Tuesday, July 29, 2008

roasted beet salad with serrano ham and iberico cheese

we had friends over this weekend for dinner and wii time and i had a modified beet salad in mind before we even invited said friends. at our anniversary dinner at hyeholde, my first course was roasted beets (the fancy striped and golden kind), seared ham, and cubes of cheese with a beet reduction, pesto and a few bits of watercress - this inspired me to make it more dinner party friendly and into a "real" salad.

i didn't find any fancy beets, but i did buy a whole bunch of the regular old red ones and set out on my first beet roasting experience. i've eaten beets my whole life (at least i think i have...mom? am i lying? mom? are you even reading these posts!?) but always from a jar or can, or in the form of pickled beets and hard-boiled eggs. oh mah gah i love pickled beets and eggs, so purple-y and vinegar-y. but anyway, my friend kate introduced me to fresh, roasted beets a while back and i was shocked to hear that it's pretty easy to do. please note, if you're not up to the task of doing it yourself, don't eat them anywhere else. if you do, you'll never like canned beets again and your beet loving life will be ruined. and since mine already was (thanks a lot, kate! no really, thank you.), i figured i could roast my own.

real beets. "fresh" from the ground 

so i went around online and looked for beet roasting instructions. my searching time was limited and i settled on what looked like an easy one. i have no idea where that is now because i didn't save the link and have no idea how i came across it, but it doesn't matter. i'll give you "my" instructions including the addition of almost 2 hours of roasting time. oh yes, i found a recipe that said 375F, 40 minutes, good to go. those are lies, ok? but i'll tell you how to do it right based on the one and only time i've done it. 

grab your pan, your sea salt, and your tin foil and let's roast some beets

roasted beets
1. rinse beets and trim tops to one inch, leaving root on (this keeps the beets from bleeding while roasting)
2. pour a layer of sea salt on a cookie sheet (i have no idea why, but it seems important)
3. place beets in a tin foil pouch and pour a bit of olive oil over them
4. secure the pouch to trap steam and place foil/beets on top of the salt layer
5. roast beets at 375/400F for about 2 hours (oven times and beet sizes vary), until tender when fork-poked
6. remove from oven and allow to cool
7. remove skin from beets by gently peeling away from the inner flesh (this turns your hands red)
8. eat, refrigerate, pickle, whatever!

three key players: watercress, iberico cheese, and serrano ham

so two hours behind, i had my roasted beets. luckily, i had already prepped the rest of the salad ingredients and could just toss everything together.

roasted beet salad 
roasted beets, sliced in to wedges (you pick how much you want, I used 5 or 6)
handful of watercress
spring mix greens (yes, prebagged...i already roasted beets!)
1/4 lb serrano ham, cubed
1/4 lb iberico cheese, cubed
3 tbsp beet juice (from a can or you can puree your own)
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. mix the first five ingredients
2. prepare the dressing by stirring beet juice, vinegar and sugar until combined
3. slowly add the olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste (really, taste this whole thing out and adjust to your liking)
4. drizzle dressing over salad and serve (this doesn't last long [overnight] as the liquids tend to wilt the greens)

juicy beets, salty ham and creamy cheese. 

this was one tasty salad. the ham and cheese are way refined and the perfect salty/creamy combo to the sweet, red beets. the watercress is peppery and balances everything out. i was rushing all around and didn't get great shots of the finished product (we had to eat!), so the above is the best i've got. but it was really pretty, trust me.

being beet lovers, husband and i are still enjoying the leftovers of my roasting day (15 beets...). i also have to force myself to eat the rest of the jarred beets that i swiped the juice for the dressing from. ugh! my life is so hard.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

so i made this meal a while back when i was all omg me, skewers, and my bff rose do everything together! it was also in a time when i didn't realize that raw meat + macro lens ≠ yummy food photos. so i apologize in advance for not taking two or three steps back before photographing. vegetarians may want to stop reading this post now.

and, haha. you thought i was done with my rachel ray oh how i love thee (really the magazine only), but i'm not. and why should i be? i'm going to keep receiving the issues and i'm going to keep trying the recipes. i don't have to hide my love for easy meals sans the oregano stories. (if you've never watched RR on TV, then you wouldn't know that every time she uses oregano she tells a story about what it means and how, oh hehe, i just know all this random stuff and now just pour in your E.V.O.O. which is extra virgin olive oil which i've said 800 billion times in this episode alone...) 

