Elements of Food, Favorite Things

Sage Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto

This past weekend, my husband and I were lucky enough to escape just the two of us to the cabin for a long weekend. It’s pretty rare to get my husband away for a whole weekend and not work (okay, we may have worked for a few hours) But, at least it was sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine. One of my favorite things to do up at the cabin is plan fabulous meals for us while we are there. It’s the perfect place to indulge in food, and spend time cooking. I’ve said this before…but it relaxes me…and I REALLY needed to relax this weekend! One of my favorite things to make is risotto. Typically, people are afraid of making a risotto. I hear all the time that it seems intimidating, and that they are worried they will mess up the texture. In my opinion, they are one of the easiest dishes to make, and they are always satisfying. This weekend I decided to make one of my classic favorites, that I’ve been making for a few years now. The flavors in this one are incredible…with little melted pockets of mozzarella cheese, salty prosciutto and savory sage…it doesn’t get better than this! Oh…and you use wine. 🙂

I posted this recipe awhile back, but, I had a conversation with a friend a few hours ago that inspired me to post it again. She is just starting to get into cooking and is trying to make a meal or two a week on her own. She is one of those lucky ones whose husband is the head chef in the house! Being that this recipe is so easy, I thought she might want to give it a try the next time it’s her turn to cook. My sister in law had also recently mentioned that risotto was intimidating…so I hope that this post helps you ladies learn a new recipe! I also took some photos while cooking at the cabin…still learning how to use the new camera 🙂 Enjoy!

Sage Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto
-Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 2  (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth. I always keep a little more available in case you need to alter the texture.
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 1  cup  finely chopped leek (for leek preparation, see How to Prepare Leeks
  • 4  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4  cups  Arborio rice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  dry white wine
  • 1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) finely chopped fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2  ounces  prosciutto, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Sage sprigs (optional)

Directions

  • Prepare your broth: Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  • Melt butter in a medium sautĂ© pan over medium heat. I like to use a Le Creuset braiser, I find the enameled pans work really well with risottos.
  • Add the chopped leek and garlic to the butter; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the uncooked Arborio rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Take note of the amazing aroma you just created!

That’s the easy part…now here’s where there is a little margin for error…but as long as you’ve kept your broth warm and continue to stir the rice while adding the liquid in small amounts…it will turn out perfectly.

  • Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 20-25 minutes total). Test the rice along the way.
  • The risotto is done, when it’s soft (but not mushy) with a slight bite, as if you were cooking a pasta al dente.
  • Stir in chopped sage, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in mozzarella. Spoon the risotto into bowls; top each serving with about 1 1/2 tablespoons prosciutto. Sprinkle with black pepper. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

Leeks

Garlic

Chopping Garlic

Mozzarella

Prosciutto

DSC01018

DSC01023

Sage Mozzarella Risotto

Sancerre

Elements of Food, Favorite Things

Moules a la Mariniere

Moules, the French word for mussels, are one of my most favorite treats from the sea. I give credit to my French food loving husband for having introduced me to these little ocean delights. I think that a lot of people are intimidated by these little creatures, one, because they seem difficult to prepare, and two, they come across as “fishy.” Here is my thought on that. I believe anything can be enjoyable with the correct preparation. Sure, if you simply boiled the mussels in water, they’d be fishy and unappetizing. You can’t say you don’t like mussels if you haven’t had them prepared well. It’s kinda like the waiter who once told me I couldn’t say I hated Chardonnay, because I was obviously trying the wrong kinds. It’s true. He brought me a chardonnay that tasted like a lovely Sauvignon Blanc.

