Maple Cream Sweet Potato Soup

Now that it is FINALLY getting cold here in Houston, I was dying for some good soup this past weekend.  As I was not sick, I felt like trying something different than the normal potato soup/chicken and dumpling/gumbo fix, and I was so excited to happen upon this AMAZING recipe from halfbakedharvest.com.  I have tried a few of her recipes so far and have yet to be dissapointed!!   I did have a little fun trying to make it “pretty” with the cream, and I wound up making it kinda look like Mrs. Doubtfire…  Nonetheless, the soup was amazingly sweet and spicy and perfect for a cold night!!  The little cinnamon sugar twists were also pretty wonderful.  Since I’m not a big fan of thyme, I replaced that with sage in my soup, and it still tasted great!  Other than that I followed this recipe to a T!

Find it Here!

Homemade Cannolis

I MADE CANNOLIS, AND NOBODY DIED!!!!!!!

To put it lightly, I was very excited with my most recent “baking” attempt.  (Even though technically these are fried, I’m telling myself they are a baked good because we all know I suck at baking.)  So tricky thing, you HAVE to have Cannoli molds.  I do not know how it would be possible without them.  They work pretty great though and are for sure worth the $10.  Living in Houston area, you don’t really come across many cannolis for sale.  As a family who has visited the north east a few times, we love cannolis.  So I decided to take the situation into my own hands, and bring the cannolis to us!  For the first time making them, I just used a simple traditional ricotta recipe for the filling and topped it off with chocolate chips.  Next time, I might be a little more adventurous.  However, the traditional ricotta recipe was incredibly delicious, and even my SUPER picky little brother loved them.  I found this recipe on the food network website and followed it pretty precisely.

What You’ll Need
Cannoli Shells:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus for dusting
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 lg egg yolk
1/2 cup dry Marsala or white wine
Vegetable Oil, for frying
Filling:
2 1/2 cups ricotta
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus for dusting
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mini Chocolate Chips (optional)

How to Do it
For the cannoli shells:
Pulse the flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a food processor or mixer.  Add the butter and pulse until thoroughly combined.  Add the egg yolk and Marsala and process until the dough forms a ball.  Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Fill a large, wide pot with 2 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into a thin circle, about 1/8-inch thick.  Cut out as many circles as possible.  Size should be large enough to wrap around the cannoli mold and overlap at the ends.  Gather scraps, re-roll, and cut out more circles.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  Wrap a circle of dough around a cannoli tube.  Lightly moisten an edge with water and pres the edges together very firmly to seal.  The main goal when making these is to make sure the cannolis do not pop open/come apart.  Repeat with as many cannoli tubes as you have.  Fry the tubes with the dough, turning once, until the shells are golden brown all over (4-5 minutes).  Carefully remove the tubes from the oil and slip off the cannoli shells onto the paper towels.  Let the tubes cool slightly, then repeat until all of the dough is fried, keeping the oil at 350 degrees F.  Cool the shells completely.
For the filling:
Mix the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, orange zest and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth.  Fill a pastry bag (or ziploc bag) with the filling.  Hold a cannoli shell in one hand; with the other, insert the bag tip into the center of the shell and pipe out the filling.  Turn the shell around and fill the other side.  Repeat with the remaining shells and filling.  Arrange on a platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar.  Serve filled shells immediately.  You can store unfilled shells in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days and fill when ready to serve.

I ordered some of the mini cannoli molds, so that’s why mine all look so tiny!  I thought they were pretty cute though.  I have pictures below!  If you try out the recipe let me know how it works for you in the comments!!!

Balsamic Mushrooms & Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza

Pizza is basically life.  Goat cheese is also currently one of my favorite things.  So I thought, well let’s do something with these two.. And so this pizza was born!!!  It is pretty fall-ish, and delicious.  I hope you enjoy!

