Avocado Toasts with Roasted Tomatoes and Hummus

Avocado Toasts with Roasted Tomatoes and Hummus

Serves: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

6-8 slices bread, cut into squares or circles and toasted
3-4 plum tomatoes, cut in half and seeded
3 avocados, pitted and mashed
1 small container regular hummus
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Preparation:

1. To prepare tomatoes, spread on baking sheet, open side up. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to caramelize.

2. Spread a thin layer of hummus on toasts, add avocado and top with a tomato.

Recipe adapted from Eat, Live, Run.

I planned on making these for a picnic pot luck for school but since I had to buy $600 worth of food at Costco that day for the picnic and make sure everything was prepped, I didn’t have time. So I made them this weekend instead. I was very intrigued by the roasted tomatoes and they ended up being delicious! The toasts were great. The creaminess of the avocado and hummus were a nice contrast to the bite and sourness of the tomatoes. The ones I made were a little big as finger foods and needed either a big hand or a fork, but I used them as a side anyway. I made all the tomatoes I had and therefore had a lot left over so I mixed them with chicken that I marinated in balsamic. Very tasty and great for a party! Don’t forget to check out How to Treat Your Avocados with Respect to make sure you know what to do with the avocados.

Taco!

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Potato Soup with Bacon

Potato Soup with Bacon

Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

5-6 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 slices bacon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (14 oz) can chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Sharp cheddar for topping, shredded

Preparation:

1. Place chopped potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water, salt and boil until potatoes break apart easily when stuck with a fork. Drain and set aside.

2. In the same pan, cook bacon until crisp. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.

3. Drain bacon fat, leaving about 3 tbs of fat in the pot. Cook onions and garlic in pot until translucent. Add wine, making sure to stir to get the bits off the bottom of the pot. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

4. Remove pot from heat. Add potatoes and mash. Add stock and cream and stir. If it’s not soupy enough, add more cream or water. Season with pepper and red pepper flakes (if desired). Return to heat until heated through. Chop/crumble bacon. Serve soup in bowls with cheese and bacon on top.

Recipe is an original.

I ended up with a very large bag of potatoes in my kitchen and my first thought was to make soup! Potato soup was always one of my favorite things my mom would make growing up and I wanted to try to make my own. This was an experiment that turned out well. I just added stuff as I went along and it worked! The soup was nice and rich and still tasted like potatoes. This would also be good with sour cream, scallions and all kinds of things as a topping. My mom also told me her technique for making this, which I will try next time. She boils the onions with the potatoes and makes sure the potatoes are barely covered with water. Then she uses the water instead of stock and doesn’t have to drain the potatoes. She said to keep checking on the water level to make sure the potatoes don’t burn. I will definitely try this the next time I make soup, which may be soon since I have so many potatoes! I am very proud of this recipe and I definitely recommend giving it a try!

Taco!

Curry Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 cups chicken stock
2 Macintosh apples
1 yellow onion
3/4 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

For Topping:

Scallions, white and green parts chopped
Cashews, chopped
Toasted sweetened coconut
Bananas, diced

Preparation:

1. Coat inside of squash, apples and onions in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. On a cookie sheet lined with foil, place squash inside facing down and scatter apples and onions around. Roast for 40 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Scoop out insides of squash.

2. Heat chicken stock in a pot. Add vegetables to stock. Use immersion blender until smooth.

3. Add curry, salt, pepper and cinnamon and stir. Heat through. Serve hot with toppings.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten at FoodNetwork.com

I decided to buy a butternut squash a few days ago and see what I could do with it. Adam’s mom told me about roasting them and using them in soup so I did some research and found Ina Garten’s recipe online. It. Is. Amazing. The soup was the perfect consistency and so easy to do with the immersion blender. The flavors were excellent. The onion and curry gave a nice spice while the apples and squash and cinnamon gave it a good sweet flavors. The toppings were an excellent idea. I was thinking of ignoring them but when I read the reviews of the recipe I knew I needed to try them. The reviewers were right. The onions give flavor and crunch, along with the cashews. The coconut adds a little more sweet and the banana gives a smooth texture and a taste that goes well with curry. Overall this was an excellent dish that I will certainly be making again. Especially because it gives a good serving of vegetables in a tasty way! Keep in mind that butternut squash are ridiculously difficult to cut. But it’s worth it. You can also peel and slice the squash and roast them along with the apples and onions. I found just slicing them in half and scooping out the insides to be pretty easy. Definitely give this one a try!