ANYWHOBEARSKIPANTS, this recipe for spicy meat skewers and couscous was from the june/july 2008 RR. 

spanish shrimp and chorizo skewers
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (E.V.O.O.)
2 tbsp hot pepper sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon 
2 tsp sweet paprika
16 jumbo shrimp, deveined and peeled (tail on)
3/4 lb chorizo sausage, casings removed & cut into angled slices

1. combine E.V.O.O., hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice and paprika
2. add shrimp and marinate for 10 minutes
3. thread shrimp and chorizo onto skewers, alternating 
4. grill, turning once, until shrimp are opaque (7-8 minutes)

what's more appetizing than extreme close ups of raw pork and shellfish smothered in marinade?

but this is better, right? cooked just a bit is more appealing, i think...

"especial" couscous (minor edits from original)
1 tbsp E.V.O.O.
2 c chicken broth
1 c frozen peas
4 scallions, sliced white to medium green
2 pinches saffron threads
1 tsp tumeric
2 c couscous
1/3 c cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 c almonds, sliced and toasted
1/4 c green olives with pimento, chopped

1. bring broth, peas, scallions, lemon peel, saffron, tumeric and E.V.O.O. to a boil
2. stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes
3. stir in cilantro, almonds and olives 

super easy and pretty good, too

like i said, RR's meals tend to be basic and easy to follow. that's nice when i'm ravenous and don't want to read recipes for an hour before deciding if i have the ingredients and feel up to making dinner. 

the marinade was nice and spicy (i may have added a few more dashes of hot sauce), making the shrimp a perfect accompaniment to the already spicy chorizo. the couscous was tasty but not entirely matched to the meat. 

if it's food on a stick, i'll probably like it 
::sobs for the MN State Fair::

in closing, i promise not to write E.V.O.O. in future posts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


that's right. husband and i celebrated our one year anniversary yesterday. we "made" it a whole year and are still happy and in love...which, thankfully, is not surprising but notable nonetheless. we enjoyed a delicious dinner at a restaurant called hyeholde - possibly the best ambiance and food we've ever had. if you're in the neighborhood (which, just in case you've been wanting to stalk me, is not my neighborhood), you should most definitely have dinner there - they even have romantic picnics.

early in the day i was treated to a special breakfast of fresh blueberry pancakes with mimosas! nothing like drinking before work at 7 am. um, but i only had one and with an hour and half between champers and working, i was fine.

note: not made with asti. while i love me some asti, when husband makes, it's with the real deal.

then it came time for tradition: eating the top tier of our wedding cake. this was not an easy feat as our cake was frozen and stored in minnesota, where we were married. thankfully i have amazing in-laws that  were willing to ship the cake across the country. while it didn't look exactly as it did on our wedding day, it still tasted great.

thanks parents-in-law!

to me, it was more important to take the bite than to see it in perfect cake form. and look - the ribbon is still there! a note to everyone wishing to ship an assembled cake: the post office doesn't care if it's fragile and needs to be right side up. in fact, i'm pretty sure the post office will throw your box of expertly packaged cake around in their truck just for fun. and you know what? it won't matter because cake is cake and it will still be good. so take that mr. postman!

then it was time for my gift. in true form, husband went all out. his gift made me cry like a baby, something i would really rather not admit to but since this is what is known for much of the world as a "special moment", i'll be honest: my normally cold heart was melted (as it always is) by what he does for me.

this is a handmade (of paper) vase. he labored over it for a week or so and presented it with flowers that were in my wedding bouquet. (insert tears here) in addition to this he got me a book of chihuly's glass works, which we saw in pittsburgh and loved. 

