Classic Potato Gratin

CLASSIC POTATO GRATIN

Cream, cheese, potatoes, thyme – repeat. That’s how this Classic Potato Gratin rendition from Bon Appetit was made (well, kinda). While this particular dish was made for a Thanksgiving feast, I’m quite surprised that I’ve not incorporated more of these types of dishes throughout the year. Ignoring the caloric value, this particular dish is just absolutely delicious, feeds EVERYONE and is a great for a ‘make ahead’ option.

Here are a few tips if ever making a Potato Gratin recipe:

  1. Use a Mandolin: If you don’t already own one, I’d highly recommend purchasing a Mandolin. They are so incredibly convenient and made the entire arduous potato process just that make quicker.
  2. Always add more Garlic and Herbs: I added copious amounts of garlic and thyme to this recipe. The result? A kitchen that was not short in flavor.
  3. Be Meticulous with the Potatoes: Arrange the potato slices carefully in the dish. Large gaps can absorb the cream mixture and just create a soup-y mess.

Cheers!

CLASSIC POTATO GRATIN

Farfelle With Sausage, Peas, Tomatoes and Cream


As a child, I grew up spending my Saturdays and Sundays playing soccer. And, believe me, after spending so many years becoming acquainted with mud, dirt, sweat and camaraderie, I have really come to enjoy and love the sport.

Euro 2012 started this past weekend and, as a result, I found a perfect opportunity to watch a few games. Although soccer is popular in the States, it is much more popular in Europe. It is nice to see a change of pace and see how utterly ecstatic and passionate the European fans are and how much they truly love their teams. At the weekend’s end, I am lucky to say that I had watched two games, Germany vs. Portugal and Spain vs. Italy, both of which were great games!

However, after watching Italy play, I became quite hungry and thought of Italian food (naturally). Plus, I had just purchased a basil plant so I wanted to welcome the first opportunity to use some fresh basil in an Italian dish. So, after a little bout of searching, I found a perfect recipe: Farfelle With Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream.

Step 1: Chop Onion and Garlic;
Saute Italian Sausage;
Add Onions and Garlic 

Step 2: Add Pureed Tomatoes
and Touch of Cream; Add Peas 

Step 3: Boil Pasta, Drain; Add Sauce
to Pasta; Toss Extra Basil on Top; Eat! 

After a jam-packed weekend, I was not too utterly inspired to make something uber complex or intricate. As a result, I was very pleased with this recipe because it was simple, yet flavorful and did not feel “heavy” despite the use of a little cream. Plus, the addition of some peas (to add some color and sneak a vegetable serving in) and a sprinkle of Parmesan made this into a delicious meal!

Cheers!

Homemade Oreos


I officially have a new obsession – Pinterest. As a result of my recent “pinning” excursions, I have found many different intriguing and recipes that look absolutely delicious. One particular recipe that caught my eye was Homemade Oreos via the blog Sugar Cooking. Oreos have always been a childhood favorite of mine as well as a guilty pleasure. The thought of making these had never previously popped into my mind; however, after seeing that picture, it was all I could think about. After all, sometimes, homemade re-creations just seem better and it’s something I’m always more proud of (as long as it turns out well, of course!).

Step 1: Mix Sugars, Chocolate, Butter
and Egg Together to Form Dough 




Step 2: Form Dough Into Balls, Flatten and Bake


Step 3: Cream Powdered Sugar With
Vanilla Extract and Butter for Frosting 



Step 4: Spread Frosting Between Two
Cookies and Enjoy With Milk 

It is so hard to only eat just one Oreo. In this case, my individual gigantic Oreos resulted in the size of at least three Oreos. So, I guess that means I only get to eat one? Maybe?

Because of their size, these Oreos resemble more of a whoopie pie than the classic Oreo (note: make the dough balls extremely small – even smaller than you consider to be “small”). Nonetheless, they definitely tasted like them. With a  simple bake time of nine minutes and a requirement of normal household ingredients, these are a must-try!

Cheers!

