Sunday, October 31, 2010

BOO! Happy Halloween!

Rafe just carved our pumpkin - can't wait to scare the neighborhood kids with it!


 While he carved I seasoned and toasted our pumpkin seeds.  Salt, garlic, cumin and cayenne.


We have a nice salty snack to tide us over until candy time!!


Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup


You've got feel bad for carrots sometimes (if you are inclined to having feelings for produce).  There are so many sexy veggies at the market vying for your attention: asparagus, escarole, jerusalem artichokes - the fall abundance of squash... The familiar carrot just gets left behind.
But if you're looking for a quick and easy dinner this is a great option for you.  Especially in the fall, when carrots are in season and pretty inexpensive.  



The warming spices in this dish are soothing and comforting as well.  While the heat helps to quell throat and sinus discomfort as the air gets cooler and drier, the sweet potato lends creaminess to the soup.  And the carrots really shine in this application: sweet, savory, delicious.

Promise me if you try this recipe you'll use full sized carrots and not those crazy baby carrots in a bag?  I know they're more convenient, but I assure you the traditional carrot is so much more flavorful and soooo much less water logged.

I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com to utilize what I had on-hand, and I amped up the cayenne too- because I love some spice.  This soup makes a great light dinner and packs well for a nice warm lunch.  Tinker with the cayenne and red pepper if you don't like spice.  The cardamom, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon can do quite fine on their own if you prefer to omit the heat.
 
Ingredients
1 teaspoon butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups water
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


 
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in onions, and cook until golden brown.  If the onions brown too quickly, add a splash of water to the pan so they cook slowly. Season with cardamom, turmeric, ginger, pepper flakes, cinnamon, cayenne; cook until the smell of the spices  permeates your kitchen, about 1 minute.

Pour in 3 cups of water; add sweet potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from heat, and puree in batches until smooth.  Return to the pan and stove top warm through again. Serve and enjoy.




I served mine with some chopped cilantro on top.  This would also be delicious with some plain nonfat yogurt dolloped on top. 
Don't forget you have until Sunday to enter to win FREE Ghiradelli Luxe Milk chocolate.
Leave a comment Here on my previous blog post to enter!

I promise this chocolate is way better than what you will find in your halloween treats!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ghiradelli Chocolate: GIVEAWAY!

I received an email about a month ago from Katelin, a representative of Ghiradelli chocolate.  She offerred me the opportunity to try their new Luxe Milk line of chocolates.  My family used to joke that my first word was chocolate because I loved it so much - so this was, without a doubt, an offer I couldn't refuse!

My college roommates Kiley and Diana and I had planned a night to make dinner and catch up....and I decided that these chocolates would provide the perfect dessert for us.  

Since we were roommates in college for 3+ years, I knew these two ladies would make the best taste-test crowd.  From our experiences in our little apartment I know that the 3 of us are probably the best prepared to compare chocolates, since we have been known to eat a LOT of the stuff.

To our dinner I brought the almond, milk and hazelnut varieties.  I like that Ghiradelli has the option of buying a large bar, or buying bags with individually wrapped bites.  This makes it easier to portion control - or, if you're me, to treat yourself with a piece of chocolate in your lunch bag.

I'm usually more of a dark chocolate fan, but I was really impressed with how rich and deep the flavor of this milk chocolate was.  We all agreed that the taste of the chocolate in all three varieties was rich and creamy.

We unanimously voted the almond flavor the best of the bunch.  Who can resist a rich milk chocolate studded with crunchy almonds?  We could not, we ate most of these.  The hazelnut was good, albeit a bit disappointing - we were hoping for a ferrer-roche type experience.  These nuts just tasted off, not rich or roasted enough.  Maybe we got a bad bag?

The milk was our least favorite - but only because it was plain.  We like nuts in our chocolate.  So if you like a plain milk chocolate, this might be the one for you.  It reminded us seriously of cadbury milk chocolate, but meltier. YUM.  
Thank you Katelin and Ghiradelli! We had a blast taste-testing these chocolates

GIVEAWAY TIME

Would you like to try the Ghiradelli Luxe Milk chocolates?
Leave a comment below telling me which flavor you would like to try!  
If you tweet the contest (then leave another message telling me that you did) you can have a second chance to win 2 coupons for free Ghiradelli Luxe Milk chocolate!  


I will use random integer generator to choose a winner on Monday November 1st!
Deadline to enter? Midnight on Sunday October 31st....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sourdough Bread

Several of us who went to King Arthur last month have started to experiment with baking breads.  I think that class really gave us the courage to tackle yeast breads in our own homes.  Meghan, Kristen and Michelle both made a few different breads, and I have been working with yeast a little more as well.

I have always been really interested in sourdough, or any kind of bread that is made with a starter.  It is so interesting how simply mixing together flour and water, and tending to it for a few days, can result in a quick and easy loaf.  Although it is very simple & quick, some of the most prized sourdoughs come from starters that are ages old.