What You’ll Need
For the pizza dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 tbsp evoo
semolina flour, for dusting
For the toppings:
Goat Cheese, I like to buy the spreadable kind
Button Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup mozzarella
1 tomato, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
handful of fresh oregano
red pepper flakes, as desired
truffle oil, for drizzling (optional)

How to Do It
For the pizza dough:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl, add to stand mixer.  Add in eggs and extra virgin olive oil and mix on medium using the paddle attachment.  Once combined, switch to the dough hook attachment, and continue mixing on medium-high speed until combined into a ball of dough.  Sprinkle semolina flour onto the area you wish to roll the dough out on.  Place dough ball on counter, and roll using a rolling-pin to your desired thickness.  Spray a sheet pan with non-stick spray and place the dough on the pan.  Let sit while preparing the toppings.
For the toppings:
Add olive oil to a smaller saute pan and bring to a medium-high heat.  Put mushrooms and onions into the pan and saute until soft.  Add balsamic and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant.  Smear the goat cheese on the pizza dough and top with the mushroom/onion mixture.  Place tomato slices on top and cover with mozzarella.  Drizzle with truffle oil.  Place in oven for 12-15 minutes.  Remove and add fresh oregano and red pepper flakes prior to serving.

Extra Juicy Bone In Pork Chops

So I just posted the recipe for Apple Chutney, and I mentioned using it to top off some awesome pork chops.  This is how I went about the pork chop process!  I actually had never successfully made pork chops prior to this, so I made sure to do some research and read around on how other people had been successful making them.  I did read about how using a brine would allow the chops to be extra juicy, instead of dried out.  Almost every time I have ever made pork chops, they have ended up dried out, so this seemed like a pretty great idea to prevent that from happening.  I also had never cooked with bone-in pork chops before.  I read that can also make a really big difference on the “juicy” factor, so I proceeded to HEB to buy some bone-in chops.  They actually were not expensive by any means, so it was a very affordable meal.  Another hint/tip I read was to let the meat come to room temperature (sit out on the counter for about an hour) prior to putting it in the hot saute pan.  Turns out, this is actually something you should do with all your meats, and they will cook more thoroughly, so I was really happy to come across this tidbit of information.  I also read that after cooking, you should let the chops just sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it.  This will let all the juices come together and disperse throughout the entire piece of meat.  Okay!  Enough of me rambling.  And on with the recipe:

What You’ll Need
For the Brine:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp sage leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tbsp orange juice
salt & pepper
For the Chops:
6 tbsp Butter
4 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Canola Oil
1 Rosemary Sprig
handful of fresh sage leaves
2 bone in Pork Chops

How To Do It
The chops will need to soak in the brine for at least 24 hours prior to cooking.
To make the Brine:
Bring the water and sugar to boil in a medium saucepan.  Add all spices and continue to boil for 6 to 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add ice cubes.  Once the ice cubes have all melted and the mixture has cooled off some, pour brine into a large wide bowl and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours to cool completely.  The brine needs to be completely cool prior to placing the chops in it, otherwise the chops will cook from the water.  Once totally chilled, place the pork chops in the brine.  Place canned goods or something on top of the chops to hold them down in the brine.
Cooking the Chops:
After soaking in the brine for 24 hours, take the chops out and pat dry with a paper towel.  Place on a cutting board to bring to room temperature before cooking (at least 1 hour).  Add the canola oil to a medium saute pan, and bring to a medium-high heat.  Place each chop in the pan to sear on each side (about 3 minutes each).  Add the butter to the pan to melt along with spices and garlic.  Flip the chops every 2 minutes or so and continually baste in the melted butter/spices.  Once the chops are fully cooked (thickest part has reach 125 degrees internal), remove from the heat and cover loosely with foil.  Let rest for at least 10 minutes prior to serving/cutting into.

I added the apple chutney on top of the chops as soon as I removed them from the heat so the juices could soak in to the meat some.  As sides, I had pureed butternut squash and roasted brussels sprouts and mushrooms.  The butternut squash was a great side to place under the chop to catch all the extra juices!  Overall it was crazy delicious! I apologize times a million for not having any pictures of all this.  It was so good, I might be making it again sometime soon though, so I can add pictures then!

