Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Simply Caprese

Hello all! I hope you all find yourselves enjoying delicious food and memories this week! If not, you should get on that.  As much as I love to cook, there are times when I just need to make something simple yet delicious. Allow me to pique your interest with the fruit of the season (tomatoes).  In case you're raising an eyebrow, please know that anything with seeds is technically a fruit. But then what about a cucumber or zucchini? Quite honestly, after researching the topic long enough, I decided both are delicious and equally important to your diet..."to-may-to, to-ma-tow"

This lovely and delicate dish is very easy to make with only a few ingredients.  I will warn you however, this goes better aside an entree rather than being the main attraction. Let's just say, it's not the most filling dish on this website. Unless you're on a strict diet (as if I know what that is) you should probably pair it with a pasta or chicken dish.

 I truly believe that there are two things that make spending time with friends even more enjoyable--wine, and food.  I had the wonderful opportunity of spending some much needed time with my friend, Debbie last Friday.  We drank, and cooked, and ate, and talked about cooking and ate some more. It was outstanding! I made a pasta dish (featured in next post) and decided I needed to add some color to the meal.  Debbie has a garden and she was kind enough to bring three different herbs over; spearmint, peppermint, and basil.  I am jealous that she always has these at her fingertips. No pun intended.

Prep time: 5 minutes         Serves: 2


Ingredients
2 vine ripened tomatoes
6 3/8in thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
8 leaves basil
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper

Steps
1. slice the tomatoes into even slices and place each one on its own plate
2. slice mozzarella into 6 even slices and place three evenly atop the tomatoes
3. place washed basil leaves atop the mozzarella
4. drizzle extra virgin olive oil
5. sprinkle salt and pepper to taste

Enjoy!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Risotto con pollo e funghi



I was flipping through my Better Home and Garden cookbook given to us by my brother-in-law (thanks Matthew!) and I daringly turned to the pasta section. Can I just say? Pasta is the one thing I will never give up no matter what eating trend I find myself in.

Side note: Today I am starting a 30-day challenge. I heard a segment of a podcast on TED Talks (I highly recommend this) about how people can create habits and routines within 30 days Click here for podcast. The speaker (Matt Cutts) started biking to work and now loves it.  As we established earlier, I tend to stick to my goals when I broadcast them to the public. That way, if I fail at them, I've got more than just my own disappointment to worry about.  With that said, I've decided to work out 3 days/week. Call this what you want, but it is definitely a goal that will be challenging for me. I have never worked 3 days/ week consecutively. IT'S NOT FUN! Therefore, I don't enjoy it.

This brings me back to eating trends.  People think that if they just cut out that one "poisonous" food group, they will drop pounds like flies. As true to an extent as this might be, I am the first to say "everything in moderation". People need to enjoy their lives to their fullest and we all know where one of my most important joys stems from: FOOD.

As I flipped through the delicious pastas, I stopped myself at "Risotto". I have made this rich dish once before but it had been several years. I read through the recipe and no offense to BHG cookbook, but the first thought through my mind was "this has so much more potential"! I used the recipe as my base, and let my imagination do the rest.

I must say (modestly), I absolutely love when an new original recipe turns out to be a hit. It is what I am most proud of. I would equate it to someone doing really well on a test. Same goes for a day-job. It's just my thing.

So here is my recipe for my Parmesan risotto with chicken and mushrooms in a savory-cream sage sauce. See why I translated the name into Italian? It's straight-forward and to the point. Also, you cannot deny how beautiful it sounds. I will say, I was hesitant to put this on my website because it is not the easiest meal to make (it requires a good amount of multitasking). However, if you are up for a challenge, it is definitely worth the 1 hour cooking time and multitasking required to make it. Awe, heck- I'm going to go ahead and dub this recipe fun, ALMOST easy, and positively delicious.

Ingredients
1 small finely chopped onion
2 cups half and half (cream and milk)
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbs butter
12-24 oz fresh sliced mushrooms (depending on how much of a mushroom-lover you are)
1/4 pound chicken breasts
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
32 oz chicken broth
1 tsp sage
salt
pepper


Steps:

1. Begin by bringing the broth to a light boil in a small pot
2. Sautée onion, garlic and 2 tbs butter into a medium pan until the onions are translucent
3. Mix in arborio rice and stir for a couple of minutes to give it a toasted taste
4. Use a large ladle to pour boiling broth into the arborio rice. STIR REPEATEDLY. Make sure it is cooked entirely (without burning the rice) before adding the next ladle. This process is what makes the rice sticky.
5. While you're stirring the rice and broth, sautée the remaining butter with the mushrooms until they are lightly browned on medium heat. "Don't crowd the mushrooms, otherwise they won't brown" -Julie and Julia
6. Pour the half -and-half over the mushrooms and make sure to stir repeatedly so the cream doesn't curdle or boil over
7. Add the chicken and sage to the mushrooms and make sure it is fully covered by the cream. Flip repeatedly to ensure even distribution of heat
8. Once you pour your last ladle of broth into the rice, add Parmesan cheese and stir one last time. The consistency should be significantly thicker than the beginning.
9. Once the chicken is cooked to its fullest, dish out a small portion of rice onto a plate and cover with mushrooms and chicken.

