Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheese and Whine: Two Buck Chuck Risotto

I was going to say put the Franzia down and trade it for some "Two Buck Chuck", but now I have even less authority to do so. First off, I am someone who has absolutely no business talking about wine. However, it is fun to pretend that picking wine off the shelf at Trader Joe's makes me a wine connoisseur. 

The rumor mill has been flying about how "Two Buck Chuck" is so cheap. However, I can now tell you that it wasn't a husband getting revenge in a messy divorce (which I believed) or that when United Airlines went bankrupt they sold a warehouse of it to Trader Joe's. The truth is when I was trying to write a post about my awesome "Two Buck Chuck" experience, I found that actually Fred Franzia actually owns the Charles Shaw wine label, which explains a lot. Brilliant marketing strategy. 

Still, I think if you are a college student, or someone who knows absolutely nothing about wines, like myself, it's a cheap delicious easy meal. (Note: It probably will taste even better with a wine picked by someone who knows what they are actually doing).  

This is still a great risotto that I adapted from Pioneer Woman. I did take out a lot of the butter and whipping cream since I am trying to eat healthy because I'm running a 10k on Thanksgiving. 

My mom and dad always would use that corny parental joke line. "Would you like some cheese with that whine?" Didn't yours too?  

Two Buck Chuck Risotto 

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Large Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 cups Arborio Rice, Uncooked
  • 8 whole Sundried Tomatoes Packed In Oil, Drained And Minced
  • 1 cup Dry White Wine (Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay)
  • 5 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Salt As Needed
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan, Freshly Grated
  • Fresh Basil, (optional)

  1. Heat broth (note: it's important the broth be low sodium) in a saucepan or in a microwave safe pitcher. Set aside.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add dry rice. Stir to coat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring gently.
  4. Pour in wine. Stir and cook over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add in minced sundried tomatoes and stir.
  5. Then begin adding broth, one cup at a time, stirring gently while the rice absorbs the liquid each time. Repeat this until the rice is done---it usually takes between 4 and 5 cups of broth. The rice should have a slight bite to it, but not be crunchy at all.
  6. Remove from heat, then stir in Parmesan. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a main dish with a salad, or as a side dish with steak, chicken, or fish. Delicious!
Adapted from: Pioneer Woman

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. This year I was dressed as a sick patient...literally. Unfortunately, I missed all of the holiday fun due to simultaneous having bronchitis and a sinus infection (the reason why I have been very very bad at posting).  I wish that it was just a trick, but I will give you a recipe as a treat instead. You just might have to wait until next year to use it, but maybe you can use it as a snack on Thanksgiving? 

Still, I was able to participate in some activities. When Ryan and I were at home a couple weeks ago, one night he surprised me with pumpkins! (I had been constantly not so subtly hinting to him how much I wanted to carve a pumpkin)

Can you guess which one is mine? It's not what you would think. I decided to try free hand and give mine a sinister mustache (left pumpkin).

Pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite fall treats, however you can't be afraid to get a little messy. You have to make sure there is no pumpkin gack/spooge on them before roasting. 

This is a very simple recipe for pumpkin seeds from Martha Stewart

Now I know how Sally feels. 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. In a small bowl, toss together pumpkin seeds and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. 3. Evenly spread pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and transfer to oven. 
4. Cook until toasted and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes.
Wash and dry the seeds first and make sure there is no pumpkin spooge 

I'll see you next year Great Pumpkin! 


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Must Love Dogs: Duchess Birthday Cupcakes

Duchess part lab part human. 

Must love dogs. It's second nature to me. I'm always that person to ask if I can pet your dog, but I can't help it. I just love dogs. I especially love my dog, Duchess. 
Ryan's dog Sydney and I. He actually watches tv. We're best friends.
When we saved Duchess, we thought she was quiet, sweet and innocent. While she is still sweet, we would learn that this dog was by no means innocent. We would eventually realize a much more appropriate name might have been Crazy, Jumper, Seabiscuit or even more accurate, Houdini. 

