Thursday, March 25, 2010

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

We’ve got news people. Big news. Wait, don’t jump to conclusions – it’s not that news. But it is exciting news. We’re moving! Thanks to a little thing called “apartment renovation”, Stan and I are moving a few blocks down the road to greener, less likely to be demolished, pastures. Perhaps most exciting? Our new place has a serious kitchen. We’re talking counter space and cabinets galore. After two and a half years of having to store kitchen appliances in bedrooms, coat closets, and in the oven, the prospect of all the new cooking and baking space is positively thrilling.

Today’s post is thus the last I will write from our current apartment. And I have to start it with a confession: I feel like a fool. Many months ago, I discovered the smitten kitchen website. One of the first recipes I came across was for this butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. I saved the recipe as an intriguing possibility, but I never got around to making it until yesterday. And that, my friends, is why I am fool. Because this recipe is out of this world. Truly, it is amazing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meyer Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

Spring has sprung in Nashville. Okay, maybe not quite, but it is trying. The sky continues to be gray and gloomy, but there are signs of hope people. Daffodils are popping up all over town and the magnolia trees that blanket the city are budding, getting ready to fill the air with their heady fragrance and beautiful color. Can you tell I like spring? And man, I am ready for it to get here in full force.

I have to believe this is what led me to jump the gun last night. By that I mean getting a little over-eager for spring produce and pretending it is asparagus season somewhere other than Mexico or Chile or maybe California. You know, somewhere like Nashville. And while the local growing season is still a few weeks away, I couldn’t resist picking up some asparagus during my last trip to the grocery store. Try as I might to buy things in season, the lure of spring asparagus was too tempting to resist. So I bought some, product of Mexico label and all.

My original plan had been to roast the asparagus. It’s my favorite was to prepare asparagus, no surprise considering my documented love of all roasted vegetables. (I’ll post my recipe for roasted asparagus in a few weeks, once asparagus is really in season.) Plans changed when I realized I did not have enough time to prepare my intended entrée/accompaniment. A little fridge and pantry raiding came up with all of the ingredients to make risotto, so I figured, why not?

I decided to pair the asparagus with some citrus for an even more spring-like flavor. I’d been trying to figure out what to do with some meyer lemons I picked up on impulse a few weeks ago, and this seemed like a great use for them. If you’ve never tried them, meyer lemons are less sour than regular lemons and have a beautiful golden-orange color. I used the zest and the juice of the lemons to perk up the flavor of the creamy rice. The asparagus provided great texture and color contrast. I have to confess, I burnt all the taste buds off my tongue while checking the rice for doneness, so I had to rely on Stan for a full review of the finished product. Happily, he said he really liked the risotto and would definitely enjoy eating it again in the future. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to fully taste and enjoy it too!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Irish Soda Bread - Part 2

Yesterday I told you about my first disastrous attempt at Irish soda bread. If you missed the post, suffice it to say, the recipe was a total flop. After throwing the bread in the trash, I wasn’t really feeling the love for the Irish soda bread. I thought about throwing in the towel and moving on to greener pastures, but I promised you another (better) soda bread, so I preserved. I know, so selfless.

I am, however, glad I sucked it up and tried another recipe. This Irish Wheaten Bread (aka brown soda bread) was worth it. The dough came together easily and formed a nice sized loaf. When it came out of the oven, the crust was lightly sweet and crunchy, and the inside was moist and flavorful. I cut off a couple of slices for us to sample plain, and then I wrapped the rest up and popped it in the freezer. I plan to thaw it out this weekend and serve it with some good butter and a side of eggs. I can’t think of a more perfect weekend breakfast.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread - Part 1

If you follow The Well-Fed Newlyweds on Facebook (and if you don’t, you should), you know that I embarked on something of an Irish soda bread baking frenzy this week. Don’t ask me why; I’m not even sure myself. You see, for one thing, I’m not remotely Irish. I also don’t get into celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, so that can’t be it either. If I had to guess, I’d have to say my baking spree was brought about by this month’s Bon Appétit magazine.

