during the time that I wasn’t attending sessions.

This was not Eric’s first time in Chicago, but it had been quite a while since he had been there last. You’ll soon find out that Eric has been pretty much everywhere in these fair United States (except Alaska). We had seen the travel show Giada’s Weekend Getaways a month or so prior to our trip which really helped us to narrow down where we wanted to go. In the end, it was pretty much a Chicago food tour, but for us nothing could have been more perfect!

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, in March. It was in the 50s and cloudy which is apparently pretty nice for Chicago in March and ended up being the best weather we had for the whole trip (pack boots ladies, they will be a lifesaver walking all over the city in the rain and cold). After settling in at the hotel, I had the whole evening free, as my conference didn’t begin until Sunday afternoon. We decided to walk through Millenium Park to enjoy the “nice” weather and see Lake Michigan. Here’s a photo of us in the famous “Bean”:

Next on our agenda was the famous John Hancock Building. Since it proved to be a relatively clear day and the forecast for the next few days consisted of rain and clouds we thought tonight was the best chance to get a good view of the city. We had heard that if you go to the lounge one floor below the observation deck, there is no charge for getting the same view and you can get some cocktails while you enjoy the city. So that means cocktails and no admission fee…yes please! We arrived at the Handcock building to find a very long line to the elevator that takes you to the Signature Lounge but soon found out that the line moved quickly and after about 20 minutes or so we were on our ride up to the sky. *Tip* If you’re willing to pay for a nice dinner at the Signature Room Restaurant, you can make reservations in advance and you get to jump the huge line. If we find ourselves in Chicago again, we may splurge for it.

Once getting off the elevator we were seated at the bar and were surrounded by windows. The whole city was lit up. Here’s a picture from the top:

The Signature Lounge is famous for its cocktails, especially it’s Sidecar Martini. I ordered the Sidecar and Eric ordered the Windy City Martini. The Sidecar was made of:Hennessey V.S.O.P., Cointreau, fresh lime juice and the Windy City was made of: Bacardi Limon, Grand Marnier, fresh lime and cranberry juices; both were delicious. Here’s a photo I remembered to snap while the drinks were still full:

We also ordered a small bar plate to go with our drinks. Here’s an image of the Marinated Fresh Mozzarella with crispy prosciutto, basil pesto and crostini:

I loved the small balls of mozarella coated in pesto and the pancetta on top was the perfect compliment. We spend the evening sitting on top of the world drinking fancy martinis and enjoying one another, it was perfect.

Sunday was the first day of my conference so we didn’t do much during the day but dinner was an amazing experience. We attended Cochon 555 a food competition featuring the Heritage Pig. A post on that awesome event will follow this one.

Monday was our last day in the windy city. I spent most of the day in session at my conference while Eric did work back at the hotel, but we were able to squeeze in a wonderful dinner at a vegetarian restarant called the Green Zebra. I’ve never been to a vegeratrian restaurant before and I thinking it would be like that scene from Baby Mama where Tina Fey goes on the date to the raw food restaurant but what I found was that the food was amazing.

The atmosphere was calm and cool, very earthly, almost like eating inside a Crate and Barrel.

The waiter told us to order a few plates because the portion sizes were pretty small. Eric ordered the roasted pumpkin soup and the mushroom bread pudding, I ordered the Slow Roasted Shittake Mushrooms, crispy potato, savoy cabbage and the Spence Farm Poached Egg, smoked potato puree. All were completely delicious and surprisingly filling. Here’s an image of my shittake mushroom dish:

The potato which encased the outside was crunchy and the mushrooms were filled with earthy flavor. We ended the meal sharing the Chocolate Pave with creme fraiche ice cream, sea salt, peanuts and caramel. Again, amazing. I’d love to go back and try everything on the menu. I paired a nice red wine with the meal go match the earthy mushrooms while Eric chose a beer from the beverage list.

