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Slowing Down

The past week has been pretty crazy! Last weekend was the final weekend of yoga teacher training for my group of

Let our powers combine

fellow trainees, therefore it was our testing weekend. We had both a written exam and a practical plus we had to watch our practical back and receive feedback. Ultimately we all successfully graduate on Sunday, but it was a pretty emotional weekend. We’ve all become really close and it is going to be very exciting to see where our paths take us. For me, who knows. I’m participating in a mentorship through the yoga studio that I graduated from, so for me, that is my next step, to continue to hone my teaching skills and hopefully be a successful teacher one day.

 

Also, in case you’ve noticed, I’m trying to include ads in the blog now for recipes and all things food. I was approved through a few affiliate programs and I’m playing around with WordPress to determine what plugins would help me run the ads but it’s so much more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s definitely a learning experience, but having knowledge of scripts and program codes would be extremely beneficial. Bear with me while I work through upgrading the site, it is a constant work in progress as I’m learning so glitches are bound to happen, but such is life. Things happen along the way of improving ourselves, we can’t take it personally, just learn and grow.

Figuring out this advert thing

Since this week has been busy with so much going on, I just wanted to take some time to slow down. I didn’t want to make a difficult recipe with multiple steps in it this week from Back to Basics. I wanted something simple and therapeutic. In the cooking realm, the most calming thing for me is doing something that I know I can do and do well. It isn’t the time to start some crazy endeavor like making croissants from scratch. For me, that is baking cookies. I feel like when you make cookies for years, you tend to learn a pattern that works for you and they just come naturally. Luckily Ina has a recipe for some Oatmeal Raisin Cookies in her Back to Basics book. I have no idea what I would have made otherwise.

Ready to devour

The BEST kind of cookies for me are ones that are thick, chock full of stuff, crisp on the outside, while still retaining some chewiness on the inside. This recipe hits all those marks. I know that the cup and a half of pecans and raisins sounds like overwhelming, but there can be NO such thing as too much. I mean, when making chocolate chip cookies, I don’t even bother with measuring the chips out, I just dump the whole bag in. I don’t have time for that.

If you’re one of those people that are turned off by raisins, you can sub them out for chocolate chips. Honestly though, why do people give serious hate to the raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies? Raisins are dried grapes, grapes make wine, you’re eating dried wine nuggets. Why can possibly be bad about them?

Anyway, the process of making the cookies is relatively simple and honestly is kind of like an assembly line, plus it gives me time to do stuff in between when they are in the oven. Also, there is nothing quite like a cookie that is still slightly warm after being baked. That is when they are the best.

 

Print Recipe
Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten page 214
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop very coarsely.
  3. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Fold in the oats, raisins, and pecans with a rubber spatula and mix just until combined.
  5. Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.
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Ice, Ice Baby

So this week here in the DC region, mother nature decided to provide us with a nice covering of ice. If you’re not from the area, any precipitation in this area really messes up any travel plans one might have. The best thing to do on a day where you wake up to a bunch of ice is to stay inside and get some chores done. My chores for the day included making some treats for work. Luckily, I had some help, one of my friends who lives a few blocks away came over to help.

We made some salted caramel popcorn and packaged them up in bags to be distributed to my coworkers this week. I used my mom’s recipe for caramel popcorn and added some Fleur de Sel – a french sea salt – at the end to give the popcorn some extra special flavor. We also made some scotchies (butterscotch rice krispie treats) which remind me so much of my childhood as my grandma made them every year. We dug into them while they were still warm and gooey.

Salty and caramely goodness

Still gooey!

Of course to help us along we had to have some wine! Since it was chilly out, I warmed it up for us. This is totally the season for some mulled wine! It’s basically like a warm, spiced sangria that is easily adaptable. I like to use a robust, full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. I picked Winc’s Pacificana Cab because it has a lot of red fruit flavors and would stand up to the add-ins. Also, this Cab is oaked which imparts some vanilla and baking spice flavors into the wine which will in turn help spice up mulled wine.

I’m calling this Cranberry-Orange mulled wine. To the wine, I added some cranberry juice cocktail, orange zest, freshly squeezed orange zest, fresh cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and a star anise. I let it sit in the crock pot to warm up for a few hours, allowing the flavors to really meld. The mulled wine has so much flavor, and you can easily add whatever fruit/juice/spices you want to make it unique. Want to make your own this winter? Try some at a discount by using this link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Pasta and mulled wine, I can’t think of a better pairing.

Also, we had to have a lunch break. We needed it to be quick and easy and we found the perfect Back to Basics recipe. The tagliatelle with truffle butter is so easy and SO good. Literally, this is one that you HAVE to make. The reicpe does require a few specialty ingredients but they’re worth it. Ina recommends Cipriani brand tagliatelle.

The brand is actually named after a man named Giuseppe Cipriani who opened Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy back in the 1930’s. This pasta is very high quality and it only cooks in 3 minutes flat! It’s super fresh and SUPER good. Here is a link where you can purchase it on Amazon: Amazon - Cipriani Pasta.

The other ingredient you’re going to want is White Truffle Butter. Truffles are extremely expensive to buy on their own but truffle infused butter is much more affordable. Visit http://www.dartagnan.com to purchase. I recommend stocking up and buying a few extra and keep them in the freezer then just pop them out when you need them. The butter is great in sauces, on chicken, potatoes, you name it. It’s especially amazing in this pasta dish because the tagliatelle absorbs the sauce.

A bowl full of goodness

Seriously this pasta could not be easier. The longest part is waiting for the water to boil. All you do is heat the cream and butter up in skillet over extremely low heat (I had mine on the lowest heat setting) and then add your cooked pasta and done. I served it directly out of the pan with the Parmesan shavings and chives on top. I can’t really think of any way to make this dish any better. Granted – it isn’t healthy by any means, but when you just need an easy, quick, and comforting meal, this is it.

