Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Adventures in Baking: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I told you I wouldn't stay away too long!! I have so many great recipes to share so you will be seeing a lot more of me. I'm totally addicted to Pinterest these days so I am finding new food blogs and recipes all the time; as well as fun baby things, home decor ideas, and DIY projects that I'm dying to try. Back to the food... I had some ripe bananas and now that I have the opportunity to spend more time in my lovely new kitchen I figured rather than waste them and throw them away I should use them. I perused Pinterest where there were plenty of banana bread recipes but then I came across this cookie recipe and I had to try it. Bananas and oats and chocolate chips just sounded so damn good. I gave it a shot and I have to say my first attempt at making cookies from scratch was totally successful. Ok, ok, I'll admit they were a bit spongy and some got a little dark on the bottom but I think that's easily fixed by cutting back the baking time a bit. I also may have over mixed my dough but quite frankly, the Kitchen Aid Mixer and I just started dating so we are still getting to know each other. Now that I know her a little better I'm sure they'll be close to perfect next time.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

About 1 medium banana, mashed
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lg egg
about 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups old fashion rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet choc chips (I really like a cookie with lots of chocolate chips so I suggest adding 3/4 to 1 cup)
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine first 5 ingredients, through vanilla extract, in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg, beat well.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl, beat with mixer at medium speed until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. Drop batter by the tablespoon onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes them move to wire cooling racks to finish cooling.

recipe adapted from myrecipes.com

Monday, January 23, 2012

Life at the Farmhouse Since I Last Saw You and... a BIG announcement!

Why hello there! it's been a very long 5 months and I'm truly sorry I stayed away. I've made a couple attempts to get back into this blog thing but for some reason I just wasn't able to see it through... until now! I started to write posts to tell you all about life at the farmhouse over the last few months but frankly, when I look at my favorite blogs, I hate when there is too much to read. Thus, I figured I'd tell you the tale of Fall 2011 at the farmhouse in as few words as possible but with a few photos so you get the gist of things.

Here goes... Hurricane Irene hit the farmhouse on August 28th, 2011. We went to bed a little before midnight on Saturday night with rain and heavy winds. We woke up Sunday morning surrounded by about 6-8 feet of water covering our entire 2 acres of property and beyond.

Eventually it came into the house where we ended up with about a foot of water on our first floor.


We had to evacuate by boat and didn't return until the water had gone down a few days later. Because of the flooding inside our home, we had mold and bacteria in our walls therefore we basically had to renovate our entire first floor as walls were ripped out to get rid of the mold.

p.s. this is what your house looks like when a restoration company comes into your home after a natural disaster to clean out mold and bacteria. I had no time to pack anything so this is what my house looked like for days.

It is now January 2012 and we have a home again! We fully re-did our kitchen which I absolutely love and starting a couple weeks ago was finally able to start cooking in again.

As for that BIG announcement I promised, if you didn't figure it out from the last two photos... we are expecting!!!! I'm 29 weeks pregnant with a little baby girl Keane due April 7th. We are absolutely ecstatic. In all honesty, who gives a sh*t about a little water in our house when we have a baby to look forward to!

2012 is gonna be BIG and I promise not to stay away anymore! I have a few recipes to share with you that I've made in my new kitchen and promise you'll enjoy so I'll see you soon... in way less than 5 months!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grilling For A Change: New England Style Seafood Dinner

The grill and I have become very close friends this summer. The days have been so hot while the evenings cool off just a touch that although it's still warm out, it's totally pleasant... much more pleasant than being in my hot kitchen when my stove is on. I've tried grilling a little bit of everything this summer from the usual steaks and chops to all kinds of veggies and seafood. I've been totally inspired by Jamie Oliver and have basically turned my grill into an outdoor oven. Next summer maybe I'll have a full blown vegetable garden with an outdoor kitchen as I often see him working in on his show... a girl can dream!! 

This recipe popped up in my inbox a couple weeks ago and it couldn't have been more easy. It's the absolute perfect summer meal because there is very little prep work and since you cook it all in aluminum foil, clean up is even easier! Even better, there is no need to turn on your stove on a hot summer night. Just find some fish at your local market, throw in fresh corn and a couple potatoes, top with butter, dill and lemon and voila!! You have a deliciously simple and fairly nutritious meal in no time at all. It also looks really pretty when you open up the little packet with all the beautiful colors, which makes me happy!

