Monday, December 5, 2016

Fried Pumpkin and Sage Arancini

AKA Festive Balls of Happiness!

That's what these are, and I would love it if I could perhaps insist that you add these to your holiday party menu.

Fried Pumpkin and Sage Arancini is the exact type of recipe we need in our arsenal this type of  year. Indulgent and bursting with flavor. Crunchy yet creamy, salty and a tiny bit sweet. This is the recipe that will take center stage on your buffet table and impress your guests for days after.

About a year ago, we first dipped our toes into the world of homemade arancini. It was a little bit scary, but we learned a lot. We learned that arancini, in any form, is totally delicious and will most definitely fly off the table. We learned you can't eat just one. We also learned that, no matter how much we doubt it, arancini is actually not all that difficult to make. With a little planning and a little patience, we all can do it - seriously, we can!

I should also tell you that you can make these ahead, freeze 'em, and then reheat them when you are getting ready to serve them!  Simply follow the entire recipe below, cool the arancini completely, then store in between layers of parchment paper in a freezer bag. Once frozen, they will keep for about 2 months. When ready to serve, place them on a rack set over a baking dish and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until hot throughout. See!? As if the golden brown crust and oozing centers didn't convince you, this proves that these really are the perfect party appetizer!

Here's what you need for Fried Pumpkin and Sage Arancini* (Print Recipe!)

for the risotto
4 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken broth, warmed
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

for the arancini
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of water
1/2 cup seasoned italian breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 gallon vegetable oil
sea salt

other tools
jelly roll pan
Heavy pot, such as a 5 quart dutch oven
candy thermometer
slotted spoon or spider skimmer

Here's what you do

for the risotto
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and sage and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender and fragrant stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the arborio rice and toast for about 90 seconds. Slowly add the white wine, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed (about a minute or two). Add 5 cups of the warmed chicken broth. Stir together then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring a few times. Once the liquid is mostly absorbed, stir in the pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon and warm through.

Turn off the heat, then gently but thoroughly stir in the cheese and parsley. Season as desired. Since the arancini is deep fried, I like to use a slightly heavier hand with the salt and red pepper flakes since it will hold up well. Spoon the risotto onto the jelly roll pan or a rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.

for the arancini
Place the flour in a shallow bowl or dish. Beat the eggs in a separate shallow bowl. Finally, combine the breadcrumbs and some salt and pepper in a third shallow bowl or dish. Using a medium cookie scoop, roll the risotto into 2-inch balls. Dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess; repeat with the egg mixture. Finally, coat each ball in the breadcrumbs and place on a clean baking sheet. Repeat until all the risotto is used up, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While the arancini chills, fill your dutch oven with the vegetable oil. Fit the candy thermometer to the side of the pot and submerge in the oil, being sure not to touch the bulb to the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees farenheit.

Line a large plate with paper towels. Using a spider skimmer, slowly submerge 4 or 5 rice balls into the oil, being careful not to splash the hot oil! Cook until golden brown on all sides, gently stirring the balls once or twice to ensure even browning. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt. Bring oil back up to temperature then repeat with remaining arancini. I got about 30 rice balls from this batch of risotto.

Serve immediately or at room temperature with marinara sauce.

Note: Traditional risotto is cooked by gradually stirring a cup or so of broth into the rice until all the broth is used up. Since we are deep-frying this risotto, it is less important that we abide by this traditional cooking method, so we can make this more like regular rice.

*Gas Stove Girl Original Recipe, heavily based on this original recipe.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Recent Eats - Volume 4 and Thanksgiving in Review!

A round-up of my favorite bites and other food drama from the past few weeks

And just like that, Thanksgiving has come and gone! Are you in full-on Christmas mode yet? I wasn't into it, but then my husband encouraged me to start decorating and, needless to say, I couldn't stop! We still need to trim the tree and put some outside lights up, but there is certainly holiday cheer all around. Now, what should I bake...?

Keep reading to see what tasty bites I've been eating this month (and yes, there is a turkey involved)!

Thanksgiving 2016

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I successfully hosted my first Thanksgiving! The day could not have been better! We had my parents and sisters as well as my husbands parents and sister for a total of 9 people, ourselves included (dog, cat and tortoise not included). As a first-time hostess, living in a 2 bedroom apartment outside of Boston, this number was perfectly manageable.

