I’m excited to enter back into the blogging world after way too much time away from it!! Things got a bit crazy in NYC but now that Aaron and I have moved to Chicago, I am finding so much more time (and space!) to cook in my new kitchen. Another added bonus to being in Chicago is that I am now living in the same city as my younger sister Sonja. We have constantly been joking about how Sonja spending time at our new apartment with makes us “Three’s Company.” So this post is a joint effort of Sonja and myself.
Sonja recently saw an episode of Giada at Home called “Light and Fabulous” and after texting me the entire menu, we decided we needed to make it ourselves. It was so yummy and comforting yet truly healthy at the same time.
We got all of the recipes at foodnetwork.com. I have included the links below because they are a little long to post on here entirely.
Making everything did take a couple of hours, but it was totally worth it. The carrot and yam puree was so rich and flavorful (perfect for a cold Sunday evening) and balanced out the tilapia that was delicate and flaky. The mustard-chive sauce added just the right amount of tartness and creaminess.
I had never bought wheat berries before, but they were very inexpensive and so yummy! They need quite a bit of time to cook (1.5 hours), but in the end they created such a great base for the salad. They were chewy and hearty had almost a pasta-like texture.
My favorite quote from the entire meal was when Aaron said, “These flavors are all just so unexpected!” I thought that was really funny. All in all I would definitely make this meal again, it was definitely “Light and fabulous” like Giada said. Now I would just like to know, if I keep eating meals like this, will I end up looking like Giada? I sure hope so.
Note: The recipe for the carrot and yam puree made so much that there was about half of it left. Tonight I am planning on adding to it one more yam, coconut milk, red curry paste, basil, chicken stock, fresh ginger and peanut butter to make it into a Thai-style soup. I’ll let you know how it goes!!!
I often try new recipes during the week, but rarely do I get so excited about a particular find. Tonight was definitely an exception, I made Turkey Florentine Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash, from the Taste of Home magazine.
It was so amazing that I decided I had to share asap!
- 1 bag fresh spinach (recipe called for frozen spinach)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 eggs beaten
- 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp dried minced onion
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 lb ground turkey (recipe called for ground chicken)
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 garlic clove minced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven heats, saute spinach and garlic in olive oil until wilted. Then combine with next 7 ingredients in large bowl. Shape into 1.5 inch balls and place in shallow baking dish. Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place cut-side up in oven on baking sheet and cook 30-45 minutes or until soft. Also add meatballs to top rack in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until no longer pink.
For sauce, in a large skillet saute mushrooms in butter, without crowding. Remove from pan and saute onions in olive oil until translucent, then add garlic and cook one more minute. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat , simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add cooked meatballs and cook through.
When squash is cool enough to handle, use fork to separate strands lengthwise. Season with salt and pepper and serve with meatballs and sauce.
I made several changes to the recipe, I added an onion, used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and fresh spinach instead of frozen, but all in all it was great!
Not only is this tasty, but it’s also healthy! I think I need to cook with spaghetti squash more often, any recommendations?!?
I heard about if from my favorite Twitter group Girls Night Out DC or #gnodc for those who speak “Tweet.” Join food bloggers Alejandra Owens, Adventures in Shaw, Thrifty DC Cook, Not Derby Pie, among others for some delicious treats, not to mention a great cause!
Some how I recently talked myself into foodie challenge, me vs. some of DC’s best cupcakeries. How did I get myself into this? Well, I happen to believe that you don’t have to be a trained chef or baker to make excellent top-notch delicious food. I think anyone one can make virtually anything, if they just take the time to do some research, find a good recipe and follow it. Throw in a dash of creativity and voila! I had mentioned this at work and my colleagues decided I should test this theory.
Thus the Cupcake challenge was born! What’s in a cupcake… flour, egg, butter, sugar. I mean, how hard can this really be.
- The challenge: me vs. some of DC’s most popular “cupcakeries,” Georgetown Cupcake and Baked and Wired
- The cupcake: Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting (PS this is my first attempt at red velvet)
- Methodology: My colleagues will be blind taste testing my homemade cupcakes vs. those of the cupcakeries, judging simply on taste
- The stakes: pride and bragging rights;)
I searched far and wide to learn about Red Velvet Cupcakes and considered multiple recipes.
I learned quite a bit about these little red jewels, especially from the blog Cupcakes. The following are some interesting details:
“Red Velvet Cupcakes are rich chocolate cupcakes. They are called red velvet due to their distinctive rich red color. Originally, cocoa used to be a lighter shade and what gave red velvet cupcakes their unique color was a chemical reaction of unprocessed cocoa with the acid in the buttermilk. You can still buy this type of cocoa, however now more often then not it isred food coloring that makes the cupcakes red.”
“Red velvet cupcakes traditionally come with boiled frosting… However, nowadays red velvet cupcake recipe usually calls for cream cheese frosting.”
The recipe I ended using was from the Joy of Baking website. I chose it becuase it had some interesting ingredients, including buttermilk and marscapone cheese. Below are the fruits of my labor!
