Image

Mistakes, I’ve made a few…

So, this blog is supposed to be about my cooking journey right? I’ve noticed that I haven’t really given you any insight into my cooking errors (yet another error on my part). Anyway, yesterday was stock day. I took a tip from Bon Appetit online, and roasted my bones first. I was so dang excited for this batch. I let is slow simmer overnight, and my kitchen smelled glorious the next morning. The broth looked rich and dark and as I lifted my spoon for a taste,  it hit me. BITTER. My flippin stock was bitter! Why you ask? I added a full lemon to the stock and it bittered the shit up. I thought about this as I added the lemon, but I tossed it in anyway. I do that a lot. I foresee the cooking error before I do it, and I do it anyway. Why? WHY DO I DO THIS? It’s actually been the culprit to many a kitchen mishap. Do any of you do this too?

Anyway, in the spirit of embracing my authentic self and trying to be better, here is a list of lessons I’ve learned from kitchen mishaps:

  1. Don’t add a whole lemon to your stock and let it cook overnight. Maybe add just the juice at the end, or the whole lemon the last half hour, but don’t keep it in there 18+ hours.
  2. To get a good sear on meat, really take the time to make sure your pan is the right temp (not too hot not too cool) and really just leave it there for a few. I often get impatient and prematurely flip the meat, or put it on before the pan is got enough.
  3. For the love of all that is delicious don’t add food to a pan that you know is too hot. YOU.WILL.RUIN.YOUR.FOOD. I did this the other night with risotto.
  4. Keep your knife cuts consistent. Otherwise you will end up with overcooked and undercooked pieces in the same batch of whatever you are cooking.
  5. Don’t have too much going on at once. YOU WILL BURN SOMETHING. Read your recipe and plan ahead. If you are making a particularly intensive dish, take care of all of your prepping before you turn on the oven or stove. This is what the French call Mise en Place.
  6. Know what your ingredients taste like before you cook with them.
  7. When you know something is ruined, start over. I once accidentally added sweetened canned pumpkin to a batch of my pumpkin soup AND THEN SERVED IT TO GUESTS! It was terrible. I just felt bad wasting the food. In hindsight, I should have just ordered pizza instead.
  8. Forgive yourself. We all have our off nights/days. My cooking mishaps have made for some great laughs between my husband and I throughout the years. Ask him about my ‘Beef Stroganoff’.

I am going to certainly add to this list as time goes on. Trust me.

Want a laugh? Here are the pictures of what we call the ‘doomed Valentine’s day breakfast of 2014’. This was a clear example of having too much going on at once.

I’ve got something brewing besides my broth. I’ve been testing meal kits from various sources, and I will report my results in the next week or so. Until then happy cooking.

Dark chocolate wishes and dairy free dreams…

There is this ice cream place in our town that sells artisanal ice cream. The shop boasts flavors such as lavender mascarpone, blood orange sorbet, and DARK chocolate ice cream. Their ice cream is one of my guilty pleasures. I say guilty pleasure because, 1. it’s so dang expensive (but worth every penny) and 2. it’s so very rich. I usually order the dark chocolate ice cream, but my friend turned me on to their dark chocolate sorbet. I gotta tell you, I wasn’t sure at first, but one taste made me a believer! Would you believe that sorbet could be creamy? It IS!

I have been craving the stuff big time, but time, weather, money, and the fact that it’s freaking February have all prevented me from stopping in to get some
. The craving got so bad that I decided to dust off the ole ice cream maker, and take her for a spin!

The following recipe isn’t quite sorbet. It’s actually ice cream.. kinda.. I had some coconut creamer that I wanted to use up so I substituted water with coconut milk.

This recipe was adapted from David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Sorbet on Food52.com.

2 1/4 cups Coconut milk

¼ cup  dark agave

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey Special Dark)

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips (make sure package says dairy free)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1.In a saucepan on medium, heat half of the coconut milk, coco powder and agave whisking constantly.

