Archive for ‘Dinner’

November 1, 2011

Holiday Cookie Swap!

On Saturday I thought it was ridiculous to see snow and, even though we are working on our holiday content at work, the holidays just seemed so far away. It was October, after all.

Then, this morning it was as if the holiday season was in full force! First I spotted a little red Starbucks cup, then I saw them putting up Christmas decorations at Rockefeller center, then one of my bosses passed out Halloween candy–only the “Halloween” candy was wrapped in red, green and gold! (By the way, the amount of candy in this office today is a true test of willpower…)

Only a few hours later, Courtney at Sweet Tooth Sweet Life posted about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  This really got me into the holiday spirit! I love making Christmas cookies! Plus, it sounds like such a great way to connect with some more food bloggers. I can’t wait to get to work planning what I’m going to send out.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

In case you’re interested, you’ll receive the addresses of three other food bloggers once you sign up. You’ll then send them each one dozen homemade cookies and, in turn, you’ll receive a box of cookies from three other bloggers.

In other news, I made a homemade pizza last night with some proscuitto I got at work but, even though the flavor was delicious, I was disappointed because the dough just would’t get crispy! I used the Trader Joes’ whole wheat dough. I’ve used it before, and it’s always crisped up very nicely. I’m wondering if this is because I had always used my mom and dad’s pizza stone? Any ideas or tips would be much appreciated!

I’m headed to class in about an hour–not only is it lamb night (I’m very interested in learning about this, since I never make lamb), but it’s also my last day of level one. My final exam (a written and a practical test) is on Thursday night. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how quickly time passes…

October 28, 2011

Happy Friday Things

I feel like I have so much to share today! I probably should have done two separate posts, but I just don’t have time!

First up, class last night was great–much needed after Tuesday! We only had two recipes, and they were both very simple, low key recipes: Strip steak with french fries and a sauce called Chevron (tangier and way better but similar to hollandaise) and fillet mignon with a bordelaise sauce (basically a type of red wine and veal stock reduction).

Strip Steak with French Fries and Chevron Sauce

Strip Steak with French Fries and Chevron Sauce

Despite the beauty of the strip steak, I’m just not a fan. It’s way too chewy for me. There’s only a small amount on my plate because I saved the rest for either my boyfriend or my brother. Since filet mignon is my favorite (I know, I know…such a brat!), I opted to pair that with the chevron sauce for lunch.

Fillet Mignon with Bone Marrow and Chevron Sauce

Fillet Mignon with Bone Marrow and Chevron Sauce

Such a fancy meal looks funny being eaten this way, right?!

Anyway, I had a few fun surprises at work today. During our meeting to go over the December issue, one of the editors brought in some Halloween candy to share. I think I may have a new favorite candy!

Take 5

Take 5

Has anyone ever tried these? They are an amazing combination of pretzel, caramel, peanut and peanut butter and then coated with milk chocolate. They are so salty and sweet. I love it!

And then a few hours later, UV vodka delivered a case of this baby to one of my coworkers.

White Cake Flavored Vodka

White Cake Flavored Vodka

Since there were so many bottles, we each got to take home one. I don’t normally like cake-flavored food and drink items, but I can’t wait to try it–It reminds me of Jessica’s cake batter martinis, a drink I still think about how many months later?!

This afternoon I’m off to gather the last-minute pieces of my Halloween costume. I was gonna stay in tonight (I say that every Friday), but looks like I’ll be out and about. There might even be a dessert bar at my brothers apartment that I’ll have to attend (he makes this drink called pie–tastes exactly like apple pie! and I have my cake batter vodka!). Our mom is so proud.

Happy Friday!

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?
Do you like cake-flavored foods and drinks?

October 27, 2011

Ran Out of Steam

Tuesday’s class was pretty tough. We only had two recipes, but they were both pretty complex and time-consuming.

