Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rustic Strawberry Tart

Waiting.  It's one thing I've learned this past week that I'm not good at.  Today, I'm officially overdue.  Why is it that doctors give pregnant women due dates?  I think they should give ranges, because once that coveted date you've been looking forward to for the past nine months comes and goes, you experience the brutal reality that you have absolutely no control over the situation.  All you can do is wait, wait, wait.  This kid must take after me - I was 15 days late.  His dad - 3 weeks early.  The only thing I do know is that we are so excited and anxious to meet this little bugger that the anticipation is eating us alive!

While I wait, I cook.  It's comforting to me - and then I think to myself, "it will be good to have this on hand once the baby is here..."  Lord knows I won't have the time to be whipping together rustic tarts on a regular basis once we're home.  I will relish in these last few quiet moments we have, and get as much sleep as possible - because I know that will be sparse, too. 

So let's talk strawberry tart, shall we?  The organic strawberries are finally back on the shelves at my local store and I seriously cannot get enough of them.  I've been putting them on my cereal, in my smoothies, and just eating them plain as plain can get.  But I was in the mood to jazz it up the other day and thought a tart would be the perfect way to do it.  I cheated a bit, though, because I used the frozen puff pastry.  Listen, I'm not usually an advocate of pre-packaged goods, but that frozen puff pastry - I'm a fan.  It's easy and delicious.  It's like a bad habit.  Next time, I'll make my crust homemade.  Deal?

This tart is perfect for springtime entertaining.  It's gorgeous to look at and absolutely delicious.  Not only that but it's so easy.  Try one today and enjoy!

I'm off to wait.
and wait.
and wait.

Happy Eating!

Rustic Strawberry Tart
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 lb organic strawberries, washed, destemmed, and quartered
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
juice from half lemon
water for brushing
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Wash, destem, and quarter your strawberries.  Add them to a large bowl along with the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice.  Stir and set aside.

While the strawberries are marinating, roll out the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface until it's about 1/8" thick.  Transfer to lined baking sheet.  Spoon strawberry mixture into the middle of the pastry sheet, leaving about an inch and a half border.  Fold up the sides of the sheet, free form.  Brush folded sides lightly with water and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is golden and strawberries are bubbling.

Let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting.  Serve and Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Potato and Kale Hash with Poached Egg

Ahh, Spring.  The flowers are starting to bloom, the days are getting longer, the produce selection is greener, and the sun splashes through the windows, painting our rooms with vibrant color.  I love this time of year.

And there's more newness to celebrate - see the changes I've made to the blog?  New header, new background, and I have added print functionality!  You are now able to print off your favorite recipes from my blog.  I tried out a new effect on my photos, too - just for fun and because I felt like doing something different.  It won't be permanent.  Slowly but surely I'm making the changes I've been wanting to for soooo long.  Baby steps {literally}.

We're still awaiting the arrival of our little spring surprise.  The countdown is on.....and it won't be long.  I'm still amazed at the transformation my body has made over the past 9 months.  It's just plain cool that it has known what to do - and a little crazy to think that I've grown a human in my stomach.  But it's such a miracle!  I'm anxious to meet this little guy.

In between writing up birth plans, installing car seats, folding onesies, and cleaning and organizing every corner of this house like a mad woman, I've been nourishing this belly with flavors and combinations I never thought I ever would {curry, especially}.  But this recipe I'm sharing today is pretty classic - and easy.  It's another one of those that you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I had a couple large baked potatoes left over from the weekend and decided that I would cube them and fry up with some onion and organic baby kale.  And because that sounded so boring, I poached a couple eggs and topped the whole deal with them.  Perfectly satisfying, perfectly easy.

Here's to all things Spring!  Happy Eating.

Potato and Kale Hash with Poached Egg
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 large par-baked russet potatoes, cubed
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups baby kale {regular is fine, too}
4 poached eggs {or fried}
kosher salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper {optional}

In a large pan, heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, followed by potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir to combine and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until potatoes are crisp and brown.  Add kale, season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes. 

Serve in individual bowls, each topped with 1-2 poached eggs.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, if desired.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

No Bake Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse

My blog has turned 1 as of the new year!  And what a year it has been.  In fact, it's hard to comprehend all the cooking I have done - all the recipes that I've posted....and all those that I haven't.  There's no denying all the fun along the way, either.

This next year will definitely bring about change, not only in my personal life but on this blog as well.  There are plans for layout changes, seasonal updates, recipe archives, printing options, Facebook, Twitter {yes, the site I still don't completely understand}, and whatever else my mind can think up when daydreaming about my little blog.  But, most importantly, the content will probably change.  There's a baby on the way.  That means quicker, easier, healthier adult meals - and probably some homemade baby food recipes along the way.  I've come to the realization that I just can't post as often as I used to either.  My life has changed from what it was a year ago - and for the better.  So expect greatness, but in smaller batches.