Salt & Straw

I’m such a sugar fiend. I know I have a problem when ice cream seems like it could take the place of a meal such as breakfast, lunch or dinner. But, on top of craving bouts of sugar all of the time, I also crave variety. And, by “variety”, I mean that I like to try things that might be considered simply atypical. For example, some of my friends might “mix it up” by ordering pumpkin pie ice cream instead of a standard vanilla or cookies ‘n cream flavor. For me, I need something a little bit zanier, something that just peaks my curiosity just a little bit more…

I first read about Salt & Straw through an article in Portland Monthly Magazine. All it took was just one glance at the menu on their website and I knew I would be instantly hooked. How did I know so quickly? I saw the words pear and blue cheese combined into an ice cream flavor. Now, although that might not have been my flavor of choice, I knew that ice cream similar to that flavor realm would be completely right up my alley.

So, this past weekend, my boyfriend and I ventured to Salt & Straw. Not only did I try delicious and unusual flavors of ice cream, but the people that worked at Salt & Straw were absolutely delightful, incredibly helpful and even let me try multiple samples. After sampling a few different flavors that included the likes of Honey Balsamic Strawberry With Cracked Black Pepper, Brown Bread Stuffing With Apricot and an ESB flavored ice cream, I finally settled upon Banana With Spicy Caramel and Walnuts while my boyfriend ordered a flavor that tasted exactly like blueberry pancakes with maple syrup (alas, I cannot remember the name!). Besides the most important fact that the ice cream encompasses a unique batch of flavor-intense ingredients, Salt & Straw is a farm-to-cone ice cream shop that uses local, sustainable and organic ingredients. As a result, this just makes me appreciate their establishment even more and elated for the chance to go back.

All in all, let’s just say, delicious ice cream + friendly service + a sunny afternoon= one happy camper.

Cheers!

Strawberry-Almond-Cream-Tart

So, continuing with this past weekend’s trend of using almonds, I found a recipe for a Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart during a recent shopping excursion at the local grocery store. After looking through recipe after recipe in the grocery store magazine aisle, I finally settled upon this one. But, I’m not going to lie, at first glance, I solely wanted to try this recipe because it looked “pretty” and it contained almonds. It wasn’t until after my impulse buy and I was in the car already on the way home that I realized that this would be a perfect dessert for a dinner party: light, summery, and the strawberries I had chosen were actually ripe!

Step 1: Crush Graham Crackers (You
Can Use a Food Processor — I Just Chose
to Smash Them in Bags!)


Step 2: Combine Crushed Graham Cracker
Crumbs With Butter and Sugar 


Step 3: Spray Pan With Cooking Spray;
Press Graham Cracker Crumbs Into Pan 


Step 4: Mix Cream Cheese With Almond
and Vanilla Extracts Plus Sugar 


Step 5: Cut Fresh Strawberries


Step 6: Add Strawberries and
Almonds to Top; Bake and Enjoy! 


Although I altered a few things from the original recipe, I’m happy with how it turned out. I really liked implementing nuts into this dessert because I often don’t ever think to add them to desserts. The key for the best flavor is to toast the almonds and the key to the best construction of this dessert is to use enough cooking spray (I didn’t and had some architectural failure when taking it out of the spring form pan). Anyway, all in all, this is a flavorful dessert that is light and doesn’t leave you feeling too full which is just perfect for summertime!

Cheers!

Weekend in Seattle

The Space Needle, Pike’s Place Market, the birthplace of “Grunge”, and the destination for corporate giants such as Microsoft, Starbucks, and Nordstrom are a few characteristics that describe the city of Seattle. In addition, Seattle is home to many different culinary tastes ranging with everything from classic American food to Seafood to the authentic flavors of the International District. Since I’m a natural “foodie” at heart, I couldn’t help but document a few culinary adventures I had while visiting Seattle this past weekend.

GaudiLately, I’ve been trending towards eating smaller and lighter meals (essentially tapas, as mentioned in a prior post here). We choose to go to Gaudi which is a Spanish inspired restaurant in the Roosevelt neighborhood. We enjoyed a bevy of items from the menu including Papas Bravas (potatoes with spicy sauce), Bavas (Spanish meatballs), Jitanitos (dates wrapped in bacon), Mojama (fresh cured tuna), and a few other items. But, our favorite part about Gaudi was the dessert we shared: a sponge cake filled with apricots and cream and topped with a raspberry glaze. Besides the fact that it just LOOKED pretty, it also tasted wonderful too.

