Sunday, April 23, 2017

Upside-Down Onion Tart

This Upside-Down Onion Tart is something you can throw together with "bare-bones" ingredients. You only need two essential ingredients: puff pastry and onions!

Now, if you do not consider puff pastry a pantry, or rather a freezer essential, then you should.  Having a couple sheets of puff pastry around is like having an insurance always comes in handy.  It's not only perfect for throwing together a quick and fruity dessert, like this gorgeous Winter Citrus Tart with Rosemary Whipped Cream, but it's also a lifesaver if you want to whip appetizers, or top a soup or stew, like this Irish Beef Stew with Puff Pastry Dippers, or even use as a make shift pie crust, like I did when I made these Mini Corned Beef Pot Pies. I am simply never without a box (or two) in my freezer!

And hopefully, we all have onions in our pantry! Not only are they the base of so many dishes, but they are even better when they are allowed to shine as the featured ingredient, such as in this absolutely incredible Onion Soup Lyonnaise-Style. Trust me when I say that soup has become such a staple, and I am never without the ingredients to make it.

This tart is another way for the humble onion to play center stage.  Pair this with a green salad, or even on the side of any beef dish, and you're in for a true caramelized onion delight!

Upside-Down Onion Tart
Adapted from River Cottage Veg
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 4-6

About 7 ounces/200g all butter, ready made puff pastry
3 or 4 onions (about 12 ounces/350g)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Optional: Sprinkling of thyme leaves and/or cheese of your choice. I used opted for a few crumbles of blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8 inch thickness and cut out an 8-inch circle. Wrap the pastry disk and place it in the fridge.

Peel the onions and slice each one into 6 or 8 wedges, keeping the root end attached. Heat the butter and oil in an 8-inch tarte tatin pan or ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions, arranging them roughly in a pinwheel pattern. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once or twice, until they are fairly tender and starting to caramelize around the edges.

Trickle the balsamic vinegar over the onions and cook for a couple of minutes more, so the vinegar reduces a little.  Remove from the heat and make sure the onions are fairly evenly spread around the pan.

Lay the pastry disk over the onions and put the pan into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is fully puffed up and golden.

Invert the tart onto a plate so the sticky caramelized onions are facing up, on top of the crispy pastry. Serve right away, ideally with a green leafy salad. You could also crumble or grate over a favorite cheese.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Mexican-Inspired Breakfast Bowl {Plus a Roundup of my Favorite Egg Dishes}

Okay friends, so this week we're celebrating the wonderful and versatile world of eggs over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Since eggs are one of my favorite ingredients I knew that I wanted to come up with a special dish, something more original. After browsing through hundreds of egg recipes this week I ended up taking inspiration from Jamie Oliver's Mexican Fried Beans served with beautiful poached eggs on top.

Now, believe me, I use the term "inspiration" loosely. My inspiration comes in the form of being lazy. So there I am standing over the black beans in my cast iron pan and I'm thinking...I do not want to get out another pan and mess with the fussy poaching of these eggs SO...what can I do to get around that? A simple glance over at my cast iron casserole dishes gave me the answer. Bake it!

This solved two dilemmas. The first being the fussy poached eggs mentioned above. The second being the lack of cheese in Jamie's recipe. Problem solved! Baking this dish makes cooking the eggs and adding cheese a cinch!

So, it went like this. Add a diced jalapeno, clove of garlic, and handful of cilantro to a skillet with a touch of oil and butter and allow to soften.  Stir in the drained black beans until mixed with jalapeno mixture and warmed. Spoon mixture into ovenproof casserole dish, or dishes.  At this point I wanted cheese so I dolloped about a tablespoon of cream cheese evenly over both casserole dishes. You could use any cheese you like. Take a tip from me and use whatever cheese you see first or whatever cheese  is the easiest, because, you know...that's how it is. Then top with four eggs, or if making individual dishes, then two eggs each.  If you want to be all dainty then you can even make four servings.  Totally up to you. Bake at 350F according to how you like your eggs. In all, I think 10 minutes is a good jumping off point. Then garnish to your liking, but do not leave off green onions. I didn't add them to this dish and wish I had! They bring it all together. Serve immediately!

