Monday, November 24, 2014

Short Ribs

The moment is finally here, I'm sharing my recipe for short ribs! These things are heavenly and once you make them you'll be hooked, I promise. These are slow cooked in red wine, fresh herbs, and garlic. How bad could that be?

Recipes like this one are my favorite, especially on a lazy Sunday when you can get it started in the afternoon and forget about it for a few hours. The house smells amazing and you don't have to babysit them. For this meal I decided to invite my parents over, because I wanted them to experience this magical short rib dish with us. There's nothing light about this dish, I won't lie to you. Just go for it and serve these over creamy mashed potatoes loaded with cream cheese and butter. Yum.

Here's how I made them.

To a very hot dutch oven add equal parts of olive oil and butter.
Pat dry the short ribs and season generously with salt and pepper. 
Sear until golden brown on all sides and then remove to let rest on a plate.
Add in about a cup each of celery, onion, and carrots. Don't worry if the butter is a little'll add flavor!
Saute over medium high heat until lightly caramelized. Add in 3 minced garlic cloves and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add in 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir it around to combine with the veggies. 
Deglaze the pan, scraping the browned bits of the pan, with red wine and add the short ribs into the wine hot tub. 
To this add in about 2 cups of beef broth, fresh thyme, rosemary, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Put the lid on and place in a 400 degree oven for 2 1/2-3 hours or until the meat is fall apart tender. I like to shred or run my knife through the meat and add it back to the sauce. This is delicious served over mashed potatoes or even pasta!

I served this with luscious mashed potatoes made with 2 1/2 pounds of yukon gold potatoes (skin on). Boil until tender, drain, then transfer back to the pot you cooked them in. With the heat on medium give the potatoes a good mashing for about a minute then add in the good stuff! I used a half block of softened cream cheese, 2 tbl butter, and a few splashes of milk. Season really well with fresh black pepper and salt.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

I love cooking according to the season and this time of year is at it's finest. I love fall and the holidays that lead into winter. The flavors are comforting and growing up in the midwest, warm comfort food is what we need to survive these blustering temperatures. Sigh...I was not expecting winter to come so soon for  us but here we are!

To be honest with you, cheesecake is not my first choice in dessert and trust me, my favorite part of any meal is the dessert. It's good but doesn't blow me away. However, I made these cheesecake bites over 2 years ago for my job interview and ever since I have a deeper appreciation for them. I had a normal interview but also had to cook a 3-course meal as an additional portion to the interview. I went with my gut and chose 3 dishes that were seasonal and truly showed my style of cooking. With it being fall I ended the meal with these pumpkin cheesecake bites I found on Pinterest...and practiced prior to the interview, of course. I made a few tweaks but can pretty much thank Life Made Simple for the amazing recipe!!

I made these for my sister's baby shower and didn't take every step-by-step photo that I had intended on but I was running late, of course, and had to get these done!

For the cheesecake filling

(2) 8 oz packages of room temperature cream cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbl heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
¹⁄4 tsp nutmeg

For the ginger snap crust
1 1/2 cups ginger snap cookies (whatever brand you prefer)
3 tbl brown sugar (pressed)
1/2 cup pecans
A pinch of salt
3 tbl melted butter

For the whipped cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3-4 tbl powdered sugar (adjust to your level of sweetness)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse the ginger snaps, brown sugar, pecans, and salt until course. Pour into a small bowl and pour in melted butter, stirring to combine. 

Spray a mini muffin tin with pan spray and press about a tbl of crumb mixture into each well, pressing slightly up towards the middle. Bake for about 9-10 minutes or unit golden brown. 

While the crust is baking prepare the cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar and pumpkin puree until smooth on medium speed. Add the eggs, heavy cream, vanilla, and spices and continue to mix on medium speed until well combined.

Spoon about 2 tbl of the cheesecake over each crust to the brim of each well. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until set and cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes prior to removing. *The middles may sink slightly but don't fret, the whipped cream will cover this imperfection.
I found using a spoon and loosening the sides and then lifting up the bottom works great. I placed the cheesecakes right on a platter and stashed them in the fridge until I was ready to serve them.  Just before serving I piped whipped cream on each one and dusted nutmeg (or pumpkin pie spice) on top.
To make whipped cream I used my wire whisk attachment and beat the heavy cream on medium until medium peaks formed. I then added powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste and continued to beat until stiff peaks formed. Transfer to a piping bag (ziploc bags work great too!) and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meghan's Baby Shower

Yesterday my sisters, mom, and I threw my sister Meghan her baby shower! So crazy to think in just 2 short months I'll have another niece or nephew! Thank goodness for gave us all sorts of inspirations for the shower. It's truly the best tool, especially for throwing a party. We all met a few times to game plan our themes and color scheme, menu, invitations, tasks, etc. and I have to say, it's been a nice excuse for us to meet regularly! Although we missed Meghan, she wasn't allowed to listen in on our planning.

Sunday, although freezing and snowy, turned out to be a great day and everything turned out beautifully. Watching her open all of her gifts really made it seem real, that there is a baby arriving before we know it! I wanted to share some photos of our decorations and I'll share my recipe for the pumpkin cheesecakes tomorrow! Stay tuned!
Cheese platter and a fun gender prediction.