What was on the menu?

- Turkey! I wanted to go the easiest route possible without having an abysmally dry bird. Using the method outlined below actually resulted in a moist (seriously! not dry!) and super flavorful turkey.

First, I'd recommend getting a fresh turkey. Most major grocery stores have both fresh and frozen options, and choosing the fresh one meant no worries about defrosting or cooking a frozen bird. Just be sure to buy it the week of (we bought ours Sunday evening to cook on Thursday) and that the expiration date is after Thanksgiving.

As for the size, the internet is at odds with how much is a good amount. Between one and two pounds per person should be more than enough. For 9 meals, we had a 17+ pound turkey and I'm sure I don't have to tell you that, yes, we are still working through leftovers. I'd recommend getting as close as you can to one and a half pounds per person for dinner and a few days of leftovers. Cooking time is also dependent on the size. The best estimation I found is 13 minutes per pound, but if you stuff/truss it that may vary.

Here's how I prepped and cooked it (grab a detailed printable copy here). Take the bird out of the refrigerator,unwrap it, and remove giblets and neck 1 hour prior to cooking to rest and come to room temperature. Place your turkey in a rack in a roasting pan un-trussed, but tuck the wing tips under the bird. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine half a cup of salt with the zest of one orange and one lemon, as well as a teaspoon or so each of dried rosemary and thyme. Rub the salt all over the turkey - skin, cavity, under the skin if you're feeling frisky. Melt 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and brush the butter all over the turkey skin. Stuff some chopped carrots, celery, and onion plus a sprig or two of parsley in the cavity. Carefully pour in about an inch of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Put it in the oven and pray (kidding/serious). After 45 minutes, remove the bird and baste it in more melted butter. At this point, I loosely tented mine with a double thickness of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Every 30 to 45 minutes after this, take the bird out and baste it with some of the melted butter as well as some broth from the bottom of the pan. When you are in the last hour of cooking time, remove the foil. Once a thermometer plunged into the thigh read 165 degrees and the pop-up thermometer in the bird popped, I removed the turkey from the oven (it was about 4 hours and 15 minutes for my bird), tented it again with foil and allowed it to rest 1 hour before carving (during this time, we did a mad blitz to warm up the sides and make the gravy).

- Gravy! Nothing crazy here...and semi-homemade. The process was quite simple and quite delicious: I skimmed the fat off the bottom of the roasting pan but left in the rest of the delicious drippings, melted in half a stick of butter then sprinkled 3 heaping tablespoons of flour on top. Using a gravy spatula, I whisked it all together over medium-low heat until no clumps remained. After that, whisk in about 3 cups of chicken broth and heat until starting to thicken. Then, as a little cheat, I add 1 jar of store-bought turkey gravy. This extends the amount of gravy and binds the whole dish together. Season as appropriate - too simple!

- Stuffing! Well, actually, it was "dressing" and it came straight from the wonderful Pioneer Woman's A Year of Holidays Cookbook. I left out the cornbread and used only ciabatta and Italian loaves, then I added a big tablespoon of fresh chopped sage and a bit of lemon zest. My Dad said this was one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable dishes - a win in my book!

- Grandma's Carrot Casserole! That's the one in the casserole dish that is oozing delicious cheesy sauce all down the sides and has the beautiful crunchy golden brown topping. I plan on getting this on the blog soon because it would be AH-mazing with a spiral ham! Christmas, anyone?

- Garlic Green Beans! Crunchy, buttery, tossed with garlic, a bit fancy and yet oh so simple. Bonus - no oven space required! I strongly recommend at least one dish that doesn't need the oven, and this recipe comes from Ina Garten. It's foolproof!

- Parker House Rolls! If it isn't broken, don't fix it! That's my motto with these rolls. I went with the par-bake brown and serve method. It was wonderful to get these done two days ahead of time. Again from The Pioneer Woman...she saved my Thanksgiving ;-)

- Candied Sweet Potatoes! My Mom brought these all the way from Long Island to Boston and they were addicting! Tender sweet potatoes, swimming in a glorious glaze of brown sugar and butter. It's true perfection.

