carrot risotto

i’m going to keep this short and sweet because you need to stop everything you’re doing and go buy LOTS of carrots to make this recipe ASAP. i’ve discovered loads of great recipes on Food 52 lately, this being one of them. 

my favorite thing about this risotto is that although it’s a hearty dish, it somehow feels light and totally seasonally appropriate. i shot this recipe back in april and intended to share it with you as a vegetarian easter dinner idea. yeah… work has been keeping me pretty busy lately - sorry about that! mostly sorry because i’ve kept this recipe from you for so long. 

we roast, caramelize, puree and shred the carrots first. the recipe might seem like a lot of work for risotto but by doing the carrots 4 ways, you get a rich, full-bodied carrot flavor. it's worth every step and then some. 

carrot risotto
adapted from katherine martinelli via food 52
yields 6 servings

7 carrots
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 TBSP butter
1 c. arborio rice
½ c. dry white wine
2 TBSP butter
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
4 oz mascarpone
½ c. grated parmesan cheese
34 oz vegetable stock

preheat oven to 375º F. 

slice 4 of the carrots into thin, even rounds. divide them in half - try to keep the smaller ones together and the larger ones together. it will help with even baking. 

caramelize the smaller rounds in a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat. melt the butter and add in the carrots sugar and salt. give them a gentle stir and watch them closely. once they’re golden on one side, flip them over and cook. it will take about 10 - 15 minutes. place them on a paper towel to cool. if any of the pieces get slightly overdone, that’s ok. 

roast the other half of the carrot rounds on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil. sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and pop them in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until tender and golden. 

shred 2 of the carrots on the large grate of a cheese grater and set aside. chop the remaining carrot into small pieces and cook in a small sauce pan with 1c. water. boil until they’re soft & can be mashed into a carrot puree. 

put the chicken stock into a stockpot and heat over medium-low. coat the bottom of a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil. add the onion and cook until slightly translucent. add in the shredded carrots & and cook for 3 more minutes. add in the rice and smashed garlic cloves. cook for 1 minute and then pour in the wine. stir for 1 minute and then add in the carrot puree & 1 ladle of vegetable stock. stir continuously adding in a ladle of broth as it gets absorbed by the rice. the rice will be finished when it’s al dente & the liquid is absorbed & no longer soupy. add in the roasted carrots & half of the caramelized carrots, parmesan and mascarpone cheese. garnish with remaining caramelized carrots. 

improv style:

you can use chicken stock if you don’t have vegetable stock. you can omit the white wine and add in extra stock instead. i like the flavor the wine gives it - i use kendal jackson chardonnay because i love the buttery richness that an oaky chardonnay gives the dish. you could also use a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. 


deviled tiramisu egg

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Remember yesterday's post about jalapeno popper deviled eggs when I said I was going to make you a little uncomfortable?! Let's talk about sweet deviled eggs. If you think about it, a lot of desserts start with eggs. Custards are made with egg yolks and well, the whites don't really taste like anything. I loved the juxtaposition of doing sweet and savory deviled eggs for an easter menu. It's playful, fun and something that will at least get everyone at the table talking. Be brave, they actually do taste delicious! Even my husband thought I was crazy… until he tried it. 

Tiramisu is one of my all time favorite desserts when it's done right. There are lots of bad ones out there. But a good one, a good one will comfort the soul with creamy, subtly espresso & chocolatey goodness. I worked on my recipe for 6 months after I got back from living in Rome before I got my recipe just riiiiiighhhhttttt. I applied similar thoughts to this deviled egg recipe.

Be bold, try something outside of your comfort zone. Besides, I made the recipe to yield 4 servings so anyone feeling slightly adventurous could try it without too much commitment.

tiramisu deviled eggs
yields 4 servings

2 hardboiled eggs
2 TBSP mascarpone cheese, room temperature
½ tsp espresso powder
2 tsp honey
3 TBSP heavy whipping cream (then whip it into whipped cream)
1 tsp heavy whipping cream (this one stays liquid)
2 tsp dark rum
1 tsp cocoa powder, garnish
1 lady finger, crumbled (optional garnish)

Cut your eggs in half and scoop out the yolks into a small bowl. Mash them up good with a fork until they're fluffy and in tiny crumbs. Add in the mascarpone, espresso powder, honey, rum, and heavy whipping cream (the liquid one). In a medium shaped bowl whip up the 3 TBSP heavy whipping cream until it's light and fluffy. Gently fold half of the whipped cream mixture into your small bowl. Once incorporated, fold the remaining whipping cream. This helps give it a nice texture and consistency. 

