Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time for Change and a New Blog

I have definitely enjoyed blogging here on Connect Via Recipes, but I decided it was time to start a new blog when I decided I am definitely going to leave New York.  I don't know when, I don't know where I am going, but I know that  it is time to start making those decisions.  I also knew that meant doing all those things I meant to do during the first five years I've been in the city.  Not that I didn't do many things during those years, but there are plenty of things that I never got around to and maybe I should have started this sooner, but I want to document them. 
I was already toying with the idea of starting a new blog that was and expansion of my Connect via Recipes blog.  I have a lot of little side projects that I do and I tell people about them, but never really show them.  Plus, there are all the experiences that I wanted to share here and there, pictures promised that I never sent.  I decided a blog expansion was the way to go and then I decided it was time to start a new blog all together.  
All of my previous posts on this blog have been added to my new one: Perishable Item, and I hop you continue to follow me as I continue to cook and bake and also share my experiences, projects, and the changes to come. 

via Apartment 34

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beef Gravy over Mashed Potatoes

I have been craving beef gravy and mash potatoes lately.  Like the horrible absolutely amazing  kind they served for school lunch back in the day.  I think I caught a whiff of something walking by a diner one day and it's been stuck in my nose ever since.  My roommate was some how given a bunch of russet potatoes, so I had everything I needed to make this happen with no time to waste. 

I searched online for a couple recipes and decided to go with the one that would require me to make the gravy from scratch, so it was a white gravy.  It was good, but I think I wanted a brown gravy flavor.  Noted for the next round.  I got fancy with my potatoes and mixed up some creamy garlic mashed potatoes from the Food Network.  Absolutely delicious, although maybe too much garlic for this recipe.  I made enough for dinner for me and my roommate Sunday evening and lunch for the rest of the week.  It took some time, but it was really simple to make and I love not having PB & J's for lunch every day.   

Beef Gravy over Mashed Potatoes
8 to 10 servings 

Mashed Potatoes
  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes 
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt 
  • 16 fluid ounces (2 cups) half-and-half 
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 6 ounces grated Parmesan 
Beef Gravy
  • 1.5 Pounds of Hamburger 
  • 1 Medium Onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups milk
  1. Peel and dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size.  Place in a large saucepan, add the salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil. Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, brown the hamburger and the onion in a large skillet until cooked.  Drain off the fat and set aside. 
  3. Return the skillet to the heat and add the melted butter then the flour with the salt and pepper.  Once it starts to clump up, add the milk and stir until the gravy begins to thicken, about 10 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Once the gravy thickens add the beef and onion back in to the skillet. 
  5. When the potatoes have finished cooking, drain them and set aside.  In the pot heat the half and half with the garlic over medium heat until simmering, stirring frequently. 
  6. Add the potatoes back the pot and mash them with the garlic and cream mixture. 
  7. Pour the gravy over the mashed potatoes and serve. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brussel Sprouts!

I have not made brussel sprouts in a long time.  Try over 10 years ago in some high school home ec class, (the closes to domestication I ever got).  That was the first time I ever tried them too.  I remember we steamed them and I did liking them, mom was shocked.  After that I've had them here and there, but never really sought them out.  I have been really excited to make something with them and have collected several recipes.  These past few weeks I have been having the same issue with brussel sprouts that I was having with carrots, and kept forgetting about them.

I finally roasted some up and they were delicious and I always remembered.  I used a recipe from poppytalk but I cut the spouts amount in half but otherwise I stuck pretty close to the recipe.  I hope you like them.
I know they don't look amazing, but they are! 

Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
2 servings 

  • 1/2 lb brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Trim the sprouts by cutting off the stem end and peeling back a layer of leaves. Cut the sprouts in half.
  3. Soak sprouts in a bowl of cold water, giving them a good shake so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Scoop out the sprouts and dry them with a clean tea towel. Place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Use your hands to roll the sprouts around so that all the sprouts get evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt (I like tobe generous here) and the aleppo pepper or cayenne.
  6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, giving the tray a shake once or twice, until crispy and tender. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chicken Milanese and Carrots

I was sooo excited to roast some carrots, or do something with them.  Problem is, I have been crazy busy lately and not been able to do much cooking or had much desire to the one free night I have a week.  So I bought this lovely bunch of carrots and was set to make something, I can't remember what anymore, but it took me a week or so to get to it.  When I pulled the carrots out, they had gone soft.  I was seriously, very sad.  I really wanted to make whatever with those carrots and now I couldn't.  My dinner was ruined.  I don't remember what I ate instead, probably a bowl of pasta with a bit of salt. Tear. 

