Sunday, March 19, 2017

Homemade Celery Salt

Celery salt is one of my favorite things in the spice cabinet.  I love a hefty dose of it in potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw. I love it sprinkled over potatoes, eggs, as well as fish and seafood. To be honest, it goes perfectly fine in any dish where you add would add celery, such as soups and stews.

When I saw that Heidi Swanson made her own celery salt I knew I wanted to give it a try. I looked in several markets for really leafy celery, but none of it appeared overly leafy. I finally decided I'd just have to go with it and I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the leaves were trapped inside.  I'd say I got about a cup of leaves in total. Plenty of leaves for what I needed.

Heidi provides two methods for dehydrating the celery leaves: the stove top and the oven. I decided to go the oven route.  I feel like it was the safest option for me since I have a tendency to forget things when they're on the stove top. The oven method took about 6-7 minutes.

In no time at all I had my own homemade celery salt, perfect for sprinkling on just about anything!

Homemade Celery Salt
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
by Heidi Swanson

Leaves from one bunch of celery
Flaky sea salt (coarse, not fine)

Pick the leaves from each celery stalk, leaving the stems behind. The outer leaves tend to be dark green and hearty, the inner leaves pale green and tender. I use them all.

Rinse the leaves with cold water in a strainer, then shake off as much of the water as you can. At this point you want to dry the leaves as much as possible, so they toast  (not steam) when you cook them. Gently pat them dry in a clean dish towel, or paper towels. Once dry you have two options for toasting the leaves.

Option 1: If I have a lot of leaves, I arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, then bake in in a 350F oven for about 5-7 minutes. Bake until dehydrated and crispy, but not browned.

Option 2: If I have fewer leaves, or just don't feel like heating the oven, I'll throw them in a large skillet. Single layer if possible, over medium-low heat. Again, you want to barely toast them, not brown them much at all.

In either case, when you're done cooking, remove from heat and let the leaves cool completely. They'll crispy up even more at this point. When cool, use your fingers to crumble the leaves completely, discarding any leaves that aren't crispy.

Combine equal parts celery leaves and salt in a jar, and either stir or shake to distribute the celery leaves evenly throughout.

Accompaniments @ I Heart Cooking Clubs

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter and a Pasta Roundup!

My love letter to pasta - 

I am so very thankful for your quick cooking time and your ability to please. How kind of you to come in all shapes and sizes, too! You have a remarkable ability to play well with other ingredients. I'm so proud of you! I also love that you represent various cuisines around the world. You are so politically correct! Pasta, you are so comforting. Maybe you could bring about world peace?  If anyone can do it, you can.


Seriously though, I know we all love pasta... and for so many reasons, right? I mean you simply can't go wrong. Pasta is a cook's, and a diner's, best friend. It's quick and easy, it pairs well with just about anything, and it is certainly fun to eat. 

This week I made a delicious and extremely quick pasta dish that is sure to be a repeat in my kitchen! Giada's Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter comes together in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook some store-bought ravioli! While the water is coming a boil you roast a handful of walnuts in a 350F oven and start some butter melting on the stove top. When the walnuts are all toasty, and the butter has stopped foaming and turned a lovely golden brown, spoon in some balsamic vinegar. By this time your water should be at a boil so you can toss in your ravioli, get out your Parmesan cheese, and be ready to enjoy! Twenty minutes, tops!

This is an delicious weekday meal!  I love the nuttiness of the brown butter with the crunch of the toasted walnuts.  It goes perfectly with the nutty flavor of Parmesan cheese. Simple, quick, and totally delightful! We loved it!

Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada DeLaurentiis
Serves 4

18 to 20 ounces store-bought ravioli 
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
Parmesan cheese, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Transfer the ravioli to the saucepan with the butter. Sprinkle with walnuts and Parmesan over the top and serve immediately.

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're celebrating all things pasta. I had a great time looking through old blogs posts this morning and choosing some of my favorites. Most of these are from way back, around six years ago.

The pasta dish that I've made over and over again, more so than any other, is Jamie Oliver's Farfalle with a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce. It was about six years ago when I first made this dish and I bet I've made it at least 20 to 30 times since then. It is quick meal that always pleases the entire family and better still, I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make it. I highly recommend this one!

One of my personal favorites is Giada's Orechiette with Sausage, Beans, and Mascarpone. This pasta dish is hearty and extremely flavorful, but it also contains three of my very favorite things: pasta, beans, and cheese.  It's delicious!

 Another family favorite is Giada's Orechiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs. This pasta recipe is light and fresh with fun little mini-sized meatballs and creamy balls of fresh mozzarella. It's kid-friendly, fun to eat, and on the lighter side. The only problem is that it's hard to stop eating!


