Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Withdrawals!

I am having some serious blogging withdrawals, friends!

This week has been ridiculously busy. I started a new {second} job, am helping the hubby with planning some upcoming events for his office, and am all around frazzled! Even moreso than usual, if you can believe it!

When all this madness settles down, I promise I will bring you some fantastic recipes!

In the meantime, tell me... what have you been cooking in your kitchen? {Or if you're like me & have been eating cheese & crackers, what are you hoping to cook soon??}

XO,

Dianna

Monday, August 22, 2011

Better When Shared

Erica and I go way back. I met her in high school and immediately knew that she and I were destined to be friends. {We both loved the same TV show and laughed at ridiculous things. How else do you judge good friend material when you're 16?}

We had countless sleepovers, became fixtures at each other's family gatherings, and logged an embarrassing amount of hours on the phone and at the mall. Our friendship withstood long distance, ups and downs, and even attending rival colleges {Gasp!}.

Nole & Gator - Circa 2005

 Gator(s) and Nole(s) - Circa 2010
We commisserated over the stress of first "real" jobs, and rejoiced over exciting events like engagements and wedding plans. We stood on the altar near one another as we said our "I do's" to our respective college sweethearts.


Our husbands know that when we are in a mood to talk {which is always... but we do limit the number of times per week that we indulge since, you know, we have to eat, and sleep and work and all}, they should probably prepare for several hours of uninterrupted chatter. During that time, we almost never talk about what we called each other to talk about. Those are the best kinds of conversation, if you ask me.

We don't spend hours at the mall anymore {bummer}, and our topics of conversation have changed from boys and roadtrips to husbands and mortgages. We do, however, still sit around and laugh about ridiculous things. That, I hope, will never change.

Fabulous pictures taken by my very talented friend at WP inks!
One of the best things about getting together for a meal with a best friend is that calories don't count and worries are kept at bay. It's a time for special treats and treasured moments. As the years pass and we share our cherished girl time with new members to our exclusive club {Come December we'll need to add a "higher" chair to the table for Erica's new addition! Auntie D better start learning how to make some baby food!}, I know we'll look back on those times with fond memories and look forward to the times yet to come.  Nothing could be sweeter.

Definitely as good as it looks!
Erica and I shared my Homemade Bagels and these Chocolate and Cheese Danish during our last brunch get together. They are absolutely delicious... but the company was what made them just perfect. :)

What are you favorite dishes to share with dear friends?


Chocolate & Cheese Danish - To Be Shared by Best Friends!
Recipe from Giada at Home

You'll Need:
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 (9-inch-square) sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
1. Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Make filling: In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses, egg yolk, flour, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

3. Cut each sheet of pastry into 4 equal-sized squares. Put 4 pastry squares on each prepared baking sheet. Spoon about 2 to 3 teaspoons of the filling into the center of each piece of pastry. Fold 1 corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling to within 1-inch of the opposite corner. Using a pastry brush, brush the folded-over section lightly with the beaten egg. Fold the opposite corner over the egg-brushed pastry to form an open-ended Danish.

4. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

*Stop by Erica's blog, (P)ink Locale, to check out some more of her amazing photography & calligraphy skills!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Almost Liquid Dinner


So, remember how I mentioned a few weeks ago that I thought we were moving? And then I thought we weren't? Well, soon after I found out we were. And then we did. So, here we are.

We spent the entire weekend packing and moving and unpacking and getting settled. We're still not completely finished, but I'm really looking forward to getting rid of all the boxes and feeling like we actually live here and not like we're making forts out of boxes like 5 year olds.

To top off the moving madness, this week has been a little {extra} crazy. My poor grandma has been in the hospital for the past few days {she's ok, thank goodness!}. The entire contents of my closet is still at our old apartment, so I've mostly been walking around in pajamas, possibly even to the store. {Not obvious looking pajamas... don't worry.} My phone has been acting all crazy and hung up on a prospective employer mid-conversation. Twice. And then on the representative from our cable company that it took me 10 minutes to get on the line in the first place. {I wish I was joking.} My Google reader is ridiculously backlogged with about 100 posts that I'm dying to read, but haven't had time to. {Ok, so this isn't a problem problem, but it makes me very crabby}.

