Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

You guys!  You know what this weekend is?  Oh....what's that you say?  The weekend where I finally realize I'm a grown-up and do a nice round of Spring cleaning?  Um, no.  This is the weekend where I will transform myself into a master gardener.  I'm going to spent inordinate amounts of money at the Great Big Greenhouse and I'm going to plant stuff in pretty pots until I just can't plant any more.  And then, most importantly, I'm going to be very mindful that I actually have a garden now, and will water those little buggers every day.  I mean, if I remember, of course.

Just kidding - I'm one of those people, who, once my mind is made up about something, there is really no stopping me.  I can be awfully laid back until I decide I'm going to be into something, and then BAM, I am INTO IT.  Like a bat out of hell.  My theory?  Go big or go home.  Sometimes I will go big for awhile and THEN go home when I get bored with whatever my new obsession is, but that's okay.  Not this time, though.  No sir, I am going to be a gardener for LIFE!  My black thumb will be transformed and I'll probably grow such beautiful herbs and vegetables that I'll be able to start my own Farmer's Market.  We'll sell herbs, veggies, and purses.

I'll be sure to keep you updated on how all of this goes.  Its going to be awesome.

Anyway!  I've been bad about updating the blog lately because I've been traveling so much.  I know that is always my excuse, but its always true.  And it will continue to be so - next week I'm in Nashville and Atlanta, and then Boston after that and Austin after that.  And then Austin again.  And then again a week later.  There is a lot of brisket and guacamole in my future, my friends.

I actually made this cassoulet a couple of weeks ago but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it.  And I'm sorry for that, because it was ridiculously tasty.  And easy!  You can use whatever kind of sausage you want, really....even turkey sausage to make it healthier (but what fun would that be?).  Serve it with a nice Cab, some crusty bread and a salad and you are good to go.  Enjoy!

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet
Source: Sweet Sugar Bean

2 pints of cherry tomatoes
4-6 hot Italian sausages
4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
coarse salt and pepper
few sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary
2 cans white kidney (cannelini) beans
few glugs of white wine

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 *F.

Scatter tomatoes over bottom of dish (reserve about 1/2 cup to add later). Add garlic, onion and sausages over top. Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil. Toss on thyme and rosemary and add salt and pepper to taste.

Bake about 25-30 minutes, until sausages are golden and tomatoes start to burst. Remove from oven and stir in beans and reserved 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes. Add a couple of glugs of white wine.  Return to oven and bake 20 minutes longer or until beans are cooked through. Serve immediately.  Also makes great leftovers!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pork Chops with Red Wine/Garlic Sauce and "Couscous Salad Deluxe"

I can't believe its Spring already!  Its actually felt like Spring for a couple of weeks now...the weather has been amazingly warm and sunny and I just love it so much.  It seems like the trees blossomed overnight and there are flowers everywhere and it just makes me want to dance!  Well, not sure don't want to see me dance, because it ain't pretty.  But you know what I mean.

Now that its Spring, I need to get some new hobbies.  I mean, its not like I don't have Winter hobbies or anything, because I totally do.  Its just that....some people would claim that they are neither productive nor interesting.  In fact, some might claim that they are downright shameful.  I beg to differ, though.  There is NOTHING shameful about having "watching reality television" as a hobby.  What else are you going to do when its cold and dark outside?  Oh, what's that you say?  Skiing?  Reading books?  Making snow angels?  Pssh.  That stuff is for rookies.

Jokes aside, I have decided that its time to do some self-improvement and make something of my free time.  How is that going to happen, you say?  Well, in addition to keeping up with this blog (I'm going strong at 13 months!!), I'm going to become a master gardener and superior...crafty person.  And by crafty person, I mean I am going to make my own photo canvases for the sunroom wall and tile the kitchen backsplash.  I think that's enough to start.  And the gardening part....I've actually tried to do that before and it didn't go well.  I am pretty sure that last Spring, we killed hundreds of dollars worth of plants in a few short weeks.  Who knew you had to water plants so much and that squirrels like basil?  I mean, really!

