This was one of the first recipes I cooked on my own after college, and man, this was a revelation, for several reasons.  One, that Jewel Staite, aka Kaylee from Firefly did a cooking blog, and was pretty awesome at it. Two, the way you could buy a bottle of wine, use part of it in a recipe, and drink the rest, and have it be socially acceptable.  😛  

A few notes on what I used for this recipe.  Usually, I’ve substituted regular parmesan for parmigiano-reggiano, but here I used SarVecchio’s Bella Vitano Gold, and I honestly think it’s a more than acceptable substitute (and plus it tastes fantastic).  As with my other risotto recipe, I use Cupcake Winery’s Angel Food white wine.  The frozen peas were bought shelled on the cheap over the summer and thrown into the freezer, and the bacon comes from a local farmer’s market vendor.  It’s definitely worth putting the money into this, because the results are one of my favorite mainstay recipes.

Jewel Staite’s Bacon and Pea Risotto
Lasts 5 lunches as a main

Ingredients

  • 1 qt (32 oz, 4 c) chicken stock
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • .5 lb bacon (definitely go with farmer’s market bacon if you can, otherwise, thick cut), chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • half of a medium onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c white wine (I use Cupcake Winery’s Angel Food)
  • 1.5 c arborio rice
  • handful of cherry tomatoes (usually half a pint), halved
  • .5 c frozen peas
  • 2 T marscapone cheese
  • .5 c parmigiano-reggiano (or SarVecchio BellaVitano Gold, or plain ol’ parmesan)

On a separate burner, over medium-low heat, heat your quart of chicken stock, and keep it at that temperature until needed later in the recipe.

Take your bacon, and chop it thin. While you’re chopping your bacon, put your olive oil in a skillet and heat it over medium high.  Cook it to your desired doneness (I usually go for medium, not crispy at all), and drain off the bacon and all but 1 T of the fat.  Add your garlic and onions, and cook until the onion is translucent.  Add your cherry tomatoes, and then soon after, your rice.  Toast your rice until it smells nutty, and then add your cup of wine, stirring until it’s completely absorbed (see pic 3).  Then, drink the rest of the bottle of wine as your cooking the risotto.  Yes, this is absolutely necessary to the success of the recipe. Because science.

Now, take your heated chicken stock, and add a few ladlefuls at a time to the risotto, stirring constantly until it’s absorbed, and then adding a few more, until your quart of chicken stock is used up.  It’s going to take almost constant effort, but the result will be worth it, especially in how creamy it makes it, trust me.  After the chicken stock is used up, taste the risotto to see where it’s at – it should be creamy, but not at all mushy.  Keep drinking the wine.  It totally helps.

Once your risotto is ready, then add your peas and stir for a few minutes, before removing the risotto from the heat.  Once the heat is off, add your two cheeses, followed by your reserved bacon.

And then, enjoy your awesome meal, with whatever of the wine you haven’t already drank.

All right, so, I’ve technically had the component bits of this made since sometime last week (the cupcakes were made sometime late last week, the frosting was made shortly thereafter), I just hadn’t put the frosting on one of the cupcakes for the final shot. And since they’ve been stored in the fridge, they’re not that pretty, and are kinda sticking together.  So, the final result isn’t exactly the prettiest thing in the world, but, deal.  😛 

Also, if you don’t like pumpkin, you might want to tune out of this blog for a bit – I got three big cans of pumpkin puree last shopping trip, and there will be much baking of things involving pumpkin in the near future. 😛

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes appx 14 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter at room temp
  • 1 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 c white sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • dash ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • .5 t salt
  • pinch black pepper (I think I forgot this)
  • 2 large eggs
  • .5 c buttermilk mixed with 1 t vanilla
  • 1.25 c pumpkin puree

Frosting

  • 16 oz (2 8 oz packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter at room temp
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • .25 c pure maple syrup (I used closer to .5 c)

Cream your butter and sugars together until they’re nice and fluffy (usually takes about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, combine the remainder of your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and powder, spices) in a separate bowl.  (I didn’t do this by accident, and just ended up adding all the dry ingredients in stages into the bowl, and added the wet ingredients last.)  Then add your eggs to your creamed butter and sugar, and switch between adding your dry ingredients and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Add your pumpkin last, and beat the mixture until it’s smooth.

