Friday, December 31, 2010

Caramel or Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding

our big plans for the evening is a big slice of pizza at our favorite pizza place followed by a movie, then home for dessert and prosecco while watching the ball drop. a wonderfully low key night to end a great year.

first on the list today was the rice pudding. i made a big enough batch to split and make one vanilla bean rice pudding and one caramel rice pudding. those are my two favorite flavors at rice to riches in nyc. since we can't be eating theirs, i made my own and was pleasantly surprised with the turn out. let's be honest here - there is nothing healthy about this dessert. whole milk, sugar, cream, eggs, rice - but it is one tasty dessert. however, i couldn't help myself and did two things to make it a bit healthier. again, it's clearly not a healthy dessert but it is new years eve! i have to have something good to burn off at the gym tomorrow, right? i used whole grain arborio rice and i used half agave nectar and half organic sugar. that means i can have some of both flavors and not feel guilty, right? HA!

rice pudding goes perfectly with bubbly by the way. so, happy new year everyone! may you all have a wonderful, blessed 2011!

Rice Pudding
adapted from

4 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup agave nectar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole grain arborio rice
1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbs vanilla bean paste
2 tbs caramel

bring milk, vanilla, butter, sugar, agave, salt, and rice to a boil over medium-high heat. reduce to a simmer. let simmer, uncovered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring frequently until rice is tender and most liquid is absorbed. lightly beat egg in a separate bowl. when rice is tender, add a little warm rice to beaten egg and stir well. add egg mixture back into rice and slowly stir in heavy cream.

divide rice into 2 containers and stir caramel into one, and vanilla bean paste into the other. let cool and store covered in fridge.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Classic Croque Monsieur

i saw a "the best thing i ever ate" show the other day and someone said croque monsieur. since that very second, i have been craving an ooey, gooey, ham and cheese sandwich. my college roomie, N and i had our fair share of croque monsieurs and croque madames.

one bite and i am taken back to a sunny morning in a small cafe in saint-raphaĆ«l on the coast of southern france.  N and i are piercing our forks into the perfectly cooked egg and having a crazy argument about which comes first, thunder or lightening. (long story but i think i finally did set her straight:) i can almost taste the crispy cheese crusted bread filled with ham and gruyere and topped with a perfectly cooked fresh egg.

tonight, we went with the egg-less croque monsieur and i gobbled up every hot, bubbly, cheesy bite. did i mention this sandwich has cheese? yum.

Croque Monsieur
makes 4 sandwiches

1 tbs butter
1 tbs flour
1 cup whole milk, warm
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
8 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
1/4 lb sliced ham
dijon mustard

preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. add flour and cook 2 minutes. add milk slowly and whisk constantly until milk thickens. stir in salt and pepper, parmesan, and 1/4 cup of gruyere cheese. set aside and assemble sandwiches.

spread a little dijon mustard on 4 pieces of toast and add 2 slices of ham.  sprinkle 1/4 cup grated gruyere on ham and top with second piece of toast. spoon slightly cooled cheese sauce on top of sandwiches and sprinkle remaining shredded gruyere on top of cheese sauce.

bake sandwiches for 5 minutes. turn to oven to broil and broil until tops are bubbly - approximately 3-5 minutes. cool slightly and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kale, Apple, and Lemon Quinoa Salad - PW's Favorite Things Winner!

i hope everyone had a wonderful christmas. i actually didn't touch the computer for 2 whole days (except to skype with my brother). it felt so good.

i also think i ate my body weight in danish puff, cookies, beef tenderloin, potatoes, crab dip, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate eclairs, and birthday cake. i am going to need a serious detox after january 1st.

tonight i decided to try out a recipe i have had in an open tab for a couple weeks now - black quinoa and kale salad. the fundamentals sounded really good but along with the quinoa, kale, and apples, i decided to add feta, pecans, and tomatoes. i found these wonderful ripe, kumato tomatoes at wegmans and added them right in.

the salad was light yet hearty (if that is possible). the lemon vinaigrette over the quinoa was just enough for the salad. the crunch from the pecans and apples is just what the salad needed to compliment the lemon and feta. the colors were so vibrant, it was just was my abused tummy needed.