Wow, hours later I only had that one line written…  very long, busy day…

Anyway, we made sauteed duck breast and braised leg with orange sauce as well as pan roasted quail with rice and sausage stuffing in a potato basket. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to finish the quail, which meant not only did we not get to present (looks very bad), but we also didn’t get to eat dinner. We fell behind so quickly, it was really a wake-up call. Ron was having some trouble butchering the duck (I probably would have too, had I been the one doing it) and then he had to prepare the sauce so that we could braise the duck, which meant I had to do most of the quail dish alone and there really just wasn’t enough time for that. So, after all the troubles, we didn’t even get to eat the quail we prepared, because we had to move on to the next recipe to make sure we at least got that one done in time. My dinner pretty much ended up being little scraps of sausage I didn’t need for the rice. The deprivation made me really grumpy…

Luckily (for my sanity) the duck came together as it should have and we finished that within plenty of time. Our duck was a bit undercooked for Chef’s liking, but it was still considered safe to serve and just the way I like it. Our sauce also was a bit too acidic and should have been reduced a bit more. Wasn’t a winning recipe, but it was much better, overall, than the quail, which was  a success to me.

Sauteed duck breast and braised leg with orange sauce

Sauteed duck breast and braised leg with orange sauce

Apparently not enough of a success though. I was so tired, hungry, frustrated, and emotionally wacky Tuesday night that when I got to Andrew’s I pretty much just crumpled into a pile of tears because I didn’t know what to eat. Um, hello! I had a ton of perfectly good quail and duck in tote. I think I just totally ran out of steam. Lucky for me, he was perfect and helped make me feel better–he even got me laughing a bit!

Yesterday I was still feeling a little out of sorts, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to have for lunch–until I realized that Potbelly opened on the concourse of our building. I’m not ashamed to admit that I just about sprinted there. I used to have Potbelly all the time when I lived in Chicago, and it was just seemed like such a treat to be able to have it in NYC.

I have to say that I was totally disappointed! I ordered my standard TKY and they informed me that they don’t have that item on the menu in NYC. Ok, but I wanted to know why. I politely asked why not and the manager, who just happened to be standing there, was like we dont have it on the menu. So I said I realized that but still was wondering why. He just repeated himself but added I dunno we just dont have it, corporate decision and was just so grumpy and rude. No smile, no nothing. Wouldn’t you expect something more along the lines of “Corporate decided not to put that on the menu here. Too bad, a lot of people seem to want that.” I mean…anything but what he did!

Turkey from Potbelly

Turkey from Potbelly

Anyway, I’m not sure if I didn’t enjoy my sandwich as much because it didn’t taste as good, because I had a sour taste from my interactions with the manager, or a combination of both. I think I’ve decided it was a combo. I asked for extra hot peppers (they are by far my favorite part of the sandwich) and there werent even what I would call a normal amount. The turkey also tasted more rubbery (I wonder if they get the turkey from the same distributor?). Maybe I’ll stick to having Potbelly as a special treat when I’m in Chicago–the NYC Potbelly just doesn’t have me that thrilled. Sad.

October 18, 2011

Apple and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage Risotto

As I mentioned before, I went apple picking on Sunday afternoon and had a million and one apples to use up.

I know everyone is on pumpkin and now butternut squash overload (not that that’s a bad thing–I love both!), I figured I’d share an apple recipe that was a little more unusual.

Last night I made myself apple risotto with chicken sausage. I didn’t expect it to be that wonderful, because not only have I never made risotto before, but I also wasn’t quite sure the flavors I chose would pair entirely well together. Oh my goodness was I wrong.

Despite the rice being a bit more al dente than I would have liked, the aroma was heavenly and the flavor was so so delicious. I ate it up so fast that I never even took a decent picture of it…To my credit, I was studying for my test and can’t believe I actually had time to make dinner in the first place.

I hope you will all trust that this recipe is amazing and make it for yourself sometime. You will not be disappointed!

Apple and Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage Risotto
Adapted from The Washington Post 
Serves 4

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 sun-dried tomato chicken sausages (approximately 8-9 ounces), casings removed (just start at the top and peel back the rubbery outside)
1 small onion, diced
2 crisp medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup of short or medium grained rice
1 cup white wine

1. Heat chicken broth until it comes to a boil. Adjust to low heat to keep warm.

2. While broth heats, saute chicken sausages (you can use any mild variety of sausage) in a large saucepan over medium heat until slightly browned. Add onion and apples and saute until soft, but not colored (if your onions and apples begin to brown, your heat is too high). Once onions and apples have softened, stir in rice.

