Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Woman FINALLY Got Her Blowtorch

So I must admit, my blog title has been a little bit, well, misleading.

Until now, that is.

As of last November I am now the proud owner of a BERNZOMATIC ST2200T. Sounds intense, doesn't it? Well, it is.

Last month, my friend Meghan (who, by the way, has her own food blog and it is FABULOUS...link below) and I went shopping. Now, not just your normal girl, giggle-filled, shopping adventure. Oh no, we had a mission.

Mission: Purchase Blowtorch.

We first went to Williams-Sonoma; the obvious choice, of course, by far. And to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed. I don't doubt for an instant that their blowtorch was great. It was just too expensive for a grad student and an unemployed historian.

Next, we went to Crate and Barrel, one of my personal faves. Now, C&B was more affordable, but we couldn't buy butane there, and well, I just decided from that point that I was going to get my blowtorch at a hardware store (a la Alton Brown style).

Our last stop of the day, Ace Hardware. I purchased a blowtorch and two canisters of butane for the same price as a Williams-Sonoma torch (w/o butane). Plus, it's called the BERNZOMATIC ST2200T. I like to call it Bernie. No judging.

I would encourage anyone to check their local hardware store first for purchasing a blowtorch. It's more affordable and is equipped with all the safety features you'd want and expect (plus, it comes with a soddering tip...SCORE).

Isn't Bernie beautiful?

Mission: ACCOMPLISHED.

I promise I'll put up good recipes soon! Currently, I am home, enjoying the holidays with the famiglia. But, as soon as I get back to Tucson I'll be sure to post some fun blowtorch-utilizing recipes.

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy a few of my favorite holiday recipes, including my grandmother's famous fruitcake). Ok, I know what you're thinking. But seriously, this one's soaked in bourbon. It's fine.

And, as promisted, Meghan's blog (you don't want to miss this): http://chocolatteandtea.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Grampy's Tomato Salad

As much as I love creating new dishes and sharing my recipes, there are a few classics in my family that I just adore and wouldn't do a darn thing to them...except maybe pack them into my mouth super fast, hamster-style.

No. Judging.

And you won't judge--not after you try this delicious (and simple) salad.

My grandfather was the master of fresh pasta and gravy, and the most adorable man in the world, especially when he donned his apron.

One of my favorite recipes of his is this tomato salad. I think it's especially delicious as a side for a bbq or any dish during the summer. I know, I know, stop looking at me like that. It's not summer anymore, I get it. But since I live in Arizona, we don't exactly have a shortage of warm weather right now.

This is great at room temperature. In fact, I let mine sit out for 30 minutes or so, even if I plan on refrigerating it, just to let the flavors meld together. So this is really perfect for a tailgate, picnic, or bbq because you do not have to worry about maintaining it at a certain temperature.

So...on with the recipe!

My Grampy's Tomato Salad:



Ingredients:

4 Plum or Roma tomatoes
Quarter of a red onion
pinch of kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

You want to slice the tomatoes into relatively manageable pieces. To do this, I sliced the tomatoes in half, lengthwise then cutting those pieces in half lengthwise again to quarter the tomato. I then went further to halve those pieces as well, so that the tomato was sliced into eight even pieces.




Next, I thinly sliced a quarter of a large red onion. I like to keep the onion in long, thin pieces.


Toss the tomatoes and the onion together and drizzle with about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. I added a heavy pinch of kosher salt and only a few cranks of my pepper grinder.

Now, if you want to add another layer of flavor, one of my mom's secrets is to rub the bottom of the bowl with raw garlic. This allows a subtle garlic flavor to permeate the dish. It's delicious with or without garlic, so this is really up to your own personal taste. However, give the garlic a try. You might find that by treating the bowl with a little garlic it will add a new layer of flavor to your salad.



How yummy does that look?! Hope you enjoy this family favorite and--until next time--buon appetito!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lemon and Garlic Bean Dip

With the holidays coming up everyone is looking for quick and easy appetizers to serve before the big meal and visiting guests and relatives. One of my favorite quick dishes is this white bean dip. It's healthy, delicious and has only five ingredients (one of which is garlic...perfect for Halloween and keeping away those vampires ;) )!



Lemon and Garlic Bean Dip:

1 15.5 oz can of Cannellini Beans (or white kidney beans)
2 cloves of smashed garlic
the juice of half a lemon
1 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
a heavy pinch of kosher salt

You will also need a food processor or blender (even a magic bullet works)

Rinse the cannellini beans well and place them in your food processor or blender. 