Give your egg whites a light dusting with the cocoa powder and pipe or spoon your filling into the whites. Top with lady finger crumbs for a nice little crunch and texture variation. I didn't do this but after taste testing realized that would have been the perfect addition. Leave this step off until right before serving.

improv style:
there are so many ways to switch this up! serving to kiddos and want to leave out the rum? No problem, substitute with heavy whipping cream. 

don't want to buy a pack of lady fingers just to garnish? use any type of vanilla cookie (think vanilla wafer) or even gram cracker crumbs for the same affect. Amaretti cookies would be great too if you have them!

you can substitute the rum for light rum, kahula, or amaretto instead. 

no espresso powder? you could play with using super fine coffee grounds or even liquid espresso. just be careful if you're using liquid. it could make the mixture runny. 

i like a thicker filling for deviled eggs. they make prettier presentation but i also really like the consistency. if you're on team runny, add more liquid to the mix! 

don't let a distaste for tiramisu stop you from making sweet deviled eggs. think of the possibilities! you could do my raspberry lemon tiramisu with limoncello and raspberry chunks instead of coffee & chocolate. or, ooh, oooh! strawberry cheesecake anyone?!


deviled jalapeno popper egg

Easter is one of my favorite holidays for one reason, ham. I could eat my weight in that porky goodness. The sides are good, and it's always fun to spend time with my family but let's be honest, it's really about HAM.

Except now we're going to talk about non ham things. I love deviled eggs. Not quite as much as ham but they're up there. Last year I shared with you my family's classic deviled egg recipe. Deviled eggs are really the perfect canvas to shake things up and improvise. This year I got a little weird with it - in the best possible way. For those of you looking to shake things up a bit I created 2 deviled egg variations. One might scare you. I'll get to that post tomorrow. 

Let's temper the water a bit first with jalapeño popper deviled eggs. Who doesn't love a cream cheesy roasted jalapeño that's breaded and deep fried?! These deviled eggs were inspired by that. And no need to bust out the deep frier. Unless you want to do some sort of scottish egg version of a deviled jalapeño popper egg… that's an idea for another day. 

These are really simple and I created the recipe in a small enough batch for those willing to try something new but might want to do a few different versions for your guests. Oh and if you struggle peeling hardboiled eggs like I do, check out this tip I stumbled upon from Food & Wine today. I'm going to try it next time.

deviled jalapeño popper egg
yields 6 servings

3 hardboiled eggs 
3 TBSP cream cheese, room temperature (about 1" from an 8 oz brick)
½ tse pickled jalapeños, diced
salt to taste
fresh jalapeño slices, optional garnish

peel and half your eggs. scoop the yolks into a bowl and mash them really well with a fork. you want them to be like little crumbs. add in the ingredients and give it a good mix until everything is incorporated and smooth.

i like to pipe the filling into bags because it makes a nice presentation but you can scoop them into the egg whites with a spoon too. i cut paper thin slices of fresh jalapeño for a bit of crunch and it looks really nice. i'm not a big fan of super spicy and the paper thin slices were perfect. 

improv style:
big spicy fan? add in some hot sauce, garnish with cayenne pepper or one of my fav's, tapatio sauce.

no meat?! bacon, duh! there's always room for bacon. wether you chop it up into little bits OR you take a 1" piece and use it as a garnish, you can't go wrong.

no cream cheese? you could do a mix of sour cream and shredded cheddar. pickled jalapeños come in spicy or mild. i used spicy but either works perfect depending on your preferences. no pickled jalapeños? use fresh! you could even roast fresh ones which would add a nice depth of flavor. 


green smoothies round 2

Where did the last 3 months go? I swear it was just the holidays and the next thing I know, BAM, it’s Spring. How has it been so long since I’ve posted?! You probably thought I’ve abandoned you, right? I promise I haven’t. This Winter in Chicago has just been so… COLD. And I’ve been so busy and tired and and I’ve had great intentions of sharing what I’ve been up to in the kitchen with you guys. I just never got around to testing, shooting and writing all of the thoughts in this crazy head of mine. Plus, polar vortex. No human should ever have to experience -40º F let alone 3 different times!!