3. Add 1/2 cup of the white wine and stir until liquid has evaporated. Once liquid has evaporated, add enough chicken broth to cover rice. Let simmer, stirring continuously. As broth begins to absorb below the level of the rice, add more broth 1/2 cup at a time until broth is gone.

4. Add the second half of the wine and stir until incorporated and absorbed into the rice mixture. The risotto should be done at this point, you can tell your risotto is done when it looks creamy and the rice is slightly firm to the bite. If your prefer your risotto a bit softer, slowly add more warm broth until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Even though it’s a pain, it’s very important to stir continuously. I kind of skimped on this, because I was studying simultaneously but that’s definitely why my risotto was more al dente than I would have preferred.

By the way, I think this could be made into a delicious vegetarian meal by using veggie stock and eliminating the sausage. The sausage definitely adds great flavor, but it’s not entirely necessary. If you eat fish, shrimp would probably be delicious as well.

Hope you like it!

What’s the best thing you’ve made for dinner recently?

October 3, 2011

Fall Comfort Food: Sauces and Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Saturday seems like an eternity ago….

I was really tired going into Saturday’s class from a late night, not to mention my ankle was swollen to about 3x its normal size after a few spills. Needless to say, a Saturday night class seemed daunting.

Saturday was sauce day, so we worked on the 5 French mother sauces (named this because they are the basic sauces from which many other sauces can be derived). I got to work with a guy that has quickly become one of my better friends at school. I was glad that we worked pretty well together too.

We managed most of our sauces with little criticism from Chef, but had a harsh wakeup call when we went to make our white wine sauce. The sauce requires a decent amount of heavy cream, but there was little more than a drop left by the time we gathered our ingredients together. This was our second-to-last recipe of the night, and Chef seemed a bit less patient by this point. He basically said there was nothing he could do about the fact that there was no heavy cream left. Instead of pouring out some of the mixture to make it a bit equal to the amount of cream we had (why didn’t we think of this at the time!!), we just made do with the small amount of cream we had, but it just wasn’t enough and our sauce was far from what it should have been. Oh well! I guess we are still learning, and everything isn’t going to come out perfectly every time.

Bechamel Sauce


Besides my aching foot and the unsuccessful white wine sauce, class was pretty fun and very filling. One of the more advanced levels was hosting a charcuterie buffet—I didn’t love the stuff, but it was great to try a lot of different things made by others in the program. We also made homemade macaroni and cheese with the béchamel (creamy butter and milk sauce basically) AND we had the normal family dinner which consisted of sundried tomato and mozzarella risotto, carrots, pork, and more. Now you see why it’s hard to stay skinny and be a chef!?

Charcuterie Plate

Blurry Charcuterie Plate

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Inspired by a recipe Chef served us at FCI
Serves 8

16 ounces elbow/penne pasta

4 cups bechamel (recipe below)

4 cups sharp cheddar, shredded

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cook pasta according to package directions and prepare bechamel sauce.

2. While bechamel thickens, prepare toasted breadcrumbs.

3. Place pasta in casserole dish and cover with bechamel. Stir in cheese and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

4. Bake for 30 minutes.

Adapted from FCI textbook
Yields approximately 4 cups

3 T butter

4 T flour

1 liter milk

salt, to taste

cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

nutmeg, to taste (optional)

1. Melt butter over high heat. Gradually whisk in flour, careful not to let butter or flour brown (This makes what is called a roux and it is a thickening agent for your sauce). Whisk until mixture is frothy.

2. Add milk and bring to a boil (a rolling boil is imperative to cook out flour taste and help sauce thicken). Turn heat down and simmer mixture for 10-15 minutes, until thickened.

3. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Toasted Breadcrumbs
Yields 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

2 T butter

1. Melt butter and stir in breadcrumbs over medium heat stirring constantly (to prevent breadcrumbs from burning) until toasted to a dark golden.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese With Bechamel

Recreated the mac and cheese with bechamel for my family

 *Note: I didn’t price out any of this recipe because I didn’t plan on sharing it, but since it requires very few ingredients, it’s very inexpensive and easy to make. 

August 4, 2011

My First Post: Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers

Hi Everyone (or more likely, Jess)!

I finally got around to cooking up something I felt I could share as a first blog post and not be entirely embarrassed. After all, how could I not feel intimidated – there are so many amazing food blogs out there!

A little bit of background on me (ya know, because I haven’t gotten around to making the dreaded “about me” page)… one day. I promise? Anyway, I’m in a twenty-something Jersey girl living and working in NYC. Sounds so glamorous and it kind of is. I love being in the big city. One thing I don’t love? The fact that my meager salary (don’t get me wrong…I LOVE my job! I kid you not, it’s my dream job) barely stretches to cover my food, drink, entertainment, shopping habits, oh yeah and the important things like my rent, electricity and savings account.

The truth is I’m pretty good at sticking to a budget. My mom calls it frugal. Yet I still manage to cook for myself most week nights. I’ve just learned to make myself some delicious (if I do say so myself) meals on lil budget. Believe it or not, I regularly spend about $36 per week on groceries – even in NYC!

So, if you’ll bear with me while I figure out the world of food blogging, I’d like to share my meals with whoever is willing to read along (again…Jess? Are you there?).

The first recipe I want to share is one that my grandmother makes for us. When I asked her for the recipe, she gave me a list of ingredients but said there is no real science to the amounts. So I improvised and only hoped mine would turn out just as delicious as hers. If the speed at which I ate my pepper last night is any indication, I think I did the dish justice.

*Please excuse the iPhone-quality pics… I lost the charger to my SLR and have yet to replace it. Next week – I promise.*

Stuffed Bell Peppers
(A family recipe)

Serves 4 (or a family of 1 for lunch and dinner, two days in a row – guilty?)

4 large bell peppers (any color will do)

3 cups rice

2 tbsp butter

½ lb ground turkey breast

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chopped garlic

1 cup diced onion

8 ounces canned tomato sauce

shredded cheese to taste
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse peppers in cold water and remove the tops and seeds. Use a spoon to remove excess membrane and seeds (be careful not to puncture the bottom or sides of the pepper!).

Cut the tops of the bell peppers

Place peppers in boiling water for approximately 3 minutes. Skin should be slightly softened. Drain and set aside to cool.

Boil peppers for approximately 3 minutes

At this point, if you aren’t using instant rice, it’s a good time to cook up that rice. I used a special blend from TJ’s of rice, orzo and pilaf but any rice will do. Melt butter in a saucepan and brown rice under low heat (you can skip this step, but why wouldn’t you want buttery, delicious rice??). Follow cooking instructions on your package of rice once the rice has slightly browned.

Brown and cook the rice

While the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brown ground turkey in olive oil and chopped garlic. Add tomato sauce and finish cooking. Stir in rice.

Add tomato sauce and stir in rice

Fill peppers evenly and top with shredded cheese (I used a light Mexican blend), if desired. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

Fill peppers evenly and top with shredded cheese

And just because I am a hot sauce freak garnish (or dump the whole bottle on) with hot sauce and enjoy!

Bell peppers: $0.69 each
Rice: $2.98
Turkey breast: $3.30
Onion: $0.89
Tomato sauce: $0.99
Shredded cheese: $0.87
Total: $9.72 ($2.43 per serving)

*A note on how I calculated the pricing: I omitted olive oil, butter and chopped garlic because, in my opinion, those are things you should always have in your refrigerator and they go a long way if you are using small quantities (ie not making cookies that require two sticks of butter). I also did math (yes, I can write but I can also do elementary math – sometimes) to calculate the cost of the items that I did not fully use, because I will use them for other recipes before they go bad – I promise. If anyone hates this method, let me know. I’ll see what I can do.*

What do you think?