Monday, February 27, 2012

Smoked Salmon Pizza

Perfect Pairing:  Naan

One of my favorite breakfasts is smoked salmon, or lox, on a bagel with cream cheese, capers, and onions.  I love that combination.  This smoked salmon pizza has a similar flavor profile but also includes fresh lemon, fresh dill and smoked gouda cheese.  It is perfect cut into small pieces for an appetizer or served as a main dish.
The Perfect Pairing for this pizza is naan flatbread.  Naan is an Indian flatbread that is usually cooked in a clay oven.  I think it tastes like a hybrid of pizza crust and pita bread.  While it may not be available in all grocery stores, I see it popping up all over the place.  So keep an eye out for it!  You can certainly make this on normal pizza crusts but I really like the texture of naan for this smoked salmon pizza.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pickled Red Onions

Perfect Pairing:  Non-reactive pan

Do you ever feel like your salads need a boost?  That sounds like the start of an infomercial.  I admit to having a weird fascination with infomercials.  I am not inclined to buy anything, but I enjoy watching people get excited over cleaning products and sandwich griddles.  Call it a guilty pleasure.
Back to the boring salads...  I always like to add some sort of onion (sweet, red, green, etc.) to my salads but I don’t love the pungency of raw onion.  Pickled red onions are a great alternative because they still have the onion flavor but it is tempered by the vinegar and sugar.
I have no experience with pickling anything, so when I went searching for a pickled onion recipe I was pleased to see that not all pickle recipes require sterilizing jars and resting time.  This recipe is done in minutes and lasts for weeks in the refrigerator.  They are not only great on salads, but also sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.
The base of the recipe is red onions, white vinegar, sugar, and salt.  You can add other seasonings based on your tastes.   I use a combination of allspice berries, bay leaves, cloves, and hot peppers.  The pickling juice is also great mixed with olive oil for a quick dressing.
The Perfect Pairing for pickled red onions is a non-reactive pan.  A non-reactive pan would be stainless steel rather than aluminum or copper.  I am not going to claim to understand the science behind it; I just know you don’t want your pickled onions to taste like a pickled tin can when you are done.  If you want to know more, this article is informative.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oven Roasted Salmon in a Lemon Broth with Pea Puree

Perfect Pairing:  Spoon

I think I found my new favorite recipe.  Thank you Giada!  I can’t say enough about this salmon dish.  I made it twice in one week, if that tells you anything.  The combination of tart lemon broth and minty pea puree is outstanding.  When you put everything together on the plate it is a lovely presentation that looks like it took hours to make.  In actuality, it is incredibly easy and quick!
The original recipe had the salmon cooked in a skillet on the stovetop.  I was hesitant to do that since salmon can be slightly odiferous when cooked in a small one bedroom condo.  I opted to roast it in the oven, which was quick and effortless.  I bought salmon that still had the skin and placed it skin side down on a foil lined pan.  I sprinkled it generously with salt and pepper and after about 12-15 minutes in a hot oven it was perfectly cooked and the fillet slid right off the skin. 
If you need another reason to make this recipe…. Do it for your health.  Not only is salmon delicious, it is also one of the world’s healthiest foods.  It is a great source of lean protein, packed with omega-3 fatty acids and contains healthy vitamins and minerals. 
The Perfect Pairing for this salmon dish is a spoon.  You are going to want a spoon handy to get every last bit of the lemon broth and puree.  It is that good.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Perfect Pairing:  Blueberry Sauce

I love cooking.  I have a blog dedicated to the fact that I love cooking and sharing recipes with people.  I could spend hours going through cookbooks and cooking magazines.  I will spend a ridiculous amount of time picking out the perfect menu for an occasion, and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it.  Chopping, stirring, grating, and prepping are all therapeutic to me.
Food photography is a different story.  I often find myself frustrated over lighting, props, and backgrounds.  There have been a few great recipes that I would love to share, but when I try to photograph the finished product the picture just does not do it justice.  I end up not posting the recipe until I can make it again and try the photo in a different environment.   I recently made a French onion fondue appetizer that was very tasty.  I loved the recipe and flavor, but oh my goodness the picture was not good.  Hopefully I will be able to figure out a different way to photograph it because I do want to share that recipe.
Desserts are my friend when it comes to photography.  I don’t know why, but they always seem much more photogenic than a soup or salad.  Maybe it is that many desserts have structure and pretty colors and lines.  I have come to enjoy shooting sweets.  This cake was a good example. I just think it looks so pretty and feminine.  I imagine distinguished ladies enjoying it after lunch with a glass of tea. 
This lemon yogurt cake recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa.  Since baking is almost a scientific formula, I did not make many deviations from her recipe.  I did choose to use 0% fat Greek yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt.  It turned out beautifully.  It was light and refreshing.  I had some leftover, so I sliced it and wrapped each individual piece in plastic wrap and froze the slices in a Ziploc.  It was still delicious after being frozen.
The Perfect Pairing for this cake is homemade blueberry sauce.  The sauce is simple to prepare and absolutely divine.  The berries were a great compliment to the lemon cake.  I am pretty sure this sauce would be great on anything.  I stirred some into my morning oatmeal and that was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tapas Party

