French Onion Tarts

Bonjour Mon’Amie!

French Onion Tarts

I hope I didn’t fool you in to thinking I know French because I don’t. I spent 10+ years of my life speaking Spanish and I wish I could tell you I was fluent but I am not. When it comes to French I can basically say “hello”, “yes”, “no” and “goodbye”. I have been to France and still no better at speaking French but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all things France.

Red Onions

Not only do I love the French but I decided it would be an awesome idea to have a French themed dinner party. Yikes! I thought maybe we would invite folks to our dinner party and then they wouldn’t come and so we could just make a French dinner for the family but alas, everyone likes the sound of a French themed dinner party so it looks like we’ll just have to make it happen.

Sauteed Onions and Brown Sugar

Stay tuned because in a few more days the dinner party will be here and I’ll have to show you how it all turns out. Today I decided to give you a sneak peek. I wanted to create an appetizer that is pretty common but I wanted it to taste like French Onion Soup and not just some caramelized onions on puff pastry. I decided that the best way to accomplish this goal was to add Sherry to the onions because I am in this “add booze to everything” phase.

Caramelized Onions

My mom makes a pretty amazing French Onion Soup and every time she makes it we can immediately tell when we walk in the door and smell the sweet smell of caramelized onions. I love onions, I think they are the best ingredient to use because they work in almost anything. I especially LOVE onions when they have been caramelized. They fill the room with an aroma that is hard to resist. I could literally have taken that little bowl of onions and spread them on some toast and called it a day. I don’t think the hubs would like it too much if I ate onions all day long. I guess there is a reason why that diet craze hasn’t happened.

Puff Pastry and Onions

Now when you combine these delectable onions with flaky puff pastry and cheese you have an appetizer that rocks my socks! Do people still say ridiculous things like “rock my socks”? Anyhow, enjoy this sneak peek and pray that the rain stays at bay this weekend as we try to transport our friends to France for one night and I will not attempt to speak any French because that would be an epic disaster.

French Onion Tart #2

French Onion Tarts 

Yields 9 Individual Tarts

Ingredients:

1 Frozen Puff Pastry Sheet
2 Large Red Onions
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 Tsp. Light Brown Sugar
2 Tsp. Sherry
2 Tsp.Worcestershire
1/2 Cup Shredded Gruyère Cheese
1/4 Cup Shredded Asiago Cheese
Olive Oil
Pepper

Instructions:
Pre heat the oven to 425. Follow the instructions for thawing your puff pastry on the counter, don’t let it sit out for more than 40 minutes. Thinly slice your red onions from pole to pole, this will prevent the onions from getting stringy.

In a skillet over medium heat add 2 tbsp. olive oil with 2 tbsp. butter and melt. Add your sliced onions and brown sugar to the skillet and saute over medium heat for 20 minutes, continue to stir allowing the onions to soften. Once your onions have started to brown you can reduce the heat and add the sherry and Worcestershire and continue to let the onions cook on low heat an additional 5 minutes. Once heated set aside to cool.

To prepare your puff pastry cut the pastry in to 9 equal sized squares. Working on a lightly floured board roll each square out to form a rectangle. Pinch the sides of the puff pastry to create a scalloped edge (use your index finger and thumb to create edge). Place your pastry on a non-stick baking sheet or tray and place in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes. Remove pastry shells from fridge and pierce the pastry multiple times with a fork.

