gruyere risotto

how did i get ready for the snow hurricane?

i watched the weatherman talk about the impending doom for an hour while i made dinner. but really, tonight wasn't the best night for it.

no snow.

no rain.

no hail.

no hurricane force winds.

no following behind pokers on the way into work tomorrow morning.

you get the picture. this is the perfect warm, creamy, feel good dish for those bone chillingly cold evenings we get right around this time of year. too bad i didn't wait until tomorrow to make it.

gruyere risotto with mushrooms & chicken

inspired by Cake, Batter, and Bowl

total time start to finish: 1hr, 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 pound shredded poached chicken breast or tenders
salt & pepper

  1. saute the mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat. season with salt & pepper and remove from heat when cooked through.
  2. while the mushrooms are cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a 3 quart sauce pan. cook the onions in the butter until translucent, about 6 minutes. add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. add the rice. stir until well coated and stir in 1 cup of the chicken stock. simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. repeat with remaining three cups of stock, but add the shredded chicken to the rice mixture before the rice has absorbed all the stock. remove from heat.
  4. mix in the cheese until melted and evenly distributed. mix in the mushrooms.


ina's maple oatmeal scones

i always pick the scone at a bakery. they always look so good - nice and shiny, dusted with sugar or coated in glaze. and the flavors always get me - lemon cream, cranberry orange, almond. and it's almost always dry and bland. that's when i decided to start making my own and i've never looked back.

scones are unbelievably easy to make, as long as you remember a couple things -
- make sure the butter is cold when you mix it in. it should be incorporated, but you should still be able to see bits of it.
- don't overmix. mix the wet and the dry together just enough so it's a dough. it's ok if the dough is a bit lumpy.

i saw ina make these on "back to basics" on the food network a couple weeks ago. they are really good, nice and moist, but the maple flavor isn't very strong - if someone served them to me, i wouldn't guess they were maple flavored. could be the maple syrup i used. and i think a small amount of cinnamon would be good added to this recipe, or delete the syrup, increase the milk, and make cinnamon oatmeal scones. i'll try those sometime and see how they come out.

maple-oatmeal scones
adapted from food network magazine

time start to finish - 1hr (includes baking time), makes 8 hearty scones

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup cold milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
1 egg mixed with a splash of water for the egg wash

for the glaze
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
splash half and half

  1. preheat the oven to 400F. line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. combine flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. using a mixer, blend in the butter.
  3. in a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, syrup, and eggs together.
  4. add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. the dough is really sticky.
  5. turn the dough out onto a well floured work surface and roll to about 1 inch thick.
  6. cut into eight wedges and place on the baking sheet.
  7. brush the tops with egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. while the scones are baking, make the glaze by mixing the confectioner's sugar, syrup, and vanilla. add a splash of half and half or milk to thin the glaze a bit and make it pourable.
  9. when the scones are finished baking, let cool on the pan for about five minutes. remove and let cool on a rack.
  10. when the scones are still warm, drizzle with glaze.


alton's cheese bread

this bread - warm out of the oven - is the perfect combination to homemade cream of tomato soup. jason ate half the loaf dipping it into the soup! it's a breeze to throw together and all but the cheese i had on hand. (and it makes a dinner of tomato soup a bit more exciting!)

the only downside is that once the bread cools to room temperature, it doesn't have the same kick. definitely not as exciting, not quite as good. i tried lightly toasting it and eating it on its own - without the soup - the next afternoon. also not the same. needless to say, we only had a couple slices left after the first night's dinner. this is definitely one i'll make again.

alton's cheese bread

from "i'm just here for more food"

1. preheat the oven to 375F

2. mix together:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard (in a pinch you can omit this)
add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and mix well

3. in a separate bowl, mix together:
2 eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

4. spray the inside of a loaf pan with non stick spray or use butter to lubricate the pan.
5. make a small well in the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.
6. mix just enough so a dough is formed and there aren't any large pockets of flour.
7. pour into the loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes.
8. immediately remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

2011.10.10 this was Cook book of trial and error's pick for the secret recipe club!

milk chocolate cookies

i love chocolate. i mean, really, love chocolate. i've made chocolate cookies twice in the last three days - the first time was a horrible attempt at martha's recipe for brownie cookies. needless to say, i ended up with crunchy pancakes, not soft, cakey cookies.