Perfect Pairing:  Menu in a photo frame
This fall I hosted a tapas dinner party for some friends. I figured it would be the perfect theme since I love appetizer-ish foods.  I spent more time testing out recipes for this party than I normally do. This may have been the reason that I delayed confirming the date for a couple of weeks… er, months.  I admit that I was hoping to impress this particular group because they have fabulous taste.  I had been to their house for dinner and was utterly impressed by a six-course Italian meal with wine pairings.  I could hardly set out some chips and dip after that.
Typically when I have a dinner party I focus on a few main items.  After I was knee deep into the planning of this dinner it hit me that making an impressive showing of tapas means you are making lots of small dishes.  In the end, I chose to focus on tapas that I could make ahead of time or that would take minimal effort while the guests were there.  I think everything turned out well and I would definitely make this menu again with no changes.
It is a no brainer that you have to have sangria at a tapas party.  The recipe I used (available here) was dangerously good.  Watch out… that boozey fruit will sneak up on you.  I also served Spanish red wines.  I kept all of the drinks, glasses, and ice on a side table.
I mentioned that my friend served an amazing six course Italian meal with wine pairings, but I didn’t mention that he also had the menu on themed paper… in Italian.  What is a girl to do?  I decided to print my menu to look like the chalkboards they have at tapas restaurants, and put it in a photo frame.  It was nice to have it out with the food because everyone could look at the menu and know what they were eating.  You might say that it was the Perfect Pairing for a tapas party!  I apologize for the fuzziness of the picture.  I chose not to use a flash because that would just ruin the mood but it actually kind of ruined the picture. 
I had half of the tapas out when the guests arrived.  I considered this the “first course” as silly as that sounds when you are serving tapas.  I wanted everyone to kind of graze while they enjoyed their drinks.  The first round included rosemary cocktail nuts, roasted vegetable dip, manchego cheese with brown butter honey sauce, and roasted mushrooms with goat cheese along with assorted crackers and crostini.  Click on any of the dishes for the recipe.
While we were enjoying the first round of tapas I finished up the final touches on the second course.  The second course was slow cooker beef short ribs over celery root and apple puree, roasted shrimp with lemon aioli, herbed tomatoes, and patatas bravas with roasted garlic aioli. 
So by this point the wheels had fallen off the presentation bus, so to speak.  I just took a quick picture to capture the moment.
We finished off the meal with homemade pumpkin pie and cinnamon spiced whipped cream.  I didn’t take a picture of this because I am pretty sure I brought the mixing bowl of whipped cream to the table.  We were moments away from playing Catch Phrase and I was not about to take the time to take a picture.  I made the standard Libby pumpkin pie but I did use my all-time favorite homemade pressed pie crust recipe. 
All in all I think it was a successful tapas dinner party! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Asian Turkey Meatballs

Perfect Pairing:  Hoisin dipping sauce

I have been lucky enough to meet some really great friends through my job.  When I started at my company I was in meeting planning.  All of the girls in my department became really close, probably because of all of the traveling we did together.  There were meetings literally all over the world so we had a lot of bonding experiences while sitting at a hospitality desk outside of a meeting room.  Sometimes that meeting room was in Singapore and sometimes that meeting room was at an airport hotel in Chicago, but I can tell you a hospitality desk and a banquet room is pretty standard no matter where you go!   That original group of girls has scattered but we still remain good friends and try to get together on a regular basis to catch up. 
Sometimes we get together at a restaurant but more often we gather around someone’s kitchen table or island and chat over wine and appetizers.  We start sending e-mails about a week before the event to decide who is bringing what.  Everyone knows that Mary will bring dessert and that it will be fabulous.  At our last get together she brought Paula Dean’s gooey butter cake.  Oh my goodness gracious was that delicious. 
We are never short on dips and cheese but we are often lacking in protein.  Please remember that this is a group of meeting planners so we strive to have a well balanced spread!  For our most recent get together I took it upon myself to come up with the protein.  I decided to make some Asian Turkey Meatballs.  I didn’t have a recipe in mind but gathered up ingredients that I thought would be good together.  I thought these little guys turned out great.  I loved the Asian flavors of sesame oil, lime, ginger, and soy sauce.  They were great as an appetizer/tapa but they would also be a great main course alongside some brown rice.  I had some of the meat mixture left over after the party, so I sautéed it in a pan and added it to scrambled egg whites for a hearty breakfast the next day.  So tasty!
The Perfect Pairing for these Asian Turkey Meatballs is hoisin dipping sauce.  I combined ½ cup of reduced fat mayo with 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce, the juice of half of a lime, and a teaspoon of spicy sriracha sauce. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cherry Cheesecake