Brush each tart with olive oil and then sprinkle the Gruyère and Asiago cheese on each tart. Spoon the cooled onion mixture on to each tart making sure to leave some room around the edge. Sprinkle pepper over each tart to taste before placing the baking sheet in the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the puff pastry starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle the tarts with fresh thyme and enjoy.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

I just celebrated my 28th birthday!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Wow, another year has passed and I have to admit that 27 felt kind of insignificant as a number. Actually, ever since 25 came and went it has all seemed pretty insignificant in terms of what the number means. The real significance is that I am in fact getting older and hopefully that means I am getting wiser. It also means that 30 is creeping closer which tells me all of those things I am supposed to do by 30 have to get done in the next two years (whew, feeling the pressure). The truth is though… I LOVE BIRTHDAYS! I love having them (duh) and I love getting older even if it does mean I am in fact getting older. I love that I have a birthday in the summer that aligns with blockbuster movie releases, firework shows, BBQs, S’Mores and much more…

Fresh Blueberries

When you are born during the summer I think you enjoy celebrating more than others since you have so many options of things to do. The downside is you don’t get to celebrate your birthday in school and sometimes all of your friends are on vacation when you are having your birthday party (true story). I still manage to enjoy the day and this year it was just as good as any other, perhaps even better since I was able to celebrate this birthday in Pittsburgh and I look forward to celebrating many more Pittsburgh birthdays!

Grated Lemon Zest

Speaking of Pittsburgh, we got a wonderful basket in our CSA this past week. We are getting a wonderful assortment of fruits and veggies from Penns Corner which is a Farm Alliance. I get an email telling me what delicious items to expect and the minute I saw that we were getting blueberries I knew that I was going to make a pound cake. I am not really sure why it needed to be a pound cake but maybe it was the summer heat getting to me.

Coated Blueberries

I also decided that this pound cake had to be covered in a blueberry syrup so the fresh blueberries really got their moment to shine. I just love using fresh fruit when baking and I can’t wait for the next box to come, hoping for peaches!!

Pound Cake Side View

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated 

Yields 1 Pound Cake

16 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter Melted
1 1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 1/4 Cups Sugar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Zest
2 Tsp. Lemon Juice
4 Eggs at room temperature
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
Blueberry Syrup (see below)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 bread pan and coat in flour.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Take 1/3 cup of flour mixture and coat blueberries and set aside. In a blender or food processor pulse your sugar and lemon zest to combine. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla and pulse until combined. While blender is running slowly pour in the melted butter making sure to pour in a steady stream. Pour batter in to a large bowl.

Sift flour mixture in to batter in three batches, whisk after each addition to combine. Add flour coated blueberries to batter and lightly mix to combine. Pour batter in to prepared bread pan and bake in the over for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce oven temperature to 325 and continue baking for 35 minutes or until the cake is golden brown. Allow the cake to cool before drizzling warm blueberry syrup.

Note: If you have lemon zest remaining combine with a teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle on top of cake.

IMG_9625

Blueberry Syrup 

Ingredients:
1/2 Cup Blueberries
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
1 Tsp. Lemon Zest

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil and reduce the temperature to low. Allow the syrup to simmer until a syrup forms stirring frequently to ensure the mixture is not burning. To test the consistency of the syrup insert a spoon and if the syrup leaves a thin coat on the spoon it is done. Allow syrup to cool slightly before applying to cake.

Kahlua & Coffee Malted Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…

Kahlua & Coffee Ice Cream

As this post hits the web I anticipate getting a sad emoticon from one of my oldest friends. My friend Bolt (real name Lauren), lives in DC and while we lived in DC we spent lots of time together. She has always been a good sounding board for me when I have blog ideas or need help figuring out how to make my blog stand out on the internet. She’s so web savvy!

Coffee Malt Balls

Anyhow, Bolt and I would experiment in the kitchen with some of my grandmother’s recipes. One day we had a pumpkin baking fest and on another day we tried to recreate Milk Bar’s Compost Cookies, by tried I mean clearly we did not successfully recreate them but they were still delicious. Before leaving DC, Bolt had pleaded with me to make ice cream with her. I failed her miserably because we never made ice cream and I have no excuses.

Crushed Malt Balls

So it is summer now and I am sitting here thinking about all of the things I want to share with you. I realized that I hadn’t given you an ice cream and this is where Bolt gives the sad face because she wasn’t here making ice cream with me. Whenever she comes back to Pittsburgh I’ll have to make it up to her by spending an entire day making ice cream. I have made this vow on the internet so that means she will be able to hold it over me forever and ever!

