Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spaghetti with Braised Kale

I love kale. If you haven't had it before, you should give it a try! It's super easy to prepare and goes with practically everything. It can be a side dish, combined right into your main dish or even added to soup! I love it any way it is prepared.

It is a nutritional superstar as well. It is loaded with calcium, iron and vitamins. That makes it even more of a winner in my book!

I saw this recipe a long time ago, but forgot to make it until recently when I wanted to try a new recipe with kale. It's super tasty and an easy meal to prepare on a busy week night.

Spaghetti with Braised Kale
from Epicurious

1 pound lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 pound spaghetti
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse kale. Drain; transfer to bowl with some water still clinging.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving about one cup cooking liquid. Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot. Add lemon juice and half a cup reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Last, but certainly not least, I made some chocolate cake! It's sort of becoming a tradition for me to make a flourless chocolate cake on my birthday. This recipe was new to me, but it turned out fantastically! I must take this moment to thank those who brought other goodies. Thanks Adrie for the wonderful tuxedo cheesecake! Thanks Jon and Kelly for the awesome fancy cupcakes! Thanks Whitney for the spinach dip! Everyone else, thanks for the wine and other drinks and, most of all, for your company! It was a great end to my birthday week!

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake with Raspberry Sauce
From Epicurious

3 10 oz packages frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed

12 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
1 cup freshly brewed espresso or 1 tbsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup of water
1 cup brown sugar
8 large eggs, beaten to blend

Fresh raspberries

For sauce: Working in batches, puree raspberries and syrup in processor. Can be made ahead and kept chilled. (I found that this was way too much sauce. Feel free to use one package of raspberries.)

For cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all chocolate in large bowl and set aside. Bring butter, espresso and sugar to boil in medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add to chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool slightly. Whisk in eggs.

Pour batter into spring form pan. Place that pan on a roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come up halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake until center of cake is set and tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Remove pan from water. Chill cake overnight.

Serve with sauce and fresh berries.

Cheese Fondue

Yet another dish I decided to serve at my birthday gathering was cheese fondue! We've only used our fondue pot once before and it was for chocolate. I wanted to break into the realm of cheese fondue because Bryan had never tried it! This was the first time I had made this recipe and it was definitely a winner! I received a lot of compliments on it and it was completely gone by the end of the evening! Another great thing about doing fondue is that it is low maintenance. Just take about 10 minutes to make it and put it into the fondue pot, and you're done!

Cheese Fondue
from Epicurious


1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tbsp cornstarch (or 2 tbsp flour)
1/2 pound Emmental cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)


Set aside 1/2 cup of the white wine and stir in the cornstarch or flour (I didn't have cornstarch so I used flour).

Add the other one cup of wine to a medium sized sauce pan and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. Gradually add the grated cheeses to the pot to melt, stirring in a zig zag pattern so that the cheese doesn't clump up. Stir cornstarch/flour wine mixture again and add it to the cheese mixture. While stirring constantly, bring fondue to a simmer and cook until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to fondue pot set over a flame.

We served the fondue with cubed french bread, broccoli florets, sliced red peppers and apple slices. It was so delicious!!!

Baked Brie

Another appetizer I chose to make for the birthday gathering was baked brie. It's super fast and easy and you can put it in the oven and forget about it while you continue to get everything else ready for the party. The inspiration came from my mother-in-law, who makes this dish every now and then. However, after eating a variation with my sister, I also added my own twist.

Baked Brie


1 round of Brie 
1 can of Pillsbury pastry dough sheet 
Brown sugar
Slivered almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick baking spray. Pop open the pastry dough and spread it out onto the baking sheet. Scrape off the white outer part on the brie and place in center of dough. Top generously with brown sugar. Top the brown sugar with slivered almonds.

Working in a circle, bring the dough up to cover the brie. You can try to make it look pretty on top with any extra dough. 

Bake approximately 20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve on a large plate with crackers around the side.

Birthday Week Continued

We had a gathering of friends last night to finish off my week with a bang. I got to wear the new hot dress and necklace that Bryan got me for my birthday! We had great food and wine and the best part was the friends who came and made the party a success!

I made a few appetizers, which you will see here and in the following posts.

First up, Tomato and Basil Crostinis!!

This appetizer was created at home based on an appetizer that Bryan and I had at our wedding! It is very simple and always a crowd pleaser! These suckers were gone by the end of the evening!

Tomato and Basil Crostini


One long and skinny baguette (that is thicker bread and won’t have huge gaping holes, because you don’t want the topping to fall through!)
Tomatoes, seeded and diced (I think I usually use 4-6 depending on how big they are)
Fresh basil, finely chopped (not sure how much I use… enough to mix well with the tomatoes and not be over powering)
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning
Garlic powder
Shredded Mozzarella


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Cut baguette into thin pieces, approximately 1/8 inch thick. Place on a baking sheet. In a small bowl on the side, mix olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush each piece of bread with the oil mixture. Bake the bread for about 10 minutes until lightly browned and nicely toasted.

