6.14.2017

Cookbook Collection | Thursday Trials - Roasted Arctic Char & Asparagus with Pistachio Gremolata

Look at this beauty! I have mentioned a few times that my husband hates salmon... well, luckily for me, he was at a golf outing tonight! I love salmon but I don't get to cook it much. My mother in law and sister in law also love salmon, so they got the invite to join me tonight. Before I share details, I'd like you to know that we all gave it a 10 out of 10. I made very few changes and it came out really great, and how can I not mention how stunningly gorgeous this dinner is!


Tonight's cookbook choice:
SHEET PAN SUPPERS
Molly Gilbert
Page 89
Roasted Arctic Char & Asparagus with Pistachio Gremolata


So for starters, I replaced arctic char with (wild) king salmon. King salmon was readily available at my fish market, but arctic char is just as delicious. Another tweak was replacing pistachios with toffee cashews. Have you ever tried toffee cashews? If you are saying no, PLEASE go find them!! They were the biggest hit at a recent wine & cheese party, and would make a great little app (or dessert) to bring as a dinner guest. They disappear within minutes!


I also couldn't find cherry tomatoes at the market, so organic grape tomatoes had to do. Overall, the changes were minimal, and the dish was still so quick and easy (10 min prep, 20 min to bake). I'm really excited to have a "go-to" salmon dish (when my husband isn't around at least)! We highly recommend this one!!

6.11.2017

Blind Wine Tasting Party 2017

My favorite party of the year! If you haven't been to a blind wine tasting party, I encourage you to host (or beg a friend to host). I am hoping my guide to a fab tasting party below will help! As a host, it is not a bad gig. There is minimal to no cooking, and your guests supply the drinks! Not having to cook alleviates the stress, and you can actually enjoy every moment with your guests!


Here is how it worked:
Each guest brought one bottle of wine of their choice (white, red, rosé), and placed the bottle into a labeled brown bag so that other guests could not see what kind it was. We started with whites, as I suggested that our guests bring any white wine at a cool temperature. Using score cards that I recreated (see below), we judged aroma, taste, body, finish and appearance. The bottle that accumulated the most points was given 1st prize.
Other prizes included the Wine Loser (lowest awarded points), and winner for the "guess how many corks" game, in which I filled a container up with store bought corks. The prizes offered were a small cheese platter slate (with chalk to label), a glass wine shaped cheese platter with a decorative grape knife, and a small gift bag of 4 infused olive oils.


What was on our platter spread:
*Infused Olive Oils and Balsamic - I highly suggest these! They are always the biggest hit at all of our wine and cheese parties. We buy a few baguettes and cut them up into dipping sized pieces. The olive oils we serve with a dipping tray in front of that flavor, so our guests know which one they are trying. The oils we served this year included: Black Truffle, White Truffle, Chipotle (ooph, spicy), Cilantro & Roasted Onion, Tuscan Herb, and Raspberry balsamic. They were all so different, some sweet, some hot, some rich.
*Bread - We ran thru the bread really quickly and I will have to buy at least 6 loaves next year! We used french baguettes for this party, but any crispy firm bread will do. Cut the bread into dipping sized servings. Small enough to pop into your mouth in one bite!
*Grapes - purple and green
*Dried apricots
*Golden raspberries (which taste just like red raspberries, they just look cooler)
*Nuts - Toffee cashews (to die for), pistachios, mixed nuts
*Olives - purple and green
*Meats - pepperoni, salami
*Dark chocolate covered raisins
*Cheeses - There is lots of advice online when it comes to cheeses. Costco is an awesome place to start, and of course, specialty cheese shoppes. We included the following cheeses on our platter and it was a good variety: Fresh mozzarella, Port wine, Port Salut, Smoked Gouda, Manchego, Asiago, Garlic & Herb Cheddar, Jalapeño Pepper Jack, and Goat Cheese.
*Honey and Spicy Honey mustard spread
*Crackers - A variety of crackers




Decorations & Prizes:
Besides socializing, drinking and eating, you want to spark some fun into the party. Making your table look presentable & appetizing, and creating some competition for your guests to bring good bottles are two fun components of the party. I started with the bags & tissue paper at Michaels. I also purchased the flag labels for the cheese and decorative grapes and green stems for the bags & platter there. Next, I stopped by TJ Maxx for prizes. I only spent 5-8$ per prize and I usually make them cheese or wine related. You can do things like wine glass charms, wine stoppers, cheese boards, etc. Altogether, decorations & prizes ran me about $40. 
I had leftover corks from another year, and I fill them in a wine shaped container. The guests always love trying to guess how many corks are in there. We gave a prize away to the winner (the answer was 53 and the closest guest was 51)! Doing the guessing game towards the end of the party always makes it better! People are a little more socialized and comfortable at that point, and the guesses become more fun.
I also had two cast iron mice to help bring some cute detail to the spread.