There are those of course who prefer to eat foods not in their natural state. I think that the presentation of these mussels in their shell is beautiful, and preparing mussels is one of the easiest culinary adventures to embark on. Maybe we’re lucky that we have a fantastic seafood market in town that brings in mussels “restaurant ready” meaning…that long 3 hour process Julia Child talks about (soaking, scrubbing, debearding) is all unnecessary. The mussels we buy are ready to take a bath in wine and butter…

For our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, my husband and I had made dinner reservations for a lovely evening out. Sadly, a few days before, our little puppy Lola broke her leg and needed major surgery. We knew the best thing to do was to stay home with our little one on Valentine’s Day, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about that decision. We created an amazing dinner of mussels, wonderful, fragrant French cheeses and a special bottle of wine brought to us from France from wonderful friends in Paris, all in the privacy of our own home, with our little Lola. Sometimes, recreating a fancy dinner at home is just as expensive as going out. When it comes to mussels, this is the complete opposite truth. We bought our mussels at $3.99 a pound. Yep, $3.99 and you only need about a pound of mussels per person. 8 bucks for our entree? Amazing. I already had butter, shallots, and a light white wine ready to go at home. Why have we not done this before? It may look fancy and impressive, but it’s the easiest dinner I’ve ever made. The recipe below is adapted from the original Julia Child, Mussels a la Mariniere, with a few minor tweaks and suggestions.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of mussels per person, maybe a couple extras for those who decide to not wake up (aka, not open) during the steaming process. Give them a quick rinse in a strainer and discard any with visible broken shells. If you are making this for more than 2 people, double the below recipe so you have enough cooking liquid.
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 cups of light white wine (pino grigio, sauv blanc)
  • 1/2 cup of minced shallots, leeks or green onions
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Parsley
  • Heavy Cream (optional) You can add in a couple tablespoons to give your liquid a thicker, richer taste.

Directions

  1. In a large enameled dutch oven ( I use my Le Creuset Braiser) bring the wine, butter, heavy cream (optional) shallots (leeks or green onions), bay leaf, thyme and salt and pepper to a boil. Let boil for 3-4 minutes until it is slightly reduced (thickened a little bit)
  2. Carefully add the mussels to the pot, and cover tightly. Boil quickly over high heat. After 3 minutes, uncover and redistribute the mussels around the pot for even cooking. Recover and continue boiling for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Mussels are done when they have opened and are pink and orange in color. If by this point there are any mussels that have not opened up, discard those mussels.
  4. Use a large strainer spoon to lift the mussels into large bistro bowls and ladle the cooking liquid on top. Garish with fresh parsley.
  5. Serve with LOTS of hot, crusty french baguette (for soaking up the wine and butter…) a selection of french cheeses and a bottle of Sancerre, Muscadet or Vouvray. Enjoy!
Moules a la Mariniere
Elements of Food, Elements of Home, Favorite Things

Grandma Clara’s Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

These little bites of heaven are a wonderful Fall treat! Disclaimer: These are NOT low fat, nor should they be, so please don’t try to make them good for you.  Unlike most cookies, this recipe uses zero butter. Most of my grandmother’s cookie recipes use shortening, which makes them incredibly soft and chewy…not flat and crispy like when you use all butter. This recipe makes about 48 cookies (or about 96 Clara sized cookies! She always made them bite sized) Keep in mind, the dough does not spread very far, and they are not completely flat. The dough will be sticky to work with. I recommend using a cookie baller and spraying it with Pam first. I drizzle the frosting on at the end…but they are also good without it!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees


Cookie Ingredients

1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
 Directions
  • Mix sugar, shortening, egg, vanilla and pumpkin together in a large standing mixer on medium speed. Once combined, add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  • Once combined, add the raisins and walnuts
  • Drop the dough on to cookie sheets prepared with parchment paper (recommended)
  • Bake at a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. DO NOT over bake…
Frosting Ingredients
3 T. butter
4 T milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla
  • Bring the butter, milk and brown sugar to a rolling boil for 2 minutes. Let the mixture cool and sift in the powdered sugar and add the vanilla.
  • It’s easiest to place the frosting in a pastry bag and drizzle the frosting onto the cookies. It looks pretty that way as well!
Enjoy!
-A
Elements of Food, Elements of Home, Favorite Things