This comforting and satisfying dish would be perfect for so many occasions. Today it was the perfect consolation prize after my ten year old son woke up at 5:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. What can I say....nothing will wake a kid up faster than Easter candy!

Happy Easter!!

A Mexican-Inspired Breakfast Bowl
Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe
Serves 2

1 jalapeno pepper, cored, deseeded, and diced
1 large clove garlic, diced
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
a drizzle of oil and bit of butter
1 (15 oz. can) black beans, drained
2 tablespoons cream cheese, divided*
4 large eggs
tortillas, for serving
Optional: sliced green onions, diced red onion, avocado, hot sauce, cilantro, lime, salsa, and/or cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

 In a skillet, add the oil and butter. Once butter is melted add in the diced jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the jalapeno is softened, 1 to 2 minutes. 

Once softened, add the rinsed and drained black beans, mixing together the jalapeno mixture with the black beans until warmed through.  You can add the cheese at this point and mix it through the beans OR add the beans (dividing the beans) to your ovenproof casserole dish and add the cheese on top of the beans.  Your choice! At this point you could also add additional cilantro, salsa, red onion or green onion OR not. Again, this is your bowl and your choice. They can be customized to your liking! Add two eggs to the top of the beans and again, your choice....garnish the eggs to your liking if you chose. 

Bake the eggs to your liking.  Again, if you like your eggs over easy then bake for around 9-10 minutes. If you like them overhard, bake for around 12 minutes. Remember, depending on the size of your egg, the times will vary so carefully watch your eggs! I used 4 extra large eggs because it's what I had on hand and baked mine for 12 minutes.  Once the eggs are to your liking, quickly garnish the dish with whatever you chose. It's worth noting that green onions should be a must! Their flavor really rounds out the whole dish. Serve immediately, with warm tortillas.

If you've been with me awhile, you know I am absolutely crazy for eggs! In fact, eggs are my go to when all else fails. I always have them on hand and I can almost always put together an amazing egg dish with very little ingredients. Below are some of my current favorites, in order. If you make one, let it be Jacques Pepin's Egg and Onion Gratin. It is surprisingly delicious. Click on recipe names below to be directed to the original post.

This humble dish will surprise you. Hard-boiled eggs tossed in a creamy Gruyere cheese and onion me, this is heavenly! In fact, it is one of my hands down favorite dishes on my blog! Serve a little bit of of the gratin on a slice of toast and you will be in for a mind-blowing treat!

 Jacques Pepin sure does know how to write a tasty egg recipe and this one is certainly a favorite. Easy, healthy, and simple this is a breakfast I could wake up to each morning.  An egg baked into a softened poblano pepper and then topped with cheese. It really hits the spot!

 In my opinion, you simply will not find a tastier quiche or breakfast casserole than Giada's Breakfast Tart! This one packs a punch in the flavor department with a hefty dose of pancetta and green onions and it is extremely creamy and cheesy with both Mascarpone and Gruyere. Perfect for entertaining! It is hands down incredible. Definitely worth a little extra fuss in the morning.

 If you're suffering from the effects of a long night out, or simply in the mood for something light and healthy, Jamie Oliver's Nasi Goreng is a unique and tasty way to start your day! A fried egg sits atop a spicy fried rice mixture with some fresh pickles on the side. A bright and snazzy meal that will really wake you up and put some pep in your step!

 Donna Hay's Potato and Ham Fritters are a must make with your leftover Easter ham. Fluffy little cakes of mashed potato, peas, and bits of ham come together with a crispy crust to bring you all kinds of spring goodness on a plate. I love to dip these in a little Dijon mustard, but they are fabulous on their own. A must make this spring!

What's your favorite egg dish?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall's Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are beginning a new adventure as we cook the recipes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the next six months! I didn't have any of Hugh's books in my cookbook collection, so I began my adventure by purchasing his River Cottage Veg cookbook, which happens to be chock-full of purely veggie recipes.

