Friday, March 30, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - Elderflower Fizz

i forgot just how much i love st. germain - an elderflower liquor - until i had a sip of Laurie's martini at Linwoods. she ordered the L75 and dang was it good! i even took a picture of the menu so we can try and re-create that st. germain martini sometime.

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st. germain has a distinct flavor that is hard to describe. i can't quite put my finger on it. apparently i'm not the only one. according to their website it is

"Neither passionfruit nor pear, grapefruit nor lemon, the sublime taste of St-Germain hints at each of these and yet none of them exactly. It is a flavor as subtle and delicate as it is captivating. A little like asking a hummingbird to describe the flavor of its favorite nectar. Très curieux indeed, n'est-ce pas?"

ah the french, they really know how to say it, don't they?

needless to say, i went out and got a bottle of st. germain and have been thinking of ways to use it (until i perfect the L75).

tonight, i bring you the elderflower fizz. this light, bubbly drink combines st. germain with one of my favorite things, prosecco. it's simple yet elegant. it's light and refreshing. it's springtime in a glass.

i love breaking out bubbly on an ordinary day. it helps me remember to celebrate the little things in life. here's to friday's, to springtime, and to great news from a good friend. congrats L&L - cheers!

Elderflower Fizz
makes 1 drink

1/2 oz st. germain

pour st. germain into champagne glass. top with ice cold prosecco and enjoy!

Appetite Adventure - Cafe Troia, Towson

if you are just joining me for my appetite adventure and aren't really sure what it is, find out about it here. you can see the full list of reviews so far here or by clicking the appetite adventure tab at the top of this page - right next to "home" and "about PW".

having worked in towson several years ago, i have visited the italian institution that is Cafe Troia. however, i haven't been in years - they have even moved across the street since i have visited. the atmosphere is cozy despite having several dining rooms and a bar.

we (E, my mom, and dad) started with drinks and a cheese plate that was predictable. i would have loved to see something other than the typical brie and bleu cheese. the fontina was a standout but the dried cranberries and walnuts left something to be desired.

my mom raved about their Gamberi in Guazzetto - one of their signature dishes of garlic shrimp. the jumbo shrimp was sauteed with roasted garlic, lemon, white wine and cream and served over grilled parmigiano toast. the cream sauce was amazing and the parmesan toast soaked up every last bit of the velvety garlic sauce.

my dad decided on the Veal Saltimbocca. he loved the mozzarella and the sauce. he also devoured the vegetables and said they complimented the dish perfectly.

E got one of his favorite dishes - Linguine con Vongole alla Positano (linguini with clams). i was surprised to see the sauce had tomatoes but it tasted like a mixture of white and red sauce. the miniature clams were sauteed with herbs, white wine, spinach and diced tomato. it may not of been his favorite creamy clam sauce, but he still really liked it.

i had a hard time deciding but finally settled on duck ravioli with arugula and balsamic glaze. Cafe Troia makes all their own pasta and it shows. the ravoili was tender and the glaze was excellent but i felt like it tasted a bit dry. perhaps the filling needed something or the sauce wasn't quite enough. big shavings of parmesan and arugula (my favorite) were a lovely addition.

whatever the duck was lacking, the dessert more than made up for it. our table had troubles deciding between Tiramisú and Lemon Napoleon, so we got both. they make all of their dessert on premises (except for the Cannoli).

the Lemon Napoleon was zesty and creamy and had layers of the most impossibly thin cinnamon sugar phyllo sheet. the tartness of the lemon curd was perfectly balanced with freshly whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar.

i like to think you can judge the greatness of an italian restaurant by their Tiramisú. if this is correct, Cafe Troia is an outstanding place! the lady fingers were soaked with just the right balance of espresso and rum and the mascarpone based cream was rich and creamy while still managing to be light and fluffy.

we left full and happy and our every need was taken care of by our attentive waiter. he even managed to turn up a pair of magnifying glasses when my father discovered he forgot his. full service, classic italian food is what you will find at Cafe Troia. be sure to save room for dessert, you will not regret it.

disclaimer: it is incredibly hard to take good photos in a dimly lit restaurant. please forgive the less than quality photography.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Biscoff Yogurt

i don't really post a lot of breakfast recipes. the truth is, i usually have the same thing for breakfast every morning. sure, i make the occasional pancake on the weekend or might try quinoa parfaits every once in a while during the week if i have extra time but i usually either have a fried egg with apple maple chicken sausage or plain greek yogurt with fruit (nine times out of ten said fruit is raspberries).

i guess that is pretty boring, but in the morning, i find it hard to be creative and i like to stick to a routine so i get out the door on time.

