Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Eat Your Greens: Broccoli Slaw

Many of you who follow me on Instagram surely know that the past few months have been just a wee bit crazy for me.  At the beginning of August, we moved from our beloved Chicago to start a new adventure in Denver.  It's been great getting settled into a new home (it's a house! with a yard! and we had to buy a car!), but my job is still back in Chicago, so I've been splitting time between here and there.  With one foot in Denver and one foot in Chicago, grocery shopping and cooking anything even mildly interesting has sadly fallen to the bottom of our priority list.

But this past weekend, we were actually both home in Denver, we didn't have any visitors, and we actually had time to catch our breath.  And of course, all we wanted to do was cook.

Saturday night we just wanted comfort food - it was cold outside, and we snuggled up on the couch catching up on our huge DVR backlog while a yummy coq au vin was cooking in the oven.  Exactly what we needed.

Then Sunday night, we opted for grilling.  Chris brined two thick-cut bone-in pork chops, and then coated them in a sweet and smoky mesquite dry rub.  We grilled them up, and decided on crispy oven potatoes for a side.  Since the rub on the pork had a slightly bbq/southern flavor profile, I decided we needed something acidic to cut through all the fat and smokiness.

In came the most perfect and perfectly simple broccoli slaw.

Riffing off of an idea in my head combined with some input from various recipes I looked up for the purposes of dressing ratio, the result was crunchy, bright, acidic, and the perfect compliment to an awesome meal.  And best of all, it uses the entire head of broccoli, including the stalk.

I had a full bowl of it, and ate every last bite.

Broccoli Slaw

1 head of broccoli (including stalk)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
Dried cranberries
Sunflower seeds

Cut off the top florets from the broccoli, and chop them finely.  Transfer to bowl.

Grate the stalk of the broccoli on a box grater (the largest holes you have).  If you don't have a box grater, chop up the broccoli stalk into small matchsticks.  Add to bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and celery salt.

Pour the dressing over the broccoli - be careful not to over-dress.  Add dried cranberries and sunflower seeds to your liking.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Simple Crusty Homemade Bread

As someone who doesn't love to bake, I must say that baking bread seemed pretty scary to me.  I always assumed I had to knead it just right, for just the amount of time, have exactly the right mixture of ingredients, and then if I did all that and the stars aligned and I practiced with a few dozen loaves, I might finally get a good loaf of bread.

While that may be true for some types of bread, I've discovered a pretty fool-proof bread that consistently turns out absolutely wonderful.  And best of all, it's no-knead.  Fair warning, you will need to mix it up a day before you plan to make the bread, but it's pretty easy to remember to mix 4 ingredients briefly and let it sit on the counter for a day just to have amazing homemade bread.

Crusty Homemade Bread
There are many versions of this bread out there.  I use a little bit more yeast than some just because I like a light, airy bread.  Feel free to adapt to your liking.

3 cups flour
3/4 tsp yeast
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients together to incorporate.  Add the water, and mix with a silicone spatula until the mixture becomes sticky throughout.  It'll look very sticky and scraggly, and that's what we're going for.  Cover with plastic wrap, set on the counter and let sit for 18-24 hours.

Bread Dough Day 1

The next day, it will look like this:

Bread Dough Day 2

When you're ready to bake the bread, place a dutch oven (or a large stock pot) with lid in oven and heat to 450 degrees, and leave in there for 30 minutes to fully heat the dutch oven.

While the dutch oven is heating, remove dough from bowl onto a heavily floured surface.  Sprinkle flour over top (you may need a decent amount, this is super sticky) and shape into a ball or oval (depending on size/shape of your dutch oven).  Cover loosely with more plastic wrap and let rest for 30 min.

Bread Dough Loaf

After the heating and resting 30 min is up, remove dutch oven from oven, remove lid, and drop dough (it will be tricky to pick up, make sure you flour your hands) into the pot.  There is no need to grease the pot, just a dry pot is fine.  Put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 30 min.