Anyway, wish me luck on my new endeavors!  I'm sure there will be plenty of time for gardening and crafts between episodes of Teen Mom, anyway.

Now, on to the real point of this blog.  Food.  This pork and couscous was one of the best things I've made in recent memory.  It was amazing....the wine sauce was sweet and savory at the same time, and I swear I could eat that couscous salad every day for the rest of my life.  Oh.  So.  Tasty.  I adapted the recipes based on what I had on hand, but I think it turned out well.  Plus, there was extra wine for me to drink.  Score!


Pork Chops with Red Wine/Garlic Sauce
Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

3 whole boneless Pork Chops
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt And Pepper to taste
6 whole Peeled Garlic Cloves (smashed)
1-2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Beef Broth
1 whole Bay Leaf
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Butter (additional)

Heat oil and butter in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops and sear them on both sides until they're nice and golden, about 3 minutes per side. (Don't worry, they don't need to be completely cooked yet). Remove the chops from the skillet and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium-high, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Stir them around and cook them for several minutes, or until they get nice and golden brown (be sure not to burn the garlic, though!).
Pour in the red wine, then add the bay leaf. Stir and let it reduce, raising the heat if necessary. Cook the sauce for several minutes until it starts to thicken.
Stir in the beef broth (gradually) and add the pork chops back into the pan.  Allow the chops to cook in the liquid for a few minutes, then pour in the balsamic. Stir to combine, and then cook for a few more minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the middle of the chops registers at 145 degrees. 
Remove the chops from the pan once more, then let the sauce reduce a little more.  Add  in 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle in a little salt and pepper.
Arrange pork chops on a platter, then pour the whole skillet of sauce (including garlic) over the top.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dried Cherries and Israeli Couscous, AKA "Couscous Salad Deluxe"
Source: Adapted from Eat Live Run
20-24 Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced
4 slices bacon, preferably black pepper-rubbed
1 cup Israeli couscous (I used tri-color)
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup dried cherries
3 tablespoons French fried onions (like the kind you use for classic green bean casserole!)
handful of pine nuts, toasted
1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt to taste

Prepare couscous according to package instructions, but use chicken stock instead of water (it makes for a much better flavor!).  Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy. Remove bacon and roughly chop. Add thinly sliced Brussels sprouts to the hot bacon grease on the stove and saute for about five minutes, until the sprouts turn bright green.

Add the sprouts, bacon, dried cherries, and pine nuts to the cooked couscous. Top with french fried onions and toss well and season with salt to taste.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hot Reuben Dip

St. Patrick's Day has always been one of my favorite holidays and I celebrate it every year.  I'm not even Irish or anything, nor do I like green beer, cabbage, or Guiness.  I do, however, love leprechauns and parties.

My St. Patty's festivities throughout the years has become increasingly low-key, though, and I'd say my behavior has improved tenfold now that I am old.  My city has a festival downtown every year, where 25,000 people show up to drink beer in the streets and wreak havoc on the town.  I used to love going there and we'd get a whole group of people together to pre-game, hit the festival, and then hit the Irish bar afterwards.  It was the best!  This year, the mere thought of braving the crowds made me cringe.  Its so crowded!  Where do you even park!?!  People are so drunk and obnoxious!  I don't like beer (especially from a truck)!  There was not one good reason to go to that festival, so we did not.  Instead, we sat outside in the sunshine, had some homemade craft beer (Bloody Mary's for me), and cooked out in the gorgeous 80 degree March weather.  Can't beat that.

I made this reuben dip for the festivities because it has corned beef in it, and corned beef is Irish, right?  I think so.  Pretty sure.  Anyway, I've seen this recipe around on a few blogs and on Pinterest, and thought it would be good to share early in the day before the burgers went on the grill.  I was pleased to see it disappear so fast!  People love them some hot reuben dip, it seems!  And it was super easy to throw together....I made it ahead of time and then just threw it in the oven right before I was ready to serve it.  Yes indeed.