Just because the sun is out longer during the day doesn’t mean that 36º is Spring, Chicago. Lets close our eyes and pretend that Spring has sprung, for reals. Or maybe you’re already in Spring mode because you don’t live in one of these crazy states with freak cold weather. Did I really just rant about the weather for 2 paragraphs?! I promise I’m not usually that person… 

Lets talk about feel good things. Like cats, new shoes, lipstick and green smoothies. Green smoothies?! Ever since I discovered them over 2 years ago, I’ve been making one for breakfast almost every morning. It’s a natural boost of energy and such a great way to start the day. I’m always looking for new combinations of ingredients to keep from getting bored. My latest favorite is a bit more “advanced”. I say that because when I first started making green smoothies I used unsweetened almond milk and was heavy on the fruit. Eventually you get more and more used to the bright and fresh flavors of the greens and begin to crave it. There’s lots of ways to tweak this recipe to cater to whatever level green smoothie drinker you are - novice to advanced. 

green smoothie
yields 1 serving

1 stalk dinosaur kale
1 c. leafy greens (spinach, red leaf lettuce, romaine, etc…)
2 limes, juice + pulp
1” ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
3” cucumber (skin on)
3 mint leaves
1 green apple
1 c. brewed green tea, chilled

Place all your ingredients in a blender (starting with the kale and ending with the iced tea) and blend on the highest setting for 1 - 2 minutes. Add more tea or water as needed to reach your desired consistency. 

improv style:
i like the balance that the green apple gives but if you don’t have green apples, you could use any apple you have on hand. no kale? you can add a little bit more leafy greens or just leave it out. no brewed tea? just use water!

more of a beginner? leave out the kale and stick to spinach. you can do 1 - 2 apples to amplify the sweetness too. if you’re going to use almond milk i would consider leaving out the cucumber as it might be a weird flavor combo.

finally, you can add in your favorite bonus heath food too! think chia seeds, flax, hemp, etc… 

*note, i'm not usually a mint fan but in this recipe, it's subtle and very balanced. if you're like me, give this mint recipe a try.

**curious about what blender to use and my first discovery of green smoothies? check out the post here. yes, my kitchenaid blender is still going strong 2+ years!


holiday leftovers part 3

Remember when I said my family always makes WAYYYY too much food?! Well, it's so true. One year I found myself making dinner for 18 when I was only serving 6 people. I had a mountain of leftover mashed potatoes and after 4 nights in a row of reheating the leftovers, I had enough leftover mashed for a lifetime. Ok, lets be real, more like a few weeks but you get my point... I found myself with a ton of mashed potatoes and I couldn't even think about eating anymore. That's when it hit me. GNOCCHI made from the leftover mashed potatoes. Something that felt completely different from the original dish but used up the remaining leftovers. If you, like me, find yourself with an excess of mashed potatoes and don't fee like reheating them, you have to try this. Leftover mashed potatoes are always so dry and gross anyway. 

This is the type of recipe that will vary depending on how you make your mashed potatoes. Use it as a guide but know that you might have to adjust the amount of flower depending on how wet or dry your leftover potatoes are. There's nothing worse than a super gummy or heavy gnocchi. 

gnocchi from leftover mashed potatoes
makes about 180 gnocchi (enough for 4 generous servings)

2 c. leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ c. flour (more or less depending on consistency)
¼ c. grated parmesan
salt to taste

Start by sprinkling a large work space with a dusting of flour. If there are any beads of water surrounding your leftover mashed potatoes, pat them dry with a paper towel. Put your leftover mashed potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill, letting the pieces fall in a thin, rectangular shape in the middle of your work space. This will remove any lumps and skin that might have been in the mashed potatoes and will fluff them up resulting in a lighter gnocchi. If you don't have one of these, just do your best to fluff it with a fork. You'll sacrifice texture a little bit but it will still turn out. Pour your beaten egg over the mashed potatoes & sprinkle with 1 c. of the flour to start & the parmesan cheese + salt. Depending on how wet or dry your potatoes are, the amount of flour you'll need will vary.

Start to mix the dough together with your hands like you would any bread or pasta. Be gentle but make sure it's well incorporated. Sprinkle with more flour, as needed until the dough comes together and isn't too sticky to the touch. It shouldn't feel too fragile (like it won't stick together) but it definitely shouldn't be tough. It will be slightly elastic as you're kneading it. When the dough is the right consistency, divide it into 4 equal parts. Roll each section into a long, thin snake. Cut about 1 cm thick pieces. This will become your little gnocchi. On the back of a fork, gently roll the dough, creating little ridges in the gnocchi. This is an important step because this is what makes the pasta stick to the dumpling! Toss onto a lightly floured baking sheet and repeat. Turn up the Beyonce and get in your zone... if you're into that sort of thing.

