Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade Samoas

How was everyone's weekend? 

I made it through my 5k!  I'm still alive and kickin'!  I gave myself 36 minutes to do the 5k (about 12 minute miles - I was pretty lax on myself), and I finished in 33:51!  Not bad for only going on one practice run in a month and a half. 

It was actually an exhilarating race.  Over 10,000 participants and I finished 5610 out of them!  So heck, I had to just give myself a pat on the back.  And I guess I have something to work towards for next year! 

And another awesome surprise, when I got home on Friday night from work, I came home to a big package from Foodbuzz sitting on my desk.  Puzzled, I had to quickly open it up.  And to my astonishment was a Flip Video Camera and a variety of Newman's Own Salad Dressings and Tomato Sauces.  So thanks to Foodbuzz and Newman's Own, I get to make a 5 minute video on a recipe using one or more of the products that takes 30 minutes or less.  So watch out for it soon, because it'll be the first video on the blog!  And I'm sure not the last!

Anyway, what won the poll last Friday?  Well it was a 3 way tie!  I couldn't just pick one over the other, so I decided to do all 3 over the course of the next 2 weeks.  I'm not going to reveal all of the winners at once, that way it's a little bit of surprise!  So obviously, the first revealed winner was in the "Girl Scout Cookie" category, and being that Samoas are my absolute favorite Girl Scout cookie, I had to give them a shot!

Adapted from The Sweet Life's Recipe

Shortbread Cookie:

1/2 cup sugar
1 & 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla
2 cups flour
large pinch of salt


3 cup sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
12 oz. chewy caramels
large pinch of salt
3 tablespoons whole milk
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil.

For shortbread, in a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Slowly add in flour and salt until mixture is combined.  The dough will be really sticky.

Using hands, press dough into an even layer in pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.  Carefully lift foil from pan and place on wire rack to cool.

While waiting for shortbread to cool, you can prepare the topping.  Unwrap caramel candies and place in microwave safe bowl along with milk and salt.  Heat in microwave for about 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir occasionally. Watch it carefully so that the caramel does not burn.  Allow caramel to slightly cool and then fold in toasted coconut.  Mix well.

Once shortbread is cooled, spread caramel and coconut mixture atop shortbread in an even layer.  Place in freezer to cool, about 10 minutes.  Once cooled, cut into evenly sized bars.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat, in 30 second intervals, until chocolate is completely melted.  Dip the bottom of each bar in chocolate and place on wax paper lined baking sheet (a small enough sheet that can fit into the freezer/fridge)

I chose the "abstract" way of decorating the top of the bars, just use a fork and quickly drizzle over bars for a nice effect.  Alternatively, you can place the melted chocolate into a piping bag and decorate as you wish.

I dare you to have just one.  It's damn near impossible.  Wanna bet?  I'll win every time, I know it! =)

Andy absolutely loved these.  I asked him whether they were better than the actual Girl Scout cookie version, and he put it nicely - "You can't really compare them to the actual Samoa because they're different.  These are more like a cookie bar."  So then of course (I just had to ask), I replied to that by saying "Well what would you rather have?"  You bet your ass he said that he'd rather have these!  So go on... try them for yourself!  See you guys tomorrow! 

P.S. - details about my first giveaway get unveiled tomorrow too!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Nutella Buttercream Frosting

TGIF!  I've got the weekend off of work and I'm ready for it!  I'm not so ready to wake up super early tomorrow morning and fun 3.1 miles at 8am.  In the cold.  But, it's my own doing.  I freely signed up for the race knowing what I was getting myself into.  And so if I'm to be punished, so be it.

Bold statements are usually made in our house.  Usually those involving death threats (in a loving manner, of course.  like I tell everyone who looks seemingly shocked after I threaten to kill Andy - this is how we talk, hehe) or, heaven forbid, threats to take away chocolate cupcakes to one's co-workers instead of leaving them at home.  Yes.  Andy looked at me with disgust as I loaded these up last week to take to work.  Hey.  I left him 3.  And he had already eaten 3 the night before too.  So seriously.  He had his fill, it was time to give them to a more deserving crowd. 

I know it took me a while to post these, but hey, I wanted to save the best for the end of the week.  And there's a new poll at the end of this post, so don't forget to vote for my next little treat (I promise it won't take me as long to post this time!).

