Thursday, April 18, 2013

Week 16- Beer Mac & Cheese

This weekend we were not able to make it to the grocery store, so it was 'clean out your pantry week'. Pasta seems to be the one thing we always buy and not use. And I have had some major craving for some mac & cheese. How to make it Rob-eatable? Add BEER! This is a super easy recipe for Beer Mac & Cheese; it could be whipped up last minute. Try to use a darker beer because they provide more flavor. I used Anchor Steam Anchor Bock and it was so good! Also, your pasta doesn't matter too much. Usually mac & cheese is elbow macaroni, but I used farfalle because that's what we had.

Beer Mac & Cheese

 1 lb. pasta
2 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon flour
2/3 cup beer of your choice, darker preferably
1 1/3 cups milk
2 2/3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Cook pasta in very salty water until al dente.
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. 

Whisk flour into the butter to form a roux and cook for 1 minute.

Whisk beer into roux a little at a time until you’ve worked out all the lumps.

Whisk milk into sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
 Remove sauce from heat. Stir in sharp cheddar cheese and pepper. Mix until cheese has melted. Add pasta to sauce and toss until pasta is evenly coated.

My husband is going to start home brewing. I have been wondering for the longest time why he doesn't do this already! I can't wait to make this dish over with one of his beers!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blueberry Tea Cake

I have discovered that making a breakfast dish for Saturday mornings usually lasts us about halfway through the week. It is nice waking up knowing there is some homemade delicious-ness waiting for you. So far all I have done are bread dishes, but I want to branch out with some casseroles. Do you have any good ones? This week I made a Blueberry Tea Cake. It was simple and enjoyable!

Blueberry Tea Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup plain yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Postion a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking dish.

In a bowl, stir together the 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Set aside. (Side note: the cardamom was too powerful for me, so next time I will use half of the amount)

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and brown sugar. Beat on low speed until thick and fluffy. Add the 1/2 cup melted butter, rum, lemon zest and beat just until blended. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with the yogurt in 2 batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed just until smooth. Fold the blueberries with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with the rubber spatula. 

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Week 15-Crock Pot Carnitas

The first time I ever made beef tacos for Rob it was his first homemade taco experience. They are the easiest thing to make, so we fall back on them a lot. This week I wanted to see what other taco item I could make for him. Thus became my desire to make carnitas. I found an easy recipe in my Essentials of Slow Cooking book. It was simple and delicious! Serve it with some cheese dip and spanish rice or whatever you want for your fiesta!


salt and freshly ground pepper
1 boneless pork shoulder, 3-4 lb.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup Mexican, lager-style beer
grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon dried oregano

In a smal bowl, combine 2 teaspoons salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. Season the pork roast generously with the mixture and sit aside.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pork, and cook, turning frequently until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until they begin to soften, 1-2 minutes. Add the beer and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and pour in the beer mixture. Add the orange and lime zests and juices and oregano. Cover and cook until the pork is very tender, 5 hours on the high-heat setting or 10 hours on the low-heat setting.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and using a large, shard knife and a fork, coarsely cut and shred the pork into small bite-sized pieces. Arrange the meat on a warmed serving platter, moisten it lightly with cooking juices, and serve at once.

Serve with warm corn or flour tortillas, lime wedges, chopped yellow onion, salsa, and chopped fresh cilantro. Add whatever else you like!

 With our left overs we made pulled pork bar-be-que sandwiches. I just added the carnitas to some bbq sauce (used Sweet Bay Ray's, but pick your favorite) in a saucepan and warmed up for about 7 minutes on medium heat. It was a good way to eat left overs without eating the same exact meal!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wedding Card Album

Today I am going to post something about the wedding. I know it has been awhile, but I was combing through pictures and saw this little DIY. My friend Brittany did a wedding card album for all her wedding cards and I thought it was the best idea ever! I searched and collected ideas from Pinterest. I took a combination of them all to make mine. Some were way too complicated for me!

Wedding Card Album

I just took some cardboard, scrapbook paper, a binder ring, ribbon, E-6000 glue, Mod Podge, scissors, hole punch and few decorative pieces. Choose whatever fits your wedding theme!

 I shuffled the cards around and picked the largest card in the group. Measure this out onto your cardboard and cut the cardboard into two pieces this size. I Mod-podged the scrapbook paper to both the front and back of both cardboard pieces. Here you have the option of using two different pieces of paper, or just get creative!

Next grab your ribbon you want to use, or burlap in my case.  The length on the ribbon depends on how many cards you have and how much extra you want at the end. I placed all my cards between my cardboard pieces to 'measure' out my ribbon. Then lay the back piece of cardboard down and lay the ribbon evenly across the middle. I used my E-6000 glue to place some dots and laid the ribbon right on top of that. One blog post I saw recommended using brass tacks to hold your ribbon in place. I knew we weren't going to be using the book that much, so glue is secure enough for me.

Now here comes the time consuming part, adding the binder ring. I prefer to cut the hole out before adding my decorations that way I don't mess them up. Just cut a hole up towards to the top for your ring. You can add more than one binder ring if you want, but the ribbon will hold your book together. I went ahead and punched a hole in all of my cards as well. Making sure the holes were in the same top left corner of each card, that way your bottom edges don't line up.

Next I simply added my decorations where I felt they looked good. Just use the E-6000 glue to help hold these down. I even stuck one on the back! I found all my decorations in the scrapbook aisle at Michaels.

Just add your cards to the book, tie your ribbon, and you are done!

