Monday, February 28, 2011

Dreaming of Coconut

i have coconut on the brain.

what to do? what to do . . .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Weekly Nightcap - Pear Side Car

the weekly nightcap is a day late this week because we spent last night at ping pong dim sum with some good friends. i did happen to enjoy a vanilla, lemon & vodka while there. i know what was in it but i don't know the proportions. i'll have to work on figuring them out so i can post it. it was very tasty.

the lovely birthday girl, M showing my yummy drink:)

tonight, i saw a bottle of pear brandy in our liquor cabinet and searched for drink recipes that include pear brandy. i found this pear side car and it was very good. you could really use any fruit. i have had peach brandy before too and that would be excellent with peach nectar instead of pear.

Pear Side Car
makes 2 drinks

3 oz pear brandy
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (i make mine with agave instead of sugar)
2 oz pear nectar

shake all ingredients together in a shaker with ice. pour into 2 glasses over ice.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The "It" List - February 25, 2011

Welcome Friday!  Here's to another weekend, the last one in February to be exact... spring is inching nearer!  Check out all the amazing blogs on this week's list - there is great inspiration here!
  • undeniable style compiles her wishlist for a 'pretty in pink' living room.  I'm in love... she has such a great eye for style! (find undeniable style on twitter!)
  • second street east diy's a simple and stylish monogramed throw pillow.  I love the sophisticated personal touch this adds to any room! (find second street east on twitter!)
  • a delightful design features kitchens with cabinets that reach the ceiling... this is a great look that is easily recreated for a custom look.  These are some gorgeous kitchens! (find a delightful design on twitter!)
  • a spot of whimsy gathers lots of lovely hair inspiration... my personal favorite are the soft and feminine braids. So pretty! (find a spot of whimsy on twitter!)
  • holly in heels is chasing away winter blues with gorgeous wedges for spring. Ohh and ahh! I can't wait to buy some new spring shoes! (find holly in heels on twitter!)
  • good clean fun shows us how to make a delicious Nutella Mousse, need I say more? Wow!  This would be a fun dessert to make for a girls night in or small dinner party! (find good clean fun on twitter!)
  • elle sees dishes on her must have items for spring... including a really great trench coat, which just so happens to also be one of my must have items for spring, as well! (find elle sees on twitter!)
  • yams designs rounds up oodles of gallery wall inspiration. I love a good gallery wall in any home, if you do too check out this great post! (find yams designs on twitter!)
  • thought and musing completely rocks this pencil skirt. I adore this outfit and am still jealous that this gal from 'down under' is basking in summer right now!
  • rosy + tart brings us this deliciously simple looking bacon and cheese frittata. I love the single serving sizes - very handy for a breakfast on the go! (find rosy + tart on twitter!)
  • shen dove style brilliantly mixes polka dots and stripes. I just ADORE this look!  What fun pattern play! (find shen dove style on twitter!)
  • rose a la mode gives us her spring clothing picks... and I am absolutely in love with this floral dress. It would be the perfect item to dress up or down! (find rose a la mode on twitter!)
  • jewelscapes rocks this amazing boho-chic outfit including wide leg jeans and some fabulous jewelry. I am loving this look!
  • mama loves papa is sporting super fun layers as she rounds out two-thirds of the 30/30 Challenge. I love this simple outfit formula! (find mama loves papa on twitter!)
  • good life for less has the new TOMS Shoes styles for spring - there are so many fun new styles. It's hard to choose a favorite! (find good life for less on twitter!)
  • good tots offers up an adorable pair of baby moccasins for a giveaway.  Make sure to check these out if you have a little one in your life!
the it list is brought to you by jill from good life for less, for info on how you can be involved... click here!

check out past "it" lists here, here, and here!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Toffee Chocolate Chip Blondies

for as much as i talk about my love of chocolate, you may be surprised to know i actually prefer blondies to brownies. maybe it's because i am really picky about my brownies - they have to be super chocolaty and gooey and served warm with vanilla ice cream. there is just something about a cakey brownie that i can't get excited about.

