Mother's Day Brunch

Mother's Day has come and gone but I still have a brunch recipe to share! Mother's Day happened to be two weeks after Patrick proposed so when we hosted my parents it was the first time we had seen them since that wonderful event. Of course we were in the very early stages of wedding planning and just gathering our thoughts for the "vision". However we did have a list of venues narrowed down. After our brunch we toured the Triangle area in search of the perfect venue. No secrets revealed here now but I'm sure in the future we'll share fun wedding stuff.

Without further ado here's our Mother's Day brunch...

First, set the table. I set the table with the occupied Japan china set Granny and Poppa gave me two Christmases ago. For Valentine's day I purchased the table linens to coordinate and used them here. For the floral centerpiece I filled a large vase with whole limes and then a mixed bouquet. The limes act as an anchor to hold the stems in place.

Then plan your menu. We planned stuffed croissants, homemade applesauce, and scrambled eggs. 

For the stuffed croissants
The croissants were stuffed with caramelized onions, sweet Italian sausage, and havarti cheese. First we caramelized the onions and cooked the sausage. Then to prepare the croissants we laid the triangle dough on the cutting board. In the center we placed a spoonful of sausage, caramelized onions, and some shredded cheese. We weren't able to roll up the croissants so instead brought all the corners to meet in the center. Then we baked them somewhat according to package directions, basically until they were golden brown. Since everything in the middle is cooked we just needed to make sure the croissant was done!

For the applesauce
This is Granny's recipe and can be found on the blog here. This was originally featured July 28, 2009 back before this was even whitskitchen and I was randomly highlighting kitchen recipes. This would also be before I met Patrick!

For the scrambled eggs
You know how to make it scrambled eggs! We whipped these up with a little milk, salt, pepper, and dried Italian herbs.

Salmon with Risotto

We've made risotto a few times now and have really come to enjoy being able to make it at home where we can control everything and make it just to our liking (oftentimes I find that restaurant risotto is overloaded with salt or cream/butter, or not cooked to the consistency I like). We found this recipe in our Weeknight Fresh and Fast cookbook and decided to serve it along some salmon baked with herbs. It was delicious!

Prepping the salmon.
Why am I taking a picture when I should be stirring?
Risotto with leeks and sugar snap peas

5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (we use less and dilute with water. we had a lot of extra.)
1 lb sugar snap peas
3 oz pancetta
2 leeks
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp fresh tarragon

Bring broth to a boil. Add snap peas and cook 2 minutes. Remove the peas and reduce heat to low. Warm some oil over medium heat. Add pancetta and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add leeks and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until opaque, about 1 minute. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Add broth about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed, until rice reaches desired tenderness. Mix snap peas, parmesan, tarragon, and pepper.

Creamy Roasted Beet Soup

Pardon our delay in postings! We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. As you can imagine we have gotten caught up in enjoying the summer and thinking about our wedding. We've still been cooking and eating so we'll get the posts ready in no time. This post features some fall-y vegetables that I still found at the Farmers Market a few weeks ago! I just couldn't resist the beets so I bought them and decided to make them into a soup.

Creamy Roasted Beet Soup
It's very simple.

Gather vegetables of your choosing, peel and chop them, then place in an aluminum foil wrapped package with a little olive oil drizzle, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes in a 400F oven. We used the counter convection oven. I chose onions, carrots, and (unpeeled) beets. Like so...

After the vegetables have roasted, place them into a pot with some stock of your choosing to simmer. If you are using beets you will need to peel them before going into the pot. I had a little extra beef stock leftover in the fridge so I used that but chicken or vegetable stock would also be great. If you chose to roast the vegetables longer then they might need to simmer in the stock much but you want to make sure everything is nice and tender for the immersion blender.

After the vegetables are tender you will need to emulsify the soup. To do this you can use an immersion blender that goes right into the pot or transfer the soup to a blender and blend. If you are using the blender, return the soup to the pot after it has been blended. Then add a splash of cream to the soup and warm through. We served it warm with some stuffed manicotti and caprese topping.

Digital Thermometer

After ruining many hunks of meat over the years through overcooking or cutting them open before they were done, I decided we would be much better off with a cheap digital instant-read thermometer. I'm not sure how we ever got along without it! (Oh yeah, all the improperly cooked meat.) Here are some action shots.

I actually over-cooked this pork loin because we couldn't hear the very loud thermometer from the deck (see Deck Drinks). At least I knew it was over-done before I sliced it!
I stayed in the kitchen in order to make sure this filet mignon came out perfectly.
And it did! Served with espresso balsamic glaze on a bed of cress (we were not fans of the cress).

What to do with fennel...

Our CSA is in full swing now and sometimes our veggie drawer is overflowing with green things. We place our CSA order on a weekly basis and for the most part we just order what we want or what sounds good and then I'll make a meal plan after we get everything. By the fourth or fifth day of that rotation what's left is what wasn't very inspiring for meal planning.

Are you wondering what the last culprit was??


I mean, seriously, what exactly am I supposed to do with this stuff? Patrick snuck this onto the CSA request form without my knowledge in case you were wondering. We've done a few things with fennel in the past (see here and here) but nothing that really stood out. In all our past preparations we discarded the large green fronds which we did again here. From what I've read they're good for stocks and/or a roasting bed for fish. After a quick search through the fridge and pantry I realized we had everything for one of Patrick's favorites, schnitzel. Read our original schnitzel post here. I incorporated the fennel by sauteing it with the arugula then served everything with a side of couscous.