I hope we get the excuse to go back to Chicago one day, there are so any more restaurants to try! Chicago is definitely, my kind of town.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs

Easter is upon us and for me that means eating lots of peeps (my favorite color is purple and I prefer them left out for a day or so and a little bit stale) and jelly beans, but best of all that means its time for chocolate peanut butter eggs! Growing up, my mother made them every year around Easter, they have always been a special treat in my family. The egg recipe itself is fairly simple and requires no baking but because you must make them in stages and refrigerate, I give myself two days to complete the recipe.

This year I mentioned the eggs to a friend who told me that she uses her grandmother’s original recipe, complete with yellowed, crinkled paper and all. I love family recipes, they are always filled with love and get better with each generation. She mentioned that she puts paraffin wax into her chocolate before coating her eggs because it is supposed to make the eggs shinier and smoother. I have never heard of or used wax in my chocolate but decided to find out if there was any truth to what she was saying.

I began researching paraffin wax on the internet and found quite a few opinions on its use in chocolate. People either swear by it or tell you it’s not actually eddible and not to use it. Upon further research and after finding no recorded cases of parrafin wax poisoning or wax related death, I decided to perform an experiment; half of my eggs would be dipped in chocolate without wax (the way I and my family have always done it) and the other half would be dipped in chocolate that had a bit of wax melted in.

I began the process yesterday, making the peanut butter filling and shaping the eggs. You need to allow a full night in the fridge to insure that the peanut butter sets and firms up. To make the filling, all you do is throw the ingredients together and mix with an electric mixer. I like to mix the peanut butter, softened butter, cream cheese and vanilla together first and then slowly add the powdered sugar and a pinch of salt.  Add more powdered sugar or more peanut butter after all is mixed according to how you want the filling to taste. In my case, this year I added more peanut butter because it just didn’t taste strong enough to me.

Once everthing is mixed, clear out a large space in your fridge, big enough for a baking sheet and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mold the filling with your hands into “egg like” shapes. Some people prefer to make peanut butter balls instead of eggs because it’s easier to roll the dough between your hands, I like the “egg” shape because it’s bigger, though I must admit they don’t really look like eggs. I won’t mention what they end up looking like, use your imagination. Anyway, form the dough and place on the baking sheet and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, begin by melting the chocolate over a double boiler. I make my own double boiler using a medium metal mixing bowl placed inside a medium saucepan filled about 2 inches with water. Double boilers can be expensive so make one if you have the ability, sometimes two saucepans will even fit inside one another. The point of the double boiler is to prevent you from burning the chocolate; melting chocolate is very tempermental. You must make sure that whatever you melt the chocolate in is completely dry and don’t use a wooden spoon that you just washed; any amount of water will ruin the melting chocolate completely and dry it out. If you must add something to thin your chocolate always use oil or butter, never water.

As far as melting chocolate, I buy Wilbur’s (a local chocolate factory) milk chocolate wafers. You must buy chocolate that is specifically for candy making, chocolate chips or melted chocolate bars won’t work.

Put your double boiler over low heat and pour some chocolate in. It will slowly begin to melt, give it time and don’t turn the heat up. Once the chocolate is melting add enough wafers so the chocolate will cover the entire egg when you drop it in. Be sure that you keep your eggs in the fridge this whole time, you want to wait until the last possible second to take them out so that they don’t being to soften or melt.

I like to take about 10 eggs out of the fridge at a time to coat, this keeps them cold and easier to work with. I use a large serving fork and a dinner fork to dip the eggs and pull them out which allows the excess chocolate to drip off easily. Working in batches I coated 1/2 of my eggs, being sure to stir the chocolate and add more if needed between each egg. Lay the coated eggs on a clean piece of parchment paper, on a new baking sheet and place in the refrigerator when it’s full.

After my paraffin wax research, I concluded that I would add a 1 inch cube of the wax to the chocolate and threw it in to melt with more chocolate wafers.  I then dipped the second half of my eggs from the fridge. I noticed that the chocolate was in fact shinier and a bit smoother to work with, though that could also have been due to the fact that I added fresh chocolate wafers.

