Monday, November 29, 2010

Guest Blogger - Mushroom Stuffed Pheasant

i am excited to introduce my favorite guest blogger - W. i may be a bit biased seeing as he is my big brother but he is also great in the kitchen. he seems to be becoming more and more experimental too as evidenced in his thanksgiving creation - mushroom stuffed pheasant breast. 

before i turn over the keyboard to W, let me tell you a bit about pheasant. pheasants are lean game birds that taste similar to dark meat. because they are so lean, pheasant can easily become dry and tough if not cooked with care. you will see W wrapped his in bacon to add some fat to it while cooking and simply removed the bacon before serving. 

pheasant may be a bit hard to find in the stores but if you happen to come across it in a specialty grocer or know a successful hunter, i encourage you to give this recipe a try. however, if you cannot find pheasant this season, try this recipe with chicken breasts or turkey breasts.

now to you, W.

I have the great pleasure of being Page's brother and the recipient of many a wonderful cooked meal thanks to her creative cooking prowess.  Both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner are big events in our family.  Formal, lots of family and waaay to much food!  But they are traditions that have left wonderful lasting memories, traditions I look forward to passing on to my two young daughters.
 However, as important as family and traditions are, my wife and I decided to stay home in New Mexico in our new house, cook dinner together and enjoy a "quiet" holiday just us and the girls.  What to have?  While you may think that is an easy question to answer (reference above statement about holiday traditions), we had become bored with the turkey, taters, stuffing, cranberry, pumpkin pie, long nap routine and decided to do something different.
Start with wild pheasant harvested during the 50th Annual One Box Pheasant hunt in friendly Broken Bow, Nebraska, add in creative ideas (thanks to a certain guest bloggers little sister), sprinkle in green bean casserole and add a garnish of Caramel Pecan Pie and you have seriously delicious Thanksgiving feast!
I began this feast by breasting out the pheasant and thoroughly cleaning each breast (I used 3 pheasants which equaled 6 breasts total).  Place the breasts in 2 cups of white wine and set aside to marinate while you make the stuffing mixture.
Dice a portabela mushroom and saute in a pan with a tablespoon of butter.
In a separate bowl combine the spices:
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
Pinch (literally) of Rosemary...crush in your palm before placing in the bowl
4 ozs. Feta Cheese
Mix together thoroughly.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove your pheasant breasts from the marinade and with a fillet knife cut a pocket into each breast.  Insert a spoonful of portabela mushroom and feta cheese/herb mix, 
then wrap each breast with two slice of thick cut hickory smoked bacon using a toothpick to hold your creation together.  
Repeat for each breast.
Place your pheasant breasts on a roasting tray with water and salt in the bottom.  Roast in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes...depending on your altitude you may need to cook less.  I am at 6,600 ft. and 20 minutes was all it took.
Remove the bacon from each breast, plate and enjoy!!
Goes great with a nice glass of your favorite Merlot!
So there you have it, if you have never had pheasant I encourage you try it.  It's not gamey, rather it is much like a colorful chicken with great flavor.  Thanks Page for the opportunity to guest blog, I've enjoyed it but I must admit this whole blogging thing is more time consuming that I thought.  Kudos for the job you do and keep up the good work!  I love seeing what's new from your kitchen every time I open my email.
Happy Cooking,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

i have so much to be thankful for and am blessed in so many ways. thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog. thanks to you, my viewership has tripled from this time last year!

thank you! thank you! thank you!

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. 
It turns what we have into enough. 
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… 
It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, 
and mistakes into important events. 
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today 
and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

may you and your family have a wonderful thanksgiving and pause to remember all you are grateful for!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Inspiration - Mrs. Dec's Apple Pie

being a personal chef brings up a lot of questions.

what exactly is a personal chef? it's me, cooking specifically for you and your tastes. you approve the menu i plan based on your likes, dislikes, health concerns, and eating goals. i buy the groceries the day of, bring them (and everything else i need) to your house. i cook your meals and leave your fridge stocked, your kitchen clean, and your house smelling heavenly! 

