Monday, February 14, 2011

Groundhog Day

While the rest of you were celebrating the fact that Punxsutawney Phil did not see shadow, forecasting an early Spring, we were celebrating Conor's 25th birthday!

That morning I woke up early to make Conor breakfast before he left for work.  As most of you know, I love to sleep; therefore, dragging myself out of bed when unnecessary is a difficult feat!  We enjoyed a nice morning together and then Conor headed out.  You'd think I would have taken advantage of being up so early and having more hours in my day...but, oh no...I went straight back to bed for another couple of hours! 

Each year, I make Conor a delicious dessert for his birthday!  This time I decided to bust out the ice cream maker we received as a wedding gift and put it to use.  Conor loves all things mint chocolate chip, so I started scouring the Internet for a good mint chip ice cream recipe.  All the recipes I found called for peppermint extract, which was disappointing because I wanted to use real mint...Since my sister-in-law Marissa owns an ice cream shop with her husband, Sam, I went straight to her for some tips and a good recipe.  She was a huge help and gave me an incredible recipe from David Leibovitz, an ice cream cookbook author.

I had a lot of fun making the ice cream and only one "freak out" moment where I thought I might have ruined the ice cream!  You need a thermometer so you don't burn the batter and I was a little weary about how well my digital meat thermometer worked...I couldn't figure it out for the life of me, so I frantically called Conor at work asking him how to work the darn thing without telling him what I'm using it for.  Luckily the thermometer started working just as I reached the necessary temperature so the ice cream was safe!

My mint chip ice-cream was absolutely amazing!  We just finished off the last of it a few days ago, and I am already planning on what kind to make next.  I'm thinking honey rosemary since I found a good recipe in my Bon Appetite magazine.  All this ice cream is not helping my waist-line but it is so worth it!

For dinner, Conor & I decided to make sushi!  We also received a bunch of sushi accessories as wedding gifts that had yet to be used.  We both love sushi, but hadn't made it ourselves before.  We headed to Whole Foods to pick out ingredients, hoping to find sushi grade seafood.  WF had everything we needed, even soy paper for my rolls!  Although I like sushi, I cannot stand the smell or taste of seaweed, yuck!  So I always substitute soy paper; so much better.  We also picked up a bottle of sake for the occasion...and boy was it delicious.

Once home, we opened up a bottle of sparkling Pinot Noir that we bought at Mumm Napa during our California trip many months ago.  We had been saving it for a special occasion and this seemed like a pretty good one.  We then started rolling up a couple spicy tuna rolls as well as some rolls with salmon, cream cheese, avocado, carrots, & sprouts...and of course topped them all off with tobiko...yum yum yum.  We were quite satisfied with how everything turned out.  I have been craving sushi ever since.  Once I get on a roll (no pun intended) with something, I want it everyday!

Here are the many pictures we took of our sushi night!

Coming up next on the blog reel: posts from Conor about the last couple groups of visitors we've had.  I'll make sure he gets on that ;-)  Plus a fun little post from me about our Valentine's Day adventures!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the Kitchen of Keenan

Lately, Conor & I have been spending lots of time in the kitchen!  I was getting tired of our same old recipes, so I wanted to start making things I never had before and doing it completely from scratch.  There were delicious triumphs and couple of so-so dishes, but regardless of the outcome, the cooking was fun!  In fact, one night Conor & I had a spur of the moment dance party in the kitchen.  Taio Cruz, Katy Perry, empty bottle of wine, flour covered counters, sink full of dishes, full bellies: Quite. A. Night!

Here are few things that were recently cooked up in our kitchen:

French Onion Soup
With my new love of french onion soup taking over my life, I decided it was time to make my own!  As a wedding gift from my girlfriends in Delaware, I recieved a "Cooking for Two" cookbook, and here is where I found the most delicious recipe.  It has thyme in it (my favorite herb) which adds a nice touch.  I went to Whole Foods to find all my ingredients, and the people working there were so helpful.  The cheese guy & I chatted it up while he talked me through what would be the best option to melt over my soup.  We decided on an aged swiss gruyere, and then he convinced me to buy a massive block of it, much more than I probably needed...  There never is a shortage of cheese in the Keenan household, we love it!  Then the wine guy caught me scouring the white wine section and offered his expertise.  I told him what I was making, and he was so excited because apparently that is his favorite soup too!  He then divulged into telling me what wine would just be perfect. Of course it cost more than what I was initially looking for, but he was impossible to turn down.  That makes Whole Foods: 2, Laura: 0... but happy.

The recipe was fairly easy and didn't take too long.  Conor came home to a wonderful smelling house, and then helped make some delectable sandwiches to go with our soup.  Everything was oh so good, I am very excited to make it again soon.  Here are the finished products!

Infused Tequilas
This is one of my other new obsessions!  Inspired by El Que in Spokane, Conor & I decided to start doing this at home.  The first three flavors we picked: blackberry, ruby red, & jalapeno/cilantro.  They were all delicious, but blackberry was the best!  My brother Ryan told me to try blackberry/jalapeno so that might be next on the list.  I also have blood orange brewing at the moment, but it has yet to be sampled...maybe tonight ;-)  We infuse the tequila in a mason jar and then after a week or two we strain out the fruit and transfer it to easy to pour bottles.  Overall quite a fun and continuing project.  If you come for a visit expect the best margaritas you can find, except for maybe Shari's famous marg's; but a strong second best!  My trick: using fresh lemon & lime juice, patron citronage, and adding agave nectar as the sweetener.  We've been serving them up with a salt/sugar mm mmm!

This is my dad's absolute favorite food!  During a trip to New York, I think my dad had gnocchi at every Little Italy restaurant he could get his hands on.  My mom has tried to make it before, but has been relatively unsuccesful.  So, with my go-to chef offering no solid assistance, I was on my own to find a recipe.  The texture of this dish is hard to conquer; if it goes wrong, it's very heavy & leaden.  For my first try at this classic italian dish, I used a recipe (also from Cooking for Two) that uses ricotta instead of potatoes and is supposed to be a little bit easier...hmmm.   It was definitely not easy for me, so I had Conor help me out when he got home from work.  The gnocchi itself turned out pretty good, we got the texture of it right...but the sauce this particular recipe called for was really boring.  Overall, the meal was okay.  I'll try to make gnocchi again but will probably use a different recipe.  Or maybe I need a lesson from an expert?  Our family friend Gary Bloom is supposedly the master of gnocchi, everybody raves about it.  Maybe next time I'm in Spokane he can show me the ways!  Anyway, here's what my gnocchi looked like....

We made a few other fun things for Conor's birthday, but I'll save those for the birthday post!