Next you want to smash the garlic to make it easier for the food processor to combine everything together. There's no need, however, to chop it finely. Just place the individual cloves on the board and place the flat part of your knife on top of a clove. Using the palm of your hand, strike the flat part of the knife, smashing the garlic. Now it should also be easy to remove the outer papery skin from the cloves.


 Add the lemon juice and garlic to the cannellini beans. 


Pulse until the mixture is nearly smooth and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the dip reaches a smooth consistency. Finally, add the kosher salt and pulse to combine.


And, can you believe it, that's it! The dip is even better the next day, but is good straight out of the food processor as well. 


I like to add a pinch of lemon zest to the top, a light sprinkling of kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and until next time...buon appetito!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Manly (yet still delicious) Steak Sandwiches

Okay, so I get it...it's football season and all the cooking shows feel like they have to talk about tailgate/manly food. Alright, I'll buy into this. Here's a man-approved steak sandwich, juicy and ready for the football season. Bring. It. On.


Most of you probably tailgate for the big football games, and grilling steak is (of course) a classic. But for those of you stuck at home, watching football on Monday nights on ESPN, here's a good recipe to try out. All you need is a skillet. 


Now, hold on. I know it doesn't scream MANLY or FOOTBALL or BBQ and I understand most men feel a strong desire to grill and you know what, if you absolutely have to then go for it. But, seriously, this sandwich is perfectly delicious made on the stovetop as well. I dare you to try it...


Deliciously Manly Steak Sandwiches:
(serving size: 2)




2 tbs. of mayo
1 tbs. of dijon mustard
1 tbs. of butter and just a touch of canola oil
2 nice pieces of sirloin (or any nice thick cut of steak, filet would be divine)
2 ciabatta rolls
1/2 cup of arugula 
2 tbs. of blue cheese crumbles
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper


Directions:


To begin cut the ciabatta rolls in half and mix together the mayo and dijon (to make what I like to call a "dijon ailoi," but really is just a nice spicy, mustardy, delicious spread for your sandwich). 




Spread the mayo mixture evenly onto the inside of the top and bottom of the ciabatta rolls. The mayo and dijon will act as a nice barrier between the bread and the steak, keeping all those juices from making your bread too soggy.

At this point you want to heat your skillet to about medium-high heat and add the butter and just a touch of canola oil, I'd say 1/2 tbs. This will raise the smoking temperature of the butter, which keeps it from burning but still allows you to get a delicious sear on your steak.

Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper and cook steak on each side for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the steak is done to your liking. If you have a strapping young man in your kitchen, like I did, you can even ask him to cook it for you!


After cooking the steak remove them to a plate and tent the steak with foil, allowing it to finish cooking and rest. 

Once you've allowed the steak to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes, slice the steak and place on the bottom half of the ciabatta roll. Sprinkle each with about 1 tbs. of the blue cheese crumbles and top with 1/4 cup of the arugula. Add the top half of the ciabatta roll and you have a delicious steak sandwich!



You could really mix this recipe up to your liking. Say you wanted to add horseradish to top with caramelized onions instead of blue cheese, or add a balsamic vinegar reduction to your mayo. Or, what's that, you say you like horseradish in your mayo?

Really, the possibilities are endless...

Until next time, buon appetito!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Couscous Pancakes!

Growing up my mom used to make leftover mashed potatoes into the most delicious potato pancakes, so I decided to follow her lead and make my own version of leftover pancakes. Instead of mashed potatoes, however, I'm using couscous. 


Couscous Pancakes:




Couscous to me is kind of like orzo pasta, a great little starch that you can play up with innovative ingredients, or something as simple as roasted veggies and garlic. One of my favorite easy dishes to make is a roasted vegetable and garlic orzo by mixing a whole head of roasted garlic, a generous amount of romano cheese, and roasted squash, tomatoes and red onion into some cooked orzo, so I used this inspiration when coming up with a recipe for couscous pancakes. 


How to make roasted garlic:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and slice of the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves inside. Nestle the head of garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves. Wrap the aluminum foil over the top to completely cover the garlic and roast in the oven (cloves-side up) for about an hour. Allow the garlic to cool and then, squeezing from the base of the garlic, push out the roasted garlic cloves--which, should know look light to dark brown. 