Obviously, they were still a tad warm when I frosted them - but it's hard to resist =)



1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white/clear vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Nutella Buttercream:
Adapted from My Baking Addiction's recipe

1 & 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce jar of Nutella
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon white/clear vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar (original recipe called for a full lb., and by all means, go ahead with that if you'd like, but I just couldn't see using that much sugar)
6-8 tablespoons heavy cream

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line muffin pans with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well and set aside.
In a separate, medium-sized bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar, and mix well.

Slowly add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

Fill muffin liners about halfway to 3/4 full.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove cupcakes from oven and let cool in tin for about 10 minutes.  Remove cupcakes from tin and transfer to a wire rack to let cool to room temperature before frosting.

For the frosting:

This makes a TON of frosting, so you could definitely save some for later or half the recipe if you're not doing too many cupcakes. (I made about 18 cupcakes, and still had a bunch leftover)
In a large bowl, beat butter and Nutella until well combined. 
Slowly add in powdered sugar and continue beating until incorporated.

Add salt, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Beat on low speed until moistened.  Add heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach your preferred consistency. 
Beat frosting on high until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

Fill a piping bag with a little bit of frosting and pierce the cooled cupcakes in the center to fill and then decoratively frost the tops.  Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

Remember those bold statements I was talking about earlier?  Well, Andy mocked me when I told him I was buying Nutella.  He's somewhat sheltered in the Nutella area, and jokingly made faces at me as I put it in our cart at the grocery.  

So to his surprise, he actually loved these cupcakes.  So much so, that he made the boldest statement ever, saying that these were the best cupcakes I'd ever made.  Ever.  So seriously, if Andy can make such a statement, I think these are definitely worth a go.  And as for my coworkers, they loved them too.  So they're definitely a crowd pleaser. =)

And to the poll!  I'm in a vague and random sort of mood, so I'll leave it somewhat open.  I'll definitely need something to replenish me after I'm done with my race tomorrow morning!  Enjoy your weekend guys!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sushi in the City

My sister is pretty cool.  Don't let her know that I said that because we don't want her getting a big head or anything. 

She sent me a text this afternoon asking me if I'd heard about 'Sushi in the City'.  Of course, I had not.  And because she interns for a local philanthropic magazine, she knows of all the fund raising events in the area.  And she definitely fills me in on the food-related ones (remember Desserts First?)

So of course, the minute I got home tonight from class, I had to look into it.  It's pretty much all of the local sushi restaurants competing for "Best of..." this and that.  And I love me some sushi, so I'm pretty sure Andy and I are gonna head on out there March 16th.  For only $50 a person, proceeds going to the Family Scholar House, and all the sushi one can manage to eat in a few hours... what's not to like? 

In other exciting news, my first 5k in 2 years (maybe even 3?) is on Saturday.  Guess how many days I went running since I signed up last month?  Yep... only 1.  Am I gonna suck or what?  Oh well, at least I'm still going through with the race, whether I keel over from exhaustion or not.  It's my own fault, but hopefully I'll be okay.  After all, I did used to run cross country, so it can't be that bad.  I'm sure I'll inform you on Monday!

Check back tomorrow for the Nutella cupcakes that won the last poll (I know, I held out for too long!).  And there's also going to be a new poll tomorrow too with lots of goodies!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Skirt Steak w/ Stout Pan Sauce

Confession.  I love gravy.  Like, really.  I love gravy.  Sometimes I can't have enough of it.  And you can obviously see by the way this dish was plated, that I'm not joking.

This was one of those dinners that I had to savor every bite.  This is literally whipped up in less than 30 minutes and is perfect for those hectic, busy weeknights where it sometimes seems impossible to get a really great dinner made.  Well, worry no more.  Because this will be your go-to meal!  If you're a carnivore, that is. =)

Adapted from Bon Appetit's recipe

5 teaspoons Dijon mustard, divided
1/2 lb. skirt steak
salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons flour
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup stout (I used a local brewery beer - BBC Heine Brother's Coffee Stout)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on each side of the skirt steak.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat a large skillet under medium high heat and add 1 teaspoon olive oil until shimmering.  Add skirt steak to pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side for a medium rare.  Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest.  Tent with foil.