In the March issue, Bon Appétit features an article written by Andrew McCarthy. Yes, that Andrew McCarthy, the actor, and former Brat Packer. Apparently he does some writing these days, and in the latest Bon Appétit, he chronicles his quest for the perfect Irish soda bread. I was intrigued, as I respect the significance of a culinary quest. (I may have undertaken one or two myself over the years.) I thus made a mental note to try out what he determined to be the ultimate soda bread.

And then it got really interesting. I think I was sort of brainwashed. Being the week of St. Patrick’s Day, I was bamboozled with images and articles about Irish food, Irish soda bread in particular. I’m an easy target for a promising sales pitch (I’m afraid to watch infomercials for fear of buying everything), so I was quickly drawn in. Irish soda bread had me firmly on its hook. So I picked three recipes (choosing to ignore the question of how the two of us would possibly eat that much soda bread before it went stale), and I got to work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Slow Cooker Hoisin Beef Stew

Spring may be just around the corner, but it’s certainly taking its time here in Nashville. Flowers have yet to bloom, and the sky has taken on a seemingly perpetual shade of gray. Needless to say, things are looking a little gloomy around here. Instead of being depressed about, well, the depressing weather, I am instead choosing to look on the bright side – from a gastronomical perspective if not a meteorological one.

Gray skies and cool temperatures are the perfect excuse to try out warm and cozy recipes. If the recipes simmer all day in a slow cooker and fill your house with rich, meaty, mouthwatering aromas, so much the better. Culinary good times can certainly be found indoors, at least until sunny skies lead us outside to picnics and barbecues.

This recipe is a new spin on a classic beef stew. The traditional beef, onions, carrots, and celery are mixed with Asian flavors for a stew with a uniquely savory, slightly sweet flavor profile. If you haven’t tried it before, hoisin sauce is sometimes referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce. It is a little sweet, a little tangy, and a little spicy; how sweet, tangy, or spicy depends on the brand you use. You can find hoisin sauce in the Asian foods section of pretty much any big grocery store. They also carry it at places like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and of course, Asian markets.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cheddar Pennies

So, um, yeah… today’s recipe? I might have picked it just because of the name. Cheddar pennies – it’s kind of cute, right? Well, I think so anyway. And I have a weakness for cute things – puppies, cupcakes, my husband… but I digress. Cheddar pennies – cute in name, appearance, and tasty to boot.

If you’ve never tried them before (and I hadn’t prior to making them), cheddar pennies are small, buttery, shortbread-like crackers flavored with very sharp cheddar cheese. Recipes vary, but in general, cheddar pennies are typically made with butter, flour, cheddar cheese, and some seasonings. You can serve them plain or jazz them up with any number of herbs or spices.

In addition to being tasty, their short ingredient list and easy preparation make cheddar pennies a great go-to recipe for entertaining. You can even make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the freezer, ready to slice up and bake off whenever you need them… if you can wait that long. These little cheesey crackers are addictive. Once you taste one, you might not be able to resist baking up a whole batch to snack on. Fortunately, one recipe makes a lot of crackers, so you’ll have enough to share. You know, if you’re feeling generous.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Maple Granola To-Go

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a morning person. Neither is Stan. We are all about sleeping in as long as possible. We are BFFs with our snooze buttons. Needless to say, by the time we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning, we are often in a hurry to get out the door. This does not leave much time for breakfast, which is a shame, because elementary school taught us all that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What’s a girl or guy to do when caught in this predicament? Easy – grab breakfast to go.

Now I must admit, I’m not one for eating breakfast in the car if I can help it. (I tend to end up wearing whatever I’m eating.) But I do appreciate the convenience of foods that can easily be packed up and tossed in a purse or lunch bag for later consumption. I’m a girl who likes her snacks. Stan likes to pack his breakfast every morning and take it to work with him. Sadly, he has more time to eat at his desk than at home. It seems we are victims of the so-called “rushed” American culture. But it’s not our fault. It’s the darn snooze button.