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the other morning i found myself wanting yogurt but without a single piece of fresh fruit in the house. i love plain greek yogurt but it's super boring without anything in it. so, i foraged in the pantry and came up with a treat - biscoff spread. i've used this to make cookies or eaten it straight out of the jar, but i never thought to stir it into yogurt.

this is such a treat that i had to tell you all about it even though it isn't really a recipe. i simply stirred 1 tsp of biscoff spread into 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt and it was divine. not only is this great for breakfast, but it would be a nighttime snack if you find yourself craving something sweet but don't want to over indulge.

Biscoff Yogurt
serves 2

1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tsp biscoff spread
1-2 drops liquid stevia (optional if you like sweeter yogurt - i omit this)

stir everything together until smooth. divide into two bowls and serve. top with granola if desired.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lemon Curd Tarts

lemon curd is surprisingly easy to make. who knew? ok, so a lot of people probably realize this fact, but i didn't.

all you need i eggs, lemon zest and juice, sugar, butter, and am arm for whisking. honestly, the hardest part of this recipe is whisking for 7-10 minutes.

once prepared, it will stay for quite a while in the fridge if properly stored. i keep plastic wrap covering the curd (you want it touching the curd) so a skin doesn't form. then it's ready for tart filling or for your spoon as you pass by the fridge - if you have no willpower like me.

i used phillo mini tart shells but you could also use shortbread mini tart shells or make one large shortbread tart and then slice it like a pie. this recipe also doubles as the bottom of a lemon meringue pie!

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Lemon Curd
makes 1 cup

1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 tbs butter, cut into cubes

whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium sauce pan. whisk in zest and juice and place over medium heat. whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon) - roughly 7-10 minutes. remove from heat a whisk in butter, one cube at a time until completely melted. push mixture through a fine mesh strainer and cover with plastic wrap touching curd. refrigerate at least one hour.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lemon Parmesan Quinoa Salad

i am always looking for ways to use quinoa. i figured it would be a great substitute for pasta salad so i tried one of my favorite pasta salad recipes with quinoa. it turned out to be a hit.

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i like to throw whatever vegetables i have on hand into the salad. today it was cherry tomatoes and fresh garden peas. a simple lemon parmesan vinaigrette is a great dressing for this light, chilled salad.

this side dish also doubles as a main dish because it's packed with protein. i would have added some broccoli if i had it on hand.

Lemon Parmesan Quinoa Salad
serves 4-6

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 1/2 cups fresh garden peas (raw or cooked)

rinse and strain quinoa and add to medium pot. add chicken stock and bring to a boil. reduce heat to low and cover. simmer 15 minutes. remove from heat and keep covered for 15 minutes.

meanwhile, whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, pepper, and parmesan cheese. uncover quinoa and let it cool another 15 minutes. stir in tomatoes, peas, and lemon parmesan vinaigrette.

serve at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - Blueberry Vodka Lemonade

i hope you'll forgive me for my repeat use of lemonade but i just couldn't help myself!

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it's 80 degrees today and i had to have some more chick-fil-a lemonade.  i also spotted these mini flavored vodkas at the liquor store and grabbed a blueberry one to try. one plus one equals blueberry vodka lemonade.

this is a super refreshing drink for a warm evening. it's not too sweet and has a lingering hint of fresh blueberries. i think it's best enjoyed outside with good friends:)

happy friday - cheers!