so this morning i wanted to bake. what? i didn't care. i just wanted to bake. so after thumbing through 6 cookbooks, recipes clipped out of magazines, and the more than 20 food blogs i subscribe to, i settled on these: a basic milk chocolate cookie...

and boy were they easy. just be careful when you bake them. after 15 minutes, i didn't think they were done, so i let them go another 90 seconds. big mistake. more than half of one pan ended up too-burnt-for-other-people-to-eat, and the other pan is on the verge of chewy.

i really like the milk chocolate, but next time, i'm going to try dark chocolate. and turn them into peanut butter filled sandwiched. i don't know when, but at some point, those are coming.

milk chocolate cookies
adapted from everyday with rachael ray

total time: 30 minutes (includes baking), makes 24 cookies

15 ounces milk chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. melt the chocolate and butter together over a double boiler. remove and let cool.
  2. beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together at high speed until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. while the eggs, sugar, and vanilla are mixing, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
  4. mix the melted chocolate into the egg mixture at low speed.
  5. add the flour and mix until incorporated.
  6. refrigerate dough for about 15 minutes.
  7. preheat the oven to 375F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. when the dough has chilled, drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto the sheets. bake for about 15 minutes, until soft. do not over bake.
  9. let cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack.
2011.12.05 this was the Swan's pick for the secret recipe club! 


chocolate zucchini cupcakes

i have a lot of zucchini in my freezer. and by a lot, i mean a lot. an easy 10 cups, if not more. and we haven't been eating it nearly as fast as i expected.

so it's time for my go to zucchini recipe - chocolate cupcakes.

when i first made these last summer in the midst of the zuke plant take over, no one knew they had zucchini in them. that's how good they are.

in the summer i used fresh zucchini and grated it in the small holes of a box grater. i didn't squeeze any of the water from it - i think that's what kept them so moist. at the end of the summer, i grated up the rest of what i had and froze them in 2 cup bags. i'm sure they're getting close to their end of life, but these were good none the less. i did notice they weren't as moist, so they really have to be eaten the day they're made.

i topped half with alton brown's chocolate buttercream and cinnamon cream cheese frosting from joy the baker. delicious.

chocolate zucchini cupcakes from 101cookbooks.com


turkey in lettuce wraps

i'm sick of leftovers. it's time for asian food. ok, asian inspired food.

i have to be honest, i was real leery of the fish sauce. i psyched myself up to use it until i went shopping for it. i had a hard time finding it on the shelf of the asian section, so a twenty-something woman stocking the shelves helped me. needless to say she did not recommend i use the fish sauce. but i went with it anyway.

one piece of advice: do not smell the fish sauce. it will totally turn you off of whatever dish you're making and the thought of any fish dishes. it is not so good.

before (L) & after (R) adding the sauce

but i'm glad i used it. turns out the sauce was perfectly flavored, but a bit salty. no fishiness whatsoever. and this is definitely quick. and could easily be made with beef.

  • the original recipe called for a shallot. since i didn't have any, two small onions did me just fine.
  • i added all of the sauce to the cooked turkey and let most of the water cook out, to thicken the sauce just slightly.
  • we had romaine hearts left over from late last week, so we used those. next time i'll definitely go with iceberg. the romaine has a different taste and it comes through.
  • next time i'm going to use low sodium soy sauce to make it less salty.

turkey in lettuce wraps
based on everyday food's stir-fried turkey in lettuce wraps

total time start to finish: 30 minutes, 4 hearty servings

1/4 cup soy sauce
4 teaspoons fish sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
vegetable oil
1 onion or shallot, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey

  1. mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  2. heat a wok over high heat. coat the bottom with vegetable oil and add the onion, ginger, and garlic.
  3. cook for about one minute, until the ginger and garlic are fragrant.
  4. add the turkey and cook completely. use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks.
  5. add the soy, fish, sugar sauce and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the turkey, about 5 minutes.
  6. serve inside lettuce leaves.


homemade mushroom & cheese ravioli

it's been a while since i made pasta. and i forgot how much time it takes to assemble ravioli. it isn't hard, i just always think it's going to be faster than it is.