Looking to help Stan spice up his take-out breakfast routine, I tried this Maple Granola To-Go recipe a couple of weeks ago. Not exactly granola “bars” the granola is baked in the oven then pressed into muffin cups and baked again, resulting in round granola bars. The recipe is pretty flexible, allowing you to use whatever dried fruits you like. (I used dried apricots and cranberries.) And while the recipe calls for specific types of nuts, I’m sure you could substitute whatever nuts you like.

Nutty, fruity, chewy, and not too sweet, these granola bars made a great portable breakfast treat for Stan. I enjoyed them too, crumbled up over some Greek yogurt. If you’re looking for a new breakfast treat (or a mid-afternoon snack) I would recommend giving this recipe a try.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Normally I like to give you guys a little story before I post a recipe. Today I just can’t. The cookies I made this weekend were so freakin’ amazing I have to tell you about them. Now. No time for an introduction or any hint of anticipation. Just this: make these cookies immediately – if not sooner. They are that good.

These are thick and chewy cookies. Rich and chocolaty cookies. Cookies filled with chocolate chips and (optional) walnuts. And the secret ingredient? Instant coffee. You’d never know it was there, but the coffee boosts the chocolate flavor to another level. We cannot stop eating these cookies. Seriously, I had to ask Stan to leave me a couple to photograph. Instead, he asked me to take a picture of a plate with nothing on it but crumbs. (He thought this would show how good the cookies were… and allow him to eat the few that remained.)

In short, these are going to be my new go-to cookies… maybe forever.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mushroom Rice Casserole

When it comes to comfort foods, casseroles rank high on the list. Perhaps it’s because we so often associate them with family dinners and happy childhood memories. Maybe it’s because casseroles are warm and cozy kinds of dishes. They may not be fancy or sophisticated, but casseroles are hearty, filling, and have the power to make you feel comforted at the end of a long day.

Casseroles are not, however, always the healthiest of dining options, with creamy sauces, salty condensed soups, and mounds of cheese often playing major roles. And while I’ll be the first to admit I love a good cheesey casserole (hello – macaroni and cheese), for everyday eating, I try to find healthier ways to remake some of my old favorites. This mushroom rice casserole isn’t an exact replica of anything I ate as a child, but it definitely reminds me of a few favorites. And really, who’s to say casseroles are only for kids? We certainly enjoyed this one and will make it again often.

This mushroom rice casserole is the epitome of comfort food. It is homey and delicious, full of chopped mushrooms and a subtle onion flavor. Instead of the condensed cream soups typically found in casseroles with similar ingredients, this casserole uses cottage cheese, sour cream, and eggs to bind the mushrooms and rice together. These ingredients add extra protein and contain far less salt than most canned soups. You can use low-fat versions of the cottage cheese and sour cream as well, which makes the casserole a bit healthier. Serve this casserole as a side or as a vegetarian entrée. It would also be great with some cooked chopped chicken breast stirred in before baking. However you dish it up, this casserole is guaranteed to add a little comfort to your day.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Swiss Chard with Feta and Pine Nuts

Today’s post is all about impulse. The impulse that led me to buy a bunch of gorgeous, glossy red Swiss chard at Whole Foods yesterday. The impulse that made me cook it up last night instead of saving it for its intended recipe later in the week. The impulse I fought to not eat the entire batch I prepared. And the impulse I had to resist when I wanted to post this recipe immediately last night but couldn’t since Stan was using the computer. So yeah, this post is dedicated to impulse. But really, when impulse drives me to buy and eat fresh, dark leafy greens, I’m not going to complain. At least it wasn’t ice cream. This time.

If impulse (or good health) hasn’t driven you to trying Swiss chard, I really recommend it. Incredibly nutritious, Swiss chard has shiny, dark green leaves attached to stems that come in an array of colors. When cooked, it has a taste somewhat similar to spinach. I like it because it does not get quite so wilted when it cooks, and you can add in the stems for a little extra crunch and color. Not as bitter as some of the other leafy greens, Swiss chard lends itself well to a number of preparations. Pair it with some crunchy pine nuts, salty feta, and spicy red pepper flakes. It just might become your favorite impulse recipe.


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