Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18th - Summer Update

The Winds of Change Keep Blowing
This summer is flying by, isn't it?  It just seems like the beginning of July and now it's getting towards the end of August.  Yeesh.  Well, I tried to keep my promise, but not having to blog has been too nice and I'm 18 days late with an update for all of you. 

I am officially a full time instructor now at my culinary school (I was a part-timer before).  Congratulations to me (PAT ON THE BACK).   I just found out today in fact.  Also, got rid of the mall job and now work at a catering place in the city.  ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!  The people are so nice and the work is fun!   Finally,  I've been keeping busy with projects for the school and teaching.     

I know you're here to see what I've been cooking up in the meantime, so here's the two biggies I have for you.

The above sugar cookie is for the Culinary Honor Society I am the faculty advisor for.  I made about 50 of these guys for the induction cerememony (it was at the end of June).   

Below are the cakes I just finished last week for a buddy of mine for his baby shower.  (Excuse the unpolished look of the photos.  I did transfer them to a cake board and cleaned them up a little, but I thought I should get photos of them at that point in the process because I would forget in the end...and I did.) 

He wanted childrens books, so I busted out the fondant.  One was vanilla with vanilla butter cream (Giving Tree), one was chocolate with chocolate fudge frosting (Curious George), and the last one was carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (Good Night Moon).   I was a little disappointed with the Curious George.  The perfectionist chef in me thought I could do better.   I do have to give props to Brian for helping cutting out fondant shapes.   He put in a lot of time at night when I was at the catering place.

So, that's my update.  I'm doing really well, staying busy, and still loving my life.   I hope to blog again soon.  My goal is once again at the end of August.  Stay tooned...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 1st - Recipe for Success

Throwing In The Dish Towel
Well, I knew this day was going to come.  The end of a silly project I half schemed after a few too many.  I was hoping it would be January 1st 2011, but instead it's July 1st and I need to call it quits.  This cooking everyday/blogging is going to have to take a back seat to the new responsibilities I'm taking on at school.   

I got behind on the recipes due to side gigs and its impossible to get ahead now.   So, after much debate with Brian and others, I've made peace with the fact that this is the end of the Bon Appetite: Fast, Easy, and Fresh project.   I'll still blog every once in a while on special events and things I make, but it won't be on a daily basis.  More like weekly.  (I'm taking July off and will be back in August).

So Thank YOU kindly for all your comments, words of encouragement, and support as I trudged through the last 6 months of food, food, and more food.    I'll see you back in August for different food and a different format.

Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25th - Shallot Bruschetta

Shallots Next Year?
I'm thinking I want to plant shallots next year in my garden.   I've got garlic growing this year and its doing great.  I'm too apprehensive to do full fledged onions, so maybe the small unassuming shallot will be my crop for 2011.  I love the taste of shallots.  They're small, but potent, and lend a great flavor to sauces and vinaigrettes. 

This recipe was very simple.  I was quite surprised.  However, I think that the caramelized shallots and cheese would make a much better topping for flat bread pizza than bruschetta rounds.  Sprinkle on a little chopped thyme?


Shallots: $1.29
Olive Oil: had
French Bread: $0.99
Cheese (Asiago): had

Total: $2.28


FAST:   About 10 minutes total.

EASY:   The difficulty lies in cutting up the shallots.

FRESH:  Yes, but could improve with a sprinkling of some fresh herbs.

OVERALL:  I like the simplicity of the recipe combined with that caramelized shallot flavor.  Again, I would maybe add a little chopped parsley or thyme for flavor and garnish.  It needs a little punch of color on the top.

This weekend we have bruleed berries (not to be confused with creme brulee).  See ya then!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24th - One Hour Shrimp Paella

You can have some of my paella..ella..ella..
Years back, when I was studying in Italy, I was able to get away for a long weekend to Barcelona.  It was an amazing adventure and I'm so glad I did it.  My mission on that trip was to eat the best paella in the city.  So I researched, found it, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  Super friendly staff at this family owned place...just perfect.   Every time I hear the word paella now, I think of me sitting at that little table on the second floor overlooking the street and eating that wonderful combination of seafood and rice. 

What can you expect from this One Hour Shrimp Paella?  Nothing close to the real thing, but this recipe was quite tasty.   It's suprisingly good for a recipe with a title that makes it sound no better than the photo printing at Walgreen's. 

Try to track down real smoked Spanish paprika, it'll make all the difference.  I was able to find that and some saffron at Williams Sonoma.  (Trader Joe's might have it as well).  I suggest you make this sometime soon before the price of shrimp becomes astronomical due to the BP disaster in the gulf.


Olive Oil: had
Smoked Ham: $2.44
Onions: $0.89
Red Bell Pepper: $0.75
Saffron: $6.00
Paprika: $7.50
Broth: $1.00
Arborio Rice: had
Shrimp: $6.00
Green Olives: $3.09

Total: $27.67  (Ouch.  Pricey.  But I spent the majority on excellent quality saffron and paprika, which should last a while).

FAST:  Contrary to the name, the recipe does not take 1 hour.  It takes about 15 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to cook the rice, and another 6 to cook the shrimp.   So about 36 minutes total.
EASY:  Really easy.  The most difficult part is chopping everything up and peeling the shrimp.
FRESH:  Yes.  You can even make it more fresh tasting with some chopped up parsley.
OVERALL:  Not bad for a really simple and easy paella.  Yes, technically it's not paella.  Its more of a paella style risotto, but delicious none the less.  Brian weighs in on the recipe with a yum and a thumbs up.  I recommend the fresh parsley as a garnish and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon to zing a contrast to the smokey/herby flavors of the paprika and saffron.

