Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Top #5 Pinterest Inspirations for the 4th of July!

Wow, 4th of July already!? Where is the summer going!? I know for Todd and I, it has been packed with wedding planning, catering events, family trips, grilling, and enjoying beautiful sunny evenings out on the deck. It's a wonderful life, and we are enjoying every minute of this lovely Minnesota season.

This weekend we will travel to northern Minnesota to my hometown of Virginia. It's a family filled fun weekend we make a promise to do each year. What will we all be making? It's still up in the air at this point, but here are my top 5 Pinterest inspirations, (in order of importance... duh!) I just can't decide!! PLEASE HELP!

#1: Fireworks Cookies
Of course these little beauties LOOK hard, but after a quick review of the recipe, they seem pretty darn easy. Super cute and fun way to dress up a classic sugar cookie for the holiday.
 Recipe and Photo Source: Martha Stewart 

#2: Stars and Stripes Pie
Um, this picture says a THOUSAND words. It's B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. My only terror is that mine will look absolutely nothing like this. I guess you never know until you try, right?
Recipe and Photo Source: Woman's Day

#3: Red, White and Blue Firecracker Popsicles
How adorable, (and healthy,) are these? Both kids and adults will be happy with this refreshing little snack!
Recipe and Photo Source: Brown Eyed Baker

#4: Watermelon and Blue Cheese Salad
Tasty, healthy, and easy? SOLD! This sounds like the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and delicious!
Recipe and Photo Source: Good Housekeeping

#5: Sangria
This sangria looks festive and looks refreshing on a hot summer day. Not too sweet with a punch of fresh fruit? What's not to love?

Recipe and Photo Source: Secrets Resorts Blog

Well, there you have it. This is the recipe list that is haunting me today. I just can't decide. What will you be making?

Safe travels and well wishes for a wonderful holiday this 4th!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dijon Baked Brussels Sprout Gratin

This is NOT a diet friendly recipe. This is not for anyone looking for a nice, light, and healthy recipe. This is for those who love a good splurge once in awhile and do not have a problem slathering a perfectly fine vegetable in a bunch of cheese.

Now that I have forewarned you that the calorie intake may be a bit higher than some, I have to tell you that flavor is rich, creamy, and delicious. I try very hard to stay on my diet, like most, but once in awhile, I want that  richness that some side dishes don't deliver. This... my friends... is that dish.

Dijon Baked Brussels Sprout Gratin
Serves: Four (4)

1.5 pounds of fresh brussels sprouts, halved with stems cut off
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1.5 cups milk
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup aged white cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
panko breadcrumbs
black pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven or grill to 350 degrees

Bring a pot of water and to boil and quickly blanch the brussels sprouts until they turn bright green. (Approx 2 minutes.) 

Melt butter over medium heat and incorporate flour with a whisk, then whisk in milk and bring to a slow boil. Turn down heat and allow sauce to thicken.

Stir in cheese, salt, cream cheese, and Dijon until fully all of them are incorporated.

Add brussels sprouts to sauce and mix well. Toss in Panko breadcrumbs and evenly coat mixture. Transport to a baking dish. 

Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top.

This dish may not be the healthiest of them out there but goodness gracious it is tasty. Make it for your next for dinner party along side a nice and light chicken breast to even out the heaviness. That will also make you feel less guilty about the indulgence.

Hope you love it as much as my family did!

Source: Vancity Foodie

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

It's HARD to get it right, isn't it?

There is definitely a trick and an art to making homemade bread. When all the recipes I have tried, failed me miserably I set out to ask those who have mastered it. Every individual I seek advice from has given me different tips, tricks, and advice. Every one makes bread differently! If the process wasn't difficult enough, none of any one's tricks came to my rescue. Instead, I have a rock hard, dense loaf of nothing that resembles bread! Is it possible that bread is just out of my wheel house? It can't be!!