Needless to say, the theme of this week has been WINE! : The Poor Woman's Alternative To Therapy.

But woman can't live by wine alone {I lie. Woman can, but husband definitely can't.}, so in the midst of my stress and pity partying I decided to whip up some homemade gluten-free gnocchi a few nights ago as our first "real" meal in our new place. Because, you know, making something ridiculously sticky and messy doesn't add to one's stress at all. ;)


The reason I even attempted these Mascarpone and Lemon Gnocchi was because I miraculously had the exact ingredients I needed for the recipe in our nearly barren fridge. {And because I happened to see them on an episode of Giada at Home - while starving - during the 2 minutes I sat down that day}. What are the odds? That was enough of a sign for me.

Thankfully, they weren't as time consuming as you'd think, and didn't turn out to be nearly as messy either {which is probably a good thing because I may have just lost my $*#@ cool if one more thing went awry this week}. And, once again, the hubs completely cleaned his plate. Glad I didn't serve a Pinot Grigio dinner after all. :)

Yes, I eat my dinner on a salad plate. I know that's weird, but that's how I roll. :)

You should definitely give these a try. Because if I could do it with completely frazzled nerves and the majority of our belongings in boxes scattered around me, then you certainly can, too!

Mascarpone and Lemon Gnocchi
adapted from Giada at Home

Gnocchi:
  • 1 cup mascarpone, at room temperature (8 ounces)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg {I used just a tiny pinch}
  • 2 large lemons, zested
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for forming the gnocchi {I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour}

Sauce:

For the Gnocchi:

1. In a large bowl, combine the mascarpone, egg, egg yolk, nutmeg, lemon zest, Parmesan, and salt. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup flour until the mixture forms a soft dough.


2. Sprinkle a pie pan or rimmed baking sheet with flour. Using 2 small spoons, drop 1 teaspoon-sized pieces of dough into the pie pan. Shake the pan gently to cover the dough with flour. Gently roll the pieces of dough into oval shapes. {I found it easier to flour my hands and pinch off teaspoon fulls of dough, rolling them between my hands to get them lightly floured. Then, using the tines of a fork, I rolled each ball of dough to give them their ridged appearance.}


3. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a simmer. In batches, carefully add the gnocchi. The gnocchi should sink and then float to the top. As soon as the gnocchi begin to float, cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl.


For the Sauce:

1. In a small saucepan, warm the oil and salt over medium-high heat for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.


2. Add gnocchi to the pan and gently toss until coated. Serve with a BIG glass of wine! ;)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pick a Peck of Peppers

Confession: Sometimes when I go grocery shopping, my attention gets completely diverted by beautiful produce. I guess you can say I have a wandering eye when it comes to gorgeous fruits and vegetables. {Don't laugh. It's a serious problem.}

There I am one minute, dutifully crossing things off my list, and then suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see an exceptionally attractive artichoke or a seductive bunch of tomatoes on the vine and - just like that -  my cart and I are making our way over to items we have no particular use for, like moths to the flame.

Such was the case with a particularly inviting pair of cubanelle peppers that made their way into my shopping cart earlier this week. Their lime green, shiny outsides made them look like they belonged in a set of plastic vegetables that come with those Fisher Price kiddie kitchens. I knew I had to have them.

Cubanelles - Source
What I didn't know was what the heck I was going to do with them. Are these things spicy? No idea. Do they have a strong taste? Not a clue. Luckily, my best friend {Google} had all the answers I needed.

After a little research, I found a recipe that happened to include several things I already had on hand {my favorite kind!}. It was easy to put together and turned out to be pretty tasty, too. {The husband cleaned his plate, but c'mon... what else is new?}

Please ignore the burnt edges around the dish... I kinda left them in the oven too long. ;)
As it turns out, I like cubanelle peppers and would definitely pick them up again. That is, unless the broccoli happens to be especially bewitching that day... ;)

Are you as easily swayed as I am, or do you stick to your guns with grocery list in hand? What items have snuck their way into your grocery cart recently? Your secret's safe with me!