For today, though, let's celebrate 1 year together with this fabulously rich, creamy chocolate cheesecake mousse.  I actually made this for mother-in-law's birthday right before the holidays and it was a hit.  It's no bake {a huge plus!} and incredibly easy.  I topped the concoction with raspberries and toasted slivered almonds and it definitely worked.  But I was thinking that a plethora of other sweet combinations could probably adorn this mousse - think Oreos, Butterfingers, Snickers, or Peanut Butter cups with homemade whipped cream.  Or go fruity with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  Pineapple fan?  Add it.  How about pistachios or hazelnuts?  Better yet - make a batch of the mousse, leave it plain, let people scoop their own and set up a bar of toppings {kind of like an ice cream bar}.  Totally fun for a party!  The combinations are really endless - and that's what makes this such a great dessert.

Happy 1yr, my little Blog!

Creamy Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse
Recipe Inspired by:  Smithfield.com
Photos by A Toast To Taste

**  I doubled the recipe to feed 10 people.

Ingredients Needed:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cold whipping cream
3/4 cup fresh organic raspberries {optional}
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds {optional}

Cream together cream cheese and melted chocolate chips.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat until well blended.  Pour in cream and beat just until peaks form and hold their shape when beaters are lifted {took me about 4-5 minutes with my handheld mixer}.  Spoon into one large serving dish or into individual serving dishes.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, top with fruit and nuts - or whatever topping you choose.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Turkey & Kale Stuffed Shells

This little guy {yes, it's officially a boy!}above wishes you all a belated Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy New Year, and everything in between.  After all, we've been absent lately....again.  Seems to be a recurring theme here.  But there has been a whole lot of cooking going on, I promise.  I wish I could have snapped pics of the coffee-rubbed roasted pork butt we did a few weeks back.  To die for.  And the homemade chicken noodle soup, the wheat berry salad with zucchini and tomato, the marinara sauce with a bacon base {Holy Cow!!!}.  Or the Spritz cookies and soft, chewy ginger cookies that all disappeared way too quickly than they should have.  It's been happenin' in the kitchen this month!  But I have no pics to prove it.  Sorry for the taunting.

So, that leads me to today's recipe, one that I did have time to snap - turkey and kale stuffed shells.  This was beyond easy and super healthy.  These are definitely going on the dinner rotation in this house.

Kale is, by far, one of the best green veggies you can eat.  It's full of vitamins and minerals, and has one of the highest antioxidant levels - a perfect cancer fighter.  We need all the nutrition we can get these days so there was no doubt that I was adding a healthy dose of kale to this dish {it's also a good way to hide it - in case you have kids or significant others that can't stand the thought of eating it alone}.  Instead of using ground beef I swapped it out for ground turkey and called it a day.  There are a ton of different ways you can tweak this to your own tastes - go all veg and leave out the meat, or use beef or spicy italian sausage instead of turkey.  Your call.

Another thing I did to make this easy?  I used my favorite jarred pasta sauce - Mezzetta Homemade Marinara.  In my opinion, it's the closest thing to the real deal, and there's nothing funny in it - just straight tomatoes, garlic, and red wine.  If you have homemade sauce on hand, go ahead and use it.  The best part about this dish, though, is that it can be made ahead of time and cooked when you're ready.  And - it makes excellent leftovers.

2011 is soon coming to a close - and my blog is going to be turning 1!  I may have a little something sweet planned.  We have goals to establish for the year ahead, and I'm tickled pink {or blue, I guess} with all the change that's about to take place here at the humble abode.  But I'm wishing you health, happiness, and amazingly good food in the coming year.  Love generously, praise loudly, and live fully.  Happy New Year!
Turkey & Kale Stuffed Shells
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste
Ingredients Needed:
1 lb kale, prepared like this
18 jumbo pasta shells
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb ground turkey
15oz part skim Ricotta cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 large egg
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 jar of your favorite jarred marinara sauce {or use homemade}
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Cook the shells, kale, and turkey mixture.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and cook shells according to directions on the package.  Drain and remove to a clean kitchen towel to dry and cool.  Prepare the kale according to the link I've provided.  It's my favorite way to prepare kale and adds a little zip to the dish.  Set aside to cool.  In a medium skillet heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir and cook for about 30 seconds.  Place ground turkey in pan with onion and garlic.  Stirring frequently, brown turkey until there is no more pink color to the meat.  Remove from heat and set aside.  I combined the kale and turkey at this point.  You can keep them separate if you desire.

2.  Make the filling.  In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, egg, herbs, and spices.  Add the kale and turkey mixtures.  Stir until smooth.

3.  Fill and bake.  Place about 1 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Place about 2 Tbsp of the filling into each shell.  You want them full - not bursting.  Place stuffed shells on top of sauce.  Top the shells with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes {depending on your oven}.  During the last 10 minutes, remove the foil and brown cheese on top.  Serve and Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

I'm having a little issue with this thing called consistency lately, especially when it comes to this blog.  But I have to be honest, between the full-time job, work travel, and this sudden urge to nest, I really haven't had much time to post, nonetheless cook.