You can decide for yourself, here are the results of my expariment. First I compared them visually and then was the taste test, I was warned not to use too much wax for fear of the egg actually tasting waxy, imagine eating a chocolate candle… OK here is side by side shot of the eggs, can you tell which one is which?

Yes, they look virtually the same but if you guessed the one on the left was the one with wax, then you’re correct. Here’s a shot of them cut open.

The eggs tasted exactly the same but if you were really looking for it, the egg with the wax was a but firmer when you bit into it and did not melt as quickly in our hand. Both were rich and delicious, be sure to have a drink handy. My eggs could have used a bit more peanut butter but the filling is so smooth and creamy that it still tasted great. I liked the smoother and crunchier chocolate shell and may add the paraffin wax permanently to my recipe. I ended up making a bigger difference than I thought, Eric even said the chocolate was less grainy.

While researching the wax technique, I also found some recipes that recommended the use of a bit of Crisco instead of the wax, they claimed it had the same result. I didn’t get a chance to test that method out, but there’s always next Easter!

This recipe (minus the wax) is from my mother:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs

Peanut Butter Filling Ingredients:

  • 8oz. Softened cream cheese
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8-10 oz. peanut butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1.5 lbs of confectioners sugar

Chocolate coating:

  • 2 lbs Milk Chocolate Wafers
  • 1 inch cube paraffin wax (optional)

Preparation:

Mix cream cheese, butter, vanilla, peanut butter and pinch of salt with an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly add confectioners sugar and mix until well combined and creamy (add more peanut butter as needed, to taste). Form into egg shapes and and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Chill in refrigerator overnight.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler over low heat, add cube of paraffin wax if desired and melt completely. Dip each egg into chocolate until covered, pull out and place back onto parchment lined baking sheet. Chill until desired temperature. Eggs will last up to two weeks in regrigerator. Recipe makes about 30 eggs.

Lemon Pound Cake

Last week we had friends over for dinner and I was making a heavy dinner of fried chicken and biscuits so I wanted a lighter dessert. I also wanted to test out a possible Easter/Spring dessert. While at central market over my lunch hour, I spotted some decent looking strawberries and knew I wanted to make something they would compliment. After some online hunting and some searching through my cookbooks I came upon this recipe for Lemon Pound Cake by the Barefoot Contessa (whose recipes I LOVE). This cake looks and tastes like a pound cake, but in reality uses no butter at all. Tasty and healthy?! I was sold.

Another thing I loved about this recipe was the fact that it didn’t require the electric mixer. I mixed everything with a spoon and a whisk. You can substitute orange for the lemon, or even lime if you like, the recipe is simple enough that any citrus flavors would work very well.

The first thing that needed to be done was wash, hull and slice your strawberries into a small bowl and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Mix it up and let sit for an hour or so to allow the juices from the berries to escape and sweeten.

To begin, grease and flour your loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sift together all the dry ingredients in one large bowl and the wet ingredients, including the lemon zest, in a smaller bowl with a wisk until smooth.

Now slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until it’s smooth.

Last, you will fold in the oil. Here are images of the oil right after I poured it in, and after it’s combined, be sure to fold and not over stir. If you over mix, it will make the cake more chewy and less tender.

Pour into your loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, you will make a simple syrup to pour over it. Combine the 1/3 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over high heat so that the mixture bubbles and the sugar totally dissolves.

The liquid should be completely clear.

Set the liquid aside until the cake is done, after pulling it out of the oven let the cake sit for 10 minutes in the pan and then invert it onto a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan. Slowly pour the lemon juice/sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in completely. Allow the cake to cool.

While the cake is cooling, mix together the confectioners sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice with a whisk so that it becomes the consistency of a glaze. Pour glaze over cake.