we also treated ourselves to something fabulous - a wii. i'm a gamer, he's a gamer...and i've had my eye on one since it made it's debut. so we got one and stocked up on the some new games (thank to my parents for the fun! money - we even got mario galaxy). if nothing else from this weekend, i can say that i made a mii!

and, while it was husband's idea early on, i ended up "surprising" him with an appropriate 1 year gift:

paper mario!

there were no tears shed after this gift as i am not the romantic one, apparently...but husband did end up playing for about 7 hours. i'd say it was still a success. 

so there it was. i didn't make anything, but a year of marriage is still pretty cool. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a lovely stack of trail mix cookies made from a rainbow of m&ms

we went white water rafting this weekend and i knew we'd need some sort of snack to tide* us over on the drive...plus i figured our friends might enjoy a treat after a long day on the river. i was right. the trip was crazy - everyone but me fell out of the boat (some more than one time!). i even managed to end the day with dry hair. with everyone soggy and exhausted, these trail mix cookies hit the spot.

*i found this especially appropriate given the day's activities!

i searched through many recipes online and used an easy one that made a huge batch (we're hungry folk!), substituting here and there with ingredients i preferred over the originals.

the batter was so pretty i got a little picture heavy...i'm a sucker for rainbow things, what can i say?

trail mix cookies (adapted slightly from the e-how recipe)
1 c sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c natural chunky peanut butter
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c shortening
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 c flour
1 1/2 c quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 c m&ms
1 c lightly salted mixed nuts (cashews, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts in mine)
3/4 c dried cranberries

1. blend butter and shortening, add peanut butter
2. cream in sugar and brown sugar
3. add vanilla and eggs and mix to combine
4. stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder and oats (don't over mix)
5. mix in m&ms, nuts, and cranberries
6. drop dough in rounded tsp onto a greased cookie sheet (i used non-stick ungreased), flatten slighting with a fork
7. bake at 375F for 10 minutes or until golden, cool 1 minute before transferring to cooling rack


this is obviously an easy recipe that came together quickly and bakes to a crispy, hearty peanut butter cookie with a whole bunch of goodies inside. i made them a bit larger then a rounded tsp - because these weren't for dipping in grandma's tea - and just kept an eye on them baking in my uneven, temperamental oven. even with the larger cookie, i still made out with about 60 of them!

everyone loved the cookies. husband and i had a few on the drive and our friends had some to fuel up before the big rafting trip. just like trail mix, these kept us going until our sandwich and apple lunch midway down the river. i'm not sure if that meal was before or after the rapid of the day - it managed to flip almost 4 boats (i say almost because i was borderline dumped and managed to throw my body onto the high side of our empty raft to maintain my dry yet panicked state) - but we were in need to more snacks post trip and the friends polished off a full bag of trail mix cookie goodness in no time flat. 

but you don't have to do extreme things to enjoy these. i brought the leftovers to work and they were gone despite the fact that the most exciting thing in the office involved walking to get a cookie.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

rice noodles with mushrooms, bok choy and bean sprouts

i finally went grocery shopping after my trip to north carolina but i didn't feel like making a list beforehand. this led to me wandering the aisles looking for inspiration...and i came across a nice little package of shitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms while browsing. i grabbed them and also added to my buggy (ha, oh grandma i love you) some baby bok choy and fresh bean sprouts. i bought some eggs (thanks, husband, for leaving just shy of a dozen eggs on the counter, overnight, as i had done just 2 weeks prior...), some thin rice noodles and some garlic hummus that makes me breathe fire (but that doesn't really fit in with my dish here).

when it came time to use these specific ingredients, i had no recipe in mind. so i went for a search and randomly came across a recipe that literally had all of the ingredients i had purchased, plus a few that i keep a stash of in my pantry. that package of mushrooms and this link were like destiny. 