i made these with ground beef in them too, but next time, i'll skip the beef - it didn't do much for flavor - but you're welcome to use it if you like it.

the recipe is easy. adaptable. add a lot of cheese if you like. or more fontina than mozzarella or more mozzarella than parm. whatever you want, you can have.

i used a 2.5 inch circle cookie cutter to cut them apart. usually i cut them with a pizza cutter. either way works, but the cookie cutter ones look a bit nicer. homemade, yes. like a six year old made them, no.

and let me tell you about this tomato sauce. it left me speechless. it's so freakin' good. and so freakin' easy. it's incredible. and will be perfect with a plain old bowl of spaghetti.

mushroom ravioli filling
this makes a lot. and would probably be really good as a chunky sauce - with tomatoes added - to spaghetti.

feel free to change the ratio of cheese or remove whatever you don't care for.

12 ounces white mushrooms, cut into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
italian seasoning
~1/4 cup parmesan cheese
~1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
small brick of fontina cheese, cut into 1/4 by 1/4 inch cubes

  1. saute the mushrooms and garlic in one tablespoon each of melted butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. season with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning and cook until mushrooms are brown, 15-20 minutes, depending on how small your mushroom pieces are.
  2. when the mushrooms are done, mix in another 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. let the mushroom mixture cool about 20 minutes. mix in the parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
  4. when filling ravioli, add 1 teaspoon of the mushroom mixture and push a cube of fontina into it before topping with another pasta sheet.

homemade ravioli
the pasta made 30 ravioli. i have enough filling left to make another full batch.
  1. put three cups of all purpose flour in the center of a worksurface (i have a large platter i use, so i don't get flour all over my counter).
  2. scramble three eggs with a pinch of salt in a bowl.
  3. make a well in the center of the flour. pour in the eggs.
  4. using a fork, swirl the flour into the eggs until mostly incorporated. use your hands to incorporate the eggs. if there's a bit of flour that won't mix in, don't worry about it.
  5. knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for about an hour at room temperature.
  7. make the filling and sauce while dough is resting.
  8. after resting, use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into eight portions.
  9. take out one portion and keep the rest wrapped in plastic until you use them to prevent drying out.
  10. cut the one portion in half.
  11. using a pasta press, press the dough to the thinnest setting.
  12. lay out on a cutting board and use your cookie cutter to figure out the layout of the raviolis on the sheet. place about 1 teaspoon filling to the center of each circle.
  13. use a pastry brush to brush water on the pasta, around all edges of the ravioli. this will be the glue holding the tops and bottoms together.
  14. use the pasta press and press the second half of the portion into a sheet.
  15. lay the second sheet on top of the filled sheet.
  16. as you press the top onto the bottom, make sure to get out as much air as possible. if not, the air will heat up when boiling the ravioli and they may explode.
  17. use the cookie cutter to cut out the ravioli and discard the remnants.
  18. use a bench scraper to remove the cut ravioli from the cutting surface. be careful not to crush the ravioli when removing them.
  19. with your fingers, move around the edge of the ravioli and pinch the edges closed.
  20. place the ravioli on a single layer on a sheet pan dusted with semolina flour so they don't stick.
  21. repeat with the remaining dough.
  22. bring water to a boil and cook ravioli for 3-4 minutes. serve with tomato sauce.
tomato sauce with onion and butter from smittenkitchen

irish soda bread

i love fresh, home baked bread. i hate kneading and waiting for yeast to do its thing. so when saturday's "america's test kitchen" had soda bread, i was all over it.

all in all, it took about 5 minutes to mix together and get into the oven. ATK recommended baking the bread in a cast iron skillet. since i don't have one, i used a dutch oven with the lid off. and it worked perfectly. mixing, baking, and cooling took a total of 70 minutes to whip up a loaf of bread.

and honey butter (soft unsalted butter mixed with a bit of honey) goes perfect.

