Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mushroom Risotto

I remember the first time I had risotto.  My girlfriends, Rachel and Marcos, and I went to London, Ontario on a weekend trip about 4 years ago.  (If you ever go to London, Ontario - go to the Bellamere winery and try their cranberry wine.  Amazing wine!  I wish they sold it online.... Hint! Hint!)  We went out to lunch and I had been craving mushrooms.  So I ordered the mushroom risotto - not even really knowing what risotto was.  I fell in lust at first sight and love at first taste.  I knew I was hooked!

For me, risotto goes with winter just as much as soups and cookies.  I think it has to do with having to stand over the stove and stir the whole time you are making it, which I couldn't imagine wanting to do in the summer heat.

Also, risotto is a fairly forgiving dish.  You can make it pretty much any way you want - there are a million varations and almost all of them creamy and happy.  I started this one with the basics - mushrooms, onion and garlic.

I rough chopped the mushrooms so it'd be a worthy bite of mushroom.  Chop an onion and two-ish cloves of garlic.  P.S.  I hate chopping onions - it affects me so powerfully.  However, I've mastered the art of chopping an onion quickly and I use a sharp, sharp knife.  (I generally sharpen my knife every time I cut the onion.)  The freezing an onion for a bit or turning on the stove does nothing to help prevent my eyes from burning!

I sauted half the garlic with the mushrooms in some extra virgin olive oil.

Set those aside.  You don't want to cook the mushrooms in the risotto because it'll tear up your mushrooms.  (And you wouldn't be able to pick off little pieces as you were making the rest of it!)

Saute the onions and remaining garlic until soft.

Throw in a handful or two of aborio rice.  I usually let it brown a little bit in the pan for just a few moments.  It's a habit from making tons of Rice-A-Roni as a kid.

Usually, I throw in some white wine or champagne next.  However, I was making this for breakfast and didn't have any booze handy.  (I'm not always the biggest fan of breakfast foods; however, I can eat pretty much anything when I first wake up in the morning.)  So I started with about a quarter of a cup of chicken broth.  (You are supposed to warm up the chicken broth before adding it to the risotto.  Again, this was 8 a.m. and I just didn't have the energy for that.)

After you add in the broth, stir continuously.  Add in about a quarter of a cup at a time and stir more.  Repeat. 

Repeat again.  Keep doing this until the risotto is creamy.

Add back in the mushrroms and a handful of Parmesan cheese.  (I was out but used some Piave cheese that I had on hand.  It's similar to Parmesan cheese and has been on sale a lot at Whole Foods recently.)

Add more Parmesan cheese when serving.  This was a great breakfast - but if you are more of an egg or waffle fan, it'd great any time of day.  

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cereal Bars

I have so much going on - but most of it is a secret so I can't talk about it yet.  In due time, I will talk about all my secret goings ons.  Let's just say that I am super jazzed about the next few months.
After that little teaser, I can say what I've been doing in my kitchen!  I made the Coconut-Pecan Cereal Bars for Hedder (and family).  Mom, Sister, Hedder and I talk though email during the day.  My mom sent this email to Sister and me (and conveniently left Hedder off) one day:  "I just ate my last cookie and Hedder didn't get any.  I made a cup of coffee to help me wake up and I just couldn't resist.  I was trying to save one for her so she could see she didn't like them.  Too late now."  (NOTE: The Biscotti were delicious; however, Hedder doesn't like coffee and coffee is what makes Biscotti so amazing.)  

Mom finally admitted to her eating all the cookies - with the promise that I'd be sending something else.  These cereal bars made with homemade marshmallows are the make up treat for Mom!

I'm not really a fan of cornflakes - so I wasn't a huge fan of these.  However, if you like cornflakes, then you'd probably love them.  They'd be better with some sort of dried fruit in them.

First, you want to toast a 7 oz. bag of shredded coconut and about a cup and a half of chopped pecans in a 350 degree oven.

I used to hate coconut.  However, I've been loving coconut milk lately.  Sister makes an amazing cake that's similar to a Tres leche cake - just the Hawaiian version with pineapple and coconut milk.  Again, amazing!  Maybe I don't like shredded coconut.  It's pretty though, especially when next to chopped pecans.

Stir it around occassionally.  It'll come out of the oven all pretty and toasted.

Melt a quarter of a cup of unsalted butter in a pan.

Melt your marshmallows in with the butter.

You can see the vanilla bean guts floating around.  

You are making marshmallow soup here.  Let it get smooth and creamy.  No lumps.

Mix the marshmallow soup with four cups of cornflakes and the toasted coconut and pecans.

Pour the mix into a pan and let set until the marshmallow hardens.  

Then cut up and enjoy!  (Or send to your family.)

Love you guys!  Hope you get them soon and enjoy them tremendously!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vanilla Marshmallows

For Christmas, I sent my Dad, Sister and Mom Cranberry Orange Biscottis.  I sent extra to Mom so she would share them with Hedder; however, Mom didn't share very well.  Hedder requested these Coconut-Pecan Cereal Bars.  I couldn't find any marshmallows in the store that were not organic and/or hard (and I'll be the first to admit that I did not look very hard), but I could find all the ingredients to make marshmallows at home!

Start with a baking sheet that is oiled and heavily powder sugared.  Then set aside.

I used a fresh vanilla bean; however, you could also use vanilla extract.  If using a fresh bean, cut down the middle and use a knife to scrap out the delicious, smell-oh-so-heavenly vanilla bean guts.

Pour a 1/2 cup of cold water and approx. 3 1/2 packets of unflavored gelitan into a bowl - if you are going to be using a mixer, pour into that bowl.  Let stand so the gelitan can suck up all the water and start to gelitan-ize.  (NOTE:  I didn't actually use the whisk attachment.  I switched to the paddle attachment moments after this picture was taken.)

