Sunday, February 23, 2014

Basil Pesto

With all of these different pasta recipes going on, I feel like I can't exclude my Basil Pesto recipe.  I love how it tastes, but for some reason I find that when making pasta I very rarely reach for my pesto.

Instead I try and find different uses for it.  I marinate chicken in pesto to grill or skewer and grill (kebobs, kebabs, kabobs...why do I find every variation of this word out there?),  I toss zucchini in it for Pesto Zucchini Noodles.  I mix it with some mayo and use it as a condiment on sandwiches.  For such a simple sauce it packs a delicious little punch of flavor that is sure to delight in whatever why you find to use it. 

I hope you love it just as much as I do and enjoy.

Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup

2 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Combine the basil, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, parmesan
 and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add in the olive oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth.  Season with salt and black pepper.

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Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Pesto Zucchini Noodles made and plated by the private class I taught. 

Friday I had a private class I taught that requested healthier menu items or alternatives for their wellness program.  I am by no means a health food pro, I try to eat healthy at home and find alternatives to some of the "unhealthier" food favorites that I have.  A few examples being zucchini chips, eggplant chips or croutons, sweet potato fries.  I wanted to try and give them more alternatives to some of their favorite side dishes and give them the tools they would need to make these things their own at home. 

A while back I had made Garlic-Soy Zucchini Noodles at home and I thought trying to do something like this would be perfect.  I mean who doesn't like pasta, I think that we have all seen by my last few posts that I have been on a noodle kick.  I didn't want to go with the soy route, just because of the salt content so I was trying to come up with different flavors to toss the zucchini in. 

I decided to go with a pesto.  Something simple to make, but so flavorful.  I up the amount of crushed red pepper flakes in mine just because I like just a little kick in it.  But I love basil and try and find ways to incorporate it into a lot of dishes.  Toss in a few cherry tomatoes and your set.  I think next time I might even roast the tomatoes, just so they can release just a little bit of their yummy juices.  But for now, here it is and enjoy!

Pesto Zucchini Noodles

4 zucchini
2 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup flat-leaf parsley,
1 1/2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cherry tomatoes, (fresh or roasted)

1.  Using a mandolin or knife, cut your zucchini into thin noodles.  Place in a bowl and set aside.
2.  Combine the basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil in a food processer and pulse until blended.  Add in more olive oil if needed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3.  Add pesto to the zucchini noodles and toss to coat.  Top with cherry tomato and additional grated parmesan cheese if desired.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wine Pairings 1


Today is National Drink Wine Day and to me...and hopefully to you, this is cause for CELEBRATION!!  So, in preparing for this day (can I call it a holiday, cause this is definitely a holiday in my mind) my mom, grandma, and I decided what better way to celebrate ahead than go to a winery.  So we can get some bottle to properly celebrate today of course!

We ended up going to a local winery located in Brown County, Indiana called Oliver Winery.  This was some place that I had been a couple times, but neither my mom nor grandma had been before so I thought it would be perfect to take them there.

When arriving at Oliver first, usually you would see a beautiful entrance and rows of grape vines; even though everything was snow covered it's still an exciting site of what's to come.  Leading to the entrance of the building from the packing lot is a curvy pathway surrounded by large stone features, flowers, small trees and water features (all-snow covered of course-can't wait to come back when it is warm and everything is in bloom because I think it is beautiful).

Outside of the building is also a patio and outside seating leading to a pond where customers are welcome to buy various cheeses, breads and other food items, as well as of course some wine and go enjoy them at the different seating areas available along the way.  (I went once and they had a small jazz band playing outside and it was amazing to go and enjoy the music and wine.)