what's your favorite thing to cook? (impossible to answer. it's like asking, what's your favorite thing to eat? um, everything? yes please!)

what culinary school did you go to? (i'm self taught, or rather family taught)

do you ever get tired of cooking? (of course! don't you get tired of your job every now and again? but after a day or two "off", i am always ready to get back in the kitchen!)

is there anything you don't like? (beets, olives, overcooked veggies, and idiots.)

what are you making for thanksgiving/christmas/new years/easter?

this thanksgiving, i am blessed with the "day off" so to speak. perhaps the best gift you can give me is a dinner out, but almost as close is a homemade dinner that i didn't make. don't get me wrong, i LOVE to cook but just like any other job, i need a break every now and again.

my aunt B will be cooking the thanksgiving meal this year (like most every year). she does a smoked turkey that is excellent and my personal favorite, oyster stuffing. i'm from maryland, so i like seafood in anything and everything! to me, thanksgiving isn't complete without sauerkraut too. is that weird? i grew up with sauerkraut at every thanksgiving. i didn't know the rest of the country didn't eat it with their meal until i went to college. maybe it's another maryland thing but i love it with the turkey and gravy. my mom is making garlic roasted green beans with caramelized shallots and we will also have sweet potatoes and of course, cranberry sauce.

the only think i have to bring to dinner is apple pie and an appetite. my apple pie of choice has been one of my favorite desserts since i first tasted one my freshman year of college (i won't tell you how many years ago that was - yikes!) my college roommate, L's mom made this pie every year and L made one for us at JMU. one bite and i was hooked. i used to request this for my birthday from L too (along with tequila - another story for another day). i have been making this myself since i graduated and it is always a big hit with anyone who is lucky enough to eat it.

truth be told, this is not your traditional apple pie. it has a bottom pie crust but on top is the most wonderful combination of butter, sugar, and cinnamon. it's like apple pie and apple crisp got together and had a delicious baby. ok, that was a weird sentence, but it's really the best of both pie and crisp worlds.

aside from peeling and slicing the apples, the recipe is pretty easy. i used a mixture of macintosh, granny smith, and winesap apples for a sweet and tart pie. it's wonderful all fall long and even better right out of the oven with vanilla ice cream. plus, it doubles as breakfast too. wham, bam, thank you ma'am!

Mrs. Dec's Apple Pie 

pie crust (i use my own recipe - you can find it here)
4 medium apples, peeled, thinly sliced and chopped
4 tbs flour
1/4 c brown sugar
1 tbs cinnamon
zest from 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp cinnamon

preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

toss cut apples with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and zest. pour into pie crust.

combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon in bowl. add softened butter and use fingers to mix until crumbly. spread crumble mixture over apples and bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 400. reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 45 minutes. remove when topping is browned and pie is starting to show bubbly juices. cool before slicing.

i also wanted to note while i am baking 2 of mrs. dec's apple pies, i am also bringing how sweet's bourbon pecan pie brownies. not your traditional thanksgiving dessert, but one look at this picture and i had to try them. AB asked me to bring apple pies but i am bringing this too. lord help my belly!

thanks for the recipe mrs. how sweet:)

Thanksgiving Inspiration - Bourbon Pecan Squares with Bourbon Maple Cream Sauce

i made a bourbon pecan pie a while back for an anniversary dinner party. it was such a big hit, i decided to try making bourbon pecan squares it as part of my thanksgiving inspiration series. since pumpkin pie isn't my favorite, i think pecan pie is a good substitute and these pecan squares may even be a bit better. these squares are chewier and more toffee-like than it's pie cousin. it's best just to pick it up and bite into it rather than try to eat it with a fork. go ahead, use your hands:)

after watching the pioneer woman throw down with bobby flay i had inspiration to make a cream sauce to drizzle over the squares. i followed her recipe on the food network site here but didn't have corn syrup (and don't like to use it anyway) so i used brown rice syrup. i also used bourbon instead of whiskey.

this recipe will not disappoint and it may just add one more this to your "thankful for" list.

