Monthly Archives: October 2011

RECIPE: Cheesy Risotto

A nice creamy, cheesy, flavorful risotto is one of life’s great pleasures as far as I am concerned. There use to be a day when I only got to enjoy this wonderful treat when I was dining at a fancy restaurant somewhere. I would enjoy it so completely and then dream about it for years after that. The sad fact is that not many restaurants these days actually have risotto on their menus and because of that I wasn’t able to indulge my risotto cravings. That has changed.

I used to think that making risotto was so hard to do. After all the slow adding of broth in batches and waiting for it to absorb before adding more always seemed to me to be an arduous task. Boy, was I wrong. Making a really enjoyable risotto at home is not only fairly easy but it really doesn’t take much more time then most home cooked meals. The ingredient list is really simple for a basic risotto too.

Now over the last few years I’ve tried several different risotto recipes and most were either not creamy enough and bordering on dry or they were nearly tasteless. But recently I found this recipe for a basic cheese risotto on the back of the bag of Arborio rice (what a novel idea, right?). I was hesitant to try it because I’ve done that before and was let down but this one turned out to be surprisingly different and yielded a fantastic risotto.

The ingredient list is small and most of the stuff you probably already have in your pantry.

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Large Onion, diced

1 Cup Arborio Rice

5 Cups of hot stock

3/4 cup White Wine

1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

2 Tbsp Butter

In a large saucepan saute the onion in the oil until soft and translucent. Then add the rice and saute with the onion for a few minutes. Add the white wine to the mixture and cook until the wine is absorbed. I used a nice Pinot Grigio (Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2010 – California). I LOVE the smell of cooking with wine. It just fills the house with warmth and love in my opinion but I digress…make sure this mixture is cooking on medium heat.

After the wine is absorbed start adding 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the mixture and wait until it is almost completely absorbed before you add 1/2 cup more. Continue this process until all the liquid is used and absorbed. The whole process might take about 30 to 40 minutes. Don’t try to rush it by turning up the heat or skimping on the amount of liquid. This process is what makes risotto creamy and…well…yummy. Trust me it’s worth it. For the hot broth I used 5 cups of water and added 2 cubes of my favorite Rapunzel Vegan Veggie Bouillon with Sea Salt and Herbs. I really think that this made all the difference when it came to the deep flavor of this risotto.

Once all the liquid is absorbed add the Parmesan cheese and mix in until well incorporated. Remove from heat and add the butter and mix well. I used Smart Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread but you can use regular butter or margarine if you like too. Now all that’s left is to serve to your waiting diners.

I served the risotto with a veggie chicken patty (Gardien Chik’n Scallopinin) dredged in flour and cooked in olive oil until golden brown but I am sure this risotto would go great with real chicken as well. 🙂 I also served it with a side of steamed Asparagus in a lemon buttter sauce.

I loved this risotto and will definitely make it again. There are times where I just want a nice, decadent feeling rice side and this one definitely fits the bill. Give it a try. I am sure you’ll like it too.

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Red Vin 2009 – Rheinhessen, Germany

RECIPE: Quinoa Burgers with Coleslaw

Double Dog Dare Cabernet Sauvignon – California

RECIPE: Golden Granola

Recently our dear friend, Jurg, not only invited us to visit him in Victoria, British Columbia but he also surprised us with airfare and lodging too. We were thrilled because we like spending time with him and also because we like Victoria, B.C. He said his wife had left him for 3 weeks in order to visit friends back in their other home in Switzerland and he would really like our company so we could all have some fun together.

So when we arrived I told him that I would most certainly like to help with cooking the meals during our two week stay with him. He’s a good cook in his own right but he readily agreed that this would be nice. Later on when we were discussing who would make what meals he confessed that one thing he would really like is some granola. His wife usually makes it but his supply was getting dangerously low and obviously wouldn’t make it until she got back. I agreed that I would love to make the granola.

It’s funny how things work out because I recently was reading another food blog and they made granola and I was thinking to myself that it’s been quite awhile since I’ve made granola of my own and here the universe steps in and says ‘Well go ahead! Make some!’ so here I am making granola as I write this looking out at the sunset over Victoria Harbor and enjoying the beautiful sweet aroma of vanilla and cinnamon that’s wafting in the air in here.