Basically, for a sourdough, all you have to do is mix one cup flour with one-half cup water.  For 5 days, you do the exact same thing.  You throw away half your starter, and replace it with another cup of flour and half cup of water.  This is called 'feeding' the starter, or levain.

There are naturally occurring yeasts all around us: in the air, the water, and the flour.  By treating the flour in this way, yeast is being cultivated from the environment.  Since the yeast is so tied to geography, my sourdough likely won't taste much like your sourdough.  Levain from San Francisco is particularly iconic, due to the moist humid air in that region.

The first day of levain, I mixed my flour and water in a pickle jar.  It barely reached 1/8th full.  The second day I followed the instructions, then went out to run errands.  I came back to this:



It had grown and exploded all over my counter.  It was ALIVE!!!! It had tons of bubbles and was all spongy looking.


After the 5th day, the levain was ready to use.  I decided on this rustic sourdough loaf.  Mostly because it seemed simple and required ingredients that I already owned.  Flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and water....and of course, my levain.  So simple!
I mixed the dry and wet ingredients together.....

Then kneaded the dough as instructed to form a smooth ball, and left it to rest in an oiled bowl for about 90 minutes.


After it had its first rise, I shaped it into a loaf and place it on a baking sheet covered with parchment.


After its 2nd hour of rising, it was ready to bake.  Using a serrated knife, I cut two hash marks into the top of the dough....and I freaked a bit.  My dough kind of deflated from the slice.  I got nervous that I had done something wrong, but I decided to just throw it in the oven anyway and hope for the best....



Well, turns out that I had nothing to worry about....It came out beautifully.  The crust was brown and crispy, and the inside was soft and chewy.


Of course I cut it as soon as it had cooled.  I needed to see the inside of my bread!!


And, make sure it was fit for human consumption!


I have made this bread 2 more times since this initial effort, and have been happy with it every time.  It makes the most delicious toast.  And everytime i make a new loaf, it gets a little bit more of that delicious sourdough flavor.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Marx Foods- Blogger Mushroom recipe challenge

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted about my creamy mushroom fettucine?  The mushrooms I used were from Marx Foods, and now my recipe is a contestant in the Marx Blogger Mushroom recipe challenge!!

I would love it if you would vote for me!!  Follow the link below for details!

Fresh Wild Mushroom Recipe Challenge

Monday, October 18, 2010

CT Bites

Check out CT Bites!!
I wrote something for the site, and it was just published. So excited!
And if you've found me from CT Bites, have a look around! Happy to have you at the Clean Plate Club!

Alicia

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Scenes from the Flour book signing
















Thanks Michelle and Megan for inviting me - it was great to see Justin and Megan Johnson too!
Hmmm....What will I make first?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Acorn Squash with Rosemary and Brown Sugar


So here we are, it’s finally fall.  If you are living in New England you're starting to notice the changing leaves, the cooler nights, and your local farmer's market has shifted from tomatoes and corn, to apples and squash.

Even the covers of popular cooking magazines are sporting some beautiful gourds.

One Sunday while the BF was watching his beloved New York Giants, I decided to peruse the stacks of my local bookstore.  I love visiting bookstores to browse food magazines. It's fun when you discover a new title.  I picked up a copy of Fine Cooking magazine, and was a little miffed at the price.... but then I looked inside.

As you might imagine, I subscribe to a good number of cooking magazines - Rafe's mom also has a pretty healthy collection of her own, with Cook's Illustrated, Gourmet (RIP), and Bon Apetit issues stemming as far back as 1999.  As a result of all of these options, I feel like I've seen the same recipes over and over.  Squash soup, roasted chicken, cupcakes galore, and a resurgence of beef bourguignon.... it goes on and on.

But the October issue of Fine Cooking actually kind of wowed me.  I immediately made this acorn squash with rosemary and brown sugar, which made a great mid-week side-dish.  I was excited because it took very little time to cook, and I already had most of the ingredients in my pantry.



I cut up the acorn squash leaving the skin on, which is a huge time saver....Then I browned the squash in a pan on the stove with a little oil and butter....mmmmm 


I assembled the remaining ingredients.  
I hope Meghan doesn't turn up her nose at my Sutter Home pinot grigio!  I'm not a big fan of drinking white wine, but I do love the flavor when cooking it, so I buy the little airplane-sized bottles at the grocery store.  Each one is a little over a cup - so its pretty easy to use it up in only one or two recipes - and you won't find yourself throwing away any wine.



Once the squash is browned on both sides you pour in the wine, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper.



Whoa, look at it bubble.



Then you simmer it in a covered pan.  The instructions advised to use the largest pan you have, unfortunately my largest pan does not have a lid...so I improvised with aluminum foil.  Classy, I know.  Any wealthy readers who want to donate to my cookware collection just email me!



During a 'tweet up' on twitter to discuss this issue of Fine Cooking, I expressed my interest in this recipe, but didn't know what I should pair it with.  Someone suggested chicken paillards which sounded too fancy for a weeknight meal.....turns out, a paillard is just a chicken breast that has been pounded out with a meat mallet (thank you wikipedia!)  So I pounded my paillards and seasoned them with salt and a little herbs de provence, and cooked them up in a separate pan.  They cooked incredibly fast since they were so thin.