 

Spicy Apple Chutney

Since I have clearly been slacking on posting my recipes, I’m going to try to jump back on the saddle with them all.  I have still been cooking a good bit!! I just have been a tad bit busy (or lazy) on my postings (sorry guysssss).  I digress…  So this recipe I actually have used in a few different ways and it is absolutely delish!  For my moms birthday, I toasted baguette slices, smeared some goat cheese on them, and then topped with this apple chutney (picture above).  I have also used this to top some pork chops recently (which were absolutely amazing).  You could easily use this on top of crackers and cream cheese for any type of party.  It’s super versatile which is one of the reasons I love it so so much!  It’s also incredibly tasty.  You get a little sweet, a little spicy; just all around wonderful.

What You’ll Need
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 cinnamon stick (or 1 tbsp cinnamon if you don’t have any sticks)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 lb apples, peeled cored and chopped finely
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely

How To Do It
In a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar and vinegar.  Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Add all spices and simmer until reduced about half a cup (approx 8 min).  Add in chopped apples and jalapeno.  Increase the heat to high and boil until the apples are tender (approx 10 min).  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  You can store cold for up to 3 days.

Sheet Pan Fish & Veggies

I wanted to share with you guys one of my FAVORITE ways to do dinner.  Partially because of how un-messy and easy it is!  It’s such a versatile way to cook dinner. You can pretty much swap out any type of vegetable or protein.  I will generally use smaller salmon strips when cooking this because I’m only cooking for one, and I have this weird thing about eating any type of seafood re-heated.  I am just really not great at eating leftovers, so this is a super convenient meal for me.  I can make just enough for myself.  Roasting veggies is easily my favorite way to cook them, and it actually can be healthy (as long as you don’t add all sorts of extras onto it)!  The vegetables I will rotate out on this recipe are: brussels sprouts (my favorite), green beans, carrots (adding honey to these make them amazing), tomatoes (I know this is really a fruit), and zucchini.  I’m not a kale person, but I have heard that kale in this way is also really good.  I will always have my little potatoes included, and then my salmon strips.  You could probably do this with chicken too.  It would just need to be pounded out thin enough to cook in a shorter amount of time.  And On To the Recipe!!

What You’ll Need
Bunch of fresh green beans, ends trimmed off
1 tomato, ends cut off and halved
handful of mixed baby potatoes, sliced in half
2 salmon strips (these are smaller pieces of a salmon filet)
Breadcrumbs (I like to use Panko)
1 lemon
Parmesan Cheese
Garlic Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Olive Oil
Truffle Oil (Optional, I like to use this on my potatoes)
Salt and Pepper

How to Make It
Preheat oven to 425°.  Mix 1 tbsp olive oil (or truffle oil), 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp sea salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Add baby potatoes and green beans and toss to coat.  Cover a baking sheet in foil, and spray the foil with non-stick spray.  Spread the potatoes and green beans out on one side of the baking sheet.  Place the halved tomato directly on the baking sheet next to the green beans and potatoes.  Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over both halves and season with a little salt and pepper.  Cover the tops of the tomatoes in breadcrumbs.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes while seasoning the fish.  In the bowl you used to toss the potatoes and green beans, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp salt.  Mix all together and make sure there are no lemon seeds! (I accidentally made that little oversight once and learned my lesson the hard way.)  Place the salmon in the bowl and toss to coat.  Let this sit in the fridge for about 10-12 minutes.  While this is chilling, mix the breadcrumb coating for the fish.  Add about 1/2 cup panko (depending on your size of fish), 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a separate container to dredge the fish in.  When it is time to take the baking sheet out of the oven, your fish should come out of the fridge.  Coat the fish in the breadcrumb mixture, both sides, and place on the baking sheet.  I will generally pour the remaining breadcrumb mixture on top of the fish to add a nice coating.  Place the entire baking sheet back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, and enjoy!!

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Pumpkin Cream Sauce

I made this recipe last night for myself and a friend of mine, and we both absolutely LOVED it!!! It was the first time I made homemade ravioli before, and I was absolutely floored with how incredibly easy it was!  Almost easier, and quicker, than making regular pasta.  Everything was homemade, so it did take a good bit of ingredients.  I also wasn’t following any specific recipe, just kind of throwing stuff in as I went (the best kind of cook to share recipes… Sorry guys), so the measurements will be more of estimates.  Just make sure to taste everything as you go and make it to your liking!!  I have read that an easy substitute for making your own dough is to use store-bought wonton-wrappers.  If anybody opts for this route, please let me know how they turn out!