Preheat your oven to 350 (mine was at 325), and start scooping the batter into the cupcake tins – try to get each cup at least ¾ths of the way full, these will puff up.  Bake your cupcakes between twenty to thirty minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (mine tended towards the thirty minute mark).

While your cupcakes are baking, make your frosting!  Basically, throw all your ingredients into a bowl and mix it until you have a wonderful, smooth frosting!

I kept my frosting in a separate, smaller container to frost my cupcakes as needed, and just to have a spoonful of every once in a while. And you will need to store the cupcakes in the fridge – the buttermilk makes them a bit more susceptible to mold.

So, it’s finally cooled down enough to the point that I can actually use my stove for an extended period of time without sweating just by existing in the same room as it.  As such, this afternoon will be stovemageddon.

We’ve finally got some really good potatoes at my local farmer’s market, so as such, it’s time to break out the potato recipes!  And kids, you can’t go wrong with homemade potato chips.  You just can’t.  Especially when they have sriracha on them, not enough to make your tongue miserable, but enough to make it burn.  

I’m making a pound of these (the 2nd batch just got taken out of the oven, and the 3rd will be going in shortly), but the recipe will give for appx 1/3 pound, as that’s how I had to put them in, batch wise.  In general, you can mess around with the ratios on the coating as much as you want: just be sure you have a good 2 (oil): 1 (sriracha) ratio going.

Sriracha Potato Chips
1 lb chips = three batches of the below recipe, lasts 5+ meals as side, store in fridge, but bring to room temp/reheat to eat

Ingredients  

  • 1/3 lb red potatoes, sliced thin 
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • ½ T sriracha
  • salt

Rinse and slice your potatoes first, preheating your oven to 400 (375 if your baby runs hot like mine) and lining it with aluminum foil.  Meanwhile, mix your vegetable oil and sriracha together with a whisk.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t fully incorporate (it will never be one smooth thing), but if you can get it looking like the one in pics 1 and 3, you’ll be good.

Dip your potato slices and line them up on your baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.  Put in your oven for appx 20 mins, until golden brownish.  And then try not to eat it all at once.  😉

Using the broiler on a hot day like today may seem a bit counterintuitive, but these bell pepper bites are absolutely worth it.  A lot of stuff for this can be substituted if you don’t have it on hand, especially the type of cheese you use.

Bell Pepper Bites
Unable to tell how long exactly this lasted; at least three sides, but the leftovers were destroyed when the old fridge shat out

  • 4 assorted bell peppers, deseeded and cut into bite size pieces
  • cheese enough to cover each bell pepper piece (I got an 8 oz block of smoked cheddar goat cheese, there’s probably 2 to 3 oz left)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t rice vinegar

Take your bell pepper pieces, and slice up your cheese (or sprinkle if shredded) and assemble on a foil lined baking sheet, so that the bell peppers are topped with cheese.  Turn on your broiler, and cook for appx five minutes, until the cheese is melty and almost golden brown (see pic 2). While they’re cooking, combine your olive oil and rice vinegar. Once done, remove, put in your container, and sprinkle with the olive oil/rice vinegar mixture.

So, this is what I made while the asparagus was roasting for the maple dijon asparagus.  Another mainstay recipe, relatively cheap for the amount of stuff you need for it (seriously, the most expensive thing you will need is the wine), and good and hearty.  I also recommend a good slice of bread to go with it – I picked up a thing of roasted garlic bread at the store, because I didn’t want to bake bread tonight.  😛  (Yes, I can occasionally be lazy.  It’s fun.)

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Lasts a minimum of five meals

Ingredients

  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ¾ lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (or, 3/5 links in a typical package)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • ½ c white wine (I usually go with Cupcake Wines’ Angel Food)
  • ½ c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T marscapone (this is only if you have it on hand, you can skip it, but it is amaaaaaazing)

Combine the tomatoes and water in a separate pot and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, lower the heat to low to keep it warm.