New England Seafood Bake

2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
2 large red potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 lb skinless cod fillet, cut into about 2 by 2 inch pieces
1/2 lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 ears corn, quartered or cut into thirds depending on size
1/2 lemon thinly sliced
hard rolls, optional

Heat grill to medium. In a small bowl combine butter, dill, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Fold 2 14 inch squares of heavy duty aluminum foil in half to form 2 square packets. Assemble packets with potato slices layered on bottom in a single layer. Top with cod then shrimp. Place corn around outside of fish. Season with salt and pepper and top with a spoonful of butter mixture and 2 lemon slices. Fold foil over all ingredients and crimp edges of aluminum together so packets are tightly sealed. 

Place packets on grill with potato layer on bottom. Cook, rotating packets occasionally but do not flip, about 14 minutes until fish is cooked and potatoes are tender. Remove from grill and transfer to serving bowl. Serve hot with rolls. 

Recipe adapted from marthastewart.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Canada With Love: Poutine

One of the best things about where I grew up was that we were just steps away from the Canadian border. We had lots of fun times with our neighbors to the north... some our parents knew about... some they did not. I mean, the drinking age was 18! One of the BEST things to ever derive from Canada is poutine. Now, a classic poutine is found at a diner type place and consists of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Over the last few years poutine has begun to pop up at finer establishments in fancier forms with ingredients such as short ribs or even with fois gras. I'm not opposed to these new, classier dishes but I do feel that maybe they could be given a new name. Poutine is supposed to be served in a dive on a huge plate with lots of grease... it's just the way it is. 

Last weekend I was craving poutine and since it would take me over 6 hours to get the classic ingredients I realized I was going to have to make due. The fries I could easily do but I was going to have to be a little more creative with the cheese and the gravy. As long as the gravy is good and rich, it'll work so I found a recipe that included shallots, beef stock, and red wine. It sounded rich enough so I gave it a shot. The cheese was a challenge though. Poutine is traditionally made with cheese curds which are no where to be found in my hood therefore I went with original flavored baby bell cheeses. It was the closest I could think of to the texture and flavor I needed and I have to say it was a good choice. It melted a bit to quickly but the flavor was perfect! All in all I made a really great dish that I'm not sure I can confidently call poutine but I will happily call it French Fries with Gravy and Cheese.

French Fries with Gravy and Cheese 

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into about 1/2 inch thick fries
Vegetable oil, enough to fill a large pan about 1/3 full for frying
3 tablespoons minced shallot
2 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup beef or veal demi-glace
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
6-8 babybell original flavored cheese, unwrapped and cut into about 4 squares per cheese round.

Clean potatoes and cut into about 1 inch thick fries. Place in a large bowl of cold water and let soak about 10 minutes. Rinse potatoes until water runs clear and place on paper towels to dry. Dry off potatoes as much as possible before frying. 

In a heavy bottom large pot heat vegetable oil to about 375 degrees. Once oil is hot fry potatoes in as many batches as needed so as to not overcrowd. Drain on a paper towel.

Cook shallot and thyme in butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat stirring frequently until shallot is softened and golden, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs. While wine thickens, stir together water and cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch dissolves. Stir 1 cup beef stock into wine and bring to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and return to a boil, then boil until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pepper, salt, and butter until butter is melted.

Place fries on a large plate and top with cheese and gravy. Heat in preheated oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees just until cheese starts to melt. Do not completely melt cheese. It should still have it's shape, it should just be soft. Serve hot.

Gravy recipe adapted from epicurious.com

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summertime Sweet Treats: Berry Cobbler

Summertime makes me yearn for fresh fruits and vegetables in all shapes and forms. As we all well know, I'm not much of a baker or dessert maker, but I've been wanting to make a cobbler for quite some time. A couple years ago we went to dinner at a friends house and she threw together a delicious berry cobbler for desert. She assured me that it was really easy and so, only about 3 years later, I finally got around to trying out my own cobbler. I found a recipe on epicurious.com that looked easy enough and the topping (the "baking" part) involved just a few simple steps thus I figured there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I could mess it up! And lucky for us... I did not! It was incredibly easy and incredibly delicious.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

1 cup plus 1 tsp packed brown sugar
 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 3/4 lb mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together 1 cup brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add berries and toss to coat. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and bake until hot, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea size butter lumps. Add milk and stir just until dough comes together.

Remove baking dish from oven and drop large tablespoons of dough onto hot berry mixture. Stir together remaining teaspoon brown sugar and granulated sugar. Sprinkle sugars over dough and bake cobbler until topping is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Concert in the Park... at the Farmhouse

Last weekend the hubs and I had the pleasure of hosting a little food and wine tasting party at our house. We weren't really sure what to expect as we had absolutely no part in the planning and really just provided the venue but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised with the turnout. We ended up having a little over 70 guests with lots of different folks from the Princeton area. We got to spend time with family members and got to know some new friends. There was awesome live bluegrass, delicious food prepared with all local ingredients by some amazing local chefs, and lots of wine flowing all night! The event was a huge success and I'm so happy that we got to host it! I was not the chef at this event and thus I don't have any recipes to share but I do have lots of photos. I can't wait for the next dinner on the farm and hope that this will not be the last concert in the park at the farmhouse!