important notes:
  • don't knead the bread. otherwise it will come out tough and not so good.
  • i transferred my dough onto a piece of parchment paper before putting it into the pan. the loaf is kinda patched together, so it doesn't stay in one ball, making it hard to move.
irish soda bread
adapted from america's test kitchen (aka cook's illustrated)
  1. preheat your oven to 400F and mix the following in a large bowl:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
  1. cut in 2 tablespoons of very soft butter with your hands.
  2. make a well in the center and add 1 3/4 cups buttermilk.
  3. use a fork to quickly mix in the buttermilk just until incorporated. do not overmix.
  4. turn out and press into a loaf. do not knead.
  5. cut a cross slit in the top of the loaf.
  6. bake in a greased cast iron skillet or dutch oven without the top for about 40 minutes. check with a wooden skewer to ensure the loaf is done.
  7. let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes before turning out and slicing.


polenta with mushrooms

i don't know how i feel about polenta. i've had it a couple times in restaurants, but never attempted to make it - or anything with it - at home. so i took a baby step.

i love mushrooms. i love cream sauce. i love beef and chicken smothered in mushroom cream sauce. seems like polenta would be an easy replacement, right?

for me, not so much. the flavor clashes. too much. maybe because it's store bought. i think after tonight it's time to try to make it from scratch.

this dinner wasn't bad - jason really liked it - but it didn't quite do it for me.

polenta with mushrooms
inspired by everyday food's polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms

time start to finish: 45 minutes, 2 hearty servings

1 pound mushrooms, cremini or white button, your preference, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons heavy cream
cooked polenta
vegetable oil
  1. coat a large skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. add the mushrooms and garlic.
  2. cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. heat broiler, with rack 5 inches from heat. place a rimmed baking sheet in oven to heat, 5 minutes.
  4. season with salt and pepper. uncover, add broth, and cook until reduced by half about 6 minutes.
  5. stir in cream and cook 2 minutes. remove from heat.
  6. cut polenta into 1/2 inch slices. pad dry with paper towel. brush both sides with oil. season with salt and pepper and place cut side down on the baking sheet.
  7. broil until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. serve mushroom sauce over hot polenta slices.


mushroom bisque

growing up, mom always made whatever we wanted for dinner on our birthday. every since i can remember, i wanted mushroom soup. not soup from a can, but homemade. and only once each year did my mom make it.

ever since my sophomore year of college, i've made this soup only once each year. and every year it gets better.

last year, i sliced all the mushrooms, about 1/4" thick. it's too much. too chunky. too awkward to eat with a spoon. so this time, i sliced them into 1/4" slices and then cut each slice into thirds. perfect.

and i finally got to use my dried bay leaves. this summer we planted a bay laurel tree. and i remembered before winter to pick a bunch and dry them for about a month. also perfect.

what worked
  • this is my all time favorite soup ever. it's perfect. oh and cutting the mushrooms smaller this time was much better.

what didn't: some of the things i've tried and haven't been so good
  • make sure to cut the mushrooms into small enough pieces to fit on a spoon. otherwise, it's awkward to eat
  • always always always add the basil and thyme. they truly make it.
  • and don't skip the worcestershire and hot pepper at the end. they also make it.

i don't know where the recipe came from. i have it in an old email my mom typed up in 2001.

mushroom bisque
time start to finish: 1.5 hours, 4 hearty servings

4.5 cups chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled (do not use the powder stuff)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled (do not substitute fresh)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
3 bay leaves
1 1/4 pounds mushrooms, sliced, chopped, whatever size you want them
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (i used tobasco)

  1. bring stock to a boil in a heavy saucepan. cover and set aside.
  2. melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. add onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. add flour, thyme, and basil and stir for 4 minutes.
  4. whisk in Sherry. whisk in hot stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. continuously whisk until it boils - otherwise the flour may clump and burn.
  5. reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes, whisking constantly.
  6. add mushrooms, cover, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. add remaining ingredients and simmer until slightly thickened, 10 minutes.


bacon caramels

i eyed this recipe way back in july at Not Without Salt and knew i wanted to try them for a couple reasons. i've never made candy before and i love caramel so it sounds like a good place to start. caramel looks easy to make. and i absolutely love the sweet-salty combo from the caramel and the bacon. and really, how can bacon make something bad?

with my candy thermometer and various forms of sugar and fat in hand, i set out to make candy.