When 30 min is up, remove the lid and leave in the oven for another 10-15 min.  If it's a round loaf it will need more like 15 min, if it's oblong it may only need 10-12.  Then remove it from the oven, take the bread out (I use tongs) and place on a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Bread Dough Sliced

Monday, July 22, 2013

Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream

It's the best time of year to make homemade ice cream, and with such amazing produce this time of year, fresh strawberries make some of the best ice cream there is.  With a hint of lemon, this ice cream was super creamy and delicious, perfect for summer!

Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream by FWMP

Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream
adapted from Epicurious

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 lb strawberries (3 cups), trimmed and quartered
1 tsp grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Combine cream, zest strips, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a light simmer. Remove from heat and discard zest.

Whisk eggs with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened and a candy thermometer registers 170°F (do not let boil or you will have creamy scrambled eggs!).

Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, scraping along the inside of the sieve to strain all the liquid.  Discard any solids that remain. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, at least until cold, about 2 hours, and up to 1 day.  (I did this step the day before)

While custard is chilling, chop the strawberries and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over in a bowl, stirring occasionally so the strawberries release some juice.  When you're ready to make the ice cream and the cream mixture has fully chilled, purée strawberries with sugar syrup with grated lemon zest and fresh lemon juice in a blender until smooth. Stir purée into custard.

Freeze in ice-cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, about 3-4 hours.


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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cool Salad on a Hot Day

I don't know about your summer, but here in Chicago it's been downright steamy and sticky the past few days.  You know, the kind of steamy where you step outside and your glasses fog up.  When I get home at night after work and peel off my work clothes, the last thing I want to do is use heat of any kind to cook my dinner.  Lately we've been enjoying the beautiful produce and just making quick and delicious salads, and I must say that I'm becoming obsessed with them!

Shaved Brussels sprout salad FWMP

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
serves 2
12-15 large Brussels sprouts
3 radishes
1/8 cup of dried currants
Cheese of choice - I recommend a hard, nutty sheep's milk cheese or a more common hard cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh ground pepper

With such a simple salad, the key is the freshness and quality of ingredients.  You want to shave the Brussels sprouts on a mandoline so they are reduced to pretty ribbons of sprout leaves, and julienne the radishes.  Also make sure to use a good high quality balsamic vinegar (usually a little thicker than some of the watery versions we see today).  If you only have a thin balsamic, quickly reduce it in a pan on the stove to intensify the flavor and thicken in slightly.

Toss all the ingredients together, and enjoy the cool salad on a hot day!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grilled Corn and Pepper Salad on Cilantro Lime Rice

Every year, as soon as spring hits, I'm constantly amazed at how amazing the fresh produce can be.  You'd think I'd get used to it, but after a dreary winter of eating soups and stews, a fresh meal on a warm day is absolute bliss.  And of course, anytime I can also fire up the grill, I'm even happier.

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Grilled Corn and Pepper Salad on Cilantro Lime Rice
serves 2-3

2 small red/orange/yellow bell peppers (I used 1 red and 1 orange), chopped
1 medium ripe tomato, chopped
1 poblano pepper
2 ears of corn, shucked
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 large lime
1 cup rice

Cook the rice according to its instructions, preferably in a rice cooker.

While it's cooking, rub the corn and the poblano in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill them, turning often, until the corn caramelizes slightly on the outside and the poblano skin is charred.  Let them cool off the grill for 5-10 minutes, and then peel the charred skin off the poblano and discard, and chop up the flesh (removing seeds and stem).  Carve the kernels off the corn cob (alliteration, for the win!).  Combine the chopped poblano flesh and corn kernels with the fresh chopped bell peppers, finely diced red onion, chopped tomato, and half of the cilantro.  Juice 1/2 of the lime on the mixture, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to mix, and set aside.

When the rice is finished cooking, add the remaining cilantro and juice from the other half of the lime to the rice, add a pinch of salt, and fluff to combine.