Taco!

PS: I’m now using Instagram and tend to post pictures of my food in process. Feel free to follow me at srice22.

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It’s My Birthday and I’ll Cook If I Want To

That’s right. It’s my birthday and so I have to cook up a storm and have people over. Then, of course, go to the midnight showing of The Hunger Games. I decided to make an appetizer spread and have my guests bring the drinks. Here’s the menu:

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Garlic Basil Aioli
Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Herbs and Goat Cheese
Homemade Pico de Gallo with chips

There are several recipes involved here so I’ll give them to you individually as well as let you know what I did in advance, etc. Here we go. It’s party time!

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip with Garlic Butter Crostini

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Serves: 10-12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 (10 0z) package frozen spinach (make sure it’s not in sauce), thawed
2 (14 oz) cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped in food processor
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup parmesan, grated

Preparation:

1. Grease a casserole dish (recommend a 2 oz dish). Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Pour ingredients in casserole dish and top with extra cheese.

2. Bake on 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

3. Serve with crostinis. To make crostinis, combine 1 stick butter and 4 garlic cloves in a food processor. Cut a french loaf into slices on an angle. Spread garlic butter on crostinis and bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Allow to cool. Crostini’s can be made in advance.

Recipe from Paula Deen at FoodNetwork.com.

Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Garlic Basil Aioli

Meatballs with BBQ Sauce and Garlic Basil Aioli

Serves: Makes 40 meatballs
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: About 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Meatballs

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 eggs
2 cups chicken stock
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

BBQ Sauce

1 cup catsup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tbs light brown sugar
2 1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 tbs pepper
1/4 tbs garlic powder
1/4 tbs ground mustard
1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

Basil Garlic Aioli

2/3 cup mayonaise
4 garlic cloves, chopped
5-6 basil leaves, chopped
3 tbs olive oil
Salt

Preparation:

1. Make BBQ Sauce and aioli in advance. To make BBQ Sauce, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour or until thickened. To make aioli, combine ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse. While machine is running, slowly add olive oil.

2. To make meatballs, brown onions and add garlic. Remove from heat once browned and allow to cool.

3. Combine ingredient except chicken stock in a bowl. Mix together with your hands. Heat olive oil and make a tester patty. When tester patty is tasty, make balls (or patties) and cook in batches.

3. Brown meatballs on all sides. Then add a splash (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) chicken stock and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

4. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Meatball recipe adapted from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star, BBQ Sauce from the Neely’s at FoodNetwork.com and Garlic Basil Aioli from Bobby Flay at FoodNetwork.com.

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Homemade Pico de Gallo

Serves: 10-12
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0!

Ingredients:

3 large beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Salt to taste

Preparation:

1. Combine all ingredients and mix. Refrigerate for about an hour or more before serving. Serve chilled with tortilla chips.

Recipe is an original.

The important part of this recipe is to remember to make the salsa and onion in big chunks. At least, that’s the way I like it. Nothing beats fresh pico de gallo.

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs

See my previous post for the recipe on these. They are divine!

It was a fantastic party and the food turned out well. It was definitely a lot to make and it took all day but it was worth it. The Bacon Wrapped Dates get better every time I make them and I find they do not take long at all and they need a good stuffing of goat cheese to make sure it all doesn’t melt out. The Spinach Artichoke Dip is a dish I’ve been making for years and it is always a crowd pleaser, plus it is so incredibly easy. The meatballs turned out pretty well. I found it was much easier to cook them as patties and I ended up doing that because I was running out of time. They were very moist and it seems essential to use fresh rosemary. That made all the difference. And of course there’s the Pico de Gallo. That’s another dish I’ve been making forever and it is always delicious and simple. It was a great party and a great birthday!

Sous Chef

Good evening everyone. I would like to introduce you to my Sous Chef, Rory.