  Giada's Pastina with Peas and Carrots is a great alternative to macaroni and cheese and is definitely a hit with kids! Mascarpone cheese provides creaminess and the peas and carrots provide a nice splash of color in a dish that can be served as a main course or on the side. Perfect for spring!

How about you? What are some of your favorite pasta dishes?

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Simple Carrot Soup

The color orange is sunny and appealing. It reminds me of all things bright and happy. It's for that very reason I find carrot soup so appealing. For years now, I've had my eye on carrot soup. I knew I wanted to make it, but I just couldn't find the right recipe. Until now.

This carrot soup is simple enough to make; but, there are a few touches that take it to the next level, without making it too fussy.  Firstly, I love the addition of coconut milk which makes things a little creamier and thick.  However, the thing that sold me on this soup was the addition of red curry paste.  Red curry paste is a lovely and very aromatic paste made with red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, shallot, kaffir limes and various spices. When the paste hits the pan it is rather seductive and for that reason I am always looking for a reason to use it. While both the coconut milk and red curry paste add consistency and remarkable flavor to the soup, it is the condiments that initially drew me in to this recipe. I can assure you these condiments are not just for looks. The toasted almonds lend a wonderful crunch and flavor to the dish and they definitely steal the show in this soup. In fact, they are a must if making this soup! I also love the brightness that a squeeze of fresh lime adds, as well as the subtle spiciness from a couple shakes of chili oil. The cilantro does it's part to help the dish look colorful, while adding the touch that only herbs can. This, my friends, is the carrot soup to try. It is sure to brighten your day like a ray of sunshine.

A Simple Carrot Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 onion, chopped
scant 1 tablespoon red curry paste, or to taste
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped - 1/2-inch chunks (about 10-11 medium-sized carrots)
1 (14 oz) can full fat coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cups water, or to cover
1 lemon or lime
To serve: micro greens, cilantro, chopped & toasted almonds, chile oil, etc.

In a large soup pan over medium-high heat add the butter and onion.  Stir until the onions are well-coated, and allow to saute until translucent, a few minutes. Stir in the curry paste, and then the carrots. Allow to cook another minute or two, and then add the coconut milk, salt, and water, adding more water to cover if needed. Allow to simmer until the carrots are tender, 10 - 15 minutes, and then puree using a blender or hand blender until the soup is completely silky smooth.  This next part is important (with any soup)- make any needed adjustments. Add more water if the consistency needs to be thinned out a bit. After that taste for salt, adding more if needed.  I also like to season this soup with a great big squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Serve topped with whatever you have on hand. I like it with a little something crunchy (almonds), and a lot of something green (micro greens & cilantro).

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-baked potatoes were so popular back in the 80's. My mom made them for dinner quite often and they were the side dish at the two steakhouses in town. Then, all of a sudden they disappeared and became somewhat forgotten. I suppose they fell out of favor because they were time-consuming and slightly fussy, or maybe it was the calorie craze of the 90's. Of course, if you ask me, it was also right around this time that things became all about being fast. Microwave meals, boxed meals, and woks became the thing. Everyone was talking about how fast they could make their meals in the microwave or how fast they could throw together a stir fry. The dreaded convenience factor....and well, it's pretty much been the same way ever since.

I have to admit that I fall into the same trap. Even though I love to cook, I convince myself that I don't have time to spend the whole day in the kitchen. Truth is, I know full well that we make time for the things we want to do. So today I did just that. I made something that has been on my list forever...these cute little mini twice-baked potatoes.

Not only were they heavenly, but everyone was very pleased with the cute little package on their plate. My daughter said, "I love these. This reminds me of the kind of food you used to cook before you started working." Her comment made me smile because she hit the nail on the head.  I told her "Grandma used to make these for dinner all the time when I was little, but you're right....she did that before she started working. Once she started working she rarely made things like that anymore."

We had a really good Sunday dinner, but the whole thing left me feeling kind of sad. We get so caught up in doing, going, and running that we let life pass us by. Why do we feel so guilty when we can't get to everything? Why can't we make time to read a book or spend a day in the kitchen? 

So, yes, maybe I didn't get to store or finish all the laundry today and you know what? No one will notice. But, I did manage to make these absolutely delicious twice-baked potatoes that made my daughter's eyes light up and I'm gonna call that a win.

Do yourself a favor and waste the day away in the kitchen. Make something time-consuming and fabulous and serve these cute little mini twice-baked potatoes on the side. I guarantee you won't regret it!

