Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

This isn’t the first time I have made risotto, but it didn’t turn out nearly as good as this recipe did.  I knew the basic idea of it, slowly boil rice with stock until creamy and tender.  This needed to be quite savory since it was going to be as a main and not a side dish.  Big slices of mushroom, thick chunks of chicken, and creamy rice.  An ideal meal to welcome fall.  This recipe makes a perfect portion for a main dish for two, and is easily doubled for a family size meal.   It is my new favorite dinner, well for the next few weeks until I try some other combination or a new dish.  Don’t be afraid of risotto, I have a few tips to come out with perfect risotto without broken rice bits or it turning glugie and like oatmeal rather than a lovely creamy rice dish.  Once you get comfortable with the basic risotto you can add in anything you want in any combination you would like, it’s open to many possibilities.

The fundamental of risotto is simple.  Slowly cook the rice by adding a little bit of liquid at a time turning it into creamy happiness.  With the use of a second pan you save time by cooking the mushrooms and chicken with spices.  The amount of stock used in the rice will vary so in the recipe I give a range of cups to use.  I used two kinds of cheese, romano and parmesan.  I felt that the parmesan makes it too salty and the romano just perfectly balances it out, being a slightly milder hard cheese.  A great thing about this dish is it comes together in under 30 minutes.  You can have a hearty meal in no time, which is what most of us need.  You’re often tired by the time you get off work, you’ve battled traffic, and when you finally get home you don’t want to invest too much time in dinner. Want to spend that time in more productive ways, like making dessert?

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Banana Nut Loaf

Everyone has a banana bread recipe that they swear is ‘the best ever’ and it might be true.  However, I have yet to find one as good as this.  It’s simple, moist, tender, and very flavorful.  Until a few years ago I had no idea you could freeze bananas.  I know that sounds weird but once they went over ripe I used to throw them away.  One time my husband stopped me and was shocked at what I was doing.  He explained to me that you use frozen over-ripe bananas to make bread.  I looked at him like he was speaking another language.  Then thanks to the power of Google, I was shocked – he was right!

I had enough to make the bread and I was just ecstatic at how good it was. Really the best result was as simple was freezing the blackened over ripe bananas for future use.  Just add your rapidly-darkening extra bananas to the “banana shelf” in your freezer until you have enough to make a loaf of bread.  As the fruit defrosts, the water crystals that formed during the freeze break down the flesh into a syrupy mush.  You will notice the now defrosted fruit won’t hold its shape but if you snip off one tip you can squeeze it out like toothpaste. It is the ideal texture for the bread and has an intense banana flavor.  It’s so simple!  I really cannot believe it took so long for me to know this.

Now that the cold weather is upon us and I can turn on the oven without getting heat stroke, I had to make some.  It freezes very well and defrosts quickly.  I usually make up a batch and freeze the slices individually or as mini-loafs.  Then as we head out the door to work we grab a slice and by time I get to work to settle in with my coffee it’s defrosted and delicious.  This also saves me tons of money because I don’t have to buy it at Starbucks to go with my coffee.  They own enough of my soul already with their soy vanilla latte’s.  This is one of our regular favorites and easily adapts to a loaf, mini loaves, muffins, so have fun and enjoy!

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Polvorónes

Until recently I had no idea what a snickerdoodle was.  Thanks to the power of Google I found a recipe that had a high rating, and over 1,000 reviews of it on a site that had ‘all’ kinds of ‘recipes’.  I figured why not give it a try, and honestly I have never been more disappointed by a cookie in my life.  It was just so basic, it had no depth and the flavors were bland bland bland. To me it had no reason to have that many positive reviews.  I was determined to make it better.

I started thinking back to when my family would take road trips in the summer. During our trip we would always stop at this restaurant in Yakima, WA that had the best barbacoa tacos and these cookies!  Oh man these cookies were amazing!  We would get like a dozen of these heart-shaped cookies with a fine cinnamon and sugar-coating.  It was the texture that really made them stand out to me.   It is so rich and crumbly, yet very delicate.  It wasn’t really overly sweet and had a nutty flavor that still stands out to me.

It took a bit of research and trial and error.  Ok, mostly it was me swearing while I threw batches in the trash, but I finally had the perfect cookie!  When the winning batch came out of the oven I was so excited to share them with everyone, but mostly my husband who never had one.   He had only had snickerdoodles which I vow to never make those horrible little disks of fake flavor again.

It only took one bite of this cookie to take me right back to the long car trips to Colorado.  Me and my brother fighting over  who’s on who’s side while my mom drove and grandma sat in the passenger seat doing cross-word puzzles.  It made me happy and sad all at the same time, and made me realize that I miss my family.   I am going to keep these cookies as a tradition when I get a family to make and take on road trips, and when I finally get back out to Seattle, I am going to make these for my mom and brother.