On the next grocery run I picked up carrots again and made a point to use them as soon as possible.  I also had the recipe for Chicken Milanese bookmarked in my Fresh Flavor Fast, so I decided to give it a try and add the carrots as a side.  I use a quick recipe from Great Food Fast  to make the carrots.  It all turned out great.  It was fast, yummy and great as a leftover.  I don't have a rack that I can put in the oven so I used a pizza pan that has holes in it to bake the chicken on over a pan.  It seemed to work fine.  While the chicken was in the oven, the carrots cooked up quickly and everything was ready pretty close to the same time.    I kept the onion with the dressing separate from the arugula so that it didn't wither or go brown waiting for the next meal.  

Chicken Milanese
4 servings 

  • 1 1/4 cups plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss breadcrumbs and oil until well combined; spread on sheet. Cook, tossing once, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. 
  2. Place flour and eggs in separate bowls; season with salt and pepper. Place a rack on another rimmed baking sheet (or make it up like me!).
  3. One at a time, place chicken breasts between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or bottom of a small heavy pan(I used the pan route), pound until 1/2 inch thick. 
  4. Coat chicken on both sides with flour (shaking off excess), then dip in eggs (allowing excess to drip off); dredge in breadcrumbs, pressing firmly to adhere.
  5. Bake chicken on rack, without turning, until opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Add onion and toss.  Top a bed of Arugula with the onion mixture and place the chicken on top. 
Roasted Carrots
4 servings (unless you're like me, then its 2)

  • 9 carrots (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  1. Quarter and cut carrots into 2-inch lengths. 
  2. In a skillet, bring carrots, sugar, 1/2 cup water, butter, and salt to boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, partly covered, 6 minutes.
  3. Cook uncovered, over high, tossing often until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Season with pepper.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Montana Birthday

Last week I was in Bozeman.  I love it there.  Seriously wonder why I left.  I mean I know why, but seriously would love to go back.  Anyway, I was crashing my friends boys trip, skiing and snowmobiling.  When the guys next door said they wanted to go skiing in Montana, I was all in, without an invitation:)  The lack of true winter here has possibly made this winter more depressing than any real winter ever has been.  Getting to go play in the snow was so wonderful.  To top it off, my wonderful friend Greg who was letting us stay with him, was also celebrating his golden birthday.  This of course meant that I got to make a cake! 

I was flipping through my blog reader when I came across this post on Eat, Live, Run and showed the picture of the strawberries piled on top of the cake to Greg.  He approved and I started looking up recipes for yellow cake.  In the end, since I was not in my own kitchen and short on time, I completely cheated on this cake.  I didn't make anything from scratch. 

 A box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake, Betty Crocker Whipped Butter Cream Frosting. a tub of Cool Whip and some strawberries makes a great cake.  I made the cake in two 9" round pans by the box directions.  While they cooled on a rack, I sliced the strawberries up, just like the picture.  I spread the cool whip on top of one of the cakes and layered strawberries on top with one more layer of cool whip on top of that.  Then I placed the other cake on top and frosted the top and sides with the butter cream frosting.  On top of that I layered the strawberries.  I like to think that it looked good enough to convince people I did bake it from scratch.  

After showing off the cake to Greg and to the boys, we packed everything up to head down to West Yellowstone and tragedy struck.  I wasn't sure if I was mad at Kurt, mad at myself for not doing it myself, or if I wanted to cry.   Kurt carried the cake out to the car with a bowl over the top and some foil to seal it and the plate.  Unfortunately, in away I have yet to figure out, it fell. On the floor of the car.  Some how the plate slide out from the bowl... I'm not really sure, I honestly counldn't figure out how it happened.  1/3 of the cake was on the floor, the rest still had the plate under it, and most of the strawberries on the top were gone.  In my panic to decide what to do, I picked it up and put it back on the plate.  Cleaned off anything that looked suspicious and took it back inside.  Wrapped what was left in plastic wrap so that only a catastrophic fall would cause a second disaster and took it back to the truck.  

Yep.   That's right.  We ate it anyway.  There wasn't any time to do it over again.  Greg was like, 'I already sent a picture to my mom,' so we took it with and ate it.  I got a small rock but otherwise it was fine, I mostly cut only pieces from the side that did not touch the car floor, so maybe the few other pieces that were left had a few other surprises.   In any case, no one has died yet, and Greg said that our day of snowmobiling and finishing the day at the local bar was one of his best in a while.  YEAH! 
The aftermath

Enjoy! (without the rocks!)   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate Brithday Desserts: Flourless Chocolate Cake

As mentioned in my previous Chocolate Birthday Desserts post, it was my friend Eriks Birthday this past weekend and I put myself in charge of desserts.  There was going to be a lot of people and I need a gluten free dessert that hopefully everyone would enjoy.  The first thing that came to mind was a flourless chocolate cake.  Any time I have had this cake, it has been really dense and rich, so you only need a tiny peice of it, which meant a 8" round cake would feed lots of people. 

