Thursday, December 18, 2014

Zucchini Lasagna

Ok, so I will admit that this picture does this meal absolutely no favors, but believe me when I say that this lasagna was fabulous! In fact, it may have been the tastiest one I've ever made!

My inspiration came from Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Make it Ahead. Her roasted vegetable lasagna really struck a chord, so I decided to put this lasagna together the night before a work-day, so it just had to be baked and eaten!

I skipped the whole pre-roasting of the veggies that Ina suggested, and just added thinly sliced zucchini to the layers. I loved the use of the herbed chevre cheese because it made this meal so creamy and flavorful.

Plus, a whole pan of lasagna makes about 10 meals, so we have plenty of leftovers frozen away in the fridge. Total dinner win!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This Thanksgiving was all about delicious food, a new location, and lots of family. It had been a VERY long time since we'd done Thanksgiving at my folk's house, since we've been hosting it for the past 5 years, and it was a nice change of pace. My parents did a lot of the really hard work, the turkey,  the salmon, the set-up, the clean-up, and welcoming people into their home. I got to focus on the cooking, food delivery, and making sure that the kids were still in bed by a reasonable hour, so I could put my feet up;) This shows the entire spread. I'll list the items, and then share some of the recipes as I go along.

Winter Slaw
Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Relish
Mini Hot Dogs
Bread and cheese (for kids and snacking)
Brussels Sprouts with pine nuts and parmesan
Roasted Veggies
Creamed onions
Poached Salmon
Salted caramel nuts
Vanilla bean ice cream with cranberry swirl
Rum pumpkin pie
Irish Whiskey Cake

Let's start with the winter slaw, which in fact may have been one of my absolute favorite thing on this table! It was full of kale, Brussels sprouts, radicchio, dried cranberries, parmesan cheese, and amazing goodness! The recipe was from Ina Garten's new cookbook (Make it Ahead), and I'm definitely making it again.

This cranberry relish is one of my all-time Thanksgiving favorites from the past couple of years. I pile this stuff onto my plate for days. And, I can never get enough of it's sweet and tangy-ness. I always leave out the ginger, and I find that it's best (for me!) that way.
Many of the dishes here are fairly self-explanatory. Roasted veggies, check. Roasted Brussels sprouts (just add the pine nuts 5 minutes before they're done and shred some Parmesan cheese on top), easy! Turkey and poached salmon need no explanation. My dad dis his famous creamed onions (it really isn't Thanksgiving without them), and my mom worked some stuffing magic (her secret).
Ina's rum pumpkin pie is always a winner, and I always make plain whipped cream for the kids, and rum-infused whipped cream for the adults.
As many of you know ice cream has become a new passion of mine. I haven't been sharing my recipes here for fear that if I ever start my small batch ice cream company, the secret will be out;)

Let's just say that I made a traditional vanilla bean custard ice cream base, and then after chilling it in my ice cream maker, and just before freezing, I cut some cranberry sauce (that I pressed through a fine strainer and thinned with a bit of water) through the ice cream for a perfectly pink swirl. The tartness of the cranberries really came through the sweetness of the ice cream, and it was an instant hit!
I tried out the recipe for these incredible and incredibly addictive salted caramel nuts from Ina's new cookbook (Make it Ahead). I literally had to hide these from myself after I made them a couple days before Thanksgiving because I couldn't stop myself from eating them! The kids also LOVED them, and I'm already plotting making another batch asap.

Up at the top you'll see a picture of the Irish Whiskey Cake that made a slightly-altered comeback this Thanksgiving. To save myself a bit of time and sanity, I skipped out on adding the booze to the whipped cream for a totally kid-friendly version of this cake. Again, it was absolutely fabulous!

If I had to pick what I loved most on my Thanksgiving plate, I'd say that it should be piled sky-high with winter slaw, cranberry relish, cake, ice cream, and finished with a generous helping of those amazing nuts;) Until next year (after all we can't eat like this more than once a year)...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coconut Bread and Garlic Herbed Shrimp

I saw this recipe for coconut bread while browsing the Whole Foods website. I loved the idea of using coconut milk in a yeast bread. The rolls were fabulous! Light, fluffy, and almost creamy on the inside with a perfectly crispy crust!