- Potato Casserole! My mother-in-law brought this dish. It is a classic family recipe and it FLEW off the table. In fact, I think my younger sister had 90% potato casserole, 10% other offerings on her plate...

- Dessert! Pecan Pie (Pioneer's the BEST), perfectly smooth Pumpkin Cheesecake, and the most beautiful double crust apple pie, courtesy of my sister-in-law! Team work makes the dream work.

- Drinks! Apple Cider Sangria, beers of all kind, red wine and white wine! Something for everyone. Pro-tip: I spent a lot of time researching the best wines to pair with turkey/Thanksgiving dinner...grab a bottle each of Reisling and Pinot Noir! Yep! Something for everyone.

Icelandic Candy

Cory and I honeymooned in Iceland, and other than the fact that it's one of the most breathtaking places I've ever been - they also have the MOST delicious chocolate. Seriously. It's sweeter and smoother than American chocolate. And I think it ruined me. I had one bar called Florida that just rocked my world. I've been talking about it a lot recently so I finally scoured the depths of the internet and found a site that delivered!

It may seem crazy, but ugh! This candy. Imagine a super crunchy Kit-Kat, drenched in the best chocolate ever mixed with crunchy rice, then coated in a thin layer of coconut. More, please!

Maine Brew Bus

For our first anniversary, I treated Cory to a little weekend getaway in Portland, Maine. The trip revolved around one big activity - the Maine Brew Bus! If you love craft beer and find yourself in southern Maine, we absolutely recommend grabbing a tour on the brew bus! The craft beer industry in Maine is absolutely exploding, and the brew bus takes you to three different breweries - designated driver and new friends included. We had 4 tastings at each brewery, plus a mid-tour snack. Our snack was a Kale, Potato and Feta hand-pie from a local bakery. It was like spanikopita but in a buttery, flaky pie crust! I'm still dreaming about it and also very interested in recreating it at home! Fingers crossed for a recipe soon...

Pumpkin Sage Arancini

Speaking of recipes I owe you guys, this is one for the ages! Creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto, bursting with fresh sage and grated parmesan, all wrapped up in golden brown, crunchy ball. This is a showstopper recipe and it turns out - it's not nearly as hard as it looks! But are they tasty? Well, let me just say, there are not enough words to describe how unreal these tasty bites truly are. Come see me next week and I promise you won't be disappointed!

Tell me - what did you make for Thanksgiving? What else are you eating and drinking this holiday season!?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Apple Spice Bundt Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

I love any excuse to have cake for breakfast!

Or lunch, or dinner, or snacks.

Hey, so real quick. Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK. I know, don't panic (I'm panicking).

The good news is, for those of us hosting an overnight guest or two or four, I made us a perfect make-ahead breakfast treat!

This Apple Spice Bundt Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze is festive, decadent and delicious. Apples, pecans, and spices come together in a moist cake topped with a rich, sweet glaze that is out of this world. Since we'll be spending much of our time on Thanksgiving day worrying about how exactly we are supposed to cook a turkey (how do people just KNOW how to cook a turkey?!), this cake is baked up the day before. Slice and serve with hot coffee while you and your family watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for pure holiday morning bliss!

P.S. Are you the aforementioned overnight guest? Might I suggest surprising your host with this beauty? They will love you even more than they presumably already do!

There is something so beautifully vintage about a bundt cake. They are showstoppers in and of themselves. But this cake? Well, that drippy glaze? Those crunchy, toasted pecans? It's practically a work of art. A very delicious work of art that fills your home with the most intoxicating scents of autumn!

Breath, bake, and enjoy this cake.

Here's what you need for Apple Spice Bundt Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze* (Print Recipe!)

for the cake
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour, sifted plus more for dusting the pan
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice 
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup peeled and finely diced apples
for the glaze
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons half and half
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped toasted pecans for topping

Here's what you do

for the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9 inch bundt pan. 

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars and lemon zest with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing completely between each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour together with the baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Add 1/4 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until combined. Add 1/3 of the apple sauce and beat until combined. Repeat the process, ending with the flour mixture. Finally, using a strong rubber spatula, fold in 3/4 cups of the chopped apples.

