Scallops and Risotto

Attention! Attention! After two years of blogging and two hundred posts we finally did it! We made a risotto! It's something we've always aspired to do but never quite followed through. Natalie and Richard both shared a risotto with us during secret ingredient potluck and fall themed potluck so we knew we could do it. We got even more motivation from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook which coincidentally spurred us to try red snapper. You can find her basic risotto recipe here. In her cookbook she has the basic risotto recipe and four different variations for the seasons. If you follow the link above, the site also features her variation for winter: wild mushroom and spinach risotto. I'm sure we will be trying this sometime soon but since we had some frozen corn we needed to use in the freezer we skipped ahead and tried the summer Risotto with Summer Corn and Tomatoes.

Basic Risotto from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook (online here)
Serves 4 to 6

4 to 5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if necessary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups Arborio or carnaroli rice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
Seasonal Vegetables (for our variation we needed tomatoes, corn, and basil and for fun we added seared scallops)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

1. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet and reduce the heat to medium. When the butter is melted, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more, being careful not to let it brown. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the rice slides around easily in the pan and each grain of rice is coated with the oil-butter. Add a splash more olive oil if the pan seems too dry and season with salt and pepper.

3. Stir in the white wine and cook until it evaporates. Stir in 1/2 cup of the warm chicken broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice absorbs all of the broth. When you hear the rice begin to sizzle in the pan, add another 1/2 cup of broth. Continue cooking the rice this way, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time and waiting until the broth is absorbed and the rice sizzles before adding more, and stirring constantly, until the rice is tender and creamy but not mushy. The process will take 20 to 25 minutes. You may not need the entire 5 cups of broth.

4. When the rice is tender and creamy, stir in the cooked vegetables along with any liquid they have released. Add any remaining uncooked vegetables and fresh herbs and cook until the vegetables are warmed through, about 4 minutes. 

Add a little more broth until the risotto reaches the desired consistency. Stir in half of the Parmesan. Taste for salt and pepper and season with more if necessary. Transfer the risotto to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and serve immediately.

While the risotto finishes, sear scallops.

For Risotto with Summer Corn and Tomatoes
Sara writes "If I can't find good tomatoes, or I want a deeper, smokier flavor, I roast the tomatoes before adding them to the risotto." We did this and, in fact, followed her balsamic-roasted recipe.

In addition to the basic risotto, you will need: 1 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 large tomatoes, cored and chopped (we roasted 3 sliced roma tomatoes), kernels from 2 ears of corn, 6 basil leaves cut into strips (we used our frozen basil and it was perfect)

The vegetables for this are not cooked. Saute the onions and garlic for the risotto with an additional tablespoon of butter and oil in step 2. Add the raw (or roasted) tomatoes, corn, and basil to the risotto in step 4 and proceed with the recipe.

Serve the seared scallops right on top of the risotto with some fresh parmesan.

Veggie Pizza

It's pizza time again! Harris Teeter has made making homemade pizza at home a breeze with their prepared pizza dough in the bakery section. Basically we're pizza pros (even though this is only our third pizza). We really enjoyed Mushroom and Brie Pizza and Pesto Pizza. We had lots of veggies in the fridge (mini peppers, mushrooms, and onions) so I thought the easiest way to use all those up would be to throw them on a pizza!

Even though I love Harris Teeter pizza dough since I had the day off (and we're pizza pros now) I thought it would be fun to use the dough hook on our stand mixer and make pizza dough! Unfortunately we're not pizza pros. That pizza dough did not work! Let this be inspiration to never let something that doesn't turn out the way you want it to bring you down... just make sure you always have a backup plan. I was prepared with Harris Teeter pizza dough since I didn't know if this would work. I may or may not try this again but that HT pizza dough is less than $3 and really good...

Veggie Pizza

Ingredients: vegetables, cheese, garlic, olive oil, seasonings, pizza dough

Chop up whatever veggies you have that you'd like on your pizza.

We love mushrooms, red onions, and mini peppers so we chopped those. I also experimented with sliced garlic but they lost their flavor so next time I will crush the garlic and rub it on the pizza crust with the oil.

Roll the pizza dough out onto your pizza stone. Brush some olive oil onto the pizza and sprinkle with some herbs. Then throw on the veggies and cheese. We usually use goat cheese and did this particular evening.

Then bake in a preheated 425F oven for about 15 minutes or until the crust is brown.
Serve immediately with a salad.