The first recipe that jumped off the page was Hugh's Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad.  This salad initially caught my eye because it was so very gorgeous! Long strands of noodles tossed in a fresh Asian-inspired dressing with lots of verdant green veggies and a sprinkling of crunchy peanuts. Who wouldn't enjoy something with all that color and texture? Of course it helped that I had all the ingredients on hand and I also knew the dish would keep extremely well.

So I got started by whisking together a bright and zingy dressing composed of lime juice, chile, garlic, rice vinegar, with a touch of brown sugar, oil, and soy sauce. Then I mixed the dressing with a couple handfuls of steamed snow peas and snap peas, noodles, thinly sliced cucumber, and topped it all off with crunchy roasted peanuts and a good hearty sprinkling of mint, basil, and cilantro for a very light and refreshing pasta salad that satisfies.

This is the type of thing that is even better the next day and is therefore great for packing up in mason jars and taking on the go. I plan on throwing it in my bag to enjoy for lunch throughout the week.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad
Adapted from River Cottage Veg
By Hugh Fearnley-Whittstall
Serves 4-6 generously

1/2 cup raw peanuts
 7 ounces noodles (spaghetti or similar)
5 ounces green beans or snow peas, or combo
1/2 English cucumber
6 green onions
12 basil leaves (Thai, if possible) coarsely torn
small bunch of mint, coarsely chopped
small batch cilantro, coarsely chopped 

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime (depends on how juicy)
small fresh red chile, finely chopped or hot pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoons soy sauce, plus extra to serve

Roast peanuts on a baking sheet in the oven at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool, then lightly bash the nuts to break them up a bit, or leave whole if preferred.

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain and rinse under cold water. Add to the dressing and toss until well coated. Leave to cool completely in the dressing.

Cook the beans and/or snow peas in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water until just tender and still a bit crunchy, about 3 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water, then drain well. 

Halve the cucumber lengthwise and slice thinly.  Finely slice the green onions on the diagonal.

Toss the cooled noodles with the peanuts, cucumber, green onions, beans and/or snow peas and herbs. Serve with soy sauce on the side, for everyone to help themselves.

Welcome Hugh to I Heart Cooking Clubs!
Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Top Five Heidi Swanson Favorites!

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we've spent the last six months cooking the recipes of  Heidi Swanson.  Usually I like to wrap up each six months with a final dish and a recap of my top favorites, but this week I'm out of town and didn't get a chance to make a final dish, so instead I'm just sharing my top five favorites.  In order.

I didn't realize how much we loved this Green Chile Whipped Cream Cheese until after I blogged about it. We finished the dish in record time by smearing it on bagels, layering it on sandwiches, and dipping our veggies in. The heat from the serrano paired with the garlic just makes this incredibly flavorful. I can see this being my most repeated Heidi Swanson recipe.

In her cookbook, Heidi says she gets more requests for this recipe than any other and I can understand why.  The beans go all crispy with rich and creamy centers and the greens add an extra punch of flavor. I could eat this meal every night for dinner and be perfectly happy.

Barley and I did not make friends until I made this Risotto-Style Barley w/ Winter Citrus & Arugula. This slow cooking risotto method produced the most fun-to-eat little balls of barley and I was instantly in love with the unique texture. I found myself hoarding this recipe, not wanting to share at all. I'd go so far as to say that I like barley risotto better than the original arborio rice risotto!

Cherries are one of my favorite fruits so it was a given that I would be crazy for this recipe! If you find yourself craving fresh cherries and they're out of season, as they're prone to be, then whip up this smoothie using frozen cherries. I love that this smoothie is full of fruit: banana, orange, pineapple, and cherries.  A delicious way to meet your five a day!

Last, but not least, is this glorious and simple way to enjoy one of my favorite veggies: Brussels Sprouts!  We all know and love Brussels prepared with bacon or pancetta, but this preparation with melted crusty Parmesan cheese is right up there with that, and much healthier.  Try it if you're looking for a new way to prepare your sprouts and I guarantee you'll be impressed!

