Monday, April 30, 2012

Risotto with a quick twist

Sometimes, there isn't enough time for full risotto. Translation: Sometimes I don't want to eat at 8:30 p.m.

Good news is, you can cook up arborio rice without the stirring. Twice the amount of water as rice and away you go, creating risotto out of components instead of the usual slog of stirring. About a half hour later, you have dinner. And a side. And a night to yourself, with a glass of wine to forget that it's Monday and that there are four more days of work ahead...

Smoked sausage risotto

I used turkey kielbasa for this -- works just as well as the regular, and less cholesterol.

1 turkey kielbasa sausage
1/4 cup arborio rice
1 cup water
1/2 cup white wine (chardonnay)
1 T. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. greek seasoning
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

You'll need two pans for this -- a smaller saucepan and a larger saute pan.

In the smaller sauce pan, bring the cup of water to boil, with some kosher salt. Once it boils, add the arborio rice, and stir 30 seconds to a minute. Cover tightly, and turn to low. Let simmer 18 minutes.

Chop vegetables. In separate large saute pan, toss olive oil, onion, red bell pepper and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes.

After 18 minutes is done, add sauteed vegetables to small saucepan along with wine. Cover and turn to medium low.

Slice sausage into 1/2-in. slices. Add sausage to the now-empty large saute pan. Turn to medium and brown on each side. Once browned, add rice and vegetable mixture back into saute pan. Season with Greek seasoning, salt and pepper. If dry, add a bit more wine. Turn to low and let simmer.

Turn off heat. Add cheese and stir. Serve with steamed vegetables as a side. Enjoy!

Note: Almost all the dishes I make have leftovers. Not this one -- you may want to double the rice portion, at least, if you're serving more than two adults.

Sewing project and chocolate cake

I haven't cooked anything much lately, save for a chocolate snack cake, so instead, I've been working on a new project: Sewing a skirt.

I was led to believe I could do this myself by this website: Untrained Housewife. In one of the posts, Sarah Tennant explains how to make a paneled skirt without a pattern. She makes it sound so easy, in fact, that I actually bought the fabric. And a zipper. And this baste/bias tape stuff.

So, I wanted to check the validity of this whole thing, and on another site, I learned you have to wash and dry the fabric ahead of time, which I thought was probably a good idea. Last thing I need is another skirt that doesn't fit.

Then I measured myself, which was humbling, and set about making a pattern out of newspaper, which we keep on hand for the grill. (I think we both find it fun to burn the dregs of the places we used to work.)

I let that sit for awhile, and then on Saturday, I traced the pattern on the fabric, and cut out the panels. I was all proud until I realized I still had to cut out the panels for the skirt liner.

Then, I woke up on Sunday morning realizing I would probably have to iron the edges of the damn panels, or mark them somehow to make sure I sew them straight. Because, naturally, I am doing this without a sewing machine.

After that I guess I have to insert a zipper, attach a waistband and hem the thing. Which means I'll debut this piece of finery sometime in 2013.

Someday I would like to know why I have to make things to prove to myself why the finished product is worth the money. (See also: Beer, scarves, jewelry, canned pie filling...)

Chocolate Snack Cake
(For when your sewing projects hit a concrete wall....)

1 pkg. Pillsbury Moist Deluxe chocolate cake mix
1 15 oz. can pumpkin

Mix together. This will look all wrong, until suddenly, it morphs into a mud-like substance. Success!

Pat into a 9 in. pan with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Courtesy of

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lemon Poundcake with Toasted Pecans

As with many things, what I often start out to make never turns out as intended. So it was with this recipe. This is why you should read the entire recipe before you bake!

For instance, I didn't have any oranges or limes, or pistachios that I knew of, so I ended up substituting all lemons, and toasted pecans, and I had just enough eggs. However, all's well that ends well, and so it was with the Lemon Poundcake.

This is adapted from Orangette's Pistachio-Citrus pound cake, found here:

Lemon Poundcake with Toasted Pecans

2 cups flour
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
lemon juice from two lemons
Zest from two lemons
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and butter a 9-in.-by-5-in. loaf pan. Cut a strip of wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan, and up the narrow ends, leaving paper hanging over the edge. Press this down into the greased pan, and butter the paper too.