Ice Cream and Kahlua

Getting back to the idea of making ice cream I always remember the time I made ice cream in a plastic bag at summer camp. I learned that by adding liquid ice cream to a bag and placing that bag inside a bigger bag with ice and shaking it up for hours and hours you could make ice cream. It was a pretty good way of keeping a kid busy on those hot summer days. I also learned that by adding salt to ice you can make it colder and thus speed up the ice cream making process. Yay for Fun Facts!

Ice Cream and Hot Fudge

I am so excited to get my ice cream on and play with all of those crazy combos. I am thinking bourbon is going to make a presence and of course we will have to pay homage to the classics. This wont be the last of the ice creams and hopefully soon I will be making ice cream with Bolt, I’ll even let her name it and everything.

Ice Cream and Hot Fudge

Kahlua & Coffee Malted Ice Cream

Yields 1 1/2 Quarts

Ingredients:
1/3 Cup Kahlua
12 Coffee Malt Balls*
1 Cup Whole Milk
3/4 Sugar
2 Cups Heavy Cream
1  Teaspoon Vanilla

*Specialty malt balls might be available in the bulk food section of your grocery store. You can also use strong brewed coffee if you can’t find the malt balls.

This ice cream was made using an automatic frozen ice cream maker such as the one by, Cuisinart please follow your ice cream makers instructions when freezing. 

Instructions:
Place your malt balls in a large plastic bag and using a rolling pin or heavy pan crush the balls in to small pieces but careful not to crush them in to a powder. Set aside as you begin to assemble your cream.

Pour your kahlua in to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Allow the kahlua to cook for a few minutes, burning off some of the alcohol. You will know it is ok when you no longer smell a strong alcohol smell, instead it should smell like coffee. Set your kahlua aside to cool as you mix your remaining ingredients. In a medium bowl add your sugar and milk together, mix with a whisk until the sugar dissolves. To the milk and sugar you will add your heavy cream, kahlua and vanilla. Give everything a good whisk.

Turn on your ice cream machine and gently pour your mixture in, make sure your paddle is rotating as you pour in your cream. Allow the mixture to churn for 20-25 minutes. Slowly add your coffee malt ball pieces to the cream and continue churning for another 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Transfer your ice cream to a freezer safe container and freeze until firm, 2-3 hours minimum. Serve with hot fudge or your favorite toppings an enjoy!

 

Summer Chicken Salad

Happy 4th of July!!!!!!

Chicken Salad

Yes, I did just make you another salad. It just seems like an All American kind of dish to me. I guess I could have gone with something red, white or blue, but I feel like everyone is doing that. I try to be a little bit different from everybody else and by different I mean sometimes I go in the completely opposite direction. Some might say that I am an individual but I think it really means I am difficult. I get pretty set in my own ideas. I get so set in my own ideas that I wont stop talking about them and then I start turning a small idea in to a big idea and then an impossible idea and then someone has to calmly burst my bubble. I am used to that by now…

Butterfly Chicken Breast

Last spring I made a chicken salad for a picnic and wine tour we did with friends, it turned out to be a hit and it was so fresh tasting.  I decided that it was much easier to make a chicken salad with fresh, oven roasted chicken instead of that questionable stuff that comes from a can. Don’t get me wrong, I will still eat that canned chicken mostly because it is convenient. I  mean, you can eat tuna out of a can so I think we are good. I love making oven roasted chicken and consider myself kind of pro at making whole oven roasted chicken. Did I just invite you to challenge me, cause that would be terrible haha.

Sliced Cooked Chicken

One of the main ingredients for this kind of salad is mayonnaise. I grew up with the real stuff but I know there are those out there who swear by Miracle Whip. I cannot say I ever had a fondness for Miracle Whip but if you have to use it then you just do you and make this with Miracle Whip. I also don’t know how you feel about the greek yogurt over the mayo situation so again, please feel free to make that swap if you are inclined.