Big Thanks to Heidi for all of the fabulous recipes and kitchen adventures!  Next up I Heart Cooking Clubs will be tackling the recipes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Pea Salad

Today I'm ushering in spring with a beautiful Spring Pea Salad from Ellie Krieger's newest, You Have It Made. This salad is a delightful mix of snow peas, sugar snap peas, and regular peas tossed in a lemony shallot and mint vinaigrette with some thinly sliced red radishes for both color and crunch. It is crunchy and sweet while being both light and refreshing and I absolutely love it!

This recipe yields a whole lot of salad and keeps well, which means it is perfect for packing in lunches or on picnics. I packed mine away in 8 ounce mason jars so that I can enjoy it for my lunch all week long.  This would be perfect for any upcoming potlucks,as well as the perfect and easy take-a-long if you need to contribute a dish for Easter dinner!

Happy Spring!

Spring Pea Salad
Adapted from You Have It Made
by Ellie Krieger
Makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 cups shelled fresh peas, or frozen, thawed (10 ounces)
1 pound sugar snap peas (5 cups), trimmed and halved on the diagonal
1/4 pound snow peas (1-1/2 cups) trimmed and halved on the diagonal
1 cup thinly sliced radishes (about a small bunch)

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, zest, mustard, and salt ad pepper. Stir in the mint and shallot.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and have ready a large bowl of ice water. If using fresh peas, add them to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 3 minutes, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to the bowl of ice water to cool.  Drain from the ice water and transfer to a large bowl.  If using frozen, then place them in a large bowl.

Add the sugar snap peas and snow peas to the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Drain and add to the bowl of ice water until cooled. Then drain well and transfer to the large bowl with the other peas. Add the radish and toss to combine.

Just before serving, toss with the vinaigrette until well combined. 

Nutritional Info: Serving Size: 3/4 cup; Calories: 100; Fat 3.5g; Protein: 4g; Carbs: 12g; Fiber 4g; Sodium: 270mg

Theme: March Potluck @ IHCC
Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Homemade Celery Salt

Celery salt is one of my favorite things in the spice cabinet.  I love a hefty dose of it in potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw. I love it sprinkled over potatoes, eggs, as well as fish and seafood. To be honest, it goes perfectly fine in any dish where you add would add celery, such as soups and stews.

When I saw that Heidi Swanson made her own celery salt I knew I wanted to give it a try. I looked in several markets for really leafy celery, but none of it appeared overly leafy. I finally decided I'd just have to go with it and I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the leaves were trapped inside.  I'd say I got about a cup of leaves in total. Plenty of leaves for what I needed.

Heidi provides two methods for dehydrating the celery leaves: the stove top and the oven. I decided to go the oven route.  I feel like it was the safest option for me since I have a tendency to forget things when they're on the stove top. The oven method took about 6-7 minutes.

In no time at all I had my own homemade celery salt, perfect for sprinkling on just about anything!

Homemade Celery Salt
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
by Heidi Swanson

Leaves from one bunch of celery
Flaky sea salt (coarse, not fine)

Pick the leaves from each celery stalk, leaving the stems behind. The outer leaves tend to be dark green and hearty, the inner leaves pale green and tender. I use them all.

Rinse the leaves with cold water in a strainer, then shake off as much of the water as you can. At this point you want to dry the leaves as much as possible, so they toast  (not steam) when you cook them. Gently pat them dry in a clean dish towel, or paper towels. Once dry you have two options for toasting the leaves.

Option 1: If I have a lot of leaves, I arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake in in a 350F oven for about 5-7 minutes. Bake until dehydrated and crispy, but not browned.

Option 2: If I have fewer leaves, or just don't feel like heating the oven, I'll throw them in a large skillet. Single layer if possible, over medium-low heat. Again, you want to barely toast them, not brown them much at all.

In either case, when you're done cooking, remove from heat and let the leaves cool completely. They'll crispy up even more at this point. When cool, use your fingers to crumble the leaves completely, discarding any leaves that aren't crispy.