Hot Reuben Dip
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

12 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
12 ounces thick sliced deli corned beef, chopped
1 ½ cup Thousand Island dressing
½ cup drained sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Squeeze moisture out of the sauerkraut with a paper towel until it is pretty dry (this will keep the dip from becoming runny).

In a large bowl mix together the cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the Swiss cheese, the dressing and corned beef. Spread in a pie plate or other shallow serving dish. Top with the sauerkraut and the remaining ½ cup of Swiss cheese.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges. Serve hot with cocktail-size rye bread squares (we also used backed tortilla chips for dipping, which was also good).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Short Rib Bolognese

Wow - its been a long week.  I think that I've been on an airplane 5 out of the 6 days since my last blog post.  There actually weren't even very many funny/peculiar/annoying fellow passengers to make my trips more interesting.  The best I've got is that today I shared a flight from Boston to Richmond with a certain Virginia Politico - the House Majority Leader.  I was all excited when I walked up to the gate because there were like 5 Massachusetts State Troopers and several bodyguards surrounding someone, and I was convinced that it was someone famous, like Tom Brady or Madonna.  I was a bit disappointed when I realized that they probably don't fly on tiny US Air planes with no first class section at all.  And, I'm not really sure why Tom Brady or Madonna would want to come to Richmond, VA anyway.  So, while it was sad that it wasn't more exciting, but I guess at least it made the pilot fly the plane more carefully.  Or something.

I've been meaning to post about this short rib bolognese for a long time now.  Beeecaaauuusssee, what is better than short ribs cooked in red wine and served over pasta?  Nothing, I tell ya!  Short ribs are my favorite cut of meat to cook.  Of course.  Kind of like the Four Seasons is my favorite kind of hotel, Prada is my favorite kind of purse, and Joseph Phelps is my favorite kind of Cabernet Sauvignon.  See that?  Yeah.  I bet you can guess how much fun it is to be married to me and share a bank account.  P.S. - I don't have a Prada purse.  But I really want one.  Maybe I could have one if I stopped spending all our money on short ribs.

ANYWAY, I'm always looking for new ways to make short ribs, and this bolognese didn't disappoint.  The meat was so tender and had just the right amount of fat to add flavor to the sauce.  I served it over fettuccine the first night and the leftovers over spinach ravioli.  Yum times dos.


Short Rib Bolognese
Source: Adapted from Chowhound

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces chopped pancetta (about 1/2 cup)
2 1/2 pounds short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes (whole or diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups beef broth
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle
4 to 6 teaspoons shaved bittersweet chocolate
Place the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the pancetta until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, season the short ribs with salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.
Meanwhile, combine the onion, carrot, parsley and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and pulse.

Once the short ribs are browned, carefully add the mixture from the food processor to the pot. Return the pancetta to the pot and stir. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, beef broth, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat and bones from the pot. Discard the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta and 2 to 3 minutes for fresh. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta liquid 1/4 cup at a time, if needed, to moisten the pasta. Transfer to serving bowls, top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of chocolate shavings. Serve immediately.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Oven Fries

I never though I'd be one to say something like this, but how on earth is it Friday already?  When I used to not like my job, the days and weeks would drag by, and I was astounded that time could move so slowly.  Now that I have a job I love, Friday is here before I even realize it.  And before I realize its been several days since I've updated this here blog.

So here we are, Friday night.  I'm wearing my comfy clothes (they are cute, I tell ya.  My husband would concur....if he had a gun to his head), and I have my wine and a pile of blogs to get caught up on.  Its pure bliss.  And also completely wild and crazy, believe that.  When did I get so old?

Anyway - I'm off to Chicago tomorrow to shop and drink work and soak up the culture.  Its one of my favorite cities in the world, and I've missed it dearly.  I'll be back next week, with some tasty recipes like red beans and rice and short rib bolognese.  Count on it.