With this being my last post before Christmas, I just want to wish everyone happy holidays and happy eating! 🙂

 

 

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Print Recipe
Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 152
Course Lunch
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Lunch
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
  2. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat the cream, butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper over very low heat and mix to combine. Keep the butter and cream over very low heat.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. If using Cipriani brand, it'll only be 3 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, reserve some cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the butter and cream. Add as much of the pasta water as needed to keep the pasta very creamy.
  4. Garnish with with chives and shaved Parmesan.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have tagliarelle (aka tagliatelle), fettuccine works well.

 

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The Spice of Life

You guys, it’s getting creepily close to Christmas and I’m not sure if I’m excited or sad! Maybe some of both. Excited for the holiday and sad that it is passing by so quickly!  As I sit here to write this, I have A Year Without a Santa Claus on tv and just listening to it brings back some of the childhood excitement the season brings me.

Having a little taste test before bed

With it being so close to the holiday, tis the season for some quality gingerbread. I’m not talking about the fancy Martha Stewartesque gingerbread houses all decked out with their candy cane gates and jolly rancher swimming pool. Ina offers up a much different version of gingerbread. It is a rustic dessert that is dense, spicy, and sweet. This is a perfect addition to any holiday dessert table this year. Also, it makes the whole house smell AMAZING. Think of it as edible potpourri. The orange frosting on top adds more flavor to the cake but you can opt to skip it and simply sprinkle it with powdered sugar.

How could this possibly be bad?!?!

This cake is sweetened by molasses, there is no other sugar actually in it. Molasses is a very dark, sweet, smoky syrup that gives gingerbread its unique color and flavor. One thing I did want to look up is what exactly unsulfured molasses is since the recipe specifically called for it. I’ve never really paid attention in the store. According to my research, molasses is the by product of the sugar making process. So when the sugar cane is crushed to make the little sugar granules we use to sweeten almost anything, the leftover is molasses. In some instances, sulfur is used during this process. I can only imagine that the sulfur adds a not too pleasant taste. I have also learned that most molasses in the states is unsulfured, so you don’t really have to worry about it. It’s always safe though to check the label to make sure.

Bubbly molasses and butter

This cake also has it’s fair share of spice in it. A whole teaspoon and a half of ground ginger root (it is gingerbread after all), cinnamon, and cloves give the cake balance with the earthy sweetness of the molasses. Another balancing ingredient which I think it totally necessary is the orange zest. You can’t taste it too much in the cake but it definitely adds a layer of flavor and helps cut through the sweetness.

I did make a few changes to the recipe, not major, but some differences. I didn’t use the recommended golden raisins, I used the regular ones. They are easier to find, taste the same, and I think more nostalgic looking. It reminds me of the applesauce cake my grandma made with the dark raisins in it. Also, I don’t have an 8×8 pan so I had to improvise. I do have a 6-cup bundt pan which worked perfectly, all I had to do was up the baking time by 15 minutes. If you use the bundt pan, I recommend baking the gingerbread for 45 minutes and check it and if it needs more time, add 5 minutes then check again. I got about 15 slices out of the bundt cake which was great as I had planned to take it to a work holiday lunch the next day.

A little edible decoration never hurt…

I decided to add a little extra Ina to my gingerbread. A mantra of hers is that she always garnishes a dish with an ingredient in the dish, “so you know exactly what’s in it.” So, I used my special zester that peels little strips off of the citrus. For this recipe, I zested half the orange which went into the cake, then I used this zester on the rest of the orange for the garnish. This isn’t necessary, you could just zest the rest of the orange regularly into the frosting to add extra flavor if you wanted. If you want to purchase a zester like this one, check out the amazon link below. Just make sure you zest BEFORE you cut and juice the orange, otherwise it’ll be a mess.

A great wine to pair this with is Winc’s new sparkling wine, Fink’s Widow. Bubbly just screams holidays and it is great for cocktails or after a meal with dessert. It has a lot of great apple and even pineapple flavors that are really crisp on the palate with the effervescence. You can’t beat the price on this one – only $13. That’s about the same price as prosecco. Many sparkling wines are difficult to find that cheaply (that are good), but this one is definitely a winner. It’s great on it’s own, but I was tempted into turning it into a holiday mimosa. Use this link for a discount on your first order: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

FW spreading some holiday cheer!

I first got the idea for this cocktail by seeing sugared cranberries and wanting to make them. When you make sugared cranberries, you cook them for a little and then let them soak in a mixture of sugar and water. The leftover syrup is turned slightly red from the cranberries and has great flavors. I added about 2 teaspoons of the simple syrup to 2 Tablespoons of cranberry cocktail mix and then topped it with the Finke’s Widow. I put the finished sugared cranberries on a large toothpick as garnish. SO GOOD! The cranberry flavor is balanced out by the sweetness of the syrup and the wine adds some crispness to the drink. This is one you’ll definitely want to make for your holiday party. As an alternative to the sugared cranberries, you can always freeze some fresh cranberries and use them as ice cubes in your drink as garnish and to keep the drink cold without watering it down.

Festive and refreshing


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Print Recipe
Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 202
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch cake pan. Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.
  2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt together into a small bowl. Mix to combine. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth.
  3. Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
  4. When the cake is cooled, whisk together the confectioner's sugar and orange juice and pour it over the gingerbread allowing it to drip down the sides. Cut into 9 squares.
Recipe Notes

You can use a 6 cup bundt pan. If so, increase baking time to 45 minutes and if it isn't done completely, put back into the over for another 5 minutes. Using a bundt pan yields about 12-15 slices of cake.