but, i was hesitant. you see, i don't like eggs in these kinds of dishes. at least i didn't think i did. i know i don't like egg in maki rolls and i don't like slimy egg whites on my sunny side ups, either. but a few weeks ago i wanted to try something new with the very few ingredients in my house (this was just prior to NC and i wasn't grocery shopping then). i found a super easy recipe for egg drop soup and i went so far as to even consume it. it was fine. i wasn't in love with the egg texture but i didn't gag or throw soup at husband. in short, i survived. then i left the eggs out on the counter and we had to throw them out.

baby bok choy, chopped and sorted

mushrooms ready for stir-frying

mixed mushroom, bok choy and bean sprouts with rice noodles (recipe adjusted from link above)
7 oz thin rice noodles
2 c chicken broth
2 eggs
1/4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp chili garlic paste 
1 small onion, diced
2 c shitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms, sliced (you can use what you like)
2 cups bok choy, chopped (separate white stalk from green leaves)
1/4 tsp white pepper
oil for stir-frying
white wine or broth for stir-frying

1. heat chicken broth and add eggs - stir until yolks break and cook into broth
2. stir in fish sauce and soy sauce then set aside
3. heat oil in wok over medium heat and add garlic, onion and chili paste - stir-fry 1 min
4. add mushrooms and stir-fry for 2 min or until soft (add white wine or broth if wok becomes dry)
5. add white stalks of bok choy and stir-fry 1-2 min until softened
6. add the broth-egg mixture and bok choy leaves, stir to combine (taste test here, add more soy/fish sauce or chili if desired)
7. when broth bubbles, reduce heat and add noodles (lay noodles across surface and gently dunk to coat with liquid)
8. allow noodles to cook, carefully turning in the broth occasionally
9. when broth has absorbed (5 min or so), remove from heat and add bean sprouts and white pepper
10. stir to combine 
mushrooms and bok choy mingling with the sauce

laying the noodles out

i did notice that when i put my noodles in the wok, there wasn't quite enough liquid to cover them. i took the liberty of splashing some more white wine on and i'm pretty sure that did the trick. you could add some soy sauce spiked chicken broth as well, if you choose not to use wine. 

fresh bean sprouts

here's something i could have guessed: fresh bean sprouts are one billion times better than canned. of course, this is usually the case, but i was born and raised on the canned stuff. you know that la choy chow mein? the stuff with the "meat" and sauce on the bottom can and the "veggies" (including sprouts) in the top can? oh yes, i loved that stuff. and even now, in my semi-frequent "asian" cooking, i've used cans of bean sprouts. but, let me tell you, once you go fresh you never go back. (i can't make that rhyme in a funny way)

this looks far less appetizing in this photo than it was in real life, i promise

this dish was really good. super impressive good. i loved the egg broth mixture, the back of the throat spiciness from the pepper and chili paste, and the crunchy bean sprouts. it was enough for 4 meals (husband had two servings for one meal)  and tasted almost as good, but a little less salty, the second day. it was so basic in flavor and i will make it again, for sure. plus, as long as you use the bean sprouts (very important), i think any vegetables would be great in it. sugar snap/snow peas, colored peppers, other mushrooms...plus meat would be a great addition: shrimp, pork, or really anything but ground hamburger. 

so...even if slimy eggs make you dry heave, i think you'll like this dish. i promise!

Monday, July 7, 2008

welcome (back!)

simple scotty welcome

so i've been busy and out of town, coordinating my very first wedding. it was successful and beautiful and everyone had a great time. i feel really good about the work that i did and at the end of the day i was tired and my feet were sore, but i was ready to do another. i can't wait until i can dedicate more of my time to helping brides (and grooms!) get what they want on their big day.

in between my last post and now, my coworkers and i also welcomed a new staff member into our small office within the university. as part of our celebration committee (c-com, word to your mother), i planned the small breakfast and welcome basket. usually tsquared makes our staff cards, but we were on a tight timeline so i made the card this time. i had made this little scotty design a while ago as a thank you note for some help with my cheer team, but it's pretty versatile, so i switched it to welcome! and lined the envelope with an adorable gingham/tartan print.