Triangle Restaurant Week: 6/4-10

I knew this was coming around and when I finally saw the dates a couple of weeks ago I definitely put it on our calendar. It's Triangle Restaurant Week! Visit their website here. Here's some information from their homepage: "TRW is a weeklong celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the entire premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area Restaurants. Restaurants will be offering a special fixed price, 3-course meal each and every day they are open* during the event." This happens twice a year; Patrick and I have been regular participants now for probably about 2 years.

It's a great excuse to explore the finer restaurants in the area. We haven't ventured to Raleigh yet but I imagine that will happen next year. For this Triangle Restaurant Week we have reservations at Four Square in Durham! You're able to browse the submitted menus and choose from what makes you drool the most. This is what we'll be choosing from at Four Square:

First Courses
Caprese Salad
local tomatoes & cucumbers, buttermilk-jalapeño-cornbread croutons, blackeyed pea-basil vinaigrette
Shrimp Bisque
tomato-eggplant confit

London Broil & Mushroom-Barley Wontons
wilted spinach, spicy-sweet ginger sauce
Grilled Organic Salmon
red cabbage slaw, herb spaetzle, citron butter sauce

Lemon Mousse
toasted coconut, cornmeal pâte brisée, local strawberries
Dark Chocolate Torte
whipped milk chocolate, raspberry curd, toasted almonds

I have no idea what I'm going to get yet! Any suggestions; what looks good to you?!
If your area has a celebration similar to this I hope you participate. If not take advantage of it next time.

Deep Dish Pizza

For a couple years now, I've had a nagging desire to make a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, because sometimes the wait between Chicago visits just gets too long (and despite my best efforts, I have failed to find the kind I like in the Triangle). My research led me to the forums, but on each previous attempt I was discouraged by all the different formulations, and couldn't decide which recipe to pick. This time around though, I found this document that neatly described all the steps, along with pictures of other people's results, which looked great. I finally had a starting place, and I decided to make a 9" pie.

Follow the link for detailed instructions; I'll just describe briefly here what I did. I was very pleased with results, and am so happy that I can now make my favorite pizza whenever I want!

After mixing up all the ingredients, we briefly knead the dough just until it forms a ball. It was almost too small for my mixer!
I put the dough ball in the middle of the bowl,
and let it rise for two hours in the warm attic.
I pressed out the dough from the center,
added sliced mozzarella,
spread on drained crushed tomatoes and parmesan cheese,
and baked on a pizza stone at 450 for 23 minutes. This was not long enough; it could have used a few more minutes for the crust to get a little more golden. It was still delicious though, and I loved the crust texture.

BBQ Cheeseburgers and Baked Onion Rings

How was your Memorial Day weekend? Did you have a cookout? Patrick and I visited all of our DC friends. Both of us have college friends that relocated to the area after graduation and it makes a wonderful weekend trip to visit them.

Special thanks to Jake and Drew, who were our hosts in the city.
On our way up Saturday we made a pitstop at Drew's lakehouse and had lots of funs with his family.
On Sunday we had a nice afternoon brunch with Patrick's Chicago childhood friend, Patrick, and dinner with Jake and Will.
On Sunday we spent the day with Christine, Holly, Kasper, and Zach. We had lots to celebrate! Congratulations to Christine & Kasper on their engagement! And to Holly and Zach for each securing new fancy jobs!
Then on our way home Tuesday we were able to have dinner with Granny, Poppa, and my parents at the lake!
Our holiday weekend was filled with lots of friends and family, good times, and of course food.

Anyway back to the cookout part. Patrick and I had this meal last month but I thought it was appropriate for the kick-off of summer since the side was onion rings! I loosely followed this Martha Stewart Baked Onion Rings recipe but Patrick thought a quick pan fry would be just as efficient as the baking.

Onion Rings from Martha Stewart
1 1/2 cups cornflakes (we omitted this)
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, quartered crosswise and broken into rings (discard small center rings)
2 tablespoons olive oil

   Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, pulse cornflakes and breadcrumbs until fine crumbs form, then transfer to a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, flour, and cayenne and season with salt and pepper. We added in some fresh chives to both mixtures.

   Dip onion rings in egg mixture (letting excess drip off) and dredge in breadcrumb mixture; place on a large plate. Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and heat 2 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and tilt to coat evenly with oil. Arrange onion rings on sheet. Bake, turning once, until onion rings are golden brown, about 16 minutes. Season with salt.**
**This was from the baked recipe procedure. We warmed a small amount of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet and cooked the onion rings until they had browned on each side.

Special thanks to Santa (aka Mom) for our mini spatula. This was perfect for turning onion rings.
The onion rings were obviously the star of this meal. But the burger was pretty good too!
We mixed lean ground beef with a chopped onion, squirt of bbq sauce, and some seasonings.

We pattied them out and then grilled them on our grill pan. Look at these nice grill lines.

Finally we topped the burgers we sauteed mushrooms.

Happy cookouts! What's one of your favorite sides?