Apricot and Cream Filled Sponge Cake
With Raspberry Glaze


Homegrown
Sandwich shops have a hard task to accomplish: to develop sandwiches that are fresh, flavorful, and cannot be easily replicated by any random Joe. To be perfectly honest, what differentiates the turkey sandwich made at an independent sandwich shop from the sandwich made at home or from a nationally recognized sandwich franchise? The key differentiator resides in ingenuity of ingredients. That being said, after glancing at the menu of Homegrown, I noticed a multitude of unusual and unique components within the sandwiches. After much contemplation, I settled upon the Roast Pork sandwich (Stumptown Coffee and cayenne rubbed pork loin, pickled red onion, apple butter, mixed greens, and sage aioli served over whole grain bread). After first bite, savory (pork and sage aioli), sweet (apple butter) and tangy (pickled red onions) flavors simultaneously combined to create a medley of enticing flavors. So, unlike the standard and ordinary sandwich shop, Homegrown mastered the art of combining diverse ingredients and creativity to make delicious sandwiches.

Roasted Pork Sandwich and Lentil Soup

High 5 Pie — I absolutely love and adore pies. Not only do I love combining fruit into desserts, but I enjoy making non-traditional fruit desserts or putting a different spin on a classic pie. That being said, High 5 Pie in Capitol Hill in Seattle serves pies that definitely match this description. The selection at High 5 Pie consists of “Pie Jar” (pies in a jar), Flipside (hand-held pie turnovers), Cutie Pie (mini pies), 7″ Deep Dish (classic pie), and Pie Pop (literally, a mini pie on a stick). Flaky crusts, pie fillings bursting with flavor, and a hip venue unite to make this a pleasant stop for a weekend afternoon. Plus, where else can you purchase pie on a stick?

Classic Caramel Pecan Pie


Pie Pop — Cherry Almond
& Cutie Pie — Berry

Good times and good eats this past weekend in Seattle. All in all, I definitely enjoyed these places and hope to visit again sometime soon!

Cheers!

5 Things Thanksgiving Style

Within the past few months, I have truly learned to appreciate the small things in life and to be thankful for normal, everyday things most people take for granted. That being said, I am thankful (again) for Thanksgiving because it serves as a perfect reminder to remember what you are thankful for and count your blessings!

Don’t forget to tell your family and friends this Thanksgiving season that you are thankful for them — just a few words can make such a significant difference!

All right, it is time to move onto other Thanksgiving festivities a.k.a FOOD. It is definitely a good thing that Thanksgiving comes only once a year for according to the NYDailyNews.com, the average Thanksgiving meal rakes in a whopping 3,500 calories! Despite learning that terrifying fact, I still wanted to cook the usual Thanksgiving foods; however, I tried to make some of these foods a tad bit healthier (key words being “tried” and “some”)!

Now, it’s no myth that the reason why Thanksgiving foods are so unhealthy lies in the ingredients with butter, cream, sugar, and nuts as the prime culprits. And, vegetables dishes are usually sparse at Thanksgiving, but even when they are present, they are often laden with plenty of cream, cheese, and fried goodness. Nevertheless, the following pictures highlight a few of the side dishes I made for Thanksgiving as well as my Mom’s Turkey (side dish recipes taken from Epicurious.com and all contain a link to the original recipe):

1. Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese

2. Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing

I forgot to take a picture of the finished product… oops!

3. Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds with Garlic Oil and Fried Sage

4. Turkey

5. Lemon Pear Croustade

All of these side dishes actually turned out pretty well considering these were first-time recipes! Although only one of these recipes is a little bit healthier (Roasted Sweet Potatoes), I would totally recommend to make any of these dishes again. The Pear Croustade was a bit hit with the family and I will continue to use its pasty recipe for other future baked goods!

Cheers!