I recreated a scoring guide, and score cards on Excel. If you'd like the files sent to you, you can email me at kissmyapron@aol.com and I will be happy to send them to you for your own use!




The following wines were top 3 at our party this year!

1st Place                                                                           2nd Place

3rd Place 


My husband and I are very grateful that we have the opportunity to get our friends together in our home, despite having our new 4 month old baby girl. It's always nice to get a break, and  every parent  deserves a night off once in a while! I wanted to especially thank our friends for their help with pouring and cleaning. I mean, a party isn't a party until the cops are called (gosh, our neighbors are just party poopers)! We had so much fun and cannot wait for 2018 to come along!

5.25.2017

Cookbook Collection | Thursday Trials - Chimichurri Shrimp

Happy Thursday! Time to dig out a book from the cookbook collection and make a new recipe. This week I chose a Ree Drummond recipe.  I will admit, she is not my favorite person to watch on Food Network... but her books are so amazing! Every book is set up so perfectly, with step by step pictures that really show you what to do. Her recipes give you confidence, and I love them! Although this specific recipe was from her holiday book (cinco de mayo), we served the chimichurri shrimp with Zatarains yellow rice and tostones.


The Pioneer Woman / Ree Drummond
A YEAR OF HOLIDAYS
Page 146
Chimichurri Shrimp


The chimichurri sauce was so fresh and the lime really came through which was a perfect match for the shrimp. The tangy citrus was complimented with ground cumin, giving it perfect balance. Since shrimp can overcook quickly, I always be sure to only cook them for a few minutes. I think it is also important to really wash your herbs and remove the stems, to guarantee a clean, smooth chimichurri sauce.

My husband and I agree, and we'd love to make this sauce again,  especially to top on a piece of steak!

5.24.2017

Mexican Mac and Cheese


Mac and cheese & seasoned taco beef.. taking the best of both worlds and combining them into a casserole of delicious goodness! My taco beef is a mix of chopped meat, taco seasoning, chipotle corn salsa, a Mexican four cheese blend, a bit of water, sriracha, salt and pepper. It is always a tremendous hit with my guests, whether served in a shell, in a ring or now, in mac and cheese! You can adjust the heat, by adding jalapenos, or not using sriracha. My hubby and I are spicy people, so bring it on! I really look forward to sharing this recipe with you all!


Using my Gram's homemade Mac and Cheese recipe (below)

For the Mac and Cheese:
1 box cavatappi noodles (or elbow, medium shells)
1 stick of salted butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups of milk
1 cups heavy cream
1/8 tsp ground mustard (powder)
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
16 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded (mix it up, use yellow cheeses, or white cheese, or smelly cheeses lol) 
1/8 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

For the taco beef:
1 lb ground chopped meat
1/4 cup chipotle corn salsa (we recommend any Mrs Renfro's brand))
1/4 cup shredded Mexican four cheese
1-2 tbs taco seasoning (or one packet)
1-2 tbs sriracha
2 tbs water
Salt & pepper, to taste
*Optional: jalapenos, chopped


Let's Cook!

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using the beef ingredients: Heat a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Brown beef, about 4-5 minutes, then drain the fat and grease. Place beef back into pan, lower heat.

2. Add salsa, Mexican cheese, taco seasoning, sriracha, water, salt and pepper (and chopped jalapenos if you'd like). Bring to a low simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Using the mac and cheese ingredients: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta (I used Elbows) per box directions.

4. Heat a separate large pot on medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir until blended. This will create a rue which is a tan, creamy paste.

5. Slowly add milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, and stir constantly. (this step will take about 15-20 minutes, try not to rush it - keep the mixture on the thicker side). Add heavy cream and continue to stir.