We sampled a lot of different wines; I went completely out of my comfort zone so that I would have a wide variety of wines to talk about.  I'm usually a Semi-Dry to Semi-Sweet kinda gal and I went crazy and went all out with the dry whites and reds (shocker-I liked them too!  See what happens when you try something new).  Plus when you go with other people...especially more than one, you feel like you get to sample so much more because you all trying each other's as well (shhhh...don't tell).
My idea with this is to share a little bit about each wine I tried, and offer up some suggested dishes to make with it.  For the record though, this is my opinion and preferences, this is not written in store and feel free to comment on pairings or if there are certain food that you life with certain wines.  As I get a little further along with this I'll start linking in recipes that will go with some of the suggested pairings.  Really hoping in the future to start going to a lot more wineries and building my knowledge there. 
So grab a glass, read and enjoy.
Pinot Grigio 2012

Oliver had two different Pinot Grigio's; the Creekbend Pinot Grigio 2012 and Oliver's Pinot Grigio, Creekbend is the brand of wines from Oliver that are produced from local Indiana grapes.  I went with the Oliver brand, offering a smooth "flavor" and had grassy (don't judge my descriptions) and subtle herby notes to it.  This particular brand also had pear and citrus listed is some of the aromatic you would encounter and I would definitely agree that you could pick up on that.  This is what wine I would reach for when a recipe is asking for a dry white wine.  It would also be a great wine to have with a lighter pasta dish, seafood dishes as it has some acidic notes to it.  Personally I'd love to have it with a crab and/or lobster bisque or marinated goat cheese.  It would do well with a variety of different cheeses in fact.

Sauvignon Blanc 2012

I found this wine to be very crisp, very.  I think this would be perfect with fish, such as halibut or sea bass.  Honestly, I think almost any seafood or fish dish would do really well with this...grilled prawns, crab legs, seared scallops, clam linguine.  I can go on and on with dishes I'd like to eat with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc by its side.  It also just has something about it that reminds me of spring, and I have always thought of salads for spring.  They just go together in my head.  I would enjoy having a nice spinach salad and a glass of this outside on one of those perfect spring days.


Zinfandel 2010
 This offered up a really nice peppery flavor with oak notes at the end that I was shocked to find was right up my alley.  I have never been too huge of a red wine fan and was pleasantly surprised when I tried both this and the Merlot.  The Zinfandel had a really warm and rich flavor, offering more depth than I expected from a wine.  This to me would go great with meat, from beef to pork to venison (woohoo, I have all 3 in my freezer!), take your pick and I think you'll find that this Zinfandel will stand up nicely right besides your dish.  I also think it would go well with a heartier pasta-Lasagna or a pasta tossed with Tomato Sauce would do really nicely I think (with shaved parmesan cheese over the top of course).  Speaking of cheese, don't forget about it!  Cheese and wine, they just go together. Try out an aged cheddar or Asiago cheese perhaps.
Merlot 2011
Well hello there Merlot, I was not expecting to see you or to like you, but wow you surprised me.  This Merlot was not like most of the other Merlots I have had in the past, it seemed subtler in a way and just didn't seem as dry to me as others have.  It had beautiful, silky oak notes that I quite enjoyed.  I was told during the tasting that they toast their barrels ahead of time before adding in the wine and that this was where the oak flavors I was picking up were coming from. (If this is a known fact to most than I apologize, I don't study wine-I just drink it :) So this was new for me.  Note to self though, do more wine research!)  I think merlot, I think red meat.  They just go together.  Why not a burger like they a bacon topped blue cheese stuffed burger.  Not sure if blue cheese would go well with this yet or not it just sounds delicious and it's instantly what I thoughts of when tasting this wine.  I also thought of sitting by a warm cozy fire when I tasted it, but that's neither here nor there when it comes to food.  Aside from the fact that warm, cozy fires in the winter made me think of beef stew so that would actually be nice together. (My mind and the way it works makes so sense-I know.)
I'm going to stop here for today on the wine talk and rambling, a lot of rambling.  Sometimes I just can't edit myself and this blog posts seems to go beyond the point of long.  So, until tomorrow...enjoy.