Below is how the garlic should look when removed from the oven.



To make mashing the garlic into a spread easier, add a pinch of kosher salt. 





Ingredients for Roasted Vegetables:
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 plum tomatoes
1/4 of a red onion
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 tsp. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of fresh ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes in half, length wise, and then halve those cuts length wise as well (so you have quartered the vegetable) and cut even sized slices, about 2 inches apart. The most important part is to cut the vegetables evenly and consistently so all the vegetables roast at the same rate. 


Cut the onion into large pieces, making sure not to separate the layers too much, so the onions will impart their flavor during roasting and not burn.


Toss the vegetables in the olive oil, salt, and pepper and evenly spread on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast for 40-45 minutes, being sure to move the vegetables around every 15 minutes or so to promote even browning.




This will become the base for our couscous pancakes! Are you excited? I know I am!


Ingredients for Couscous Pancakes:
3/4 cup of uncooked plain couscous
1 cup of low sodium chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp. of salt (depending on how salty your broth/stock is)
2 tbs. of olive oil, plus 1 tbs. for frying the pancakes
1 tsp. of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 head of roasted garlic
1/4 cup of pecorino romano cheese
1 egg
1 and 1/2 tbs. of flour


You want two cups of cooked couscous, so follow your particular brand's directions to achieve this. Mine called for bringing 1 cup of stock to a boil, along with the salt and olive oil. Stir in the 3/4 cup of couscous, cover, and remove from heat.


Cooking the couscous in stock adds a ton of flavor, far more than if you cooked the couscous in just water. Use your favorite go to stock, or homemade if you have it.


Let the couscous sit for 5 minutes, covered. After 5 minutes fluff the couscous. 




At this point, you can add the rosemary, mashed roasted garlic, and cheese. Allow the mixture to cool. Once cool, mix in the egg and flour and form into small pancakes or patties. It should make about 6 pancakes. 


Place one tbs. of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Brown them for 3-4 minutes on each side. I found that it was easier to do this in a small skillet, cooking only one at a time. The pancakes are a tad delicate, making flipping and placement much easier when there's just one pancake in the pan at a time.


Drain on paper towels if you'd like, and eat a room temperature or hot out of the pan, it's up to you! 


I served these over the roasted vegetables, but these would be great on their own as a side dish or appetizer. 




I hope you enjoy this recipe, and until next time...buon appetito!



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BBQ, BBQ, BBQ...

Our grocer had a huge sale on country style ribs a couple weeks ago so, being the frugal couple that we are, Rob and I purchased a lot of ribs and stuck them in the freezer. This week we broke out one of those racks of ribs and I decided that instead of using a pre-made rub I would go ahead and make my own. And if the smell is anything to judge it by, hopefully, it's amazing.


The rub, which should be applied liberally to the ribs before cooking (and, it's even better if you're able to marinate the ribs in the rub for an hour or two or--if you're feeling really spicy--over night):


1 tsp. of dried oregano
1 tsp. of smoked paprika
1 tsp. of garlic powder
1 tsp. of ground cumin
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of ground pepper
1/2 tsp. of ground coriander
1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper


Mix to combine and massage into the ribs.


I used smoked paprika and cumin in this recipe to add a flavor of smokiness because, as you know, cooking them in the oven doesn't add that lovely smokey flavor you get when cooking on a grill. 


Enjoy! And until next time, buon appetito!


Edit: The ribs came out great! We had 5 boneless ribs and roasted them, covered in foil, for about an hour and 15 minutes at 350 and then we basted them with bbq sauce and placed them under the broiler (set at 350) for another 15 minutes.


For the bbq sauce I used about a 1/3 cup of Sweet Baby Rays original bbq sauce and added about two tbs. of spicy brown mustard and about 1 tbs. of honey, and it was a nice change. The mustard gave it a nice bit of spice and the honey helped round it out. 


Hope you like it!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spiced Sugar Cookies: the baker's aromatherapy

Oh my goodness, words cannot describe how WONDERFUL our apartment smells right now, and yet, I'm going to tell you about it anyway. 


Look, I'll be honest, I don't bake much. I'm just not that talented when it comes to baking--it's as simple as that--so when I find a recipe I can bake then I know even the most baking-impaired can do it.