  1. Once the mixture reaches a slow boil, remove from heat and add the vanilla bean paste, chocolate chips, and stir until chocolate has melted.
  2. Incorporate the remaining coconut milk and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  3. Once the mixture is completely chilled, use an immersion blender to make sure all lumps are smoothed out. Then make the ice cream according to your machine’s instructions.

I keep meaning to take a picture of the finished product, but I keep eating it. ***edit: I was finally able to control myself enough to nab a picture this morning! ***
image

Here is the mixture in the sauce pan.
image

And here is the mixture once it’s done chilling:
image

Until next week!

Image

Don’t Cry Over Burnt Toast

So last week was one of my worst cooking weeks ever. I was all off. I have no idea what the heck was wrong with me. I burned the toast every morning, I managed to serve dry chicken that was boiled in a pressure cooker, and I gave my family bad breath for days when I added to much garlic to a béchamel sauce I served over tortellini. So because of this, I don’t have an awesome recipe to share this week. I do however, have a few tips to help you get through weeks like this.

  1. Rotisserie chicken is your friend. I either buy a ready-made rotisserie chicken, or when whole roasting chickens are $.99 a pound I buy one of them. You serve them the night you roast them alongside of mashed potatoes, and roasted broccoli, the next day as a chicken salad sandwich, and then reheated the next night in chicken fajitas or pot pie. When you’re done with the meat, you can boil the bones to make your own stock.
  2. Make double and freeze. Sauces, soups and stews oh my! Whenever you make one of these treasures be sure to make a double batch and freeze the other half. On a week when your cooking game is off, you can grab it out of the freezer and thank your past self for a delicious dinner.
  3. Speaking of freezing, I was reading today that you can make roux ahead and freeze it for up to 6 months! Make a big batch ahead of time, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays. Toss one or two cubes in the aforementioned stew or pot pie to thicken the sauce. Another great item to freeze is fresh herbs. I always chop and freeze (again in an ice cube tray) whatever I have leftover from a recipe. Fresh herbs are a great way to amp up any recipe. You can even use the stems to flavor stock!

Next week, I’ll hopefully have something amazing to share. I bet my family would love that too. In the meantime, I’m going to dine on frozen sweet potato soup and burnt toast while staring at these two beautiful faces.

IMG_20160201_122654

Image

This One’s a Keeper!

I bet you figured out by now that I love to cook. I love learning about cooking, and trying out new recipes. However, I think that I love trying out new recipes a little too much. It is because of this, that after ten years of making a home and cooking for my family, I don’t have any tried and true recipe staples, or ‘Keepers’. I didn’t even realize this until after three new recipes this week, my husband says, “these recipes are great, but let’s start a list of good ones to go back to.” We have been talking about it for days now, and we both wracked our brains and really can’t think of a SINGLE recipe that I have made consistently. THIS.ENDS.NOW. I have really fond memories of eating (and now making) things that my grandmother, aunt, and mother used to make. Every time I miss my grandmother, I make Breaded Cauliflower, Eggplant Parm, or Pasta Fagioli and I am instantly a kid again sitting in her kitchen dipping the cauliflower in egg wash and breadcrumbs while an episode of the Golden Girls played on her 10 inch television on the counter. I want that for my boys. I want them to come home from college craving “mom’s” (insert dish here). So as part of my new year’s resolutions, I vow to make a list of recipes that will become family staples! I will keep you posted on my progress.

Here is what I made this week:

Orange Chicken Meatballs
Verdict: It’s going on the list! The only thing I changed about this recipe is that I mixed ground chicken and pork. I served it alongside basmati rice and roasted broccoli.

IMG_20160119_182814

Orange Chicken Meatballs

Spanish Chicken and Potatoes

Verdict: This also made the list. I roasted the tomatoes, garlic and eggplant instead of cooking them in a pan.

Buckwheat Risotto with Mushroom and Goat Curd

Verdict: Didn’t make the cut. I actually really liked it, but the family didn’t. My guys have simple tastes. Also, not sure if buckwheat is the best for making a risotto. I am going to try farro next time. My husband loved the mushrooms sautéed in butter though. Might use that for another recipe.