Place remaining apples on the bottom of the greased and floured pan. Top with the batter and smooth out the top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until a toothpick entered in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean with a few moist crumbs. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. 

for the glaze
In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar. Once melted, stir in the half and half. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, then whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth and glossy. Carefully pour over the cake, allowing it to naturally drip down the sides. Sprinkle pecans on top. 

*Adapted from Taste of Home

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Apple-Infused Bourbon Moscow Mules

If you're thirsty and you know it, clap your hands!

*clap clap*

We did it, guys! We made it through the ugliest election year ever and now, my goodness, we are going to have a cocktail. We deserve it.

Because it's November and we all have the holidays on our mind, I took the liberty of taking a classic cocktail (the Moscow Mule) and making it festive (by swapping vodka for apple cinnamon infused bourbon).

I strongly suggest you keep this recipe for Apple-Infused Bourbon Moscow Mules in your back pocket for any and all holiday gatherings this year. They are sweet and spicy and full of flavor. We are on a huge mule kick (HA!) right now as we just got ourselves a set of monogram copper mugs. Although they aren't essential to the drink, they do have a funny way of keeping your drink chilled for longer - science!

To start, we need to infuse our bourbon. I'm no bourbon expert, so I just use whatever bourbon I like to drink in cocktails. Start by slicing up 2 fresh apples (maybe from that apple picking reserve we are all desperately trying to get through) and splitting them between two mason jars. Nestle a cinnamon stick inside and grate in some fresh nutmeg and lemon zest. Cover with bourbon and marinate in the fridge 6 hours or overnight. Now you're ready!

As for the Moscow Mules, we absolutely need ginger beer. Ginger beer is less sweet and a bit more spicy than ginger ale. If you're a ginger lover like me, you are going to be obsessed with any and all cocktails that use ginger beer. A bit of fresh lime will also serve you well in your mule journeys. Tart, fresh, the perfect compliment.

So, not to be dramatic, but these bourbon mules taste quite a bit like pie. The more you drink, the more the ginger flavor comes through, cutting the sweetness in a very addicting way.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Pearl Cous Cous with Caramelized Mushrooms and Sage Brown Butter

Do you ever get an idea in your head, and you just can't stop thinking about it?

That happened to me recently and this delightful Pearl Cous Cous with Caramelized Mushrooms and Sage Brown Butter was the end result.

The idea actually came to me from a bottle of olive oil. I know, what am I even saying? Well, have you noticed a lot of boutique olive oil shops popping up everywhere? This is a big food trend right now. These local shops brew and infuse their own olive oil and balsamic vinegar and create some of the most unique and delicious flavors. These are great for cooking as well as marinades and salad dressings!

My favorite infusions tend to be herb-infused. I've had rosemary olive oil, basil olive oil, even cilantro-lime olive oil. After a recent visit to the Crushed Olive in Sayville, NY, I fell in l.o.v.e. with their Wild Mushroom and Sage Olive Oil. I KNOW. Too perfect for this time of year!

And so, I became obsessed with this idea of mushrooms and sage...and not just mushrooms, but buttery, caramelized mushrooms. Be still my heart.

P.S. Can we all agree to stop thinking that we don't like mushrooms? I don't know what happened to give mushrooms such a bad wrap. I have to assume these haters just haven't had mushrooms cooked down so perfectly until tender? And bursting with flavor that you simply can't get anywhere else?

Whoops, minor mushroom ramble. Let me tell you some quick things about this amazing recipe because I know that's what you're here for. First is - flavor. Flavor, flavor, flavor. Mushrooms are cooked down in a bit of butter and olive oil and honey (yes! for caramelization!) with a bunch of sage, garlic and lemon zest. If you have neighbors, you should probably apologize now for how amazing your home is going to smell. This gets tossed together with tender, nutty whole wheat pearl cous cous, a big handful of parmesan cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice and...and...

Sage. Infused. Brown. Butter!

Enjoy this cous cous as a lunch or paired with a protein for a wonderfully quick dinner. Hosting a Friends-giving this year? Might I suggest adding this to your table? It's sure to be a hit!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Soup's On!

Hi there, internet! How are you doing?