Sugar cookies to me are quite possibly the easiest to learn and a great base to create recipes of your own. 


Now, hold on, stop staring at me like that. I know, I know...baking measurements have to be super precise. I get it. But that doesn't mean you can't spice up your own sugar cookies (literally) with things like cinnamon, ground ginger, lemon zest, different extracts...


Take for instance this recipe I made today. I used one of Alton Brown's flawless recipes (which can be found at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sugar-cookies-recipe/index.html) as a base and added 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. of ground ginger, and I must say, it makes incredibly delicious cookies perfect for the fall season. 


I made a really simple glaze to coat the cookies with powdered sugar, a little bit of milk, vanilla extract, and some more cinnamon and ginger...and I must say, they are quite yummy...and currently tempting me...


Focus, Kristen. Focus.


.:glances at kitchen:.   .:glances at computer screen:.   .:glances at kitchen:. 


Okay, on with the recipe. 


Spiced Sugar Cookies:


Cookies:
2 sticks of softened, unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
1 tsp. of vanilla extract (the real stuff is worth it...promise)
3 cups of flour, sifted
3/4 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
powdered sugar for rolling out dough


Glaze:
1 and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
3 tbs. of milk
1/2 tsp. of vanilla
1/4 tsp. of cinammon
1/8 tsp. of ground ginger


First, you want to remove two sticks (or one cup) of butter from the fridge and one egg and wait until the ingredients come to room temperature. Once the butter is soft you want to beat it in a stand mixer on low with 1 cup of sugar until the color is a light yellow.



At this point you want to add the egg and vanilla. Once the wet ingredients are incorporated you want to sift the dry ingredients, including the cinnamon and ginger. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Once the mixture begins to pull away from the side of the bowl you want to stop the mixture. You don't want to over-mix your dough or it will make for tough cookies.

Divide the dough into two equal parts and wrap in cling wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for two hours. This will allow for the dough to rest and cool, making rolling out the dough much, much easier.


After you've refrigerated the dough for two hours, preheat the oven to 375, remove one half of the cookie dough and roll it out on a surface covered lightly in powdered sugar. I like to use a little sifter to help me dust the counter with powdered sugar. You want to rotate the dough occasionally, this will help keep the dough from sticking while you're working with it. Don't have a rolling pin? Do what I did and wrap a wine bottle in some cling wrap. (Don't judge me)


Roll the dough until it's about a 1/4 inch in thickness and use your favorite cookie cutters. Place it on a lightly greased baking sheet (lined with parchment paper is the easiest way to do it..but I used aluminum foil and it worked just fine). Set your timer for 7-9 minutes, depending on how hot your oven runs and pop those bad boys in the oven!




Rotate the cookie sheet about halfway through the cooking. Once the cookies are a nice golden brown around the edges it's time to take them out. Let them rest for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to the cooling rack. 




Try your best to resist the urge to nibble on them...



Oopsies...well, I did try. I did! They just smelled soooo goooooooooood.

Once they're cooled you can add the glaze. Since I am frosting impaired I like a simple, relatively thin icing that I can just dip the tops of the cookies into. This frosting, or glaze, is super simple to make. Just sift the powdered sugar and add the other ingredients. You might think that 3 tbs. of milk is not enough liquid for all that powdered sugar, but trust me, it is. 

All that's left to do is dip the cookies and decorate to your heart's content! Oh, and eat them, of course!



I invite you to try this recipe, or better yet, use it as a base to create your own sugar cookie! Until next time, buon appetito! 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh yes, it's fall and I'm beyond excited...

Rob's mom sent us Halloween cookie cutters, coloring, and sprinkles...you know what this means, right? SUGAR COOKIES!! 


I've been researching sugar cookie recipes and frostings all day and I've finally settled on a recipe :) Tomorrow I'm going to post pictures and report on the cookie making adventure. 


Until then, enjoy this little teaser...



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mm-mm-mexican

I don't know if my love for Mexican food has grown as a result of my move to Tucson, AZ or if I'm just craving my weekly Tallahassee taco night at El Jaliscos. Either way, I love Mexican food--I mean, I really love it.  

Now, there are two things I absolutely adore: good, fresh salsa and tacos, of any kind--except for fish, I'm still not sold on that one quite yet. 

I must admit, I am no Rick Bayless. And when it comes to salsa I'm pretty sure he's the man. Okay, let me rephrase that: when it comes to anything Mexican food he's the man. I mean, just look at this delicious tomatillo salsa recipe and please, pardon my drool...