Baked Farro and Butternut Squash

Verdict: It’s a keeper! I made the bacon in my dutch oven, removed it and then sautéed the onion and toasted the farro in the bacon grease. I mixed the squash with salt, pepper, parmesan and garlic powder before topping the farro with it. My 3 year old ate the crap out of it.

IMG_20160115_183629

Another resolution : Take better pictures.

THIS IS NOT A PUMPKIN RECIPE

Fall is officially upon us, and with that comes a slew of pumpkin products, pumpkin drinks, pumpkin picking and a crap ton of pumpkin recipes. THIS IS NOT A PUMPKIN RECIPE. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin as much as the next girl, but I came across a video by ‘Tastey Food’ on YouTube featuring pull apart monkey bread and I could not stop thinking about it. So while my 2.5 year old and 6 week old decided to nap at the same time, I sacrificed this brief brief window of precious shower/eating/napping/quiet time to make this recipe. I got out all of my ingredients, preheated the oven, and then I heard it… first it was grunting, then it was whining, then it came out in full force WHAAAAAAAA!!!!! The.baby.woke.up. I did not let this deter me. I went in and rocked him until he fell back to a semi sleep and ran back into the kitchen. I knew that my time was limited, but I REALLY wanted some dang monkey bread. I went to get to work, and then womp womp… I bought pizza crust instead of rolls! Again undeterred, I decided to just wing it.

I am going to cut right to the chase with the ‘recipe’ then you can see my process in pictures below.

Cream Cheese & Chocolate Log

  • 1 8oz Bar of Cream Cheese
  • 8 oz (half bag) Semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TBL Butter
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Blame it on #mommybrain

Blame it on #mommybrain

Melt two tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan.

Preheat oven to 375. Then, melt two tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan.

Cut and lay out the cream cheese on the pizza crust.

Cut and lay out the cream cheese on the pizza crust.

ADD chocolate. Spread it evenly, not crappily like I did.

ADD chocolate. Spread it evenly, not crappily like I did.

***NOT PICTURED (OOPS SORRY!) Create a log by rolling the dough lengthwise.***

Brush the log with the butter & brown sugar mixture. Bake for a half hour or until the outside of the log looks like this:

ooooohhh!

ooooohhh!

Ahhh!!!!

Ahhh!!!!

Until next time! (whenever that may be)

Happy Cooking!

xoxo Niki

A little bit of everything. A post about why I haven’t posted & Curried Carrot Soup!

Hi All,

As summer came (and went) into full swing, so did my inspiration. I have been very busy in the kitchen!!! As you may have seen on my Facebook Page, I purchased stacks of summer food magazines. I poured over them for weeks, and made a wonderful meal for my friends.  Also, during this time (my lag between posts), my husband was out of town, and I was forced to think up several delicious and quick meals for my toddler and I. Quick is usually not my forte, so this actually was a challenge.  I’ve also been busy in the kitchen processing the bountiful harvest that our small garden and CSA have provided. Luckily for all of us, I’ve captured most of this in pictures!

The reasons why Niki hasn’t had time to write:

1. Dinner Party! Most of these recipes came from the Food Network Summer issue:

IMG_20140824_143437194_HDR

I received a generous amount of heirloom tomatoes from our CSA. I wanted to dress them up and show them off by making this heirloom tomato, and fontina cheese torte!

IMG_20140824_145911151_HDR

Between my garden, and the CSA I had Zucchini for days! I whipped up this quick and easy zucchini and caramelized onion tart to tide our guest over until the main event! This was the only recipe that was my own. 1. Thinly slice and caramelize three large onions. 2. Spread mixture over raw puff pastry. 3. Arrange thinly sliced zucchini on top of the caramelized onion mixture. 4. Make a mixture of 2 tbl panko bread crumbs, 2 tbl pecorino romano cheese, 1/2 tsp evoo. Sprinkle on top of zucchini. 5. Bake at 375 until puff pastry is done, and the zucchini is cooked.

IMG_20140824_082329537_HDR

Peach Bourbon upside-down cake!

