Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whipped Ricotta Appetizer

Perfect Pairing:  Flavored balsamic vinegar


People ask me all the time how I come up with recipes or ideas for the blog.  I am all over the board.  Many of the recipes featured here are family favorites that we have been making for years, recipes that have been passed down, inspired by a restaurant dish I devoured, or simply a product of my noggin.  This particular appetizer was inspired by a restaurant dish, but one that I have never tried. 


I was reading a review for a local restaurant and the writer was raving about a simple appetizer of whipped ricotta, grilled bread and honeycomb.  After reading that I was just looking for a reason to make it myself.  I have since made it four or five times.  It is so simple, rustic, and delicious. 


Ricotta is whirred in the food processor until completely smooth and then simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  I serve it on a tray loaded with grilled bread, honey, and balsamic vinegar.  I let guests make up their own bites based on their personal preference.


This appetizer is the perfect opportunity to show off that fancy vinegar gathering dust in your pantry.  I personally love vanilla fig balsamic.  I have raved about that stuff before.  It is scrumptious. 

On Thanksgiving I was feeling fancy and also included prosciutto and sliced figs.  Why not?


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Salted Roasted Pecans

Perfect Pairing:  Chocolate Sauce

These little guys are a good thing. 

They are great to have on hand in the freezer.   I would suggest buying the pecan halves at Costco or Sam’s.  They are much cheaper in bulk.

Salted Roasted Pecans are great on their own, would be fabulous on a cheese plate, or wrapped up as a hostess gift.  I paired them here with chocolate sauce and ice cream, which is a no brainer!  I have also used them on top of a yogurt parfait, and tossed in a spinach salad with pomegranate aerils, dried cranberries, and this dressing.  Delicious!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies

Perfect Pairing:  St. Patrick’s Day

Despite having ANOTHER snow storm in Chicago, the standard St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will go on as planned this weekend.  That includes dying the river green and filling every Irish pub to the brim starting around 8:00 AM.  Chicagoans are pretty crazy about this holiday.  Two years ago it was 80+ degrees on the big day, so it gives me hope that the foot of snow and ice in my front yard could be gone soon!

Last year I featured Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats that were tinted green for the holiday.


Two years ago I provided a recipe for Edamame Hummus, which was a lovely shade of green as well.


This year’s recipe is one my favorite cookies, Oatmeal Shortbread.  This cookie has been a staple on our Christmas cookie plate for as long as I can remember.  At Christmas we keep the circle shape and use red and green sugar.


These cookies are deliciously crisp and light.  You will love them any time of the year.  The dough is easy to whip up, then you form into rolls.


Coat the rolls in colored sugar.


Slice (shape into shamrocks, if you so desire) and bake!




Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Slow Cooker Calico Bean Bake

Perfect Pairing:  Thorough rinsing

So it turns out Slow Cooker Calico Bean Bake is not an easy thing to photograph.  It must have something to do with it being all one color, not holding any shape, and let’s face it, it is just not very beautiful.  My cousin took these pictures for me because she is awesome at photography, and I was baffled on how to take a good picture of it.  Fortunately, it tastes about 100x better than it photographs! 

Part of my job requires me to spend long days in production studios.  I assure you, I am not doing anything too exciting in said studios.  My absolute favorite studio is here in Chicago.  They have an amazing facility with multiple stages and sets.  One of those sets is a gorgeous, fully functional, kitchen. 
kitchen set-001

Next to the gourmet kitchen is a prop room.  An entire room dedicated to kitchen props!  I pretty much lose my mind over that room.  Each time I am at that studio I daydream about how awesome it would be to photograph my recipes there.  The backdrops!  The lighting!  The utensils!  The plates!  The trays!  Nerd alert.

Perhaps I could even make Slow Cooker Calico Bean Bake looks gorg in that environment.  This is definitely a family favorite.  It is so good!  Even my little cousin Callie loved it!  I mean…. She REALLY loved it.  We lost track of how many bowls she polished off. 

Now this dish will forever be known as Callie Bean Bake instead of Calico Bean Bake!  This recipe is so flipping easy.  After browning the meat and cooking the bacon you just throw everything in the slow cooker and let the flavors develop.  It is fantastic served alongside anything you take off of the grill.  I recommend thoroughly draining and rinsing the beans.  This removes a good amount of sodium and can make it easier to digest. 
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