Building Blocks of the Mexican Kitchen: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

I mean, need I say more?
I do? Alright, so the last time Rob and I made tacos we added this to our lean ground beef instead of that stuff you find in the little paper packets in your grocery store, and it was delicious! Much better for you, and really, much better in general...
The recipe below was inspired by Bill Echols (http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/taco-seasoning-i/Detail.aspx) and you'll see that the recipes are pretty similar. The major difference being we left out the onion powder and black pepper and substituted smoked paprika for the normal sweet paprika.
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Try this once, you'll love it! Until next time, buon appetito!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seriously, mashed potatoes are divine...

Why didn't anyone tell me?


I love making mashed potatoes. I mean, who doesn't love taking their daily aggressions out on their food? Smashing garlic, mashing potatoes, pounding down meat...seriously.


And there so many fun ways to make them! Red potatoes, fingerling potatoes, russet potatoes...skin on, skin off...half-and-half, sour cream...butter, olive oil...


Okay, okay,  maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. I'm sorry. Really, I am. I just get so excited when it comes to carbohydrates.


Hello, my name is Kristen, and I'm a carb junkie...a carbo queen...


Seriously though, who isn't? Here is one of my favorite ways to make the notorious mashed 'taters. 


Garlic Mashed Potatoes:


The roasted garlic and olive oil in these potatoes add a great deal of creaminess to the potatoes, which makes for a healthier way to cream up your mashed potatoes without adding those unhealthy ingredients like heavy cream and butter!


1 head of garlic
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 good-sized red potatoes, skin on
a pinch of salt
one big ole' pot of water
(optional: 1/4 cup of grated pecorino romano)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the (just barely) the top part of the head of garlic, making sure to expose each clove of garlic. Nestle head of garlic, cut side up, in some aluminum foil. Pour a generous amount of olive oil, about a tablespoon or so, over the exposed cloves. Wrap the cloves up well and place in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes.


In the mean time, quarter your red potatoes (I prefer skin on, but this is really to your own preference...I say, give it a try once and see how you like it...besides, all the good nutrients are in the potato skins!) into relatively uniform pieces to insure even cooking and place in a pot of cold water.  Add a heavy pinch of salt to cooking water and turn burner on high. Once water comes to a boil cook potatoes for ten minutes. Strain once knife goes into potatoes without resistance. 


Mash the potatoes to your liking (I like to leave them a tad bit chunky) and add about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Remove the garlic from the oven and using heat proof gloves, if you have them (otherwise, let the garlic cool), pinch the base of the head of garlic, and then moving upward to push the now soft cloves out of their papery skin. 


(Note: You know your garlic has been successfully roasted if the cloves are brownish in color and very soft and sticky. They should be able to be mashed into a paste very easily.)


Add the roasted garlic to the mashed potatoes and season with a pinch of salt to your liking, and enjoy!!


Note: If you like Italian cheese as much as I do add a bit of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano to your potatoes. I promise, it's delicious!


Variations:


Don't have time to slow roast a head of garlic? Why not slowly saute some chopped garlic in the olive oil until lightly golden brown while the potatoes are cooking. This will impart some delicious flavor as well, and in a far faster time!


Want to skip the oil? Roasted garlic can help make your mashed potatoes creamy and healthy, but don't want to roast them in the oven? Break up the head of garlic with skins still on the cloves and dry roast them in a skillet over medium heat until black/brown spots appear on the skins. Remove from pan, cool slightly and remove skins. Mash with some kosher salt and you have a great add-in to your mashed potatoes!

Who knew?

So apparently, going into a stranger's house alone under the pretense that you will be cooking for said stranger is frowned upon by the parentals.


To avoid a great deal of Catholic guilt and family grief, I'm going to significantly alter my goals (for this blog...and pretty much everything else):


What you can expect from me:
1. Delicious recipes that I find/love/write/pull from the family repertoire 
2. Tips when it comes to cooking a variety of dishes, planning dinner parties, or other fun cooking-related tidbits
3. Photographs of all the (hopefully) delicious food I'll be making and dinner parties I'll be hosting
4. The occasional instructional video *you're welcome, in advance*


Ok, so let's consider this blog, take two...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lesson One: Things Hardly Ever Go as Planned

Today I had two personal chef-related goals:
1. Purchase a how-to book on personal chefhood
2. Get a lovely blowtorch


Neither one of those objectives was accomplished today (sadness)


The day started off well...a trip to the pumpkin patch was successful. We walked away with two HUGE pumpkins and a jar of homemade pumpkin butter (I am so excited to try this).