IMG_20140824_082105523_HDR

I acquired these succulent beauties at the farmers market. I needed to put them to good use!

IMG_20140824_082114534_HDR

What the cake is supposed to look like.

 

IMG_20140824_112443795_HDR

How my cake turned out. Not too shabby!

IMG_20140823_150820483_HDR

We topped the peach upside-down cake with homemade honey frozen yogurt.

 

2. I have an almost two year old who is very active and LOVES to explore. I didn’t have an hour to make dinner like I usually do when my husband is home. While I don’t mind ordering out, I didn’t want to do it every night. I used to staples from my kitchen that SAVED me. I will eventually make a full list of all of my kitchen staples, but here are a few to tide you over until then:
*Grated pecorino romano
*Chicken Stock
*Meatballs

Yes. Your read that one right. Meatballs. I ALWAYS have meaballs in my freezer. I make them myself when I have some extra time and then freeze. In a pinch the store bought kind are good too. They can be added to soups, sauce, used as an appetizer, or they make a great pizza topping. They also make a great alternative to chicken nuggets for a toddler lunch. You won’t be seeing my personal recipe any time soon. Lets wait to get to know each other better first. :o)

IMG_20140809_184558441_HDR

Night one was easy peasy! I prepared some frozen tortellini according to the package instructions. In another pot, I heated some frozen meatballs up in chicken stock. Once the meatballs were fully heated, I tossed the pasta in with some greens and stirred until the greens are wilted. I topped it with some fresh basil, salt & pepper, and a generous sprinkling of percorino romano.

IMG_20140806_183930121_HDR

When you DO order out like I did, you can use the leftovers in creative ways. I got these beautiful cippolini onions at the Stockton farmer’s market and wanted to put them to good use. I also had some leftover white rice from Chinese delivery the day before.

IMG_20140806_184330320_HDR

Saute the onions in a little EVOO

IMG_20140806_185119052_HDR

Once the onions soften, add the rice, CHICKEN STOCK, salt, pepper, and some frozen peas! This was actually a side dish to some grilled chicken. However, I could eat this as a main dish!

3. Over the past few weeks, I’ve amassed a huge pile of carrots. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t really like carrots! Week after week, I would take them from my CSA haul and put them away in the fridge hoping that inspiration would strike. It never did. It wasn’t until my crisper runneth over that I took action.

DSC03933

Beauties!

DSC03936

Squidward tentacles

DSC03939

Cooking!

DSC03940

Adding spices!

DSC03942

Stroke of genius! The soup was good, but was screaming for something to marry the strong earthy flavor of the carrot, and the spice of the curry.

DSC03946

Final product. Served with garlic Naan and garnished with cilantro.

DSC03943

Here is the full recipe for my soup. I made several changes to the original recipe to make it my own.

2 pounds of carrots sliced
1 large onion
4 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
2 tbl curry powder
2 tbl garam masala
*4-5 cloves garlic grated
*1 tbl grated fresh ginger
salt & pepper to taste

1. In a dutch oven or heavy bottom stock pot, saute onions until soft.
2. Add carrots, chicken stock, garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook until carrots are very soft.
3. Blend mixture in small batches in a blender or use an immersion blender (recommended) to puree. NOTE: You can blend the soup in a larger batch if you let it cool completely first. It’s very dangerous to fill a blender with hot liquid in large batches. Additionally, if the soup doesn’t take on a creamy/silky texture, you can add more hot chicken stock.
4. Add soup back to the pot, and stir in coconut milk.

Serve with crusty bread or Garlic Naan.

*Tip I buy garlic cloves and fresh ginger in large batches. I peel the ginger chop it and puree in a blender. I take that mixture and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen they can be put into a ziplock bag to store in freezer.I toss a cube or two into various dishes to add a punch of flavor. I used two cubes in this recipe.

Well that is all for this week! I’ve been busy with various other smaller kitchen projects. I share those on my Facebook Page. Last week, I made pickles, processed tomatoes, and made a spicy old fashioned ketchup! Please ‘Like’ my page to get the recipe.