Bourbon Pecan Squares
adapted from epicurious
makes 9 large, 14 medium, or 16 small squares

3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 small egg, lightly beaten

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

combine butter, sugar, and salt in food processor. pulse until moist clumps begin to form. add flour and egg and pulse until dough forms. press dough into bottom of 8x8-inch baking pan. bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown. remove from oven.

5 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp bourbon
1 tbs cream
2 cups chopped pecans

melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. add sugar, syrup, vanilla, bourbon, and cream and stir until sugar has dissolved. remove from heat and stir in pecans. pour over baked crust and bake for 20-25 minutes. mixture will be bubbly all over. remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into squares.

drizzle with bourbon maple cream sauce before serving.

Bourbon Maple Cream Sauce
adapted from the pioneer woman

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
6 tbs real maple syrup
2 tbs brown rice syrup
1 tbs bourbon

combine cream, maple syrup, and honey in saucepan. whisk constantly over medium-low heat until contents come to a boil. keep whisking and allow to boil for 10-15 minutes until thickened and reduced by 1/3. remove from heat and whisk in bourbon. let cool completely. refrigerate until mixture is cold and thick. drizzle over pecan bars, pecan pie, bread pudding, chocolate brownies, anything, and everything!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Inspiration - Sweet Potato Biscuits with Maple Butter

in my book, any excuse to have a biscuit is a good one. if you are looking for a thanksgiving biscuit idea, look no further. i have a recipe that will meet all of your holiday biscuit needs - sweet potato biscuits with maple butter.

these biscuits are wonderfully soft due to the sweet potato puree but also flaky from the good, old-fashioned butter. adding a smear of the maple butter sends these into another dimension. once you have one bite of these slightly sweet biscuits with the decadent maple butter, you will be looking for other ways to use this butter. may i suggest, waffles, pancakes, toast, rolls, or baked sweet potatoes? yes, please!

i used organic sweet potato baby food this time around to save time. i have done the sweet potatoes the good old-fashioned way too and couldn't really tell a difference. you can also find canned sweet potatoes at some stores. just don't get the candied yams, all that sugar and corn syrup and you will be sorry!

Sweet Potato Biscuits
adapted from cooking light
(makes 20-25 biscuits)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 c pureed sweet potato, cooled
1/3 cup milk
2 tbs agave
1 egg, beaten with splash of cream

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk together.

cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the butter is the size of peas. (do not over cut or biscuits will become tough)

in a separate bowl, mix together sweet potato, milk, and agave.

add sweet potato mixture and mix until just moist.

turn dough onto a floured surface and knead, gently 4-5 times. roll dough out to about an inch thickness. cut with a 2" biscuit cutter. re-roll scraps and continue to cut biscuits.

place biscuits on a parchment lined sheet pan and brush with egg/cream wash. bake for 15-18 minutes or until top just starts to turn golden brown.

serve warm with maple butter.

Maple Butter

6 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 tbs pure maple syrup
1/8 tsp salt

combine all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. cover and chill until use. can be served chilled or let it stand at room temperature for 20 minutes to soften. enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Inspiration - Butternut Squash Orzotto

while i may not be pumpkins biggest fan, i love butternut squash. it's amazing roasted with a little maple syrup and butter, velvety smooth and creamy in soup, and makes an excellent addition to risotto. along the lines of risotto, if you like this creamy arborio rice dish, you'll love this simillar pasta dish.

orzotto is orzo pasta prepared in the same slow-cooked way as risotto. the dish is easy but requires 20 minutes of constant stirring just like risotto. the addition of pureed roasted butternut squash sets this over the top. and parmesan cheese works surprisingly well by adding a slightly salty bite to this otherwise creamy dish.

if you don't have the time to dedicate to this dish on thanksgiving, i suggest using leftover butternut squash to make this dish sometime over thanksgiving weekend. you will not be dissapointed.