Then the rain set in, and we began our one-hour trek back to the Tucson area with the intention of going to Borders to buy the how-to book.


Unfortunately, they did not have it in stock! So I ordered it and now I'm anxiously awaiting its arrival. I was hoping to read that tonight and start making my business plan ASAP. I can wait...


So, goal numero uno = failure. Goal numero dos didn't really fly either...


I realized I know very little about blowtorches. And those are some pretty intense tools, so I figure the next few days I will be researching which type of blowtorch I want to purchase. More on that next time.


Until then, buon appetito!

Thank goodness for fall...

So it's finally (technically) fall, although you wouldn't know it by this Tucson weather. 100+ degrees this week. Craziness. I think I'm going to rebel by baking one of the few things I know how...PUMPKIN PIE!



Delicious Pumpkin Pie recipe, courtesy of Paula Deen (her Apple Pie is also divine...):

Filling:
1 (8 ounce package) of cream cheese--easiest to incorporate at room temp.
2 cups of canned pumpkin, mashed
1 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks--easiest to incorporate at room temp.
1 cup of half-and-half
1/2 stick of melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
(whipped cream for topping, optional)

Crust:
store bought refrigerated pie dough
(this is super handy if you're running short on time, and delicious!)

Kitchen tools:
9-in. pie pan
Large bowl and beater, or KitchenAid 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You want to pre-bake the pie shell, if you're like me, it's far easier to level the pie dough with the edge of the pie pan, by pressing the dough against the top edge of the pan (as opposed to crimping the dough). 

Cool the pie dough by placing the pan into the freezer, covered, for about an hour. Remove from freezer and cover base with aluminum foil and place baking weights (or dried beans work fine) on top of the foil. Bake crust for 10 minutes, at which time you want to remove the weights and foil and bake for 10 more minutes.

In the meantime, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin, eggs, half-and-half, and melted butter, and vanilla and mix until smoothed and combined. Add your sugar, salt, and remaining spices until evenly incorporated. 

Pour into pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until center of pie is set (and jiggle-free). Add whipped cream as a topping once cooled. And enjoy!

For Thanksgiving last year I added some candied pecans, covered in a brown sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Mmmmm...be sure to decorate to your own tastes!



What's more fall than that?? Perhaps, a fall festival!!

Rob (the fiance) and I are off to a pumpkin patch this weekend for a fall festival and some pumpkin picking. Did I mention that I love fall? If only we had that fall weather...

Oh, well, I guess that will have to wait until November...

Until next time, buon appetito!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Julia Child is my hero...

Okay, so I have to admit that the title of my blog came from the famous (and beloved) Julia Child. 


"I think every woman should have a blowtorch." -- Julia Child


I agree wholeheartedly, Mrs. Child. 


If it wasn't fairly obvious enough, I'm an aspiring personal chef. I've only just begun my journey into personal chefhood. I'm researching local businesses, trying to see how my idea fits in with the "competitors," and all the other fun things that come with starting a business.


You see, all those exciting things I plan on sharing with you! Like, for instance, did you know that you do not need a certificate from the health department (at least in Arizona) if you are working solely from a client's kitchen and using food stored solely at your client's house? I did not. It's true--personal chefs do not need to worry about the same things as caterers, and other chefs.


Tomorrow morning I'm taking a trip to the wonderful Borders bookstore to find me a "how-to-be-the-world's-best-personal-chef-in-history book." You know the ones...
I'm also going to by myself a blowtorch from the hardware store. I figure if we're going to be internet friends I should at least be honest with you...I am not yet the proud owner of a blowtorch (and, no, I'm not talking about those miniature ones you buy at Williams-Sonoma...oh no, I'm buying a real one). But soon, my precious, soon...


And just so we are on the same page here, you can expect the following from me:
1. My honest opinion
2. Stories (both good and bad) about my experiences as an aspiring personal chef
3. Recipes!! 
4. The occasional overly-sarcastic blog post


Okay, friends, it's bedtime for me on the West-ish coast. Until next time, buon appetito!