Mini Twice-Baked Potatoes
Adapted from Food Network 
by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 12-14

1-1/2 pounds baby potatoes (12 to 15 potatoes) - big enough to stuff
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt, to taste
6 bounces bacon, chopped fine
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temp*
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temp

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until a knife inserted into the potatoes goes in with little to no resistance, about 30 to 40 minutes (of course this depends on the size of your potatoes - mine were 3 to 4 bites big).

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes.  Drain well and place half of the bacon in a bowl. Add the panko, 2 tablespoons chives, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Mix to combine and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sour cream, butter, heavy cream, the remaining bacon, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons chives, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, cut off the top third of each potato. Remove the skin from the tops.  Using a melon baller, or very small spoon, scoop out some of the insides of the cooked potatoes, leaving 1/4-inch borders around the edges. This creates little boats. Place the scooped insides and the peeled tops of the potatoes in a medium bowl and mash using a potato masher or the back of a fork. Add the reserved bacon and sour cream mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix together the filling until well combined.  Spoon the filling back into the potato boats slightly overfilled and mounded on top. Top with a sprinkling of the panko mixture and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until the filling is heated through and the topping is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Theme: February Potluck!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Julia and Jacques's Chocolate Roulade

I found a video of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin making this Chocolate Roulade on Martha Stewart's show. The two of them made this roulade look completely effortless; so much so, I wondered why I hadn't made it before. I should've known better.

My hand blender is broken so I thought I would whisk the 7 egg whites to stiff peaks with my own two hands. Haha! Major mistake. I'm convinced that no amount of arm power can do this. It simply wasn't going to happen. I had my daughter go down and borrow my neighbor's hand mixer. I must've whisk the heck out of the egg whites with my hands, because they never would turn into soft peaks or stiff peaks, so I had to crack 7 new eggs and start all over again. This time, with the help of the hand mixer, the egg whites turned to soft peaks rather quickly.

The cake batter baked up quickly in ten minutes and didn't take long to cool.  I spread the chantilly creme on top and said a silent prayer before attempting to roll the roulade into a spiral. This is going to be easy I thought. The parchment paper is going to do all the work. Wrong again. It rolled up alright, after it broke and split and everything else.

I managed to get the roulade onto the serving tray and decorated it for the pictures.  Then I read the part where I had to slice a piece off of each end to reveal the swirl. %*&^! So I sliced off each end, cleaned up the dish, and took the pictures. Naturally, the way things were going, this recipe was also hard to photograph and the sun wasn't behaving either.

Finally, I sliced a piece for myself so I could give it a try. It didn't matter to me that it had cracked. I just knew that it would taste delicious. I mean chocolate cake and whipped cream can't go wrong. Right?

......Wrong again. Surprisingly, the chocolate cake is simply way too rich and dare I say it, too chocolatey even for me (and I do love me some chocolate)! Since the cake itself is flourless, it is very moist, but also extremely rich and intensely chocolatey. Perhaps using a bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate was the wrong choice for me? Maybe it would be less chocolatey using a milk chocolate? Regardless, this is a cake that you can really only eat a few bites of, but it is pretty and I am glad that I finally gave it a try. And, you know what? It really doesn't hurt my feelings to know that there is a dessert that I actually don't like, because far too often I make desserts that I love and we all know how that goes.

Julia and Jacques's Chocolate Roulade
Serves 12

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for pan
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 egg whites, room temperature
3-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoons Cognac
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
seasonal fruit, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Butter an 11x17 jelly roll pan or a 12x17 inch sheet pan, and line with parchment paper

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup cream to a simmer. Add chocolate, reduce heat, and whisk until chocolate is melted. As soon as mixture is a uniform dark color, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, whip egg whites and 2 tablespoons sugar to stiff, glossy peaks, about 1-1/2 minutes. Whisk one-quarter of the egg-white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold chocolate mixture back into the original egg-white mixture, and mix until smooth and well combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, and spread it in an even layer with a rubber spatula. Bake until cake is set and puffy, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Lift parchment paper to remove cake from pan, and set iton a work surface with long side facing edge of table. Using a fine-mesh sieve, lightly dust cake with cocoa powder.

Make the creme chantilly:  Whip the remaining 1 cup cream with the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar, the vanilla, and cognac. Spread evenly over entire surface of cake.

