Wednesday, October 20, 2010


When we were in Paris for our honeymoon, we took at cooking class at Le Violon d'Ingres, one of Christian Constant's fabulous restaurants in the 7e arrondisement.  We ate at 3 of his 4 restaurants during our stay and they were among the best food we had in all of Paris!  During our cooking class with the Chef de Cuisine, Stéphane Schmidt, we made this lovely vichyssoise soup.  Although cold vichyssoise actually has American roots, we put a French spin on it in Paris, with ingredients like fresh, French goat cheese.  We had a blast learning recipes and working in the kitchen while everyone else was preparing for the day's service.  Here are some pictures from our cooking class:
I was craving a hearty soup and decided to make this recipe when I found some beautiful leeks in the grocery store.  I made a few changes, but overall it's the same as what we had in Paris.  I served it warm, since it's Fall and getting cooler, but you could always serve this chilled if you prefer.  This soup is delicious and so easy to make, yet it looks elegant and sophisticated!  Check out the recipe below. 

Vichyssoise Soup
- 3 tbs butter
- 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- salt
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Worcestershire sauce 
- chopped chives and/or rosemary
- mild goat cheese or cream cheese for garnish

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onions and leeks until soft.  Add the diced potatoes, chicken stock, milk and season with salt.  You could also add a little bit of garlic powder or white pepper here as well, to your specific tastes.

Simmer for about 35 minutes until all vegetables are cooked through.  Press through a sieve or blend to a puree using an immersion blender. Once smooth, add the cream and bring the soup back to a boil.  

Blend the mixture again and add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and additional seasonings if needed. 

If serving warm, garnish with a spoonful of goats cheese and sprinkle with chopped chives, and serve immediately.  Otherwise, put the soup in the fridge to chill and serve it very fresh with cheese and herbs.  You could also add a drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar as final garnish, if desired.  

source: Stéphane Schmidt, Le Violon d'Ingres

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you love soft, chewy and cake-y cookies this is the perfect recipe for you.  I usually don't and prefer cookies that are crispy or crunchy, but these were really delicious and so good when still warm from the oven. They're great for Fall and this recipe makes a lot of cookie dough, so you can make some now and refrigerate or freeze the dough for another day.  

Pumpkin, Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- red food coloring
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, egg and vegetable oil.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and stir into wet mixture. Add dry mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts, if desired.  Add a few drops of red food coloring to the batter at this point to give them a brighter orange color after baking, otherwise, they'll look more like regular chocolate chip cookies. 

Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

All Recipes

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

This shrimp and asparagus risotto is so delicious.  The flavors of the shrimp and asparagus work so well with the creaminess of the rice.

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
- 40 small shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/3 lb. asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 3 tbs butter
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock
- salt, pepper and garlic powder
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1-2 tbs additional butter

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and asparagus and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove the asparagus pieces.  Add the rice and stir so that the rice is moistened.  Add the white wine and cook until evaporated.  Add about 1/2 cup of stock and stir, until absorbed.  Continue adding stock in small increments, stirring often and making sure it is all absorbed before adding more.

Meanwhile, in a separate sauté pan, heat the shrimp over medium-high heat in some butter or olive oil for about 2-3 minutes, until pink.  Season with garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

After about 3 3/4 cup of stock has been added to the rice, check the doneness, you may need to add the rest of the stock, if the rice still has some bite to it.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Add the asparagus and shrimp back to the rice and stir to incorporate.  Add the Parmesan cheese and extra butter, if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pan-broiled Steak

I made Bifteck Sauté au Beurre last night for dinner.  I wanted to try out a new method of cooking steak inside (instead of grilling) and found the perfect answer in the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child.  This steak is so good because of the many variations you can make to the sauce.  It's so French and also very easy to prepare and tell when it's done, mine was a perfect medium-rare.

Pan-broiled Steak 
- 1 lb steak: sirloin, strip, etc. cut 1" thick
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
for the sauce: 
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tbs butter

Place the butter and oil in the skillet and heat over moderately high heat until you see the butter foam begin to subside.  Sauté the steak on one side for 3-4 minutes and regulate the heat so that the fat is very hot but not burning.  Turn the steak and sauté the other side for 3-4 minutes.  The steak is done to medium rare when you see the pearling of red juice begin to ooze at the surface of the steak or it begins to take on a suggestion of resistance and spring when you press it with your finger.  If you have any doubts, cut a small incision into the steak to check it's doneness.

