Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ina's Perfect Roast Chicken

I must say, I have loved the fancy kitchen shop wedding gift cards. Just yesterday, I drove over to Provisions/RSVP and bought myself a roasting pan (thank you, Dr. Baker!), and could not wait to try it out. I thought, what better to make than my very first roast chicken? The famous Thomas Keller, in Ad Hoc, says that every cook should know how to roast a chicken. It was about time. 

Ina Garten has never led me astray, so I decided to go for her "perfect roast chicken". I was a little intimidated buying an entire chicken at the store, but after watching her cooking show the preparation was easy. I just had to stuff the chicken with garlic and lemons, rub it down with butter, and chop a few vegetables to go in the pan. The house smelled amazing, and Josh absolutely loved the chicken (and the mashed potatoes I served on the side). I had to take before and after shots! 



Perfect Roast Chicken
from Ina at the Food Network

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

time for Mojitos!

Summer has finally arrived! In Roanoke today it was sunny, ninety degrees by 11am, and I drove around town listening to country music with my sunglasses on (and A/C, too hot for windows down). This weather CLEARLY calls for mojitos! I planted a pot of mint for this purpose alone. Oh yes. 

After spending hours reading about how to make the perfect mojito, here are a few free tips in celebration of summer:

          - Bacardi superior white rum
          - crushed ice (not cubed)
          - homemade simple syrup (1 cup sugar/1 cup water boiled together, off heat add 10  
             mint leaves, infuse until room temp, then strain leaves out)

the Perfect Mojito
10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
1T simple syrup
1 cup crushed ice
1 and 1/2 ounces white rum
1/2 cup club soda
  1. Place mint leaves (tear into glass) and 1 lime wedge into pint glass. Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime to release mint oils and lime juice. 
  2. Add simple syrup and 2 more lime wedges, and muddle again. Do not strain. 
  3. Fill the glass almost to the top with crushed ice. 
  4. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with club soda. Add more simple syrup if desired. Garnish with the last lime wedge and enjoy! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Marinated Shrimp with Capers and Dill

My mom's great friend Andy brought this appetizer to her birthday party, and the shrimp disappeared in no time flat. It was such a hit that she asked Andy for the recipe and has made it over and over again. She always leaves a party with an empty serving platter. That's the goal, right? To go home with an empty plate! 

I bought a large bag of precooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp at Sam's Club, which makes this recipe super easy to throw together. I let the shrimp marinate for 4 hours, and they were a certainly a bit hit at the BBQ. 

Marinated Shrimp with Capers and Dill
adapted from Epicurious

8-10 tablespoons olive oil (depending on whether shrimp are precooked)

  • 1 1/2 pounds large uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined *I use cooked and peeled for an easy shortcut*

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup drained capers
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
  • 1 lemon, cut into rounds (optional)
  • Fresh dill sprigs (optional)

  1. If shrimp are not precooked, then heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper; add shrimp to skillet and sauté until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. * I skip this step, thaw my precooked and peeled shrimp, and marinate them in a large ziplock bag as follows:
  2. Whisk next 5 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk in 8 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Mix in shrimp and accumulated juices, add capers and green onions. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 1 day to allow shrimp to marinate. 
  3. Arrange butter lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with more marinade, if desired. Garnish with lemon rounds and fresh dill sprigs, if desired.

Caprese Phyllo Cups

The mention of a caprese salad makes me dream of summer, Italy, patios, white wine, and the simple joys of life. I love the classic salad, and the many variations including caprese pizza, caprese paninis, and slight tweaks on the classic salad with roasted tomatoes and even an added drizzle of pesto. Caprese = happy + yummy + the good life. 

I found this recipe on Gimme Some Oven, and made it for a summer BBQ. I love that it is easy to pick up and eat with no fuss. A true winner! 

Caprese Phyllo Cups
from gimme some oven

1/2 cup balsamic
1 (15 count) package mini phyllo cups
15 grape tomatoes, halved
4 oz fresh mozzarella, diced into small pieces
4 large fresh basil leaves, rolled and julienned

  1. Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over med-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes, until reduced by half. Remove from heat.
  2. Portion the tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh julienned basil between the phyllo cups. (I learned the hard way, add the basil first). Drizzle with the reduced balsamic. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and serve immediately. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Crunchy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas

I am always searching for new healthy snacks to satisfy my crunchy/salty cravings when I'm watching a Downton Abbey marathon or working a long night shift. I saw this recipe on Pinterest months ago, and have been wanting to try it. These crunchy chickpeas are so yummy and completely guilt-free! I will definitely be making other variations in the near future...

Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and dried on paper towels
1 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt to taste (1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 lemon, zested

other spices to sample: cumin, tobasco sauce, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Mix chickpeas with oil and seasonings. Place on a baking sheet (I use a Silpat baking mat) and shake to make sure chickpeas are in a single layer.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, then toss well and flip, then bake for another 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, transfer to a bowl, and add the lemon zest. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

snail mail

My mom is the queen of snail mail and writes me nice long letters once a week. It's just like sitting down and having a cup of coffee together. She recently started painting, and sends her own personal stationary. She paints theme cards for holidays, and also personal cards. Here is one I received in the mail yesterday. I love it so much that I just had to share. 

I've included a few of my all-time favorites at the bottom, just because.