Dice and seed the tomatoes and place in a large bowl. It’s okay if some juices remain because it will help everything blend later. Chop finely the basil and add to the tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Also add some Italian seasoning and sprinkle on a little garlic powder to taste. Mix well. If you think you need more of any of the ingredients, add however much you feel is needed!

Top the toasted baguettes with the tomato basil mixture. Top with shredded mozzarella. Serve and enjoy! Another great thing about this dish is that the crosinis won't get soggy if they are left out for a few hours!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Birthday Dinner!

My 25th birthday was on Tuesday! Since it was in the middle of the week and both Bryan and I had to work late and be up early the next morning, we decided to make a delicious dinner at home. He made me filet mignon and I made kale and mashed potatoes. The meat was grilled perfectly and the sides went along amazingly well! I even got some rockin' good presents! Thanks Bryan!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

This week I finally had time to use one of our Christmas presents - an immersion blender! How fitting considering January is national soup month! When we got it, I immediately knew that first up was going to be Creamy Leek and Potato Soup. I didn't have a specific recipe in mind, so I did some research and ended up combining a few. It turned out extremely well and I'm actually making more this afternoon! This soup is so incredibly flavorful and delicious and the best part is that it is full of healthy vegetables! Bryan liked it so much that he deemed it to be a weekly staple!

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
adapted from Epicurious

3 tbsp butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 carrots, sliced (approx)
4 celery ribs, sliced (approx)
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 white onion, diced (approx)
2 large, or 4 small potatoes, cubed (approx)
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups (approx) chicken or vegetable stock
heavy cream

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and stir to coat with butter. Cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and potatoes and cook until potatoes begin to soften but do not brown. Sprinkle on thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Add white wine and simmer about five minutes. Add chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, 25-30 minutes. I also sprinkled on another round of spices at this point. Once the vegetables are soft and the soup is spiced to taste, turn off the heat and slowly drizzle your desired amount of heavy cream into the soup and blend. Then blend with the immersion blender. If you do not have one, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender or processor until smooth. Adjust thickness of soup with additional stock if needed. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This past weekend, I was browsing through my cookbooks, and discovered that I had never made anything from this one that I got as a gift: Damn Good Food, 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen. I'm not talking about the TV show. Hell's Kitchen is a funky restaurant in downtown Minneapolis that originated before the TV show. I've actually been to this restaurant too! The inside walls are crimson red and decorated with crazy art and the servers wear interesting outfits including pajamas. And the food is really good! I thought it was about time to find something to make out of this cookbook. I found quite a few that I will make very soon! But, since it was late Sunday afternoon, I needed something that wouldn't take too much time. Since we had already planned dinner, I thought a dessert item was in order, and that's when these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies popped out right at me. The best part to me was that it said it makes 15 cookies. Perfect! I didn't have time to make batches of cookies and end up with dozens of cookies that I didn't need. So I dove right on in and started making the batter. It was fast and before I knew it, I was portioning the dough into 15 large balls onto a cookie sheet. I wondered how large to make them. I settled on a size about the size of a tennis ball. Wow, these cookies are going to be awesome! I ran out of room with 12 down on one sheet, and realized that I was not even half way through the batter. This dude must have meant huge dough balls. At this point, I resigned to the fact that I was going to end up with about three dozen very large cookies.  I got them all out on cookie sheets and through the oven. They came out perfectly and were insanely delicious. Seriously sooooo good! Everyone knows that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is one of the greatest combinations. This recipe certainly needs to be in your mind whenever you have a craving for the peanut butter and chocolate combination!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Damn Good Food, 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Add butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, and cream until pale and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Add peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla, and continue to mix until blended. Whisk together salt, soda, and flour in a separate bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, blending until just combined. Add chocolate chips, and mix until just combined.

Portion cookie dough into 15 large balls (more like HUGE balls), and place, evenly spaced, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Press down lightly on the top of each ball. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake 8-10 minutes, until golden brown (I had to add about 4 minutes). Remove from the oven and cook cookies on a wire rack. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My new blog home

Welcome to my new website for my blog! What do you think of the new look? I'm so happy that my blog title and URL address finally match! It's the same blog with all the same previous posts and photos, but I will continue my posting here! Anyone who was following my blog earlier will have to follow this new site. Newbies can follow using the buttons to the right in many sorts of ways. If you have a Blogger account, it is most useful to follow directly with that. Otherwise, you can subscribe by email or RSS feed.

Thanks for stopping by!