Remove the steak and place on a hot platter.  Season immediately with salt and pepper and keep warm.  

Remove any fat from the pan and add the white whine.  Set the skillet over high heat and scrape the juices with a spoon while boiling down the liquid, until it is almost thickened to a syrup.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it is absorbed.  Pour the sauce over the steak and serve.

Other variations on the sauce include: 
- using stock, red wine, vermouth or water instead of the white wine
- adding diced shallots or green onions 
- using flavored butters, like parsley butter, shallot or garlic butter

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Scones with Maple Glaze

I made these delicious scones last weekend.  Kevin really liked them and they were eaten up pretty fast.  I was able to find some cans of pumpkin at the grocery store, so I'm excited to make some more pumpkin dishes soon!

Pumpkin Scones with Maple Glaze
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
6 tbs very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup half and half
6 tbs brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons pumpkin
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and spices in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer. In another medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, cream, sugar and vanilla.

Cut butter the into the flour and mix with stand mixer until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened.  The dough will be crumbly.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and push the pile together with your hands.  Continue pressing and kneading the dough until everything comes together, taking care not to overwork it.  Form the dough into a rough circle about 1 inch thick.  Cut the dough into 8 wedges and placed on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

While the scones are cooling, make the glaze by whisking the syrup, pumpkin and powdered sugar together in a small bowl.  Add more syrup or powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Drizzle over the cooled scones.

source: adapted from 
Cook like a Champion

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quiche Lorraine

Here's an easy recipe for Quiche Lorraine, it's a great combination of flavors and perfect for breakfast or brunch.  The miniature quiche pans make for a cute presentation and perfect size for one person.
Quiche Lorraine
- 6 small quiche pans
- 2 refrigerated pie crusts
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten 
- 1 1/2 cup half and half (or whipping cream)
- 6 strips of bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled
- 1 cup swiss cheese, shredded 
- 1/2 of a small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)

Preheat oven to 350.  Unroll pie crusts and cut circles of the crust to line 6 small quiche baking pans (4 inches in diameter). Bake pie crusts in oven for 5-7 minutes until lightly golden.

Combine beaten eggs, half and half, bacon, swiss cheese, onion, salt, pepper and cayenne, whisking everything together.  Pour about 1/2 cup of mixture into each crust, until the mixture comes up to the top of the crust.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the quiche comes out clean.  Let stand a few minutes before serving.

source: adapted from Betty Crocker

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lemon Drop Jello Shots

These Lemon Drop Jello Shots were a huge success at our football tailgate this weekend.  Everyone was so surprised at the presentation and how great they tasted.  So, as promised here's the info for how to make these fun little treats.

Lemon Drop Jello Shots
- 8 large lemons
- 2 packages lemon Jello (3 oz each)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup citrus vodka
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup ice cold water

Cut the lemons in half lengthwise. Squeeze the lemon juice out into a separate container and set aside.  Use a spoon to scoop out all of the insides and pulp.  You can use a paring knife to help separate the inside, but be sure not to cut through the lemon peel.  Once you have them all completely juiced and cleaned out, place each of the halves into a muffin tin, with the open sides up.

Prepare the Jello mixture by mixing 1 cup of boiling water with two packages of lemon Jello.  Stir until the Jello has completely disolved.  Then, add the 1 cup citrus vodka, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice that you got from the lemons, and 1/2 cup ice water.  Stir until cooled.

Pour the Jello mixture into each lemon half so that they are completely full.  Carefully move the muffin tin to the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours, until hardened.

Once the Jello is firm, and you're ready to serve, cut each half into three slices.  Turn the lemon halves over on a cutting board and then make each slice in one fluid motion using a very sharp, warm, non-serrated knife.  Share with friends and enjoy!!