Tomorrow is a simple shallot bruschetta.  See ya then!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23rd - White Beans with Sage and Olive Oil

This recipe is such a disappointment after the wonderful waffles.  But alas, all is not loss.  This recipe did remind me that dried beans really aren't that hard to cook.  They may seem a bit intimidating, but can be pretty easy.

The flavor on these beans was weak and pretty blah.  My recommendation: boil the beans in plain water, saute up a garlic/sage mixture in olive oil, and add the oil mixture to the cooked drained beans.  You'll avoid the blahs and get a much better flavor on the beans.  


Dried White Beans: $1.00
Olive Oil: had
Garlic: $0.89
Sage: had (from the garden)

Total: $1.89

FAST: Not at all.  The beans need to come to a boil and soak for 1 hour.  Then, you need to boil them again in some fresh cold water for 45 minutes.  You're looking at 2 hours for beans.

EASY:  If you can boil water, you can do this recipe.

FRESH:  The flavor of the garlic and fresh sage is lost when you boil the poop out of it.  In fact, the flavor gets so subtle you almost miss it.

OVERALL:  Not great.  Definitely making the garlic-sage oil mixture next time and drizzling it just before service.  Otherwise, skip this recipe.

Tomorrow is Paella!  See ya then.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22nd - Waffles with Frizzled Ham and Maple Mustard Cream

Waffles you say?
Gosh darn, I did!  Breakfast for dinner is becoming really really popular in the Chicago-land area.  You can find all sorts of savory waffles/pancakes and egg dishes on dinner menus throughout the city.   I think folks like the comfort breakfast foods provide.  Plus, they take well to interpretations.  This, my dear friends, is an absolute treat that you MUST try.  Brian is putting this recipe in his top 10 favorite recipes of all time!  That's a big honor from such an oldster!  (Ha ha, kidding!)

Seriously, ditch the Eggos and either make waffle batter from scratch or buy the Malted Mix from Williams-Sonoma (that's what I used).  This recipe deserves the best waffle you can get!  The maple-mustard cream is like gooey heaven and the pieces of ham thrown in put you over the edge!  It all works fabulously together to make a memorable dinner that'll make your guests think twice before poo-pooing your crazy ideas!!


Butter: had
Ham: $2.57
Heavy Whipping Cream: $1.99
Maple Syrup: $6.00 (I got the real stuff)
Dijon Mustard: $1.00
Green Onions: $0.53
Waffles: used the Malted Mix from Williams-Sonoma which I had in the pantry

Total: $12.09


FAST:  The recipe takes about 20 minutes including prep time, sauce cooking time, and waffle making time.

EASY:  Super easy.  You just saute the ham for 5 minutes, then add all the rest of the sauce ingredients and let simmer for 3 minutes.  The hardest part for me was making the waffles.

FRESH:  The green onions add the fresh zing to the sauce.  Make sure to have some extra for garnish!

OVERALL:  LOVE THIS RECIPE!!  LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS RECIPE!!  I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the best recipe so far this year from this crazy (time consuming) project.  The ham-maple-mustard cream is so delicious.  Who would have thought maple and mustard would go so well together?  Now, in order for this to work, you CANNOT use Mrs. Butterworths.  You need to spring for the real maple syrup (it is pretty expensive though).  It will not taste the same.  I just tried it and it does not taste the same!!   Please, do me a favor and have waffles for dinner.  The kids will love it and your dinner guests will freak!

I don't know if anything will ever top the awesomeness of this recipe, but we've got white beans tomorrow.  I'm thinking it'll be a let down.  We'll see ya tomorrow and find out!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 19th & 20th - Heath Bar Brownies

Brownie Goodness...
I go ape for brownies.  Absolutely love them.  Especially when they are fudgy (and not cakelike).  Yumm..  I could eat a whole pan by myself.  This is a delicious twist on the, dare I say it, ho-humness of brownies.   Although, I'll stick with ho-hum any time. 

I found Heath bits at my local grocery store.  They were with the chocolate chips.  I decided to go with those rather than trying to crush up candy bars.  It was a tad more expensive, but worth the convenience.

Butter: $1.99
Chocolate: had (compliments of Callebaut, where I took a chocolate class)
Flour: had
Salt: had
Baking Soda: had
Sugar: had
Eggs: $0.89
Vanilla: had
Walnuts: had
Heath Bits: $3.19

TOTAL: $6.07


FAST:  These brownies took about 55 minutes overall.  Fifteen minutes for prep, 30 minutes for baking, and ten minutes for the brownies to cool down enough for me to eat.

EASY:  The part about beating the eggs with the sugar to get them really fluffy and then fold in the dry ingredients was probably the most difficult part.

FRESH:  Meh, you can call these brownies delicious, but you really can't call them fresh tasting.  Now a fresh take on the classic brownie, they are!

OVERALL:   Love these brownies.  Absolutely love them.  The fact that you sprinkle the Heath bits on them when they just come out of the oven...shear genius!  Although, I did put some in the batter.  Also, I had a handful of pecans leftover in the freezer and threw those in as well.  Yumm!  I haven't met a brownie I didn't like (unless it had raisins in it!).   These are a must try!

Well folks, we've got waffles for Tuesday.  Yes, that's what I said...waffles!  See ya then!