In a large pot of boiling water, toss about 20 gnocchi in at a time. You'll know they're done when the rise to the surface. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or into a pan with your favorite sauce. Keep cooking them a few at a time until you've made your way through the batch. If you're not ready to make the gnocchi, you can freeze them uncooked on a baking sheet for a few hours. You can then transfer them into a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Or you can cook them and lightly toss them in olive oil to keep them from sticking. This will make the sauce not stick to them as well but it will work just fine if you're feeling a strong urge to cook them immediately. 

improv style:
you can make these with leftover roasted potatoes or even roasted sweet potatoes. you could even add in some roasted garlic for a twist on flavor. 

i like to serve them with all sorts of different sauces. i did a vodka sauce with mascarpone but brown butter and sage, fresh pesto, or even baked with alfredo sauce are all great ways to do it. 


holiday leftovers part 2

Stop everything you're doing and make this recipe, like NOW. It's that good.

One can never have enough bread, right?! Until you have too much bread and it goes stale. This happens to me all the time. In my family we live by one motto… NEVER, and I mean never leave people wanting more. I get this from my mamma who doesn't know how to cook for anything less than what she calls an army. This usually means that we have tons of leftovers and yes, tons of leftover bread which gets stale quickly. I just so happen to know the best way to put that stale bread to good use and I'm not talking about being wasteful and throwing it in the trash…

Bread pudding has a special place in my heart. My sister and I usually go on a date to a local brewery to catch up every now and then. It started when I was in college and she missed me and has continued through the years now that I live in another state. When she met my now husband for the first time, my family took him to that restaurant. She raved to him about how great the bread pudding was (which it is). She ordered one for herself and when he asked to share it with her, she said no way, get your own! Hahaha, love my family and our healthy appetites. Long story short, the bread pudding easily leaves 4 adults happy and satisfied. She'll never live it down! 

In my family, we LOVE bread pudding. So much so that when I got married in September, we served bread pudding instead of cake at our wedding. When I bought 1 too many loaves of bread for a holiday get together I knew exactly what I was going to do with that leftover loaf - re-create the bread pudding we served at our wedding. You know the saying that food tastes better when it's cooked with love?! This is by far THE BEST bread pudding I've ever had or made. I'll stop talking now and let you get into it...

The Apple State Meets the Big Apple Bread Pudding with Salted Bourbon Caramel Sauce
adapted from the gilded fork
yields 10 - 12 healthy servings

ingredients for the bread pudding:
4 honey crisp apples, peeled cored & diced
¼ c. butter
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp salt
c. brown sugar

1 loaf bread (brioche, challah or country white), in 1" cubes ~8 c. 
1½ c. whole milk
1½ c. heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c. sugar
½ c. brown sugar
4 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1 c. almond slices

caramel can be made up to a week in advance. Otherwise, make it while the bread pudding bakes!

To make the bread pudding: 
Preheat oven to 350º F. Cut bread into 1" cubes and lay out on a baking sheet. Slightly toast the bread in the oven if it's not stale already. This will help it absorb the custard better. Pull out and let them cool while you do the rest…

In a medium sized skillet, cook apples, butter, vanilla bean split length wise with the seeds scraped into the pot, salt and the brown sugar. You want the sugar to dissolve and the apple juices to get nice and thick. This will take about 15 - 20 min.

While the apples cook, heat the milk & heavy cream in a medium sized sauce pan. You want to bring it to a soft boil and then shut the heat off. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, salt & extract together. Slowly ladle a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture to temper it. You want to incorporate the hot cream into the egg mixture so that the eggs thicken but don't cook. Slowly while whisking, drizzle in the remaining cream. Add in ½ c. of the almond slicess and your slightly toasted bread cubes to the bowl. Give it a good, aggressive stir for about 2 - 3 minutes. You want all of the cubes coated in the custard mixture and you want to break up some of the cubes. I've found this is what gives you the good bread pudding texture. Let mixture sit for 30 - 60 minutes until it fully absorbs the custard into the bread.

Butter or non-stick spray a 9x9 baking dish. Dump bread pudding mixture into dish, smushing (totally an official word) the mixture into the pan so it all fits. If you don't have a 9x9, you can use a smaller pan and put the extra mixture into individual ramekins or bake it in two smaller dishes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ c. almond slices. Bake for about 45 minutes until it's slightly puffed and golden brown on top.