Combine equal parts celery leaves and salt in a jar, and either stir or shake to distribute the celery leaves evenly throughout.

Accompaniments @ I Heart Cooking Clubs

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter and a Pasta Roundup!

My love letter to pasta - 

I am so very thankful for your quick cooking time and your ability to please. How kind of you to come in all shapes and sizes, too! You have a remarkable ability to play well with other ingredients. I'm so proud of you! I also love that you represent various cuisines around the world. You are so politically correct! Pasta, you are so comforting. Maybe you could bring about world peace?  If anyone can do it, you can.


Seriously though, I know we all love pasta... and for so many reasons, right? I mean you simply can't go wrong. Pasta is a cook's, and a diner's, best friend. It's quick and easy, it pairs well with just about anything, and it is certainly fun to eat. 

This week I made a delicious and extremely quick pasta dish that is sure to be a repeat in my kitchen! Giada's Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter comes together in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook some store-bought ravioli! While the water is coming a boil you roast a handful of walnuts in a 350F oven and start some butter melting on the stove top. When the walnuts are all toasty, and the butter has stopped foaming and turned a lovely golden brown, spoon in some balsamic vinegar. By this time your water should be at a boil so you can toss in your ravioli, get out your Parmesan cheese, and be ready to enjoy! Twenty minutes, tops!

This is an delicious weekday meal!  I love the nuttiness of the brown butter with the crunch of the toasted walnuts.  It goes perfectly with the nutty flavor of Parmesan cheese. Simple, quick, and totally delightful! We loved it!

Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada DeLaurentiis
Serves 4

18 to 20 ounces store-bought ravioli 
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
Parmesan cheese, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Transfer the ravioli to the saucepan with the butter. Sprinkle with walnuts and Parmesan over the top and serve immediately.

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're celebrating all things pasta. I had a great time looking through old blogs posts this morning and choosing some of my favorites. Most of these are from way back, around six years ago.

The pasta dish that I've made over and over again, more so than any other, is Jamie Oliver's Farfalle with a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce. It was about six years ago when I first made this dish and I bet I've made it at least 20 to 30 times since then. It is quick meal that always pleases the entire family and better still, I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make it. I highly recommend this one!

One of my personal favorites is Giada's Orechiette with Sausage, Beans, and Mascarpone. This pasta dish is hearty and extremely flavorful, but it also contains three of my very favorite things: pasta, beans, and cheese.  It's delicious!

 Another family favorite is Giada's Orechiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs. This pasta recipe is light and fresh with fun little mini-sized meatballs and creamy balls of fresh mozzarella. It's kid-friendly, fun to eat, and on the lighter side. The only problem is that it's hard to stop eating!


  Giada's Pastina with Peas and Carrots is a great alternative to macaroni and cheese and is definitely a hit with kids! Mascarpone cheese provides creaminess and the peas and carrots provide a nice splash of color in a dish that can be served as a main course or on the side. Perfect for spring!

How about you? What are some of your favorite pasta dishes?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Simple Carrot Soup

The color orange is sunny and appealing. It reminds me of all things bright and happy. It's for that very reason I find carrot soup so appealing. For years now, I've had my eye on carrot soup. I knew I wanted to make it, but I just couldn't find the right recipe. Until now.

This carrot soup is simple enough to make; but, there are a few touches that take it to the next level, without making it too fussy.  Firstly, I love the addition of coconut milk which makes things a little creamier and thick.  However, the thing that sold me on this soup was the addition of red curry paste.  Red curry paste is a lovely and very aromatic paste made with red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, shallot, kaffir limes and various spices. When the paste hits the pan it is rather seductive and for that reason I am always looking for a reason to use it. While both the coconut milk and red curry paste add consistency and remarkable flavor to the soup, it is the condiments that initially drew me in to this recipe. I can assure you these condiments are not just for looks. The toasted almonds lend a wonderful crunch and flavor to the dish and they definitely steal the show in this soup. In fact, they are a must if making this soup! I also love the brightness that a squeeze of fresh lime adds, as well as the subtle spiciness from a couple shakes of chili oil. The cilantro does it's part to help the dish look colorful, while adding the touch that only herbs can. This, my friends, is the carrot soup to try. It is sure to brighten your day like a ray of sunshine.