As for the blue cheese stuffed burgers with oven fries, I'll admit that I did not make them.  They were Lauren's creation for the Friday Night Dinner Crew.  I'm not sure I even made a side or a dessert or anything.  My excuse was that I had just gotten off a plane like 2 hours before dinner started.  Or, something like that.  I did supply the wine, though.

Its impossible to go wrong when you stuff meat with cheese, so I won't go on and on about how good these were.  Because, really?  How could they not be?  Enjoy!

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Oven Fries
Source: Lauren, inspired by Cooks Illustrated

For the Burgers
2 lbs Ground Beef (80/20 is best, but use whatever you're comfortable with)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

1 tbsp of Lea & Perrins
2 eggs
4-6 oz blue cheese (use the kind in a block, as nice as you can afford, and crumble it yourself)

6-7 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
2 avocados, sliced
ketchup, mustard, and mayo (if you please)

Heat outdoor grill to medium high.

Add the ground beef, garlic powder, onion powder, Lea & Perrins, eggs and salt and pepper, to taste, to a large mixing bowl and mix well with your hands.  Divide the ground beef mixture into 10 equal-sized balls and flatten them into patties. Put 1-2 oz of blue cheese in the middle of 5 of the patties and cover each with another patty. Pinch the edges to seal the patties closed, so the cheese will not melt out.

Grill on medium-high until up to temperature.  For medium, its about 3-5 minutes each side.

serve on toasted buns with the bacon, avocado, and condiments of your choosing.  Enjoy!

For the Oven Fries:
4 russet potatoes, cut into thin strips
tbsp vegetable/canola oil
salt, pepper
paprika (If you have Emerils Essence this is actually preferable)

Cut the potatoes into thin strips and place in a large bowl.  Add oil and toss well.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and heat in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.  This is a way to parboil the potatoes before putting them in the oven.  This will help them get a nice crispy texture without being burned on the outside.  Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet sprinkle with salt and pepper then finish the potatoes off under a high boiler.  This should take about 12 - 15 minutes depending on your desired crispiness. As soon as you take them out of the oven, sprinkle them again with salt pepper and paprika (or Emeril's essence)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Arugula Pesto Stuffed Shells, Caprese Salad, and Chocolate Cake in a Mug

That title was a bit of a mouthful, eh?  I can tend to be long winded...I have to be really careful with my emails at work so I don't paragraph-whip people to death.  I just have a lot to say!  I keep thinking of more things that I should add to ensure that everyone sees things my way.  I think I should have been a lawyer so I could argue all day long.  But instead of arguing in court, I would sit in my office with a glass of wine Pellegrino, and write long-winded emails to people about why I am right in a variety of situations.  And I would give them 10 paragraphs of reasons why everyone should agree with my logic and just do what I want.  Its honestly just easier that way.

Anyway, I have a lot to say about these stuffed shells because they were delish!  I mean, I know that its kind of hard to go wrong with stuffed shells, because they are, after all, delicious pasta boats filled with cheese.  What could be better?  Oh, what's that you say?  A Prada purse filled with money?  Yeah, I guess that would be better. 

These aren't the lowest-calorie creation I've ever made, so I'd recommend not eating the whole pan, or if you do, find a way to cram in a triathlon before indulging.  But it sure was tasty, and the leftovers heat up nicely.  Serve them with caprese salad and chocolate cake in a mug, and you might want to step up to an Iron Man triathlon instead of just a regular one.  Enjoy!

Lemon and Arugula Pesto
Source: Adapted from Aggie's Kitchen 

2 cups arugula
1 lemon, juiced
zest from 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/3-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
big pinch salt and fresh black pepper
1/3 -1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add arugula, lemon juice and zest, garlic, Parmesan, walnuts, salt and pepper to your food processor or blender. Pulse several times.  Continue to process ingredients while drizzling in olive oil until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. 

