Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter Kiss

It was up to 40 degrees yesterday in Minnesota, and it felt downright tropical!  The snow was melting by the buckets...then today hit and it a chill filled the air.  The temperatures dropped and the ice pellets fell.   Why ice pellets?  It is supposed to snow this time of year, not send down tiny hail!  When I got to my car after work, I discovered that the ice had formed a thin, but rock hard, and immoveble layer of ice on my windows.  I had no choice but to stand and scrape...and scrape, and scrape some more.  It hardly budged, and as I was driving home trying to warm my fingers and see through the small holes I had scraped in the windows, I was dreaming of something warming I could ingest when I got home.  Yes, I could make a hot cocoa, or maybe a hot toddy...but I wanted to be creative, and since it is New Year's Eve, I thought it would be a good night for something a bit more special.  Bourbon sounded wonderful!  I wanted to include bourbon since it warms you from the inside. 

I had this really good drink at Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul recently called the Cardinal's Kiss with bourbon, walnut liqueur, and bourbon soaked cherries which was delicious!  I thought why not make my own twist on it, since I had some bourbon soaked cherries in my fridge.  So I combined lemon and orange juice (so the drink would not be entirely booze, plus it gave it a nice citrus note), cherry soaking liquid, and a dash of almond extract (for a nutty flavor) with bourbon.  It was warming, and like a warm kiss...everything that walking outdoors right now was not.  The perfect drink to shake off the winter chill.  If you are chilled, you should fix yourself one of these!  Happy New Year everyone!

Winter Kiss 
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
3 oz Maker's Mark bourbon
1/2 oz cherry soaking liquid*
3 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice
1 tsp pure almond exract
4 bourbon soaked cherries*
Citrus zest for garnish

In a martini shaker add the ice, bourbon, cherry liquid, orange juice, lemon juice, and almond extract and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Place about 4-5 bourbon soaked cherries onto a skewer, and place in a lowball glass. Pour drink through a strainer into glass, and serve with a citrus zest garnish!
Bourbon Soaked Cherries:
In a glass jar, cover 1 cup dried bing cherries with enough bourbon to cover.  Place lid on jar, and let sit at least overnight before using.  Store in the fridge. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I can't believe 2010 is drawing to a close this week!  The year has flown by, so fast that I feel like I am looking back on someone else's life at times, so  much has changed!  I view New Years as a time to celebrate new beginnings as well as things I have learned, as well as good things that have happened in the past year.  Doing a celebratory toast and having a nice glass of bubbly or a cocktail is often part of New years eve, so I thought what  better a time than now to share with you some of my cocktails which I think would be perfect to ring in the New Year with.  Below are the photos, and if you click on them, you will be linked to the recipes.  I am not a fan of bubbly, being a cocktail girl myself, so Cheers to you, here's to a HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Vanilla Snow Martini

Vanilla Girl Martini

Ginger Bread Martini

5 Spice Honeycrisp Appletini

Ruby Slipper Martini

Pumpkin Spice Martini

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vegan Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I love a good home made lasagna.  Especially one filled with lots of roasted veggies with a nice savory tomato sauce and ricotta filling in between the layers.  My Dad got me a pasta machine a few years back, and I have always enjoyed making my own noodles for it as well.  It is kind of fun being like a little kid putting the dough through the machine, but instead having it be edible and not play dough.  I have made a version of veggie lasagna many times in the past, but it has always been filled with lots of ricotta and cheese.  This weekend I was having my boyfriend Dave over for dinner and wanted to make something delicious like lasagna.  However, it being after the holidays, and me cooking more vegan dishes lately I decided to veganize my original lasagna recipe, using tofu in place of the ricotta and non-dairy cheese.  Also, Dave doesn't tolerate dairy well, so I thought if it turned out it could be something I could make again.  Maybe it was a risk making something that was this much of an experiment when having a dinner guest, but I figured, worst case scenario we would have to go out to eat somewhere.  But that wasn't needed, there were no kitchen disasters or me throwing away something inedible.  On the contrary, the lasagna turned out much better than I expected! 

The tofu enhanced with nutritional yeast and miso, also filled with herbs and lots of garlic and onions was a dead ringer for ricotta! The roasted vegetables I had added were a nice addition as well adding flecks of color throughout the lasagna.  I enjoyed it very much, it was so warm and comforting, and of course I had wonderful company to enjoy it with!  Dave told me it was the best lasagna he had ever eaten, which meant a whole heck of a lot to me!  I don't know if I would say it was the best, having sampled a lot of decadent cheesy lasagna in my life, but as far as vegan goes it was awesome.  I have shared the recipe below if you are interested in some damn good vegan lasagna! 