A Simple Carrot Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 onion, chopped
scant 1 tablespoon red curry paste, or to taste
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped - 1/2-inch chunks (about 10-11 medium-sized carrots)
1 (14 oz) can full fat coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cups water, or to cover
1 lemon or lime
To serve: micro greens, cilantro, chopped & toasted almonds, chile oil, etc.

In a large soup pan over medium-high heat add the butter and onion.  Stir until the onions are well-coated, and allow to saute until translucent, a few minutes. Stir in the curry paste, and then the carrots. Allow to cook another minute or two, and then add the coconut milk, salt, and water, adding more water to cover if needed. Allow to simmer until the carrots are tender, 10 - 15 minutes, and then puree using a blender or hand blender until the soup is completely silky smooth.  This next part is important (with any soup)- make any needed adjustments. Add more water if the consistency needs to be thinned out a bit. After that taste for salt, adding more if needed.  I also like to season this soup with a great big squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Serve topped with whatever you have on hand. I like it with a little something crunchy (almonds), and a lot of something green (micro greens & cilantro).

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-baked potatoes were so popular back in the 80's. My mom made them for dinner quite often and they were the side dish at the two steakhouses in town. Then, all of a sudden they disappeared and became somewhat forgotten. I suppose they fell out of favor because they were time-consuming and slightly fussy, or maybe it was the calorie craze of the 90's. Of course, if you ask me, it was also right around this time that things became all about being fast. Microwave meals, boxed meals, and woks became the thing. Everyone was talking about how fast they could make their meals in the microwave or how fast they could throw together a stir fry. The dreaded convenience factor....and well, it's pretty much been the same way ever since.

I have to admit that I fall into the same trap. Even though I love to cook, I convince myself that I don't have time to spend the whole day in the kitchen. Truth is, I know full well that we make time for the things we want to do. So today I did just that. I made something that has been on my list forever...these cute little mini twice-baked potatoes.

Not only were they heavenly, but everyone was very pleased with the cute little package on their plate. My daughter said, "I love these. This reminds me of the kind of food you used to cook before you started working." Her comment made me smile because she hit the nail on the head.  I told her "Grandma used to make these for dinner all the time when I was little, but you're right....she did that before she started working. Once she started working she rarely made things like that anymore."

We had a really good Sunday dinner, but the whole thing left me feeling kind of sad. We get so caught up in doing, going, and running that we let life pass us by. Why do we feel so guilty when we can't get to everything? Why can't we make time to read a book or spend a day in the kitchen? 

So, yes, maybe I didn't get to store or finish all the laundry today and you know what? No one will notice. But, I did manage to make these absolutely delicious twice-baked potatoes that made my daughter's eyes light up and I'm gonna call that a win.

Do yourself a favor and waste the day away in the kitchen. Make something time-consuming and fabulous and serve these cute little mini twice-baked potatoes on the side. I guarantee you won't regret it!

Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes
Adapted from Food Network 
by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 12-14

1-1/2 pounds baby potatoes (12 to 15 potatoes) - big enough to stuff
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt, to taste
6 bounces bacon, chopped fine
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temp*
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temp

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until a knife inserted into the potatoes goes in with little to no resistance, about 30 to 40 minutes (of course this depends on the size of your potatoes - mine were 3 to 4 bites big).

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes.  Drain well and place half of the bacon in a bowl. Add the panko, 2 tablespoons chives, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Mix to combine and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sour cream, butter, heavy cream, the remaining bacon, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons chives, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, cut off the top third of each potato. Remove the skin from the tops.  Using a melon baller, or very small spoon, scoop out some of the insides of the cooked potatoes, leaving 1/4-inch borders around the edges. This creates little boats. Place the scooped insides and the peeled tops of the potatoes in a medium bowl and mash using a potato masher or the back of a fork. Add the reserved bacon and sour cream mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix together the filling until well combined.  Spoon the filling back into the potato boats slightly overfilled and mounded on top. Top with a sprinkling of the panko mixture and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until the filling is heated through and the topping is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Theme: February Potluck!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Julia and Jacques's Chocolate Roulade

I found a video of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin making this Chocolate Roulade on Martha Stewart's show. The two of them made this roulade look completely effortless; so much so, I wondered why I hadn't made it before. I should've known better.