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Wine Tasting Featuring Winc

The holidays are fast approaching and that means one thing – parties. I actually was invited to attend a doterra essential oil party that one of my yoga friends was hosting. We decided to do the part potluck style where everyone chips in and brings something different. I offered to bring something snacky and some wine because of course I did. I figured this would be an excellent time to bust out some new and different Winc wines for my friends to try.

When I was looking through Back to Basics, I turned to the first recipe in the Appetizers section and I knew immediately that was what I needed to make. It is the recipe for Ina’s Parmesan & thyme crackers. Yes, homemade crackers and they are SO easy you won’t believe it. Essentially they are savory shortbread cookies. Shortbread being cookies that are butter and flour with no egg. Instead of adding sugar, the recipe calls for Parmesan cheese and thyme to give them lots of flavor. The result is a buttery cracker with great salty Parmesan and herb flavor. I actually decided to use some dried thyme when I made them because it was easier. I KNOW, I KNOW – Ina would not be a fan of using a dried herb here. However, I think dried herbs are great and convenient. Not everyone has time to run to the store to pick up some fresh thyme just to use a teaspoon for a recipe. This is where dried herbs are a savior.

No cheese for these crackers - only wine...

No cheese for these crackers – only wine…

I can’t wait to make these around Christmas and mix up the herbs and possibly the cheese a little bit. In fact, I was chatting at the party with a friend who is lactose intolerant. She gave me the idea of using Pecorino cheese instead of the Parm because Pecorino is sheep’s milk cheese and doesn’t contain the lactose that Parmesan (cow’s milk) does. You’d still get the same salty bite but it would be lactose friendly. These went great with the wine. They are perfect for neutralizing the palate when switching between different wines.

Now, on to the wines. I chose 3 to bring along that I thought would be different for everyone to try. Vinyasa Chenin Blanc, To Be Honest Red Blend, and Supercluster Tourigua Nacional.

Vinyasa Chenin Blanc:

vin-YAS-a

vin-YAS-a

The only white wine I brought, it’s totally self-explanatory why it was necessary. With the attendees being my yoga teacher training peers – we HAD to have some Vinyasa! Also, this wine is particularly interesting. First, it is low in alcohol by volume – only 11.8%. I like how I say “only”, I mean, it’s less than normal. Anyway, this wine is also…vegan. Before I found out, I thought all wine was vegan. I mean, it’s fermented grapes stored in either steel or oak barrels, what animal products could be involved. I decided to do some digging. Turns out A LOT of wine is not vegan friendly. Here’s the deal: when wine is made and the grapes are crushed, there is a lot of sediment that floats around in there, especially in very young wines that haven’t been aged very long. The producers put that wine through a processed called fining before bottling. This process is basically a filtration system that removes the sediment and leaves the wine clear. I figured they’d just run it through a fine sieve, but what producers do is pour animal casein (protein) into the wine. This casein attracts the sediment and it kinda congeals into larger clumps of stuff that can more easily be removed from the wine. To achieve this, vegan friendly wines use something like activated charcoal for the fining process. KNOWLEDGE DROP! I know what you’re thinking – MIND.BLOWN. I’m not actually sure if wines will actually say they are vegan or if you need to do your research before hand. It can’t hurt to do a little research if you want to maintain a vegan friendly diet.

Ok – so the taste. Even though this is a white wine, it definitely is not sweet. I tasted citrus and interestingly enough the pith of the citrus. There was some bitterness there like you were eating an orange or drinking unsweetened tea. I think this wine would be great with some peaches or raspberries in it to counterbalance the bitterness of it. Or it could definitely be great for a sangria.

To Be Honest Red Blend by Matt Bellasai

Nothing to whine about here, tbh.

Nothing to whine about here, tbh.

Oh Matt Bellasai, how I want your job. If you followed Buzzfeed on Facebook over the past couple years, you’ve probably seen Matt’s entrance into the wine world with their segment “Wine About It”. He basically sat at his desk, slammed some wine and got buzzed, then was given a topic to complain about. I specifically remember his segment where he did the Edward 40 Hands challenge with I think Pinot Grigo. He has since moved on from Buzzfeed and started his own segment now called “To Be Honest” and the premise is the same. However NOW he has his own wine! When I saw that Winc was collaborating with him I knew I had to try it. And Matt, if you’re reading this and you need an assistant or backup – let me know!

This is a great versatile red blend as most are.  A little bit of breathing on this wine really releases the fruitiness of it. It is quite complex as it is a blend of four grapes from the Paso Robles region of California. Best part of this wine, is that it is great, easy to drink and only $13 – very affordable and would make a great gift for anyone who likes red wine.

Supercluster Tourigua Nacional

Hipster chic

Hipster chic

This is what I call the hipster of the bunch. Tourigua Nacional is a Portugese grape that is grown in Paso Robles, California and is considered to be pretty rare. What makes this wine “hipster” is how it is made. When I think of the hipster scene, I think of cold-brew coffee and microbreweries with the whole chemistry set up. They are always looking for ways to incorporate science into how they make things. This wine is just that. It is made using the “carbonic method”. Like vegan wine, I had to do some research. Essentially, the grapes are harvested from the vineyard and instead of being macerated to let the juice ferment, they are place into large drums in tact. The winemakers fill the drums with CO2 and the grapes are left to ferment in tact. Meaning the juice ferments INSIDE the grape. This is to result in a lighter bodied red-wine and it’s just a pretty cool and modern method.

This was by far my favorite. It was super easy to drink right out of the bottle with loads of fruit flavors. It also had a little bit of syrupiness to it, so it had some weight to it. A great way to describe it is how one of my favorite vloggers, Whitney Adams puts it. She says it is like drinking whole milk versus skim. You know how whole milk is thicker and silky whereas skim milk is a bit watery. Yeah, Supercluster is like whole milk in that situation. It’s so great – and I’d definitely pair that with a cheese board because it would really go well with some bold flavored cheeses.