Perfect Pairing:  Valentine’s Day
I believe I have already mentioned once or twenty times how cute my nieces and nephews are.  I may be biased but I think everyone can agree on their cuteness. 
I was lucky enough to spend part of my Cabo vacation with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece, Lilla.  Oh my goodness is that child precious.  I can’t even count how many people stopped by our lounge chairs to comment on her adorableness.  That little peanut never stopped smiling and was happy to sit and play with a plastic cup or a pair of sunglasses. 
Here are just a few shots of the little darling in Mexico.
Playing with her daddy in the ocean.  I love this picture.

Grandma and Lilla on the beach.

Grandpa entertaining the peanut.  Check out those cheeks!

Lilla and me at The Sand Bar beach restaurant.

A great family photo of Jon, Kelly, and Lilla.  Notice the manly camo diaper bag.

The whole group.

I spent the day after our return with my other brother and his sweet family.  We watched the Super Bowl, but the main entertainment was the pajama dance party.  Check out this video…

Those kids had some moves!  When it was time for bed the oldest said… “I just wanna dance!”
We enjoyed standard Super Bowl fare like pizza and buffalo chicken dip, and I made a cherry cheesecake for dessert.  This dessert was easy and really delicious.  I love the addition of almond flavoring.  The kids gave it their seal of approval!

The Perfect Pairing for this cheesecake is Valentine’s Day.  The contrast of red and white is so pretty and festive.  If you are making a meal for your honey this would be a great way to top it off.  I think any sweetheart would appreciate this sweet dessert!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ham, Cheese and Asparagus Croissants

Perfect Pairing:  Silicone steamer

I hope everyone enjoyed Super Bowl Sunday!  I was lucky enough to spend it with my parents and my brother's family.  The kids provided more entertainment than the game and all of the commercials combined.  They are so cute!

I got home on Saturday night from a great vacation in Cabo, Mexico.  I miss waking up to coffee with an ocean view!  Back to reality....

Everything about Ham, Cheese and Asparagus Croissants is delicious.  Just the smell of them baking is splendid.  They are so simple, require no measuring, and they are totally adaptable.  Change out the provolone cheese for cheddar, or the ham for turkey, eliminate the Dijon mustard or spread on some fancy mustard you have hanging out in the fridge.  You can’t mess them up.
The Perfect Pairing for these roll ups is a silicone steamer to cook the asparagus.  The steamer sits inside a pot over a little bit of water.  All of the asparagus sits on top of the steamer and is perfectly steamed in minutes.  I use my steamer for all kinds of vegetables.  It is easy to clean and store.  Awesome kitchen tool.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Boys

I am the first person to admit that I am not artistic and I have no talent when it comes to music.  My creative outlet is cooking and coming up with recipes.  I have made some things that I am really proud of…. Dishes I am proud to serve to family and friends.  For instance, last Christmas I made a Bobby Flay recipe for pumpkin bread pudding with spicy caramel apple sauce and vanilla bean crème anglais.  That recipe had about 40 ingredients and took me an absurdly long time to complete.  
No matter what I make there is one recipe that people ask for over and over…. The humble buffalo chicken dip.  I agree that it is tasty but I am always amazed at how much people love this stuff.  It is so simple that I almost feel bad putting it out at parties but it is always a favorite so I will keep making and serving it. 
The measurements below are more suggestions than specific amounts.  I always make this recipe according to taste.  If I am making it for a group of people that like spicy food I add a lot of wing sauce.  If I am making it for a large group with varied tastes I keep it mild and add more ranch dressing.  I would encourage you to taste it as you make it (tough job, but someone needs to do it) and adjust accordingly.
The Perfect Pairing for this dip is boys.  That may seem like a strange pairing but I have done some not so scientific research and I found that all boys/men love buffalo chicken dip.   I don’t have an explanation for it but it always proves to be true. 

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