Thursday, May 31, 2012

Caramelized Onion, Fontina, and Prosciutto Flatbread

Perfect Pairing: Great music

I struggled with the name of this recipe.  There is so much I want you to know about it!  In addition to the caramelized onion, fontina, and prosciutto there are chopped dates and a salad of fresh greens.  I could not figure out how to make all of those things fit in the title. 
I made this for a recent get together with my girlfriends.  We all loved it.  I look forward to those nights so much.  We always have so much to catch up on with each other’s lives.  There is never enough time to cover all of the topics.  I talked about our planning process in this post.  We always have a delicious spread, this night was no different.  We all end up hanging around my island and munching on the dishes.  By the end of the night it is a bit of a mess but you can tell we enjoyed ourselves!
I absolutely loved this flatbread.  It had the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  The salad on top adds a brightness that pairs nicely with the rich cheese and prosciutto.  I will definitely be making this again.

The Perfect Pairing for this flatbread is great music.  Great music is a must at any party, in my opinion.  My absolute favorite group right now is Mumford and Sons.  I think they are pretty well known, but I feel like I need to promote them to those folks who don’t know them yet.  I dare you to listen to them and not tap your toe.  When I hear Mumford and Sons I feel like I am in a pub in the Temple Bar district of Dublin.  Some of my favorite songs are listed below with YouTube links if you are interested in listening to them before committing to an iTunes purchase.
If you like Mumford and Sons you would probably also like the City and Colour album, Bring Me Your Love.  I ran across this group on Pandora and found myself “liking” their songs over and over.  They have a great laid back sound that is perfect for background party music.  Admittedly, their lyrics are pretty depressing so I suggest just focusing on the melody.  That is why it is perfect for background music!
One final favorite is Galway Girl by Mundy and Sharon Shannon.  This song was wildly popular when I was in Dublin a few years ago.  Just listening to it makes me want to go back to Ireland.  I was in Dublin for work and extended a few days to experience Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher.  I was ridiculously lucky with the weather at the cliffs (so I am told).  Check out that view.

Loved this guy on the streets of Dublin.

Mumford and Sons
Who am I kidding??  The entire album is fantastic.

City and Colour

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese

Perfect Pairing:  Tomato Bisque

Spinach and artichoke dip is fantastic and so is a grilled cheese.  Combine them and you have a really awesome specialty sandwich on your hands, or in your hands.
The sandwich includes a creamy spinach and artichoke spread and a layer of fresh mozzerella cheese.  The base of the spread is Spinach and Artichoke Boursin.  You may remember my confession of love for Boursin cheese from this postMy original plan was to buy the garlic and herb variety, I had no idea they made a spinach and artichoke flavor.  Once I saw that I knew I had to use it in the recipe.  If you cannot find that flavor you could easily substitute the garlic and herb cheese.
The Perfect Pairing for a spinach and artichoke grilled cheese is this tomato bisque recipe.  It is super simple and can be made in the time it takes to grill the sandwiches.  Perfect for dunking!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wedge Salad

Perfect Pairing:  Core removal technique

Iceberg lettuce does not get much love on food blogs or in restaurants.  It is not too surprising since there is not a lot of nutritional value, or flavor.   When I make a salad I usually go for spinach, arugula, or field greens.   That being said, there are some recipes that absolutely require iceberg lettuce.  One of those is the classic wedge salad.
How can you go wrong with a wedge salad?  This popular steakhouse dish usually consists of a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing.  All good things.  I kept my version pretty traditional but included fried shallots.  I used multi-colored tomatoes to add some visual appeal.   I decided to make a homemade blue cheese dressing with greek yogurt, buttermilk, and high quality blue cheese.  The homemade dressing was tasty but I think the salad would be great with store-bought dressing. 
The Perfect Pairing for this tasty salad is the core removal technique I use on iceberg lettuce.  Maybe everyone already knows this but this might be my favorite part about salad prep, so I had to share!  Hold the head of iceberg in both hands with the core facing the counter.  Bang the core directly onto the counter with a good amount of force.  This releases the core from the rest of the lettuce so you can pull it right out!  Now your lettuce is ready to be wedged.  Can I use that as a verb?  I just did.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches

Perfect Pairing:  Runny egg

I don’t know why it took me so long to post about these great breakfast sandwiches!  I made them over the Easter holiday for family.  These are a big step up from your drive-through breakfast sandwich. 
There is nothing too special about the fried egg, and the Canadian bacon, or the biscuits, for that matter.  Those are all pretty standard.  What really makes these sandwiches unique is the cheddar spread.  It is a combination of sharp cheddar cheese, cream cheese, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.  It adds a lot of pizzazz.   Strong word, I know. 
If you happen to have some of this spread leftover it is great on crackers or on a cold-cut sandwich.
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is a runny egg.  There is just something about a slightly runny egg that enhances the flavor and texture of the sandwich. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pickle Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Pretzels

Do you like dill pickles?  If the answer is yes, you will love this dip. 
It is so simple!  As a pickle lover, why didn’t I think of this?  Brilliant.  It is creamy, crunchy, salty, and fresh.  A great dip to put out at any party. 
The Perfect Pairing for this dip is pretzels.  I served it with pretzel thins and pumpernickel pretzel sticks.  I had a hard time deciding which I liked best.  You might as well go with both.  I think this dip would also be great as a spread on a sandwich or on a hamburger.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Un-Recipe Files - Kale Chips


Kale is extremely popular right now.  I see it all over the food blog universe and on menus throughout Chicago. 
Kale is so extremely healthy and good for you.  According to WebMD, it is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet!  It can provide significant health benefits like lowered cholesterol and cancer prevention.
I started eating kale a couple of years ago when I tried an 11-day detox diet that required a serving of it every day.  I was getting pretty creative around day 10 with the old kale.  I really wish I knew about these chips when I was doing that detox!
Even if the health benefits didn’t lure you in, try these chips for how great they taste.  Really!   It is honestly surprising how tasty they are, especially if you have a craving for something crunchy and salty. 
A cup of kale is just 35 calories, 0 grams of fat and has 5 grams of fiber.  Compare that against a bag of Doritos!
Here is how you make the chips….
·         Tear the leaves away from the woody stem (1 bunch of kale makes a small bowl of chips)
·         Spread the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet
·         Spray with cooking spray until all of the leaves have a light coating
·         Sprinkle with your desired seasoning (any combination of salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, etc.)
·         Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until they are crispy

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Perfect Pairing:  Rotisserie Chicken and Ready Rice

While I am not a huge fan of casseroles, there are times where they definitely fit the bill.  Usually that is when you need a one-dish meal of comfort food.  One of my all-time favorite recipes, which is famous in my family, is corn casserole.  We literally have it at every family function.  It is ridiculously easy and delicious.  I can’t believe I have not posted about it yet.  It is on my to-do list…
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I had a hankering for a good ole’ casserole.  I didn’t really consult a recipe because I was pretty sure I knew that I wanted it to include chicken, broccoli, rice, and mushrooms.  So, I just went to the store, got all of those tasty items and took it from there.
I was so pleased with this recipe.  It was absolutely delicious and comforting.  I made the sauce from scratch using a basic white sauce with seasonings and sharp cheddar cheese.  It took just moments and was a lot healthier than using a can of soup, and it tasted great.
So to recap we have a healthy base of chicken, whole grain brown rice, broccoli, mushrooms, and a from-scratch sauce made with skim milk.  Health food, right?  Well, so far.  Now add a sleeve of Ritz crackers to the top.  I’m going with the 80/20 rule here.  These little suckers are what make this casserole really good.  You could definitely use breadcrumbs or Panko, if desired.  I added some poppy seeds for a little visual appeal and texture.