Roll the cake lengthwise, starting at a point 2 to 3 inches over the creme chantilly. Roll cake another few inches, pressing against the parchment paper to make a tight spiral. Gently peel parchment paper off as cake layer rolls away. Complete the roll, stopping at the far edge of the parchment paper. Tuck the loose parchment paper around and underneath the cylinger so it is well wrapped and can be removed easily. Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, transfer roulade to serving platter. Remove parchment paper, gently rolling cake into center of platter, with seam on bottom. With a sharp knife, trim both ends of roll crosswise or on a diagonal. Dust top with confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder, and garnish with seasonal fruit. To serve, cut the roll into 1-inch thick slices, and lay flat on dessert plates; top with additional creme chantilly, if desired.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Heidi Swanson's Cherry Smoothie

Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, so when I saw this recipe for a Cherry Smoothie over on 101 Cookbooks, I jumped at the chance to make it. Not only is it packed full of nutritionally-dense sweet dark cherries, but it is also loaded with all sorts of fruity goodness, including an orange, a banana, and pineapple.  You're nearly getting your five a day all in one delicious smoothie!

When cherries are in season it's safe to say my hands are usually stained dark red. I buy them, and eat them, like crazy. Not only are they sweet, juicy, and nutritious; but, they are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties and also are a natural source of melatonin, which aids in sleeping. Since I need help with both sleeping and inflammation, cherries are a win-win for me!

Since cherries aren't usually in season, I buy them frozen and stock them year-round. Needless to say, I used frozen cherries for this recipe. However, since we like our smoothies thick I almost always use frozen fruit, even if fresh is available. In fact, all of the fruit in this recipe, with exception to the orange, was frozen.

I was making this smoothie for my whole family, so I used regular milk and omitted the nut butter because my son is allergic to all nuts. Since I was using mostly frozen fruit, my smoothie was a little too thick so I needed more water to help thin it out. The addition of water is completely fine, but next time I would probably use apple juice or grape juice to sweeten things up a touch. This smoothie had no additional sugar added to it, and I noticed that a little dose of sugar, in the form of juice or honey, would send this smoothie over the top. Just enough sugar to make the flavors stand out a bit more and sweeten the smoothie up a touch.

The incredible thing is that the entire family loved this smoothie, which is a good thing because this made 48 ounces! I can see us enjoying this smoothie over and over again and I think it's a wonderfully nutritious way to start your day!

Cherry Smoothie
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 2-3

1-1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1/2 cup water, possibly more depending on desired consistency
1 banana, peeled
1/3 cup milk (cow, almond, coconut)
1 orange, segments and flesh only
1 cup cubed pineapple
Optional: 1 heaping tablespoon almond (or nut) butter

Combine all the ingredients in an upright blender and process until smooth. If you find the smoothie too thick, carefully add more water, slowly, through the feed hole on the lid with the motor running. Pour into glasses and enjoy! 

Theme: Something To Sip!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Nigella's Gnocchi Gratin

Winter hasn't arrived to Kentucky yet. Instead, we're having rainy dreary weather, with a slight chill in the air, and it is enough to drive anyone batty. Nothing but rain, rain, rain. Day after day. Car pool line at school in the rain, getting kids on and off the bus in rain, inside recess--day after day. Spending half the day wet. Not ideal. Not ideal at all. We've reached the point where teachers are praying for a snow day. 

All hope was placed on tomorrow since the forecast showed a few inches of snow possible tonight. And yet, as I write this I can see the snow turning to rain midair and I know that the even if the snow makes it to the ground it won't stick. At this point the best we can hope for is black ice.

So we turn to comfort food to get through these rainy dreary days with no hope of snow in sight. Nigella's Gnocchi Gratin is rich and ultimately indulgent. Plump little potato dumplings in a creamy cheesy sauce with a crispy breadcrumb topping will certainly help cure all your woes. Served in my new find, a vintage enamelware casserole pan. I just love rustic look of the worn out edges and the character it adds to the overall dish.

I'd definitely recommend this if you're in the mood to try something different. The flavors of this dish are very reminiscent to a potato au gratin and for good reason. Similar ingredients. Different consistency. You really can't go wrong here. I think everyone is a sucker for those little plump potato dumplings, especially when tossed in a cheesy sauce. This would be wonderful served with a roast of some sort and also just as good served on it's own with a salad. Of course it would be even better served on a snowy day! One can only dream!

Gnochhi Gratin
Adapted from
by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4

1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
454g pkg fresh or frozen gnocchi
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Position oven racks in top third and center of oven. Preheat to 400F.

Whisk mascarpone with milk in a shallow oven safe saucepan (wide enough to hold gnocchi in a single layer) and set over medium. When mixture starts to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes, turn off heat. Add 1/4 cup parmesan and whisk until it melts.

Grind black pepper and nutmeg over cheese mixture. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Cook gnocchi in a medium pot according to pkg. directions, about 2 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain gnocchi and stir into cheese mixture until coated. Spread out into an even layer.

Stir remaining parmesan with bread crumbs and sprinkle over gnocchi.

Bake in center of oven until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Adjust heat to broil.  Broil in top third of oven until top turns dark golden, about 2 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Theme: January Potluck @ IHCC!