Serve the corn and pepper salad over the cilantro lime rice, and enjoy!

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Grilled Red Snapper with Warm Grilled Salad and Herb Dressing

When the weather begins to warm up in the springtime, there's nothing more wonderful than grilling.  Don't get me wrong, I still grill all winter long so long as there isn't measurable snow covering my grill.  But that's just a method of cooking - grilling in warmer weather is an experience.  You invite people over, crack open a beer, leave the windows open, and throw anything and everything on a big grill.  There's really nothing like it.

This past weekend, a friend came over to grill up some whole red snapper.  We had been aching to grill and it was finally warm enough, and she also had recently mentioned that she had never prepared a whole fish, so what better time than now!

Grilled Red Snapper prep

Grilled Red Snapper with Warm Grilled Salad and Herb Dressing

Ok, that's a terrible title - I used "grilled" twice.  I make good food, I'm not a copywriter.

Herb Dressing
Italian Parsley
Garlic cloves
Lemon Juice (1 lemon - fresh)
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

I realize I didn't use any measurements here, because you'll want to do this to taste.  Stuff a ton of dill and Italian parsley into a blender (or magic bullet, which I used), a few capers, 2-3 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.  You'll want to keep adding olive oil as you blend until you get a thick creamy/smooth consistency.  Don't add too much oil, or it will turn into an herb oil not a thick herb dressing.

Preparing the Red Snapper
When buying your snapper, have the butcher remove the gills, and if the scales are still on, might as well have them scale it too.  Scaling a fish is no picnic, and those little buggers get everywhere.

Stuff the cavity of the red snapper with thin lemon slices, fresh dill, and Italian parsley. Score the flesh of the fish 2-3 times per side, and rub the outside with a Tbs or so of your herb dressing (be careful to not contaminate the remaining herb dressing with raw fish spoon or something - you'll want to use this cool and uncooked on the fish and salad later).  Set these aside to come to room temperature.  Fight off circling cats.

Grilled Salad
3 ears of corn, unhusked (pull off silks though)
3 large potatoes, sliced into 1" thick slices
1/2 yellow onion
1 small head napa cabbage, sliced in half

The ingredients are listed in order of how long they need to be on the grill.  The corn should be put on the grill first, and will take 15-20 minutes, rotating every 5 minutes.  Cook the potatoes until they're fully cooked throughout.  Grill the onion, cut side down, for 7-10 minutes.  And finally, oil (and salt & pepper) the cut side of the cabbage halves, and place them on the hot grill for 5 minutes.  Remove all the veggies, and let them cool.  Set aside.

Now it's time to come back to the fish.

Place the fish on the hot grill and close the lid; let cook for 6-8 minutes.  Then flip the fish, and let cook for another 6-8 minutes on the other side.

Grilled Red Snapper on grill whole

The goal of course is to preserve that wonderful skin, which will get nice and crispy.  The key to this is using enough of the herb dressing to oil the fish and help keep it from sticking.  You'll notice one of my fish got a little stuck, so I could have used a little more dressing/oil on the fish to avoid that.

After the 6-8 minutes are up, remove the fish from the grill.

Grilled Red Snapper off grill

As your fish rest for a couple minutes, roughly chop up the grilled veggies, which now should be warm enough to handle.  Toss with some of the herb dressing to coat.

Grilled Red Snapper meal

Serve the fish family style with the warm grilled salad and a side of extra herb dressing.

Grilled Red Snapper composed plate

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pasta Salad with Avocado-Lemon Dressing

When the weather starts to warm up and the produce is flourishing, I get so excited to make fresh dinners highlighting the beautiful raw ingredients.  Since it actually reached into the 80's this week, I decided to make a nice cool pasta salad one night.