So there you have it, three interesting wines and some delish homemade crackers to go with. As the holidays are fast approaching, you might be wondering what to get as host/hostess gifts for any upcoming parties. WINE! Especially some interesting wine that would be a great conversation starter. Plus, it gets delivered right to your door! If you want to pick some up for a discount, visit my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Until next time, happy eating and stay thirsty!

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Print Recipe
Parmesean & Thyme Crackers
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 30.
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
crackers
Ingredients
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
crackers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon of water (mine took 3 teaspoons of water total).
  2. Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a sharp knife and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You can totally make these WAYYYYYYYYYY ahead of time and put them in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you need them, thaw them out in the fridge overnight, slice and bake.

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Fresh Mushroom Risotto

Well, Thanksgiving is officially over. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and ate all the things. I was hoping to put up a post last week, but I ended up getting sick after the holiday so I held out. This week,  I wanted to go for something a little bit different than anything we’d had for Thanksgiving so I decided to go for the Wild Mushroom Risotto featured in Back to Basics. Risotto is something that I’ve always felt is super fancy and always looks really, really good. However, I’ve tried to make it a few times before and never had any success at it. The rice would always be undercooked. I mean like still crunchy. I decided I would take my time with this one and follow the methodology that Ina laid out exactly when making it and hope that it would turn out.

img_0635The first thing that you’ll need is Arborio rice. This is the best rice to use for risotto as it is short grain and VERY starchy    which is what makes risotto creamy. You can find this in the regular grocery store in the rice isle. It’s pretty common now. If you use jasmine rice or brown rice, it will just absorb the liquid and won’t release the starch. You’ll end up with a pot of rice, which I’m sure will still taste good, but it won’t be creamy like risotto.

The one thing different that I noticed I never did before was to heat the chicken stock while I’m cooking the risotto. Essentially you’re stirring and stirring the rice while adding the stock a little bit at a time while the rice absorbs the liquid and releases its starches. In my prior experiences, I just dumped the stock in straight from the can or box. This go around I decided to take Ina’s word on it and I used my homemade stock I made a few months ago and I heated it in a separate pot on the stove over medium/low heat.  Honestly, this makes sense to me now. I took a cooking class a few years ago and the instructor told us that the quickest way to bring the temperature of a pan down is to add food to it. So, when I was making the risotto before and I was adding the room temperature stock to the rice, it was dropping the temperature of the pot and it wouldn’t cook through. If the stock is warm, then the cooking continues undisturbed and allows the rice to cook all the way through.

Passarola and Cremini

Passarola and Cremini

Now, let’s talk mushrooms. Ina recommends using dried Morel mushrooms. Morels are very rare to find fresh and if you do, they’re typically astronomically expensive. In an effort to make them more widely available, companies have started to dry them and sell them in stores. Then all you have to do is re-hydrate them in boiling water then you can use the broth as stock which adds even more flavor to whatever it is you’re cooking. I’ve done this with porcini mushrooms (and I will admit, it does add a TON of flavor to the dish) – I made some barley mushroom soup when I was on my vegan kick and it honestly gave the soup a beefy flavor. However, I had issues finding Morels except at the local Whole Foods for like $15 for a tiny little pack. I’d have had to buy two packs to make the risotto and I feel like $30 on one ingredient is a little too pretentious even for me. So, I improvised. I found some really cool oyster mushrooms that had a blue tint to them at Trader Joe’s and decided to use those and the Baby Bella (cremini) mushrooms. The risotto still turned out fantastic. If you want to use dried mushrooms, I provided an Amazon link at the bottom for some dried Porcini mushrooms and added a note at the end of the recipe on how to incorporate them into the risotto.

Beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms look just like a painting

Beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms look just like a painting

img_0636This also marked my first time working with Saffron. Just like the Morel mushrooms, saffron is a pretty expensive ingredient. It is the stamen of the a crocus flower. They have to be hand harvested and dried which is what gives them their mystique. It does add a beautiful yellow tint to the risotto and a spiciness that I can’t really explain. It is unique and really good. The good news is that you only need to use a tiny bit. This I did splurge on and got some from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find any at the store, here is a link where you can order some online. I recommend this ingredient as it is difficult to duplicate the flavor of the saffron.

Overall, this risotto turned out perfectly. It was about 30 minutes of monotonous stirring, but if you have a little bit of time, it’s totally worth it. Also, it is very hearty and can easily be turned into a fully vegetarian meal, just leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock. Also, feel free to add whatever vegetables (you can use frozen) you want to this dish. It really is pretty adaptable to whatever you have going on in the fridge.

img_0733

I had to pair this dish with some wine – the recipe called for it after all! You’ll want a dry wine, meaning not sweet. If you add a sweet wine like Moscato, it will give the rice a sugary taste. I would recommend a Sauvignon Blanc as most of them have a lot of flavor and not much residual sugar. However, I used Winc’s Passarola Vinho Branco from Portugal. Vinho Branco literally means white wine in Portuguese. It is a versatile white wine and is absolutely delicious to drink with the meal and by itself to be honest. It has a lot of citrus flavor, think lemons and limes. It is also nicely balanced between acidity and sweetness. If you like Sauv Blanc, you’ll LOVE this and the good news, it is super affordable. One thing I love about Winc is how I get to try wines from all over the world, like Portugal, that I wouldn’t have normally tried otherwise. If you want to try Winc and get a discount on your first order, use my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Leftovers!!!

Leftovers!!!