This made a great weeknight fall meal - and had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.  I love how this recipe highlights both the sweet and savory qualities of acorn squash.  I really enjoyed this recipe - and I'm looking forward to some of the others in this issue of Fine Cooking.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Apple Picking!

Today was a gorgeous fall day in Connecticut.
So Rafe and I went apple picking - can't wait to get into the kitchen with my macoun and granny smiths......

Creamy Mushroom Fettucine




When Justin from Marx Foods contacted me about his company's cooking contest, I was interested.  When he mentioned that he would send me five (5!) different kinds of dried mushrooms to use in my recipe - well, I was thrilled.  I absolutely love mushrooms.

I came home from work one day to a small little box at my door with 'goodies inside' printed on the outside.  Inside the box were 5 little zip-top bags with dried porcini, black trumpet, lobster, chanterelle, and matsutake mushrooms.

I had about a half pint of baby bella mushrooms in my fridge, so I cleaned and chopped them up.


Then I browned them in a frying pan, with a little pat of this fancy butter that I picked up at Shaw's.  



I added a little dried thyme and pepper.
I added salt only after the mushrooms had browned.  Adding salt too early can cause the mushrooms to leach water and get chewy....I reduced the heat to low and added some chopped garlicto avoid burning the garlic in a hot pan.  I then removed the mushrooms from my pan and set them aside.




While the mushrooms were browning, I got to work on my dried 'shrooms.  I used a mix of porcini and chanterelle.  
To use dried mushrooms all you need to do is rehydrate them.  I boiled water in my kettle, poured about a cup over the mushrooms, then covered the bowl with plastic wrap. 




When I was planning my recipe, my main objective was to use not only the rehydrated mushrooms, but the mushroom soaking liquid.  When you rehydrate mushrooms, the water turns a deep amber color.  This water takes on so much flavor from the mushrooms.  All you need to do is remove some of the sediment that shows up in the water, and you can use it like you would water or broth in your recipe.  It makes the mushroom flavor so much deeper!


I started with a roux, then whisked in the mushroom liquid.

I added the mushrooms and some sherry, salt, and pepper.


While the mushroom sauce was bubbling and reducing, I dropped some fettucine in a pot of boiling water.


Once it was al dente, I added it to the mushroom sauce and tossed it around.


I wanted to make sure the sauce coated every noodle!





mmmm plated and topped with some pecorino romano!


Creamy Mushroom Fettucine
serves 2
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 clove garlic
2 oz dried mushrooms (I used a mix of porcini and chanterelle)
1 cup boiling water
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
1 Tbs cream sherry
2 cups fettucine
pepper
parmesan or pecorino romano

Empty dried mushrooms into a bowl, fill bowl with 1 cup boiling water, cover bowl with saran wrap and set aside.  Melt one tablespoon butter in a medium pan and add the fresh mushrooms to the pan, along with a 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme and a few grinds of pepper.  Cook the mushrooms on medium until they are brown.  Once the mushrooms have some color, add a little salt and the chopped garlic.  Reduce the heat to low and cook just until the garlic is fragrant. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside.

Melt the other tablespoon of butter over medium heat in the same pan.  Add the flour and whisk to create a roux.  Once the roux turns a very light butterscotch color, add the water from the dried mushrooms, and continue whisking.  Add the reserved browned mushrooms.  Chop the rehydrated dried mushrooms and add them to the sauce.  Whisk in the sherry.  Reduce the heat to low and let simmer. 

Cook pasta as package directs.  Once the pasta is cooked, add to the warm sauce. Mix well, top with grated cheese, serve and enjoy!



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

King Arthur Flour - Part 3

After our pizza, we made whole grain crackerbread.  Bridget is shown below, posing with her creation.



This was a fun recipe because although we were following the steps for a basic cracker (containing a mix of whole wheat and rye flours), we were all able to customize the seasonings and seeds to make our own unique flavor.


I added the King Arthur seed mix (with flax, toasted sesame, black caraway, midget sunflower, poppy, & anise seeds) and added extra sesame seeds, herbs de provence and salt.  These were delicious and crisssspy.


Next, we got to work with this.  Originally when I saw the ingredients all tucked into a corner, I had thought that this was a big block of cheese.  It's not.  It's butter.


This is what happens when you give food bloggers a HUGE block of butter....
smiles all around.



Megan and I teamed up on the crackerbread, and the next recipe -whole grain brownies.
That is why I have so few pictures....I was having wayyyy too much fun!



yummy brownie batter....


Although these brownies were made with whole wheat flour they were incredibly rich and chocolate-y.  Susan suggested we wait a day to eat them so the bran in the wheat flour would soften up.  When I got home on Sunday I cut the brownies and had a little bite.  

I put them in the freezer along with the pizza.  When I got home from Vegas, I ate one, and then had another the next day.  Then I shared some with Rafe, his brother and sister in-law, and brought the rest to work.


They're really incredible, and you could never tell that they were made with whole grain flour!