This recipe can also be modified to use with any other citrus fruit like oranges or limes.

source: savory reviews

Update: If you're interested in another similar recipe, see this post for Cherry Limeade Jello Shots

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ham and Cheese Quiche

I made miniature versions of Sarah's favorite quiche recipe for brunch tailgating for the NCSU football game this weekend. When she hosted my bridal shower back in April, she had tons of different quiches and this was one of the best ones. It's a really easy recipe to make and the personal size is convenient for a quick breakfast for one. You can freeze or refrigerate these after cooking, just reheat them in the oven for a few minutes before serving. 

Ham and Cheese Quiche
- 8 small quiche pans (example)
- 2 refrigerated pie crusts
- 8 oz ham, diced
- 1 cup shredded swiss cheese
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 eggs beaten
- 1 1/4 cup half and half 
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Unroll pie crusts and cut circles of the crust to line 8 small quiche baking pans (4 inches in diameter). Bake pie crusts in oven for 5-7 minutes until lightly golden.

Combine beaten eggs, half and half, diced ham, cheese, salt and pepper and whisk together.  Pour about 1/2 cup of mixture into each crust, until the mixture comes up to the top of the crust.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the quiche comes out clean.  
Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Last night, I made one of our favorite comfort food dishes, Chicken and Rice Casserole.  It's a wonderful recipe from my mom and Kevin loves it because the leftovers are great for lunch the next day.  I've posted this recipe before, but I decided to update again with pictures. 

Chicken and Rice Casserole 
- 2 lbs chicken breast 
- 1 1/2 cups rice 
- 1 stick of butter, softened 
- 1 package cream cheese (8 oz), softened
- 1 package frozen mixed vegetables (12-16 oz)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese or colby-jack cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil chicken breasts until no longer pink in the middle. Chop into bite size pieces and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to package. Warm mixed vegetables in a separate saucepan over medium heat.

Combine butter and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed and divide in half. Stir half of the cream cheese/butter mixture into the rice and the other half into the vegetables until coated. Season with salt and pepper.

In a casserole dish, add all of the rice so that it creates a uniform layer across the bottom. 
Next, add the mixed vegetables on top of the rice.
Add all of the pieces of chicken on top. 
Then add the shredded cheddar cheese to cover the entire casserole, about 2 cups.
Place in oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through and the cheese is melted.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Smothered Chicken Breasts

I made this chicken dish for dinner last night and it was a big hit. We have chicken a lot and it gets pretty boring if you always cook it the same way. So, I decided to try out a new recipe and it worked out really well. I served it with green beans and the mashed potatoes that I posted about earlier... yum.  What I love most is that the chicken in this dish serves as a blank canvas for the sweet, caramelized onions, salty bacon and yummy cheese to play off of.  Although it's not the healthiest dish in this form, you could certainly make some substitutions to make this good for you, with Canadian bacon or ham and fat free cheese. 

Smothered Chicken Breasts

- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tbs olive oil
- ground sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, Italian spices
- 6-8 strips of bacon
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3/4 cup colby-jack, cheddar and mozzarella cheese mix

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little bit of Italian spices. Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat and then add the chicken breasts. Cook for about 15-18 minutes, turning halfway through, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle and the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from heat and keep warm.

Add the strips of bacon to the same pan and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon and place on paper towels. Drain the bacon drippings from the pan, reserving about 2 tablespoons.  Sauté the onions in the remaining drippings and sugar until golden brown.

Place chicken breasts on a plate, top with strips of bacon, caramelized onions, and cheese. Allow cheese to melt and serve.

source: modified from

Mashed Red Potatoes with Garlic and Cheese

I love these rustic mashed potatoes.  The red potato skin gives such a nice flavor and texture to the dish.  These are quick, easy and taste so much better than instant mashed potatoes.  

click here for printer friendly version

Mashed Red Potatoes with Garlic and Cheese
- 2 lbs of red potatoes, washed and cubed
- 3 cloves of garlic, whole
- 4 tbs butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
- garlic powder, fresh ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the potatoes and cloves garlic to the water and boil them for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and tender.  Drain the potatoes and remove the garlic cloves. Add the potatoes back to the pot.  Mince the cooked garlic and it back to the potatoes.

Break up the potatoes with a potato masher, fork or blend them with a hand mixer.  Add the butter, milk and salt slowly until you have a desired consistency.  Stir in mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and season with garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and salt, if necessary.  Stir lightly and serve immediately.

source: modified from
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