Saturday, February 27, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

I make these burgers a lot in the summertime. They cook up quickly so it doesn't heat up the kitchen too much on hot, steamy summer days. They're also a good fall-back recipe for me because I almost always have the ingredients on hand, therefore they don't require any advance planning. I found myself in such a situation on Friday night, rummaging through the pantry wondering what I could throw together for a quick dinner. These simple, yet appetizing, burgers were the ticket.

Black Bean Burgers

1/3 c. chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 egg
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
splash soy sauce
salt and pepper

After rinsing beans, place them in a bowl and partially mash them with a potato masher. Add all other ingredients and mix together well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Form into four large patties or six small ones. Coat pan with olive oil and saute for several minutes on each side until cooked through.
I served them on a toasted English muffin with roasted asparagus and sauteed potatoes.

We enjoyed a cheap, unfussy wine with our cheap, unfussy dinner. It was from Spain and though the bottle said that it paired well with pizza, our burgers were also a good combo.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scarf Love

I have a scarf crocheting addiction. I mean, who wouldn't? By mixing up different colors and yarn weights with different patterns you can get a lot of variety and flair, and the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment comes quickly. And since they are so quick to make, I don't usually have to add them to my pile of unfinished projects, which is always a relief. (I'll have to post about that sometime and let me tell you, it will be one loooong post.)

This scarf is incredibly long but can be made from one skein of yarn. The pattern is simple and easy to follow. It's from this book:

I love this book and have had good success with all the patterns that I've tried so far. In fact, right now I'm making a pair of wrist warmers (trying to break away from the scarves for a while, you know). The patterns are so fun and funky!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Salad

I have an incredibly hard time eating salad in the winter. Most days it’s the absolute last thing I want to eat. I readily set good intentions aside in favor of warm, nostalgic comfort food. In early January, I tried to do a cleanse of sorts – no caffeine, no sugar, super healthy meals. It seemed like a good idea after all that rich holiday food. Wrong. I made it four grumpy, pouty days and then called it quits and decided to put the whole thing on hold until spring. I simply can’t eat super healthy in the winter. It’s just not in me.

Therefore, I’ve been trying to find ways to winterize my salads to make them more appealing to my cold-weather palette. The solution? Butternut squash roasted to sweet perfection, with couscous, red wine vinaigrette, and cranberries to add a touch of sweetness. Now that's a salad I can handle in the winter!

Winter Butternut Squash Salad

The couscous:

1 c. couscous

1 ¼ c. chicken broth

1 tbs. olive oil or butter

¼ tsp. salt

1 c. dried cranberries

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2-3 shallots (or 1 small onion), diced small

The vinaigrette:

3 tbs. red or white wine vinegar

1 tbs. olive oil

2 tsp. orange zest

¼ tsp. coriander

¾ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. cumin

1 tsp. of salt


Chopped fresh parsley

Small handful of chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with olive or grapeseed oil and spread out on baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (the squash should be tender but not mushy). Allow to cool completely.

Saute shallots until tender. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together ingredients for vinaigrette. Set aside.

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add couscous, ¼ tsp. salt, and olive oil or butter. Boil for one minute then cover and remove from heat for 5-8 minutes. To the couscous, add cranberries, garbanzo beans, sautéed shallots, and cooled squash. Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and gently mix together until all ingredients are coated with the vinaigrette. Spoon onto plates and top with chopped fresh parsley and chopped walnuts. Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from - The Kitchn

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lemon Cake

This is exactly what it looks like - another Barefoot Contessa recipe! I've been on a roll with her lately. This lemon cake turned out wonderfully delicious but I think it would have been even more delectable if I had not made one slightly major foible. I failed to notice that not all the sugar was supposed to go into the cake - some of it was to be reserved for the lemon syrup that is poured over the cake while still warm. Well, since I had already put more than the required amount of sugar in the batter, I thought I'd leave off the syrup, fearing that it would be too sweet. With every bite, I kept imagining what it would be like with that moist, extra lemony syrup layer at the top of the cake. So while it was good, I'll read the recipe more carefully before I start baking next time.

