Monday, January 25, 2010

Returning from a long Hiatus

I can't believe how long it has been since I have posted at all, let alone with any regularity. I place most of the blame on moving right before Thanksgiving. Hosting that holiday and a Christmas party, and then traveling to visit J's family in Jersey for New Years Week didn't help.

The rest of the blame falls on me. While I have been cooking here and there, certainly very little of it has been creative, my camera too hard to find and my belly too hungry to take the time to take pictures or write notes that are blog worthy. I'm a bit exhausted. I've been over indulging and not exercising enough (if you think I've been slacking on blogging, you should see the dust that has formed on my sneakers!). I've gained some weight and am feeling a bit stretched in every direction.

I'm coming back with a renewed focus on health and hopefully some creativity. I'm hoping to post more recipes that I can consider healthy. I've been running with the "enjoyment" of food more than anything else since I've started blogging and while it's been fun, I'm normally a very healthy eater. Time to get back there again (at least 3/4ths of the time!). Hope to have some new stuff up very soon and I hope everyone is doing well!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm throwing a smallish Holiday party in a couple of weeks and trying to plan a menu. I 've committed to feeding everyone but I haven't figured out what I will feed them yet. Should I do just appetizers? There's an endless amount of hot and cold tapas out there. Or should I try to pull off a full meal? It won't be a sit down-style meal since there will be between 12-20 people and I'm just not that talented yet!

I don't own crockpots or chafing dishes so keeping things warm for long periods of time is an issue (not that I couldn't borrow some from someone, but I'm trying to keep things as simple as possible). If I do a full meal, I'm thinking soup, salad and some sort of baked pasta. Easy, but is that too boring? On one hand, I'd like to do something fancier, but on the other, let's face it, I moved just over two weeks ago, (and already hosted a holiday dinner) so trying to pull off somethng fancy when there are still boxes to unpack and furniture to arrange is just asking for a stressful night. I'd like to do something that impresses guests but looks more complicated than it is. I need ideas. Give me some. Please?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey there & Happy Turkey Day (almost)! I'm wiped out. In the last two nights I've made, pumpkin pie, cheesecake, savoy cabbage gratin, pecan and dried cherry stuffing with sage, tomato and goat cheese tarts with basil AND cooked dinner AND unpacked a few boxes. I moved in just 12 days ago and I'm already hosting a holiday. haha. I'm obviously insane.

We're settling in to the house and enjoying it immensely! Everyday I come home from work I find something else that I'm happy to now have. It's my first time having a garage (no more wiping and scraping snow off my car), I have a stove with more than 1 large burner and all of them work, I have a walk-in closet to hang everything J and I own, and I've got beautiful views to look at from every window. Life is good and the new home is just one of many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving!

I promise to get posting again regularly very soon, but for now, I'll leave you with pictures of the cheesecake I made tonight!

All text and photographs (except where noted otherwise) © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yay! We're closing on the house! Finally!


If you've been a reader of mine, you know that J and I have been trying to buy a house for a while and we've been lusting after one house in particular, but closing on the house seemed like it was never going to happen! I'm happy to say that the sellers have finally got everything they need in place to close the sale and we're closing this Thursday afternoon! Yay!!

I'm crazy excited but I have a lot to do between now and then. J and I spent all weekend packing because we halted our efforts there a while ago. Now we rush to move because I'd like to be settled in for Thanksgiving! We'll be moving at the end of the week and this weekend and I know I won't get a chance to blog for a bit so hang in there and I'll be back!!

I'll leave you with a few pictures of the new place!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!



Happy Halloween!! No parties for me this year, we got word on Tuesday of this week that our sellers (of the house we've been trying to buy for months!) had their short sale approved by the bank (YAY!!!!!) so J and I decided to be low key and stay home so we could get some things done now that we know we'll be moving for sure in a few weeks! Looks like we'll close the week of the 9th, and hopefully be all settled in by Thanksgiving!

I spent the day carving pumpkins, (albeit badly!), and baking these delicious Ham and Cheddar Pretzel bites with Jalepeno Mustard, courtesy of Gourmet magazine's spread on Chef Edward Lee (from the October issue). A little time consuming, as pretzels are, and mine are nowhere as pretty as the ones pictured in the magazine are, but they were delicious and I plan to make them again! The recipe calls for "Country Ham" which is a southern thing, and I'm nowhere near the south and could not find any or anyone who knew what that was at the grocery store, so I picked up a hamsteak and diced part of that up for the recipe. The bonus is that J can have some ham with his eggs and bagel in the morning.