In a small bowl, mash together the butter and flour until you get a nice paste.

Heat the same skillet you used to cook stead under medium high heat once again.  Heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil and add garlic.  Saute for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add chicken broth, scraping up any brown bits on the pan, and bring to a boil.  Whisk in stout, brown sugar, soy sauce, and remaining 3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard.  Slowly stir in butter-flour mixture.

Bring mixture to a boil and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.

Slice the skirt steak thinly and top with the sauce.

I made some cheddar-bacon mashed potatoes and served the steak and sauce atop that.  Of course, I needed to make sure I didn't run out of sauce (because it was just that good!) and filled my plate.  I thought it was a nice touch, and you better believe I didn't run out of sauce. =)

The flavors were amazing in this, and I love that it can differ depending on the type of beer you use, so feel free to experiment!  But definitely definitely give this one a go if you're a meat-eater!  You won't be disappointed!  Enjoy guys!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Day in the Life...

First of all, I'd like to thank Victoria over at Mission: Food for awarding me the Stylish Blogger Award.  If you haven't been over to Mission: Food, I highly recommend it.  Victoria makes awesome treats and definitely makes me want to pack my bags and move to NYC just to eat at all the crazy good places that Victoria eats.

I figured for today's post I would kind of explain what I do on a productive day.  My most productive day of the week is most definitely Sundays.  I'm usually off of work and so is Andy so we get to run all of the errands we have to run on Sunday (i.e grocery shopping).  So without further ado... a typical Sunday for yours truly...

I wake up to this smiling face.  Andy usually gets up before me and I usually find him studying some IT related thing - he tells me, but honestly, it goes in one and ear and out the other - I'm a bad fiance =)
I check my e-mail, Foodbuzz, etc. etc.
We hop in the Jeep to run around town - it was kind of a drab and rainy Sunday this past week
First stop - Whole Foods
We worked up a hunger after Whole Foods, so we ended up stopping at Moe's for lunch - which I personally think is a tad bit better than Qdoba
I got the Fat Sam fajita plate... the chicken was a little dry, but other than that, pretty good.
I caught him off guard - I think he's in mid-chew.
Then to Kroger for the rest of the grocery shopping - and yes, I usually do sit in the car and watch Andy load the car.  It was raining, so I wasn't about to sit out in that =)
Got home and took the trash out to the back and noticed my garden plot was lookin' in need of some cleaning (trust me, you don't want to see the before picture) - especially since I ordered my seeds/plants last week, so I've got to be prepared!  And I might expand this little plot to double - and yes, my backyard needs some raking, but that's Andy's job, not mine. =)
Came inside and baked a loaf of bread.

Finally sat down to study some Spanish

 And of course, this is when I usually get warn out from the day - and it's only 2 or 3 pm by this time, can you believe it? 

Of course I did other things, like some cleaning of the kitchen and our bedroom, cook dinner, and sleep... but I was way to tired to take any more pictures, hehe. 

Exhausting, I tell you!

What about you guys?  What's your most productive day of the week?  How do you spend your Sundays?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Honey Oat Wheat Bread

I apologize for the cruddy pictures... this is what happens when I get in a rush I guess =)

Happy Monday guys!  How was everyone's weekend? 

We went out for sushi on Friday night and for dessert afterward.  Andy was holding a grudge (not really) because I wouldn't let him go get ice cream the night before, so I told him we could go this weekend.  And after pondering what to eat for dessert, we stumbled upon the Comfy Cow, and came up with a genius idea.  Get this... we're gonna have an ice cream sundae bar at the wedding!  The Comfy Cow caters, so hopefully I can book that soon!  We figure it'll be something different for dessert, although we're still planning on having a little wedding cake too.  Neat, eh?

Anyway, today's bread is probably the best I've made yet.  It's definitely the softest, fluffiest loaf I've produced this year.  And Andy has been begging me to make some wheat bread, so I finally did it! 

Man, I've been caving into a lot of his needs and wants lately, haven't I?  First with the Velveeta, and now the wheat bread.  At least with the wheat bread, we both can agree it was fantastic!