i guess if i am really honest, i am a bit the same about blondies too. i love them gooey. perhaps my love of blondies is subliminally from my husband. i know if i make blondies, E will help me eat them. if i make brownies. chances are i will be finishing them off all by myself. when it comes to baked goods, i like to share - a lot. i don't want to realize i have eaten a whole batch of baked goods (be it cupcakes, cookies, bars, etc.) all by myself. it's not good for my mental stability or for my thighs.

something tells me this combination of toffee chips and chocolate chips are going to guarantee E will be more than enough help with these blondies. the crazy thing is the dates. i don't want you to be surprised when you read through the ingredients and see them there. you may be inclined to omit them (which, of course, you can) but i have to adamantly discourage it. you don't really taste the dates but they make the blondies incredibly moist and add a little bit of chewiness. plus, aren't dates considered good for you??

Toffee Chocolate Chip Blondies
adapted from how to cook anything

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

chop 1/2 cup dates with 1 tbs flour in food processor. process until dates are all minced.

mix brown sugar and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. reduce speed to low and add flours and salt. when flour is all mixed in, add minced dates, toffee bits, and mini chocolate chips. pour mixture in greased 8x8" pan.

bake for 20-25 minutes until middle is set according to your tastes. if you like your blondies gooey, bake less time. if you like them more cakey, cook for more time until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

let cool on rack before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Filling

these carrot cupcakes are "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" cupcakes. not only do they have shredded carrots but they also boast shredded coconut, maple syrup, crushed pineapple, chopped pecans, and applesauce. the end result is a burst of flavors - it's truly a party in your mouth!

since i am crazy about cream cheese icing (and because i used all natural sugars in the cupcakes), i decided to fill the cupcakes with cream cheese icing as well as ice the top. of course you can simply ice them, but i love have a plethora of icing with every bite.

you may call it over-the-top. i call it genius!

Carrot Cupcakes
adapted from cooking light

1 cup  whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbs no sugar added applesauce
2 large eggs
2 cups grated carrot
1 1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple, drained

cream cheese frosting:
2 tbs butter, softened
4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

combine all ingredients in electric mixer bowl and blend on medium-low speed. scrape down sides and bottom of bowl really well and mix again.

spoon into lined cupcake tin and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. let cool completely and ice.

to make frosting, blend together cream cheese and butter on medium speed. add vanilla extract. slowly add powdered sugar until icing stiffens.

    i can't help but think of my one and only brother when i make carrot cake. it was his most frequent request growing up. so, W, there is a cupcake here with your name on it. hurry! i think it's worth the 1,700 miles, don't you?

    Mongolian Beef with Snow Peas

    i love chinese food! when i found this quick and easy chinese cookbook i wasn't sure if it would be good but it's wonderful. i highly recommend it if you like chinese food. every recipe i have made so far has been amazing.

    today, i made mongolian beef for a client and it was so good i had to make it for myself. the flavor of this dish was spot on and it tasted so good. i added snow peas to make it a one dish meal. the brown basmati rice was perfect for soaking up every drop of the delicious sauce.

    if you are interested in the cookbook, check it out here on amazon. i also love quick and easy thai by the same author. i can't wait to get her quick and easy vietnamese. are you seeing the quick and easy trend?

    Mongolian Beef with Snow Peas
    adapted from quick and easy chinese

    2 tbs soy sauce
    1 tsp arrowroot
    1 lb thinly sliced beef
    1 1/2 tbs hoisin sauce
    1 tbs dry sherry
    1 tsp tamari
    1 tsp agave nectar
    8 green onions, 1" chop
    1 tbs vegetable oil
    1 tbs minced garlic
    2 cups snow peas

    combine soy sauce and arrowroot in medium bowl. add sliced beef and toss to coat. set aside.

    in a small bowl, whisk together hoisin, sherry, tamari, and agave. heat vegetable oil is wok over high heat. add beef (and its sauce) and spread into thin layer and sear for 2 minutes. toss well, add hoisin mixture, green onions, snow peas, and garlic. cook, tossing often until beef is browned and snow peas are slightly tender.