Blueberry Vodka Lemonade
makes 1 drink

1 - 50 ml bottle blueberry vodka (or 1 1/2 ounces)
8 ounces lemonade
blueberries, optional

pour vodka and lemonade in a glass over ice. stir and garnish with blueberries if desired. enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicken with White Wine Clam Sauce

one of E's favorite dishes is linguini with clam sauce. i make it for him occasionally as a treat but truthfully, i am always hungry an hour or so later because there just isn't enough protein in it for me.

so why not take the clam sauce, and smother it over chicken breasts? sure, the pasta is wonderful, but this makes for a great, low carb, weeknight meal (i don't know about you, but i like to save my cheat meals for the weekends). while this dish isn't exactly healthy because of the fat content, it is low carb and packed with protein. i didn't even have my intense sweet craving an hour after dinner like i usually do.

oh, and for those of you keeping track, there is only 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 1/4 light cream in the whole recipe (serves 4) - so it's really not that bad. most of the sauce comes from the white wine and clam juice. of course i did sprinkle parmesan cheese on top . . . oh well. i served it with a big helping of broccoli, happy??

Chicken with White Wine Clam Sauce
serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbs unsalted butter
4 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs flour
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup light cream
3 - 6 1/2 oz can minced clams, drained, juice reserved
4 tbs shredded parmesan

preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

heat oil in large oven proof skillet. pat chicken breasts dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. add chicken to skillet and sear both sides about 2-3 minutes - until browned. remove from pan and set aside. add butter to skillet and when melted, add shallots and garlic. saute until tender, 3-4 minutes. sprinkle in flour and stir well. cook 1 minute. add white wine and stir well. add light cream and stir being sure there are no clumps. add clam juice a little at a time until desired consistency is reached (i used about 1 cup clam juice), you want the sauce to be thick but it will continue to thicken a bit more. add clams and stir. let simmer for 2 minutes. add chicken back into pan with any juices. spoon sauce over chicken breasts and sprinkle 1 tbs of parmesan on each breast.

bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is bubbly and chicken is cooked through. spoon a little sauce on each plate and top with chicken breasts. serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

remember those mint chocolate chip cookies i posted the other day? turns out, not only are they great on their own, they also make fantastic ice cream sandwiches!

with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiched between two cookies, they become a frozen treat! these are perfect for a warm weather afternoon snack.

if you are super energetic, i'd suggest making the mint chocolate chip ice cream - i would have if i had the ingredients on hand when the idea hit.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Recipe


Appetite Adventure - Crush, Belvedere Square

if you are just joining me for my appetite adventure and aren't really sure what it is, find out about it here. you can see the full list of reviews so far here or by clicking the appetite adventure tab at the top of this page - right next to "home" and "about PW".

Crush is one of the 10 restaurants on the list i have been visited before. in fact, one of the owners of a local joint - Christopher Daniel - split and created Crush. it has a great feel and a bit of nostalgia as it used to be an old hess shoe store in belvedere square back in the day. a lively bar greets you as you walk in while a slightly quieter upstairs and downstairs dining area awaits.

E and i settled in to our table in the back and i immediately checked out the cocktail list. i remembered liking their choices the last time and i quickly settled on the orange crush while E chose a margarita. they arrived in large glasses and i felt like i was getting my monies worth. i, or course, sipped both and love the margarita. it was the perfect balance of tequila, sweet, and sour. my orange crush was excellent as well. it contained orange vodka, triple sec, and orange juice yet it managed to be just orange enough without being too sweet or overpowering.

after some time with the menu, E and i decided to try several different things. i started with the fried oysters and E opted for the lobster macaroni and cheese. he always likes the lobster mac at Christopher Daniel so he thought he would give this one a try. it was creamy, cheesy, and decadent as all good mac and cheeses should be and topped with just a bit of crunchy bread crumbs. (but he mentioned perhaps CD has a slight edge in the lobster mac category.)

my fried oysters were as wonderful as i was hoping. just enough breading and fried until they were crunchy on the outside yet perfectly tender inside. they sat on a swipe of citrus aioli with a side of lightly dressed peppery arugula with a healthy dose of tomato and bacon with ribbons of cucumber - a fantastic pairing.

i had a hard time deciding on dinner because i knew i wanted the truffle fries but i didn't want to over-order. i narrowed my accompaniment down to two starters - the tomato soup or the barbeque braised pork. our waitress highly recommend the soup so i listened to the great recommendation by Jamie. the creamy tomato soup was decadent without being to heavy and was topped with creative grilled cheese croutons - actual small squares of toasted grilled cheese sandwich. original and tasty, a great combination. it paired nicely with my new zealand sauvignon blanc from their well prepared wine list.

the truffle fries were good but didn't crack my growing list of favorites. perhaps the garlic and parmesan overpowered the too-subtle-for-my-liking black truffle flavor? it is, however, worth noting i still managed to finish 2/3 of the fries.