 

Link for Porcini Mushrooms:


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Print Recipe
Fresh Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 144
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Remove and discard the stems of the cremini mushrooms and rub off any excess dirt with a damp paper towel. Don't rinse them! Slice and set aside. Slice the oyster mushrooms and set aside with the cremini mushrooms.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the bacon and shallots over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of the warm chicken stock to the rice plus the saffron, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer over low heat until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock mixture, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more of the stock mixture. Continue until the rice is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. When done, the risotto should be thick and creamy and not at all dry. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot in bowls with extra cheese.
Recipe Notes

If you use the dried mushrooms, decrease the amount of chicken stock by 2 cups. Steep the mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 30 minutes. Run the mushroom stock through a coffee filter to remove the sediment. Mix the mushroom stock with the chicken stock and simmer in pan. Add the now hydrated mushrooms in with the cremini mushrooms.

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That Pumpkin Roll

Howdy folks! Glad to see there was a lot of interest in the salad that was posted last week. I hope for those of you that tried it, you loved it. Or if you decided to try Winc and get some wine, I hope you enjoy it as well. If there are any kinds that you have questions about, let me know, I’ve had my fair share of them so far so I can give you some pointers on those that I have tried. 🙂

So many of us know that Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Unless you rely upon the retail industry to tell you, then you’ll likely think that next week is Christmas. Anyway Thanksgiving is here – a joyous holiday that celebrates eating! Whether you’re celebrating with your family, friends, coworkers, pets, whomever, there is usually one staple that pops up after the turkey and sides and that is something pumpkin. 😀 I, along with the throngs of fervent fans, have been lining up for some pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks since September. Now it’s time to glorify our love of it and make it into something edible. Traditionally, the pumpkin dessert comes in the form of pie. However, leave it to Ina to take her pumpkin spice to another level for Turkey Day….a Pumpkin Roulade.

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So, I’ve totally made this before – not Ina’s, but I think it was just a generic recipe that I had found. I’ve also grown up with what we called Pumpkin Roll, so this wasn’t too new to me when I saw the recipe. I did note a few differences though. First, Ina adds more spice to her cake which adds a lot more flavor as I’ve discovered. Second, her filling is made with mascarpone cheese. Think of this as the Italian version of cream cheese and can be found in the grocery store either in the specialty cheese case (where the brie and smoked gouda are) or it’ll be with the cream cheese. It’s not quite as dense as American cream cheese and it has more of a ricotta consistency. Lastly, she rolls hers differently than I’ve seen/done it in the past, which I’ll get into in a second.  Let me talk about a few other things first.

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Roulade is a fancy French term for anything that is rolled as it comes from the French root word meaning “to roll”. It doesn’t have to be a dessert, in fact Ina’s got a nice recipe for a Turkey Roulade in Back to Basics that I’ll get to try later. I think that the idea of rolling the cake is a bit daunting. I remember I had to have my mom help me out the first time I made one because I didn’t understand how just roll a cake up. The batter has a higher ratio of eggs to flour than most typical cakes which makes it more spongy and pliable. You also bake it on a half sheet pan so it is long and thin which aids in the rollage process. The most important aspects I’ve learned of making a roll cake is that you have to use a liberally confection sugar dusted kitchen towel (and when I say liberal I mean it, think Bernie Sanders liberal, as the sugar keeps the cake from sticking) AND you have to do the rolling while the cake is hot. If you wait to let it cool, it’ll just break apart. So have your kitchen towel dusted completely with confection sugar on the ready and flip that cake out as soon as it comes out of the oven, and roll it up.

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Speaking of rolling, let’s get to what I wanted to mention earlier. I didn’t follow Ina’s recipe exactly on this. She recommends rolling from the short side so you get several layers and albeit a more dramatic presentation. The end result is a taller cake, but shorter cake so when you slice it, you get more per slice but less slices if that makes sense. The roll that I’m used to, I’m going to call the West Virginia Roll because that is how I learned to do it. This is the exact opposite of Ina’s method. You roll from the long end so it is longer, there aren’t as many layers but you get more slices out of it. As I decided I wanted to take this to work, this was great because I easily got about 16-18 slices out of it. It really just depends on how you prefer to do it. It’ll taste the same, trust me on that.

Pre-roll

Pre-roll

I also made a minor change to the filling as well. I used half cream cheese and half mascarpone. I just think that the cream cheese is a bit thicker so it holds up when slicing better. You can totally use all cream cheese if you can’t find mascarpone or just don’t feel like using it. Your choice. Oh! Ina also has you put crystallized ginger in the filling. Never heard of it or had it? It’s basically ginger root that has been sliced and cooked in sugar syrup until it get’s really chewy. It’s SO good. OMG. It still has the spice from the ginger but the sweetness makes it more palatable. You can find this easily in the grocery store with the dried fruits.

Sweet AND Spicy - I like

Sweet AND Spicy – I like

Now, let’s talk about wine. Winc gave me a little lesson in wine, specifically European wines that have to be “declassified”.  I know that this gives the perception that there is something wrong with the wine or it is low quality.

De "Classy"!

De “Classy”!

Winc assures us otherwise. In fact, they pointed out that high profile vineyard in Europe often have to declassify wines due to other countries’ wine laws. An example: the vineyard’s yield exceeded its yearly allowance. So they bottle those that are allowed under their vineyard and the remaining wine is bottled under seperate cover and sold below market value. Sooooo essentially, declassified wines are my jam. High-end delicious wines for cheap! Sign me up. Now, Winc won’t tell us what kind of wine it is or where it is from – so we are left guessing. They did give a clue that the grape grows really well in and is native to Piedmont, Italy. From my research, the king grape of Peidmont is Nebbiolo, so that’s what my guess will be. The tasting notes of this wine are cherries, vanilla, and rosemary. SO GOOD! This wine would pair well with some turkey and dressing, not to mention a ginger filled Pumpkin Roulade. You still have a few days to order if you want some in time for Thanksgiving, the shipping is SUPER fast, so if you want some and want to get a discount on your first order, use my link and give Winc a try: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Happy Thanksgiving! Take some time to reflect on what you are Thankful for and enjoy your time with family and friends. 😀