    serve over brown basmati rice.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Nutella Mousse

    i have been thinking about this nutella mousse all weekend long. of course i have a big container of nutella in my pantry but no cream. so right after yoga this morning, i high-tailed it to wegmans to pick up some heavy cream.

    the hardest part of the whole recipe is waiting the 2+ hours for the mousse to set. or, in my case, for E to get home from physical therapy so we could have dinner and then have the mousse.

    the creaminess of this mousse is out of this world and the frangelico (hazelnut liquor) really sends the hazelnut flavor over the top. the original recipe called for espresso but i didn't want to mask the chocolate hazelnut flavor, so i left it out.

    i highly recommend you get these ingredients on your next trip to the store. it's just as perfect for a dessert for company as it is as a monday night dessert. the martini glasses make this feel extra special.

    Nutella Mousse
    adapted from susi's kochen und backen adventures
    serves 4 

    1 cup cold heavy cream
    2 tbs frangelico liquor
    3/4 cup nutella

    combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. whisk well to break up nutella. whip with electric mixer for 2 minutes on medium-high until soft peaks form. divide into 4 bowls and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours.

    keep refrigerated until ready to serve. dollop with whipped cream and berries if desired.

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    The Weekly Nightcap - Cherry 7up

    i haven't been so ready for a drink in quite a while. i have basically spent everyday this week helping to clean out an 100+ year old house that has never been moved out of. meadowvale has basically just been re-inhabited. when the person living there dies, someone else moves in. this results in lots of crap everywhere. the house is packed with old furniture, most of it really cool with lots of character, but every drawer and closet is filled with stuff. let's just say it's quite the task at hand to clean the house completely out. the other kicker is it's not just the big house (with 2 attics and a basement no less) but a garage with an attic, a barn used mainly to store furniture, and a tack room filled with saddles, bridles, blankets, and bits.

    needless to say, every night this week i have slept very well. around 4pm today my mom, 2 aunts, 2 uncles and i called it a day. we made the mistake of sitting down and we ran out of steam quickly. the first thing i wanted? a drink.

    this weeks weekly nightcap is an old favorite. i decided on a cherry 7up because today was a glorious 70 degrees and i wanted a drink that makes me think of summer. my friend meliss actually introduced me to this drink. it's simply yet tasty. just three olives cherry vodka and 7up. it's so refreshing.

    thanks M - cheers!

    Cherry 7up
    makes 2 drinks

    4 oz three olives cherry vodka
    8-10 oz 7p or sprite

    pour 2oz vodka over ice in 2 glasses and top off with 7up. stir well and enjoy!

    happy friday - enjoy your weekend:)