Slice and top with sweetened strawberries. The cake was moist and light and tasted delcious. The strawberries added a balance to the tarte and sweet from the cake and you’d never know that it was made with yogurt. We ate it for dessert and again for breakfast the following day. This cake is easy and portable if you need to bring it to dinner at someone elses house. A perfect dessert for Spring!

 Here is the full recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home:

Lemon Pound Cake

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Make the cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Party Time – Part One

A few weeks ago, I recieved a call from a close friend in a bind, she was having an open house in 5 days and found herself without anyone to cater it. I’m still not quite sure why I came to her mind but she asked for my help. Now, I have never catered anything in my life, but she believed in my abilities more than I did and I agreed to do my best. The event was 5 short days away and I had a few menu constraints. The event was for her clients and local business partners, about 30-40 people and was being held at her photography studio. This meant that there was no kitchen, no oven/stove, a very small refridgerator and a sink; I had to make sure the entire menu was room temperature or cold. The event was being held in the early evening/late afternoon so I wasn’t responsible for heavy hors d’oeuvres or dinner, which was a relief. I planned a menu that consisted mostly of appetizers and a few desserts. My menu inspiration was the Spring season which meant that I wanted to keep the menu light and full of color.

Here’s the menu rundown:

Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Spring Pea Crostini
Irish Soda Bread with Smoked Salmon
Bobbi Sandwiches
Proscuitto Wrapped Crudite
Orange Glazed Pound Cake
Rasberry Chocolate Macarons

All of the appetizers and desserts I made were simple, using a few ingredients and few steps to put together. I used quality ingredients and spent time making sure they were well assembled. Here are images and the full recipes from the event, all photos courtesy of KM Photography (as are many of the photos on my blog). I was so busy getting everything together, that I forgot to take pictures along the way, so here are photos of the finished spread and the full recipes. I plan to make everything again soon, so I will provide more details on each individual process then.

These dishes may also give you some inspriation if you’ve been asked to make Easter dinner this weekend, or bring a dish along for it.

Irish Soda Bread with Smoked Salmon

Here is the full recipe pulled from Epicurious.com:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus 1 stick (1/2cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, trimmed

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Whisk together flours, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, and caraway seeds in a large bowl. Blend in 3/4 stick cold butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir until dough is evenly moistened. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour to prevent sticking, 1 minute (dough should remain soft and slightly sticky). Shape dough into a ball.

Pat out dough on a lightly floured baking sheet into a 7-inch round. Dust dough with flour and spread lightly over round with your fingertips. Cut a 4- to 5-inch X (1/2inch deep) in top of dough.

Bake in middle of oven until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack 2 hours before slicing.

Make canapés with bread, softened butter, salmon, chives, and pepper to taste.

Sweet Pea Crostini

Recipe from foodnetwork.com:

Ingredients

Sweet Peas:

  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 3 ounces finely diced prosciutto

Crostini:

  • 1 baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic

Directions

For the Sweet Peas: Warm the chicken broth and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the broth boils. Add the frozen peas and cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the peas in a mesh sieve.

Place the peas in a food processor with the mint, salt, and pepper. Puree the pea mixture. Place the pea puree in a medium bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the crostini: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the baguette slices on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven until toasted and golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. While the crostini are still warm, drizzle the tops with extra-virgin olive oil. Using a whole clove of garlic in your fingertips, rub the top of the crostini a few times to give a hint of garlic.

To finish, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pea puree. Top each of the crostini with about 1 tablespoon of pea puree. Sprinkle with a bit of the diced prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 French Baguette sliced diagonally
  • 5 Roma Tomatoes seeded and diced
  • 3 Heirloom Tomotes seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh Basil chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz Boursin herbed cream cheese
  • 1 pkge feta cheese

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and slowly add enough olive to moisten the mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, while prepping the baguette.

Brush baguette slices with olive oil and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, place under broiler for about 5 minutes until golden brown, check frequently to avoid burning. Once toasted, put a layer of Boursin cream cheese on each slice and top with tomato mixture (can be made one day ahead and stored in refridgerator). Sprinkle with feta cheese and enjoy!