Kale, Apple, and Lemon Quinoa Salad
(adapted from green kitchen stories)
serves 4

1/2 cup red quinoa (cooked according to package directions)
juice of 1/2 lemon
5 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs dijon mustard
salt and pepper
5 large kale leaves, chopped
1 small apple, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pecans
2 roma or kumato tomatoes (or 10 cherry tomatoes)
1/3 cup crumbled feta

whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. drizzle half over cooled, cooked quinoa. toss remainder of dressing with remainder of ingredients.

the winner of PW's favorite things giveaway is . . .

Ronda said... I am very thankful for my family and friend. I am also thankful that everyone is healthy this year. Thank you for a wonderful giveaway.

thanks to all who entered and congrats ronda! please email me your mailing address and i will get your goody box out to you as soon as possible.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Last Day for PW's Favorite Things Giveaway

i hope you all had a wonderful christmas! today is your last full day to enter the pw's favorite things giveaway. you can read all about it here.

to enter to win a goody box filled with:
- mini whisk
- 2 mini spatulas
- vanilla bean paste
- digital meat thermometer
- 2 harry and david royal riviera pears
- 1 dish towel
- lindt dark chocolate with sea salt

just leave a comment on this post. i will be choosing a winner tuesday, december 28th around 6pm.

good luck:)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PW's Favorite Things - Giveaway

i am taking a page from oprah and talking about my favorite things. that's right, it's my FAAAAAAVORTIIIIIIE THIIIIIIIIINGS POST! (yelled in the way only oprah can:)

**i did not get any of these things for free and was not compensated in any way for this post. these things are just truly things i love**

harry and david royal riviera pears
nothing quite says christmas is almost here to me like harry and david pears. my poppop used to send these to me every year and it truly felt like christmas was around the corner when they arrived at my doorstep. this year i couldn't bear not having them so i ordered them for myself. not only do these juicy delights make me think of him, but they truly taste like christmas. cue the spiked eggnog, irish cream, and o holy night.

pajama pants
preferably flannel please! the very first thing i do almost every day after i hang my car keys on the hook by the door is high tail it up to the bedroom and put on some pj's and slip my feet into my fuzzy slippers. i also may or may not have a big fluffy, soft robe i adore too. you can read all about that here.

no, wegmans isn't paying me to say this. i promise! it's just that, well, i spend A LOT of time at wegmans hunt valley. i am there almost every single morning to shop for either myself or the client i am cooking for that day. why do i love wegmans so much? they have almost every item imaginable. before wegmans came to town i sometimes has to go to 2 or 3 stores to find everything i needed for recipes. now, it's all under one heavenly roof. everyone there is friendly, it's clean and bright, the produce is off the hook (with a great selection of organic produce too), everything is fresh, and they have everything under the sun. they have a great "food to go" section, salad bar, asian food bar, coffee bar, and i love their sushi. it's freshly hand rolled every morning in the store - actually right in front of you! plus, they treat their regular customers really well. lots of coupons, smiles, and i just got a goodie box from them for the holidays full of pasta, sauce, chocolate cake, and a $50 wegmans gift card.

dish towels
ok, this one may be weird but i love a drawer full of clean dish towels. i seem to go through a lot of them because i try to be a conservationist and severely limit my paper towel usage. i used to have a red theme going with my dish towels but now my drawer includes plain white, some green and brown, and some white and blue ones. whatever color, i want a drawer full!

