Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rosemary Parmesan Crackers

So when I get left home alone on the weekend, I often feel useless and start diving into one of our many cookbooks to fine new things to make and test out. This weekend, mom and El went to the vineyards leaving me the whole day to test out just about any recipes I wanted. I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade crackers and ran right to the kitchen. I've attempted making them before but with whole wheat flour. Ok, do NOT do this! It is absolutely DISGUSTING!!! Just use regular unbleached flour. You can switch up the herbs if you'd like, but to me rosemary is so comforting and simple and it compliments the parmesan perfectly. They're great to eat by themselves or if you're feeling naughty with some brie or english cheddar cheese. Kids will love them (you can even sub some cheddar cheese for parm if they're super picky) and they'll have fun making their own snacks. They really are simple and will be sure to impress your guests (or anyone who thinks they're a better cook than you are) and will make them jealous because you won't share; they're just too good!!! Ok, ok, go ahead and share. But you won't want to :) I also thought it would be really cute to store the crackers in mason jars. They are a bit delicate so when you put them in a plastic baggie they tend to break. OH! and this recipe will make about 50 crackers if you cut them 1/4 inch thick (any thinner and they'll burn and any thicker and they're just too darn big).

What you'll need:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs. minced rosemary
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter for about 1 minute, until it's really soft. 
2. With the mixer on SLOW, add the parmesan, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
3. Slowly add the flour. If the mix is dry, add 1 tbs. water.
4. On a flowered surface, roll out the dough to a 9 inch log (this will make the crackers the perfect diameter). Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for AT LEAST 1 hour (I let it sit overnight... that's partially because I forgot about it) so the butter hardens. 
5. When ready, preheat the oven to 350*. Slice into 1/4 inch slices (NO thicker), and bake for about 23-25 minutes (just watch so they don't burn).
6. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving or storing (the heat of the container will make them get soggy, yuck!!!).

enjoy :)
isn't this a cute idea?!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ciabatta Tomato Soup

I absolutely LOVE grilled cheese and tomato soup. We had it for lunch every friday when I lived in my sorority house in college. It's so comforting and will make any stomach ache or headache go away (if you get what I mean...). I was going to make tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner the other night but I just wasn't in the mood for so much cheese and I really wanted to try something new. I got the inspiration for this meal from Barefoot Contessa's Pappa Al Pomodoro. It's essentially a baked tomato soup with ciabatta bread cooked in the soup. It's PHENOMENAL! I had to add some of my own twists to it like pancetta and garlic croutons on top. Because it is going to cook for such a long time, you really should use a dutch oven (my mom just bought me the most adorable Martha Stewart dutch oven and I was just too excited to use it!). If you don't have one, use the biggest pot you have. Top with some parmesan cheese and chopped basil and you have a fabulous weeknight meal. 

What you'll need:
1 loaf ciabatta bread (cut into cubes, minus 3 slices reserved for topping)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onions, chopped finely
3 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped (tops trimmed off)
6 cloves garlic, 5 minced one left whole
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 28 oz. cans plum tomatoes (no salt added)
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 package chopped pancetta
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1. Cut the vegetables and ciabatta. 
2. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Sauté the onions, carrots, minced garlic, and fennel on low heat for about 10 minutes. Once the onions are translucent and soft, add the bread cubes and cook for another few minutes. 
3. Add the canned tomatoes, wine, and chicken stock to the pot and use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and the chopped basil.
4. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered for 45-50 minutes.
5. While the soup is cooking, toast the slices of the bread in the oven. When the bread is still hot, rub with the fresh garlic clove. Cut into cubes and set aside. 
6. Sauté the pancetta over medium heat, until crispy. Drain on a paper towel.
7. After the soup is finished, use an immersion blender for just a minute, until the soup is medium chunky-smooth. 
8. Top with the pancetta, parmesan cheese, and garlic croutons. 

enjoy :)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homemade Lemonade

I don't know much about gardening but what I do know is that our lemon tree is in full bloom and taking over. The weather has been so warm here in LA that I wanted something a little more refreshing than water so I thought LEMONADE! My brother and boyfriend made fun of me for making lemonade saying that it's no difficult task so you know what? They don't get any!!! (Jane, my lovely step mom, was the only supportive one so she may have some) And if I do say so myself, this was 100 times better than any frozen store-bought lemonade. I also don't like super sweet lemonade so I used a larger lemon to water ratio than other lemonades, especially the frozen kind. I usually put about 3 whole lemons in my water so it's really not a problem for me. But to make it special (and healthier) I used organic blue agave nectar (almost any market will have this now, I know Trader Joe's definitely does) instead of all of the sugar. WOW. I don't want to ruin it for you, so please, go make it now! If you need lemons, come take some from us. Please do NOT break my heart and use bottled lemon juice; it's just NOT the same!!!!! I also thought it was cute to store it in a large mason jar because it keeps it rustic yet chic (look at me getting all fancy!).