Nest?  Yes, now is probably the time to tell you that my husband and I are expecting our first baby next spring.  We are pretty darn excited......but with that comes a list a mile long of things we'd like to get done to the house before this little beauty arrives.  And this just leads to another reason why the posting has come to a halt - not only did I not have the time, I down right wasn't cooking for a period of about 6-7 weeks.  My diet consisted of cereal, cheese and crackers, and apples {on a good day}.  Nothing worth blogging about, that's for sure.

But, now I'm back to normal {if there is such a thing when you're pregnant} and back to cooking.  Thank goodness because fall is one of my favorite times of year to cook, and this roasted butternut squash risotto is an annual tradition in my kitchen.  Rich, creamy, and just plain 'ol good.  My husband loves it.  I love it.  It doesn't last long when I make a batch.  It's all really quite simple to make, too.   I know many people will disagree with me, but I actually love to make risotto.  It's therapeutic at times, but really it's just amazing to watch the rice transform.  And it's a great arm workout to boot.

I skinned, chopped, and cubed half a butternut squash {I had a huge one, use a whole one if yours is smaller}.  Drizzled the cubes with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper and roasted at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  I removed from the oven and set aside to cool.  Then I started the risotto.  My number one piece of advice has always been to use homemade chicken stock when making risotto - it makes such a difference in the taste.  If you don't have any ,the boxed kind will do but you will have to doctor up the flavors a bit.  Once the risotto is finished, I added in the squash, stirred just until incorporated and served.

I promise to be a little more consistent here in the future......so be prepared for more fall goodness.

Happy Eating!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

1 small butternut squash {or half a large one} skinned, cubed, and roasted
1.5 cups arborio rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup white wine (use one that you would drink)
4.5-5 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
salt and pepper to taste
handful of parmessan cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat chicken stock over low heat.

In a large skillet, heat oil and 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add arborio rice and stir to coat with onion mixture.  Cook until slightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Pour in wine, stirring frequently, and cook until absorbed.  At this point, season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup of broth, stirring constantly, until absorbed.  Continue to add a 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring constantly, and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next.  Rice should be creamy and tender when done (about 20-25 minutes).

Remove from heat, add squash, 2 Tbsp butter, and parmessan.  Stir to combine well.  Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce and Toasted Walnuts

It's fall.  My "fruit" bowl is now overflowing with squash varieties, pumpkins, and pears.  This is probably my favorite time of year.  The leaves are ablaze in oranges and reds, signaling yet another change of the seasons {and wardrobes and home decor and menu options}.  But it's all good because we have homemade pumpkin-stuffed ravioli.  Ohhh, do we ever.

This is going to be short and sweet because words simply cannot describe how dreamy this stuff is.  We made it two weeks in a row because it is absolutely addicting.  The key to this dish is to use homemade noodles and  real roasted pumpkin - not the canned kind.  It's amazing how rich the flavors are from the real stuff.  It's so worth the extra work.  This recipe happend by chance - I got a small pumpkin in the farm share a couple weeks back and really wasn't in the mood for baking a pie {I'm not really much a baker}.  So, what better way to use it up than to roast it and stuff it into some homemade noodle sheets?  Yeahhh.

Here is my recipe for homemade noodles.  You will want to skip the part about passing the noodles through the cutter setting.  You won't be cutting these into a shape - you just want the thinly rolled sheets.  I also don't use a ravioli machine that shapes and cuts for you.  I just do it by hand - and I find it quite fun {but that's just me}. 

In the spirit of fall, I seriously hope you try these.  They are out of this world!

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce and Toasted Walnuts
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:

For the Filling:
1 small pie pumpkin, peeled, cubed, and roasted {I roast with olive oil, salt and pepper}
2 small shallots, chopped and sauteed in butter
1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper
dash kosher salt

For the Sauce:
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
dash of dry rubbed sage

For the Noodles:
Link is in the post above.  Make 1 batch.

Makes about 18 raviolis.

Start with the filling.  Place roasted pumpkin in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Remove to a separate bowl and add in sauteed shallots, grated cheese, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and salt.  Stir together until well combined.  Set aside.

Then make the noodles.  Place rolled sheets on a well floured cutting board or countertop surface.  Using a tablespoon, scoop pumpkin mixture and place in the center of noodle, one after the other, spaced about an inch apart, leaving about an inch on each end.  Fold top part of noodle over the pumpkin mounds and press together with the bottom part of the noodle.  Using your pointer and middle finger, press down between the mounds, making sure to remove any air pockets that may exist.  Then, cut the ravioli using either a knife or pasta cutter in between the mounds to create individual raviolis.  Take a fork and press the edges together to prevent them from popping open during the cooking process.

At this point you will want to start melting your butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Then drop the raviolis into a pot of boiling salted water.  These will only take about 2-3 minutes to cook through, if that.  Keep your eye on them.  Once they float to the top, they are done.  Drain and place in a large serving bowl.  Once the butter has foamed and smells nutty, remove from the heat and pour over the raviolis.  Add toasted walnuts and sprinkle with dry rubbed sage and freshly grated pecorino.  Gently toss and serve!