Bobbi Sandwiches

The Bobbi began in the state of Delaware and was created by Cappriottis Sandwich shop. If you find yourself in Delaware I highly recommend locating the nearest Cappriottis and getting a Bobbi for yourself, this appetizer is a mini homeade version of the famous sub.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Stove Top stuffing mix, made according to directions
  • 4-5 hoagie rolls
  • 1 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, all meat taken off and shredded
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Cut open your hoagie rolls and lay open on a clean work surface. Put a layer of shredded chicken on the roll and top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Using a butter knife, spread chicken with a  generous layer of cranberry sauce. Top with a layer of stuffing. Wrap each hoagie individually in plastic wrap, very tightly and refrigerate for a few hours (can be prepared one day ahead). To serve, unwrap sub and slice into 2 inch wide slices.

Prosciutto- Wrapped Crudite

Recipe from foodnetwork.com:

Ingredients:

  • 20 paper-thin slices prosciutto or speck
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 10 stalks broccolini, blanched
  • 1/4 head cauliflower, separated into small florets with stems intact, blanched
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon olive oil
  • 1 (2-ounce) piece Parmesan
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt, for blanching water

Directions

Working with 1 slice of prosciutto at a time, cut the prosciutto lengthwise in half. Wrap a small bundle of the fennel slices (about 3 slices) with prosciutto, allowing the fennel to extend over each side of the prosciutto. Bundle 1 strip each of the orange, red, and yellow bell peppers, then wrap each bundle with prosciutto, allowing the bell peppers to extend over each side of the prosciutto. Wrap the prosciutto around the stalks of broccolini. Wrap the prosciutto around the stem end of the cauliflower florets. Arrange the vegetables on a platter.

Drizzle with the oil. Using a grater or vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan over the vegetables. Sprinkle with pepper, and serve.

Orange Glazed Pound Cake

This recipe is super easy, not to mention light and sweet; I chose it because it is so simple to make and because you can use your hands to eat it. This recipe calls for a cake mix. Typically, I don’t use cake mixes. I find it’s just as easy for me to make a cake from scratch as it is to make it with a mix. I have nothing against mixes, in fact I like Duncan Hines the best, but I do love cake so I always figure if I’m going to all the trouble to bake a cake, I’m going to do it from scratch. Anyway, this recipe uses the golden butter cake mix and then adds alot to it. It’s so delicious, I haven’t changed anything about it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pkge Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden Cake Mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 1-2 tbsp orange juice, divided
  • 2 tbsp grated orange peel
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour 10-inch tube pan.

Combine cake mix, eggs, sour cream, oil, 1/4 cup orange juice and orange peel in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 375 for45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 25 minutes. Invert cooling rack. Cool completely.

Combine confectioners sugar and remainaing 1-2 tbsp. orange juice in a small bowl. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Slice, serve and enjoy!

Rasberry Chocolate French Macarons

I plan to make these again later this week, so a more detailed post is coming. I was completely intimidated by these and this was my first time making macarons of any kind. They turned out more fabulous than I imagined and I should have made twice as many!

This recipe is from epicurious.com:

Ingredients:

For macarons
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Red or pink food coloring

For chocolate raspberry ganache
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (60 to 64% cacao), finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/16 teaspoon raspberry extract (preferably McCormick brand)

Special equipment: parchment paper; a gallon-size sealable plastic bag (not pleated)

Preparation:

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.

Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. (Meringue will deflate.)

Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of a chocolate kiss) onto lined sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300°F.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks, about 30 minutes.

Make ganache while macaroons bake:
Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Bowl should not touch water.) Remove bowl from heat, then add butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.
Assemble cookies:
Carefully peel cookies from parchment (they will be fragile). Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 teaspoon) between flat sides of cookies.
Cooks’ note:
Filled macaroons keep in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.