I continue to fight the battle and still to this day have yet to get it right. (Although it has gotten better!) I don't know at this point if I will spend my entire life never getting it right or if I will have this "ahhh haaa," moment in my near future. Either way, I refuse to give up. I will keep trying. Why not? It can't get worse, (well maybe it could,) but I just can't stop now.

Until I hit that nail on the head,  the lovely Ina Garten, of Barefoot Contessa has an Irish soda bread that I use as my "cheater." Since you don't have knead the dough and let it rise, this recipe makes me feel like I can KIND OF make bread. Trust me, if I can make this recipe and it tastes good... you can too!

Irish Soda Bread
Makes: One round loaf

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter,
cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 3/4 cups cold butter milk, shaken
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, light beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the dough. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it should sound hollow.

Cool on baking rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

In honor of Ina, I have to say it! How easy is that?
It really was the easiest bread recipe I have ever come across. Again, it will get me through until I finally find a "trick," that will work for me on the REAL bread making process.

Hope you all are well!

Source: Ina Garten

Friday, April 12, 2013

Shrimp Scampi Fettuccine

Well, spring never did show up here in Minnesota. We are still patiently, (well, impatiently now,) waiting for it to arrive. Yesterday, we actually received several inches of snow. SNOW! In April! It's quite frustrating to say the least. I'm ready for sunshine and adult beverages on my deck!

Although the weather is depressing, I do have some fun and exciting news to share! After five years of together, Todd asked me to marry him!  In true Todd fashion, he popped the question on April fools day. When that little ring box appeared, my heart sank as I thought to myself, "this is the worst joke...EVER." To my surprise, there really was a beautiful ring inside that box and he wasn't kidding when he asked,  "Will you marry me?" My co-chef and I are going to make it official on September 6th, 2014 and we couldn't be more excited! We just started the wedding planning process a few days ago and while discussing the budget, I asked, "Where should be spend the most?" Todd and I, at the same time blurted out, "on the food!" Seems appropriate for us two cooks! I am now the event planner, planning my own wedding! This is gonna be good... Stay tune because I promise to share as I go!

In other, just as exciting news,  this pasta is my new favorite week night meal. Even though the snow keeps falling, I know in my head it's spring. I am trying to head into the "spring menu" at home. No more soups, and stews. Light and fit is where it's at!

I am in LOVE with this dish for two major reasons. 1.) It's healthy. 2.) It's SUPER easy to throw together for a weeknight meal.

Shrimp Scampi Fettuccine
Serves: Two (2)

6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 lemons, zested and juiced
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Dash of cayenne pepper, (optional)
1 Lb. large/jumbo raw shrimp, deveined, and butterflied.
1 shallot, diced
1/2-3/4 homemade or boxed fettuccine (See my recipe for homemade pasta here!)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups fresh arugula

In a bowl, combine garlic, zest and juice of lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and the shrimp. Set aside to marinate for up to an hour, (or as little as 15 minutes.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add generous amounts of salt. (Typically 1/8-1/4 cup.) Add pasta and boil until just tender. (If using store bought pasta, cook 2 minutes less than recommend on the box for al dente pasta. If using fresh homemade,  you should only boil this for 2-3 minutes total.) Drain and set into large pasta bowl.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over high heat. Add butter and shallots. Saute until shallots are clear, about 5-7 minutes. Add the shrimp and marinade to the pan. Stir to combine and cook until shrimp are pink and caramelized, (about three minutes.) Remove from heat and add shrimp mixture to the cooked pasta. Add in the arugula and toss to combine.

Serve with warm bread.

See? That was super easy, right? Healthy too! Let me know what you think!
Source: Modified version of this one from the Food Network.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Making Homemade Pasta

There is really nothing better than homemade pasta. Once you have it, you will taste the dried boxed stuff and ask yourself, "Why did I ever think this was good?" The best part about making pasta is that the recipe is so forgiving.  You simply cannot mess it up! When I make pasta... I get in a zone. I make a whole day of it and refuse to care about what sort of flour mess I make in my kitchen. I crank up Dean Martin on the Ipod and get to work. It's my favorite kind of kitchen therapy.

