Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Complicated...But Not Really...

Sometimes, food blogging can get really, really old.  You cook and cook and take photos and wonder why you're doing all this.  I started this blog because it was the easiest way to share recipes with those I knew.  It's still a great vessel for that cause, and many of you have inspired me with your own recipes.  Thanks!  Lately, I've been looking for motivation to cook.  Not just new and interesting foodstuffs, but cooking in general.  It was becoming rather dull, day in-day out, until I watched one of my favorite films.

It's Complicated.

If you haven't seen this film, make sure you do so - immediately!  Jane's kitchen alone will motivate you to get cooking, and if that doesn't thrill you, her bakery sure will!

Not only do I want Jane's (Meryl Streep) house but her bakery AND wardrobe!  This movie had me feeling good in no time flat and as a bonus, I knew what to make for dinner. Croque Monsieur.  Jane makes it for Adam (Steve Martin) in her lovely kitchen.  I like to think of Croque Monsieur as a cross between French Toast and Grilled Ham & Cheese. Aka the Ham & Cheese Toastie.  Simple and comforting.  

Let's chat about cheese:

I'd like to say that this is an affordable recipe, but for me, it was a tad pricey.  A good friend of mine suggested I use Emmental-Swiss, but my grocery store didn't have that.  I used Ina Garten's recipe for Croque Monsieur and bought Gruyere ($11) and a French cheese called Fol Epi ($10), as it is supposed to be similar to Emmental. I knew we would use up the remaining cheeses, but it's still not budget-friendly stuff.  Supply and demand, folks.

The only changes I made other than the cheeses were 1% milk and I bought a nice whole grain bread from my grocer.  It was sliced for me and I like the texture and weight of this bread.  It tastes perfect with cheese! Feel free to either stick to Ina's recipe or toy with it like I did.  The one thing I made sure I used was real BUTTER.  Don't skimp on this part, my friends.

When it comes to French cooking, use the real thing, s’il vous plaĆ®t.  

I won't be posting Ina's recipe since the link is listed above, but I will photograph the steps.  I also made a salad to go with this buttery, cheesy dish.  It is a simple tossed green salad with matchsticks of Granny Smith Apple, as well as Martha Stewart's recipe for Champagne Vinaigrette. Feel free to make the salad more elaborate.  Walnuts, grapes, cucumber - whatever you like.  I wanted the salad to be bright but not reduce the star of the show - the Croque Monsieur.  I served this with an icy cold Angry Orchard Cider.  Mmm...C'est si bon.

Green Granny Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur

Rinse apple slices before making them matchsticks, then when done cutting, squeeze with fresh lemon juice.
Now onto the good stuff...



I'm going to eat one of these beauties in the morning, with an egg on top...ah...the decadence....

Monday, April 29, 2013

Comforting Crab Risotto

It's Monday, and that tends to make people crabby.  

That inspired me to create a comforting dish to soothe any irritations.  Since my sage plants were growing in abundance, they got me to thinking about pesto.  That didn't quite do it for me, however, so I went with the French version - pistou.  This is a great link from the NY Times explaining the difference between Pesto and Pistou.  I prefer pistou, and for those who cannot tolerate garlic, I recommend pistou, as it needs no garlic to be flavorful.  I used zero garlic in this dish, as it is rich enough without the perfume of ail (aka garlic).

Enjoy a cheerful, comforting meal of Crab Risotto with Sage &Walnut Pistou.  

Sage and Walnut Pistou


1 cup sage leaves
2 heaping tbsp. raw walnuts
1/3 cup (add more if needed) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 scrapes of lemon zest with a rasp or zester

Spin leaves, walnuts, salt, olive oil in a small food processor.  True pistou is done in a mortar and pestle, but time was crucial for me, so processor won out.  Add zest and a dash more olive oil if needed, then spin till smooth.  Pour into a small serving dish.  Warning - this is salty!  Be prepared.  Use little.  

April's Crab and Parmesan Risotto


3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 lb. box risotto (Bellino brand)
46 oz. seafood stock, heated
2 cans white crab meat
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 oz. good parmesan

Follow the box directions...which may mean you need to alter your liquid amount, greater or less, depending on the brand you purchase.  Check before you leave the market.

It takes about 30 minutes to cook the risotto and broth, then add in the butter and cheese.  Once that's done, add in crab meat.

Serve with a drizzle of pistou and extra cheese if desired.  Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Herbs de Provence

My rosemary plant has outgrown its bed, hopping the wooden border and invading my lavender.  Since the new growth really isn't causing any trouble, I'm allowing it to roam freely.

(sage flower)

I cannot make a strong enough argument to own and maintain an herb garden.  Whether indoors or out, having fresh herbs will not only make your meals fabulous, but will inspire you to create new meals.

I made a nice herb-inspired meal from basil and rosemary.  I had to buy the basil, as my plants aren't quite ready yet as the season is still early.  If you don't own an herb garden, don't let that stop you from trying these recipes.  Your local grocer should always carry basil and rosemary.  Don't use dried.  It's not even close and your culinary outcome will be less than wow.

The salad I served with the roasted chicken breasts came from Patricia Wells' "The Provence Cookbook".  The chicken recipe I made up with what I had in the kitchen.  One piece of chicken fed two of us, with loads of chicken left over.  I pulled it from the bone and will have enough to make chicken salad for at least two people.  But first, the salad!  Mine is a slight adaptation...enjoy!


1 lemon
4 tomatoes
1/3 cup capers, drained
4 slices of whole grain French bread, toasted and cut into cubes
1 bunch of basil, chiffonade-style
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. good red wine vinegar
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Note - the lemon needs to be sliced with a mandoline, that way they are paper thin and easy to indulge in.  If you do not have one, use a super sharp knife, being very careful.

Slice lemons over a bowl or dish.  Core tomatoes and cut lengthwise.  Place on top of lemons.  Add bread, layering.  Add capers and basil, then drizzle with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Note - I used a flax and bran baguette from my local market and had the clerk slice it for me.  I'll use that kind of baguette again if possible as it held up really well and tasted very nice.

Roasted Split Chicken Breasts with Rosemary and Garlic Oil
Serves 4 healthy portions


3 Split chicken breasts, skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 sprig rosemary, chopped fine
Salt and fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 375.  Pour olive oil into microwave safe cup and add garlic.  Heat for 30 seconds.  Place chicken into a roasting pan.  Strain oil, discarding garlic pieces.  Pour oil over chicken, then sprinkle on the rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 60-75 minutes or until juices run clear and skin is crispy.

Yes, it's really that easy!   The chicken was moist and tender.  Tres magnifique! 

We also had a lovely little dessert that would make a great snack or even breakfast.  This was so simple, maybe get the kiddos to join in and prepare the sweet stuff!

Lemon Greek Yogurt with Blackberries, Walnuts, and Honey
Serves 2


1-6 oz. container zero fat lemon Greek yogurt (like Chobani)
1 half pint blackberries, washed and dried
2 tbsp. walnuts, 1 tbsp. per portion
2 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. per portion

Place a dollop of yogurt in the bottom of two parfait or dessert cups.  Layer a few blackberries over, then finish off yogurt into each cup.  Add remaining berries.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp. each walnuts then honey onto each. 
Serve immediately.

These are heart-healthy meals that also won't break your bank.  Take the time to enjoy foods close to their natural form.  Make your meals simple yet flavorful.  Use what you have and explore!  Cooking should be an  adventure, so jump in and have fun!  Bon Appetit!!