I had a great time pretending to be a caterer and trying out lots of new recipes! Nothing turned out badly and I’m looking forward to making all of the dishes again soon, just not all at one time…

Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub – Restaurant Review

If you’ve taken a look over at my restaurants page, then you know that I already love Annie Bailey’s but here is a more detailed review of our latest night out there. I decided to surprise Eric with dinner at his favorite Irish Pub after his engineering exam last Friday. I figured he’d need a beer or two after spending 8 hours using parts of his brain that I’m not even aware exist in my own brain. I was also craving some good pub food so I made a reservation for 8pm. (Be sure to make a reservation if you plan on going for dinner on a weekend, it will be a long wait if you don’t.)

After being seated, Eric ordered a Guinness and I noticed that one the specials menu they had listed Chimay White on tap so I ordered one of those. I know you’re wondering why I didn’t order a Guinness in the Irish pub, especially considering the fact that I look like I was born there but to be honest with you, I’m still learning to like Guinness and all dark beers for that matter. I love the lighter “girly” beers and I’m happy with even a medium beer but the dark ones are still growing on me. Anyway, the Chimay White is really good and they only have it on tap from time to time so I decided to take advantage of it.

We ordered the beef brisket quesadilla to split then Eric orderd the Shepherd’s Pie and I ordered the Kobe Beef burger. The Shepherd’s Pie is a great recipe because they use both lamb and ground beef; when you use more than one kind of meat, it gives the dish alot of depth of flavor. If you don’t know what kobe beef is, you need to find out and try some. Here’s a little Wikipedia definition of Kobe Beef: “refers to cuts of beef from the black Tajima-ushibreed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture.” In short, it’s the champagne of beef if that makes sense; it’s magically delicious! And it was my burger, cue giant smile on my face.

Out came our appetizer first the beef brisket quesadilla with a tomato jam:

There was a cheesy sauce on top and the meat had great flavor, I also loved the tomato jam which you can kind of see on the left in the picture, sorry the plate was clear glass and the dark wood tables makes it hard to make out. But the quesadilla was tasty!

Next came dinner, Eric’s Shepherd’s Pie:

He finished the whole casserole himself. It was hot and comforting, perfect after a long day of testing, and it was raining outside so it warmed him up.

And here’s my burger:

The burger was topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and caramelized onions. One important thing to note is that I requested my burger to be cooked medium, which to me means a hearty pink color throughout the entire burger, and the burger was perfectly cooked. All too often I find myself ordering beef medium rare or even rare, whenI like it medium because many restaurants overcook meat. This burger was red and delicious!

Sidenote, please tell me, what is the point of eating gray beef? It is completely tasteless! If you’re going to pay for a nice steak or a burger, please don’t insult the cow by ordering anything more than medium. And no, you won’t get worms or food poisoning from rare meat, stop worrying.

We devoured our dinners, actually I left a quarter of the burger on my plate because I was saving room for dessert. Annie Bailey’s has a great dessert selection but in keeping with the traditional Irish flavors, I chose the Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake.

And yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Although, if one were to eat this dessert while drinking a Guinness, I think a Jameson sauce may be a nice touch. They could call it the Car Bomb Cheesecake…

We had a great meal at Annie Bailey’s and are looking for another excuse to go back soon.

German Style Bratwurst with Onions

So far, this Spring has been a total bust. The weather has been awful with unseasonably cold temperatures, lots of rain and wind and very little sun. A few days ago we had one sunny warm day. I had been looking at the forecast in advance and knew that I’d be in the mood for some grilling. We hadn’t even pulled the grill out of the garage yet since last Summer! I called Eric and told him to come home early and be prepared for some grilling.

I wanted to make our first grilling of the year good, not just your regular burgers, something new and tasty. I had also just made a trip to the local meat and cheese shop down the street (S. Clyde Weavers for those of you who live in Lancaster) and I had bought some German style bratwurst. If you’ve never tried a brat, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. I had my first one on our first trip to Germany and recall thinking to myself “what have I been doing eating hot dogs for so long, this is amazing!” Here’s a picture of Eric with that fateful bratwurst at a Christmas market in Speyer, Germany a few years ago.