There is one thing we don't have because of Duchess, a lack of stories. She has made us laugh to tears, or cry actual ones. She knows how to open cabinets to get in the garbage, grab bread off the counter and hide it under the couch, and even open latches on doors, especially the front door. Duchess also knows how to warm your feet on cold nights, high-five and prance around the house. She loves getting her ears and butt scratched and snuggling. She will nose her way into the newspaper you are reading so that you know she is there. She loves to stretch out on the bed like she is actually sleeping like a human. Duchess spends most of the day sitting by the front window in our house, making sure that she protects us from anyone passing by. She is a free spirit and I don't doubt in my mind that this dog was a person in a past life. 

There is one thing that Duchess loves more than anything in the world, which is to run freely. When she would get out (Duchess actually head-butted through a weak part in the wood fence once), she would run next to a car going 20 mph and beat it. She felt free and she wasn't coming home anytime soon. She even outran a bunch of college soccer players on bikes for over an hour. Duchess would come home, when she wanted to. 

Unfortunately, Duchess is now 13 years old (which is very old in dog years) and was diagnosed with cancer this summer. The vet has said that every day is a gift. We spoil Duchess, but really it's just as much as we ever did.  Although we know that she LOVES the new canned food diet over the dry kibble. 

So we decided Duchess needed a special birthday and we made her doggy cupcakes and sang her happy birthday. We wanted to celebrate the love and joy that this dog continues to give us every single day. The crazy and unpredictable stories that no one will ever really actually believe. Thanks Duchess for teaching me how to be a free spirit and to treat the world like my own backyard. 

Duchess Birthday Cupcakes
(just for doggies!)

Doggie Cheesy Carrot Muffins
Mix in a large bowl:

    * 1 cup all purpose flour
    * 1 cup whole wheat flour
    * 1 tsp. baking powder
    * 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    * 1 cup grated carrot

Mix in small bowl, then add to above:

    * 2 large eggs
    * 1 cup milk
    * ¼ cup vegetable oil
A little bit of creamy peanut butter. 

Cook at 350 degrees, 12 minutes for mini muffins, 20-25 for large muffins.
Makes about 12 large muffins 

Source: Chicago Canine 

Woof woof! translation: Eat up! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Sandwich Queen: Chicken Caprese Sandwich

Sometimes cooking an entire chicken can be daunting for beginner cooks. That's why I like to use chicken breasts. They are quick and easy, and the bonus part is there is no chance of encountering giblets. 

My family has always been big into sandwiches. When there are so many people at family gatherings (my mom is from a family of 8 and my dad is from a family of 9), sandwiches are easy because they are so basic. Everyone can find something they like whether it be ham, turkey, roast beef etc.  

Even at immediate family dinners, we love our sandwiches. Back in the day, my mom specifically MADE sure that my dad got her a panini maker for Christmas. One of my favorite dinners would be when my mom would come home from work with the most amazing sandwich ingredients. She would stop on her way to the train at a fancy deli and buy imported prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and bread. She would then use the panini maker and serve us homemade deli sandwiches with fresh mozzarella, basil and sun-dried tomatoes. Delish! 

I love that panini maker, but unfortunately I couldn't sneak it into the car back to school. I also don't have a beautiful deli with my favorite imported prosciutto. However, you have to make it work! I decided to be creative and make my own sandwich at school. You don't need a panini maker to make a good quality sandwich. You just have to be creative (and scared) and test out your broiler setting on your oven.  

This sandwich is inspired by a caprese salad. You can change the meat if you aren't a chicken fan, to whatever you want. Good bread really helps the quality of the sandwich as well. I bought a small loaf at a local bakehouse. You can usually ask them to slice if for you. 

Ryan and I were obsessed with the Next Food Network Star this summer. I was inspired by Jeff Mauro's (the Sandwich King) creativity with sandwiches. Maybe I'll become the Sandwich Queen?