The coconut bread went perfectly with the garlic herbed shrimp from Ina Garten's new cookbook: Make it Ahead. I did assemble the dish earlier in the day, so come dinnertime I simply just had to roast the shrimp. I cannot say enough about this dish. The shrimp were so tender, perfectly flavored, and simply divine! The coconut bread was absolutely incredible dipped into the garlic oil...yum, yum, and yum! This shrimp would be wonderful with a crusty french bread, or topped on spaghetti or even a salad. Supremely easy and so amazing. This cookbook is a total winner!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup with Arugula Fig Salad

I have to admit that we have been eating like kings and queens in this house these past few weeks. The inspiration from Ina Garten's new cookbook Make it Ahead keeps our meals fabulous! Tonight's dinner delight was this amazing cauliflower and celery root soup. I don't know why, but I'd would never order a soup like this in a restaurant, but when I saw the picture in the cookbook I wanted to make it almost immediately. Boy, am I SO glad that I ended up making this soup! It tastes very creamy and rich, although there's virtually no actual cream in it, and the finishing touches of the croutons, chives, and olive oil drizzle really complete the perfect nature of all the flavors and textures. We definitely helped ourselves to seconds!
We went European style with this meal, and finished it off with a salad inspired by the warm fig and arugula salad in Ina's book, but not exactly so because it turns out that it's virtually impossible to find fresh figs now...that season is officially over! No problem here! I subbed with some dried figs (and skipped the whole "warm" part). I found a really pungent and delicious roquefort cheese at our local Whole Foods, and with the figs it was so creamy and fabulous! Dinner is long over, but I'm definitely still dreaming about it;)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Bread

6 tbs butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 15oz can pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 c orange juice
2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 c walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In the stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the pumpkin, vanilla, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.
In a smaller bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Fold in the cranberries and walnuts, and place into a prepared loaf (or gingerbread!) pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester comes out just clean.  Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

It's the pumpkin season, and I have about 3 or 4 boxes or cans of pumpkin puree lying around the pantry at any given moment. The other day I saw a bag of fresh cranberries, and I just had to purchase them. I love tart fresh cranberries, especially in baked goods. I've never made a cranberry pumpkin bread before, but thought that these fall flavors must be baked together! I am SO glad that I tried out this recipe.

This bread is addictive. It's sweet, tart, crunchy, and creamy all at the same time. Ms. L had seen this gingerbread pan about a month ago in a kitchen store, and has been asking for it ever since laying her eyes on the pan. I found it on super-sale, and scooped it up, and surprised her with this shape. The smily face just made this bread that much more fun. Happy fall baking!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Herb Roasted Fish and Gingered Basmati Rice

Tonight's dinner was another Make It Ahead adventure from Ina Garten's new cookbook. And, again, I used some of her tips to do most of the work before hand, so by dinnertime, it was a breeze to make a really fancy meal.

I packaged up the fish (I used foil in place of parchment paper for ease of operation) earlier in the day, and placed the packets in the fridge until I was ready to bake them just before dinnertime. I pre-made the rice, just under cooking it, and then added a bit of water and reheated it at dinnertime.

Both of these dishes were fantastic. The fish was so simple, and flavorful, and those green olives were divine! I enjoyed the rice, but I think I could have used a lot more ginger to give it a real kick. I loved the nuttiness of the brown basmati rice however, and it was a lovely side to the simple fish dish. Another easy, and totally delicious meal!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Zucchini-Basil Soup and Sour Cream Cornbread

Tonight's dinner was absolutely fantastic, easy, and all from Ina Garten's new cookbook: Make it Ahead.  I can't find recipe links yet, but we enjoyed the Zucchini-Basil Soup and the sour cream cornbread.

First off, I must say that most of the recipes can't really be made too far ahead, but the two I made tonight most certainly can, and are well worth a little planning.

Since going back to work in a structured office setting, I am seeking dinners that I can make ahead, and still feel like we're eating a fabulous meal without the stress of trying to cook one right after walking in the door from a day at the office!  I made this soup two nights ago, when I had some extra time, and finished it off tonight with the yogurt and the parmesan cheese.  It was full of delicious flavors and had a little spice. The kids enjoyed theirs with some alphabet vegetable noodles I recently found at our local Whole Foods.

I also made the cornbread two nights ago, and once it was cooled, I froze it. This morning I took it out of the freezer, placed it on the counter to defrost, and by dinnertime you'd never know that it didn't come straight from the oven. Sliced, toasted, and with a touch of butter the bread was warm, sweet, so moist and hearty.  Totally fantastic! This made-ahead meal was one for the books. And, Ina's new cookbook is totally worth checking out!