For more information on Oliver Winery, the history, the wine follow the link to their website below.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fettuccine Alfredo

Finally back with a blog post.  Keeping up with the pasta theme that I had going, I made 
Fettuccine Alfredo.  And on National Fettuccine Alfredo Day no less!  Talk about great timing (great timing when I made it, which was last Friday-week late sharing). Fettuccine Alfredo is traditionally made with cheese and butter, these two items together form an emulsification when the cheese begins to melt.  Now, once Fettuccine Alfredo gained popularity in the United States and over the years the dish has changed slightly, but the idea is still the same. 
In an attempt to make the dish cost less, over the years there have been many variations done to the traditional butter and cheese sauce.  Cheaper cheeses were used, cream added, flour used as a thickener; we've seen ingredients added such as broccoli, chicken, shrimp, or any other combination.  The popularized American version is usually made with cream added to the butter and cheese mixture.  And luckily with an increasing availability to Italian cheeses were starting to shy away from the powdery cheaper parmesan cheese and indulging in Parmigiano-Reggiano. 
 Next time your at the grocery go ahead and skip the jarred Alfredo sauce and give this creamy pasta dish a try.  Find a day and bust out your rolling pin, pasta roller or trusty bottle of wine and get your Fresh Pasta Dough made and try out this Fettuccine Alfredo you'll be happy you did.  You know, grab the wine anyway-whether you use it or not when your all done pour yourself a glass (or two) and enjoy. 
Fettuccine Alfredo
1 pound dried fettuccine or Fresh Pasta
6 tbsp. butter
1 shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parsley to garnish
1.  Cook the fettuccine in a heavily salted pot of boiling water.  Cook until the pasta is al dente and then drain.  Reserve some of the cooking liquid for later use.
2.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  And in the garlic and shallots and sauté until tender and aromatic.  Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil.  Cook about 5 more minutes, until your sauce has reduced slightly.
3.  Add your cooked pasta to the sauce and top with cheese and toss to coat.  If your mixture get to thick, add in your reserve cooking liquid to help loosen it up.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
4.  Top with parsley and more cheese if desired and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sriracha Ginger Red Cabbage Slaw




This recipe was all about trying to find the perfect side to go with a pork dish that I found when exploring one of the communities I'm in on Google+.  It's taking me an absurdly long amount of time to figure everything out, and remember all the different rules for the different communities I've joined but it's been extremely fun getting to see all the different foods people create and the knowledge that they share.  And of course the added bonus of finding recipes that I can not wait to try at home, like the one I found for Tonkatsu: Japanese Style Pork Cutlets.  It's had great sauce that I had never tried or even heard of before (see what I mean about dropping the knowledge, always learning).  The tangy tonkatsu sauce goes amazingly with the panko crusted pork chops and all that was left for me to figure out was a side.  Pictured with the pork dish was a beautiful little salad of red cabbage and carrots and so sprang the idea for this side dish.
Starting with our base, it's just thinly sliced red cabbage.  I love using red cabbage because I think the color is so beautiful, some people do half and half (half red/half green) but I usually just use red cabbage.  I removed the leaves and cut them in a chiffonade, but you can cut it however you like as long as they are in nice long, thin strips.
Next are shallots, thinly sliced.  I added two shallots, however if your not a huge onion flavor fan I would suggest only using one. (This is due to my boyfriend thinking the shallots were strong in the dish and me not thinking that-so use your discretion on this.  Most of you know if you like the flavor or not.)
Basil!  I love the flavor of this and the freshness.  I used about 10 leaves here and cut them in a chiffonade. 

Just in case, a chiffonade is a knife cut where your product (usually basil or spinach)  comes out in long thin strips.  Like the first picture of basil shown, stack your leaves one on top of another.  Then roll your stack tightly, almost like rolling a cigar.  At this point you just take your knife and start cutting thin strips until you've reached the base (a little past where my huge looking hands are placed)

Add in about 3 carrots that you have grated and you've got your base going.  Let this just hang out for a minute and start on your sauce.

