Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sausage Gravy

So, my four year marriage anniversary is on Wednesday. When I was 16 years old, I met my now husband, and at 18 we were married. Now I am almost 23, with two little girls, and ver in love with my husband. Every day I fall more and more in love with him and I often wonder how I got so lucky. I try to show him daily that I love him, and I often just do what I know how to do best: cook for him.
Tonight he worked a really, really long day, and he came home tired and hungry. I know one of his favorite breakfast meals is biscuits and gravy, and I often like to surprise him with breakfast for dinner, so that's exactly what I made him tonight.
I often enjoy a sweet breakfast like french toast or pancakes, but nothing compares to delicious biscuits and gravy. It's so comforting, homey.  It feels familiar. That's what you want on days where you work really late. You want to come home to something familiar and comforting. Not only does Shane get to come home to 3 smiling ladies, he also came home to a hot plate of biscuits, gravy, and eggs. 
I'll warn you, this meal is not good for you. But, once in a while it's nice to treat yourself. Right? 

This is the kind of breakfast you can whip up in 10 minutes. Before learning to make sausage gravy, I thought it was probably pretty difficult and was surprised when I found it out was simply 4 steps. Easy enough right? Sometimes I make my own drop biscuits to pair with it, but tonight for sake of a fast meal for this hungry husband, I just used grand's biscuits. 


Jimmy Deans ground breakfast sausage
just under 1/2  cup flour
1 stick butter
4 cups whole milk

Begin by browning your sausage. When browned, add a stick of butter and melt. When melted, add your flour and stir. Make sure this is well stirred and cooked so you don't end up with that raw yucky flour taste. When combined, add your milk and let bubble on the stove until it begins to thicken. When thickened, add salt and pepper to taste. (Usually sausage gravy is heavy on the pepper but use to your liking!)

Simple, right? Enjoy! 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lemon Cream Asparagus Mushroom Risotto

The first thing I ever cooked in my life was risotto. I think I was about 11 and my mom asked if I wanted to help with dinner, and we were having risotto. I remember thinking how easy it was, my job was the stirrer. The first meal my daughter ever cooked was today, and it was risotto. How special is that? 
She took the asparagus and mushroom out of the fridge of me, stirred the veggies (the oven wasn't on, but I wanted her to feel like she was really helping here), measured out the rice as well. She had a ball. She said she felt like a princess. 
One of my favorite meals is risottos. If I am at a restaurant I have a really hard time not ordering risotto. I find that it's really expensive at places...where at home, it's actually very inexpensive.
You'll need to exclusively use arborio rice, which is a short grained italian rice. It expands a lot and contains a high amount of starch so it creams well.


8 cups chicken broth
2 cups arborio rice
2 lemos
1 onion
bunch of asparagus
half and half 
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup parm cheese
olive oil

Dice onions and asparagus. Heat a pan with olive oil and add vegetables. Sautee until soft. Set aside.

Add a second pan with olive oil and heat. When heated, add your two cups of rice and stir until slightly golden.
At this point, you want to add 1 cup of chicken broth. Stir in chicken broth until absorbed, and add another cup. 

Add salt to taste.
Continue to do this until your rice is soft but still has the tiniest hint of a bite to it. It should have expanded & creamed nicely. 

When the rice is cooked add your lemon juice and your wine(let the wine heat and the alcohol cook out). I used two small lemons.

Add your cream

And cheese.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Orange pancakes

Sundays are a special day in our family. It's my husbands day off, so I like to make it special for him in some way. I usually prepare a nice breakfast so he can relax and just enjoy the day. This sunday was no different, so this week I prepared him some orange chocolate chip pancakes.
One of my favorite memories of my mom making pancakes growing up is my mom spooning them on the griddle and it was always special when she gave me a "baby pancake". Sometimes when you ladle the batter on the griddle, a bit drips and you end up with "little pancakes". My mom always gave them to me while she was cooking the pancakes and I always felt so special that she made me special tiny pancakes while waiting for the big ones to eat. I do it for my kids now, I hand them the little baby pancakes to nibble on while the rest are cooking. I hope they remember it fondly as well.
When I was getting married, my mom put together a cookbook for me of family recipes. It was such a special gift and I constantly flip through it for recipes to make for dinner. I feel like no page of the book has gotten more attention then the pancake page. 
Isn't it cute?