Red Seedless Grapes

I feel like if you are going to make a salad for the sole intent of putting on crackers and salads then you should just go for the full flavor but since it is summer and swim suit season I will allow the low-fat substitutions. I opted for the fruit (there is your red) addition to give that feeling of clean and healthy eating, I am sure that will suffice, also I threw in some sunflower seeds because. I think you are going to like this! So go outside and celebrate America’s birthday with some BBQ and beer and maybe even this chicken salad, hopefully you will finish the night with fireworks and S’mores because that is the way we do it in America!

Chicken Salad #2

 

Summer Chicken Salad

Yields About 4 Cups

Ingredients:
2 Chicken Breast
1 Celery Stalk
1/2 Cup Grapes
2 Tbsp. Salted Sunflower Seeds
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp. Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper
Rosemary
Olive Oil

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350. Place your chicken breast in a baking dish and season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Drizzle olive oil over your chicken breast before cooking. Place your chicken in the oven and bake until cooked all the way through. Remove your chicken and allow to cool.

As your chicken cools you can dice up your celery stalk and add to a medium bowl. Slice your red grapes (you can use green grapes too) in half and add to the bowl. Once your chicken has cooled slice in to strips and roughly chop in to small pieces. Add your chicken to the bowl and mix in the mayonnaise, mustard, and sour cream. Gently mix everything together, add the sunflower seeds and fold in to the salad.

Place the salad in the fridge and allow it to chill for an hour before serving. Enjoy with crackers or on your favorite bread!

 

 

 

 

Greek Pasta Salad

Summer has arrived!

Greek Pasta Salad

It is officially July and the heat has arrived. Along with the heat we have seen many thunderstorms which means it has been a very wet couple of days. Still, I will take this weather over the swamp like conditions that we dealt with in DC.  I apologize to our friends in DC that are currently enjoying the best that the Capital has to offer, remember it wont last forever hehe!

Red Onions

It is crazy to me that July is here and that summer is half way over, what am I doing with my life? I actually get excited about July because it is the month of my birthday and usually there are tons of events going on that there is never a dull moment. Already my calendar is filling up and I can’t wait!

Diced Cucumber

You know how I love picnics? I mean you should know this already because I am fairly certain I have talked about it. Anyway, I love picnics and I love pasta salads. I think a picnic is only a picnic if there is a pasta salad. The neighborhood I grew up in had a Block Party every summer and I would get extremely excited whenever there was a pasta salad on the endless table of goodies.

IMG_9466

Pasta salads and all salads really would make an appearance on our dinner table whenever it was hot outside. My mom would do her best to not turn on the oven so we would have cold cuts and salads instead of hot food. Since it has been blistering outside I decided to follow in mom’s footsteps and make a pasta salad for dinner. This Greek inspired version will make the perfect summer side and even main dish for your veg friends.

Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1/2 Box Cavatappi Pasta
1/2 Pint  Cherry Tomatoes Diced
1/2 Medium Cucumber Diced
1/2 Red Onion Diced
Feta Cheese
Mustard Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Instructions:
Cook pasta according to instructions. While pasta cooks soak red onions  in water, this helps take away some of the sharpness of the red onions. Once pasta is cooked drain and set aside. In a medium bowl add your tomatoes, onions, cucumber and pasta. Toss gently and then apply vinaigrette. Sprinkle pasta with feta, the more the merrier, and serve. For an extra punch add fresh dill.

Mustard Vinaigrette

Mustard Vinaigrette 

Yields 1/2 Cup

Ingredients:
1 Teaspoon Capers
2 Whole Garlic Cloves
1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Dash of Oregano
Salt and Pepper
Juice of One Lemon
Olive Oil

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender except for the olive oil. Pulse ingredients together until blended. Slowly add olive oil to the blender, adding enough to make a thick vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

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