    The "It" List - February 18, 2011


    Happy Friday! I love Fridays because it means two things... one, it's time for the weekend and two, it's time for the IT list!  Check out these fun posts from around blogland!
    • holly in heels scouts out a super fun pair of striped platforms for spring.  Be sure to check out these and other striped heels that holly found! (get more of holly in heels on twitter!)
    • undeniable style pays homage to boys that wear ties... what a cute post, and I completely agree! (get more of undeniable style on twitter!)
    • yams designs features fall fashion from the runway with peeks of Tory Burch's fall line - swoon! I love the colors and textures here. See how yams designs paired the fashion with interiors! (get more of yams designs on twitter!)
    • a spot of whimsy features an awe-inspiring look at ballet through art. If you are remotely inspired by ballet, you just have to see this... or if you aren't, you just may find yourself smitten with ballet after seeing this post! (get more of a spot of whimsy on twitter!)
    • second street east found these super cute iphone covers that can be personalized as well. Too fun! I might have to snag one of these for myself! (get more of second street east on twitter!)
    • good clean fun is tantalizing me with these sour cream cookies. Oh my! I just love a yummy cookie... I'll for sure have to bake these! (get more of good clean fun on twitter!)
    • mama loves papa looks pretty as always with a very simple t-shirt + jeans + scarf combo.  One of my favorite outfit formulas! (get more of mama loves papa on twitter!)
    • elle sees has a gorgeous winter white outfit pulled together featuring this gorgeous white sweater. I love white for winter... make sure you get this look before the season is gone! (get more of elle sees on twitter!)
    • thought and musing calls this outfit '90's inspired' - I call it brilliant.  Black jeans and a chambray top is definitely a winning pair!
    • rose a la mode spills on how to make her favorite caffeinated drink: a honey latte! Wow! I can't wait to try this... and she looks as lovely as ever in chambray (it's almost a theme for today!). (get more of rose a la mode on twitter!)
    • a delightful design would rather have this lovely mirror as a gift on Valentine's than flowers - and I don't blame here.  What a gorgeous piece! (get more of a delightful design on twitter!)
    • sweetie pie style shows off her top picks from DVF's Fall Runway show.  I am in awe of the gorgeous greens (yes, multiple greens!).  (get more of sweetie pie style on twitter!)
    • jewelscapes is a genius with layering... I love this simple t-shirt layered over a gingham top. It works so well and looks fabulous, yet casual on her.
    • shen dove style is totally rocking a 70's chic vibe with her flared jeans and leopard print scarf.  What a fun look! I so love flares for spring! (get more of shen dove style on twitter!)
    • rosy + tart has an unbelievably simple pineapple sherbet recipe for us this week, actually her whole blog is chock full of amazing and simple recipes this week! Yum! (get more of rosy + tart on twitter!)
    • good tots pulls together super chic pieces from TopShop's maternity line - who knew maternity could be THIS cute!?!

    the IT list is published weekly by jill of the good life for less... for more information on how you can be involved... click here!

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Mushroom Fontina Bison Sliders

    i have been craving a big, juicy burger. maybe it's because it's the dead of winter. you know that time in between the fun parts of winter (christmas, new years, snow days) and the joy of spring. the days where spring seems so far away but all i really want to do i sit outside in short sleeves and bare feet feeling the sun on my face with a cold beer in hand. i can almost smell the grill and feel the green grass between my toes and all i want to do is sink my teeth into a juicy, warm-pink centered burger.

    tonight i brought a little bit of summer inside with some mushroom fontina bison sliders. i sauteed some onions and mushrooms with a little splash of white wine until they were nice and tender. then i splashed some worcestershire sauce into and pound of ground bison and formed them into small patties. after a quick sear on both sides i spooned the mushrooms mixture over them and topped them with a large square of creamy fontina cheese. as soon and the cheese melted, i sandwiched the burgers between toasted slider buns.

    i think E was ready to propose to me all over again. he ate two in rapid succession and requested them again. soon. if you are looking for a taste of summer, whip these up this weekend. i recommend a cold beer too.

    Mushroom Fontina Bison Sliders
    adapted from the pioneer woman 

    2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
    1 small onion, minced
    2 cups mushrooms, minced
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp ground pepper
    1/4 cup white wine
    1 lb ground bison
    1 tbs worcestershire sauce
    4 slices fontina cheese
    4 whole wheat slider rolls

    melt 1 tbs butter in skillet over medium heat. add onions and saute for 2 minutes. add mushrooms, salt, and pepper and stir well. saute until mushrooms are browned. add wine and continue to saute mushrooms and onions until all wine has been absorbed. transfer mixture to plate and set aside.

    in a medium bowl, combine ground bison and worcestershire sauce. combine with your hands and divide into 4 small-medium patties.

    melt remaining 1 tbs butter in skillet over medium heat. place 4 patties in pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. flip burgers and spoon mushrooms mixture onto cooked side. after 3 minutes, place cheese on top of each burger and cover pan. turn heat off and keep skillet covered until cheese is melted and you are ready to serve.

    serve burgers on toasted buns.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Chicken Caesar Pasta

    it seems my family has an unspoken agreement that if one of them is helping you with something, you feed them. not sure quite when it started but i guess it's only fair to feed "the help". today, i was the help. i helped box up some dining room, sun room, and back room things for my parents impending move. the best part? mom made an amazing lunch.

