Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts

The front cover of the February Bon Appetit featured these brownies. I've been staring at them for the past month, trying to find the time to carve out so I could make them. Thank goodness for snow days.

I love butter. But browned butter. Lordy, where do I begin? It just magnifies the taste of everything and gives it a rich, nutty flavor. Love, love, love that. And it sure makes these brownies taste incredibly delicious. Basically to the point you really can't eat just one, or two, or...well, that's too much information for you. There's a reason I take the steps at work, and park far away at the grocery store :)

Simply put, these are divine. And you should go make them. Now.

Here is the recipe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Weekend

I'm consciously deciding NOT to think about this stuff that's going on outside my windows today...

But rather, I'm choosing to think about this:

Much, much better.

We celebrated my husband's birthday this weekend. It was more like a food fest - a delicious food fest of homemade pasta and sauces. I've been stuffed since Saturday. And now I have a million and a half recipes to share with all of you.

Let's start with the Bolognese. I used this recipe and followed it to a T. I'm not usually one to follow recipes too closely. I find it cumbersome and restricting, but I decided that maybe it's time. And it was worth it. This sauce is full of flavor - and a crowd pleaser at that.

I made this a day ahead of time and I feel it really helped to develop the flavors. Threw it together with some homemade linguine and it was outstanding. Chunky, beefy, tomatoey, juicy greatness. I will definitely be putting this one on the make again list.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Berry Pancakes for My Valentine

Happy Heart Day!

What says "I Love You" better than berry pancakes?? Not much, I don't think.

Sunday paper, strong coffee, fresh berry pancakes, sunshine warming the living room, and morning doggy kisses - that's how we spent yesterday morning. And that's really all we needed to wrap up our Valentine's Day weekend.

I hope your day was filled with love....and kisses...and good food.


Berry Pancakes
Original Recipe from Joy of Cooking
Adapted by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1.5 cups all purpose flour (I substituted half for whole wheat flour)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 3/4 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup strawberries, diced
3/4 cup blueberries

Heat griddle pan.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the berries and stir just until combined.

Add 2 tbsp butter to griddle to prevent sticking. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake, flip once bubbles appear on the surface, after about 2-3 minutes. Cook until second side is brown. Makes about 12 pancakes.

Serve with maple syrup and strawberries.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

It's Valentine's Day Weekend. Are you doing anything to make your loved one swoon??

My husband gets me one of these. It makes me swoon.

My plan is to cook this weekend - a lot. We learned our lesson years ago not to go out for Valentine's Day - overpriced, mediocre food en mass....no thanks!! So, it's home we stay and eat and drink too much red wine. We might even get the grill going tonight - ugh, it's been way too long.

I started last night with a savory Mushroom Risotto. This is like cocaine to my husband. He literally cannot stop eating it. I paired it with pan seared chicken thighs with an herbed white wine sauce (will share that one another time). What a great way to end a hectic week.

Risotto is a classic Italian dish made with the starchy, short grain rice called Arborio. It's cooked in broth to a creamy consistency and usually includes onion, parmessan and butter. It's really a simple process - just requires time and attention. It's a perfect side. Or a perfect entree. And just enough to make your loved one swoon this weekend.


Mushroom Risotto
Recipe and Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
2 Tbsp olive oil
6-7 oz. mushrooms, sliced - I used baby portabellas

olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
4 small shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup grated parmessan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
thyme, for garnish

In a saucepan, warm chicken broth over low heat.

Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat, add mushrooms and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Remove mushrooms and set aside.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter to skillet. Add shallots and cook until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil mixture. Cook about 2 minutes. Once the rice is slightly pale and turning golden, add the white wine and stir constantly until the wine is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth, stirring constantly until broth is absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup broth at a time, stirring continuously, until the broth is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms, parmessan, and remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and re-season if necessary. Serve and garnish with thyme.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Greek Couscous Salad

It's usually about this time of the year that I start thinking about spring....why, you ask?

- It's no longer dark by 4:20pm.
- The sun seems to be shining more.
- And stores are already displaying their spring apparel in the windows. Flirty skirts, flip flops and sunglasses - I WANT IT ALL NOW!!!

I'm already thinking about what I want to plant in the flower pots out front - do I want to go red or purple? Or yellow? Or white? And what will I put on the back patio? Decisions, decisions - that clearly I have ample amount of time to contemplate....since it's only mid-February.

It's usually this time of year that I start to get bored with the heavy winter food we've already been eating for 6 months, too. So, this recipe was a breath of fresh air! I'm ready for lemons and melons and berries and fresh herbs. I can't wait for that first CSA box we get - usually fresh greens and garlic scapes early on in the season. Oh the possibilities!