In a separate pot, combine the olive oil, sausage, and onion over medium heat, and use your spatula to break up the sausage as it cooks (see first pic). Cook until the sausage is opaque (usually 3 to 5 mins). Then, add your rice, stirring until coated (appx 1 to 2 mins), and add the wine (and unless you’re using it for something else, drink the rest of the bottle :P).  Stir until absorbed (see pics 2 and 3 for what that usually looks like, but with the tomato mixture).

Speaking of the tomato mixture, add 2 c of the hot mixture to start to the pot, and simmer until absorbed (appx 4 to 5 mins, again, see pics 2 and 3 for what this usually looks like), and continue to add 1 c at a time, stirring and absorbing and adding the next cup until you’ve used up all the liquid (the amount I gave is usually the sweet point for not too much liquid), and the rice is creamy, but not mushy.  This usually takes at least 25 minutes to a half hour.

Once you reach that point, remove the pot from heat, and stir in your parmesan (and marscapone, if you’re using it). And then, enjoy the hell out of it.

So, the other weekend, I was able to get my hands on the sexiness that is $3/pound trimmed asparagus at the farmer’s market – and baby, this is the good stuff. I was away this weekend, and hadn’t gotten to cook it prior to that (boo), so I wanted to get this prepared tonight while it was still fresh.  At first I was wondering what I was gonna make, and then I realized I had everything for what is my mainstay asparagus recipe – maple dijon asparagus.  One of my most highly recommended recipes, and simple enough to do while you’re making another dish (today’s other post).

Maple Dijon Asparagus
Lasts three to four lunches as a side

Ingredients

  • 1-2 lbs asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T grainy mustard
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 t dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (original recommends grated, whoops)
  • dash salt and pepper and dill weed

Preheat the oven to 400 (or 375 if yours runs hot like mine), and clean and prep your asparagus (unless you’re buying it pre-trimmed like mine, then just clean).  Lay the asparagus out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil, and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast in the oven between 10 to 30 mins, depending on the thickness of your asparagus (the results above were gotten at ~25 minutes at 375).

Meanwhile, while this is going on, and so long as you’re not working on something else, make the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, cider vinegar, maple syrup, mustards, salt and pepper and dill, and grated garlic in a small bowl.  As soon as you remove the asparagus from the oven and put it in your container, pour the vinaigrette over the asparagus, close the container, and toss to coat.

And then, enjoy the sexiness of roasted asparagus with mustard maple dressing.

Hey folks!  The long weekend rearranged my priorities cooking wise slightly, so I haven’t really cooked prior to now.  (Yay for cookouts/viewing parties where you don’t have to contribute food!)

So, sometimes you have cravings.  Mozzarella has been high on my list, and I seriously need to try and make it myself with the amount that I’m going through it as of late.  This is another way to try and satisfy these cravings.  😛

Personal note re: pastry shell: be sure you thaw it for at least 24 hours in the fridge before you use it.  I accidentally opened the shell and thawed it after, so it was likely a little dry.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart
Lasts appx 5 meals

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz puff pastry (I used frozen)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • 1 pound (appx 4) plum or roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • a dash salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 oz mozzarella (I used presliced log mozzarella, the original recipe recommends grated)
  • 2 T fresh basil

Heat your oven to 425, and arrange your puff pastry so that it fits on a baking sheet.  I cobbled together two separate puff pastry sheets to get what you see above.  Fold over the edges of the pastry over by a half inch, and brush with the beaten egg.  Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the shell, and poke the shell with a fork so that there are holes all over (and I mean all over; I didn’t get the body the first time through, and when I checked it in the oven, it was puffing up to a ridiculous degree).  While this is happening, combine the olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic, and dry the sliced tomatoes (and sprinkle with a bit of salt).

Put it in the oven for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350 and bake until golden brown and crisp (usually another 10 to 15 mins).  Remove from heat, and take the oven back up to 425.  While the tart cools, tile on the mozzarella and tomatoes, and sprinkle with the garlic oil.

Return the tart to the oven, and bake until deep golden brown and the cheese melts (appx 15 mins).  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh (or dried) basil (half amount if using dried).