Adapted from Radishes & Rhubarb's recipe

1/2 cup oats
1 to 2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons of honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 & 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 & 1/4  teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons milk
oats, for dusting (optional)

In a large bowl, combine oats, 1 cup boiling water, honey, butter, and salt.  Mix until butter has melted.  
Allow mixture to cool slightly and stir again. You've basically made some oatmeal porridge and this is going to rock your world when mixed with the flour.  Seriously.

Stir in all three flours and yeast.  The dough will be relatively shaggy.  Add water (in 1/2 cup increments) until you have a manageable dough.

Turn bread onto floured worktop and knead for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.
Oil a large, clean bowl and form your dough into a ball. Turn dough ball to lightly cover with oil in bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a warm, damp towel and leave for about an hour until it has roughly doubled in size.

Turn dough ball onto floured surface again and punch down.  With a floured rolling pin, roll dough out into a rectangle and fold like a business letter (top half down and bottom half up).  Turn once and roll out and fold once more.

Fold in the sides to get a nicely shaped loaf.  Grease a bread loaf pan/tin and place dough, smooth side up in pan.  Using a pastry brush, brush on enough milk to lightly coat the top.  Lightly sprinkle oats on top, if desired.  Cover with warm towel and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.
Cut 3 diagonal slashes on top of bread and place in oven on middle rack. 
Place a baking sheet underneath and add about 1/2 to 1 cup of water.  
Heat oven to 375 F and bake for about 45 minutes, or until outside is golden and bread is cooked through.
Cool on a heating rack before cutting.

Serve with your favorite jam or a slat of butter.  This bread is THE bomb.

Through my bread-making escapades this year, I've found when I place the loaf in a cold oven, it results in a softer bread.  And when there's steam from the water in the pan below, it created a crispy crust.  I'm no bread expert, trust me.  This is just what I've found works for me! 

Hope you guys have a great rest of your Monday and see you tomorrow!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Valentine's Day Cheeseburger Pizza

Yes, I know.  It's well past Valentine's Day.  I just couldn't help but share with you guys what I made for Andy on Valentine's Day.

And some of you may turn your nose up to some of the ingredients... well, one in particular - Velveeta.  Yes, I know, it's not real cheese.  But to Andy.  It is real cheese.  In fact, he thinks it's the best cheese.  While we don't obviously share the same opinion regarding this, Valentine's Day is a day of love.  And because I love that man, regardless of his food and cheese preferences, I set my food snobbishness (or well, real sensibility, hehe) aside, and made this heart-shaped pizza for him using one of his favorite things... Velveeta.

Hope you guys have a great weekend, and I promise to post those Nutella cupcakes next week!

Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe

2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 & 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. meatballs, about 10-15 (you can use homemade or frozen - just make sure to defrost them a little if they're frozen), chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated
1/2 cup homemade tomato soup, or sauce (I made a tomato soup recently that had a pizza sauce taste, so I used that)
1/2 onion, sliced
4 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup Velveeta cheese, chopped
1/2 cup pepperjack cheese, shredded

Start by making the crust. In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Add the warm water and oil.  Mix until the dough is smooth.  Add additional flour if dough is still sticky.

Knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes or until dough becomes elastic and smooth.  Cover with a warm damp towel and let rise for about 10-15 minutes.

In a large skillet, cook the chopped meatballs and garlic.  Season with salt and peppper, if desired.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Or if you like a thicker crust, you can always make a smaller circle.  If you want to be cutesy like me, you can make the circle into a heart shape, but it's not necessary.

Roll the edges slightly to form a thicker outer edge.  Poke the dough with a fork. 

Place crust on a greased baking stone or baking sheet.  Bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until crust is slightly browned. 

Sprinkle the crust with the pecorino cheese and top with tomato sauce/soup.  Add meatball/garlic mixture, onion, chopped bacon, and Velveeta and pepperjack. 

Bake the pizza for about 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.  Slice and serve.

Seriously.  This was a 'man' pizza.  Andy said he liked it a lot.  I could give or take on it.  We both agreed that the crust was different and unusual.  Not something you associate a pizza crust with being, but it was pretty tasty.  The toppings, of course, could be alternated to suit your tastes.  This was a winner in Andy's book, and seriously, that's all that mattered to me. =) 

So have a great weekend guys and I'll see you back on Monday!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Smell Is Intoxicating...