V8 pomegranate green tea
E is a big fan of V8 v-fusion. a full serving of fruit and a full serving of veggies in one glass? yes please! he also loves green tea. so, naturally, when i saw V8 green tea i grabbed it for him to try. little did i know i would love it too. i drink a glass of this in the am with my trader joe's very green supplements.

digital meat thermometer
i cannot tell you how many times i would have burned something in the oven without this fantastic device. when cooking for clients, i tend to have many things going at once. all i have to do is stick this thermometer into the meat, set the temperature, and an alarm goes off when the meat has reached the correct temperature. set it, forget it, and i'm done. seriously, i don't think i could cook without this thing.

i love cheese. period. i love all kinds: string cheese, sharp cheddar, manchego, gruyere, king arthur's roaring 50's bleu cheese, dang, i could go on and on. there is nothing like curling up on my parents couch in my pj's with an orange martini, a good fire going, and a feast of cheese and crackers. (i'd like to point out other favorite things in the previous sentence i won't go into detail about, pj's (see above), a warm fire on a cold night, and orange martinis (ice cold vodka, triple sec or cointreau, and a cherry). cue the angelic music - ahhhahhhhahhhh . . .

mini kitchen utensils
i got a mini whisk as a wedding present and to tell you the truth, i never really thought i would use it. now, it's one of my "must haves". i even have one in my personal chef to-go tool bag. i use it all the time to make a quick salad dressing or a stir-fry sauce. it is literally always dirty so i finally got another one for back-up. i loved it so much i got mini rubber spatulas too. again, i use them all the time!

vanilla bean paste
there is nothing like vanilla baked goods. the absolute best is when you can actually see the little black specks of vanilla bean in said baked good. if you do bake a lot, you may have noticed vanilla beans are expensive. i mean, crazy expensive. i was able to find them on amazon for cheaper but still, yikes! enter vanilla bean paste. it's like super-thick vanilla extract full of vanilla bean flecks. according to the bottle, 1 tbs equals 1 vanilla bean. a 4oz bottle will run you about $11 but it's cheaper (not to mention easier) than actual vanilla beans.

dark chocolate
is an explanation even needed for this? if you have been reading my blog for practically any amount of time, you know i love chocolate. what's not to love about chocolate. i'll take it any which way. on top of bacon, nestled in thumbprint cookies, swirled with mint white chocolate, but my favorite it straight up dark with a sprinkle of sea salt.

my family
this time of year makes me particularly thankful for my family. even though this is the first time in my 30 years i will not see the jessop aunts and uncles and cousin G, i am still super thankful for them in my life. i will also be missing my brother and sister-in-law and 2 nieces in new mexico. however, thanks to skype, i'll hopefully be able to see their adorable faces this christmas. thankfully, my parents live close and i'll get to spend christmas eve with them and will be hoping their upcoming move doesn't take them too far away.
finally, i am thankful for wonderful "in-laws". i use this term loosely because my husbands family truly feels like my family. i am blessed with an amazingly loving mother-in-law, 2 wonderful sets of sister-in-law/brother-in-laws and a fantastically fun niece and nephew. i'm looking forward to a cozy christmas day with the wasti's! (i am also sending hugs to 2 aunt's who can't make the trip. merry christmas aunt janet and aunt lois:)

my list of favorite things could go on and on. but i will end it there. however, in the spirit of christmas (and in true oprah-fashion) i am giving away some of my favorite things!

*cue the hysterical crying, jumping up and down, and screaming*

ok, i realize this isn't exactly an oprah giveaway. no ipads, 3d televisions, sparkly uggs, cruise ships, or cars. but, hey, you could win a box full of my favorite things.

the goody box includes:
- mini whisk
- 2 mini spatulas
- vanilla bean paste
- digital meat thermometer
- 2 harry and david royal riviera pears
- 1 dish towel
- lindt dark chocolate with sea salt

simply leave a comment on this post telling me one thing you are thankful for this holiday season and you'll be entered to win. it's my way of saying merry christmas and thanks for reading!

just one entry per person. make sure you leave your name and email address in your comment! 

the winner will be chosen tuesday, december 28th.

