Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Valentines Dinner 2014

For Valentines Day 2014, I planned a huge dinner--four courses, wine pairings with each - it was going to be epic.

Unfortunately, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, the first course was way too big to share the stage, so we only made it half-way through.  But it was delicious.

The first part was muscles in a tomato sauce, served with toasted french baguette (brush it with olive oil before toasting for some extra umph).  I basically used this recipe:
[By the way, we had a lot of sauce left after eating the muscles, so I cooked some mushrooms in it, and I would definitely recommend that as a vegetarian option.]

We had a white Rhone wine to go with it, and with the next course.

The second (and, as it turns out, last) course was a fennel and granny smith apple salad.  Fresh fennel and granny smith apple, sliced thin, with fresh lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.  I intended it as a palate cleanser course, but there just wasn't room in our stomachs for more food later.  But it is very light and fresh; we have used it as a middle course before at other dinners, and it is ideal in that capacity.

Behold our V-day dinner :)

See the flecks of fennel greens?  There's also sliced bulb in there, of course.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Monster Black Bean Birthday Burgers

One thing you all might not know about Matt and me: when we make something for a special occasion, we tend to stuff ourselves and feel like crap the next day.  But this was one meal that turned out perfectly, and we felt wonderfully satisfied without all the negative side-effects.

For Matt's birthday (last December--yes, this is another old post) we were thinking about going to Fozzi's for their blackbean burgers.  Matt loves meat, but we were in the mood for vegetarian eating.  We then discovered that if we made the black bean burgers ourselves, we could do wonderful things to them, like use challah bread for the bun.  Yum.  So that's what we did.

I decided to use this recipe for black bean burgers from whole foods:  

It worked out quite well.  See below the cooking step.

Browning the black bean burgers.

Here are the special fixin's - romaine lettuce, garlic and herb goat cheese, marinated red bell pepper, and some green salsa.

Toast the buns with a brush of olive oil on them.  Black bean patty, then some goat cheese on top, caramelized onions, marinated bell pepper, and the salsa.

They were incredibly huge.  And delicious.  Served them with baked sweet potato chips...

...and a glass of Chimay Belgian beer.  Yummy.

And we felt good after this meal, and the next day.  It was a perfect birthday dinner.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Scones!

I wrote this a while back but neglected to publish it.  Looking at it makes me want to go make some scones now!

When I first became interesting in cooking, scones became the highlight of my life.  My family got sick of them, to be honest.  But I loved inventing new creative ways to make this simple recipe healthier, with varying tastes and functions for each variation.  I made a lot of whole wheat kinds, with flavors like cranberry orange (one of my favorite combos), chamomile tea (which did NOT work out), and chocolate-chocolate chip.  I even made savory scones with rotelle and zatar (they were pretty darn good, I must say).  A general favorite, though, is chocolate chip scones.  They were the first kind I ever had, when I was little.  And I was smitten from that moment on.

The other day I was in a grumpy mood for no good reason and decided to make some scones.  With a bottle of wine and Alanis Morisette's "Jagged Little Pill" album playing, I was in my element and I really enjoyed making these Ginger Chocolate Chip Scones.

A friend of mine from college studied abroad in Ireland during our junior year, and when she came back, she brought with her an incredible recipe for the softest, most delicious scones I had ever had.  The rock-hard scones at Panera?  Forget 'em.  This is where it's at.  

Last week I made the basic recipe again, with a few additions that you are free to leave out or replace with whatever your heart desires.  Another favorite combination is adding dried cranberries, then smearing some nutella while eating. 


-2 cups flour
-3 tbsp sugar
-1 tbsp baking powder
-6 tbsp butter
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 egg
-1/2 cup half-and-half (I only had heavy whipping cream, so I did 1/4 cup of my cream, and 1/4 cup of water.  In the past, I have used regular milk and it has turned out just fine as well).
-1/2 tbsp vanilla

My additions:
-1/2 cup chocolate chips
-1 tsp ground ginger
-1 tbsp orange juice (because the dough was a little too dry)


-Heat the oven to 400 F.

-Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter.

-Here, add the ginger and chocolate chips (or whatever alternatives you desire).

-Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and quickly add the wet ingredients -- egg, half-and-half, and vanilla -- in the center of the well.  Break the yolk and mix it all together quickly.  (Most scones recipes mix the wet ingredients separately, then add them to the dry, but I don't think we need to use another bowl.  You are, of course, welcomed to do so if you like.)

-Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until moistened through. (Add more half-and-half, milk, water, or orange juice if the mixture is too dry.  I added orange juice this time because I thought it would go alright with the ginger and chocolate)

-Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead lightly. Pat into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Cut into sixths (or eighths, if you want more of them, like I did). 

-Place on a lightly greased baking sheet (butter works best as a greaser)

-Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Eat up!  They will be soft and moist and delectable...makes me want to go make some more.

*If you would like a sugary crusty topping:
-Mix a little bit (~1 Tablespoon) half-and-half or milk and about 1 Tablespoon sugar together. Smooth the mixture onto the tops of the scones before baking them.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

You Put the Lime in the Coconut

Well school's about over.  I mean, FOR GOOD.  So I'll be spending the next few days posting pictures and info about stuff I made this year but never posted.  After that, we're moving shops.  I'm seriously done with law school, so there will be no more lawschoolscooking.  The new digs are in the works and will be announced at a later time.  But first...

I made shortbread cookies a while back.  But not just any shortbread cookies (me, normal?), Cilantro Lime Shortbread Cookies, made with coconut oil instead of butter.  Yuuuuummmmyyyyy.  They turned out amazingly well.  I just love the flavors of cilantro and lime, and I've been dreaming about these shortbread cookies for over a year.  

Shortbread cookies are my favorite cookies to mess with.  You can add all kinds of stuff to them and it turns out great.  In the past, I've added dried rosemary, black pepper, lemon, and earl grey tea.  Each time, they were decadent.  I've tried adding tea to other baked goods before, and it just didn't work out.  But when it comes to shortbread, go wherever your imagination takes you.

Just find a general shortbread recipe and start adding stuff!

Here is the dough ready to bake.  I cut them into rounds, then mark lines with a fork for easy breaking after they're done.

See?  All done.  Nice and brown around the edges.

I'd love to hear about what YOU think would be a good addition to shortbread!