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan

Going to the fish counter is kind of a hassle every time we want seafood, so at our last Costco trip, we decided to pick up some some raw frozen seafood. This way, we would always have it on hand and could make it more often. We picked up large bags of shrimp and tilapia filets. For our first tilapia experiment, I just googled for recipes and found this very popular one on We had all the ingredients on hand, so it was very fast and easy, not to mention delicious! The filets were cooked perfectly.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
2 pounds tilapia fillets

Preheat your oven's broiler. Grease a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.

Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to over cook the fish.

We served it on a bed of wild rice and sauteed peppers

Beet Pasta with Sauteed Asparagus

Oh Pinterest, thanks for making our meals a little bit yummier here lately. First it was inspiration for sweet potato burgers. And now it's Absurdly Addictive Asparagus from the blog. I saw this, pinned it on my "Savory Recipes to Try" board, and knew I would be trying it in my near future but I wasn't sure how it would happen. I assumed it would just be a side to a meat dish. But then it became better than what I originally envisioned. I was meal-planning and going through the pantry to try and utilize items we had. And that's when I saw them...

Beet pasta! It's like a light bulb went off and I thought this asparagus saute would be wonderful served on top of this beet pasta. It did not disappoint! Special thanks to Mom and Jimmy for gifting us the beet pasta that made this dish possible. I made a few additions to the recipe and I will note that below.

Absurdly Addictive Asparagus from 
Serves 4
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice (I purchased the pancetta diced)
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cup leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (I substituted almonds because I always have them on hand)
1-2 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
**I added some chopped red onion and peppers left over from the tuna salad 

In a large non-stick pan, sauté pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan. Add asparagus pieces and leek (and any other veggies you want to add such as red onions and peppers) and sauté until asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.

Add garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.
If you're choosing to serve this with a pasta toss everything together in the large pasta pot after you've drained the water. I also added a little parmesan cheese.

The citrus zest certainly makes everything pop in your mouth!

Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad

Recently I've been doing more meal planning and trying to visit the grocery store about twice a week. I'm also trying to incorporate more fish into our diet and even a few meatless meals. It's turned out great so far. I also have the task of planning a super easy meal with really quick prep once a week when Patrick has orchestra practice and has to be out the door by 7:15.

This Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad was just the perfect dish for that evening. I found this while browsing, one of my favorite recipe finding websites. It served as one of my seafood dishes for the week and a quick dish to prep after work for Patrick. This is made with canned tuna, chickpeas, and fresh veggies so it is also filling and healthy. 

Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad from
1 15- to 19-ounce can beans, such as chickpeas, black-eyed peas or kidney beans, rinsed
2 5- to 6-ounce cans water-packed chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups mixed salad greens
*1 tbsp dijon mustard

Combine beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, capers, rosemary, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl. Season with pepper. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, dijon mustard*, and salt in a large bowl. Add salad greens; toss to coat. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top each with the tuna salad.

*Some of the comments/reviews on the website suggested adding the dijon mustard to the dressing which I did and thought that really enhanced the dressing.

Pan-Seared Red Snapper with Butter Beans, Tomatoes, and Corn

We've been expanding our seafood horizons a bit recently with some new types of fish. We found this recipe in Fresh Every Day cookbook by Sara Foster, which was a perfect opportunity to try red snapper. This was also very convenient because we had basil, corn, and butter beans in the freezer that we needed to use up, so our grocery list was pretty short. Aside from my general dislike for butter beans, I thought this dish came out great, and the fish itself was delicious.

4 red snapper fillets, cut 1⁄2 inch thick (about 6 ounces each), skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
10 basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup fresh shelled or frozen butter beans
1 tomato, cored and chopped
Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn (about 1 cup)
1 lime, quartered

1. Rinse the snapper fillets under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the fillets, skin side down, on your work surface and rub with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and press the basil strips into the flesh side of the fillets.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high until the oil starts to sizzle. Place the fillets in the skillet, skin side down, and saute for about 3 minutes, until the skin side is crisp. Turn and saute the fish about 1 minute longer, until the undersides are light brown. Pour the wine into the skillet, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 1 minute longer, or until it is opaque and tender and flaky when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

3. Remove the skin from the fillets and transfer the fillets, skinned side down, to a serving platter; cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

4. Add the beans, tomato, and corn to the pan you cooked the fish in and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender. Add the remaining basil and additional salt and pepper to taste and spoon the succotash over and around the red snapper fillets. Serve immediately with the lime wedges.