My hand blender is broken so I thought I would whisk the 7 egg whites to stiff peaks with my own two hands. Haha! Major mistake. I'm convinced that no amount of arm power can do this. It simply wasn't going to happen. I had my daughter go down and borrow my neighbor's hand mixer. I must've whisk the heck out of the egg whites with my hands, because they never would turn into soft peaks or stiff peaks, so I had to crack 7 new eggs and start all over again. This time, with the help of the hand mixer, the egg whites turned to soft peaks rather quickly.

The cake batter baked up quickly in ten minutes and didn't take long to cool.  I spread the chantilly creme on top and said a silent prayer before attempting to roll the roulade into a spiral. This is going to be easy I thought. The parchment paper is going to do all the work. Wrong again. It rolled up alright, after it broke and split and everything else.

I managed to get the roulade onto the serving tray and decorated it for the pictures.  Then I read the part where I had to slice a piece off of each end to reveal the swirl. %*&^! So I sliced off each end, cleaned up the dish, and took the pictures. Naturally, the way things were going, this recipe was also hard to photograph and the sun wasn't behaving either.

Finally, I sliced a piece for myself so I could give it a try. It didn't matter to me that it had cracked. I just knew that it would taste delicious. I mean chocolate cake and whipped cream can't go wrong. Right?

......Wrong again. Surprisingly, the chocolate cake is simply way too rich and dare I say it, too chocolatey even for me (and I do love me some chocolate)! Since the cake itself is flourless, it is very moist, but also extremely rich and intensely chocolatey. Perhaps using a bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate was the wrong choice for me? Maybe it would be less chocolatey using a milk chocolate? Regardless, this is a cake that you can really only eat a few bites of, but it is pretty and I am glad that I finally gave it a try. And, you know what? It really doesn't hurt my feelings to know that there is a dessert that I actually don't like, because far too often I make desserts that I love and we all know how that goes.

Julia and Jacques's Chocolate Roulade
Serves 12

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for pan
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 egg whites, room temperature
3-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoons Cognac
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
seasonal fruit, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Butter an 11x17 jelly roll pan or a 12x17 inch sheet pan, and line with parchment paper

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup cream to a simmer. Add chocolate, reduce heat, and whisk until chocolate is melted. As soon as mixture is a uniform dark color, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, whip egg whites and 2 tablespoons sugar to stiff, glossy peaks, about 1-1/2 minutes. Whisk one-quarter of the egg-white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold chocolate mixture back into the original egg-white mixture, and mix until smooth and well combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, and spread it in an even layer with a rubber spatula. Bake until cake is set and puffy, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Lift parchment paper to remove cake from pan, and set iton a work surface with long side facing edge of table. Using a fine-mesh sieve, lightly dust cake with cocoa powder.

Make the creme chantilly:  Whip the remaining 1 cup cream with the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar, the vanilla, and cognac. Spread evenly over entire surface of cake.

Roll the cake lengthwise, starting at a point 2 to 3 inches over the creme chantilly. Roll cake another few inches, pressing against the parchment paper to make a tight spiral. Gently peel parchment paper off as cake layer rolls away. Complete the roll, stopping at the far edge of the parchment paper. Tuck the loose parchment paper around and underneath the cylinger so it is well wrapped and can be removed easily. Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, transfer roulade to serving platter. Remove parchment paper, gently rolling cake into center of platter, with seam on bottom. With a sharp knife, trim both ends of roll crosswise or on a diagonal. Dust top with confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder, and garnish with seasonal fruit. To serve, cut the roll into 1-inch thick slices, and lay flat on dessert plates; top with additional creme chantilly, if desired.