i started with the bacon. for the last year or so, i bake bacon rather than cook it in a skillet. it comes out crispy every time and i don't have to babysit it. i layed out 8 strips of thick cut bacon on top of a cooling rack (so the fat drips off the bacon as it cooks), put the rack on a cookie sheet, and baked it for 20 minutes at 350. perfect. i let it cool for 5-10 minutes, pulled it off the rack, and chopped it up with a knife.

while the bacon was in the oven, i got started on the caramel. it came together surprisingly easy. all in all, it took about 20 minutes to get the caramel to soft ball stage, and add the second half of the heavy cream.

once the second 1/2 cup of heavy cream was added and the bacon mixed it, i added it to the buttered 8x8 pyrex dish. then it was the worst waiting game. it was a tease to walk through the kitchen and see it sitting there, just waiting.

i ended up letting them cool overnight before cutting and wrapping them the next morning. i inverted the pan and most of the bottom didn't stick. i walked away for five minutes and when i came back, the whole thing was unstuck from the bottom. i used by benchscraper to measure out 1 1/2 inch rows, which i cut with a chef's knife heated with boiling water (i first tried cutting with my bench scraper. it worked, i got a nice straight line, but it took a lot of force to do. a knife was way easier to cut through the sticky mess), and then cut the rows into 1/2 pieces and wrapped them in wax paper. i got a total of 80 candies.

bacon caramels
adapted from not without salt

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream, divided into 2 1/2 cup portions
1/4 cup maple syrup
8 strips thick cut bacon
  1. preheat your oven to 350F. separate bacon strips and lay them across a cooling rack. place the cooling rack on a cookie sheet. bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp.
  2. cut the bacon into course pieces when cool.
  3. combine the sugars, butter, corn syrup, maple syrup and 1/2 cup heavy cream in a medium sauce pan. cook on medium high heat until it reaches 240F.
  4. liberally butter an 8x8 (thick candy) or 13x9 (thin candy) pan.
  5. remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup cream.
  6. put back on the stove and cook until it reaches 245F.
  7. remove from heat and stir in the bacon.
  8. pour into the buttered dish. cool for at least three hours.
  9. when ready to cut, invert the pan over a cutting board. let sit until the candy separates from the pan. if it's really sticking, set the pan in an inch of boiling hot water for 30 seconds to melt the outer layer of candy and invert the pan again.
  10. cut into whatever size pieces you'd like. wrap in wax paper.

carrot cake pancakes

it's no secret that i stink at pancakes. no matter how many times i've tried to make plain old ordinary pancakes, i can't. they're either too thick, too thin, burnt, or not cooked all the way through. but when i saw this recipe for carrot cake pancakes in cooking light, i knew i wanted to try them...but put it off until i had the confidence to try them.

so this morning was my time to conquer the pancake. and i did it!

and they were delicious. more filling than i originally expected, which makes sense since i used 4 carrots in the batter.

i'm always on the lookout for a zucchini recipe, and as i was making them i realized all the spices are the same used in zucchini muffins i made last summer when our plants were taking over. so i see zucchini pancakes in our future this summer.

what worked
  1. since i've had trouble with burnt/not cooked pancakes before, i timed the cooking time on each side this time. sounds like an obvious thing to do, but i never have. timing worked perfectly - they took 2 minutes on the first side and 1 on the flip side.
  2. i like the fine texture from grating the carrot with my microplane instead of a box grater. the carrot taste was still there, without the chunks.
what didn't
  1. the original recipe says it makes 12 1/2 cup pancakes. there's no way i could have gotten that much out of the batter.
  2. next time i'm going to add a bit more of the spices to the batter. it was spicy, but just enough to think "this could use a touch more."

carrot cake pancakes
adapted from cooking light, janurary/february 2010

total time: 30 minutes, makes 7 pancakes

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups finely grated carrot (i used my microplane rather than a box grater)
  1. whisk together the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
  2. in a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients together - brown sugar, buttermilk, canola oil, vanilla, and eggs.
  3. add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until moist and incorporated (there will be some lumps, that's ok). mix in the carrot.
  4. heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. coat with nonstick spray or butter and spoon batter by 1/3 to 1/2 cup in the skillet. use the back of a spoon to spread out the pancakes a bit before they set.
  5. cook about 2 minutes (until brown) and flip over and cook an additional minute.
  6. serve with butter and maple syrup.
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