Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Decorating

Here are some pictures of the apartment so far, after my holiday decorating this weekend.  I still have lots of stuff to pull out of boxes and we need to get our tree!

The stockings are from Pottery Barn and I got them personalized at the mall a couple of weeks ago... love them! I created the mantle arrangement from garland, berries and flowers I got on sale at Michaels this weekend.

These red chargers are beautiful! I found them at target for $4.99 for 4, which is a great deal! They're sold in their holiday entertaining area, where they have a lot of party china and tableware for the upcoming party season.

And finally, this is our Christmas wreath from last year.  I love how the red door looks with the red berries and cardinals.  :)

I'm excited to decorate some more... :) Happy holidays everyone!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Macarons de l'Automne

I made macarons for our Thanksgiving get togethers with family and friends.  Macarons de l'Automne means "Fall Macarons" in French... since I made chocolate macarons with hazelnut spread and vanilla macarons with pumpkin buttercream to go with our Thanksgiving meals.

As you probably know, making macarons is a science but it also seems to be dependent on your luck too.  I've made macarons in the past, and tried a number of recipes, but I hadn't found the perfect recipe to use.  So, in preparing to make these macarons, I tried a few recipes, including some that didn't end so well.  Here are two recipes that, although quite different, produced successful macarons.  If you read a lot of the information about macarons online you'll see that although you must be precise in whatever recipe you pick, there are a lot of different ways to produce a successful macaron.  So, try your hand at them, follow the directions carefully, and hope you have good luck! ;)

Chocolate Macarons with Nutella
- 1 cup (100 g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup blanched, slivered almonds (about 2 oz, 50 g)
- 3 tablespoons (25 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons (65 g) granulated sugar

- 1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and have a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip ready to fill.

In a food processor, grind the almonds as fine as possible.  Add the powdered sugar and cocoa, then pulverize, grinding so that there are no lumps. Sift the mixture through a fine mesh sieve at least once and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until they are foamy. Increase the speed and slowly add the granulated sugar.  Beat a high speed until very stiff and firm, a few more minutes.

Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites using a flexible rubber spatula. Continue folding, carefully.  When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps if you're alone).

Pipe the batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.

Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons and release any air bubbles.  Allow the macaron shells to dry for at least 30 minutes on the counter, until dry or tacky to the touch.  Then, bake them for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely and remove from baking sheet.

Pipe or spoon Nutella onto a macaron and sandwich it with another.  Repeat until you have done this with all of them.  Place the macaron "sandwiches" in an airtight container and place in the fridge for at least one day to get the soft, chewy desired texture.

source: Food, je t'aime & David Lebovitz

Macarons with Pumpkin Buttercream
- 100 g egg whites, about 3 eggs
- 50 g white sugar
- 200 g powdered sugar
- 110 g blanched almonds
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

- 1/2 tsp almond extract
for the filling:
- 4 tbs butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbs pumpkin butter

Combine powdered sugar and almonds in food processor and process for about 2 minutes.

Using a stand mixer whip the egg whites, while gradually adding granulated sugar, until they form stiff, shiny peaks.  Add the extracts to the egg whites, then combine egg whites and dry ingredients. Fold quickly at first then slow down until you have what looks like a molten sludge.

Put your macaron mix in a pastry bag and pipe 1 inch circles onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour, until dry to the touch.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and cook for 10-12 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before removing from baking sheets.

Prepare buttercream filling by mixing butter, powdered sugar and pumpkin butter.  Whip together until combined.  Pipe or spread onto macarons.  Place in airtight container and refrigerate before serving.

source: modified from & Tartlette

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This recipe is really good.. I've made it three time in a the last week! I haven't made many cheesecakes before, but this one was really easy!  Plus, the pumpkin makes it a great fall recipe and of course, it tastes really good too.

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 9" prepared graham cracker crust
- 2 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- whipped cream, for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.  Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust and set aside.

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended.  Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. 

Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.  Add whipped cream or topping just before serving.

source: modified from AllRecipes

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pigs in a Blanket

Pigs in blanket are what you might think of as a very cliche appetizer to serve. I guess they're probably out of fashion now, lol, but I love them.  Ever since I found this recipe, I can't stop making these to take to tailgates and parties.  There's just something so delish and comforting about them.  Plus, I love everything sesame, so these are that much better than the regular version.  

Piggies in a Blanket 
- 1 (8-ounce) can original crescent dough
- 1/8 cup Dijon mustard
- 20 mini beef lit'l smokies or cocktail franks
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 350.  Roll out the crescent dough and cut each triangle into three smaller triangles or strips.  Brush a  little bit of Dijon mustard on each of the pieces of dough.  Add a lit'l smoky to each piece on one end and roll up.  

Arrange them seam side down on a greased cookie sheet.  Brush each with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy! 

source: modified from The Neely's, Food Network

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Penne with chicken and mushroom cream sauce

This is a variation of an alfredo recipe that I make often.  It's so easy to modify with whatever meat and vegetable ingredients you have on hand.  This one is a mushroom and onion cream sauce over chicken and penne pasta.  I love how the mushrooms and onion work so well with the creaminess of the sauce. 