Butternut Squash Orzotto
(serves 5-6)

2 cups roasted butternut squash, pureed
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1 cup whole wheat orzo (or regular orzo)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
dash of ground cayenne, optional
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

bring 3 cups of chicken broth to a simmer in medium sauce pan. reduce heat to low.

add butter and olive oil to deep skillet or dutch oven. add shallots and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until tender. add salt and pepper and orzo pasta. stirring constantly, toast orzo for 1 minute. add white wine and continue stirring until most liquid has been absorbed. add chicken stock, one ladle at a time. continue to stir constantly adding more chicken stock only when previous stock has been mostly absorbed.

taste orzo when almost all of stock has been used to test for pasta doneness. when pasta is al dente, add butternut squash and salt and pepper to taste if needed. turn off heat and stir in parmesan cheese and cayenne.

serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Baby!

happy birthday to my favorite person on the planet - my husband, E.
without you, my life would be most incomplete.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Inspiration - Parmesan-Crusted Fennel and Onions

this is such a simple side dish. 5 ingredients - fennel, onions, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt & pepper. but sometimes the most simplistic dishes turn out to be the best.

fennel has a distinct anise flavor that isn't necessarily my favorite. lets just say, you won't find me hoarding the good & plenty. no sir. black licorice doesn't strike my fancy but when fennel is slow roasted, it mellows and almost tastes sweet. paired with onions that seem to do the same thing when roasted, it makes for a tasty, mellow, melt-in-your-mouth dish. the parmesan cheese adds just enough saltiness and crunch to the top.

parmesan-crusted fennel and onions would be a perfect side dish this thanksgiving. you can't argue with how easy it is. toss everything together in a large dish, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and throw it in the oven. one side dish - done!

Parmesan-Crusted Fennel and Onions
(serves 6)

3 large fennel bulbs
2 large onions
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

cut tops (fraunds) off of fennel.
slice the bottom off and peel away the top layer of the fennel. (discard the top layer, it is usually tough like the first layer of an onion.)
cut in quarters and then thinly slice the fennel.
cut the onions in quarters and thinly slices them too.
in a lightly greased casserole dish, add thinly sliced fennel and onions. drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. toss well with hands making sure oil and salt are evenly distributed.
top with parmesan cheese. bake for 45-60 minutes.
parmesan cheese with be browned and fennel will be tender.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brie and Mushroom Mac and Cheese

i have a problem. i think E is rubbing off on me. i have to be careful what kind of food i mention around him because if i say something like "chili cheese dogs" or "totinos pizza" or "corner stable ribs" he just has to have them. seriously, as in no-matter-what, come-hell-or-high-water i must have that chili cheese dog. in fact, i'm willing to bet when he reads this, he will get in his car and drive to white marsh and get his favorite chili cheese dog. (sorry E)

like i said, i think this trait is rubbing off on me because when E's mom mentioned something about macaroni and cheese with mushrooms and brie cheese the other day, i couldn't get it out of my mind.  i just had to have it. so i scoured the internet for a recipe and came up with one i based my dish on from my vegetable blog.

this was an incredibly rich and decadent side dish. i served it with beef stew and i think it was too much but E and i still managed to force them both down. the earthiness of the mushrooms balanced out the creaminess of the brie nicely. the shallots and garlic added the edge the dish needed. otherwise it may have been too over the top. but it turned out incredibly creamy and savory. i used whole wheat pasta and extra mushrooms to make me feel better about eating carbs covered in cheese.

dear lord, may this indulgent dish not go straight to my hips. amen.

Brie and Mushroom Mac and Cheese
serves 4
adapted from

1/2 lb whole wheat pasta (i used macaroni)
1 tbs garlic gold olive oil, or regular extra virgin olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tsp butter
2 tsp whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup 1% or 2% milk
6 oz brie cheese, rind removed
1/2 cup shredded mozerella

cook pasta according to package directions. drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. add shallots and garlic and saute 2 minutes. add mushrooms and cook until liquid has been released and mostly cooked off. add wine and let simmer until reduced. remove from skillet and set aside.

add butter to skillet. when melted, add flour and cook for 1 minute. add milk and whisk well removing all lumps. add cheeses and stir well until melted. add cooked pasta and mushroom mixture. stir well to coat all noodles. add reserved pasta water if sauce needs a little thinning.

serve immediately.

now it's time for a carb induced coma night's sleep.
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