Rory the Sous Chef

Her talents include sitting on stuff and stealing food. Her favorite food is bacon.

Bacon Wrapped Dates with Herb Goat Cheese

Bacon Wrapped Date with Herb Goat Cheese

Serves 10

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5-10 minutes

Ingredients:

12 dates (recommend Medjool)

4-5 tbs goat cheese

1 tbs fresh basil, chopped (about three leaves)

1/2 tbs dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)

6 slices bacon

Pepper

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Williamsburg, Va: A Food Tour

Williamsburg, Va., is one of my favorite places to be. It is beautiful, full of history and has a lot of great food. For our one year anniversary Adam and I decided to take a trip to Williamsburg and enjoy a relaxing non-weekend (it was Tuesday).

Chorizo Pumpkin Pasta (front) and Smoked Chicken Cassoulet

Where: Second St. (400 2nd St.)

What: Appetizer, Dinner and Wine

Number of People: 2

Total Cost: $98

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Our first food stop was dinner at Second St.: An American Bistro. I had asked around on Facebook and received some great recommendations for places to try. Second St. seemed like a good fit and it was only a five minute walk from where we were staying. They don’t take reservations so I just called 30 minutes ahead. We had a great experience there. The atmosphere is charming and romantic, the service was great and the food was delicious. They had a fantastic decorating idea of serving our water in old wine bottles with the labels removed. Definitely a good use of bottles and it looked very chic.

We ordered a bottle of Act 12 of 1619, ’09, ($31). It was a Chardonnay that was nice and smooth and nutty. For an appetizer we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes ($7.90). They were buttermilk and panko coated with red onion marmalade and dill aioli. The tomatoes were perfectly fried and the marmalade was fascinating. At first I thought they were sweet peppers but in fact were onions. There could have been more aioli, especially since it gave a nice contrast to the sweet of the tomatoes and the marmalade.

For an entrée Adam ordered the Smoked Chicken Cassoulet ($15.90) and I ordered the Chorizo Pumpkin Pasta ($16.90). From what I had of the cassoulet it was delicious and hearty and Adam certainly loved it. The pasta was delightfully different. The chorizo gave it a nice spice. The pumpkin sauce wasn’t sweet which let the pumpkin stand out. It was served over penne and topped with chili-toasted pumpkin seeds that gave a nice crunch. Overall it was a great meal that suited celebrating an anniversary.

Chocolate Pâté

Where: The Trellis (403 W. Duke of Gloucester St.)

What: Coffee and Dessert

Number of People: 2

Total Cost: $36

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Anyone who has been in or around Williamsburg has probably heard of The Trellis and for good reason. The chef who created the Death By Chocolate cake is from The Trellis so how could we go to Williamsburg and not eat some cake? It is a beautiful restaurant that has a great atmosphere. We ordered decaf coffee and it was brought to us in a french press that the waitress pressed for us. We ordered the Death By Chocolate Cake ($10.95) and the Chocolate Pâté ($8.95). The cake was amazing. It is seven layers of different kinds of chocolate from ganache to mousse to cake. My favorite layer was definitely the ganache and my least favorite is the oddly airy/crunchy center. It was served with chocolate ice cream and a delicious white chocolate truffle that had a hint of lemon. The pâté was basically a thicker chocolate mousse and it was served with a pistachio profiterole. It was rich and creamy and pretty much awesome. Needless to say, after this rich meal we were exhausted and ready to relax.

Death By Chocolate Cake

If you are going to Williamsburg there are a few other places I would recommend. Definitely check out The Cheese Shop for lunch. They have great sandwiches. You can also get cheese and wine or beer and sit outside and enjoy a tasting. The selection of cheese is amazing and they have a ridiculous amount of local products such as espresso rub for meat. (Keep an eye out for that this weekend.) We went on Wednesday and split a Prosciutto and Provolone Sandwich with roasted red peppers. We also got a 1/4 lb of Prima Donna Aged Gouda and a Rustic Role. I always like to get some Chownings Tavern Root Beer as well since it’s made in Williamsburg.

Prosciutto and Provolone Sandwich

Another place to check out is Wythe’s Candy Shop, conveniently located next door to the cheese shop (both of which are across the street from The Trellis). They have wonderful handmade candies and caramel apples, as well as local goodies such as peanuts and jams.