Stuffed Italian Style Cubanelle Peppers
Adapted from Food.com



  • 4 cubanelle peppers, topped and seeded


  • 1 small onion, diced


  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage


  • garlic cloves, mashed and minced


  • 1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes


  • 6 oz chicken stock


  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil


  • 1 cup of pre-cooked rice


  • 1/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese


  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


  • Salt to taste

  • 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saute pan, cook onions and sausage on high heat for about 5 minutes, until meat is browned and onions are tender.

    2. Add garlic and cook for about 40 seconds, until fragrant.

    3.Add crushed tomatoes {I used diced tomatoes & ran them through the blender for a second to cut down on large tomato chunks}, chicken stock, and fresh basil. Stir together until basil is wilted. If mixture is too watery, let cook down until slightly thickened.

    4. Place mixture into a large bowl with rice, cayenne, and mozzarella cheese. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. Evenly add stuffing to peppers, leaving leftover stuffing in fridge for later on in the week. {I used the extra as a bed for the peppers}. 

    6. Place peppers in a casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake for 40-45 minutes until stuffing is heated through and peppers are tender. Serve hot.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Bagelicious

    Some recipes are just worth every ounce of trouble they take to make them. This is one of them.


    Bagels. So simple. So well-loved. So delicious.

    As soon as I took a bite of one of these homemade bagels {fresh out of the oven, no less}, I knew that I would never be able to eat another frozen bagel as long as I live.{Ok, so I probably haven't eaten a frozen bagel since college, but still.

    Front to back: Sesame, Onion & Italian Herb, Parmesan, Sea Salt
    It completely boggles my mind that 5 ordinary ingredients that can be found in my pantry more often than not are responsible for these little beauties. It's all about technique with these because, really, there's nothing to 'em.

    Now... that said, bagels {and yeast breads in general} aren't something you want to just make on a whim. They take a few hours and a lot of counter space. You will most likely curse at some point while you are making them. {Maybe twice.} You will also wonder why you began such a project when you have five million other things that you should be doing instead. But nevermind all that... the moment you smell them baking away in the oven you will know that you did the right thing.


    Not to get all deep or anything, but making bread by hand gives me such a sense of satisfaction. Since I STILL haven't been able to remove the very stuck paddle attachment from my stand mixer, I had to knead the dough by hand. For 10 minutes. Ten very long, long minutes.

    Ten minutes may not seem like a very long time to you, but there aren't too many things throughout my day that take 10 full minutes of undivided attention. I am almost always multitasking. Kneading dough by hand does not allow for mutitasking if you're doing it right. And that's exactly what I like about it. It's 10 minutes I get to do nothing but think and knead. The way people have been thinking and kneading for hundreds of years. I wouldn't be surprised at all if some of the best ideas in the world were thought up while kneading bread. Maybe I'll just keep my stand mixer the way it is, stuck and all. ;)


    Whether you use a little help from modern technology or decide to give these a go the good old fashioned way, they're definitely worth making at least once. What recipes that you make give you a sense of accomplishment? I'd love to hear about them!


    Jo Goldenberg's Parisian Bagels
    Recipe from Melindalee.com
    • 3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting 
    • 2 packages dry yeast
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups hot water {120-130 degrees}
    • 3 quarts water
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons barley malt syrup {or substitute sugar in the same amount}
    • 1 egg white – beaten with 1 teaspoon, water
    • Toppings of choice, if any {coarse sea salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion, etc.}
    1. Make the Dough
    In a mixing bowl {or the bowl of an electric mixer} measure 3 cups of the flour and stir in all the remaining dry ingredients. Pour in the hot water, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon {or with the flat paddle attachment of the electric mixer at low speed} and beat for about 2 minutes.