Sorry there has been a bit of radio silence around here. In an effort to not bring down the mood too much, I'll just say this: life. Life happens. It's been busy. Sadly, my wonderful Grandma passed away last week. She was 96, and we were able to celebrate her with family and friends for a few days, and that was lovely. I've also been slightly unmotivated in the kitchen. I was stumped for new ideas and when I did have an idea, it would bomb. It happens sometimes, it's just a creativity rut. But, the good news is, I've been doing a lot of eating outside of my kitchen. I will say that it is rather interesting how a little time eating someone else's food can get the juices flowing. Also with Thanksgiving less than a month away (OMG STOP - how can this be?!) food is surely going to be on our brains for the next few weeks.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I am HOSTING - yes, indeed. In my two bedroom apartment, we will be piling in both my family and my in-laws for a non-stop day of eating. Please pray that I don't burn the turkey, that my pie crust comes together with ease, and that I can make my Grandma's Cheesy Carrot Casserole as tasty as she always did. Thank you <3

Are you chilly? I'm cold. We are resisting putting our heat on for as long as possible, but yesterday there was frost on the ground. Temptation is real.

When life gets chilly and you just want something delicious to eat, I always turn to my soup pot. I've made a whole lot of soup and stew and chowder around here (see my recipe list for the complete repertoire). Today, I'm rounding up a few of my most recent favorites that you should be sure to add to your menu this week!

Coconut Curry Chicken and Rice Soup - Flavor is seriously amped up in this warming, zingy soup. It's a crazy twist on an old classic, and I especially love soaking up that extra coconut curry broth with a warm piece of naan bread. Ugh, I'm starving!

Crockpot Harvest Beef and Barley Stew - This stands as one of my most popular recipes of 2015, and for good reason. First of all, your slow cooker does all the work for you. Then there are the autumnal flavors of rosemary and sweet potato in every bite, making this meal as comforting as your favorite flannel pjs!

Spicy Sausage, Gnocchi and Kale Soup - The ingredient list is small (awesome) but the flavor is out of this world (amazing)! Pillows of gnocchi and ribbons of kale swimming in a slightly spicy, slightly sweet creamy pool of soup - what's not to love!

Ground Lamb and Pearl Cous Cous Stew - I la-la-looove lamb, and a bit of ground lamb in this stew creates a unique, gamey flavor that gets complimented with a bit of cinnamon and tomato paste. This is a little off the beaten path, but wow is it tasty. It reminds me a lot of the rustic stews and soups we had during our honeymoon in Iceland!

Cream of Turkey Soup with Wild Rice Medley - Hi, were you listening earlier when I said Thanksgiving is on it's way? That means it won't be much longer until Thanksgiving LEFTOVERS, which let's be real are the true MVPs of this holiday. This soup. Holy cow. Rich, delicious, simple. I'm totally addicted!

New recipes coming next week! See you then :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Crockpot French Onion Beef Stew

Beef stew season is here!!

I la-la-love beef stew, in any variety. With barley, over mashed potatoes, with a harvest-style twist, I feel like I've done it all. Cooked low and slow, no matter what you throw in it, it's bound to be delicious. 

This Crockpot French Onion Beef Stew is rooted in tradition - big bites of carrot, potato, celery, and onions cook all day with tender stew beef and rich beef broth. There's not much more you need, but I wanted to try...something else. I happened to have a packet of french onion soup mix in my pantry and I didn't have to think twice - this is what my stew needed. A salty, oniony kick, complimented with a glug of Worcestershire sauce and a can of tomato sauce for a little tang. 

Now, I don't think I need to spend much time on the fact that this is all made in the Crockpot and therefore you hardly have to expend any effort before you get to snuggle up with a big delicious bowl of this stew. Chop up those veggies, dump everything in your trusty slow cooker, do whatever you have to do for 8 hours, and then...dinner time! 

Just a few notes on this stew: french onion soup mix can be VERY salty, so I strongly suggest using a low sodium beef broth and salting very lightly in the beginning. It will be very important to taste and season gradually to avoid over-salting the dish. Also, I always recommend searing your stew beef before adding it to the Crockpot, but this dish will be just as delicious if you skip this step (but oh, boy, it is delicious if you have the time!) Lastly, the stew will freeze well! Once it has finished cooking, cool completely and store in a freezer-safe air tight container for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge then reheat in a large pot until warmed through.