    not only was her chicken caesar pasta simple to whip up but it was super tasty and filling. the presentation was fabulous as well. not bad for a free lunch huh? the best part is this dish whips up in just 15 minutes.

    the secret ingredient in this dish is newmans own lite caesar dressing. she sauteed some diced chicken breasts in a little garlic and olive oil, added in some broccoli florets and whole wheat pene which made the dish extra hearty and filling. a salty sprinkling of parmesan cheese at the end really made this dish. i gobbled up every bite.

    thanks again mom:)

    Chicken Caesar Pasta
    serves 4

    1 1/2 cups whole wheat pene
    2 chicken breasts, cubed
    2 cups frozen broccoli florets
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tbs olive oil
    1/2 tsp kosher salt
    1/2 tsp pepper
    1/4 cup newmans own lite caesar vinaigrette
    1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

    cook pasta according to package directions. reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.

    heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. add garlic and saute 30 seconds. add cubed chicken and saute, stirring often until cooked through. add broccoli and cook until warmed through. add in cooked pasta, caesar dressing, pasta water and half of the parmesan cheese. toss well to combine. divide among plates and top with remaining parmesan cheese.

    My Valentine's Day

    my husband gave me the best valentine's gift.

    after a full day of cooking for a client, the best thing i could come home to was my favorite person, a big glass of wine, take out on the couch, and a new episode of how i met you mother.

    life is good.

    hope you all had a wonderful day as well!

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Sour Cream Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

    if your sweetie isn't into sweets (like my husband), these are the prefect cookies for valentine's day. the cookie themselves are tender and slightly sweet, almost biscuit-like. the cream cheese icing adds just enough sweetness and creaminess to this cookie.

    some colorful sprinkles make this fun enough for valentine's but not over the top. whip a batch up for the someone special in your life or your girlfriends. if you made these for your co-workers you may be an office favorite for the day too.

    happy valentine's day!

    Sour Cream Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing
    adapted from anecdotes and apple cores
    makes 5 dozen cookies

    1 stick butter, softened
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    3 cups cake flour

    cream together butter and sugar.  add egg then sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth and well-combined. whisk together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture to form a dough that is stiff enough to roll out. wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling out.

    preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface.  cut out shapes and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. bake for 8-10 minutes. 

    1/2 stick butter, softened
    4 oz cream cheese, softened
    1 cup sifted powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla

    cream together butter and cream cheese. add vanilla and slowly add powdered sugar and beat until well-combined. spread icing onto cooled cookies.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011


    breakfast of champions

    i must be feeling better. at least my appetite is back.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    The Weekly Nightcap - Orange Martini

    the orange martini is a perennial favorite around these parts. i actually think my mom came up with this drink a long time ago. she loves a classic vodka martini but i find them a little strong. so, she made me a martini but added some triple sec to it and the orange martini was born.

    it's still strong and pure like a traditional martini but the triple sec adds a bit of orange flavor and cuts the vodka just enough. a maraschino cherry is literally the cherry on top. my favorite part is biting into the vodka soaked cherry at the end of the drink. it doens't get better than that.

    on a side note, i found this stirrings all natural triple sec at the liquor store the other day and am in love with it. it doesn't have any sugar and is infused with sun-ripened oranges for a natural taste.

    Orange Martini
    serves 2

    4 oz ice cold vodka
    4 oz triple sec
    2 cherries
    splash of cherry juice (optional)

    put a cherry (with a splash of cherry juice if desired) in each martini glass. shake vodka and triple sec together over ice. strain into martini glasses and serve.

    The "It" List - February 11, 2011


    Welcome to another installment of the IT list... a round up of the best of the web this week.  There is so much inspiration here and a little bit of something for everyone!  Take some time to check out these awesome links...