6. Once all of the milk and heavy cream are added, lower heat. Add ground mustard, salt, paprika, and stir. Stir in cheese. Remove from heat and stir until cheese is completely melted, creating a creamy cheese sauce.

7. Add noodles, and taco meat into a large casserole dish. Mix around the beef until it is evenly spread. Add cheese sauce to casserole dish and gently mix. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs.

8. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbling.






5.18.2017

Cookbook Collection | Thursday Trials - Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pineapple

Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pineapple and Red Onion

Back in 2014, about ten days after getting my tonsils removed, Kevin proposed to me during Chinese food at home. It was the first time I could actually swallow anything, and he proposed via a fortune cookie BEFORE we ate. Who even opens fortune cookies before eating? I had to call everyone to tell them the big news, and never got the chance to enjoy dinner. Even still, Chinese food has always been quite romantic to us after that.

When I saw this particular recipe, it reminded me of our engagement, but also included our favorite fruit. Except, this recipe is a healthier take on Chinese style sweet and sour chicken. It has less fat, and less salt (because there is actually no salt called for in the recipe). I served this meal over white rice. Not having the biggest sweet tooth, I am going to admit that this recipe just wasn't for me. It was very sweet, but missing the "sour" in my opinion - or even some heat! My husband enjoyed it, because it was "healthy and fresh tasting." We chose to add broccoli, zucchini and red peppers, as the recipe only calls for snow peas ad of course, my husband isn't a fan of peas.
If you like sweet & sugary dishes, I think you will enjoy this one. It makes enough for 2-4 servings. Book info below:


America's Test Kitchen
THE COMPLETE COOKING FOR TWO COOKBOOK
Page 119
Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pineapple and Red Onion (no link available)





5.11.2017

Cookbook Collection | Thursday Trials - Seared Pork Chops


Seared Pork Chops with Peas, Scallions and Pancetta

Welcome to week 2 of my new series! Every Thursday night, I will be choosing random recipes from the overwhelming collection of cookbooks I have. It goes without saying that Thursday is my new favorite day of the week (after Friday, of course)!

On Tuesday night, my husband and I visited the hospital to meet our new niece, Jenna. Eight pounds and twenty inches of beauty! Once we arrived back home, we hit the cookbooks to find a recipe for tonight. We have similar tastes when it comes to food, but not when it comes to salmon. He won't eat it whatsoever, sigh... (don't worry, I will still be making salmon eventually).


I opened my newest cookbook (above) and started with the contents page, which was extremely well organized. We decided on a meat entrée this week, which led us to a pork chop dish.

Melissa Clark
DINNER: CHANGING THE GAME
Page 81
Seared Pork Chops with Peas, Scallions and Pancetta (link directs to Melissa Clark Recipes)


I replaced the sweet peas with asparagus tips, at hubby's request. If I had to make this recipe over, I would use a different skillet, as the enameled cast iron skillet didn't brown the pancetta or chops as much as I hoped. The flavor of the chicken broth (with the leftover grease from the chops and pancetta) was so delicious - sweet and delicate! We really loved the scallions cooked this way, as both of us never cooked with them in a bulky chop. The pancetta gave the meal a perfect amount of saltiness. Both Kevin and I enjoyed this dish, but my chops and pancetta definitely needed a better sear! We recommend this one and will be making it again!






Truffled Mac and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

It's not always easy to come up with creative recipe ideas that have never been seen before. I mean, I dreamt about deep fried cheese stuffed meatballs, only to find out on google when I awoke that they've been done before! Who would've thought..

So the latest idea to pop in this food loving brain of mine, was mac and cheese stuffed mushrooms. Not just your ordinary mac and cheese, white truffled mac and cheese. If you know me, you know I love truffle oil.. I visit the local olive oil shops to make sure I am always stocked. I really love my grandma's mac and cheese recipe so that was my platform to this recipe. Creamy mac and cheese is wonderful, but to stuff in mushrooms? You need a bit of stability. To reach the correct consistency, a few adjustments were made to the milk measurements and type of pasta used, as well as cutting the entire recipe in half (which still leaves extra). An important note is to let the stuffed mushrooms sit for a bit after they finish baking.