The cupcakes were delicious! I’m not sure how they will fair tomorrow against the pros… but I definitely think I have a chance. I’m sure I will be making these again in the future and when I do I have just a few small changes. I would add less whipping cream to the frosting, it was a bit to “whip-creamy” and I would make a double batch of frosting. I had a little bit extra and ended up stuffing several cupcakes with frosting by using a piping bag with a sharp circular tip (which I learned from my favorite baker friend Kierstin). It was awesome!
One last thing I learned, was not to add the colored sugar until serving. I used Joby & Marty’s Amazing Colored Sugar, which I got at Whole Foods. It is sugar colored with beet juice, which makes it a rich magenta red color, perfect for Red Velvet Cupcakes… the only issue was that the color bled into the frosting. Luckily I had made two batches and only sprinkled one. Rookie mistake;)
So, wish me luck tomorrow as I face the favorites to see if these cupcakeries are actually worth the steep prices they charge!
Oh, and a special thanks to my colleague Darren for trucking across the city to pick the goods from my opponents!
I’ve meant to provide an update on the cupcake challenge so without further or do…. drum roll please….
I tied for second out of three, which I suppose could also be considered a tie for last, but that isn’t nearly as fun, right?!?
We had 10 judges who ate a quarter of each cupcake, having no knowledge of where each was from. They each wrote down their thoughts and we reviewed after. Here’s the skinny:
- Judge 1: My cupcake was best overall but Georgetown had the best frosting
- Judge 2: Liked GC, B&W then mine
- Judge 3: Liked GC, B&W then mine (said mine tasted “different from the other two)
- Judge 4: GT had the best cake and mine had the best frosting
- Judge 5: Thought it was a toss-up between GT and B&W
- Judge 6: Liked GT and B&W for the cake and liked my frosting
- Judge 7: Liked BW best overall and liked my frosting
- Judge 8: Liked GT best overall, B&W had the best frosting and mine had the best cake
- Judge 9: Liked GT
- Judge 10: Liked GT best and liked my frosting
Overall I gathered the following:
- Georgetown Cupcakes were very moist and had lots of frosting but they were much smaller
- Baked & Wired cupcakes were very moist but had a very sugary frosting
- My cupcakes had good frosting but were drier than the cupcakeries
Here is the cost comparison:
- Baked & Wired: $3.85 each
- Georgetown Cupcake: $2.75 each
- My cupcakes: ~$1.00 each
After doing some unbiased “quantitative analysis” based on judges preferences AND the cost analysis I believe we each earned the following:
- Georgetown Cupcake: 20
- Baked & Wired: 15
- My cupcakes: 15
In the end I think my hypothesis was correct! I think my cupcakes held up well to the cupcakeries, even though I had never made Red Velvet before. I took me about two hours to make two batches but if I was to travel over to Georgetown, find a parking spot, possibly pay for the parking spot and wait in the 20-minute line outside of Georgetown Cupcake, it probably would have taken and hour and a half. Don’t get me wrong, their cupcakes are great, but I think in the end we all have the ability to make something just as delicious for a fraction of the price and just a pinch more time.
What do you think? Is my hypothesis correct? What is your favorite cupcake, professional or homemade?
The Wienery is essentially a hotdog “shop” near the University of MN and was featured on The FoodNetworks Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Adam had been wanting us to check it out ever since he saw the episode over a year ago. He first suggested that we go there to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Don’t get me wrong, I love hole-in-the-wall restaurants and hotdogs for that matter, but for our anniversary – no thanks. So we finally pulled the trigger and made our way there this past Sunday.
I don’t even know where to begin about The Wienery other than it was fantastic. The entire restaurant had maybe 3 or 4 tables and was filled with college kids nursing their hangovers and talking about their night – classic! So we plopped down right at the counter where we were greeted by a warm server who dropped off a big basket of toys for Will to play with so we could focus on the menu.
I never thought a hotdog menu could be so overwhelming, but it was! They had 16 different specialty hotdogs and 7 different kinds of meat -Vienna Beef Hotdog, Vienna Beef Polish, Smoked Bratwurst, Spicy Italian Sausage, Vegan Tofu Dog, Vegetarian Bratwurst, and Vegetarian Italian. Everything was made fresh to order including their fresh-cut fries! I ordered the Briny Dog (spicy) and Adam ordered the Drive-In Dog.
Both hotdogs were awesome and our entire meal, including a soda, was $9!! We left there not only missing the college life, but also extremely full which is always a good sign! I think I would now be perfectly fine (maybe) celebrating our next wedding anniversary at The Wienery now that I know the dogs are unbelievable!
We celebrated Will’s first birthday over the weekend and I wanted to make one of his favorite foods to serve at the party – Lasagna.
Lasagna can be a bit labor intensive, but you can easily make it ahead of time and freeze it, which is exactly what I did. There are so many different kinds and recipes that I have yet to make the same lasagna twice. For Will’s party, I decided to make a traditional triple cheese lasagna (keeping the kids in mind) and a white-based chicken lasagna.