Please ignore the lime green bowl, one of the few brightly colored kitchen items I have and naturally the only clean bowl when I was making this.  Anyway, for the sauce I minced about an inch of ginger and added that to mayonnaise with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, Sriracha and olive oil.  For the Sriracha I have a base amount to add but you if want to up the amount (or decrease) feel free to experiment with the amount of heat you want.

Tossed in the sauce and then garnished with salted sunflower seeds and pine nuts.  Maybe a little too much garnish for this particular plate/picture, I ended up putting this plate of food back in the bowl and tossing it all again to mix in the seeds and nuts and then plated a second time with just a few of each on top.

Sriracha Ginger Red Cabbage Slaw

1 red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
10 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced (chiffonade)
3 carrots, grated
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 lemon, zest and juiced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. Sriracha sauce
Pinch of Salt
Fresh coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
1/4 c. salted sunflower seeds

1.  Combine cabbage, shallots, carrots and basil in a large bowl.
2.  Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, Sriracha sauce, ginger and black pepper in another bowl.
3. Stir sauce into the cabbage mixture, toss to combine.
4.  Top with pine nuts and sunflower seeds


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fresh Pasta

Pasta Pasta Pasta!!!  I love it.  Pasta is probably one of my most favorite things to eat, make, share, enjoy, devour, and well you get the picture; I'm kind of a fan.  So after many years of consuming pasta dish after pasta dish I finally got really tired of always buying a box of dried pasta all the time.  I mean, people were always raving about fresh pasta so there had to be something special about it.  And I'll admit, I was intimidated.  This was before I had gone to culinary school; this was before I had had much practice at all in the kitchen.  I was just starting to figure out that this was something that I loved to do and that I was going to go to school for.  So one day my boyfriend and I decided to make ravioli.  In hindsight, probably a little bit over ambitious for our first pasta attempt but hey I think that you might be sensing a trend that we kind of just dive in and try things out in a big way.  So anyway, after actually getting the pasta dough to come together (yes I did a pasta dough dance in my kitchen-my well did not break!!) we soon realized we didn't have anything to roll the dough out.  I mean nothing.  No rolling pin as some how it got lost in transition of moving my kitchen stuff, I didn't have a fancy dancy pasta roller, heck at the time I didn't even have my beloved Kitchenaid Mixer.  But no worries, we figured it out; where there's pasta there is we used a bottle of wine (or two) to roll out the pasta.
Long story short, the dough was definitely too thick, especially for ravioli.  Our filling kept coming out on our first attempts and neither one of us thought to make a sauce so it was just plain old ravioli.  However, this is where we both truly experienced fresh basil and fell in love with it.  This is the dish that inspired the garden because of the basil in the amazing filling.  It's where I figured out that though it wasn't the most successful of recipe attempts it was one of the most enjoyable attempts.  Though the dough wasn't just right it fired me up to try again and not give up.  It made me realize that cooking isn't perfect, it doesn't need to be stressful or something to get upset about.  It's always a learning experience in one way or another.  You have wins and you have major failures, in this case we made an amazing filling and a not so great pasta dough, but there's always another day to try.  And try I did.  It's amazing just how many different recipes, techniques and how-to directions there are out there.  And trying to figure out which one of them is right is hard and frustrating sometimes, at least to me it is.  For me, I do just a basic flour and egg recipe, that simple.  I don't mess with the water to olive or any of that other stuff but that's just what works for me.  I've found that different recipes have varying results for different people, so don't get discouraged.  Find what works for you or what you are most comfortable with and go for it, and don't give up!!  Enjoy :)
Side Note:  Literally the day after I posted this recipe my mom got me the pasta roller and cutter set to go with my Kitchenaid because like I said, I wine bottle roll or use my rolling pin when I can find it (I still don't get how it's always disappearing to random places in the kitchen).  So, since then I have updated the pictures, I will probably add pictures in the future of the well process when I have time so stay tuned for that!