The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is rotisserie chicken and Ready Rice.   When I need to use chicken in a recipe like this I almost always buy the rotisserie variety at my grocery store.  It is perfectly cooked and juicy, and most importantly, a huge time saver.  The Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice is a fantastic invention.  Don’t get me wrong, cooking rice is easy, but when you are trying to get dinner on the table after a long day at work any shortcut is appreciated.  I used the Whole Grain Brown Rice variety and it was perfect in this recipe.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day

I am so glad there is a day to celebrate the moms of the world!  I am especially happy that I get to celebrate the best one in the world…. My mom!!  I may be a bit biased, but she is pretty much best in class. 

I am excited to make brunch for my mom this weekend.  I am trying some new recipes, including one of her favorite Mexican dishes we enjoy on the beach in Cabo.  If it is a success you will be seeing it on Perfecting the Pairing!

Here are some recipe ideas to celebrate the mom in your life!

Bacon, Leek, and Cheddar Tart – This is great when you want to do something extra special for mom.  The presentation is lovely and the flavors are delicious!
Tomato Pie – My mom’s personal favorite!  This is great at any time of the day. 
Baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal – This takes only a few minutes to whip up so you can have it ready in time for breakfast in bed!
Customizable Bread Bowl Breakfast – A fun brunch idea that keeps everyone busy and happy.

Main Meal
Oven Roasted Salmon in a Lemon Broth with Pea Puree – Mom will feel pretty special if you serve this to her on Sunday.
Cucumber Sandwiches – Perfect for a light lunch or afternoon tea!
Warm Potato and Tuna Salad over Arugula – This salad is a meal by itself.  It is healthy and scrumptious.  Another one of my mom’s favorites.

Grandma Rosie’s Ice Cream Dessert – A famous recipe from my sweet Grandma Rosie!  You can make it ahead of time and keep it in the freezer until you are ready to serve it after dinner.
Outrageous Brownies – What mom does not love a good brownie?
Berries and Cream – Simple, light, and delicious!

Love you mom!  Thank you for everything that you do.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mustard and Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Perfect Pairing:  Anything on the grill

Now that we are in the heart of spring, everyone is dusting off the grill and replacing the gas tank when it inevitably runs out of gas in the middle of grilling up a hamburger.  Talk about a buzzkill. 
I am planning on posting some of my favorite grilling recipes over the next few months.  They include flank steak with peanut sauce, turkey oat burgers, Greek burgers, and balsamic Dijon chicken, among many other favorites, but today it is about the perfect side dish for all of those grilled delights.
I love this recipe for mustard and garlic roasted potatoes.  I started making them last summer.  They ended up being my go-to recipe for those warm summer nights at the lake when we were grilling out.    The combination of whole grain mustard, garlic, and lemon juice is fantastic and it creates a crispy coating on the potato.  I like to use a combination of red, yellow, and sweet potatoes.  I usually only peel the sweet potatoes and leave the skin on the yellow and red potatoes since it is so thin.
The Perfect Pairing for these awesome potatoes is anything you can dream up on the grill!  They are so versatile and tasty, they go with anything!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

Perfect Pairing: Willpower  
Oatmeal cookies are tasty.  They are a good, solid choice.  What happens when you make them into sandwich cookies with a white chocolate, cream cheese frosting center?  Good things happen. 
I ran across the original recipe for oatmeal sandwich cookies on Serious Eats.  I thought they looked like they would be good, but I had no idea how good.  They are ridiculously good.  I made them for an open house gathering and they were a big hit.  While they may look like the famous Oatmeal Cream Pies, these are not a remake; they are a little crispy rather than soft.
A couple of notes…. I would err on the side of small when scooping the cookies since they are sandwiched together.  I wish I had made mine smaller.  Also, they turn brown in a hurry, so be sure to watch them closely in the oven.  I happen to know this from personal experience.
I am not a frosting person; I push it off the birthday cake and think the frosting flowers on the office cake are unappetizing.  The frosting for these cookies is probably the best frosting I have ever had.  It uses cream cheese and white chocolate.  The white chocolate flavor is not overpowering, just adds a nice background.  I plan on using the frosting recipe in other desserts.
The Perfect Pairing for this cookie recipe is willpower.  Make them and you will know what I am talking about.  I warned you!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Risotto with Corn, Roasted Peppers, and Pepper Jack Cheese