Sunset over Victoria Harbor

I found this great granola recipe on AllRecipes.com called Golden Granola. Now as is my way with most recipes I tweaked it a little but not too much. I added some cashews and raw pumpkin seeds to the mix and I used dried cranberries rather than the raisins or apricots that the recipe called for mostly because I LOVE cranberries and it looked like Jurg and his wife did too (they had a bag of cranberries in the pantry…I am a sleuth like that.)

The recipe is super easy to make. You just add all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then you mix the sugar and the wet ingredients together in a sauce pan until the sugar is completely melted. Then all you have to do is pour that over the dry ingredients, mix it all really well together, spread the mixture on two greased cookie sheets and send them to the pre-heated 275 degree oven for an hour. You’re basically done now with the exception of stirring it all every 15 minutes. The smell in the house is heavenly.

Well, it’s done and I’ve tasted it. It tastes as good as it smells! I am going to have some over yogurt this evening as a dessert and Matt is just going for straight granola with almond milk for dessert. I highly recommend this recipe and also advise you to change the nuts and fruit to your liking. You won’t regret it! Enjoy!

Edgewood Estates 2007 Tradition – Napa Valley, CA

RECIPE: Grand Marnier Souffle With White Chocolate Sauce And Raspberries

Bursting With Anticipation!

This was only my third attempt at making a souffle. My first one was a Cheese Souffle and my second one was a Chocolate dessert Souffle. It seemed only natural for me to continue on and see what other kinds of souffles there were and find one that my trusty other half would like. When I came across the recipe for this Hot Grand Marnier Souffles from MyRecipes.com I knew I had to try it. I wanted to do a vanilla souffle but everything that I read stated that the vanilla alone could not disguise the eggy flavor and most said that the answer to that dilemma was Grand Marnier! Who am I to argue?

If you’ve never done a souffle before don’t buy into the hype when it comes to how hard it is to make. Before embarking on my first Cheese Souffle I read up on it and everywhere it seemed that it was a daunting task but I assure you that there are a few simple things that you have to remember to do and it will come out fine. Don’t be intimidated. Even the worst executed souffle is still going to taste wonderful. You can’t mess up good, simple ingredients. If you keep that in mind you are free to have fun and give it a go.

The golden but still gooey Grand Marnier Souffle...

I did make one mistake when making this souffle and that was the fact that the recipe calls for making 6  8-ounce souffles. Upon realizing that my trusty individual ramekins were only 4 ounces each (note to self: get bigger individual ramekins) I decided that I would make one big souffle in my large ramekin. The only reason that this was a mistake is that when it came to baking time I didn’t adjust for the larger capacity. When I took the souffle out of the oven at 10 minutes as per the recipe it looked wonderfully golden on top but it hadn’t risen all the way and when I cut into it, it was still a bit gooey…oh okay it was still batter.

Rising to the occassion!

It was my better half that suggested I put it back in the oven for a bit more time and that’s when it really began to rise. At one point I was afraid it was going to touch the coils in the oven (it didn’t though). Once we decided that it was ready to come out we took a moment to look at it in awe. The thing that I am CERTAIN I did right this time (that I forgot to do correctly with my Chocolate Souffle) is follow the method necessary to incorporate the whipped egg whites with the rest of the ingredients. Doing that one step correctly is the difference between a souffle that rises to the occasion and one that falls flat. Other than that it will still taste the same in my opinion.

I will warn you that once the souffle is out of the oven you have a very limited time for pomp and circumstance because as it cools down it also deflates and once you put the knife into it to serve it, it will deflate so rapidly it’s really sad. At least I was sad…I mean it just LOOKED sad.

But all sadness aside, I topped the individual pieces of souffle with a White Chocolate Sauce from Epicurious.com and some raspberries. The resulting dessert was flavorful, sweet but not too sweet and the sides of the souffle had just the right crunch due to the sugar coating along the sides of the ramekins. Overall a wonderful dessert but I would probably do individual souffles next time in order to have a reduced cooking time and a slower deflating presentation. 🙂 Go ahead, make a souffle! You’ll love it!

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling 2009 – Mosel, Germany

Price: $9.99

This clear, crisp light yellow Riesling has a citrusy, clean crisp bouquet. The taste is sweet and pear filled. It’s nice clean, crisp, and refreshing. The finish is short and sweet.

I served this wine with my vegetarian version of chicken scallopini with carrots, celery and vidalia onions with a side of broccoli. I also used some of this wine for the chicken scallopini recipe and found that it paired well with it all.

Overall I found this Riesling to be very nice. I gave this wine a rating of 88 points.