Try the Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Cake here: Lemon Cake Recipe

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Village Comes Down

It is with a tinge of sadness that I pack away our little snow village today.

Miguel and I constructed each of these little houses by hand out of balsa wood, painted them, glittered them, and then found a special spot for each on the mantle. We placed the smaller houses on the “hills” as we thought that added to the effect of making them feel farther away. As we crafted and constructed to our hearts content, the first snow of the season blanketed the ground outside. It was December 5th. A Saturday. In the evenings following that day, we’d gaze at it from the couch in our living room and ask each other, “Which house should we stay in tonight?”

When I packed away all the other Christmas decorations on the first of January, I just didn’t yet have the heart to take it down. Truthfully, our little village has started to lose a bit of its initial luster. We don’t notice it as much. We hardly ever light it up any more. At the same time, there’s a childish little voice inside my head that thinks if I take the snow village down it might not snow anymore. Go figure. Nevertheless, I think it’s time to take it down. Until next year. . .

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

Valentine's Day has to be one of the worst days ever to go out to dinner. It's crowded, the wait is long, it's just not very intimate if you ask me. My husband and I don't make a big fuss over Valentine's Day anyway but we do usually try to have a nice dinner.

This year I made Barefoot Contessa's Baked Shrimp Scampi (yes, I'm on a bit of an Ina kick right now) and I served it over linguine with roasted asparagus. It was delicious! I'll definitely make this again but I think I'll reserve this recipe for special occasions because it calls for A LOT of butter. But again, really nice for a special occasion like a romantic evening with your hubby.

You can find the recipe HERE, if you're interested. I pretty much followed it to a tee. Generally, I will only post recipes on my blog if it's my own or if I've altered it in some way. Otherwise, I'll just post the link.


Adventures in Wine - French Table Wine

For the past few weeks my husband and I have been sampling different wines with dinner and making notes about them. We're not exactly connoisseurs but it's been fun so far. Though I must say I don't understand those people who smell/taste so many different things in wine - I've heard everything from plums, to pears, to rosehips. To me, all wines either taste sweet or dry - fruity or woody. And usually the sweet and fruity go together and likewise dry and woody. I either like it, or I don't. That's it. I guess I've never thought anymore about it.

Mostly we've been trying to drink red wine because we hear it's good for you. But this week we had white. My recipe for our Valentine's Day dinner (I'll post about that next) called for white wine.

We chose a french table wine from Rhone Valley Vineyards called La Vieille Ferme.

What the bottle says:
This elegant and fruity wine comes from vines grown high on the slopes of the Luberon Mountains, one of the Rhone Valley's coolest vineyards. It has been meticulously selected and blended by the Perrin family, who also produce one of France's most acclaimed wines, Chateau de Beaucastel.

The blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc and Roussane grapes has produced a typical Rhone Valley white. Serve it chilled as an aperitif, or with grilled fish, chicken, or Mediterranean cuisine.

We had it with shrimp and it went with it very nicely. It was not overly sweet or dry, but well balanced.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Domestic Adventure No. 1

I devote this blog to my daily domestic adventures in the kitchen, in the garden, in the craftroom, and in my home.

Domestic Adventure No. 1: Valentine's Day

My husband and I aren't really much into Valentine's Day, in the traditional sense. But I will savor any excuse to bake up some sweets and whip up some cute decorations.

My decorations were simple paper hearts with a ribbon pasted between them for hanging.

I baked the Barefoot Contessa's yummy Coconut Cupcakes and decorated each a little differently.

They looked delectable in the cake stand.
This was an excellent recipe, however, next time I think I'll omit the coconut from the batter and only include it in the topping. The flavor of the almond extract overpowers the coconut anyway and it will yield a smoother consistency without the coconut pieces.