    Add the remaining half-cup of flour, a little at a time, stirring by hand. When the batter becomes thick and heavy, attach the mixer’s dough hook {if using} or lift the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface for kneading by hand.



    2. Knead the dough: Knead the dough at medium low speed on the mixer – or by hand {using a push, turn and fold motion, energetically} for about 10 minutes – or until the dough is firm and solid when pinched with the fingers. Add flour as needed if the dough is sticky in your hands, or sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl {if using electric mixer}.


    3. First Rising: When dough is kneaded enough, place it in an oiled mixing bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature until it has doubled in volume – about 1 hour.


    4. Prepare Water Bath: Near the end of this rising time, bring the 3 quarts of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the malt syrup or sugar; then, reduce the heat and leave the water just barely moving – at a slow simmer.


    5. Shape the Bagels: When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with extended fingers to remove excess gas.

    Divide the dough into 10 pieces {each will weigh about 3-4 ounces}. Shape each piece into a ball. Allow the balls to stand and relax for a few minutes – then flatten each one with the palm of your hand.



    With your thumb, press deep into the center of the bagel and tear the depression open with your fingers. Pull the hole open, pull it down over a finger and smooth the rough edges. It should look like a bagel! Form all of the bagels and place them on your work surface.6. Second Rising: Cover the shaped bagels with wax paper or parchment paper. Leave them at room temperature just until the dough has risen slightly – about 10 minutes (this is called a “half proof”).


    7. Prepare Baking Sheet: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with shortening (or use a non-stick baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with “Silpat” or similar material) and sprinkle the baking sheet with cornmeal.


    8. Water-bathe the Bagels: Into the gently simmering water prepared earlier, slip one bagel at a time {use a large skimmer, and gently lower them into the water}. Simmer only 2 or 3 bagels at a time – do not crowd the pan. The bagels will sink and then rise again after a few seconds. Simmer gently for one minute, turning each bagel over once during that time. Lift each bagel out of the water with the skimmer, drain briefly on a towel, then place each bagel on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all bagels are simmered, drained and on the baking sheet.


    9. Bake the Bagels: Brush each bagel lightly with the egg-white-water mixture first, then sprinkle the topping if desired – or leave unadorned, for water bagels. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. When the bagel tops are a light brown, turn them over to complete baking. This turning-over step will keep the bagels in a rounded shape, instead of their being flat on the bottom. When brown and shiny, remove the finished bagels from the oven. Place the bagels on a metal rack to cool.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Forget Me Not

    Hey there! I know I haven't been around much lately {I've nearly forgotten what the inside of my own apartment looks like... it's not just you I'm neglecting! }, but I come bearing a mouthwatering dessert recipe to kick off the weekend before we hit the road for yet another weekend away. I'm hoping that you'll enjoy these Salted Cashew Dulce de Leche Bars so much that you won't write me off entirely. ;)

    We have been busy, busy, busy! We spent last weekend celebrating our friend's birthday in Sarasota, and did some more birthday celebrating for my Aunt's birthday earlier in the week {which reminds me, I need to share the recipe for the Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake I baked for her. So good!}. This weekend we are headed up to Orlando to cheer on Steve's cousin as she graduates from UCF. So many great things going on, but man, are we exhausted!

    When I saw this recipe over at The Capitol Baker, I knew it was something I had to try. Sooner than later, if possible. Gooey dulce de leche. Salty cashews. Chewy blondie holding it all together. Um, yes please!
    I wound up buying pre-made dulce de leche simply because I ran out of time to make it myself. But, if you're interested in saving a few pennies and making your own, click here to learn about all the ways you can do so. {Doesn't take much more than a can of condensed milk, some hot water, and a little patience...but the result is unbelievable!}

    This recipe just takes a few ingredients and it perfumes the kitchen with the most amazing scent, which I'm hoping will dissipate by the time I am locked in the car with them on the 3 hour car ride to Orlando. Otherwise, the intended recipients might not get much more than a pan full of crumbs. ;)

    Anyway, head over toThe Capitol Baker for the recipe. Enjoy your weekend!