Pasta salads are great because you get to use up whatever veggies you have on hand, maybe some cheese and some meat if you prefer - basically, there's no way to go wrong.  And while I have made pasta salad with bottled dressing plenty of times in the past, I've recently been drawn to making my own dressings, especially on a pasta salad where the dish is a meal in itself.

The other night, I had an avocado on hand, perfectly ripe.  At first I was going to just chop it up with the other veggies, and then I had one of those eureka! moments...

avocado pasta salad 1

Pasta Salad with Avocado-Lemon Dressing
serves 3-4

For the dressing:
1 large avocado, ripe
2-3 Tbs olive oil
The juice of 1 small fresh lemon
A pinch of salt & pepper, to taste

In a small food processor (I used my magic bullet), puree the dressing ingredients together.  Adjust the amount of olive oil as you puree if you need more to make it combine into a nice thick creamy dressing.  Also, feel free to back off on the lemon juice if you prefer your dressing less acidic.

Pasta salad:
2 cups of pasta (I prefer small shells or rotini for pasta salad)
Any chopped veggies you like (I used broccoli, red pepper, and tomatoes, since I had that on hand)
Optional: meat (I threw in some leftover crumbled bacon, but leftover grilled chicken would be great as well)
*I wouldn't include cheese in this, since I think the cheese texture/flavor would get overpowered by the creamy avocado dressing

Cook the pasta to al dente, immediately drain and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta.  Put the pasta in a fridge for 20-30 minutes to cool completely.  Meanwhile, chop up your veggies, and the meat if you're including any.  Toss the chopped ingredients with the cooled pasta, and top with the dressing.  Stir to combine, and top with freshly cracked pepper.  Serve, and ideally enjoy outside with some beautiful weather!

avocado pasta salad 2

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Day in Chianti

A month ago, Chris and I had the wonderful opportunity to take a trip through Italy and the Swiss Alps.  It was a two-week trip of a lifetime, and I can't even begin to wrap my head around sorting through the 1000+ gorgeous pictures I came home with, let alone narrow it down to make a keepsake photo album.

boboli gardens 1

One of our longest stops was in Florence, where we rented a charming little apartment for a week and spent time both enjoying the sights in Florence, as well as getting outside of the city to enjoy a few day trips.  But since this is a food and wine (and craft, but come on, I wasn't crafting in Italy!) blog, it's only fitting that the highlight of this post is the culinary highlight of our trip.

And for that, I must take you to Chianti.

We researched and hired a local driver to take us around the Chianti region of Tuscany on our second day in Florence, which was definitely a good decision.  Come on - renting a car and driving around those winding roads in a country where we don't know the language?  While drinking wine?  Let's just not go there.

Our driver showed up and she was lovely, and my goodness she was good at weaving in and out of the crazy traffic/randomly parked cars!  Also, and most importantly, she was very familiar with the various wineries and had great rapport with the wineries where we stopped.

chianti winery

Even though it was a dreary, rainy day, I still got some great photos, and my loving husband was so kind to hold the umbrella over my head as I snapped away!

But now we reach the part of the story where we talk about the food.

Around lunchtime, we stopped at a winery called Casa Emma.  At this point in the day, the rain was coming down in sheets, and as soon as we stepped inside, it started hailing.  We were happy to be inside and be warm, and the winery manager was happy that someone actually braved the weather to come in.  He immediately sat us down, rolled the heater over, and shared the story of his winery with us.  He prepared a light cheese and prosciutto platter, and we tasted all of the winery's wines, as well as the best olive oil and balsamic vinegar (both also products of the winery) I have ever had.

Once we were done with the tasting, he asked if we wanted to stay for lunch.  They had a full dining room that was recently built in the back of the building, overlooking their vines, so of course we obliged.  Since we were the only ones there, I think they were also thrilled to have someone to enjoy the food they had been lovingly preparing.

chianti wine

We were treated to a wonderful four-course meal, all specialties of the region.  And of course, we had plenty of wine.

We started with a selection of light starters, including a liver pate that is very traditional for the area.