Fresh Pasta
Makes 1 pound, 4 servings

3 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs

1.  Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board.  Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs.  Using a fork; beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well.  As you are incorporating the eggs, keep pushing the flour up on the sides to retain the well shape.  The dough should start to come together what about half of the flour is incorporated.
2.  Start kneading the dough with both hands, using the palms of your hands.  Add more flour, in small increment, if the dough is too sticky.  Once the dough has come together, remove the dough from the board and scrape any left over dry flour bits.  Lightly reflour the board and continue kneading for 3-5 more minutes.
3.  The dough should elastic and a little sticky.  Continue to knead for another 3 minutes.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature.  Roll and form as desired.

Now that you have your fresh pasta, you need some pasta sauce recipes!  Check them out!
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Wild Mushroom Ragu

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cream of Broccoli Soup


Here lately I have been on a huge kick to try and find out what each day of the year meant and do something food related with it.  Which is way more time consuming then I thought at first, and might take me a minute to get into the swing of trying to do things ahead of time-but I'm getting there.

4 months of writing what each day means-my hand hurt after

Take yesterday for example; it was National Homemade Soup Day and Stuffed Mushroom Day, so how in the world could a day like yesterday go wrong.  Well unless you’re a mushroom hater, but I stuck with the soup aspect so that saves the day for them.  Luckily I made it to the store to get everything I needed for this recipe before the storm started (more snow, imagine that).  I literally closed my door behind me and then looked out the kitchen window and it was just coming down.  I think an inch an hour is how fast it came down at first.  Anyway, with it being snowy and cold and blah outside it was pretty much a perfect evening to be making soup.

I have to be honest though.  I am not the biggest Broccoli Cheddar Soup fan.  I’m not opposed to it, and I don’t mind the homemade kind (depending on how you make it).  But the store bought kind that come in a beautiful bread bowl that makes you think it’s going to be absolutely, amazingly delicious…and then turns out to be a cheddar loaded cheese bomb.  This is all personal preference, so please don’t bash me for it, if you love it that’s greats because it lived up to what you wanted.  But for me, I like cheddar cheese, but the main point in getting this soup is I want to taste the broccoli (Again, maybe it’s just me, I do have food issues).  It just always seems to taste a whole lot more like cheese, and carrots and everything else but broccoli.

Thus Cream of Broccoli Soup made an appearance at my house, and with not one ounce of any kind of cheese added to it.  It is simply broccoli at its best I think, and has the rich and jam packed flavor of broccoli that I have been looking for in a soup.  Plus I got to use my brand new handy dandy immersion blender which is always an added bonus in my book.  Enjoy J

Cream of Broccoli Soup
4 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound broccoli, chopped
3 cups chicken veloute sauce, hot**
4 cups chicken stock, hot
4 fl. oz. heavy cream
Kosher salt and black pepper,
Broccoli florets, blanched

1.  Sweat the onions, celery, garlic, and broccoli in the butter, without browning.  Cook until the onion is almost translucent and the celery and broccoli are almost tender.
2.  Add in your veloute sauce (see ** below for more information on this).  Bring to a simmer and then continue to cook until all of the vegetables are tender, around 10 minutes.
3.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.  If you don't have an immersion blender, working in batches blend the soup in a blender and return to pot.
4.  Thin the soup to the consistency you would like using the chicken stock, you do not have to use the entire amount called for.
5.  Bring the soup to a simmer once it is at your desired consistency, add in the cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Serve soup in bowls and garnish with the blanched broccoli florets and croutons if desired.


**Veloute is one of the five mother sauces.  It is usually used with a chicken or fish stock (a lighter stock) and a blond roux.  For this recipe I used 4 tbsp. of butter and melted this in a small stock pot over medium high heat.  I then added 4 tbsp. of flour (you want equal parts butter to flour when making this) and whisked this to incorporate it and let it cook for a few minutes so that the blond roux could form and the flour was cooked down.  It should have a nutty smell to it.  I slowly whisked in 3 cups of chicken  stock, then turned the heat to low and kept it at that until I needed it for the soup recipe. 
Want More Soup Try?