Mom's Pot Roast

I've put this recipe on the blog before; it was included in a fall pot luck post. And I've found since then when I want to make this I have a hard time finding it on the blog because I forget it's with the pot luck! So this is to make it more convenient for me to find this recipe when I need something super easy to make. It's one of my mom's recipe. The first time I made it I emailed her for the recipe and this is what she told me:

"I don't really have a recipe. I get a chuck roast, potato, onion, carrots, can of cream of mushroom soup, and Lipton's powdered onion packet soup and dip mix.  I put about 1/3 of can of soup on the bottom of the crock pot, then add meat, and coarsely chopped veggies.  Mix the rest of the soup and 1/2 of one onion packet and pour over everything. Cook on medium for about 4-5 hrs. 

Use maybe 2-3 potatoes and 2 onions.  Most of the time I use a bag of small carrots and add about half way through.  You could use regular carrots and I would probably put those in at the same time as other veggies."

Everything is in the crockpot here. A small layer of cream of mushroom soup on the bottom (1/3 can) followed by the vegetables, the meat, and then the mixed soup and onion dip packet.
Since I put this on before I leave for work I cook the roast on low all day (6-8 hours).

Then once you come home from work take a fork and break up the roast into small pieces and then mix together with the veggies. Then I just serve it like this with a salad or some fruit.

Growing Stuff!

We couldn't resist growing more things! Revisit our inaugural planting last year here. We learned a few things, I think. Mainly that parsley isn't our favorite herb so we didn't start that this year. Thyme, rosemary, and chives survived the winter. As did oregano for the most part. Here are a few snapshots of the "herb garden" and what stage it is in now.

Just as a quick insert, the evening we worked on starting our seeds we planned one of our favorite quick and trusty dishes. It has come to you previously as Fake-Bake!!

As previously mentioned our thyme, chives, and rosemary survived the winter. We transplanted 3 each of surviving thyme and chive plants into larger pots. The third red pot on the right has basil written all over it! Mint is in the smaller yellow pot; something new I wanted to try (and purchased as the plant). Then the rosemary is still in its original pot.

The oregano was weakly holding on in its pot and was the lone surviving plant so it got planted in the ground versus another pot. We'll see how it does here.

Then we started new ones! Two different types of basil, spinach, mesclun mix, and arugula to be exact! We even went hardcore and bought a little greenhouse planter. Patrick is the botanist in this relationship and is ensuring a healthy start to our seeds with the right amount of water.

The spinach isn't really working out but the basil sure is!! They are ready to go in their new home aka the big red pot.

St. Patrick's Day Cake

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Oh, wait... it's April Fool's Day! Oops, I totally missed that too. But no really... Happy St. Patrick's Day! I made this cake for said holiday but didn't have time to get in on the blog in time. You can either file this away for next year or make a chocolate cake with some fun flavors now! Oddly enough I featured a chocolate cake last April Fool's Day. It was instant, remember?

I wasn't able to find a recipe for a very festive Irish cake in any of my cookbooks so I resorted to the Internet. You may find the recipe online here from and contributed by "jowolf2"
I chose this recipe because it had Guinness in the cake and Bailey's in the buttercream icing! I did alter the recipe (rather omit a step) so I'll note that below. Other than this I followed everything and thought it turned out great. I might make this a March 17th tradition; stay tuned next year to find out!

Perfect St. Patrick's Day Cake 
for the cake
1 cup Irish stout beer (such as Guinness®)
1 cup butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
for the icing
3 cups confectioners' sugar, or as needed
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (such as Baileys®), or as needed
for the ganache (which is what I omitted)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper, and spray with cooking spray.
    Pour the beer into a saucepan, add the butter, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth. Allow the mixture to cool. In a bowl, beat the eggs and sour cream together until smooth with an electric mixer, and stir in the stout mixture to make a smooth, thick liquid.
    In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pour the stout mixture into the flour mixture, and gently combine with a spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

This photo incorporates all the past steps. From the left, I've got my Guinness and butter ready to go. Then I add cocoa. Next are my eggs and sour cream. Finally in the large bowl is my dry mixture. I went ahead and did this before starting the liquid so I wouldn't get distracted during simmering.
Here's my final batter in the pans.
    Bake in the preheated oven until the cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool in pans for 5 minutes before inverting the cakes onto wire racks to finish cooling.