Vegan Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Serves 6

Roasted Vegetables:

2 large carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 cups broccoli, cut into small florettes
10 mushrooms sliced
olive oil


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 28 oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato puree
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried fennel seeds
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 12 oz box silken tofu, pureed
2 10 oz bricks extra firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
a large pinch of nutmeg
8 oz Daiya mozzarella (or other vegan shredded mozzarella)
12 oz vegan fresh lasagna noodles, or 1 12 oz pkg whole wheat lasagna noodles
8 oz Daiya mozzarella (or other vegan shredded mozzarella)

For roasted vegetables, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, and line a sheet pan with foil.  Toss vegetables with just enough olive oil to coat, and spread out on sheet.  Roast until tender and starting to brown at the edges.  Remove from the oven and set aside. 
To make sauce, add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a medium saucepan on medium heat, and saute garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, herbs, and sea salt and black pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste for seasoning, season with more salt if necessary and set aside. 
Meanwhile, to make "ricotta" filling, heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, and onions, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Place onion in a large bowl, and combine with other filling ingredients, and mix until well blended.  
To assemble lasagna, spray a 9x13 inch deep pan with non-stick spray.  Spoon a little sauce over then bottom of the pan, then cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna noodles, then 1/3 of the "ricotta", then 1/3 of the roasted veggies.  Spoon a little sauce, about 2/3 of a cup over the veggies, then top with another layer of noodles, half the remaining ricotta, 1/2 the remaining veggies, and a little more sauce.  Cover with another layer of noodles, the remaining ricotta and veggies and a little more sauce.  Top with a layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce, and sprinkle 8 oz shredded "mozzarella" over the top.  In a 375 degree oven, bake the lasagna, covered with foil for 45 minutes, or until bubbly, then uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes to melt the cheese.  Remove from the oven and let sit 10-15 minutes, then cut into 6 pieces and serve!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gingerbread Martini

Gingerbread has a special place in my heart around the holidays.  It is the warming spicy sweet flavor, along with the wonderful aroma and memories that go along with it that I love.  But oddly enough this year I didn't make any around Christmas!  But I found a way to still fit it in this year, just in different form...the gingerbread martini!  My Mom and I usually spend Christmas day together, opening gifts, enjoying delicious baked goods, and having a nice dinner, enjoying a cocktail...

So this year it was the gingerbread martini.  I combined Domaine De Canton ginger Liqueur, Bernheim, some spices, vanilla extract and a dash of molasses to keep it like the cookie.  I even rimmed the glass with colorful nonpareils for effect.  It really tasted like drinking the cookie!  It had all the same sweetness, zip and spice!  I missed the actual making of gingerbread cookies this year and having fun with the frosting, but I didn't miss eating the cookies with this fabulous drink!

Gingerbread Martini

Makes 1

2 Tbsp small nonpareils
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp molassess
2 tsp maple syrup
4-6 large ice cubes
2 oz Bernheim bourbon (or your favorite bourbon)

2 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

To make sugar rim, Spread nonpareils out on a small plate. Coat the rim of the martini glass with the agave syrup by dipping it into it on a plate, then dip the agave coated rim into the nonpareils and set aside. In a small dish, dissolve molasses and agave in 1 Tbsp water.  In a martini shaker add the ice, bourbon, vanilla, ginger liqueur, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour into a chilled martini glass and serve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Carmelized Fennel and Barley Risotto with Toasted Walnuts

I was at Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul recently and was served some delicious barley risotto.  It was golden beet with parmesan cream, absolutely heavenly!  I am a risotto lover, but I had only had risotto with rice before that.  So this wonderful barley risotto inspired me to try making some at home!  I wanted to create a vegan version, however, but still have it be as mouthwatering and warming as its rich cousin.  Although I had beets on hand, I decided to go with a carmelized fennel risotto. 

First, I made a broth from miso, tamari, and nutritional yeast, to give the risotto a savory cheese like flavor without having any.  I caramelized some fennel and shallots, added a bit of garlic, mirin, and thyme, and stirred away.  It smelled wonderful, and a few preliminary taste tests revealed that it was becoming delicious!  At the end I stirred in some lemon juice and zest to brighten the flavor.  I sprinkled the finished risotto with walnuts for some crunch and protein, and dove in.  It was delicious, warming, rich, and everything I was hoping it would be but better!  The miso broth added so much flavor without needing any sort of cheese, I was amazed!  It was a nice big bowl of vegan comfort food!  I will definately be making many versions of barley risotto this winter! 