For the Mac:
1/2 box elbow noodles
1/2 stick salted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz gruyere cheese (shredded from a block)
4 oz white cheddar cheese (shredded from a block)
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp paprika
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 tbs white truffle oil
Seasoned panko breadcrumbs (just enough to sprinkle on the tops)


For the Mushrooms:
16-20 whole mushrooms, stems removed and gills carefully cleaned out with a spoon
Salt
Wired rack to put over baking sheet (so any water from the mushrooms is released onto a pan under the rack)



Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to box. Set cooked pasta aside.

2. In a large pot on medium heat, melt the butter then add the flour and stir until blended. This will create a rue which is a tan, creamy paste.

3. Slowly add milk, about a 1/2 cup at a time, and stir continuously. Add 1 cup heavy cream and continue stirring until mixture is thickened.

4. Lower heat, add ground mustard, paprika, salt & pepper and truffle oil into milk mixture and stir until blended for 1-2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cheese, mixing until melted into a thick sauce.

5. Add cooked noodles to sauce mixture and stir until the noodles are coated.

6. On a backing sheet, covered with wired rack, place the emptied mushrooms onto the rack. Salt mushrooms (before filling). Fill mushrooms with an unleveled, heaping amount of mac and cheese, then top with breadcrumbs.

7. You can place any extra mac and cheese into an appropriate sized casserole dish (I used one 8"x 8"). Bake mushrooms (& extra mac) at 350 degrees, for 20 minutes.

*There are so many options that come with this recipe. You can add bacon, crab, lobster, extra mushroom stems (chopped) into your mac and cheese! Endless possibilities!


5.04.2017

Cookbook Collection | Thursday Trials - Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Welcome to the first Thursday Trial of my cookbook collection. The amount of cookbooks I have is overwhelming, to the point I haven't even touched some of them. When I got pregnant with my daughter, Kora, I told myself that in all that free time during maternity leave, I would be reading my cookbooks for some inspiration of new recipes. But who was I kidding? Free time on maternity leave? Nope! The days blew by so quickly, I barely had time to shower...

So I find myself here, still with a goal of getting through some of these books. I have recently switched from full time to part time at my job, which leaves me with Thursday's off. Having this one day off a week, leaves me with time to run to the store with baby Kora, grab some items that I need, and have a few hours to whip up something so delicious for my darling husband. The same husband who won't change a poop diaper unless he really has to, and still leaves his electric toothbrush on the counter which leaves a frosty ring for me to clean every single day. But we love Kevin, he is such a great dad, and such a great friend and husband to me. I can only thank him so much, and what a great way to do it by sharing my love for cooking, and allowing him to be my official taste tester.

At the end of the posts, we will rate the meal by how tasty it was, how nice (or not nice) it looks, and if we would ever make it again. I will include the author, book title, page number, name of the meal, and any other important info that they share with us. Remember, these are not my recipes, we are just sharing out trials of them with you from these wonderful books!


Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola


What better way to start off this new Kiss My Apron series, then with my favorite home chef:

Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa
FOOLPROOF
Page 158-159
Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola


Ina mentions how this recipe is from Nick & Toni's restaurant in East Hampton, which I have been to! I love the fact that many local places Ina discusses, are well known to me. Long Island is a pretty small place to live, and we are blessed to have so many farms with fresh produce. I still hope to run into Mrs. Garten one day!


Review: The sauce was a perfect texture, and the flavor was spot on! We all loved it, and would certainly make it again. Next time, I would love to add pancetta, shrimp, chicken or peas! And where was the bread, you may be thinking... I forgot it at the store! Dang..

Thanks Ina, for a wonderful recipe!

4.24.2017

Cookware Gifts | Personal Creations


While searching for Mother's Day gifts, I came across a website that had personalized cookware. I was more excited to buy stuff for myself, rather than my mom and mother in law! Being that I will be celebrating my 30th next weekend (!!!!), I did buy myself a couple things. I am so happy with how everything turned out; a pie dish for my sister in law Liz, a pot for my mom Nancy, a baking sheet and personalized cover for my mother in law Debbie (not pictured), and a casserole dish with chili bowls for myself! I highly recommend Personal Creations for their cookware gifts!
*This post is not a paid advertisement for Personal Creations, just a personal opinion*