Of all the amazing food in that meal, the absolute most memorable dish for me was the pasta.

chianti lunch

The pasta dish was a simple homemade pasta bolognese, but there was nothing simple about the complexity of flavor and the texture of the pasta.  That was the day where I finally fully understood the concept of al dente.  It's not just making sure not to overcook the pasta; a true homemade pasta, made perfectly, has the most incredible texture.  Then paired with a deep, rich sauce, and of course finished with some of the winery's olive oil, the experience was ethereal.

chianti lunch 2

chianti lunch 3

We then had a pork dish that blew my husband's mind, including a 2-day red wine sauce that had outrageous depth of flavor.  Though I will admit it wasn't a pretty dish, it was certainly something special to taste.  Chris even asked them how they made the sauce, and the winery manager went back and asked the chef, then came back out and dictated a full list of instructions.  You can find the recipe at the bottom of the post, but I warn you, it is a very quick list of steps, and involves what I assume to be absurd amounts of olive oil and wine.

chianti lunch 4

And of course, you also finish it with even more olive oil.  Eeesh.

Finally, no meal would be complete without a little dessert.

chianti dessert

...and a little dessert wine.

chianti dessert 2

Even with the cold and rainy weather, our day and this meal experience in Chianti was one of the most incredible memories of the whole trip.


Pork Loin in 2-day Red Wine Sauce
That's what I'm going to call it since they didn't actually tell us its name.  Also, the instructions are fairly crude since the winery manager was just talking us through how they make it.  You take what you can get!

1. Start with a good amount of olive oil in a big roasting pan (after what I saw with the abundance of olive oil at this winery, I'd say "good amount" probably means a whole lot of olive oil.  Hey - maybe that's why it was so good!)
2. Add one carrot, half an onion, and lots of garlic to the pan.
3. Heat the pan, and add a large pork loin when the oil is hot.  Turn to sear on all sides.
4. Kill the heat.
5. Add enough red wine to cover 3/4 of the loin (oh right - the other reason why this tasted so good.)
6. Cook in an oven at 350F/180C until the wine is fully reduced (sorry, he didn't tell me how long this takes, but I'm guessing quite a while)
7. Remove from heat, let it cool, and put in the refrigerator overnight.
8. The next day, remove the pork, and stir the sauce over heat by hand until everything breaks down.
9. Slice the pork thinly, sear quickly in a pan to heat, and top with the sauce and serve.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Felt Fox and Raccoon Garland

Can you believe it's April already?  I sure can't.  This has already been quite the year, and I haven't even reached the craziest part of this year yet.  But more on that another time.

This past weekend, I was so fortunate to be able to head up to Wisconsin for my wonderful friend's baby shower.  She's due next month, so I couldn't wait to see her and her beautiful belly.  She's having a baby boy, and has decided on having a woodland creatures theme in the baby's room.  Although I bought a gift for the shower, I knew I also wanted to do a little something handmade.  The week before the shower, my friend and I were swapping baby room decor finds on Etsy, all centering around foxes and raccoons.  Finally it hit me - I could make her a felt animal garland!

With a quick 5 minute search, I was able to find an adorable fox graphic and raccoon graphic that I knew had to be my starting point.  I did a quick screen shot, zoomed in on each animal, and printed it.  The blown-up image then served as a background to trace each animal and its features.  I cut out all the pieces from a sheet of paper, which I then used as the pattern for three felt foxes and three felt raccoons.  I glued all the pieces together (using Mod Podge, of course!), and once they dried, I glued a strip of jute across the back.  I also found that I needed to give their oversized tails a little reinforcement, so a toothpick was glued on the back of the tail to keep it from flopping over.

The garland turned out so cute, I even surprised myself!  I'm glad that I decided to use different color felt for each animal, giving them all their own personality.  It worked as great decor for the shower, and will be adorable in his nursery.

fox raccoon garland 1

fox raccoon garland 2

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