Cake pops, magic bars, pumpkin cheesecake bites, and banana pudding.
Banana pudding.

Cute caramel cheddar corn for party favors!

We kept the menu sweet and simple for an afternoon soiree. A nonalcoholic punch was served in a large beverage dispenser while wine and champagne were served in the kitchen. It's nice to serve in various rooms to keep from cluttering one area and also opens for fun conversations among guests. More pictures to come!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Getting Organized

This past Sunday I had one of those amazing days where I felt super motivated to clean and get organized. Normally I do it because it's needed but once in awhile it's an uncontrollable urge to get my life in order. I cleaned every ounce of my apartment and washed anything and everything that fit in the washing machine...probably about 10 loads of laundry worth. It was so satisfying!

I also finally applied chalkboard decals to my jars that's been on my "To Do" list for months. Felt great crossing that off!
I went grocery shopping and even menu planned for the week...which is something I don't do enough. I'm the type of person that thinks about what I'll eat for dinner at 7am and spend the rest of the day thinking about my next meal or snack. I like to make what I have a taste for at that time, which changes constantly. If I could grocery shop every day, I would, for whatever I need for the meal at hand. Cravings and taste buds play a huge role in my daily life so how would I possibly game plan meals for 5-7 days without knowing what I'll have a taste for? Great which I don't have an answer for. But last week I grocery shopped for my pre-planned meals and it was an extraordinary feeling of knowing what I was making for dinner and not having to stop on the way home from work. Not only that, but having leftovers to bring to lunch the next day saved me money and time of having to run out and buy lunch during work.

This week I did the same thing, I even bought a large chalkboard for posting my weekly menu...but I still need to decide between I haven't used it yet! I think a need a sister to come assess the situation ;)
I like to keep a running grocery list of what I need for the next grocery run so I don't leave it to memory when I get there. It's so overwhelming, especially if you shop hungry...somehow I always come home with snacks and wine without anything for meals...which is why I stick to a list!
 How cute is this market list from HomeGoods?! I've been looking for something like this and finally found it!

Saturday I spent most of the day with one of my sisters and her new husband which was so fun! We played boardgames and shook up a few dirty marts! (Extra dirty with blue cheese olives please!)
Starting the week with organization feels great and motivates me to continue this streak. Next up, going through my closet...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Healthy Jambalaya

My cousin got married in New Orleans a few years ago and ever since, I can't stop thinking about the amazing food. I've been back since for work, maybe a year ago, and it was even more incredible. There's something about the flavors and mystique of that area that always excites me. New Orleans is southern comfort food with a trendy twist. One of the best things I had there, besides the beignets, was jambalaya. It was so hearty and spicy but light with so much lean protein. What a great food scene. Recently I was in Vegas for work and had the most amazing Paella, of all things. I've been craving this dish for over a month was that good. This weekend I got to thinking about these two dishes and how they resemble each other. They have similar cooking techniques, although paella doesn't get stirred so it creates this amazing toasty crust on the bottom of the pan. Paella requires a large flat pan, and without having this special pan I chose to cook the next best thing, jambalaya.
(Paella being made at Jaleo in Las Vegas)
Both rice-based dishes are loaded with meats, vegetables, and seafood. This past Saturday night I made a traditional Jambalaya, with a lighter twist of course, and it was insanely good! The large pot I made is already gone...between Sean and I in a course of two days, has been licked clean. Glutinous or sign of a great dish? I'll let you decide!
I made a few tweaks to a traditional recipe, one was using brown rice instead of white, and the other was using fresh Andouille sausage, chicken, if you can find it. Get a nice large pot and have all of your ingredients ready.
First, start off with browning your fresh Andouille sausage in the same pot you cook your jambalaya. Drizzle in a little oil to prevent from sticking.Turn the sausages to brown evenly and lower the heat to low and cover the pot to cook the sausages halfway. Remove the sausage from the pot and transfer to a plate to cool down.
In the same pan add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil. (See those brown bits? That is pure flavor heaven!)
Add in 2 diced celery stalks, 1 small diced yellow onion, 1/2 jalapeño diced (keep seeds in for heat if desired), 4 cloves minced garlic, and 2 1/2 cups of diced tricolor bell peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes scraping up the browned bits from the sausage.
Meanwhile, dice 2 chicken breasts and slice the sausage into disks and add them to the pot, cooking and stirring until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside.
Add in a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups brown rice, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, 4 tsp creole seasoning (recipe below), 1 bay leaf, and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme. Cover and bring to a simmer, cooking for 45-60 minutes or until the rice is tender. If the rice isn't fully cooked and the liquid has been absorbed just drizzle in more chicken broth, 1/4 cup in at a time. *If using white rice this won't take quite as long. Read the rice package for proper cooking times.

Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan so it doesn't burn.
When the rice is cooked, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary, I added a little salt and plenty of black pepper! You can adjust the creole seasoning based on how much heat you can tolerate.
When the dish tastes right you are ready to add in your shrimp. I like to cut mine in half to evenly distribute the protein but you can leave them whole if your prefer.
Stir to combine and cook for 2-4 minutes until the shrimp is tender. Adjust seasoning and serve!
Cajun Seasoning:
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

I added a few dashes of hot sauce and a sprinkle of parsley to each of our bowls...freshness and an additional layer of heat was a great call!