Eric has grilled up bratwurst while tailgating before, but I have never made them myself. I pulled a recipe from the internet and tweaked it a bit according to what we usually like. These brats came out so delicious, I can’t wait to make them again. I think these may show up while tailgaiting at a Phillies game this Summer, Go Phils!

First, I sliced up a yellow onion, you just want thin slices but keep them pretty round like, onion rings.

Next, I asked Eric for help in choosing a beer to braise the bratwurst in. He suggested a lager style beer because its crisp and clean and has a good amount of hops to the flavor of the beer. Bratwurst is actually a sweet sausage, not a spicy sausage so you want a beer that is not too sweet, something more hoppy and earthy to bring out the best flavor in brat. A lager is good for braising and an ale can work too, but not a wheat beer or an IPA. This is also why mustard is traditionally paired with bratwurst, it adds a little spice that the sausage needs.

I poured 2 bottles of beer into a medium saucepan and threw in all of the onion. I brought the beer to boil over high heat and then lowered it when I placed the bratwurst in. Keep the heat high enough that the beer is boiling the whole time but you don’t want it to boil over the side of the pan. Braise the bratwurst for 15 minutes. If you have a charcoal grill, now would be the time to start the charcoal heating up.

Take the bratwurst out of the pan and put on a plate to the side. Strain the onions out of the beer and place in a small fry pan on low heat. Leave the onions alone, don’t stir them they will slowly begin to carmalize; this will take about 20 minutes, they are ready when they’re a golden brown color.

While the onions are cooking, cook your bratwurst over medium to low heat for 10 minutes on the grill. Make sure to keep turning them so that all side get crispy and brown.

Use a steak roll for these, a regular hot dog roll just isn’t big enough and top with the onions and your favorite mustard. Pair with your favorite ice cold beer and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

1 package (19.76 oz. size) fresh bratwurst
2 large onions, sliced thinly
3 bottles (12 oz. size) beer (whatever is handy)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 buns or rolls
Mustard to taste

PREPARATION:

Place the brats, onions and beer in a pan and heat to boiling. Cover, turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the brats to a covered plate.

Strain the onions into a collander. Turn drained onions into a pan with a little olive oil and slowly cook until well carmelized (about 20 minutes).

Grill brats on low to medium heat for 10 minutes, turning the brats so they are browned on all sides. Serve on your favorite bun. Spread a little mustard and smother brat with the cooked onions.

Indoor Herb Garden

I’m a huge fan of fresh herbs. They truly make all the difference in a recipe and when you can grow them at home instead of overpaying for them at the grocery store, I become and even bigger fan of them. Last year was my first attempt at growing herbs at all. I am notorious for having more of a brown or even black thumb as opposed to a green one, but lucky for me, Eric grew up working in the garden with his parents and encouraged me to plant my own herb garden. I only planted a few herbs that I use regularly; basil, flat leaf parsley, cilantro and rosemary. I couldn’t believe how well they did and that I didn’t kill any of them! I loved having fresh herbs just out the back door and they made my cooking so much better but when winter came, they all disappeared and I’m back to buying my herbs at the supermarket.

A few weeks ago I decided to give the indoor potted herb garden a chance. I went to the lawn section at Lowes and bought a cute set of pots and some potting soil along with packets of seeds for basil, parsley and cilantro. I brought them home and filled the pots with soil and planted the seeds like the instructions said on the back of the packet.

I have been checking the soil and moving the pots to the sunniest windowsils throughout the day for the past two weeks. I’m proud to show you this next picture:

Yes, I have green plants growing in each pot! Here’s a close up in case its hard to tell:

It will still be a while until they are the size they need to be but I’m so excited to have them all sprouting!

I will be planting new herbs outside again if it ever gets to be Spring here, but I am going to try and keep these potted ones going through next Spring as well. I’ll keep you posted!