Since I have gotten so used to doing all my recipes in metric now, I love it.   It makes them so much more consistent each time you make them, but also very easy to remember.  This cookie recipe I made to be very simple and easily halved or doubled easily.  I added both imperial and metric in the recipe.  That way you can decide which way to go, since it is just very minor differences that really are off by just grams.  I also of course used a heart shape cookie cutter because that is the shape they were when we would by them so that is more for nostalgia then anything.  You can use any cookie cutter you want, but the cookie should still be fairly thick.

I wish I could express to you how happy these cookies make me.  Because of the memories it brings with each flavorful bite, but how just great the recipe turned out.  If you like snickerdoodles, or just the flavor combination of cinnamon and sugar, make these.  Make them, make them right away.  They are better than any snickerdoodle you have ever had in your life, and you will never go back to your old recipe. Enjoy!

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Dark Chocolate Sauce

I know you are thinking, “What!? Ice cream without a machine? You woman, are insane!” Ok so you’re not thinking that exactly but I am nothing if not eccentric and quirky. So, however true that may be, I might add that I have quite an affection for vanilla bean ice cream, and even though most of the store bought varieties are made with dried flavorless seeds that have had the flavor sucked out and are there for mostly looks.  I love to see the speckles of vanilla goodness.

If you have followed me for even just a bit or looked back at my posts, I have a chocolate ice cream that doesn’t require a machine.  Our tiny apartment has a kitchen the size of cubicle, i just cannot afford the space for an item that would get only seasonal use.   I found a chocolate no ice cream maker ice cream, and made it into a mocha and rocky road, now modified into vanilla ice cream happiness.

Originally I had bought ice cream to go with my tart tatin.  I picked up a brand that claimed to have only 5 ingredients.  Of course a first trial of a mini tarte tatin with the ice cream was good but really it tasted like iced milk with a cheap extract.  I was not happy with it at all and however good and just delicious that tarte was, the ice cream ruined it.  I was not going to be happy until I had it perfect – another fun little quirk about me, I can be a little pedantic.

So with my ever quick wit and ever-growing desire to do things my way, I took that recipe and made it into vanilla bean dream ice cream!  By infusing the beans of the two pods with the extract, it made such an intense vanilla flavor that is hands down the best damn vanilla ice cream I have had.   So here ya go, 4 ingredients to awesome vanilla ice cream (no machine required!) I have ever had.

Also, my home-made chocolate sauce!  Super easy just takes 10 minutes and lasts for 2-4 weeks sealed and refrigerated.

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MN State Fair and other thoughts

It is that time of year, when the thought of anything on a stick under the scorching hot sun at the state fair makes mid-westerners salivate.  The Minnesota State Fair is the 3rd largest in the US, and the first state fair I have attended.   My first visit was 7 or 8 years ago.  My previous experience to these had only been the small county fair in my hometown.  This was insane, the MN fair averages around 100,000 – 200,000 a day and over a million over the 12 day period it is open.  This year with so much of my focus on food and cooking, I was very determined to go this year.  Not only because it has been 2 years since our last visit, but because I wanted to try some of the new and old favorites.

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Apple Tarte Tatin

Fall is approaching, and I am craving that cool crisp weather and the colors.  I love Minnesota in the fall, and at the right time of day as the leaves are falling you can drive or walk down my street in uptown with all the houses, trees, and cars and it’s like a scene from a picture. Makes me love Minnesota every time, and so glad I moved here. In hopes and anticipation of fall, I made a small tarte tatin and served it with vanilla bean ice cream.

The concept of this tarte is very, very simple. It’s sugar, apples, and pie dough or puff pastry. Delicious and simple, and it’s easy to scale down or up depending on pan size. I used a 6″ frying pan that is rated for up to 500°F for oven use, two apples, and a half sheet of puffy pastry. Adding more flavor dimensions by adding a bit of lemon juice and zest and of vanilla and cinnamon. It is as I like, a quick, tasty dessert that includes little ingredients, but tastes like it took hours. The nice thing with this tarte is that you can make it ahead and let it cool, the flavors will meld together and be amazing, then reheat for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate to serve. As with any apple dessert, vanilla bean ice cream is the ideal accompaniment.

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Quick Chocolate Mousse

Both of us were having a massive chocolate craving, so I glanced around in my fridge and freezer to see what I had.  I peaked my head out of the kitchen and shouted “mystery box challenge!”  Yeah, that was a Masterchef Australia reference.    I’m a big dork, but at least I acknowledge it and don’t even try to hide it, it’s what makes me awesome!   This was just one of those dishes that I was in almost shock of when it was completed.  Mostly because it really tasted just that amazing.  It took longer for me to figure out what to do almost giving up before I knew exactly what to make.

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