For garnish, use finely chopped parsley.

Bon appetite


Monday, July 9, 2012

A Mojo for Mojito


Yesterday, we celebrated my father's **th birthday. It was probably one of the best times we've shared celebrating the day that Pops was born. My family came over to our home and we had a little fiesta a la cumpleaños (birthday party).

For appetizers, I made my famous Mexican dip (see previous post) while my sister made my guacamole recipe (see previous post). The main course consisted of my Lebanese potato salad (see previous post) grilled steaks (thanks to my grill-master) and grilled tomatoes (I highly recommend trying). It was a delicious evening! 

As great as that all was, there is one fact that cannot be denied... All that is not the same without a summer celebration cocktail (pardon me for sounding like Sandra Lee, it will not happen again).  In the backyard of my parents house stands about 2 square feet of tall, fresh mint leaves.  These have been growing ever since I can remember and my parents have always incorporated fresh mint leaves into our meals. I highly recommend drying, crushing and sprinkling some over cold salads and even freshly scrambled eggs. That sounds odd but you won't regret it. Think of it as a substitute for black pepper, or even your habitual hot sauce douse. 

Anyway, my sister had the excellent idea to have a themed drink throughout the evening. Being Lebanese, this is not a foreign concept during gatherings. She decided to make Mojito's! After a few trial runs, we perfected the recipe! It was a popular choice and everyone was beyond satisfied with this refreshing, summer drink. This quick drink recipe is the first non-food item that has made it on the list of food AND drink that is fun, easy and positively delicious!

Simple Syrup: (quantity can vary depending on how much you plan on using) 
QUICK TIP: This can be saved and refrigerated for later use

2 cups water
2 cups sugar

Pour the water and sugar in a small to medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Make sure to continue to stir and let it simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. 

Mojito

1/4 lime
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz white rum
3 oz club soda
4-5 mint leaves
ice

1. In a tall and narrow glass, muddle the (washed) mint leaves enough to break the mint leaves into small pieces. If you do not have a muddler, simply rip the mint leaves like paper until they are in small pieces
2. Fill the cup with ice but make sure to leave enough room for the liquids
3. Squeeze the slice of lime into the cup
4. Mix in the rest of the ingredients then stir lightly
5. If the glass has enough room, add more ice and a slice of lime for garnish

Cheers to summer and all the joys it brings! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

New Year's Resolution in July


I think that New Year's resolutions are extremely overrated. Let's be honest, they're made to be broken.

I just took a trip to be in one of my best friend's wedding up in northern Michigan this past weekend and may I just say, I no longer think of dirty Detroit when I hear the "Pure Michigan" commercials. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Brian and I visited three main locations: Frankfort (Crystal Lake), Sleeping Bear Dunes, and good ole' touristy Traverse City.

I not only had a fabulous vacation with my husband, I also learned a lot about myself. For one thing, I'm the type of person who has to state my new hopeful achievements in order to follow through with them. That's when I had a conversation with a lovely friend (Hannah Stone) and had an epiphany. 

I am starting my New Year's resolution's in July. People joke about Christmas in July, why can't I recreate my resolutions then as well?  Better late than never I say!

So here's the plan, I am going to post to my devoted and long lost love (my website) AT LEAST once a week. I am also changing the format. It does not have to always include recipes and restaurant experiences.  I think about food all the time. Anyone who knows me will vouch for that. So why not stay devoted to my website regardless if I cooked a new recipe or not? 

I have heard too many complaints and feel very shamed for continuously claiming future consistency in posting. THIS IS IT! CONSIDER THIS MY OATH.

With that said, I brought home three lovely souvenir's from the quaint and lively Traverse City, MI. Spoiler alert, they all are correlated with food. We stopped in an olive oil and vinegar store. I have never heard of something of the sort until I read about it in the travel guide. Fustini's is a tactful store with an ambiance that is welcoming and straightforward. All four walls are lined with intriguing canisters filled with oils and vinegars hinted with fruits, herbs and more of life's greatest joys (e.g. espresso).  It is quite an interesting experience! I purchased a peach flavored white vinegar along with an olive oil cruet that has been on my wishlist for quite some time. (Thank's Brian for being such a great sport with my indecisiveness!) Both I used with great success today! 


We also visited an old book shop called The Bookie Joint where it maintains its charm by continuously trading old/new books. Side note, I have never seen so many romance novels in one area. After searching high and low for a book for which I am willing to forego the library, I finally found the perfect one! Cooking For Two caught my eye and after flipping through the pages, I put my stamp of approval that this book can offer meals that are Fun, Easy and Positively Delicious! It is a great way to incorporate cooking into your relationship. I am lucky to have a husband who is eager to help, and this book helps us find ways to really enjoy the process together. It has worked so far!

So check out some of these sites I have provided. Consider a possible trip to "Pure Michigan". I highly recommend Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, and Traverse City.

As always, bon appetite!