Wedding Shadow Boxes

I coordinated my wedding card book with our wedding shadow boxes. Rob's just has his boutonniere, whereas mine has part of my bouquet, the scrabble letters that were around my bouquet, and his note to me. I saw this idea from another friend, Marla.

 I simply super glued his boutonniere to some scrapbook paper and put it in a smaller frame. I used pearl push pins to secure my items to scrapbook paper. I also had to use a thicker frame for my mementos. Just decided what you want to display and measure the thickness of it before going to the store.

These two frames hang with a third shadow box displaying our wedding invitations. It is nice to have these mementos of our best day out so we can see them, rather tucked away in some box.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Buttermilk Pie

This dessert is something anyone can make and at anytime. The ingredient list is composed of items you probably already have in your pantry. I only needed to grab some buttermilk and fresh berries. The recipe recommends raspberries, my favorite, but Rob doesn't like them. Try it with blackberries, or Rob decided on blueberries. Anything to make your heart smile. The pie crust is easy to make! Here is Buttermilk Pie.

Buttermilk Pie

 Flaky Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 sugar
7 tbsp very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
5 tbsp ice water, plus more if needed

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at soft room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 cups raspberries
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Flaky Pie dough: In the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar. Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse for a few seconds, or just until the butter is slightly broken up into the flour but still in visible pieces. Evenly sprinkle the water over the flour mixture, then process just until the mixture starts to come together. Dump the dough into a large lock-top plastic bag, and press into a flat disk. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a circle about 13 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch think. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough. Trim the edges so they extend about 1/2 inch beyond the pan. Tuck the dough under itself to create a rim. Use your fingers or fork to make a decorative rim. Refrigerate the pie shell for about 20 minutes.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 F. Line the pie shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the dough starts to look dry, about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the crust is very lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until lightened, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs. Stir the flour, salt, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon zest.

 Pour the filling into the shell.

Bake until the top is golden brown and the custard has set, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely, then pile the raspberries (or other berries) on the top before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if you like.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Week 14- Spring Green Risotto

I made a winner of a recipe this week! Rob said it as my best yet! I turned to my mom's favorite lady, Barefoot Contessa for a nice spring time recipe; Spring Green Risotto. Neither one of us had risotto before, so it was fun to try it out! It was easy to whip up but took some time to cook the risotto. But the result was so delicious!

Spring Green Risotto

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white & light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups simmering chicken stock
1 pound thin asparagus
10 oz frozen peas, defrosted
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, preferably Italian
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons minced chives, plus extra for serving (I skipped these)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender.

Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1 1/2 inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.

When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto, with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until rice is tender but still firm.

Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture plus the Parmesan cheese and chives. Set aside off the heat for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese.

I followed this recipe with a delicious Buttermilk Pie with fresh berries. Check back for that recipe! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Soupe au Pistou

Since last week I made an Irish dish for Rob, I decided to pick a French recipe for me. As I was reading through my French cookbook, I found a recipe that seemed perfect for the first week of Spring. It calls for white coco beans, but we couldn't find any of those. It also called for winter savory, but couldn't find that either! It still turned out delicious. It is a two part recipe, one for the soup and then one for the pisto. Enjoy!

Soupe au Pistou

2 cups chicken broth
3 small boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 large zucchini, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 lb slender green beans, stem ends trimmed & cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 lb white great northern beans
1/2 cup spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup Pistou

In a large, heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, bring the stock and 6 cups water to a boil. Add the potatoes, carrots, thyme, winter savory, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the carrots are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.

Add the zucchini, onion, green beans, and shelling beans and cook until the beans are tender to the bite, 15-20 minutes.

Add the spaghetti and cook until tender to the bite, 12-15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir 2 tablespoons of the Pistou into the soup. Use the remaining Pistou to taste; can be passed around the table.


3 or 4 garlic cloves, coarsley chopped
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a mortar, combine the garlic and salt. Using a pestle, and working in a circular motion, grind together  until a paste forms. Add the basil leaves, a few at a time, and crush with the pestle. Add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, grinding with the pestle until the mixture is bright green and thick. Alternatively, in a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, salt and basil and process until a paste forms. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, processing until the mixture is thick and green.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Week 13- Tortellini Spinach Bake

This was Rob's lucky week, I cooked dinner twice this week! Both were so easy and refreshing! I made a Tortellini Spinach Bake and a Soupe au Pistou. I will put the soup in my next blog post, so don't forget to check that out!

Tortellini Spinach Bake

I found this lovely recipe from this lovely blog. She made it with a creamy lemon sauce, but I decided to leave out the lemon and red pepper.

12 oz bag  Cheese & Spinach Tortellini 
4 oz bacon or pancetta, (about 4 strips bacon)
3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
¾ tsp kosher salt
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
2 C loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
¾ C grated mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
Place bacon in a medium sized skillet on the stove-top at medium-high heat.  Cook until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. Crumble bacon once drained. Reserve two tablespoons bacon drippings in pan and discard the rest.  Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.  Add flour to pan and stir with a whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and continue to stir with whisk until smooth.  Add salt, pepper, basil and bring sauce to a simmer.

  Continue to stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Drain tortellini and place back in stock pot.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of the cooked, crumbled bacon and add the rest to the pasta mixture.  Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Add sauce and gently stir to combine.  Place pasta mixture in an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish and top with remaining 1/4 cup mozarella and 1/4 cup parmesan and also crumbled bacon.

Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout.  Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.