Making anything from scratch can seem a bit scary, but get over that because this is NOT! Not only is it simple, it will make every single pasta dish you make taste 100% better than using the old store bought boxed stuff!

Let's get started...

Homemade Pasta
Serves: Four (4)

Four (4) eggs
Two (2) cups flour
Dash of salt.
*Increase as you wish, but for each cup of flour you add, add another two eggs.

On a floured work surface, pour the flour into a tall mound and make a well in the middle. Pour the eggs into the well, making sure that the sides of the well are high enough so the egg doesn't spill over. Add a dash of salt.

Making your flour and egg well.
With your hands, slowly incorporate the egg and flour together until the ingredients form a sticky dough.  At this point, add flour to your work surface as needed and begin to kneed, roll, and punch your dough until it is smooth and no longer sticky.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and allow to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Set up your pasta machine by clamping it to a table, counter-top, or sturdy cutting board.

I use the Norpro 1049 Pasta Roller/Cutter
Divide the pasta dough into six or eight palm-sized pieces. Working with the first piece, adjust the pasta rollers to #1, the widest setting, and put the pasta through.  Make sure you flour the pasta dough lightly so that it doesn't stick to the rollers.  After the dough comes through the rollers, fold it into thirds and pass it through the #1 slot again.  Do this a couple of more times. The pasta will become very soft and velvety.  Adjust the rollers to the next setting, #2, and pass the pasta through a few times.  Do not fold the pasta this time.  Keep passing it through the rollers, adjusting them thinner, until you reach the thickness you like. (For ravioli, I stop at #4 or #5, as you want ravioli dough thicker while you work with it.)  As you pass the pasta through narrower settings, the pasta may become sticky again - keep lightly flouring it. Continue on to the next piece of dough and allow each "sheet" of pasta to dry out a bit.

This is roller setting #2

This is roller setting #5, almost finished.
Once all of your pasta sheets are to your liking and have dried a bit, attach the noodle-cutting attachment to the pasta machine according to your manual's instructions. Next, feed the thinly rolled sheet of pasta into the cutting attachment, catching the noodles by draping them over your hands as they're cranked out of the machine (again, it's helpful to have another person helping to turn the crank).

I used the fettuccine cutter for the pasta shown here.
Repeat above process with remaining sheets of dough and hang each section of noodles as they are cut. Hang each section to dry while you continue to work with pasta. They have fancy pasta racks out there, but you can use a laundry rack, or even hangers. Some of them can be found here at Amazon. I just used hangers.

Hang the pasta to dry about 2 hours before using.

Hanging to dry.

Ready to enter a boiling pot of water.
To cook pasta: 
Bring a large pot of water to boil
Add 1/4 cup of salt to the  boiling pot first. Now add pasta and cook 2-3 minutes.
Top with sauce of your choice!

Once your done with your pasta roller, brush it or wipe it with a dry towel. DO NOT clean with a wet rag as this will ruin your pasta rollers. If large pieces of dough are stuck inside, remind yourself to add a bit more flour when running them through the rollers next time. Allow the dough to dry and brush clean. Avoid using a wet rag at all cost!

Now, that doesn't seem so hard does it!? I bet it's easier than you thought. If you don't have a pasta roller, you can simply roll out each section with a wooden roller until very thing. Remember that pasta will "puff" up a bit when it's cooked so the thinner the better.

Once you get the hang of making basic pasta, experiment with it! Add in a pesto sauce or sun-dried tomatoes for flavor! Try a whole wheat or gluten free!The possibilities are endless.

Source: A combination of many recipes, finely tuned to my own liking!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Meet Keith! (An insight to why you haven't seen any food posts lately!)

Wow. It's been an incredibly busy past few weeks. I have hit a new level of busy and for the first time in years feel completely overwhelmed with where to direct my time. My day job keeps me at my desk from the minute I walk in the door to the moment I leave. Even better, The Little Bitchin Kitchen has gained quite a little clientele and I am honored to be planning/catering two wonderful couple's weddings.