Lemon Arugula Pesto Stuffed Shells with Champagne Cream Sauce
Source: Adapted from Simply Scratch

1 box Jumbo Shells (you won't use them all)
1-1/2 cups Ricotta (I used part skim)
3/4 cup arugula pesto (recipe above)

8 oz. turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled (let cool)
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated

3 tablespoons of Butter
3 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 clove of Garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup Champagne
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

 Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Butter a large baking dish and bring a large pot of water to boil and season generously with kosher salt. Cook the jumbo shell pasta two to three minutes shy of al dente (shy of the box directions).

Meanwhile, season the ricotta with salt and black pepper. Mix in the arugula pesto, sausage and half of the grated pecorino and set aside.

Once the pasta is partially cooked, drain well and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet.  With a spoon stuff enough shells until the ricotta mixture is gone and place the stuffed shells into the prepared dishes. 

In a small sauce pan melt three tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add in the minced garlic. Cook until fragrant and soft, but not browned. Whisk in the three tablespoons of flour and cook for a couple of minutes, making a roux. Pour in champagne and whisk while you pour in the heavy cream. Let bubble (still whisking) until it thickens. Add some fresh ground black pepper and ground nutmeg, then remove and pour evenly over the stuffed shells.  Top with the rest of the pecorino.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.

5 Minute Chocolate Fudge S’mores Mug Cake
makes 1 serving, can easily be doubled

2-3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs (you can totally buy these in the baking section at the grocery!)
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used regular all purpose flour)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 ounces milk chocolate (chips are fine)
marshmallow fluff

Combine 3 tablespoons butter and 1 ounce of chocolate in a small bowl, then melt in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Set aside. In another bowl, combine remaining melted butter with 2-3 tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs and stir until moistened. Press graham crumbs into the bottom of your mug.

In a bowl, whisk egg, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa, stir until a thick batter forms. Pour in melted butter and chocolate, mixing to combine. Then fold in a few more chocolate chips. Add half of the mixture on top of the graham crust, then throw on a scoop of marshmallow fluff. Add remaining batter on top, then microwave for a minute to a minute and a half. Remove and top with additional marshmallow fluff if desired. (uh, why would you not?). Place mug directly under the broiler for about 10 seconds to toast the marshmallow.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Citrus Marinated Pork Roast and Quinoa Cakes with Lemon Aioli

Sorry for my absence - I was in Boston for work and just returned today.  Its awfully cold there, and the snow comes down sideways.  It was charming.

I'm excited that these quinoa cakse came out as good as they did, because....well.....I think quinoa is kind of creepy.  I know its healthier than couscous, which is probably why I think couscous is tastier.  BUT!  These cakes with the aioli were awesome...crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I highly recommend eating your quinoa in this manner at least 50% of the time.  They went perfectly with the pork marinated in herbs and citrus and then grilled.  I cannot WAIT for it to officially be grilling weather.  Only a couple more months!


Quinoa Cakes with Lemon Aioli
Source: Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

2 cups cooked quinoa
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 eggs, lightly beaten

handful fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 white onion, diced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

salt to taste

½ cup light mayonnaise
1/2 head of garlic, roasted
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

For the cakes: Place all ingredients (except for the oil) into a large bowl and stir together until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Form ¼ cup patties with the quinoa mixture and place in the heated saute pan.  Saute quinoa cakes for 4-5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining patties until all of the cakes have been cooked.

Serve with aioli.

For the aioli: Place all ingredients into a food processor, season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Pour into a small bowl and serve alongside the warm quinoa cakes.

Citrus Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Source: Adapted from Food Network, Sara's Secrets

1 pork tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
zest of 1 orange
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Trim the tenderloin of most fat and all silverskin. Place in a shallow baking dish.
Combine the soy sauce, sherry, honey, vinegar, oil, and orange juice in a medium bowl, whisking until well blended. Stir in the rosemary, shallots, orange zest, garlic, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the tenderloins. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan.

Remove the pork from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Place the tenderloin on the grill and cook, turning frequently, for about 16 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145 degrees F. Transfer to a platter and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Slice the pork into 1/4 inch-thick slices, spoon the hot marinade over the pork.