Chop up the pecans, spread them on a cookie sheet, and bake them in the heating oven about 10 minutes or so. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder. In your electric mixer, beat the butter til light and fluffy about 2 minutes. Add in the sugar, and beat in. Then add the eggs one at a time. I did all this while the mixer was running at low speed and it worked fine. Add in about half to 3/4 of the juice and zest, and keep mixing. Then add the flour mixture about 1/3 cup at a time.

Now, what I should have done here is take the bowl out and mix it up a bit. I had clumps of sugar stuck to the bottom, and didn't realize it until I poured it into the pan. So, mix this up a bit and scrape the sides.

Now fold in about half the pecans or a bit more, and pour into the greased pan. Sprinkle the remaining pecans on top.

Bake the cake for about 90 minutes, rotating halfway through if you remember, which I didn't until about 60 minutes in. It turned out fine. Cool 10 to 15 minutes. Run a knife on the long ends of the pan, and carefully lift out of the pan with your wax paper handles. Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes. Wrap in wax paper and put in the fridge.

Now, you'll notice you still have some juice and zest left. Mix the two in a medium bowl, and add powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition, until you have glaze-like consistency. If you get it too thick, and you don't have any more juice, just add vanilla. Put this in a container, and put in the fridge for later.

The next day, cut up the bread and place on a platter. I cut it in 1/2 in. thick slices, and then cut the slices in half. Drizzle the glaze over the bread, and serve with coffee.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kansas City or bust!

There's been a dearth of recipes here, and that's because I went to Kansas City for work. I'll spare you the boring part, but I did have two really awesome meals there. The first was at Hereford House.

I had the Kansas City strip, medium rare, with mashed potatoes, and perhaps the most decadent carrot cake ever. The frosting/cream cheese goodness was a full inch-thick layer sandwiched between the cake layers. Best. Idea. Ever. Must try!

The next night, we ate at The Smokehouse.

I had the pulled pork platter with some awesome coleslaw and fries, with Bell's Oberon Pale Ale on tap. It hit the spot, and we know I don't say that much about dishes with coleslaw.

On the way home on I-35, we hit rain and lightning...

... but we managed to make it home, and even stopped off to get gas and food, and... clothes and stuff. You know, the necessities...

:) So, back to the stove!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Roasted vegetable spaghetti

I wasn't even going to write a post about last night's dinner, until several co-workers commented on the scent wafting from my leftovers.

I needed a quick dinner last night. I had a customer come over to pick up some jewelry, and she and I got to talking. Pretty soon it was 615, and no dinner was in sight.

I had a mishmash of veggies in the drawer, and decided to roast them. Then I needed a quick pairing. Spagetti with roasted red pepper sauce and sausage seemed the most likely candidate.

These dishes can be served separately or together. I mixed them in a bowl, and it was a good thing. It didn't even need cheese -- although, cheese is never a bad idea!

Roasted vegetables

8-10 1.5-in. diameter Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
8-10 small sweet peppers, trimmed and cut into 1-in. chunks
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in. chunks
2 small Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 onion, peeled and cut into 1-in. chunks

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat jelly roll pan with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Prepare vegetables. Fill pan with an even layer of veggies, and toss over another tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.


1 28 oz. can Hunt's Pasta Sauce
1/4 cup bottled roasted red peppers, diced
1 brat or sausage link, cooked and sliced thin
1/4 package whole wheat spaghetti

Fill a large pot halfway with water. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover and turn burner on high to boil.

Put sauce, peppers and sausage in separate pot, and turn to low to heat and meld the flavors. I should mention I used a seasoned brat that we had grilled and frozen earlier in the week.

Boil pasta 6-7 minutes. Drain pasta water first into a small measuring cup, and drain the rest into the sink.

Use reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if necessary.

You'll notice the spaghetti takes a lot less time than the veggies. I started the sauce and pasta when I had about 20 minutes to go on the timer for the veggies. You can use that extra 15-20 minutes to do the dishes, shine your sink or get to that wine in the fridge that's going stale. (Don't want to waste that!) Enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Formaggio Risotto

Tonight, all I wanted was macaroni and cheese. However, all we had was leftover grilled chicken, arborio rice instead of pasta, and a myriad of cheeses. So, I ended up cracking the book that Liz lent me: Risotto, a Williams-Sonoma cookbook.