Okay.  Seriously.  My house smells awesome right now.  2 words.  Beef Tenderloin.  2 more words.  Roasted Apples.  Weird combination?  Yes, I know.  But I'm convinced it works!

I've been pretty fatigued this week.  It's been stressful at work (once again, people don't like showing up to work, causing double the workload for many of us there).

I'm ready for the weekend, that's for sure.  I'm off tomorrow so it'll be some much needed catching up to do (I've got to build a webpage by Monday morning, so I'll be busy doing that - p.s. I'm loving learning how to use Dreamweaver.  Who knows, after this school project, I may have to redesign the site and self-host... but that's a project for when I have TONS of time on my hands, and right now, that is NOT the case.)

See you guys tomorrow for a pretty tasty recipe!  Happy Thursday night!

Oh!  One more p.s.  Our photographer contacted us yesterday about our engagement picture session.  Two words.  Cake.  Fight.  Intrigued?  So are we!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jap-Chae #2

Happy Wednesday guys!  I can't believe the awesome weather we're having!  It's been in the 60's all week and it's supposed to continue to be that way throughout the rest of the week.  Definitely going to try to get outside sometime this weekend!

I'm pretty excited because I'm getting ready to order my seeds for this year's garden.  I've got a couple new tactics to get rid of some of the "pests" without using anything harmful.  So hopefully we'll have a bigger and more successful bounty than last year!

Alright.  Jap-Chae.  It's a Korean noodle dish, that I find really resembles the Filipino Pancit.  Of course, being Filipino, I'm a little partial to pancit, but Jap-Chae is pretty delicious too.  And hell... it's just fun to say.  This is my second attempt at Jap-Chae (the first you can find here) and I think this was a little bit more successful... and prettier, of course.

Adapted from Tastespotting The Blog's recipe

8 oz. vermicelli rice noodles
2 cups spinach, washed
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
3 scallions, green parts only, sliced
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1/8 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup
soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon sugar
black and white sesame seeds,  optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook rice noodles until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water.  Set noodles aside in a large bowl.

Using same pot as noodles, fill back up with water and bring to a boil.  Toss in spinach and cook for about 30 seconds to a minute.  Drain and squeeze out any liquid.  Place spinach on paper-towel lined bowl to soak up any excess liquid. 

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes.  Add carrots, scallions and mushrooms to pan.  Cook until everything is soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Add cooked spinach, onions, carrots, scallions and mushrooms to the large bowl with the vermicelli noodles.  Drizzle sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, and salt over noodles.  Toss everything in the bowl together with tongs or you can get primal with it and use your hands.

Sprinkle with white and black sesame seeds to garnish.

This was a pretty tasty meal and a better version than my first, that's for sure!  It's perfect because it can be served at room temperature or cold, so leftovers are definitely ideal!  And hey, we didn't even miss the meat!

And by the way, Nutella Cupcakes won last Friday's poll so be on the lookout for those to come up soon!  Enjoy your Wednesday guys!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

He's a Keeper

I've got a pretty busy morning.  2 tests today.  One in Spanish (which I'm sure will be quite a breeze) and the other in Biochem (not such a breeze). 

The only plus is that the one in Biochem is open book/open note.  But that just means it's going to be all the more hard.  No easy peasy question on that one, I'm sure.

So it's going to be a rather short post, I just wanted to share with you my Valentine's Day card from Andy.  He's such a goober, but I love him all the more for it!  (And p.s. he had a job interview for a System Analyst position yesterday morning and by the end of the day got another call for a 2nd interview!  I'm so proud of my little grown up!)

He's just the sweetest, isn't he? =)
Have a great Tuesday guys!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Marketplace Restaurant: Recreated

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I wanted to go out and recreate restaurant meals as well as review them?  I'm a little late on delivering on that, aren't I?

Instead of making excuses, I'm going to get right into it.  I had a lot of fun with this one, and can't wait to do many, many more!

The Review
 Marketplace Restaurant is in downtown Louisville, in Theater Square.  It's a cozy little place that had a fun little jazz band playing on a Friday night.  It wasn't too busy, maybe only 4 or 5 parties in the whole place, but you could tell everyone was having a good time.

The service was very friendly and the server was very informative on many of the dishes.  It was definitely hard to choose, because everything sounded so delicious.