This salad was purely created off the top of my head - "add as you go", I like to call it. I almost always have greek flavors on hand in my pantry and refrigerator - kalamata olives, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese - so decided these would be perfect with the couscous I had. Add a little celery, greek seasoning, olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a lovely tasting salad that works perfectly well as a meal on its own or as a side to grilled chicken, fish, or steak.

Here's to spring, kind of!

Greek Couscous Salad
Recipe and Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 box all natural couscous
2 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Greek Seasoning (I used McCormick's)
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

** I did not add any red onion today - but if you have it and like the spicy taste, go ahead and add a half cup or so - it would be a nice complement to the flavors **

Cook couscous according to directions on box. Transfer from pan to large mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except for the feta cheese and stir to incorporate. Once complete, add the feta and give one last stir. Taste and re-season if necessary. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs and Pan Roasted Tomatoes

I said we were detoxing this week, remember?
I also said in a previous post that I would never buy boxed pasta again, remember?

Well, I've broken both these promises, in a matter of one day. Yowza!
That's life!

This was one of those days where I kept repeating to myself, "La Dolce Vita, La Dolce Vita...live it." It doesn't take long for life to catch up to it's pre-vacation pace, I tell ya. I made an effort to actually work while sitting at my desk today (I have a home office) instead of the kitchen table or the coffee table in the living room. I sat down for breakfast this morning. But, I rushed through lunch - never sat down, rushed through dinner - never sat down, gave the dog about 5 minutes of my "undivided" attention (poor thing), and hung up on my husband because he wasn't getting to the point quickly enough this afternoon on the phone - I don't have time for long pauses and questions you already know the answer to:) Sorry, love. Really. I'll be more patient next time. La Dolce Vita.

So, it's baby steps we take. This is much harder than I could have imagined. But drowning oneself in a carb-laden meal will make it all feel better, right? I think so.

This dish is so easy. Since Spain, I've been a little obsessed with anchovies. They're everywhere over there (see picture above) - usually eaten raw in a tapa but also used as salad toppers and flavor adders. I usually have a tube of anchovy paste hanging out in my refrigerator and wanted to incorporate it here with this meal. And I'm glad I did. The anchovy just adds this unique flavor - almost like the japanese umami factor. So tasty and delicious. If you don't like anchovy, don't use it. The dish will still be fabulous.

Enjoy this one!

Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs and Pan Roasted Tomatoes
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 lb Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti (regular is fine, too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped, plus additional for serving
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped, plus additional for serving
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add sea salt, and cook pasta according to directions. If using fresh pasta, cook for 2-3 minutes and drain.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and roast until they start to pop (about 5 minutes). Turn heat to low and add garlic. Cook for one minute. Add fresh herbs and anchovy paste. Stir to incorporate paste and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the butter, let melt, stir and remove from the heat. Once pasta is cooked and drained, add to skillet and toss with tomato mixture

Taste and re-season if needed. Serve immediately. Top with grated parmessan for added flavor.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Detox Stew

We are detoxing this week. Period. Our bodies need a little TLC after all that fabulous food and wine we inhaled last week....

I had a huge stack of magazines staring me in the face for 3 weeks before we left - Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Whole Living, People, Nordstrom's Spring Collection, you name it. I hadn't had a second to open any of them since the new year and I was dying to get through them - thank goodness for 8 hour flights!

I found this soup recipe in my Whole Living magazine - which I love, by the way. I thought it would be the perfect detoxifier and immunity boosting meal after traveling. Not only that but winter is still in full swing, to my demise, and soup really does taste fabulous when the snow is falling and the winds are a blowin'. I made a few tweaks to this recipe - added some crushed red pepper flakes (the hubby always needs some spice) and swapped out butternut squash for sweet potatoes. There is no meat in this soup either - the mushrooms are a great substitute (and you can do this with tacos and sandwiches as well - sub out the meat with mushrooms). I used my homemade chicken stock that I had on hand and called it a day.

I served this with toasted garlic anchovy bread and could feel my body saying Thank You with the first bite.


Mushroom and Lima Bean Stew
Original Recipe from Whole Living Magazine
Adapted by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:

For the Soup
2 15oz cans Lima or Butter Beans (or 2 cups dried Lima Beans soaked in water)
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
8 oz. portobello mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium size sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (or 2lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1 inch pieces)
2 bay leaves
8 cups chicken stock
3-4 cups water
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups kale, stems and ribs removed, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Bread
1 loaf french bread, sliced thinly
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat EVOO in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until tender, 6-8 minutes. Add mushrooms. Cook until golden brown. Turn to medium high heat and add sweet potato, beans, bay leaves, stock, and water. Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until potatoes are tender, about one hour. Stir in kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together anchovy paste, garlic, and olive oil. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a baking rack. Spread slice of bread evenly on rack. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil mixture. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove and serve with soup.