Tag Archives: cooking

Dinner at home

I am currently enamored with Florida (for obvious reasons).

However, I do realize that Florida, and especially Gainesville, is not perfect.

Especially in their food scene.

I am pretty sure that they haven’t considered the concept of seasoning their food.

Everything is cooked perfectly well.  Just no seasoning.  Not even a trace.  A colleague of mine suggested it was because they are especially heart-conscious of the large elderly population living in Florida.  Perhaps.

So I took matters into my own hands over the weekend and made one of my favorite winter soups – Sweet potato and chorizo.  Followed by an extremely decadent flourless chocolate cake.

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Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup

 

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1 pound chorizo sausage
2 medium onions, diced
3 large sweet potatoes
2 large russet potatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1 bag baby spinach
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Start with the chorizo sausage.  Scott bought this fresh from the meat counter and I decided to remove the casings to brown it in some olive oil. Be warned – this will smell amazing!

While the sausage is cooking chop some:

Sweet potatoes and regular old russet potatoes

and some onions.

Once the sausage is finished cooking, remove with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the gorgeous orange oil.

To the oil add:

The onions,

and the potatoes.

Add some chicken stock.

Cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked.  Maybe about 20-30 minutes?

Now for the ultra-messy part.  I like my soups to have a stew-like quality to them, so I took a couple of cups and pureed them in Scott’s super-duper tiny food processor.

And returned to the soup pot.

Along with the cooked chorizo,

and some baby spinach.

Cook on low until heated through and the spinach is slightly wilted.

I like mine with a dollop of sour cream.

This soup has the potential to be amazing.  Unfortunately, this being Florida, the chorizo had absolutely no spice to it.  How this is possible, I don’t know…

*****

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This is one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes.  I distinctly remember that this was on the cover of the very first Bon Appetit magazine I ever received in the mail and I immediately made it and knew it would forever be in my recipe book.  As this was just for Scott and myself, I decided that the full 9-inch cake was overkill.  Instead I made 1/3 of the recipe and split it among 2 small springform pans (3-inch diameter).  The full recipe can be found here.

Start by dissolving 1/4 cup sugar in 1/3 cup water.  Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan.

Add about half a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips

(I used the Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chips).

Whisk until smooth.

Add sugar syrup,

and 2 eggs, one at a time. Continue to whisk until smooth.

Split among 2, 3-inch buttered springform pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Once baked you will want to top the already decadent chocolate cake with some equally decadent chocolate ganache.

Heat 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream over low heat.

Take off the heat and add about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.

And once again, whisk until smooth. (My arms definitely got a workout with this meal)

Pour over the top of the cooled cakes.  Chill until ganache sets.

Now, take a knife and cut around the edges before removing from the springform pan.

Cut in half and top with some homemade whipped cream (which also involves a lot of whipping).

Yum.

Maybe I should open my own restaurant once I make it down to Gainesville…

Back in the Kitchen

It hasn’t been a secret that I have been less than thrilled with winter.  To add insult to injury, my stove was shut off for a week due to a gas leak.  While it was out of commission (during a record-breaking snowfall) all I could think about was all of the things that I wanted to cook and bake.  Due to all of the craziness from the last snow storm the public transit system has been crippled and it’s taking me on average about an hour to make a 4.5 mile commute.  Needless to say, when I finally get home, I am not in the mood to cook.  Until last night.  All day I had been craving some super-duper comfort food and decided that I would whip up one of my all time favorite (and easy) dinners.  Pasta with bacon and asparagus.

Now that a happy kitchen ...

Pasta with Bacon and Asparagus

It starts with bacon, as all amazing things do.  I went ahead and chopped up and fried an entire package, although you probably only need about half a package (as for the other half, I have plans for a baked potato soup).

While the bacon is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta (I prefer penne).

Chop a onion and cut asparagus in 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.

Once cooked, remove bacon and drain off some (but not all) of the fat.  Add the chopped onions to the remaining bacon fat and cook until soft.

Add asparagus to the pasta pot after the pasta is cooked halfway through and cook until asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain noodles and asparagus and add to the onions.  Add about 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and cook until cheese melts.

Top with bacon crumbles.

I enjoyed mine with a cranberry martini.  Add that to a Skype date with my beloved and it was a pretty fantastic end of the work week.