In a medium sauce pan, combine 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 1/2 cup warm water and a pinch of salt (a little more than a pinch actually).

Stir until the sugar has disolved and then let come to a boil for about 10 minutes.  (I used a variety of recipes to put together the one I wanted to use.  Some said boil one minute, others said 12 or until a thermometer reaches a certain temperature.  I did about 10 minutes and had no issues.)

Add boiling mixture to gelitan and mix. 

Let it mix until it gets light and fluffy (about six minutes).

In the meantime, beat two egg whites until stiff peaks form.  (I knew keeping old hand held mixer would be handy at some point - haha! Hand - handy!)

Stiff peaks remind me of Dr. Suess.

Add in the egg whites and vanilla bean guts (or extract) until just combined.  Pour mixture in previously oiled and powdered pan.

Dust more powdered sugar on top.  Cover with oiled saran wrap (to avoid cat hair in the marshmallows) and let sit overnight.  Dump out onto a powdered sugared surface and cut into 1 inch squares with a sharp, well oiled and powdered sugared knife.  Dredge marshmallow squares in more powdered sugar.


They are super soft and the vanilla is divine.  I kind of just want to eat these and buy store bought ones for the cereal bars... or make another batch.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kitchen Sink Goulash

I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!  (Mom, don't worry - I don't mean a boy...)  I was playing with the different settings on my camera the other morning and this magical picture appeared:

It kind of gives me chills!  There is something about Lily's eye that just intraps me - I have it as my background on my computer and can't wait to get prints developed!

I've been going to the grocery store more than I normally do since I've started this blog...  I've always cooked a lot but now I'm feeling more adventurous/creative so I buy just whatever looks good at the store.  That being the case,  I've had a head of cabbage and some Quinoa just calling my name that I wasn't sure what to do with.  I decided to make a stir fry sort of dish.  (The picture isn't very pretty, but the dish is delicious - I promise!)

I started by getting some red potatoes in a pot and the Quinoa on the stove.

I've never actually cooked Quinoa and I found this half floating/half sinking thing very bizarre...

Chop some garlic and onions...

and some carrots (or whatever you happen to have around - shallots, celery, bell pepper, etc.)

Throw them in pan with some extra virgin olive oil to start getting soft.

Throw in some spices.  I've been wanting some Indian food but can't really eat it in restaurants because my stomach will hate me for days after - but I can use some Indian spices in my cooking.  So I added Cumin, Paprika and little bit of Curry.

Chop up your cabbage (or use spinach) and add with some chicken stock.

I realize about at this point that my frying pan was going to be small and moved it to a sauce pan before adding the potatoes.

I like some heat in my food so I added a pinch of red pepper flakes and some Sriracha at some point during the cooking process.

Add this to the beautiful Quinoa that has been cooking.

And enjoy!  (I love doing this with whatever veggies I happen to have around and putting it over rice, Lentils, Quinoa or Couscous - depending on my mood and the vegetables.)

In case if you missed it, I LOVE IT!!!!!  (and her!)


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

One of my co-workers hosted a game night last night, which was hilarious fun.  Catch Phrase is an awesome game if you have about a group of 8 to 10 people (and don't play teams).  I had recently seen this Poppy Seed Lemon Cake (and I understand why she switched the names) and knew I had to make it the second I saw it.  Game night was the perfect excuse - and I'm definitely going to keep looking for as many excuses as I can.

It was also the first thing that I'd made with my mixer that I wouldn't have been able to make without it, which made me that much more grateful for the generous gift!  Thank you, Billy!

The first thing you need to do is melt the butter, so it'll be cooled off a bit by the time you are ready to use it.

Next, whip 2/3 cup of sugar with 1 egg and 8 egg yolks. 

For about 8 minutes until it gets fluffy.

Then add in a pile of lemon zest (about a tablespoon and a half - depending on how lemony you want your cake).

Fold in 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup cornstarch (sifted together).  According to America's Test Kitchen on PBS, it's very important to take a rubber spatula and cut through the middle of your batter then go around you bowl to come back up.  This helps prevent your eggs that you just fluffed up from deflating.

Not Pictured due to horrible lighting conditions or too bright flash.  I'm still learning.

Beat in your cooled melted butter and 1/2 cup of poppy seeds.

When all combined, pour into a thoroughly buttered bundt cake pan.  Cover with (also thoroughly buttered) alumnim foil.

Bake at 325 F for about an hour and 15 minutes.  (The recipe said 50 minutes but mine was still quite soupy in the middle.  I kept adding it in for few more minutes and then would check on it.)

You will end up with this beautiful and delicious cake!  See how dark it is from all the poppy seeds?  Trust me, that's a good thing.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar for the final touch.


Enjoy with good friends!  (We were supposed to be looking mad - so half are mad and half are laughing.)

  • Preheat over to 325 F.  Thoroughly butter a bundt cake pan.
  • Melt butter (in microwave or small sauce pan) and set aside to cool for future use.
  • Beat 2/3 cup sugar with 1 large egg and 8 large egg yolks until light and fluffy (about 8 minutes).
  • Add in a pile of grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons).
  • Fold in with a rubber spatula 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cornstarch sifted together.
  • Beat in melted butter and 1/2 cup poppy seeds.
  • Pour in prepared pan.  Cover with thoroughly buttered aluminum foil.
  • Bake approx. 50 minutes until cake pulls cleanly away from pan.
  • Remove from oven and let cool in pan about 15 minutes.  Remove and let finish cooling.