In true Kristen form, taking on a heavier work load and expanding my own business wasn't enough on the plate! Todd and I decided to expand our growing "family."  On February 20, 2013 we brought home a twelve week old flat-coated retriever puppy and named him Keith. (Our oldest flat coat is Jagger. Do you see a theme here?) He is a rambunctious little fella and keeps Todd and I running at full speed, (literally!) His little personality fits our household well and we love him a ton!

Though I am too busy to remember my own name these days... I am happier than ever and just had to share. Here's a photo I grabbed of him while he actually sat still for a moment.

Isn't he just a doll? I love him very much. Big brother Jagger is doing fine. Although he doesn't love losing ALL the attention, he is teaching Keith a ton. You know, things like how to kennel, sit, pee outside, and most importantly... be a good dog.

Big Brother Jagger

A little brotherly love.
Yes, I have officially turned in to one of those dog people. I treat them as my children and take a ton of photos of them... don't judge me!

So there you have it. THIS is the reason I have been away so long. I apologize, but I do also have a lot of fun things coming up next week. First up: Irish Soda Bread. Who knew bread COULD be easy!? Then, how to make homemade pasta, followed by a wonderful shrimp pasta recipe to put all your pasta to use!

I hope you're looking forward to it, I know I am! See you all next week!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Short Ribs with Wine and Cream

It wasn't until recently that Todd and I decided to try short ribs. We were both short rib virgins. (Don't judge.)  I had heard of them, as did he, but nothing about them sang "amazing," to us... until we tried them. Decadent? Yes. Tender and juicy? Yes. Amazing? Yes. Probably the best cut of beef out there? YES!! They are THAT good.

This recipe is now a favorite in our household. It's not a summer time meal, though, that's for sure. This meal  definitely tastes best on those mid-western, "holy cow it's too cold outside and I don't want to leave the house," kind of days. Although making this takes up most of your day, it's well worth it and it really doesn't take a lot of effort. It fills your house with a wonderful aroma and the final product is much better than most meals I have eaten at fancy restaurants.

Short ribs are wonderful, that is, if you take your time with them and slowly cook them. That's the key to short ribs. Low and slow. Don't let them intimidate you. They are divine!

Short Ribs with Wine and Cream
Serves: Four (4)

12 whole short ribs
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth or stock
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 diced jalapeno or serrano pepper, (optional.)
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. assorted mushrooms. (I used porcini, shitake, and cremini)

Preheat oven to 275°F

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Generously salt and pepper the short ribs on each side. (You can add any sort of pork rub seasonings, if you wish.) Add six short ribs to the pan and sear both sides; about 2 minutes each side. Remove from pan and put on plate. Repeat the searing process for the next six ribs. Remove and add to plate.

In that same pan, (short ribs removed,) add the wine, beef broth, jalapeno, and rosemary. Stir to combine while scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Return the shortribs to the pot and place in the pre-heated oven for 3 -3 1/2 hours.

Remove from oven. Turn oven up to 425°F.

Carefully, with a slotted spoon, remove the shortribs from the pot again. Pour juice mixture through a fat separator. (If you don't have one of these, you can remove any excess fat from the mixture by skimming it with a baster.) If using the fat separator, pour back half of the broth mixture to the pot, (about 2 cups.) If skimming, remove half of the broth mixture, (about 2 cups.) Add in mustard and cream and allow to gently boil for about 3-4 minutes, or until it has thickened. If you want your sauce thinner, add back in some of your broth mixture back in, until you reach your desired consistency. Taste. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Return shortribs to the sauce, place lid on top and set aside.

Arrange your medley of mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Add about 3/4 cup of mushrooms to each plate and serve shortribs on top of them. Drizzle with extra cream sauce from the pan.

Truth be told. My mouth is watering as I type this recipe out. It is absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to my recipe box. A must try!!

Enjoy your weekend!

Source: Modified version of The Pioneer Woman Cooks.