Risotto is Nothing to be Afraid Of…

Risotto seems to be one of those dishes that people are terrified of making…they are worried the texture will be off, the flavor will be bland or the whole dish will stick together into one gooey mess. In my opinion, risottos are one of the easiest, most flavorful and satisfying dishes you can make…and they are pretty quick as well! You can literally put anything you want into your risottos…mushrooms if you’re a mushroom lover, veggies, seafood, meat, literally open your cupboard and your fridge…the options are endless. There is one recipe that I have been making for a couple years and everyone I serve it to raves about it. It’s from Cooking Light (but certainly doesn’t taste like it…) It’s really simple too…I promise. it has these wonderful little pockets of melted cheese that are to die for. Yes, there is a technique to making a good textured risotto, but it’s not rocket science…and no, you don’t have to read Cook’s Illustrated to master it. Simply follow the recipe word for word…and you’ll be good to go!

Sage Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto
-Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 2  (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth. I always keep a little more available in case you need to alter the texture.
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 1  cup  finely chopped leek (for leek preparation, see How to Prepare Leeks
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4  cups  Arborio rice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  dry white wine
  • 1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) finely chopped fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2  ounces  prosciutto, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Sage sprigs (optional)

Directions

  • Prepare your broth: Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  • Melt butter in a medium sautĂ© pan over medium heat.
  • Add leek and garlic; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

That’s the easy part…now here’s where there is a little margin for error…but as long as you’ve kept your broth warm and continue to stir the rice while adding the liquid in small amounts…it will turn out perfectly.

  • Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total).
  • Stir in chopped sage, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in mozzarella. Spoon 1 cup risotto into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 1/2 tablespoons prosciutto. Sprinkle with black pepper. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

 

Elements of Food, Elements of Home, Favorite Things

Smoky Corn Chowder on 95 Degree Day…Good Idea…

I’m not quite sure what I was thinking…it was 95 degrees outside and for some reason, I wanted to make a soup for dinner. Maybe it’s because it’s easy and filling…but then I probably should have served inside the air conditioned house as opposed to the steamy front porch. Anyway…Here’s the recipe. It’s delightful. I served it with a warm (again, bad idea) baguette and herb goat cheese spread. The smoked paprika is what really makes this corn chowder fantastic…I recommend buying it if you don’t have it, it will soon become one of your favorite spices to use. For a little twist to this recipe, add some shredded chicken breast.

Recipe: Real Simple Cookbook (with a couple tiny additional notes/changes)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sliced bacon
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I used red pepper flakes…works just fine)
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen corn
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half or whole milk
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings. (I found there wasn’t much more than this in the pan anyway) Return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, paprika, and red pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the corn, broth, and half-and-half and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Using an immersion blender, puree the corn mixture in the pot. Or, transfer half the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot and stir in ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  6. Divide the soup among bowls and top with the scallions and chopped bacon.
Elements of Food, Elements of Home, Favorite Things

Birthday Cupcakes for B

I have a very picky fiance when it comes to desserts…there are very few types of cake that he will happily eat…So every year for his birthday, I make carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, his one and only favorite. I have tried several recipes…and rarely do any of the match up to his beloved carrot cake from Isles Deli, but I have this thing about all things homemade, so I kept trying…and I found a recipe that is pretty close and they turned out pretty cute as well…oh and I did I mention he hates frosting? Except for this cream cheese frosting which is heaven… All I have to say is thank goodness for my Cuisinart food processor which made grating three cups of carrots a breeeeeeeze…..Recipe with my additional comments and photos below. Happy birthday B 🙂

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots…see tip below for quick grating
  • 1 cup raisins (regular or golden)
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

For the Cream Cheese Frosting…

  • 1 pound (2, 8 ounce) packages of cream cheese (room temp)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (Please don’t use imitation…)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a standing mixer, combine sugar, vegetable oil and vanilla together using the paddle attachment of the mixer. Crack your eggs into a bowl (to ensure they are ok…no shells, etc) and then add them to the bowl while the mixer is running. In another bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed or “stir”, slowly add the dry ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts and mix until combined.