We tend to judge a place by their calamari, so of course, we had to order theirs.  It was a buttermilk fried calamari and it was crispy and delicious.  The calamari itself was perfectly cooked, just the right texture.  The sauce they paired with it was a Sweet Chili-Lime sauce.  While I love sweet chili sauce with calamari, I wasn't too too crazy about the lime, but then again, it was a different twist and I like that.

For our mains, Andy chose to go with a Curry Seared Scallop.  He enjoyed it for the most part, but said that it didn't offer much contrast in the dish as a whole.  After a few bites, it just got boring.  I thought it was a good idea in concept, but execution was just so-so.

I'm still not used to the whole, "taking pictures in restaurants" kind of thing =)
 I chose to go with the Market Fish of the Day, which was a Swordfish steak w/ risotto cakes and braised vegetables with a cherry reduction.  Now this was pretty tasty.  I don't normally like swordfish, but this was great.  Perfectly cooked and the risotto cakes were absolutely delicious.  The dish as a whole was beautiful in presentation and taste.

Of course, we always have to go for dessert.  In this case, it was a brownie with some fresh vanilla bean ice cream.  Sometimes the simple things are just right.  This was a perfect end to the meal.

All in all, I'd say our experience here was great.  Lovely atmosphere, attentive service, and pretty good food!
Theater Square Marketplace on Urbanspoon
And now... what did I recreate?

Well, I decided to do my dish, but instead of hunting around for some swordfish, I would use the bounty of salmon that we had just acquired.

At first, I was hesitant with choosing the salmon, because the Flavor Bible had no record of salmon and cherries going together, and because I trust the Flavor Bible almost more than I trust the actual Bible, I was a little scared.  But I said "to hell with it" and pressed on anyway.  And boy, am I glad I did.

So without further ado... my recreation of The Marketplace Restaurant's Market Fish of the Day (with the use of salmon instead of swordfish)


Risotto Cakes:

salt and pepper, to taste
1 box Risotto mix (yeah, I took a shortcut here - I used a Parmesan/Garlic blend)
2 large eggs
small handful of chives, minced    

3/4 to 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
olive oil

Make risotto according to package directions.  Let cool to room temperature.

Mix risotto with eggs and chives.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover mixture with plastic wrap and let sit in fridge for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 250 F.
Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. 
Form patties out of the cooled risotto mixture. 

Place patties in panko and turn to coat.
Working in batches, add patties to skillet and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned.  Place finished cakes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Serve hot.

Cherry Reduction:
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 & 1/2 cups frozen cherries
1 tablespoon honey
salt, to taste
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add shallot and saute for about 2-3 minutes, or until starting to soften.  Season with a pinch of salt and sugar.

Add cherries, wine, and honey.  Simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is thickened.
Whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter until incorporated.  Set sauce aside, until needed.

Sauteed Zucchini & Spinach

1 large zucchini, sliced
1 cup spinach
salt and pepper
splash or two of balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
squeeze of half a lemon

Heat a large skillet until medium high heat.  Add olive oil.  
Once oil is shimmering, add zucchini and saute for about 2-3 minutes.  Then add spinach and cook until just wilted.  
Season with salt and pepper.  Add a splash of balsamic, if you'd like.  Finish off by squeezing some fresh lemon juice on top.


2 6 oz. salmon fillets
salt and pepper, to taste

Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet under medium high heat and add salmon, skin side down.  Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Flip over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until opaque throughout.
Phew.  That was one long winded post.  What's my verdict?  Well, there were pros and cons to both dishes, mine and the actual restaurant's.  
I definitely now believe I can add the pairing of salmon and cherries in my Flavor Bible notes.  I loved the salmon a tad bit more than the swordfish.  However, my little addition of the balsamic to my veggies, it sort of overpowered or "felt out of place" in the whole composition of the dish.  I would have been great as a side all by itself, but along with the salmon and cakes, it just didn't quite "fit".  

I definitely feel that if your looking for a restaurant quality meal (I know it's sort of late to do it for Valentine's Day), this would be it.  Who knows... maybe it'll be on my restaurant menu one day? =) 

Hope you all have a great rest of your day, and I promise tomorrow's post will be much much shorter!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarts

TGIF!  You know how excited Fridays make me.  I've just 8 hours of work to get through and then the weekend is mine to conquer!