Chicken Caprese Salad 

Tomato- Sun-dried or freshly sliced 
Mozzarella Ball
Chicken Breast 
Balsamic Vinegar

1. Preheat oven to broiler setting. Pan sear the chicken breast on the stove until cooked through. 
2. On baking sheet, take a slice of bread and sparingly put some balsamic vinegar on one slice of bread. On the other slice, place sliced mozzarella. 
3. Put the bake sheet in the oven and cook for about 1 minute 30 seconds. Watch carefully because it will cook very fast! When the mozzarella is melting, you should be good. 
4. Start building your sandwich. Put the chicken breast on the bottom of the sandwich (bread with balsamic vinegar). Place your basil and chopped tomato on top of the mozzarella. 
5. Close your sandwich. 
6. Slice and eat! 
cook in a little olive oil. Also season with salt and pepper 

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bon Anniversaire My Cooking Love Affair!: Ratatouille

It's officially been a year since I started my cooking adventures and it has changed my life for the better. I've cried tears of joy, screamed in panic and laughed my ass off and I love every minute of it. Don't worry!  I'm not even close to being done. I'd like to thank my mom, Ryan and my friends for being my taste testers and being brutally honest. Ryan who was a strictly burgers, pizza and hot dogs guy- finally eats (and constantly requests) lemon chicken! 

This adventure has led me to meeting so many people. This summer, I had the opportunity of working with Chef Gale Gand as her PR/Social Media Intern, which was/and still is so much fun. (I'll be posting her pesto sauce soon!) 

I learned one thing this year. Do what you love and happiness will come. 

Ratatouille is actually the first dish I made by myself in the kitchen, before I decided to start the cooking blog project. I had gone to the farmers market with Jen and Gwen and bought a bunch of vegetables that I had no idea what to do with. I called my mom a lot during the early kitchen days (still do when all hell breaks loose). My mom suggested trying to making Ratatouille. 

I was a dork and spent an hour trying to chop all the vegetables perfectly like the directions said in 1/2 inch pieces. Then once I started putting things in the pot- I called my mom every 10 minutes, to go over the steps again and to be reassured that if I turned the heat up to medium that the contents weren't going to suddenly blow up all over my kitchen. 

Luckily, I didn't blow up my kitchen. It came out perfectly and I was so proud of myself. My friends loved it and I explained to them about my battle in the kitchen. They encouraged me and said that I should think about writing about my silly adventures. I have learned to go with the flow and not worry if I mess a step up because with cooking there usually is almost always a quick fix. Baking, not so much though-haha. There will always be bad recipes, and really fantastic ones. 

But that's life, and I really like where this adventure is taking me. So as I said last year, watch out kitchen here I come. Happy Birthday My Cooking Love Affair! The adventure has only just begun.

A girl can dream right? (Mom said I need to work on putting my shoulders back! Mothers!)

PS- YOU DO NOT NEED TO PERFECTLY CHOP THE VEGETABLES!! If you do a rough chop, so the veggies are around the same size- you are good. 

PPS- There were no rat helpers in the making of this dish...thank god! 

Mom's Ratatouille

Cut into 1/2 inch cubes:1 medium eggplant
Toss the cubes with 
Set the cubes in colander to drain for about 20 minutes.

Heat in a heavy bottomed pot:
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden.  Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.Pour in:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Cook for about 7 minutes , or until soft and translucent.
4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine
a pinch of dried chili flakes

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in:

2 sweet peppers ( red ,yellow or green), cut into 1/2 inch dice

Cook for a few minutes, the add:

2-3 medium summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash), cut into 1/2 inch dice

Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in:

3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice

Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in the eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.  Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all of it's flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Stir in:

6 basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1  teaspoon dried)

2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
1-2 teaspoons tomato paste concentrate from tube

Serve warm or cold. 

Wendy's (my mom) tip: Always best the next day. 

Bon Appétit!