Serve warm with caramel sauce on top OR, chill in the refrigerator 4 hours and serve cold with caramel sauce. It's good both ways. So, so good. 

improv style:
bread pudding is essentially a blank canvas. the only things you need are the custard & bread. all the extras (i.e. spices, apples, nuts…) are just the flavor components. i did almond apple but you could do apple + pecan with a bit of rum. OR you could do dried fruits rehydrated in liquor or juice. pick your favorites… pear with some orange zest and walnuts or maybe dried cherries and chocolate chunks is more your fancy. any way you role, just make sure you keep the ratios for the liquid and dry fairly similar to this base. egg nog instead of the whole milk would be a really fun and festive interpretation. ooh, ooh... do that with rum! hello holiday leftovers being put to REALLY good use!

if you want to keep the same flavors but don't have almond extract, you could do amaretto in it's place. any kind of baking apple will work, granny smith, braeburn, gala fuji or empire. play with spices and zests... there's so many ways to completely change the flavor! lemon, orange or grapefruit zest is a great place to start. cinnamon is standard but what about star anise or cardamom for an indian inspired flavor?! steeping your cream with tea would be another way to infuse a different flavor into the bread pudding. the options are endless!!

have a bunch of leftover dinner rolls? as long as they're not savory in the sense of garlic or have weird toppings baked into it, you can use the bread! If it's a crustier bread you might need more of the custard base to soften it up. 

you can serve it with a caramel sauce, maybe add rum instead of bourbon? or maybe a creme anglaise is more your fancy? either way, there's so many things you can top it with... like ice cream or whipped cream!


holiday leftovers part 1

The holidays are in FULL swing and I couldn't be more excited about it. It's a great excuse to get together with friends, family and everyone who's special in your life. Holidays come with a lot of excess and leftovers. Which in my book is an exciting thing because it means I get experimental in my kitchen on new ways to improvise dishes. This week I'm going to share a few ideas of things you can do with all those random leftovers in the house. 

First up, a winter sangria. Nothing is more festive than a holiday cocktail, amiright?! I'm a huge fan of sangria so this drink is inspired by the Spanish classic. 

Is it just my family or do you guys buy a bag of fresh cranberries every year and forget about it in the back of the refrigerator?! This happens without fail EVERY year. I decided to put those bad boys to good use since once again, they were forgotten about. I always like to have a bottle of Martinelli's Sparkling cider for the kiddos but that usually leaves me with an almost full bottle of cider at the end of the night - they just don't drink that much… or maybe they're too little to drink that much. Either way, I made it work in my favor! That plus leftover wine from the evening come together to make this super simple sangria. Leftover rosemary from that roasted turkey?! Yep, we're using everything here! Who's thirsty?

Winter Sangria
Yields 4 servings**

1 c. fresh cranberries
2 - 3 TBSP rosemary simple syrup
1 c. sparkling cider
2 c. white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are my favs)
1 honey crisp apple, sliced or diced

rosemary simple syrup:
¼ c. water
¼ c. sugar 
3" piece of rosemary

To make the simple syrup:
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool. This can be made a week in advance. Just put in a mason jar or tupperware container and into the fridge it goes! I like to leave the rosemary in it to continue flavoring the syrup but also so I know what the heck it is in my refrigerator!

Cocktail assembly:
Place your cranberries on a baking sheet in a flat layer in the freezer. We'll use those instead of ice cubes so we don't water down our cocktail. Nothing worse than a watery cocktail!

Mix all ingredients (minus the cranberries) together in a pitcher and let it sit for 30 min in the fridge for the mixture to get happy. When you're ready to serve, add in the cranberries and fill your glass. Cheers to the holidays!

**Sounds yummy but you want to make a full batch?! Here's the quantities:
2 c. fresh cranberries
¼ c. TBSP rosemary simple syrup
2 c. sparkling cider
1 bottle. white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc are my favs)
2 honey crisp apples, sliced or diced
rosemary for garnish

improv style:
this drink pairs really well with any roasted meat. especially turkey and chicken. the subtle rosemary flavor is really refreshing. if it scares you, go ahead and leave it out. Like the idea of herbs but don't have any rosemary? thyme would be the next best herb to use. basil works too but i prefer to save that for my blueberry basil fizzes

don't have sparkling cider? you could totally use regular apple cider. in fact, i think i'd probably prefer it that way! not a fan of cider? try using cranberry or white cranberry juice instead. that would be super tasty!

can't find fresh or frozen cranberries? no worries. you can do pomegranate seeds instead. you'll still get that beautiful pop of red color and they're fun to crunch on too. actually, adding them in with the cranberries would be good too! get crazy, it's the holidays! 

no honey crisp apples at the store?! DAMN! they're the best, but that's ok. you can use ANY apple you have on hand. seriously, they're going to get boozy and really are mostly there for the crunchy freshness. 

not a fan of pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc? use what you like to drink! moscato or reisling would be just fine. it would also be super sweet… so if you're into that, do it! chardonnay is ok but not my favorite pairing for this drink. again, if you only like chardonnay, do it. life is too short!

happy holidays!