    • a delightful design spruces up her living room on a dime.  Check out this simple and inspiring before and after! (find a delightful design on twitter!)
    • a spot of whimsy has a few good quotes for us this week, and who doesn't love a good quote? I love the reminder to 'live color fully' especially as we look towards spring! (find a spot of whimsy on twitter!)
    • undeniable style is sporting this of-so-adorable hair clip... just in time for Valentine's Day.  I want one! (find undeniable style on twitter!)
    • rosy + tart gives us major shoe eye-candy with a gorgeous pair of Miu Miu glittery pumps.  How fun would these be to wear on a hot Valentine's date this weekend? (find rosy + tart on twitter!)
    • rose a la mode is having a perfect day... probably because she is wearing the perfect shirt. I absolutely love red and white stripes for spring! (find rose a la mode on twitter!)
    • sweetie pie style shows off her fun finds from the Alameda Flea Market (so jealous!) - she picked up some super fun vintage jewels. (find sweetie pie style on twitter!)
    • elle sees puts together a sweet and flirty outfit perfect for Valentine's Day... I love the gentle touches of pink.  Oh la la! (find elle sees on twitter!)
    • mama loves papa brings back the basics with this outfit and has great advice for other ladies (especially moms) on why you should too. (find mama loves papa on twitter!)
    • good clean fun whips up a grapefruit margarita recipe for us... yes, please! This looks SO delicious, I can't wait to try it! (find good clean fun on twitter!)
    • one hundred inspirations recreates a blake lively look for less that you will love.  It's a fun combo of serious and sparkle!
    • second street east rounds up fun velvet throw pillows in every color imaginable. I just love the texture of velvet and this zig zag pattern is too fun! (find second street east on twitter!)
    • yams designs has a plethora of citrus inspired spaces and places this week (you can always count on them for fun color inspiration!) I love this 'grapefruit' colored room - speaking of grapefruits! (find yams designs on twitter!)
    • thought and musing is looking summer chic in stripes and shorts... she's in Australia, so it's summer for this pretty gal now! Wanna trade? 
    • good tots features sweet TOMS shoes for little ones... so sweet and such a great Valentine's gift for the tots in your life!
    • good life for less is swooning for the new Scout bag from Kate Spade... it's available in a plethora of bright spring colors and is impossible not to love! (find good life for less on twitter!)
    the IT list is published weekly by jill of the good life for less... for more information on how you can be involved... click here!

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Chocolate Fudge Tart

    there is just something about valentine's day and chocolate. i have no idea the historical significance connecting valentine's day and chocolate but today the two are irrevocably linked.

    in my opinion, chocolate may be the best thing about valentine's day. a long time ago, E and i decided to give each other a very important valentine's day gift. we gave each other the gift of no valentine's gifts. while this tradition continues this year (and no doubt every year), i still think february 14th is a perfectly good day to eat chocolate.

    what better way to each chocolate then ooey, gooey, rich, dark decadent chocolate nestled in a buttery tart crust? this fudge tart has been a favorite since the first time i made it. my family requests it, company raves over it, and my usually-not-sweets-eating husband devours it.

    if you are looking to make an impression this valentine's day, get out your good chocolate, and pre-heat your oven. this recipe is all you'll need. just sit back and bask in the praise. just promise me you'll serve it with freshly whipped cream on top. it is a necessity!

    Chocolate Fudge Tart
    serves 8-12

    tart shell:
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tbs sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    3 to 5 tbs ice water

    8 oz good semisweet or dark chocolate
    3/4 stick butter
    scant 2/3 cup sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

    combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse meal (butter should be roughly the size of peas). add in 3 tbs ice water and pulse until dough comes together. squeeze a small handful, you may need to add more water to bring the dough together. if so, add 1 tbs at a time. turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and work the dough together in a ball. flatten and form into a 6" disk and wrap in plastic wrap. let sit in fridge for 1 hour.

    roll out dough into 13" round and fit into tart pan. cut off excess crust. poke holes all over bottom with fork and refrigerate 30 minutes.

    line tart shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights. bake for 15 minutes.
    meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter together in a heavy saucepan over low heat. remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, then the eggs; beat well. pour the filling into tart shell and bake for another 25 minutes or until just set.

    serve warm or cold, with whipped cream.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Wine Braised Vegetables

    maybe i'm in the minority, but i prefer to stay home on valentine's day. i don't want to be out with everyone and their boyfriend/almost fiance paying way too much for a boring pre-fixed menu. maybe it's the homebody in me, but i'd rather stay home, have dinner on the couch and something chocolate for dessert.

    this dinner just may be the prefect dinner for just such a stay-in night. it's elegant yet easy and most importantly, not so filling that you won't have room for dessert. the tender, juicy, peppery steak is perfectly complimented by the simplicity of the chopped veggies, flavored simply by garlic, salt, pepper, and red wine. i served it with a glass of shiraz and watched my honey gobble it up. that's right, this meal is man approved!