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Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 212.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
Ginger Buttercream
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
Ginger Buttercream
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Liberally grease and flour a half sheet pan (13x18x1 inch). If you wish, line the pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Alternatively you can use a hand-mixer. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. The batter should be pale yellow and thickened. Add the pumpkin and mix. Slowly add the flour mixture until incorporated. Finish mixing with a rubber spatula. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. The batter will be thin. Bake the cake for 10-12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.
  3. While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton kitchen towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar evenly over it. (This prevents the cake from sticking to it). As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel (don't be scared). Peel away the parchment paper if you used it. Lightly roll the warm cake and the towel together (don't press), starting at the short end (or long end if you're going for the WV roll). Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix the mascarpone cheese, confectioner's sugar, and cream together for about a minute. (Make sure that the cheese is at room temperature otherwise it won't mix together well at all). Stir in the crystallized ginger and salt.
  5. To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. Spread the filling evenly onto the cake. Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel to guide it. Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve sliced.
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Rise and Shine On the Go

Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a great week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it out the Farmer’s Market this weekend, so no interesting produce to work with for a recipe. Back at the end of the summer, I started a 200 hour yoga teacher training program, and this weekend is training number 3 of 7. I got started in yoga a few years ago when I started running. As I progressed in my distance with running, my left knee started bothering me more and more until it became unbearable. I iced it, tried doing warm-ups, and even got fitted for running shoes and nothing worked. I ended up going to the doctor who took x-rays which revealed that nothing was really wrong other than my kneecap would shift around when I moved. His solution, yoga. I needed to build strength in my quads and flexibility in my hamstrings. One groupon later, I was hooked. I have always admired the teachers at the studios I’ve been to and love the practice so I finally decided to take the plunge, put in the work, and deepen my practice to eventually become a certified teacher.

Each studio which offers the 200 hour teacher training operates on different schedules, the one that I go through, Spark Yoga in Arlington offers the training one weekend per month for seven months along with several assignments outside of class time and logging classes regularly as well.  Our training is literally all weekend long and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s like a retreat. I love all of the students that are in the training with me and all of the teachers we have. I decided we needed some major snackage for one of these weekends and while looking through Back to Basics, I found a recipe for Homemade Granola Bars.

Ina states that she prefers to make her own homemade granola bars because store-bought ones have a plethora of artificial ingredients, many of which are difficult to pronounce. This resonates with me because I actually prefer to make my own homemade granola versus buying store-bought. First of all – granola is EXPENSIVE. It’s mainly just oats, sweetener, nuts and fruit. Why is it like $7-$10 for a bag of it? I can purchase a whole bag of almonds at Whole Foods for less. Second, I control what goes in it. That means, using coconut oil as the fat versus butter or dried blueberries instead of raisins. I’ve also added egg whites to it to add extra protein. Third, and lastly, it’s easy. It’s essentially mixing ingredients together in a bowl and baking them.

Beginning stages of some awesome granola bars

Beginning stages of some awesome granola bars

This granola bar recipe is very similar. It is oats, nuts, fruit, some fat and some sweetener which are baked in a pan and allowed to set and cool into bars. I went rouge a little on the recipe and for the fruit I only used dried apricots and dried cherries versus the dates and cranberries that Ian suggests. I do believe that a recipe is more or less a suggestion of ingredients. One should cook to taste and not be afraid to experiment with subbing out similar ingredients. You never know what you might come up with. Could be gross it could be delish. One way to find out. The apricots and cherries end up being delish, you can ask my yoga friends as they enjoyed them yesterday for sustenance during one of our breaks!

Post bakeage

Post bakeage

I encourage you to give this recipe a go. Try it on a Sunday evening, cut them up and wrap in plastic wrap and you can have them for breakfast or snacks throughout the week or send them in  your kids’ lunchboxes.

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Homemade Granola Bars
From Back to Basics, by Ina Garten page 242
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  4. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and mix well.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours to set before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You can sub out any dried fruit you want for this recipe. Also, wheat germ can easily be found in the isle of your grocery store with the cereal/breakfast items. It's typically sold in a glass jar near the oatmeal.

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Weekend Brunch

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With the weather cooling down and the mornings being a bit brisk, I kind of just want to stay inside in the mornings and enjoy a drink and something warm to eat. This weekend I turned to Ina’s Country French Omelet. In Back

Country French Omelet

Country French Omelet

to Basics, she states that when she travels to France, it isn’t the posh Michelin star restaurants that she loves to go to, it’s the small cafes where she can have some casual food and enjoy the bustling of the busy streets. Though I’ve never been, I can understand how she feels. Sometimes the fancier restaurants can be quite pretentious and the food doesn’t live up to the hype or the price plus keeping things causal can be relaxing especially after a long flight.

 

It's BACON!

It’s BACON!

The recipe starts off delicious enough…with bacon. Hahaha. Then once you cook the bacon and render the fat, you remove it and cook the potatoes. This actually reminds me of how my mom used to make potatoes for my brother and I when we were children. She’d save the bacon fat in a jar after frying some up on the weekends then use that to fry up potatoes with salt and pepper as a side dish for dinner. While it isn’t healthy at all, it is very delicious. The potatoes get brown and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Perfection.

I decided to add some fresh thyme to the eggs in addition to the chives. I had some fresh in the fridge leftover and I thought it would make a great addition. I also think some dried thyme or even oregano would be good as well. I think the extra herbaciousness gives the omelet more of a country feel. Also, lets talk for a second about this “omelet”. That is what the recipe is called, but this is actually more like the Italian fritatta. An omelet is typically folded over on itself in the pan and cooked very gently on the stove. However, this recipe calls for you to pour all the ingredients into the hot skillet and transfer it to the oven which is exactly what you do with a fritatta. Maybe this is how they serve them in Paris…guess I’ll have to go one day and check it out for myself.