E ordered the ribeye with sweet potato puree, potatoes, asparagus, and fried onions. unfortunately he ate all of his mac and cheese and was super full by the time his steak arrived. he said it was good but it didn't "wow" him. we will blame it on the full stomach, but he isn't ready to put this on his list of best steak places. on a side note, i ate some of his leftovers the next day. the steak was good but not great. it was cooked perfectly, but i think it could have used a little sauce.

by the time dessert rolled around i really wanted to order something. their choices looked enticing and i wanted to try one of their liquid desserts as well. alas, we were both too stuffed to partake. we have definitely added it to our list of places to return. we'll come back for just drinks and dessert and report back.

all in all, this is a fun place with a hip vibe and great food. add this to your list of places to visit, even if it's just for drinks and starters (where we had the most luck).

p.s. aren't i a lucky girl? that handsome man is my date for the rest of my life!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mommom's Spinach Salad

healthy, fresh, and hearty are three words that describe what i look for in a salad. this salad embodies all three qualities. it also happens to use a dressing that was my maternal grandmother's recipe.

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a grandmother that i never really got to know, although i know we would have gotten along splendidly. from all the stories i hear about her, i know i would have enjoyed being in the kitchen with her. perhaps we would cut butter into flour together to make her always perfect pie crust, or spread creamy peanut butter on soft white bread to make her peanut butter and butter sandwiches that i remember loving.

somehow i feel her with me when i flip through one of her cookbooks with her handwritten recipes in the "notes" section. i feel a little bit of her with me as i bite into the fresh, tender baby spinach with her spinach salad dressing - a creamy mix of mayonnaise with a hint of sweetness and a slight bite from red wine vinegar.

a perfectly hardboiled egg is the heartiness this salad needs to make it a main dish on a sunday evening with some garlic parmesan bread. this salad is simple enough to throw together on a lazy, warm evening yet impressive enough for entertaining company - something my grandmother did often and flawlessly.

Spinach Salad
serves 2

4 cup baby spinach
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
4 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1/8 cup cugar
1/8 cup milk
pinch of salt

in a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.

toss spinach with 2-4 tbs dressing and divide among 2 plates. top with red onion, tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and hard boiled eggs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

i have been in denial for 3 days now, but i guess it is finally time to admit it - i am sick. boo.

i guess it's better to admit it than admit laziness because i have pretty much only been sleeping, reading, pinteresting, napping, and eating the past couple of days. E had it first and i was determined not to get it but it got me instead.

due to said laziness sickness, i didn't get to cook or bake my st. patrick's day recipes on saturday. luckily, yesterday i had enough energy to bake some mint chocolate chip cookies. i got the mint chocolate chips a while ago and was excited to use them. i used brown butter in the cookies which always adds more flavor. the mint flavor is subtle but just enough.

with a little green food coloring these would have been perfect for a st. partick's day celebration but truthfully, these are tasty for any day of the year. these mint chocolate chip cookies are an excellent twist on a traditional favorite!

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Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 4 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups mint chocolate chips

melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. continue to cook butter over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. remove from heat and let cool completely (at least 2 hours, i let mine sit at room temperature 4-5 hours or overnight).

preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

in a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients - flour, soda, and salt - and set aside.

in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together cooled, soft browned butter and sugars until light and fluffy - 2-3 minutes on medium speed. add vanilla and eggs on at a time mixing until combined. slowly add in dry in dry ingredients on low speed and mix until combined. add chips and mix until just distributed.

drop teaspoons on dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and bake 8-10 minutes until bottoms are just lightly browned. remove and let cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely.

enjoy with a cold glass of milk!
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