Mom's card

Rabiah's photograph

my all-time favorite (so far!)

Valentine's Day

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

This dish is, no question, our favorite side. I made it for the first time a few years ago, when I received Ina's Back to Basics cookbook. We started shortcutting and just doing the olive oil, salt, and pepper, though it really is worth the trouble to add the basil, lemon, and pine nuts. It's divine. Another blogger called it the "best broccoli in the world". I completely agree.

At Kroger, the lazy can purchase bags of precut and prewashed florets, which makes this a super no-fuss recipe. If you do wash your broccoli, be sure it's dry before roasting or it will be soggy and not nearly as yummy. A microplane makes zesting lemons a breeze, and is one of my top 5 favorite kitchen gadgets. Bon Appetit! 

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Barefoot Contessa recipe

*recipe easily doubles

broccoli (2-3 heads)
2 cloves minced garlic
olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp julienned fresh basil leaves (6 leaves)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Cut broccoli into florets, into approx 4 cups broccoli
  3. Spread broccoli on sheet pan, toss with 3 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Combine 1 Tbsp olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan, and basil in a large bowl. Toss roasted broccoli and stir to coat well. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

GaryTalk #3

Live a simple and frugal life; avoid putting on airs
My dad gave a beautiful toast at our reception, and mentioned his top 3 life rules. A bagpiper played the Highland Wedding March as my dad walked me down the aisle, and so many of his pillars come from the Scots and growing up in a family that had just enough.

Our country was founded on principles of independence that have been obscured by the desire to have more and take on debt to do so. I believe the underlying root of this trend is the human desire to impress other people, with our houses, our cars, our vacations, etc. Unfortunately, the banks and government have made it easy to do so, and our country has been left in a state of great debt and little resemblance to what our Founding Fathers envisioned. 

From what I've learned at this point in my life, there is no great fulfillment in trying to impress other people. It's a fallacy that will lead a person to living a life for other people, rather than for himself, which brings no satisfaction or happiness. 

Dad reminded me, at our wedding reception, that there is beauty in living simply and frugally, and in living for yourself and not for other people. Most people crave simplicity, which often begets a sense of order and calm, and highlights relationships with people as opposed to relationships with material things. I would like to thank my dad for these gentle reminders which guide my daily decisions and serve as a foundation for my life. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wedding Salad

Tonight, I made the first meal for Josh as his WIFE! Clearly I had to make salmon, and what would be better than baked salmon and the salad our caterer served at the wedding, which was the hit of the night! I had at least 20 people tell me that night or the next day how much they loved this salad. 
Beatriz Ball salad bowl and tongs

Unfortunately, given the popularity of this salad my caterer keeps the recipe top secret. Thankfully, I remembered every ingredient (broccoli florets, sunflower seeds, craisins) and after spending a little time in the online cooking world, I found a recipe that matched exactly. Though we served the salad without bacon at our reception, the salad usually has bacon bits in addition to the other ingredients. 

I had so much fun tonight playing with my new kitchen-themed wedding gifts. My Wisconsin family surprised me with SIX handmade crafted metal serving pieces made by Beatriz Ball (the salad bowl is pictured above), which are stunning and rustic and totally my style. I also used my new set of hand crafted kitchen knives, made from cocobolo wood and damascus steel blades that sit on a magnetic butcher block. 

My brother and his wife surprised us with a case of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Napa, and I made our salmon rubbed with the blood orange olive oil. These photos are all taken with my new 100mm macro lens. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. The greatest part of our wedding was being surrounded by the people I love the most. My family and friends traveled all the way from Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, California, and Georgia to spend the weekend with us. My cousin and his wife even spent 12 hours in the car with a baby to be at our wedding. 

I realized earlier today how much love I have in my heart to share, and how the feeling of being loved is the best feeling in the entire world. 

Wedding Salad
spinach, broccoli, sunflower seeds, craisins, in creamy dressing
adapted from all recipes

4 cups spinach, rinsed and torn into bite size pieces
1 head broccoli, rinsed and chopped with florets only
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (salted)
1/3 cup finely diced red onion

1/2 cup mayo
2 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/2 tsp of each)

Combine ingredients in large salad bowl. Whisk together dressing, pour over salad, and toss well. 

Mom's Famous Chocolate Chips

My mom, Petra (pronounced pEEtra), is an amazing woman and a fantastic cook. In honor of Mother's Day, I'm posting one of her famous recipes. She stocked my freezer during PA school with my favorite recipes, including black bean soup, chicken walnut lasagna, and Ina Garten's Italian wedding soup. In fact, shortly after Josh and I started dating, I thawed her black bean soup and pretended I made it myself! I fessed up...eventually. I think Josh knew from the first bite that it was too good to be made by me! 

My mom has sent "goodie packages" with these cookies since I can remember. They are loved in many states, including California and Wisconsin. Her copy of the Silver Palate cookbook is tattered and dog-eared, and this recipe came from that book. She has modified it and added a little extra flour, so they are more like cake-cookies. Divine. 

*photo taken with my wedding gift from Josh, a Canon 100mm macro lens!*

Mom's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook

2 sticks unsalted butter,  at room temp 
1 cup of brown sugar
¾ cup of white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ to 2¾ cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 bag of milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper
  2. Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well. 
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. 
  4. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden. Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.