We got a lot of Trick or Treaters this year, all the little kids come early in the night, and then the last half hour are all teenagers. It's pretty funny!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Apple Bread with Cinnamon & Walnuts

Another fall favorite! The quick bread.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe. It seems to be one of those things that just ended up in my recipe collection years ago and I can't call it my own but I make it often enough that I no longer need to look at the recipe card (which for me is RARE! ha!).

I love this because it's easy, I usually have all the ingredients on hand and like most quick bread recipes, you bake it in two loaf pans so you can eat one now and freeze one for later! It's great for breakfast or dessert and everyone that I've made it for has loved it. Bonus. I like to sneak whole wheat flour into the bread (50/50 all purpose and whole wheat). It comes out a little heavier and doesn't rise as much as using all white flour but it makes me feel a little less bad about eating it!

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups diced apples
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional of course!)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease two loaf pans. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Next, beat the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in apples and walnuts (if using) and stir together gently. Pour evenly into the two loaf pans and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes (or until toothpick inserted comes out clean). Let cool before removing from loaf pans.

Slice and enjoy for dessert (it's great with ice cream or a rum glaze), breakfast or a snack!
All text and photographs (except where noted otherwise) © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley
Apple Bread on Foodista

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Riding the Waves at Surf

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


A few weekends ago, I went to the birthday dinner of a friend at Surf in Nashua, NH. Been wanting to eat there for a long time but just seemed to always end up somewhere else. J and I were the first ones to arrive for our reservation and the first thing I noticed was how much larger the restaurant appeared to be compared to the days of the Paradox restaurant (I spent way too much there in my early 20's). While the room was the same shape and size, the lighting really opened up the space. I wasn't a fan of the color, a very light mint green, or the general decor but it wasn't unpleasant.

I ordered a glass of the Paso A Paso Tempranillo while we waited for our friends to arrive and J had Hennessey on the rocks. The Tempranillo was a rich shade of plum but had a little too much acidic bite for my taste. I knew after just a couple sips that it wasn't going to get better and I would not be ordering another glass. A friend was drinking a cabernet our waiter had recommended and after trying his, I switched over to the same and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, I forgot to ask the name of it so now I have no idea what I was drinking! But it was good. haha.

When our whole party arrived, they brought out baskets of fresh bread, cinnamon, cranberry and a plain french style bread. Yummy. Can't go wrong with fresh bread and even though I'm not big on sweets with my meal, I can appreciate offering different varieties to diners. It's a nice touch.

My friends order the raw sampler and offered everyone some. I tried the ceviche which was served on a tortilla chip. The ceviche was very nice, tangy and sweet but I think a crostini or pita toast may have been a better vehicle for delivery.

The menu had a lot of mouthwatering options. I had a really difficult time deciding what to order and asked our waiter, Rob, if I could order last after he had come back several times and everyone else was ready but me. I finally decided on the Surf salad, mixed greens w/ onions, bell peppers and a tamari ginger vinaigrette, and a half portion of the Surf and Turf which consisted of a tenderloin fillet, chive mashed potatoes topped with a crab cake and a drizzle of bearnaise sauce and served over grilled asparagus. Being blessed (or cursed, depending on your view) with a healthy appetite, I was worried that a half portion would not be enough food and I would be ravenous for the rest of the evening. But, my fears were allayed when the meal came out because it was clearly enough food. So much, that I was still eating once everyone elses' plates were cleared away (might be because I'm a talker but I like to think it was from the generous portion). I can only imagine how large the regular portion is!

The salad was just a basic house salad with mixed greens but the dressing was very good. Sweet and tangy without being too acidic. The fillet was a perfect med-rare, with a very red center (the way I like it!), and super tender. The mashed potatoes were creamy and light and the crab cake and bearnaise were divine. I would have been happy eating nothing more than crab cakes. The asparagus were cut in half lengthwise, which added an interesting texture to the grilling. The whole meal was scrumptious. I felt a little silly ordering steak as my main course in a seafood restaurant but I'm not disappointed that I did.

Our waiter, Rob was very attentive for the most part and pleasant. He knew the menu well. I could have had my water glass refilled a couple of times but I'm a water gulper so that may just be me. For dessert we decided to order to desserts to share for the group since everyone was stuffed but wanted a taste. We had the Key lime torte and a chocolate creme brule. I thought the key lime torte was a little too cream cheesy and didn't have enough lime but the rest of our group really enjoyed it. I preferred the chocolate creme brule. The crust was a little over cooked, giving it a burnt caramel flavor. It wasn't bad but they should watch the blowtorch a little. The chocolate creme was less chocolaty and more caramel-y which was delicious and buttery and I would eat again, however it should be renamed Caramel creme brule.