Perfect Pairing:  Ladle

Risotto is such a lovely thing.  I just had the best risotto of my life on a recent work trip to Portland at a restaurant called Metrovino.  This stuff was insanely good.  It was a mushroom risotto with shitake and oyster mushrooms and truffled mascarpone.   We had it as a shared appetizer, which was perfect, because I think it would have been way too rich as a main course.  I don’t know what they put in it, but it was out of this world.  I probably don’t want to know.  Restaurants sneak in so much unhealthy stuff.

Risotto with Corn, Roasted Peppers, and Pepper Jack Cheese is relatively light in comparison to the heavenly mushroom concoction I had in Portland.  There is no butter, cream, or mascarpone cheese.  I have been making this recipe for years and it is one of my favorites.  It is a little spicy from the pepper jack cheese and the hot sauce, slightly sweet from the corn, and balanced out by the fresh green onions.
Risotto can be a little daunting.  It is all about the liquid/stirring method.  I have no idea if I am preparing my risotto in the correct way.  No doubt, risotto purists would have something to say to me when I get distracted in my kitchen and forget to stir the rice, or add more than the appropriate amount of liquid.   Oh well!  All I know is that I am always pleased with the result. 
The Perfect Pairing for this risotto recipe (or any risotto recipe) is a ladle.  You have to add a small amount of liquid to the rice in intervals and then stir it until it is almost completely absorbed, and then repeat the process until the rice is cooked and creamy.  The simple ladle is the perfect tool since it is usually about ½ cup measure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Un-Recipe Files – Spiced up Edamame and some Cinco de Mayo Recipes


Part two of the Un-Recipe files!  Get excited.
I always have edamame in my freezer.  Edamame, for those who are not familiar, are soybean pods.  It is an awesome, low-fat, snack that is full of antioxidants, isoflavones, and protein.  I am not just saying that because I am the daughter of a soybean farmer.  It is unfortunate that he is not growing the snacking variety.  I feel like the per-bushel price would be pretty high.
On a recent trip to the grocery store I was looking for a bag of edamame to take to a get-together at my brother’s house.  They were out of stock!  Blast!  Wait… what is that hiding in the back of the freezer case??  The last box of edamame.  I grabbed it and ran out of the store.  Well, I paid… then I ran, or walked.  You know what I mean. 
It wasn’t until later that I realized I had purchased a box of individual snack-sized bags of edamame.  It turned out to be a great mistake.  I absolutely love having these on hand for a quick protein-filled snack.  You just toss the single serve bag in the microwave and in two minutes you have perfectly steamed edamame.  The brand I buy is Seapoint Farms.  Note… the bag says to cook it for longer than two minutes but that turns them all rubbery, so I reduce the cooking time a bit.
The soybeans are great with just kosher salt but I like to sprinkle a little Chinese five spice powder on them as well.  Five spice powder can be found at most grocery stores.  It is a combination of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, pepper, and ground fennel.   What an incredible snack for 90 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber!
*I am not getting any perks for endorsing a product.  I am just telling you out of the goodness of my heart!

In honor of the Cinco De Mayo holiday this weekend, here are some Perfect Pairings!
Spicy Avocado and Shrimp Dip – This dip is fantastic!!  It is without a doubt, one of my all-time favorites.
Caribbean Bean Puree – So maybe this is more Caribbean… but it has a decidedly tropical feel and would be great served with Mexican-themed food.
Chili Spiced Soup with Stoplight Peppers and Avocado Relish – A healthy and delicious soup topped off with queso fresco, cilantro, lime, and avocado. 
Overnight Cornbread Strata – A great breakfast option that can be made on the Cuatro de Mayo.  Top it off with green onions, cilantro, salsa, and avocado.
Fajita Potatoes – All the goodness of a fajita on a baked potato!
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