Happy Cooking!

xoxo Niki

A delicious weekend getaway!

This post is a few days late. I’ve been having some trouble because I am OVER inspired!! I’ve seriously been immersing myself in all things cooking and eating.  I had so many topics that I wanted to share with you this week, and I couldn’t just pick one. So, let me take you on the journey that I went on last weekend. I had an incredible anniversary getaway to New Hope PA, with my husband that awakened my palate again. We literally ate our way through the entire weekend.

We started off with Ahi Tuna Tartar Tostadas at Havana. Well, we actually started off with a cheese platter and glass of wine at Hopewell Valley Vineyards. It’s a quaint little place that has jazz and brick oven pizza on Saturday nights. I highly recommend this place for either a nice afternoon with your girlfriends, or a date night with your significant other. Anyway, back to the Ahi Tuna Tartar Tostadas.  They were the perfect fusion of Cuban and Asian flavors. The crisp, salty tostada was paired perfectly with the fresh ahi tuna both of which were complimented by the heat of the wasabi sauce. I washed that down with a spiced Mojito (or two). We then walked around, and decided to stop to smoke my very first Hookah.  I’m not a smoker, but this was the first time we have been away since our son was born, and maybe it was the Mojitos or the sense of freedom that I felt, but we stumbled upon place right by the Delaware River, and decided to go for it. Blue mist was the flavor we chose, and it was basically blueberry with a slightly minty finish. It was great and relaxing to just talk and watch the sunset on the river.

IMG_20140802_191220641

Blue Mist….

Our next (and final) destination was a cool and homey little wine bar beneath the Lambertville Station Pub. It features a cozy fireplace, comfy chairs, and stone walls. It’s the perfect place to sip on some wine or whisky and maybe even nosh on some dessert or an appetizer. We decided to do ALL of those things.

First, we got right down to business and ordered two flights. We ordered one of whisky and one of scotch. I currently have an e-mail into the restaurant to get the names of everything we ordered because it was THAT good. We had no intentions of drinking them all, but we certainly drew some stares! Next name the Rustic Flatbread which consisted of “smoky bacon, arugula, caramelized onion, dried cranberries and smoked mozzarella baked onto a crispy grilled flatbread crust”. This is the flatbread to which I will measure all other flatbreads!!! The crust danced the line of being a bit too crunchy, but then at the right moment that luscious bite was also soft. The combination of the smoky bacon, and cheese with the sweet caramelized onion and the cranberries danced on your tongue like an elegant waltz that turns into a salsa because you are then hit with the tangy and slightly spicy notes from the arugula.  The whole experience was magical. So magical in fact that after we finished our chocolate truffle ice cream torte, we ordered another flat bread.

IMG_20140802_204330686

Take flight!!

The next day, we ventured out to the Stockton market. If you live in the area this is a MUST see. This place has an awesome selection of fresh veggies, seafood, meat, cheese, olive oil, lavender, fresh pastries, & crepes. It also features BBQ food stand, fresh coffee, and a juice bar. It’s small, but in a beautiful building and a quaint little town.

We ended our journey at the Tiger’s Tale restaurant in Montgomery NJ. This is a place my husband and I frequented on Sundays well before we were married, well before our son was a twinkle, and well before day drinking at our age was inappropriate. We bellied up to our old seats at the bar, munched on some popcorn and delicious fish tacos, and washed it all down with a few wheat beers.

This weekend was the first time we’ve been away from our son in 20 months. While we missed our little guy it was nice to have an adventure the way we used to. It was also inspiring to eat, and read menus with this new journey of food blogging that I am embarking on in the back of my mind. It’s like looking at life from a whole new perspective and I have to say, it’s pretty damn awesome.

I have two more posts in the works for you. I haven’t forgotten the vinegar quest that I wanted to go on nor have I been neglecting my perfect sandwich bread challenge. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, there are things that I want to share with you that aren’t quite post worthy, but are still interesting. I’ve decided to share these things through Facebook. So when you have a moment, take the time to scoot over and ‘Like’ my Facebook page here:  Most awesome FB page EVER!