This recipe came from Martha Stewart's Fresh Flavor Fast Cookbook and was super quick to whip up, it just needed pleanty of oven time.  I was a bit afraid I was going to really screw this up.  You have to beat the eggs whites twice to two different consistancies and they are basically the cake.  I assume because of the eggs, this cake was suprisingly light compared to similar cakes I've had.  It was still very rich, but was a bit more spongy in the center.  Maybe I didn't bake it long enough, I couldn't tell if it was pulling from the pan edges, but it had been in the oven 15 or more minutes than the recipe time, so I decided it needed to come out.  It was still super yummy and Erik was pleasently suprised by his second dessert that came out with candles and a loud, bar filling version of "Happy Birthday."  Give it a try, it's not as hard as it sounds!
Cooling, precandles

Flourless Chocolate Cake
8 to 10 servings
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I had a bit less, so I added a tiny bit of dark chocolate chips)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees with the rack in the center. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
  2. Place butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and place over, not in a sause pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until almost melted.  Remove from heat and stir until completely melted.  Whisk in egg yolks. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar, and continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form.
  4. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then gently fold in remaining egg whites.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is set in the center, 45 to 50 minutes.
  6. Cool completely on a wire rack; remove sides of pan. Serve at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.
He was very excited about this cake

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Birthday Desserts: Compost Cups

My friend and neighbor Erik had his birthday bash this weekend.  He is normally out of town on an annual ski trip, so he rarely has a bithday party with his New York friends and he wanted a big party this year.    It was an excellent party at a great bar, Local 61, in Brooklyn which could accomadate his massive guest list, friends from Ohio and Boston made a trip out for the extravaganza.  I made it my job to make a cake or dessert of some sort.  At first he claimed he didn't want one, and it always seemed like he and his brother were not much for sweets, so I wasn't going to do anything.  But I doubled check the night before to make sure he didn't want anything and found out that he apparently LOVES chocolate.  How I did not know this after three years is beyond me. 

Chocolate made my search much narrower and since it needed to be gluten free, a Flourless Chocolate Cake was the first thing that came to mind.  At breakfast the next morning with a couple of our friends the idea came up to make the dirt cupcakes that you see at a kids birthday with the  gummy worms coming out.  Why?  Because Erik is a Master Composter.  In his spare time he helped set up a composting program at the Gowanus Canal Concervancy and currently oversees the Grow NYC Compost Program.  Needless to say, he is serious about his compost.  So I decided I would be making two desserts, there were going to be a lot of people anyway.

I flipped through my cookbooks and recipe binders until I found a flourless chocolate cake, which I will share next, and a Chocolate Ricotta Mousse recipe from Real Simple.  I added some crushed Gluten Free chocolate cookies to the top and placed a gummy worm and Swedish Fish in little terra cotta pots I bought for muffin making.  They turned out super cute and were very rich and yummy.  The blending of the ricotta and chocolate smoothed out texture of the ricotta and made is silky.  The cookie crumbled added a nice crunch to the texture.  I was not a fan of eating the gummies with the chocolate, but they certainly good on their own.  You should definately give this recipe a try. With or with worms.

Compost Cups
6 servings
  • 15 oz ricotta (one container)
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 2 or 3 chocolate cookies (gluten free if desired), crushed
  • milk chocolate shavings
  • gummy worms
  • Swedish Fish
  1. Melt the semisweet chocolate chips in a microwave dish.  Make sure you do not burn it so start with one minute on high, stir and put it back in for increments of 15 to 20 seconds, stirring in between each time.  There should be a few unmelted chunks the final time you stir them, and the stirring will finish melting it all.  It shouldn't take more than three minutes total in the microwave, depending on you machine.  
  2. In a blender (or food processor if you have one), blend the ricotta, sugar, and melted chocolate until smooth.  Make sure to stop the blender and scrap down the sides to get everything mixed well.
  3. Line six terra cotta pots with parchment paper and place a gummy worm in each one.   Fill the pots with the chocolate mousse mixture.  Sprinkle the crushed cookies on top.
  4. Put them in the fridge to set up for bit, then stick the Swedish Fish in, they should not sink down once the mousse is a bit thicker, and sprinking the chocolate shavings on top.
  5. Real Simple's recipe says that you can store this in the fridge for up to two days and to bring it to room temperature for serving.