Fried Potato Heaven

Fried Potato Heaven

Eggs in the pan

Eggs in the pan

A non-stick pan would work really, really well here as long as it is oven-safe. A trick that I’ve used before has been to wrap the handle of a non-stick pan with a couple of layers of aluminum foil tightly. I was really worried that the eggs would stick to the pan, but I made sure to swirl the butter around so that the pan was totally covered and surprisingly, it didn’t stick at all. Also – when you take the pan out of the oven, keep a kitchen towel over the handle at all times. This will help you remember that the handle is extremely hot and if you accidentally touch it, it won’t sear your hand. Trust me on this, several years ago I wrapped my hand around a searing hot handle and suffered for a while. Be careful! Also, I’d like to point out that this recipe serves 2 people. However, this makes A LOT. I think it could serve 4 with something else served on the side, like some fruit or toast. If you have a healthy appetite, then it could feed 2.

PYT - Pretty Young Thang!

PYT – Pretty Young Thang!

Soooooooooo just because it is morning doesn’t mean it is too early for some Winc wine. I received some bubbly in my last shipment and decided to break it open this morning. This is the PYT (Pretty Young Thing – go ahead, sing it, you know you want to) Malvasa Bianca. This was a limited edition offered by Winc with only 165 cases made. It is unfiltered, meaning there is some sediment in the glass and is has some honey and wheat flavors to it. While it is absolutely good on its own, I decided to make a mimosa with it. This sparkling wine is very bubbly and fizzes up a lot. In fact I didn’t read the card sent with it that says to open over a sink and opened it right in front of me and was soaked.

 

Anyway, I decided to make an apple cinnamon mimosa to get the most out of fall. I got some honeycrisp apple cider from the Farmer’s Market and decided to use it. Now, apple cider is typically sweet as is, but honeycrisp apple cider is even

img_0409sweeter due to the natural sweetness of the apple. It also has a golden color versus the typical brown and is more transparent than its counterpart. I dipped the rim of the glasses in lemon juice then cinnamon sugar, then I added about 1/4 cup of the apple cider and filled up the glass with the sparkling wine and added a cinnamon stick as garnish. The sweetness of the cider and the dryness of the wine really do balance each other well and the cinnamon from the rim adds a little bit of warmth. You could also use regular apple cider and it will still taste good, it will just have that signature apple cider cloudiness to it.

Apple Cinnamon Mimosa

Apple Cinnamon Mimosa


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Country French Omelet
From Page 227 in Ina Garten's Back to Basics Cookbook
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and has rendered its fat. Take the bacon out of the pan and put aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. Place the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned on the outside, tossing occasionally to brown evenly. Remove with a spoon and set aside with the bacon.
  4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper together with a fork or whisk. After the potatoes are removed, pour the fat out of the pan and discard (or save in a jar for later). Add the butter, lower the heat to low and coat the entire pan with the melted butter. Pour the eggs into the pan, right in the middle. Sprinkle the bacon, potatoes, chives and thyme evenly over the top and place the pan in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, just until the eggs are set in the middle. Slide onto a plate and serve hot.
Recipe Notes

The bacon fat can be saved in a jar in the fridge for like almost forever and can be used to fry potatoes or Brussels sprouts, honestly just about anything.

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The Apple That Caught My Eye

Hey everyone! I hope that everyone has had a great week! I know I have. I actually decided to go out and find the cafe that Ina Garten visited in Georgetown last week, Patisserie Poupon. So it’s wayyyyyyyyyy out in G-town, like up north, so if you’re planning on going, you’ll want to drive, take an Uber or wear hiking boots. Me being me, I decided to wear boots and walk the distance because I figured it would be scenic. All was good until about half way in and I learned it was farther out than expected…I kept pushing and ended up being on the receiving end of a blister. I had a simple ham and cheese croissant as the place was really small and I didn’t really see too much that was inviting among the counter. I’d kind of like to find out why Ina picked that location to visit. Not that it was bad, but I feel like there are better places in the G-town and DC area that are more accessible and have more of a selection. Ina, if you ever decide to come to DC again, I am offering my services of being a chauffeur around the city to all the food places.

Ok, back to cooking. This week at the Farmer’s Market in DC I found some interesting apples from the selection there. Calville Blanc are heirloom apples which hail from France and were brought to the United States via none other than Thomas Jefferson himself and were planted in Monticello.

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I’ve recently visited Monticello, and Mr. Jefferson had quite the green thumb. He also had an interest in France, architecture in particular. If you’re ever in Virginia, I suggest you take a visit. It is something you can easily make a whole day out of.

After spotting these apples, I knew EXACTLY what I had to make. Ina’s French Apple Tart. Ina her book, she states that this is her favorite dessert to make because it is simple and really highlights the quality of the apples. She recommends Granny Smith apples because they are hearty enough to withstand baking and are easily found in many grocery stores. I used the Calville Blanc apples because, well they both are French and from a local source, but because they too are a good baking apple. At least the lady at the market said so.

The tart is very simple to make. It’s a thin layer of crust (you can use puff pastry if you want it to be extra easy), a layer of apples, and then sugar and butter sprinkled over the top to caramelize the whole thing.

My sous chef rolling out the dough. :D

My sous chef rolling out the dough. 😀

The only issue I had was that the butter basically melted and ran off the side of the tart so I had to baste it to make sure the whole tart caramelized. I’m going to be honest – the tart is good but the edges are Heaven. The butter and sugar caramelize around the perimeter of the entire tart and get really crisp and delicious.

Pre-bake masterpiece

Pre-bake masterpiece

This thing is so good, it’s like angels cried upon on it then served it to me on a silver platter. Don’t believe me? Try it. And while you’re at it – slap some butter pecan or french vanilla ice cream on top and thank me later.