good luck and merry christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Irish Cream

if you are still looking for a thoughtful, delicious, easy, homemade gift i have just the thing for you.

homemade irish cream is a perfect gift for the holidays. even if you aren't looking for a gift idea, this is worth giving yourself. this is pure liquid euphoria in a bottle. it warms you from the inside my friends.

i suggest making a double batch if giving it to friends. i doubled the recipe and it made five, 550 ml bottles of irish cream. i got this recipe from AJ, who got it from someone else. but, you can claim it for yourselves. i highly recommend you use jameson irish whiskey for this irish cream. not only do i happen to think jameson is one of the best, it's good to stick with an irish whiskey when making irish cream. i have a feeling cheap whiskey would ruin the whole batch and that would be a serious travesty.

i also recommend making some homemade chocolate syrup instead of using the store bough that is full of high fructose corn syrup. below is my great grandmothers recipe that i used for my irish cream. it's worth the extra bit of time, i promise. i have also used wegmans triple chocolate sauce with great success. the key is a nice, thick, rich dark chocolate sauce made with real ingredients. (i.e. dark chocolate, cream, sugar, and vanilla)

add a holiday label and some ribbon and it doesn't even need wrapping. be sure to make extra so you have some leftover. between this and the spiked eggnog, it's going to be one merry christmas!

Irish Cream
(makes roughly 6 cups)

1 pint jameson irish whiskey
1 pint whipping creme
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp chocolate syrup
1 double shot espresso or 1 tbs instant espresso

mix all ingredients together and whisk, whisk, whisk. you want to be sure all of the chocolate, condensed milk, and espresso has mixed in. when in doubt, whisk it some more.

Chocolate Sauce

3 squares of baker chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs salted butter

melt chocolate over low heat. stir in sugar and add milk slowly. cook until thick. add vanilla and butter and stir until butter has melted. store in airtight container in fridge. can be used hot (over ice cream - yum!) or cold.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Roasted Kohlrabi and Butternut Squash

 are you all tired to all of the butter and sugar-filled posts recently? well here is a little break before i am back on the sugar wagon (upcoming goodies include: lemon pistachio wreath cookies, sugar cookies, and lime meltaways).

if you have never cooked kohlrabi, now is the time to take the plunge before it's too late. it's in season for the fall. kohlrabi tastes like a cross between broccoli and cabbage. it is mild and slightly sweet. roasting it brings out a little more of the sweetness. the bulbs taste best when they are the size of peaches or smaller.

kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked. the stems should be removed and the outer skin trimmed before eating as it can be tough. here is a simple step by step guide to trimming a kohlrabi bulb.

step 1: trim of leaves and stems

step 2: wash bulbs

step 3: trim off bottom

step 4: trim off all 4 sides so you have a cube

step 5: cut off top

step 6: cut into cubes

i tossed mine with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme and roasted it with cubed butternut squash at 425 degrees F for 30-40 minutes. i turned them twice and once they were golden brown they were delicious! the butternut squash was a perfect compliment.

on another note, have you heard wendy's has new natural cut fries with sea salt? i am never one to shy away from french fries so when wendy's sent me a gift card to try out their new natural fries i said "of course!" while the food was free, the opinions are mine.

while i try to stay away from fast food, E and i sometimes stop and have wendy's while on road trips. so, we took a little road trip (3 miles away) to try some goods. i not only got the new fries but also the chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce. E got a half an apple pecan chicken salad with a jr. bacon cheeseburger. the fries were great - crispy, tender, and salty. i could even see the skin on the fries. it's nice they leave the skin on considering a lot of the nutrients from the potato are in the skin. if you used to love wendy's fries, i think you'll like them even more now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dark Chocolate Drizzled Bacon

today is a very special day folks. i bet the majority of you out there have been going about your day thinking it's just another thursday. one more day left in the week. yawn.

but, your life is about to change! are you ready for it?