Tip for grating carrots: Use the grating attachment of your food processor…it makes a tedious task incredibly easy.

Prepare your muffin pans with foil liners. I like these because they are pretty 🙂 Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 and continue baking for 15 minutes. Use a toothpick or cake tester to make sure they are done…toothpick should come out clean.

When the cupcakes are cool, it’s time to frost. I like to frost the cupcakes Ashley style by using a pastry bag filled with frosting with a large circular piping tip. Start by squeezing down on the edge of the cupcake and swirl it a circular direction until the top is covered like a tent.

Voila!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Elements of Food, Elements of Home, Favorite Things

A Simple Favorite: Sauteed Mushrooms

Believe it or not…mushrooms are one of the easiest veggies to cook…and, they are good for you…as long as you don’t only prepare them with butter! I love mushrooms…I love them in risotto, pasta, sauces, on pizza and just as a side dish. Last night I made a side dish of sauteed mushrooms with shallots, herbs, garlic, olive oil and a little butter. They were incredibly flavorful and cooked to perfection…not to mushy. It made the perfect side to my Tilapia that was simply prepared baked with salt and pepper and a little lemon.

Sauteed Mushrooms
Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 package of organic button mushrooms or baby bellas. I like the Forest brand.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Chives or Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  • The most important step in the process is making sure you clean the mushrooms properly. Do NOT throw them in a strainer and run water over them. You will water log them and they will not cook properly and they will end up soggy. You want your mushrooms to be completely dry before you cook them.
  • Take a damp paper town and clean each mushroom individually. This may seem tedious, but why ruin your wonderful batch of organic mushrooms?
  • There are a few ways you can chop your mushrooms. If your button mushrooms are small enough, they can be sauteed whole. I used baby bellas, which are larger. I took off the stems (you can leave them on if you wish…) I then chopped the caps into quarters. This makes a nice hearty bite.
  • In your heavy skillet, heat the oil and butter until the foam has disappeared from the butter. This means it’s hot enough to add your mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute continuously for about 5-6 minutes. Do not crowd the mushrooms in the skillet or they will steam as opposed to saute.
  • You will see that the mushrooms have absorbed all the fat from the oil and butter and will start releasing their natural liquid. At this point, take the mushrooms off of the heat.
  • Add your shallots and garlic and saute and extra 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, and not mushy.
  • Season with salt and pepper and chive or parsley. Serve hot!
Elements of Home, Elements of Interest, Favorite Things

Favorite Object of the Day: Calf & Half Creamer

Good morning sunshine! Not going to lie…that is usually not a phrase that comes to my mind when my iPhone alarm goes off around 8:30 A.M. Yes, I know most of you are already at work by then, but lucky for me, my job doesn’t start that early…good thing, considering i’m pretty useless until about 10:00 A.M. I do much better starting late morning and ending late evening. To each their own. But, I most definitely cannot start my day without coffee, and lots of it. Luckily for me, my fiance and I are both coffee fanatics and thrive on that magical beep of the auto programmed coffee maker finishing its daily job. We both throw back several cups of coffee before even attempting the day.

If there is one thing I love…it’s crazy and fun kitchen stuff. I have a stockpile of entertaining coffee mugs that give me the ability to smile before the caffeine kicks in. So, when this little box containing the most entertaining creamer I have ever seen showed up at ClicktoShop, I HAD to have it! It’s the Calf & Half Creamer by Fred & Friends. I know you know Fred & Friends, they make all the humorous unique gifts that you can find at Bibelot and Patina (my two favorite stores by the way) You have to admit…it’s pretty funny…how could you not smile if you woke up to this on your counter…I definitely got a smile out of Brendan. It’s pretty cool…double walled glass in the shape of an udder? Love it. I even got one for my brother and his wife as a part of their housewarming gift. I think they loved it too. I love my job…testing new products as they come in? Doesn’t get better than that!

Calf and Half Creamer