    Wine Braised Vegetables
    serves 2

    1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
    1 small onion, chopped
    2 large cloves garlic, minced
    1 medium zucchini, chopped
    8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
    1/3 cup red wine

    heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. add onion and let cook 1-2 minutes. add garlic and mushrooms and let cook, stirring often for 2-3 minutes. add zucchini, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. pour in red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan well to scrape up all the browned bits. let cook until most of the liquid has cooked off approximately 7-8 minutes. reduce heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Pecan Sticky Buns

    some people say chicken noodle soup is the key to feeling better when you have a nasty cold. others say lots of vitamin c or zinc. me? i say sticky buns.

    i made these at christmastime with my momma and i made a batch big enough to freeze them so i could pull them out throughout the year. (okay, i only ended up having 2 pans leftover, thank goodness. i would have a big problem on my hands if i had too many leftover. and i mean literally a big problem, as in my thighs.)

    while these are an indulgence for sure, sometimes you just have to splurge. what better time than when you are feeling your worst? plus, considering the only thing i ate yesterday was water, chicken broth, and orange sherbet, i think my hips can handle it.

    these ooey, gooey stickybuns combine an old family recipe of ours for dinner rolls with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, agave nectar, and chopped pecans. the end result is pure bliss. the recipe is a bit labor intensive but if you have good company (like i did) and make a big batch (like the recipe produces) all of the mixing, kneading, waiting for the dough to rise, rolling, and baking will fly by and you will have hot, goey pecan sticky buns in no time.

    Pecan Sticky Buns
    makes 5 round pans

    2 cups milk
    4 egg yolks
    3/4 cup butter
    1 package of yeast dissolved in 1 cup warm water
    3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    6 cups all purpose flour, divided
    1 tbs salt
    2/3 cup sugar
    roughly 1/2 cup melted butter
    roughly 1/2 cup brown sugar
    roughly 1 tsp cinnamon

    pecan topping
    3/4 cup butter, melted
    6 tbs agave nectar
    1 1/4 cup brown sugar
    2 1/2 c pecans, chopped

    dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. scald milk in saucepan but do not boil. melt butter and dissolve salt and sugar in milk. remove from heat. add 3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and 2 cups all purpose flour into magic mill mixer or other dough mixer. pour milk mixture over flour and mix until smooth. add yeast mixture and mix until smooth. add egg yolks and 4 remaining cups of flour a little at a time making sure the flour is fully incorporated into the dough before adding more. remove dough from mixer and knead with hands for approximately 5 minutes. place in large, lightly oiled bowl and let rise 2 1/2 hours in warm place.

    meanwhile, to make pecan topping, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. add agave and brown sugar and stir well until dissolved. sprinkle pecans into 5 round foil pans and pour butter mixture over pecans.

    cut dough into 5 equal pieces. roll each piece out into a rectangle.

    brush liberally with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon to your liking.

    start rolling the long side of the rectangle evenly and fairly tightly and pinch the seam to seal it. cut into 1" rolls and place on top of the pecan mixture.

    leave room between rolls (i put 7-9 rolls per pan). let rolls sit in warm place and rise for 30 minutes.

    bake at 375 degrees F until lightly golden brown, 22-28 minutes. remove from oven. if serving, immediately turn upside down onto serving plate and leave pan on for 5 minutes. if freezing, let cool, cover with foil and freeze*.

    * i pull the frozen pan out of the freezer, scoop out 1 or 2 buns and heat them in the microwave at 50% power for 45 seconds.
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