Carmelized Fennel and Barley Risotto with Toasted Walnuts
Serves 3

1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp tamari
4 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup pearled barley
1/4 cup mirin
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
juice of one lemon
1 tsp organic lemon zest
sea salt
toasted walnuts

In a medium stock pot, combine miso, nutritional yeast, tamari, and water and heat on medium until miso dissolves, then lower to a simmer.  In another large pot, heat olive oil and add shallot and fennel, and saute until very soft, and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and barley and cook until barley is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add wine to deglaze, then a little pepper to taste as well as about 1/2 cup miso broth, and thyme.  Let barley absorb broth, then add another half cup, stirring often, until all the broth has been used up.  When barley is cooked through, and all broth has been used, stir in lemon juice and zest, add sea salt if desired (I didn't need any as it was salty enough without it) .  Ladle into bowls, and top with toasted walnuts to serve!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beautiful Beets

My favorite thing about beets besides that they are delicious is their beautiful vibrant color.  They seem to bleed deep pink hues onto whatever they come into contact with, which can be a bad thing in the case of your hands, but a good thing if you would like a lovely pink salad or red velvet cake.  Last night I was wondering what it would look (and taste) like to pair them with pasta!  Pink pasta is something I have never seen before, but how beautiful would that be!  I thought the beets would be delicious with whole wheat spaghetti, toasted walnuts, and dandilion greens as well as a bit of roquefort cheese I had on hand.  My thought was correct!   It was wonderful all of those things together, a simple but comforting tasty dish!  The best part was how pretty it looked from the beet's pink color.  If you are looking for a simple meal or a way to use up a beet, here's the recipe!

Beet and Walnut Pasta with Roquefort
Serves 2

4 oz whole wheat spaghetti pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional for finishing
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 large cooked beet*  cut into small dice
1 bunch dandilion greens
3 oz roquefort cheese, crumbled

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet.  Add shallots and saute until soft and starting to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, walnuts, beets, dandilion greens and cooked pasta, and cook until greens have wilted and everything has heated through.  Stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil (or more if desired)  Remove from heat and stir in roquefort.  Serve immediately. 

*to cook beet, wrap in foil, and bake for about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on how large the beet is) until tender and a knife inserted into it goes in easily.  Let cool slightly and peel. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ruby Slipper Martini

Tis the season for pomegranates, and beautiful shades of red.  This is exactly why when I was deciding what type of drink to create I wanted to include the striking red fruit.  Now, I know there are many variations of pomegranate martinis, but this one was not going to be strictly pomegranate, it would contain another fruit that is plentiful this time of year, orange!  The orange would serve to sweeten a little more than the pomegranate would on its own, and balance out the flavor.  I decided to use bourbon in this drink, because to me bourbon is a warming liquor, and it goes well with citrus and things that are slightly tart. My Mom always made hot toddies, and grapefruit sours from bourbon in the winter, and I guess I think of it as being a good base for a winter drink!  The finished martini was beautiful as well as delicious.  Its red color cheery and bright, and its flavor delicious sweet and slightly tart, very smooth on the tongue.  But what to call this concoction?  I decided on the "Ruby Slipper".  So make yourself one, click your heels 3 times, repeat the phrase "there is no place like home" and prepare to relax... 

Ruby Slipper Martini

Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
3 oz Maker's Mark bourbon
2 oz pomegranate juice
1 1/2 oz orange juice
pomegranate seeds

In a martini shaker add the ice, bourbon, pomegranate juice, orange juice, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended.  Place pomegranate seeds into the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Pour drink through a strainer over seeds, and serve!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Warm White Bean and Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad

Many times I walk through the produce department and choose random vegetables that happen to look good and are local.  This includes selections at times which I have never tasted before, or have no idea how to prepare.  So last weekend I picked up some jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, that were locally grown and looked nice and fresh.  I didn't know how to cook them, but that didn't stop me from buying them!  I looked them up online when I got home, and saw many different ways to prepare them, and I decided to simply roast them, and include them in a main dish salad I was making.   I also included roasted carrots, fingerling potatoes, and shallots, as well as white beans, walnuts, and arugula.  I threw in some crasins for color and dressed the salad in a cherry balsamic vinaigrette.  Of course I tasted the sunchokes before they joined the other veggies, and they tasted like artichokes I am used to eating...I decided that in the future I am going to have to make a dish featuring them since this time I had only bought a small amount and they were so good!  The salad as a whole was amazing...a whole meal in and of itself alongside some crusty bread.  The roasted vegetables made the salad, with the wonderful caramelized flavors the oven had given them.  Try out this salad if you would like a hearty but light meal...if you can't find sunchokes, substitute another winter root vegetable. 

Warm White Bean and Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad
Serves 3

4 medium sunchokes, thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
6 fingerling potatoes, thinly sliced
2 shallots, cut into wedges
olive oil

1 1/2 cups cooked navy beans
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups arugula

2 Tbsp cherry balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon
1 tsp dried thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, line 2 baking sheets with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss artichokes, carrots, potatoes and shallots with just enough oil to coat and spread out on sheets.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes until softened and starting to brown at edges.  Remove from oven, and place in a large bowl, along with navy beans, walnuts, cranberries, and arugula.  In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, then pour over salad and toss to coat.  Serve while still warm.