Williamsburg is one of my favorite places to visit to relax and enjoy great food. I cannot wait for an opportunity to go back and do it all again!

Rustic Role and Prima Donna Aged Gouda

Handmade Truffles from Wythe's

Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque

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Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque with Parmesan Manchego Crostini

Serves 5-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup basil, chopped
3 tbs sugar
1 1/2 cups cream
Salt and pepper
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Lemaire at The Jefferson: A Review

Where: Lemaire at The Jefferson, 101 W. Franklin St.

What: Dinner, Dessert and Wine

Number of people: 2

Total Cost: $110

Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars

For our anniversary/Valentine’s Day Adam decided to splurge with some extra spending money and go to one of the best fine dining restaurants in Richmond, Lemaire, located in the famous Jefferson Hotel. I had been to The Jefferson for a cotillion-like event in college and Adam had never been but you don’t have to live in Richmond long to know that if it’s at The Jefferson it’s going to be good. The meal was delicious and certainly high quality with excellent presentation, although with small portions (part of the early bird special we used). The staff, especially our waitress, were very hospitable and the atmosphere was sophisticated and Southern, yet with a modern flair. The alligator is the “mascot” of Lemaire and it was entertaining to see the giant statues everywhere. The restaurant specializes and certainly prides itself on using local foods that are prepared fresh.

Adam learned from the Web site that Lemaire had an early bird special (5 pm – 6 pm) with a fixed menu of appetizer, entree and dessert for $30 per person, as well as three glasses of wine for an extra $15. There were two appetizer selections, a soup and a salad; three entree options of steak, salmon or vegetarian; and two dessert options. Adam and I both chose the Cream of Sunchoke Bisque as an appetizer and the Buckhead Petite Filet as an entree. Adam got the Butterscotch Creme Brulee and I got the Southern Pecan Tart for dessert.

Neither Adam nor I knew what a sunchoke was but decided we wanted bisque as opposed to the salad option. It was served elegantly with the locally grown oyster mushrooms and herbed roasted tomatoes in the center of the bowl and the bisque poured around when it was brought to the table. Apparently a sunchoke is known as a Jerusalem Artichoke and is a type of sunflower. The taste was wonderful. The bisque was hearty yet with a muted flavor. When you bit into the tomatoes they had an intense acidic flavor that complimented the sunchoke well and the mushrooms were incredibly buttery and added a great texture. When our waitress came to take the bowls she sarcastically commented on how much we didn’t like the bisque.

Since we were getting a deal and wanted to take advantage of it, we both went for the filet. As I said before the portions were small (although the bisque was a “normal” size) so the filet was only about two ounces. It came with a bourbon mustard demi-glaze, Sage Mashed Potatoes and Brown Butter Cabbage. The filet was excellent. The glaze was not as flavorful as I expected and it was difficult to taste the mustard, but the filet did not really need it. The glaze did give a mustard hint, but not as much as I would have liked. The mashed potatoes were perfectly flavored and a good consistency. The cabbage was also a great addition.

And of course the desserts were amazing. The creme brulee was very sweet and had a nice crunchy top. The tart was very Southern with a nice twist with added chocolate and Cinnamon Latte Ice Cream, as well as a strawberry and blackberry that were great with the Honey Cinnamon Caramel. I wanted to give an Italian kiss when we were done.

With the meal we ordered the wine deal (three 3 oz pours) to share. The waitress chose the wines because as she said, they are all professional wine drinkers there. For the appetizer she brought us a chardonnay. I don’t have the specific names since we were celebrating and not “working”. It was light and paired well with the bisque. For the filet she brought us a California cabernet that was incredibly smooth while being bold enough to stand up to the red meat. I am not a fan of intense or dry wines but this cabernet was delicious. Dessert was paired with an Italian dessert wine that was almost like a syrup. It was perfect and could only be taken in small sips.

The meal was amazing and we felt like we had spent our money, well Adam’s money, well. It was a wonderful, romantic evening at one of the premier attractions in Richmond. I will have the return the favor some day soon and treat Adam to a night at Lemaire. Well, maybe lunch.