Homemade Fettucini

Guess what we got for our anniversary? A pasta attachment for our Kitchen Aid! We were super excited to try it out, and yesterday we finally had time. I was a little nervous, having never made pasta from scratch before, but it turned out amazingly well! The apparatus comes with various recipes and we thought light wheat would be a good start. It turns out, making pasta is actually pretty easy, once you figure out the logistics! Although, not every piece came out perfectly. We learned that the pieces that are going to be put through the flattener can't be too thick otherwise it will try to push too much dough through at once and it might come out with weak spots or even holes. Another thing to keep in mind is to lay the flattened noodles out separately. We didn't, and it wasn't really a problem until we got to the bottom of our pile and they were sticking together a bit. Also, once you put the flattened dough through the cutter device, put it directly into the boiling water even though you will be continuing to add noodles. We discovered on batch two that it doesn't really matter that all noodles don't go into the pot directly at once, as long as they get in there as soon as possible.

Honestly, for our first time making pasta, I'd say we had a major success with barely any trouble! And it was a lot of fun!

Bryan flattening the dough

Flattened noodles prior to being cut into fettucini

Our fettucini dish

We made a simple pasta dish of baby portobello mushrooms, green peppers, onions, garlic and beef along with a hot pepper marinara sauce topped with grated parmesan on top of our freshly made fettucini. The noodles were so incredibly delicious! They tasted so much better than dried pasta that you buy at the grocery store!! We're definitely going to be making our own pasta from now on!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anniversary at Spiaggia

After 11 wonderful days in MN, Bryan and I drove home to Chicago on Sunday January 2nd, which also happened to be our one-year wedding anniversary! We had dinner reservations at Spiaggia that I had been excited for for months! Spiaggia is located at the top of Magnificent Mile, across the street from the Drake Hotel and looks out onto Lake Michigan. Tony Mantuano, the executive chef, was on Top Chef Masters and I can say after finally eating his food that he is a genius! They have hosted a load of famous chefs and celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts and President Obama. After I read about all of the online hype, I knew we had to go there for something BIG. And our anniversary was perfect. We were literally blown away at how good the food was!

They brought out a complimentary truffle plate for each of us, which was absolutely incredible. We had cocktails first and then wine with the main course. For the first two courses, we ordered a couple of small plates and then enjoyed our own entrees:
Wood-roasted pancetta wrapped rabbit loin and rabbit sausage with tomato, Taggiasca olives and fried sage.
Potato gnocchi with ricotta sauce and Savini black truffles.
Bryan: Wood-roasted prime ribeye, chanterelle mushrooms, pickled red pearl onions and wild watercress.
Me: Wood grilled veal chop with sweetbreads, cipollini onions, dried Pugliese cherry tomatoes and arugula .
They also brought out a complimentary platter of pastry desserts for us to enjoy. We didn't order dessert because we had our wedding cheesecake to return to (which by the way, freezes extremely well)!

All of the dishes were incredibly delicious. The gnocchi, in particular, was to die for. There were points where we were silent because we were so engrossed in how good the food was. Our whole experience was absolutely amazing. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to have a fancy schmancy dinner at some point while living in Chicago!

Chicken Dumpling Soup

So, what do you do with the leftover chicken bones and pieces? Make soup of course! This is another recipe from my childhood that doesn't really have a recipe. Basically, you make your chicken broth with the chicken bones and leftover pieces and add a little salt and pepper. After that has boiled for a couple of hours, you debone the chicken and add the meat pieces to the broth and discard the bones. You can add a variety of vegetables, but I grew up adding chopped carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, turnips and rutabaga. Let those simmer for about an hour and season with some rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Last up comes the dumplings, which are also made up, and are little pieces of chewey goodness. Start with 2 eggs and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and blend together with a spoon. Add a little milk and flour bit by bit until it is thick and just stays on the spoon. It is hard to know when it is exactly right, and it just takes some practice. It took me a lot of adding and mixing before it looked right to me. Then you can test one dumpling to see if it has the right consistency. Dip a spoonful of batter into the simmering soup and it will fall off the spoon and into the bottom of the pot. When it floats, it is done and you can ladle it out of the soup and cut it in half to test whether or not it is done. You might need to add more flour to thicken or more milk or egg to make it thinner. Once the batter is right, add the rest of it to the soup by spoonfuls. Once all the dumplings are floating, the soup is ready to serve!

Grilled Chicken

Sometimes you just need to have a simple meal. That's where this grilled chicken came into play for me. The beauty of it is that there is really no recipe to follow. I grew up eating grilled meats often and I just sort of knew how to do it. Basically, you want to season the chicken before putting it on the grill and I used some flour, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and some liquid smoke (the secret ingredient according to my dad). It turned out very well too! We used organic free range chicken pieces from Trader Joe's, and it tasted great! Served with a side of mixed greens with dijon balsamic vinegarette and a dinner roll. So quick and easy!