What You’ll Need
Pasta Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
Ravioli Filling
1 medium-sized butternut squash, diced
1 bulb garlic
1 cup Ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1 tbsp nutmeg
Pumpkin Cream Sauce
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup whipping cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 large scallion, chopped
1 cup Parmesan/Italian blend cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

How to Make It
First the Pasta Dough
Sift the flour and salt together until just combined.  Make a well with the flour mixture, and add the eggs and olive oil into the center.  Combine the ingredients, gradually, starting in the middle and working your way out.  Once it has combined into a dough, lay out on a floured surface and begin to knead.  Knead the dough until it is stretchy and not tearing.  At this point, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit in a cool dark place for at least 2 hours.  If you have a stand mixer, your life is going to be much easier (thank God for my KitchenAid!).  Starting with the paddle attachment, add the flour like above with the salt.  Add the eggs and olive oil into the mixture, and start the blender going!  I usually stay on a low setting so flour doesn’t fly everywhere (sometimes that still happens).  Once everything is combined and the mixture is starting to look like a thick cornmeal, switch out the attachment to use the dough hook.  From here, I usually turn the mixer onto the second level and just let it run.  It will knead all the dough for you, and then just form into a semi-flat oval and cover with plastic wrap.
Now the Ravioli Mix
Preheat your oven to 425°F.  Cut off the top of the garlic bulb, exposing most of the cloves.  Drizzle some olive oil on top, and top with salt and pepper, then wrap the bulb in foil.  On a pre-greased baking sheet place all the cubed butternut squash and the garlic wrapped in foil.  Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.  Once removed from the oven, let cool for 15 minutes.  After cooled, squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves and place in a blender along with the roasted squash, Ricotta, Gorgonzola, egg and nutmeg.  Puree together until smooth.  Taste and add any salt/pepper.  Add to a plastic bag to pipe into the ravioli.
And Making the Ravioli
Cut your dough into separate pieces to run through the pasta machine.  I went to the 6th setting on my pasta sheets.  Heavily flour your pasta dough and ravioli mold here!  Otherwise it will stick, and make a nasty squashy mess.  Lay one sheet on the ravioli mold.  My ravioli mold comes with a separate piece to push down on this first layer and form little wells for the filling to go (see pictures below).  You can also use an egg to lightly push down on each open spot to make a little well for the filling.  Take the bag of filling and cut off the end of one corner, about 1/2 inch.  Use the bag to pipe filling into each ravioli spot.  Using your fingers and some water or egg-wash, lightly dampen the edges of all ravioli to allow the top layer of pasta to stick.  Place another sheet of pasta on top and use a rolling-pin to press the sheets together.  Turn the mold over to release the ravioli.  If you have any not separated, use a pizza cutter or pasta cutter to separate.  Continue making the ravioli until all the cheese filling has been used.  While working, be sure to keep your ravioli covered with a damp cloth.  Once finished, place a pot filled with water on the stove.  Be sure to salt your water!  This is the only chance you get to really season your pasta dough.  When the water is boiling, add your ravioli.  It won’t take too long to have them fully cooked.  The ravioli will float at the top of the water when finished.  Careful not to stir too much or overcook, or the ravioli will start to break open.  Drain when finished cooking.
Finally the Sauce
Add the butter to a saucepan at a medium-high heat.  After the butter has melted, add the shallots and mushrooms.  Cook for a few minutes until softened, or at your desired texture.  Add in the pumpkin and whipping cream and stir until all combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let simmer for a few minutes to thicken.  Add in the italian/parmesan cheese and stir until melted.  Add in the cooked ravioli and easily stir to cover.

And you are done!!  Top with a little parmesan, or eat just as is.  Here are a few pictures from my kitchen last night (I do have to learn to take better pictures).  The ravioli were seriously the cutest things ever.