Surf didn't blow me away. The decor needs some work, the desserts half did their job but the food was very good and I look forward to going back to try some more seafood options next time!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sausage and Butternut Squash Lasagna


This Lasagna was the result of looking in the fridge and freezer and trying to figure out what I could make for dinner with the ingredients I had. There are a lot of flavors here: squash, pesto, sausage, eggplant, sage, parmesan. It's not for the faint palated or unadventurous eater.

While it's not perfect and I may do some tweaking on it down the road (I'm not sure how I feel about the eggplant in it yet!), it was yummy, comforting and something different for dinner. True lasagna fans will probably want to use more cheese. I felt that since my sauce was creamy, I didn't really need much of it. Here I used frozen butternut squash despite it being in season fresh where I live but that's only because I needed to use it before it got freezer burn! Fresh butternut squash would be absolutely delicious here. I would boil it or roast it in small pieces if I substituted it for the frozen.

Ingredients

9 Lasagna noodles, cooked
1 bag of frozen butternut squash, defrosted
1 lb hot italian style chicken sausage, casings removed
1 large vidalia onion, diced
2 lrg garlic cloves
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
6 tablespoons homemade pesto (or a store bought pesto that you really like)
1 1/4 cups milk, heated in the microwave for 1 minute
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2.5 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 medium sized eggplant, sliced 3/4 in thick (6-8 slices
kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 4qt sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan when hot and cook onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Remove onion and garlic and add sausage to pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you cook. When sausage is cooked, add onion and garlic back to pan and stir in defrosted butternut squash, sage and kosher salt and pepper. Stir and cook until blended. Stir in 2 tablespoons of pesto. Set aside.

Next, melt butter in a saucepan and then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly until the flour and butter are well mixed and begin to brown (about 5 minutes). Slowly pour in the warm milk and bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken. Add 3 tablespoons of the pesto and 1/2 the parmesan cheese and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While you are making the sauce, lay eggplant slices on a cookie sheet that has been covered with foil and baste on both sides with 1 tablespoon pesto mixed with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place in oven and cook for 13-15 minutes or until tender. Lower the oven heat to 375.In a rectangular baking dish (9x13 or so), layer the lasagna, starting with a tiny bit of the sausage squash concoction, then noodles, then 1/3 of the pesto cream sauce, then all the eggplant slices (cut in half if they are large), then more noodles, sausage squash mixture, 1/3 of the pesto cream sauce, noodles, last of the sausage squash, last of the pesto cream sauce and then top with 1/4 cup of grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then turn on the broiler. Broil until the cheese is browned (2-3 minutes). Let set for 10 minutes before slicing.All text and photographs (except where noted otherwise) © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley
Butternut Squash Ravioli With Wild Mushrooms on Foodista

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apple Crisp (Mom's recipe!)

It's fall. And I apologize once again for being so quiet! Things have been busy and while I have been cooking and baking plenty, I haven't found the time to post anything. J and I still haven't closed on the house. It's a long story, but the short version is that our sellers are working on getting approval for a short sale and that is taking some time. Trying to be patient and not get too bummed about it but it is what it is and I can't do anything to speed up the process. Just keeping my fingers crossed that their short sale is approved and everything goes as planned. Anyhow, back to food!

The air has definitely gotten cooler, the leaves have changed and are falling off the trees, and I'm reaching for a sweatshirt or fleece every night. That means it's time to bake lots of stuff with apple or pumpkin in it! Went apple picking with J a few weekends ago so first up: Apple Crisp!

This is my Mom's recipe. It's super easy and one of the things I like about it is that it doesn't contain oats! Nothing against oats for breakfast or in an oatmeal cookie but I personally don't think they belong in apple crisp. At least in not in mine!

Ingredients

5-6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I use Cortland for baking)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the sliced apples in a rectangular baking dish (9x12 or 9x13), piled high (cut more apples if you need to). Mix the white sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon together in a small bowl and then sprinkle on top of the apples and mix with your hands to coat. I love spice so I use a little more cinnamon and nutmeg than the recipe calls so add whatever amount suits your taste.
Next put the flour, brown sugar and butter in a bowl. Using two forks, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with flour and sugar until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Distribute on top of the apples and pat down. Bake for 30 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is browned.Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Happiness!All text and photographs (except where noted otherwise) © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley
Apple Crisp on Foodista

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sad News: Gourmet will be No More

Ran across this article this morning. And then this one. Looks like Conde' Nast is shutting Gourmet magazine down (along with a few others) for economic reasons. Sad.

If you've never held a copy of the magazine in your hands, you're really missing out! Beautiful pictures, restaurant recommendations, recipes that were tested to perfection and articles on everything from food to politics and fashion. It's sad. I'd much rather they close down Glamour & Lucky, magazines that try to dumb down women! But that's just my opinion!