When I think pancakes, and maybe this is weird, but I think of old western times in the 1800' know, like flapjacks. With a women in a feedsack dress on a prairie with a bonnet, using a triangle to call her kids in for breakfast. But after researching pancakes I learned they go back ancient greece. To quote Wikipedia, "The Ancient Greeks made pancakes called τηγανίτης (tēganitēs), ταγηνίτης (tagēnitēs)[3] or ταγηνίας (tagēnias),[4] all words deriving from τάγηνον (tagēnon), "frying pan".[5] The earliest attested references on tagenias are in the works of the 5th century BC poets Cratinus[6] and Magnes.[7] Tagenites were made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk, and were served for breakfast.[8][9][10] Another kind of pancake was σταιτίτης (staititēs), from σταίτινος (staitinos), "of flour or dough of spelt",[11] derived from σταῖς (stais), "flour of spelt".[12] Athenaeus is his Deipnosophistae mention staititas topped with honey, sesame and cheese.[13][14][15] The Middle English word Pancake appears in English in the 1400s.[16][17]"

Interesting right?

With this recipe, I take my family's basic pancake recipe and add orange zest and chocolate chips for a little fun.


2 cups flour
2 tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
3 teaspoons of vanilla
zest of one orange
handful of chocolate chips

This is really simple, all I do is mix the dry ingredients together and then add the wet ingredients, and then zest the orange & add the chocolate chips and whisk.

Get out your griddle or pan and add a ladle full of batter...when it begins to bubble on top and brown on bottom your ready to flip it.

As my mom wants everyone to know:

Don't forget to heat the syrup!

You know you did good when you get smiles like this!

Enjoy everyone!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Homemade Italian Pesto

Recently I heard of the idea of the "happiness jar" from Elizabeth GIlbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love). About a month ago I set out writing little notes to myself about what made me happy in each particular day and I threw them into a jar. Usually things I ate or cute things my kids did or said. However, today, I was looking on Instagram and Solanah over at Vixen Vintage has made pesto, and I was craving it..
I didn't have any other jar to store it in, so I emptied my happiness jar and filled it with pesto. Same thing, right? Pesto=happiness. It's true. Look it up.
I love the bright green color of pesto and how refreshing it tastes. I would never in a million years buy pre made pesto. The difference with pre made pesto and homemade (at least the recipe I use) is that pre made is made through a machine such as a food processor, and mine is made and chopped soley by hand (Or you can use a mortar and pestle but I don't have one.)  I like to see the varying textures and colors within the pesto...I don't want it looking like a green paste. 
You'll get a pretty good arm exercise out of this, too. My arms are sore. Maybe I am out of shape..

Big bunch of fresh basil
Small handful of pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
4 cloves of garlic
Few tablespoons of olive oil

I begin by mincing my garlic, and then adding 5-6 leaves of basil and chop chop chop. 
I throw some nuts in there and chop them up as well

I begin to add some of the cheese a bit at a time, and chop...add more basil and nuts and chop chop chop.

Keep chopping!

Until it's all chopped. You can chop it smaller then this if you'd like..I just prefer mine this consistency.

Add it to a jar or a bowl and pour in your olive oil.

Add some salt and pepper

And shake. 

This can last a few days in the fridge. I am going to be adding it to pasta tonight for a quick and light dinner. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Homemade Puff Pastry and Cheese Danish

It would be somewhat of an understatement to say that I love cheese danish. I would go as far as to say I mildly obsessed with cheese danish.  There's something about the light flaky dough and the creamy filling ( in this case, the slightly lemon-y creamy filling. *drool*). But, to make puff pastry is a GIANT chore. I've seen 36 hour long recipes. No thanks. When I want a cheese danish, I kinda want it right then and there. 
So, it's up to you- whether you want to buy pre made puff pastry of follow this link to make your own like I did, it's up to you. 
Whenever I make these cheese danishes, they never seem to last long. I think when I make them I get to sample one, and then they're eaten up by everyone else. I suppose that means they came out good, but it also makes me cry a little bit to myself. 
Plus, theres nothing like homemade, right? 

(For the cheese filling)

8 ounces of cream cheese softened
1/3 cup of sugar
3 tablespoon sour cream
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
3 egg yolks at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 2 lemons
puff pastry dough (again, either store bought or follow the link a above for homemade)
1 egg beaten for egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a pan with parchment paper. 
Add the cream cheese and sugar and cream them together, then add the egg yolks. On low, add the ricotta, sour cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix it until its combined, but make sure not to whip it. 
Roll out your dough on a floured surface to a 10x10 square. Cut the dough into 4  squares and add a heaping amount of cheese mixture. Brush the egg wash along the sides of the square, and fold the two opposite ends into the center, and again on the other side, and brush the top of the pastry with egg wash. Continue with remaining squares. 