my mother-in-law (god bless her) told me today is national chocolate covered anything day. that's right folks. today is the one day a year when you can put chocolate on any old thing and call it good. it's like this -  i think on the 8th day after some rest, god was hungry. he needed a little snack, a treat for all his hard work if you will. so, on the 8th day, god created chocolate and it was good. and once there was chocolate, all was right with the world.

today, in honor of this momentous national day, i find myself justified to do something i have been thinking about doing for some time now. today my friends i bring you (wait for it) chocolate covered bacon.

ok, i may have lost a few readers after that last sentence but those of you left, stay with me for a second. first of all, i know i am not the first person to try this. others have gone before me. others have created a bacon chocolate bar. it's right there on the shelves at wegmans for crying out loud. therefore i know this is not uncharted territory. (for the record, i didn't like the bacon bar - too much smokey flavor and the bacon was chewy, not crunchy - blech.) however, i knew it could be done well. i knew i would love it when done correctly.

think about it. have you ever had dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt? amazing, right? somehow the salt just makes the chocolate taste 100x more chocolaty and wonderful. (if you haven't had chocolate with sea salt, you must. soon. lindt excellence dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt. you will not be disappointed.) similarly, have you ever had a big stack of pancakes for breakfast drowning in maple syrup? perhaps you had a side of crispy bacon. and perhaps, just possibly, the bacon touched the maple syrup. perhaps you bit into the salty, crunchy, goodness and tasted that hint of sweetness and died a little.

ok, ok, i'll ease up on the dramatics. to make this delectable treat, you will need bacon and dark chocolate chips. that's it. the secret here (in my completely biased opinion) is to start with super crispy bacon. a poor, undercooked, limp piece of bacon with wilt under the chocolate drizzle. besides, i'm convinced the people that like limp, undercooked bacon are the ones who haven't had it cooked correctly (i.e. nice and crispy).

the key to nice, crisp bacon is baking it. preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. take a cookie sheet, line it with aluminum foil. lay the bacon out next to each other, just barely touching.

bake it for 25-30 minutes making sure to check it frequently and rotate the pan halfway through. every oven is different and every package of bacon is different. so check it early and check it often. when done, the bacon with be dark brown without any translucence. transfer to a paper towel lined plate to catch the extra fat. when it has slightly cooled, the bacon should stand straight out when you hold it up like so:

if it is limpy like this:

it's not finished. put it back in for 5 more minutes!

once you remove the bacon from the oven, start melting the dark chocolate chips in a double boiler. once the chocolate has melted, the bacon will be cool enough to drizzle. drizzle the melted dark chocolate and let cool to harden the chocolate (if you can wait that long).

i know in my heart a plate of dark chocolate drizzled bacon with be waiting for me at the gates of heaven.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Turtle Brittle

this one is for my momma. she loves the caramel, pecan, chocolate turtles. i'm not sure if you have ever had  chocolate toffee brittle. you know the stuff, club crackers with a mixture of brown sugar and butter, and a layer of melted chocolate. i've seen it with almonds on top too.

this is a twist on this easy favorite. i used graham crackers instead of club crackers and pecans instead of almonds.

on a side note, i think i am going to need a butter detox soon. maybe i should eat some crusty bread to soak up all the butter in my belly. or, perhaps i could just smear it right on my thighs. 

anyway, this one's for you mom - hope you like 'em!

Chocolate Pecan Turtle Brittle

12 graham crackers
1 stick salted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecan
1 cup dark chocolate chips

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

line a baking sheet with parchment paper. line up graham crackers in a single layer making sure they are tight together. in a medium sauce pan, melt butter. add brown sugar and pecans. stir constantly until brown sugar has melted and is bubbly. remove from heat and pour over graham crackers. use a spatula to spread evenly over crackers.

bake for 8 minutes until bubbly. remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over hot, bubbly, sugar mixture. let sit for 2-3 minutes. when chips have melted, spread out creating an even layer of chocolate. let cool until chocolate has set completely. break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
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