A tome of all things risotto, this is an adaptation of the most basic of the repertoire. Technically, it's called Risotto with Four Cheeses, but I only used three.

I paired this with the chicken (see note: re: hubby needs meat; Also see: is apparently German?) and some steamed broccoli. The combination of cheeses was awesome, which was unexpected. With the mascarpone the original recipe called for, or cream cheese I used, you can get away with some fairly strong cheese flavor.

Anthony Bourdain happened to make risotto on TV while I was posting this. So, a note from Bourdain on risotto: "You should never be able to mound risotto. Risotto should be soupy." That is this risotto in a nutshell. Get out the shallow soup bowl and your favorite spoon to dig in.

If you want the real recipe, by the way, check out Risotto, and flip to page 18. I'm sure there will be more adaptations to come!

Formaggio Risotto with chicken

5 cups chicken stock
1 cup cubed cooked chicken
3 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 onion, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, preferably chardonnay
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup Irish cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for pretty

Simmer 5 cups water for stock, and add 5 chicken boullion cubes. Or you can go boil a chicken. Your call.

Cut up chicken and place in a shallow bowl. Add 1/2 cup stock from the saucepan to chicken.

Heat oil and butter on medium-low. Add onion, and saute 4 minutes or until soft.

Add rice and stir to coat. Saute 3 minutes, or until rice is translucent with a white dot in the middle.

Add wine and stir until absorbed.

Add wine a cup at a time, and stir. Stir occasionally until rice absorbs broth, but top of rice is still shiny. Repeat with remaining broth, EXCEPT reserve 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup at the end.

Once stock is absorbed, about 20 minutes, remove pan from heat. Add cream cheese, stock and shredded cheese, stirring to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with parsley and serve warm.

Serve with a vegetable -- steamed broccoli or asparagus -- and a glass of white, since you already opened it and all. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An early spring of flowers

The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming and it's .... just now April. Happy Spring!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kitchen Muse on Vacation: Products I like and Words of Inspiration

There are no new recipes to post, because my kitchen muse is on vacation. Instead, I bring you a review of things I'm loving lately and some inspiration to wind it all up....

Anastasia tinted brow gel in espresso. Because my eyebrows are actually turning gray. Well, white, actually. It's ridiculous. Also, I had a coupon. And this nice lady named Caitlyn at the Ulta store told me I had nice eyebrows. I'm a sucker -- what can I tell you. The stuff goes on like mascara, only lighter, and you can hardly feel it.  

Mary Kay(R) NouriShine Plus Lip Gloss in beach bronze. I also have it in fancy nancy. I'm not sure what this says about me, but my lips aren't chapped anymore, and that's tough to accomplish over here. Also, my friend Laura sells it, so I'm biased. But really! No chapped lips! Also, no weird stickiness. Freaking miracle.

These are the Kylie wedges from Payless, and in my own brain, they look like the shoes that Kate Middleton wears, without the 5-in. heel, ensuing pain and high price tag. These were on sale when I was on lunch break -- a deadly combo -- and they go with everything. And there's the added bonus of the rubber sole so I'm not click-clacking around the office... That right there is some $20 of joy for ya. Now, as to why I didn't buy the yellow peep-toe wedges when I was there...

Dream Cream by Lush. Yeah, the cost of this stuff is ridiculous, but when you have winter skin in the spring and summer, and nothing is making a dent, accept no substitutes. I hoard this stuff, use it sparingly and only buy it when I'm in a larger city to avoid shipping costs. Also, there's it's like 99.9 percent natural, if you're worried about that sort of thing. You can practically eat half of their products!

Chai Tea lattes. Now, I actually use the generic chai tea from Hy-Vee, but knock yourself out. Make a strong cup, and add two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup, and fill the rest with unsweetened soy milk. Microwave about a minute, and float away on a chai breeze.

Lavender goodness and hippie messages. Dr. Bronner's liquid soap is a pretty versatile deal -- you can wash your hair with it if you run out of shampoo. Also, it makes the shower smell like an herb garden, if you like that kind of thing. 

Is your kitchen muse on vacation? Are you in need of uplifting and your bath products aren't doing the job? Try listening to this guy. I get his Notes from the Universe in my email... this was the last one:

Your generosity is making a name for you here in the unseen, while at the same time rattling the floodgates there on the plane of manifestation. I bet you're good at chess...
    The Universe