Penne with chicken and mushroom cream sauce
- 16 oz. penne pasta
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tbs olive oil, divided
- 10 oz white mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 cups cream (or half and half)
- SeasonAll seasoning, to taste
- salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder to taste
- shredded parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley

Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder.   In a large pot, boil water and prepare penne according to directions on box.

In skillet over medium heat, add some olive oil and saute chicken until done.  Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.  Add the onions, mushrooms, and a little more olive oil. Saute until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms golden brown.  Add garlic and saute for another minute.  Add the cream and butter to the skillet. Allow cream to come to a boil and reduce to medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, allowing to thicken, stirring often.

Add chicken back to sauce and stir.  Season with SeasonAll, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano (or Italian spices), to taste.  Pour sauce and chicken over pasta in large bowl.  Stir to cover and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Herb-roasted chicken and vegetables

I made this a few nights ago, when I got in the early Thanksgiving spirit.  It was so rustic; the chicken was juicy and the vegetables were delish. The great thing about it is that you can take a few minutes to prepare then all you have to do is let it roast, you don't need tons of pans and dishes.

Herb-roasted Chicken and Vegetables
- 1 whole chicken, 4 lbs, rinsed and patted dry
- coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1/2 bunch thyme
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- 2 leeks, halved lengthwise, then crosswise
- 3 medium carrots, cut into 3 inch lengths
- 1 lb small red potatoes, halved
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 450 F. Season chicken inside and out with salt and pepper and place in roasting pan. Stuff thyme and parsley in cavity.

In a large bowl, toss leeks, carrots and potatoes with oil and season with salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic powder. Scatter vegetables around chicken and pour white wine into pan.

Roast until chicken is golden brown and juices run clear, about 1 hour.

Source: Everyday Food, November 2010

Quick Coq au Vin

I've been majorly MIA for the past few weeks.  We've been really busy, and I've fallen really behind on posting recipes.  Here's a great recipe for coq au vin, that you don't have to spend all day working on.  If you love juicy chicken and red wine, this one's for you.  I don't usually like red wine, but after cooking, this is superb and has so many dimensions of flavors. Check it out...

Quick Coq au Vin
- 4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
- 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
- 3 tbs chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 8 oz. crimini mushrooms, halved
- 8 large shallots, peeled, halved through root end
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (such as Syrah)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
4 teaspoons all purpose flour

Saute bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, until crisp.  Transfer bacon to a bowl using a slotted spoon.

Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tbs parsley.  Add to skillet with bacon drippings.  Saute until chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes per side and keep warm.

Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet, sprinkling lightly with salt and pepper.  Saute until brown, about 4 more minutes.  Add garlic and toss.  Add wine, 1 1/4 cups broth, bacon, and 1 tbs parsley.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Boil 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place flour in a small cup and add 1/4 cup broth to it, stirring until smooth.

Add flour mixture to sauce and cook until the sauce thickens, about 4 minutes.  Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange chicken on platter and spoon sauce, shallots and mushrooms over chicken.  Sprinkle with 1 tbs parsley.

Source: Modified from Bon Appetit,  Oct. 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

I love our dog!

I just picked Darcy up from the groomers and he looks so cute! I was actually able to get some good pictures of him.  :)  Just wanted to share them here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Fall!

So, yes, I'm a little bit late on the whole Fall thing. But, I hate cold weather, so it's taken me a little while to adjust to the change in temperatures.  However, with Fall and cool weather comes fun holidays, food and friends/family, so that's exciting.  I finally got around to decorating our front door a couple of weeks ago.  I got the wreath from Pottery Barn, added the ribbon, and then I had to get some mums. :)

Oh and Happy Belated Halloween to everyone.  Ours was uneventful, we didn't have any Trick or Treaters...  However, we did dress Darcy up for the Pet Parade at our apt complex. It was a lot of fun, there were a lot of dogs dressed up in great outfits.  Darcy was a cow and although I wasn't able to get a great picture of him, it was cute! Although, he didn't appreciate the head piece/hood, so he pushed it off a lot. But, he was so excited to get to see so many other dogs at once.  Kevin and I laughed that the Pet Parade ended up being more successful than the Trick or Treating.



We also visited my parent's house this past weekend. We got their dog Toby to try on the cow costume, it was hilarious.  He's bigger than Darcy and looked so crazy in the outfit.  Here are two pictures of the two of them. The one of them on the hearth is so funny, if only their eyes weren't so evil looking, I like the way Toby is peering around Darcy, and it kind of looks like he has a cow baseball hat on.  ;)
Other than that, school/work has been pretty busy recently. There's lots going on, but I can't wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks! Only a few more weeks! :)

Oh and, last weekend we stopped by Sweet Memories Bakery (where we got our wedding cake) to get some Fall treats (although we ended up with cupcakes).  But, they are going to be on Food Network's Challenge this weekend on Sunday at 8. We're excited to watch!
Yumm, delicious cupcakes! 
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