What you'll need:
1 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (juice of about 8 lemons)
5 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbs. agave nectar 

1. Cut your lemons in half and juice them using an electric juicer (if you don't have you, you can do it by hand. Just make sure to watch for runaway seeds!) Next, pour the lemon juice into a large container with the water and give it a good stir.
2. Add the sugar and agave nectar and combine thoroughly. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Affogato with Chocolate Sauce

A few nights ago Daniel was hungry for dessert. Unfortunately, we didn't have much that he would like because we pretty much only have non-dairy desserts here (remember, vegan mom and lactose step-dad). There was NO way he was going to eat anything like that. But I remembered we had some good vanilla ice cream in the freezer and my grandmother made some of her famous chocolate sauce (it's to DIE for!!!) and I figured I'd make him a sundae. But I wanted to jazz it up a bit so I poured some hot coffee over it. This is called affogato. It's an Italian dessert which literally means drowned (you're essentially drowning the ice cream in the coffee). It's amazing how well the flavors of the chocolate and freshly brewed coffee come together. The coffee slowly melts the chocolate and brings out the natural vanilla bean flavor. Now that I think about it, however, this probably wasn't the best thing to make at 11 at night; a certain someone had a hard time falling asleep. So make this shortly after dinner if you're going to have for dessert. This is an elegant and simple dessert that would also be a great idea to serve at a dinner party. But it has coffee in it so you can have it for breakfast, too, right?! RIGHT?!

What you'll need (this will make 1 serving):
2 scoops GOOD quality vanilla bean ice cream
1 tbs. chocolate sauce (warmed up)
1 tbs. HOT coffee (fresh, please!)

1. If you have a coffee grinder, grind your coffee beans and brew your coffee.
2. Scoop the ice cream in a small bowl and drizzle the hot chocolate sauce over the top. After the coffee is brewed, pour 1 tsp.

Parmesan Crisps

I've shared with you my recipe for the most incredible Caesar Dressing in the whole wide world. Well, along with that salad I made croutons which are always a classic choice. But sometimes I just don't want the carbs and the task of making them (believe me, after making your own croutons the store bought kind just aren't the same). These parmesan crisps are super easy and really, really tasty. I've served them along with pasta, or broken up in a salad, or just as a quick snack when I need a jolt of salt before I pass out or devour a bag of chips or jar of peanut butter. If you're ambitious enough to shred your own parmesan cheese (the wedges are pretty pricy if you buy a good quality so that's why I stay away from this unless it's a super, special occasion) with a box grater or a food processor then knock yourself out. OR, you can be lazy and happy and buy from the market. If you're going to go that route, make sure you buy a good quality kind. Either way, this is a great, healthier alternative to croutons and steps up any pasta dish from a yummy to a WOW BUDDY! Your cheese lovers with certainly enjoy this (*coughDanielcough*) and they can be store in the fridge for a few days for sporadic use.

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Parchment paper (or cooking spray)

1. Preheat your oven to 400*. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (or line it with parchment paper if you have) and make 2 tbs. mounds scattered all over the baking sheet. Pat them down and spread just a LITTLE bit because they'll spread on their own.
2. Bake for 6-7 minutes (WATCH THEM SO THEY DON'T BURN!!!) and let cool before removing. Use a metal spatula and serve!

enjoy :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Brown Sugar Brussel Sprouts

I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't always been the best vegetable eater. Back in the day, I absolutely HATED broccoli, despised tomatoes, and thought brussel sprouts were the devil. I thought they smelled like BO and were just disgusting. But now, years later, I've tried them and learned to like them. Well, after having them at this fabulous restaurant a few weeks ago I fell in LOVE with them! I tried to recreate them and I have to be honest, I was furious that I had to share the leftovers with my mom for lunch the next day. They're sweet, crunchy, and have whole cloves of garlic. Really, I didn't want to stop eating them, so much that I forgot to take a picture of them and realized I needed to only with a few left (sorry!!!). I used apple cider vinegar and the tiniest bit of brown sugar and they are HEAVEN!!!!! I wanted to make them again the next night but I was vetoed. Try them and I promise you'll LOVE LOVE LOVE them!!!!! Also, you may omit the garlic if you don't want to have stinky breath (clearly I don't care).

What you'll need:
1 lb brussel sprouts (cut in half)
15-20 whole garlic cloves (optional)
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375*. Cut the brussel sprouts in half and toss them in a large bowl with the garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Toss again with the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Lay on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes (they'll look done at about 20 minutes but because of the brown sugar, they'll begin to caramelize if you leave them in a little bit longer).
3. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes and chicken and chow down!

enjoy :)