Bake the pastries for 20 minutes.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Reine De Saba avec Glaçage au Chocolat

Julia Child. I have never met her obviously, but I feel like if I ever did her and I would of been best of friends. I could picture us in a little house baking and laughing over tea and pastries. We'd roll out dough, or braise beef. I feel like she would get me.  Cooking is a passion we both shared, and unlike painting, or's art that is made as quickly as it's eaten. It's there and then it's gone. But, I think it probably is just as nice as a's a joyous thing even if it's fleeting. 

It kind of goes without saying that I like all things French, Chocolate, and Julia Child. When asked to make a dessert for a recent family event,  I did a little thinking and decided to make Julia Child's "Reine de Saba" cake. A delicious, fudgey little cake that's infused with coffee and made with ground almonds. Coffee and chocolate? I couldn't think of anything richer. And I needed it.

"Reine de Saba" mean Queen of Sheba in French. It's said that this cake is the first French cake that Julia ever had and that she made it on her birthday every year. If it's Julia's favorite, it's bound to be amazing. 

While making this cake, I have found that it really isn't simple. It's a lot of steps and a lot of time but it's worth it.  

It has a different consistency then regular cake. Since it's made with very little flour, its really almost like fudge in the middle. It's also made with espresso or coffee, so the chocolate flavor is amplified in richness to extremes I've never tasted. Let's just say, it's a party in your mouth. A party you want to be alone for. 


4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of dark coffee
1/2 cup butter at room temp
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar 
1/3 cup of almonds that has been ground in a food processor 
almond slivers ( for decoration- optional)
1/2 cup cake flour


2 ounces of semi sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of hot coffee
6 tablespoons of butter

Alright. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a cake pan. Add parchment paper to the bottom of the pan.

In a saucepan on low heat, add water. Add a bowl above the water and add your chocolate and coffee until melted and blended together. 

Cream your butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then add your egg yolks and blend until combined. 

Remove to a separate bowl. Wash VERY WELL and DRY VERY WELL your mixer and beater. Add your egg whites and a pinch of salt and beat until you have stiff peaks. Add a bit of cream of tarter if they peaks aren't stiff enough.

Add your chocolate to the yolk mixture. Fold it in. Add the ground almonds and almond extract. 

Divide the egg yolks into four parts, and fold in 1/2 of the egg whites into the yolk/chocolate mixture, very carefully. You don't want to deflate the egg whites. At this point,  add 1/3 of your flour into the mixture, then the other 1/4 of egg whites, another 1/3 of flour, another 1/4 of egg whites and then the last 1/3 of flour until combined and fluffy. 

Batters ready! Add to the cake pan (or pans!) and bake for 25 minutes.

To check for doneness, the edges should be crispy like a regular cake but when you stick a toothpick in the middle, it should still come out clean but the middle should be able to "move" a little when you nudge the pan. Remember, it's supposed to be slightly underdone in the middle. 

Let the cakes cool completely then remove from pans and set aside.

Now for the icing. 

Melt the chocolate in the same way as above. Add the coffee.
Take a larger bowl or pan and fill with ice water.
Cut up the butter into tablespoons, you will end up with six slices. Add a slice one at a time to the melted chocolate, melting the butter into it. Do this until all the butter has been incorporated.

Now time for an ice bath!
Take your bowl holding the butter and chocolate and set it inside the ice water pan. Stir the butter and chocolate until it begins to thicken and looks like frosting and is spreadable.

Ice the cake, add the almond designs (however you like) and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homemade Bread

Today I was thinking about making bruschetta, and I started thinking of bread. There is nothing better then homemade bread. I love the way it fills the house of it's delicious smell when it's baking, the way the dough sticks to my fingers when I mix it, forming it and making the designs in the top. Is that weird? Okay maybe a little. 
I like making my own dough for most things. Although, I hate hate HATE kneading bread. I really do. So, that's why this is a no-knead bread. No need to knead! BA-ZING! (Okay, I'll quit while I am ahead.)
This bread is really simple. I made it whole wheat to keep it healthier (okay, i mixed whole wheat and regular flour. Don't judge) but you can make it either way.


3 cups warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 spoon of sugar

Get out a large bowl, and add the water, yeast and sugar to the bowl. Allow a few minutes for yeast to activate and "foam". When this happens, add flour to bowl...add as much as you need to get a dough consistency. It should be doughy but still workable.
Cover with a warm towel for up to an hour to allow it to rise to about double it's size.

Now take it out of the bowl and on to a floured working space. Divide it into two, and form into loafs. Take your serrated knife and add design.

Let it rise for another 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

What I did was add parchment paper to a baking sheet for easy clean up.

After it's risen, put it in the oven along with a cup of water ( for steam and to keep it moist!) and bake for thirty minutes.

Now you have bread! 
Enjoy it with some butter or jam. I'll be eating mine for breakfast!