They’re a hoot!

I spent Thanksgiving in Atlanta, soaking in the warm weather and enjoying the company of loved ones.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  In fact, we ate Thanksgiving dinner outside on the patio.  How about that to be thankful for!

I wanted to contribute to the feast as well as give thanks to our hosts for putting Scott and I up for the weekend.  However, traveling from Minneapolis I had to careful to bring something that would survive the trip.  I scoured my old Bon Appetit and Cooking Light magazines, flipped through the cookbooks and cooking websites and stumbled upon a recipe for Apple Cranberry Tarts on a very cool cooking blog, The Craving Chronicles.  I did omit the caramel sauce, as I was worried that TSA might confiscate it, but I don’t think that the tarts were any less tasty because if it.

I also brought a batch of cookies that are very popular in my family this time of year.  Hoot owl cookies, as they are called, may be one of the cutest cookies in existence (and my photos will not do them justice).  The recipe originates from a cookie contest in the 1950’s and the winner, Natalie Riggin, was from my hometown of Olympia, Washington.  These cookies are made on an annual basis in my family and if forgotten, there is hell to pay.  Recently my mother gave my brother and I copies of her entire recipe collection (a great gift idea) and somehow the recipe had been left out (a mistake that both my brother and myself had noticed).  A phone call quickly rectified the situation and I whipped up a batch to share with my Atlanta hosts.

Hoot Owl Cookies
 
 
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1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup  butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

80 semisweet chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup)
40 whole cashews (about 2/3 cup)
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Beat brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  On low speed, mix in flour, baking powder and salt.  Divide dough in thirds.  In small bowl work in chocolate and baking powder to 1/3 of the dough.

Using one portion of the light dough, press out to form a 10″ x 4″ inch strip.  Using 1/2 of the chocolate dough, roll a tube 10″ long and wrap light dough around the entire chocolate log.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Wrap in foil or plastic and refrigerate at least an hour (although in my family we put it in the freezer and sneak cuts of dough to snack on.  Very often we run out of dough before the cookies are baked).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut each roll into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices.  Place 2 slices, sides touching on cookie sheet.  Pinch the corners of the slices to for the ears.  Place a chocolate chip in the center of each slice for the eyes and finish with a whole cashew between the slices for the beak.  Each cookie is unique and has their own personality, which I find fantastic.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.

These cookies are pretty fragile so handle with care.  I was worried that my traveling would bump and break them, so I carefully wrapped them in plastic and packed them in tupperware.  Aside from a couple of casualties, they made it to Atlanta mostly in one piece and instantly got rave reviews and have since been gobbled all gone.

A Fall Favorite

Tonight I indulged in one of my favorite fall meals.  Butternut squash risotto.  The richness and creaminess of it is pure luxury.  The starchiness of the rice, the nuttiness of parmesan, the sweetness of the butternut squash and the saltiness of the bacon can warm the coldest of fall evenings.  I’ve spent the last several years perfecting my recipe and I think I am pretty close and felt the need to share with you what I’ve learned while I sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor and watch my not-so-secret pleasure, Dancing with the Stars. (Though, it may also be in part due to the glass (and a half) of wine I’ve consumed while cooking.)

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled and diced

6-8 slices of bacon, chopped

1 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups aborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

5 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

3-4 tablespoons butter

Roast the butternut squash, drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper, in a 450 degree oven for ~30 minutes.

Simmer chicken broth to keep warm.  Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large stockpot until crispy.  Remove bacon and add onion, cooking over medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add aborio rice and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup wine and cook until the liquid evaporates (DO NOT OMIT, however, white wine is not necessary.  All I had was a Rose in the fridge and that worked just as well).  Add chicken broth, 1 cup at a time until, stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes total (or ~5 minutes/cup chicken stock).

Remove from heat.  Add butter and parmesan and stir until melted.  (If you have been drinking the wine that you just opened, be careful while grating the cheese, we don’t want any kitchen injuries).

Fold in roasted butternut squash and top with bacon pieces.  I would recommend keeping the bacon separate from the risotto, but then again, I prefer crispy bacon.  Enjoy!

Now to turn my attention back to Dancing with the Stars … and perhaps another glass of wine.