After baking before inverting. A little crumbly but still looking like a cake!
    Mix together the confectioners' sugar, butter, and Irish cream liqueur until the mixture forms a smooth and spreadable frosting (add more sugar or liqueur as needed to create the desired consistency). Spread half the frosting on top of each cake.
    Place the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Bring cream to almost boiling in a small saucepan, and pour over the chocolate. Stir in the butter, and stir the mixture until the chocolate melts and the mixture is very smooth. Allow to cool until the mixture is pourable but not thin or overly runny, 10 to 15 minutes. Stack a cake gently on top of the other, frosting sides uppermost, and carefully drizzle the chocolate mixture over the cake, allowing decorative drips to run down the sides. (This chocolate drizzle is what I omitted because I thought it didn't really need it / it looked kind of difficult / and I was already pressed for time.)

Ta-da! Sprinkle green sprinkles on top for an extra Irish punch. And if it's lop-sided then you know it's homemade and extra yummy, right?!

As an extra St. Patrick's Day side note I invited friends over for a fun meal. Since the dessert was my Irish centerpiece I didn't worry too much about making bangers and mash for my entree.

Instead I served Chicken Allouette, Sweet Potato Casserole, sauteed green beans, and sliced fresh pineapple.

We turned 25! WHOA!

Patrick and I are now 25! We had quite the celebration at the beginning of March. Actually Patrick is celebrating his 25 years and 1 month old birthday today! Which is why I thought it was fitting to put this post up today. First off I'd like to thank all of our family and friends who helped us celebrate this little milestone. It was truly memorable and I enjoyed turning 25!

Patrick's Mom, Marie, visited in February. She was in town to hear Patrick perform with his symphony orchestra, the Chapel Hill Philharmonia. Marie actually arrived in town on my birthday! She treated us to a birthday dinner at The Mint in downtown Raleigh which was fantastic. Then my parents, Granny, and Glenda came to visit on the day of Patrick's concert. We all had brunch at 411 West on Franklin Street and went on to enjoy the concert. What a great weekend!

Then we had a party! And invited all of our friends! I thought it would be fun to host a "Cupcake and Cocktails" themed party. We baked mini-cupcakes (and by "we" I mean Patrick) and strategically placed them on our kitchen table. The cupcake table was completed by 4 different colors of buttercream icing and lots of sprinkles. We actually ended up having a cupcake decorating contest. Romin and Richard won!

Here's the table! We even had birthday hats to put everyone in a celebratory mood.
Can't have a party without punch! Or chips and dip!
Here we are! A 25-year-old couple!
Patrick and I were so honored that our friends came to celebrate with us. There were Duke friends, UNC friends, DC friends, back-home friends, dancing friends, friends of friends, and most importantly all my favorite friends! :-) Thanks again for celebrating with us. We truly appreciate all of your friendships. Here are some friend snapshots...

Crockpot Spaghetti

Recently I've been trying to use the crockpot more days where I'm working a little bit later. It's so nice to come home from work and have dinner waiting for you. Patrick really enjoys his sister's bolognese sauce so I thought I would see if a bolognese sauce in our Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker book would rival his favorite. 

Bolognese Sauce from Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker
2 tbsp olive oil
2 oz pancetta
2 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 lb ground beef
2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 can crushed plum tomatoes
1/2 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
   I halved this recipe and omitted the pancetta.
1. Saute the ingredients: In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the pancetta and saute until it begins to render its fat, about 1 minute. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer red, about 7 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the broth and wine to the pan and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom. Pour the liquid into the slow cooker along with the tomatoes and stir to combine.
2. Cook the sauce: Cover and cook the sauce on the high-heat setting for 4 hours or the low-heat setting for 8 hours. Add the milk, stirring to combine. Cover and continue cooking for 20 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, return the pasta to the pot, and toss gently with 2 cups of the sauce. Serve, passing Parmesan at the table.

Even though this sauce was prepared for an ordinary mid-week meal it was anything but! I invited Rachel over and she brought along a wonderful side salad and bread. She had fun throwing together yummy ingredients at the Harris Teeter salad bar including spinach, strawberries, bacon, and tasty vinaigrette among other items.

I was so excited to feature this spinach lemon fettucine with this sauce. It was a birthday gift for Patrick from Christine and Kasper! Thanks guys; it was great! Christine, when I visit you'll have to take me to this shop.

And for the record, Patrick didn't think this surpassed the flavors of his much loved original bolognese sauce. I agreed but it was certainly easier!