Three-Cheese Lasagna with Italian Sausage
This particular recipe stood out to me because it called for both spicy pork sausage and ground chuck. Having both kinds of meat added a lot of flavor, but still kept it pretty neutral for the kids. I also increased the amount of spinach than what the recipe called for because it’s a great way to “disguise” healthy food. Overall it was good, but I’m still on the hunt for the perfect traditional lasagna.
Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna
The white chicken lasagna was great. I was really worried it wasn’t going to turn out because I burnt the cream sauce a little bit and I used no-boil noodles. For some reason I’m a little skeptical about no-boil noodles, but they worked out perfectly. I think what made this recipe was the Gruyère cheese. The cheese added a hint of sweetness to the lasagna. I would definitely recommend this recipe and will make it again.
Overall the party was a success and the “battle of the lasagna” added a fun little twist for our guests. Most everyone tried both and voted for their favorite lasagna. Hands down the Cheesy Chicken Lasagna won! However, the highlight of the party was Will eating his birthday cake!
This past weekend Aaron and I had our first official “dinner party” in NYC. I think this is what I have been missing the most about our place in St. Paul, is having guests. Since this was a special occasion and landmark for us here, I decided to try making something that I have been salivating about for the past 2 months. For those of you that watch Iron Chef, I guarantee that you will be familiar with this dish. In January they did a special White House episode with Chef Cristeta Comerford, the White House Executive Chef and Iron Chef Bobby Flay against Emerill Lagasse and Iron Chef Mario Batali. I believe that Iron Chef Flay and Chef Comerford won the battle, but Iron Chef Batali won me over with the ravioli that he made. They were filled with a blend of goat cheese (chevre) and sweet potato. But to make them extra special, in the center of each ravioli, an egg yolk was placed. The yolk just barely gets cooked in the boiling water and then when the ravioli is cut open, the yolk oozes out creating a rich sauce for the pasta. The ravioli was also covered in a brown butter sauce with shaved truffle. There is something about the way that Iron Chef Batali says “Bon Appetito” that makes his dishes sound ridiculously amazing. So, I decided to try to replicate this ravioli at home. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, I decided to have a traditional 5 course Italian feast.
This was a perfect excuse for me to head over to Chelsea Market and get all of my groceries there. It was pretty packed with people on a Saturday afternoon, but we had a lot of fun finding the perfect items for our feast. I was especially impressed with the very reasonable prices at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange. We even got to go to a quick wine tasting while we were there!!!
Here was our menu:
Primo: Sweet potato and chevre ravioli in brown butter sauce
Second0: Braised Short Ribs
Insalata: Mixed greens with Balsamic vinaigrette
Dolce: Cream puffs and cheesecake
All courses were paired with a delicious bottle of wine!
Our lovely guests Ty and Meredith took care of the bruschetta. It is a great way to start a meal, light and refreshing.
The ravioli was quite the process, but ended up being worth every second. I had looked online to see if I could find a recipe for this magic ravioli, but failed. I decided to wing it and see what I could do from my memory of the show. For the pasta, I found a recipe for ravioli dough from Tyler Florence. I don’t have a pasta machine, so I used a rolling-pin instead and it worked great. For the filling, I cooked 2 sweet potatoes and pureed them in a food processor with 8 oz. of chevre, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, sage, a little parmesan and 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream. The purchase of a ravioli press at the kitchen supply store at Chelsea Market to helped me cut out the individual ravioli. It was the perfect size, probably about 5 inches wide. I made a little bed in the filling for each egg yolk and then put the ravioli together. After letting them dry out for an hour or so, I cooked them in boiling salted water for about 3-5 minutes. For the brown butter sauce, I had bought this butter that I found at the Buonitalia that is made from the same cow’s milk that goes into Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I browned it on the stove top and then drizzled it over each ravioli with some romano cheese and fresh parsley. They really turned out perfectly, exactly like I had pictured them and they tasted delicious–very rich and smooth with the egg yolk adding an element of surprise and depth to the flavor of the ravioli. If you have any other questions for me about how to make these, let me know. They are seriously so yummy!
I found the recipe for braised short ribs from Anne Burrell. We decided to splurge and get the ribs from the butcher at Chelsea Market. It was a lot of fun to watch the butcher estimate what he thought 4 lbs. of short ribs would be and then tell me how beautiful they were (I wouldn’t have known the difference…)! His estimate was a bit off and we ended with 5.5 lbs., oh well! Here is a picture of them before we seasoned and braised them. I sort of forgot to take a picture of them once they were finished. They were pretty fatty and I was more concerned about making sure that everyone got a lean enough piece of meat.
Overall, this meal was so much fun to make. I had been obsessing over those ravioli long enough and it was about time that I did something about it!! The only thing that made me a bit sad was how hard it was to accomplish all of this in our kitchen. When was said and done, it looked like our party of 4 was actually a party of about 12. Yikes! I thought I would include a pic of the tortured kitchen. I finally got around to doing the dishes today and it took me 2 hours!!