Of course, I had to have wine because wine not? Pardon the pun. Anyway, I chilled some Porter and Plot Chardonnay that I received from Winc and poured a glass to go with.

Transport me to Napa!

Transport me to Napa!

This Chardonnay is fantastic. The grapes come from a vineyard in Napa – known for it’s Chardonnay. It also has the oakiness which in my opinion is necessary for a good Chardonnay. Even with the oaking, I still tasted a lot of fruit, apple in particular which is why this wine paired so well with this recipe. By the way – did I mention that this wine was only $13. Kind of unheard of for a Napa Chardonnay. Or really any wine from that area. Your first bottle is free if you want to try Winc out by clicking here: https://www.clubw.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

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French Apple Tart
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 191.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Pastry
For the Apple Topping
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Pastry
For the Apple Topping
Instructions
Making the Pastry
  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender or a fork and knife, cut the butter into the flour until you the butter is incorporated and is the size of small peas. (You can also use a food processor for this step). Pour in the ice water a few tablespoons at a time while mixing until the dough comes together into a loose ball. Dump onto a floured board and knead into a ball (don't overknead the dough). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Shaping the Pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Roll the dough to about 10 x 14 inches and trim the edges to make a rectangle. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and place in the refrigerator.
Apples!
  1. Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Using a melon baller or a small knife, core the apples and remove the stem. Slice the apples thinly lengthwise and arrange them however you wise on the pastry. Ina suggests on a diagonal. Continue until the pastry is covered with apples. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the butter.
  2. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. You may want to check every 15 minutes or so and baste the tart with any butter or juice that has run off. When the tart is done, remove from the oven to cool. Heat the jelly and water in a pan or the microwave and pour through a sieve to remove any lumps of apricot. Brush the glaze over the entire tart to make it nice and shiny! Loosen the tart from the pan to ensure that the caramel doesn't stick. Serve warm or room temperature.
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In Season Salad

So apparently THE Ina Garten was in DC this week. I must have missed her invite for lunch this week 😀 hahaha. One can dream. I’m not sure what she was up to as she used to live in the area before she bought the Barefoot Contessa, so maybe she was visiting for old times’ sake or maybe she was here for her show. DC could be on the map on her next season of Barefoot Contessa! That’s exciting!  DC is really becoming a foodie paradise and is very up-and-coming with new restaurants, stores and bars popping up all over the place. One thing I love about DC is the weekly Farmer’s Market that they hold at City Center every Tuesday. This allows me to get out and see what seasonal items are available from local stores and farms mid-week so that I can pick up something to make versus having to plan it on the weekend.

All the pears

All the pears

Today I stopped by at lunch and noticed tons of pears. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is also mentioned in Back to Basics and is stated by Ina many, many times in her shows. In season fruits and veggies are always the best. Sure you can get them from a store any time of year and they are good, but they are REALLY good when they are from a local farm when the season is ripe. When I saw this plethora of semi-ripe pears available, I knew that I’d have to find a recipe to utilize them. Luckily, in Back to Basics, Ina included a recipe that takes a simple pear and turns it over the top into a simple, arguably elegant and extremely delicious lunch or dinner.

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I feel like pear, blue cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberry salads are a staple at many restaurants. In fact, I feel like it is a very British thing – possibly because of the blue cheese? Don’t get me wrong, the flavors are delicious, but this is not your typical salad. The pears are halved and hulled and filled with a mixture of dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese. When I was shopping around for blue cheese, I spotted some Roquefort from France at the store and though I’ve never had it, I knew I had to try it. It’s definitely better than any other blue cheese I’ve had. It still had the signature pungency that is well known throughout the blue cheese family. However this had a more fresh and sharp flavor, similar to cheddar to me. Note: If you can’t stand blue cheese, you could easily sub it out for some diced sharp white cheddar cheese. It’s more to balance out the sweet from the pear and cranberries.

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Once filled, the pears are basted with a syrup made of apple cider, port and brown sugar. I’m using a port that I got from a local Virginia Winery, Barrel Oak. This port is aged in whiskey barrels so it has an extra depth of flavor. Also, if you’re wondering how to open a wine bottle with a wax coating, it’s extremely simple. Just open it like you would a normal wine bottle and the cork will pop right through the wax coating. It does make a little bit of a mess though.

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While baking, I basted the pears with the liquid a few times to make sure they absorbed all the delicious flavor from the port and apple cider. Once finished and cooled, don’t throw away that basting syrup in the bottom of the pan. It gets used for the dressing of the salad, which is just some simple arugula. This is probably my favorite part of the salad. A mixture of the port basting liquid, lemon juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper is FANTASTIC on basically any salad. In fact, I used it all week for lunches at work.

I highly recommend this salad and play around with the ingredients. You could use apples instead of pears, any kind of dried fruit for the cranberries, cheddar or even gouda for the blue cheese, and if you don’t have port or wish to not use it, use all apple cider. I think that food and recipes should be easy and stress-free and I certainly don’t believe in making a special trip to a wine store to get a whole bottle of port if you know that you’ll never use it again. Cook to taste and personal preference and don’t be afraid to deviate from the recipes a little.

I hope you all enjoy and have a great week!

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Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
From Back to Basics, by Ina Garten, page 96
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel the pears (or not if you wish to leave the skins on like I did) and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small knife or melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the founded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with some lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, well side up, in a baking dish.
  3. Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it in the well.
  4. In the same bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside for about 30 minutes until warm or room temp.
  5. Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid into a bowl with some salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the arugula and divide among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid and serve.
Recipe Notes

You can honestly swap out the cheese in this recipe with some sharp cheddar or leave it out. I also tried this recipe with some apples instead of pears and it works perfectly!

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