RECIPE: Creme Brulee

Torturing The Creme Brulee

I have a confession! I love Creme Brulee! There! I’ve said it! However I never thought that making something so good was so easy. It all started when my brother, Tommy, told me he was coming to visit my mom and wanted to know if I wanted to make a dinner with him. I jump at the chance to cook with another passionate cook and my brother is one of those people who loves to cook (he really knows wine too). So we decided on a menu and then he asked what we should have for desert. I immediately mentioned that I loved Creme Brulee. He responded with ‘I have the perfect Creme Brulee recipe and I’ll bring my torch’. Cool! Fire too!

So when my brother came he taught me how to make Creme Brulee and French Bread as well as a recipe called Chicken Veronique. It was all just heavenly! He also had the recipes printed out for me so that I could try them on my own at home.

Jump ahead a couple of months later and I decided that for Valentine’s dinner with my love, Matt, I was going to make a wonderful dinner (Spaghetti Carbonara) and pull out my newly bought torch and make Creme Brulee. However when I went to look for the recipe that my brother had given me I couldn’t find it. Isn’t that always the case? So I searched the internet for a recipe that looked to be close or the same as that one. After extensive searching I found a Creme Brulee recipe from Alton Brown at Food Network.com that seemed to come really close. I know my brother likes Alton Brown’s stuff so I figured he may have actually used this recipe.

The hardest part when making Creme Brulee is waiting for it to come out of the oven. The rest of the process is really fun and smells great! The ingredients are simple: heavy cream, a beautifully fragrant vanilla bean, sugar, egg yolks and hot water. Most of which you’ve probably already got hanging around your kitchen. The biggest thing I had to do to prepare for this was buy ramekins, a torch (which both came in a nice little kit from Bed, Bath, and Beyond for under $30), some butane fluid for the aforementioned torch, and finding vanilla beans that wouldn’t break the bank.

The Ingredients

Now you don’t want to cheap out on the vanilla beans and reach for vanilla extract when making Creme Brulee. I am pretty sure doing that is a crime so be careful. The fact is that Creme Brulee although a simple dessert to make is a decadent, indulgent treat and every effort should be made to make sure you honor that. Suck it up and buy real vanilla beans. I originally went to the supermarket and laid down a hefty $7 for one vanilla bean the first time I made this treat (Yes, I’ve made it more than once now…can you blame me?) but I soon discovered that my town had a really great spice shop and there I found vanilla beans priced at 3 for $5.00. I immediately bought 6 and drove smiling home with my treasures. So look around your town for specialty shops who get vanilla beans in bulk. They will be cheaper there.

After splitting the vanilla bean and dropping all those wonderful smelling seeds into the pot of heavy cream I took special care to warm the combination up on the stove and stir frequently. You might want to be aware that you really need to be attentive to your vanilla bean/heavy cream combo because heavy cream loves to burn and boil over if given the chance.

Egg Yolk/Sugar DuoWhile you’re keeping one eye on your vanilla bean/heavy cream duo you can begin to whip up the egg yolks with the sugar until it reaches the right consistency. Once that task is done you can slowly add the vanilla bean/heavy cream combo into the egg yolk/sugar combo remembering to continuously stir.

You then pour the wonderfully fragrant yellow concoction into your waiting ramekins and place the ramekins in a large cake pan or some such and fill pour enough hot water to come half way up the outside of the ramekins thus creating a nice hot sauna effect for your Creme Brulee. Place in your preheated oven and wait with delightful anticipation for about 45 minutes. The whole time the beautiful smell of vanilla fills your home with joy! 🙂

Once the time is up I took the masterpieces out of the oven and placed them in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Now the real fun begins! Fire away! It was time to use my new torch! After sugaring each of the Creme Brulee tops I lit my torch and let the flames caramelize the tops. We had fun taking pictures of this process so those are the pictures you’re going to see here.Pre-sugar/torch time

Flames in the dark!

Once done with the flame thrower…err…I mean torch let the Creme Brulee rest for a moment in the refrigerator so that the top gets that wonderful characteristic glassy composure. Then take them out and enjoy! I’ve made this several times now and I really think it’s as good if not better than any Creme Brulee I’ve had at expensive restaurants. It’s easy and pretty inexpensive to make as well. Definitely one of my all time favorites. We enjoyed this dessert after our Spaghetti Carbonara dinner served with a wonderful Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2008. Wonderful!