And you didn't think I'd leave you empty-handed for Valentine's Day did you?  Andy received these a week early, so he's been slowly munching on them.  They've made him a very happy camper, let me tell you.  He even almost threatened me, as I was taking a few of them to work!  But I had to explain to him that I am the boss, especially since I made them.  So I can choose who receives them!  Hehe.  He straightened up after that. =)

So browsing the internet last weekend, I came across Mary's, over at One Perfect Bite, recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte.  My mouth was drooling and I was faced with the decision of whether to make a large torte, like Mary's, or make miniature versions to share (and of course portion control!).  It was obvious, I needed to miniaturize this beauty, and that's exactly what I did!

So whether you make these for your Valentine, yourself, or just the random guy/gal walking his/her dog down the street.  I urge you.  Make them.  They will instantly brighten your mood, and are definitely not Valentine's Day specific.  Chocolate and Peanut Butter are a combination deemed fitting for any day of the year!

Oh, and don't forget this week's poll at the bottom!

Adapted from One Perfect Bite's Recipe

For Crust:

1-2 packages chocolate graham crackers (about 10-15)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
pinch of salt

For Filling:
1 & 1/4 cups unsalted peanuts, divided
1/4 cup peanut butter chips, chopped
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 cups heavy cream
1 & 1/4 cups powdered sugar
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 & 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk

For Topping:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Start by making your crust.  Preheat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Add chocolate graham crackers to bowl of food processor and pulse until finely ground.  In a small bowl, combine graham crackers, melted butter, and salt.  Mix until the crumbs stick together nicely.

Press mixture into a thin layer covering bottom and sides of cupcake liners.  Freeze crust for 10 minutes.

Bake for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling.

For the filling,  place 1/2 cup of peanuts, peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse until peanuts and chips are in little pieces.  Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whip 2 cups of heavy cream until it holds medium peaks. Slowly add 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and whip until cream holds medium-firm peaks.  Transfer whipped cream to fridge until needed.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar until cream cheese is smooth.  Add in peanut butter, whole milk, and 1/4 cup of chopped peanuts and mix until well combined.

Gently fold in about 1/4 of whipped cream to lighten the mixture.  Stir in chocolate chip & peanut mixture.  Then slowly fold in remaining whipped cream.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full of filling.  Refrigerate for about 3 hours, or until filling is set.

For chocolate ganache topping, carefully melt remaining chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl in 30 second intervals.  When chocolate is melted, pour in heavy cream, and mix until combined with chocolate.

Pour chocolate over each mini tart and smoothing with a spoon, if desired.  Chop remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts and scatter over top of tarts. Chill for at least 20 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Then try to resist these.  It's damn nearly impossible.  Well... in our household anyway.  Hope you guys have a great weekend, with whatever you do!

So what should I make Andy for Valentine's Day this weekend?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Bucket List...

It's been a long week, and I'm looking forward to the weekend!  I just have to get through one more day of work and I'm free!

It's going to be a bittersweet weekend.  My friend Matt, got a job in Alabama and is moving away.  His going away party is Saturday.  I've known Matt since high school.  Well, I've known most of my close friends since high school actually.  It's funny, they say that you grow apart once you hit college, but after almost 8 years of having graduated, we're all still pretty close.  It's going to be hard to say good-bye, but I know it's not good-bye for good.  It's just a sign that all of us are truly growing up, and starting our own lives, on our own paths.

So I've been thinking of things that I want to do with my life.  Things that I want to do before it's all said and done.  And so I've compiled a little bucket list of 10 things (not necessarily in any order) I want to do in life:

- Own my own catering business
- Travel to Europe
- Have a family
- Visit all 50 states
- Eat at a Michelin star restaurant
- Graduate from culinary school
- Grow a full fledged garden
- Write a book (don't necessarily know about what, but hey, it could happen)
- Visit the Philippines
- Have a full stocked kitchen (like seriously... with every gadget known to man)

Of course, some things are easier to obtain than others, but it's always great to have goals. Something to strive for, you know?

What about you guys?  What's on your 'bucket list'?

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the dessert poll!  I've got an interesting one lined up!  Have a great rest of your Thursday, and we're just hours away from Friday!  And that just means we're that much closer to the ever-sought-after weekend!


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