The set up...

 The party...

 The Bluegrass...

 The food...

Grilled Corn, Panzanella Salad, Spicy Slaw, Kale Salad, Truffled Potato Salad

 BBQ Pulled Pork


 Fried Bay Shrimp

 Blackened Catfish

The happy hosts... (Don't mind the hubs. He always looks this excited when he's really happy!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Inspired by a Top Chef: Grilled Octopus salad with Lemon-Pistachio Vinaigrette

A couple weekends ago the hubs and I had the chance to spend a very short 2 days in Chicago. The hubs was headed there for business and his company was kind enough to get us a room starting Friday night so we could spend the weekend in the windy city. Maybe it's because we haven't had a little getaway in quite some time or maybe it's just because Chicago is a fabulous city but either way, we had an amazing time! It reminded me of how much I miss city life. Don't get me wrong, I much prefer to live in the country but in our last home in Cali we had the best of both worlds. We were only 15 minutes outside of San Fran but lived in the quiet suburban town of Mill Valley in a house in the woods on one of the many beautiful hills of Mt. Tamalpais... deemed by some of my friends as a tree house. Since I worked in the city I still experienced city life, more importantly city food, daily but was able to escape as much as we wanted or as little as we wanted every weekend. We still have the luxury of being near a city here in Jersey but since the commute is not quite as easy and it takes a lot longer we don't venture into New York all that often. It's been a couple months since I was last in NYC so our quick trip to Chicago was a much needed dose of city life.

We had very little time, arriving late Friday night and leaving early afternoon on Sunday so on Saturday we tramped all over Chicago. We checked out Lake Michigan, ventured to a street fair on Randolph Street, enjoyed a little baseball action just outside of Wrigley field, had a very creative dinner, and finally ended the night at a speak easy called the Violet Lounge. Chicago is such a cool city. It is really beautiful with the Chicago river running through it and all of the old architecture. It also has a pretty great food scene and as you can imagine, one of our goals for the weekend was to seek out a really great dinner. Initially we had planned to go to an old school steakhouse but after a little more thought I was craving something a little different. After some research I found that Top Chef Season 2 winner, Stephanie Izard, owned a restaurant in Chicago called Girl and the Goat. The menu looked really interesting, really creative, and really good. We decided to go for it even though we didn't have a reservation (apparently it takes months to get a table there but we went early and only waited about 20 minutes) and it was the best decision of the weekend! We had quite a few different dishes: sauteed green beans with a fish sauce vinaigrette, hiramasa crudo with crisp pork belly, crisp calamari with rabbit ravioli, wood oven roasted pig face with sunny side egg, a goat belly dish, and finally the highlight of the meal which was actually a mistake- grilled baby octopus with a pistachio lemon vinaigrette. Lucky for us the kitchen made this dish accidentally for another table and apparently we looked like we would be happy to take it... which we were.

I've had octopus once before in Greece but it was served cold. It was delicious but very different from this dish. We LOVED this dish! The octopus was grilled and had the perfect smoky flavor and every component in the dish complimented each other so perfectly. It included Fava beans, guanciale (a thin, non smoked or cured Italian bacon), red cabbage, wax beans, radishes and the vinaigrette. The flavor was perfect, the texture was perfect, and all in all this may have been the most memorable dish I've ever eaten. Thus, I had to try to re-create it. I've never made octopus before so it was a total shot in the dark. I also couldn't find all of the exact ingredients so my dish is more of an adaptation than a recreation of the dish we had at Girl and the Goat. Luckily for the hubs and I though, our dish wasn't half bad. I will definitely continue to experiment with this dish and try to perfect it and will for sure be serving this at our next dinner party!

Grilled Octopus Salad with Lemon-Pistachio Vinaigrette

1/2 lb octopus
2 slices thin cut bacon
2 radishes, sliced thin
handful of yellow wax beans
1/4 cup fava beans
1/4 cup red cabbage
little less than a 1/4 cup pistachios

In a saucepan add octopus and enough water to cover octopus but about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer about an hour. Remove from boiling water and once cool enough to handle cut into large bite size pieces.

Cook bacon in a fry pan until lightly crisp. Boil wax beans in water about 5-7 minutes until just starting to become tender.

Heat grill. In a bowl toss all salad ingredients in dressing to lightly coat. Transfer to a mesh fry pan (one made for grilling). Cook on grill until salad ingredients are lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and toss with a bit more dressing to lightly coat salad and serve.

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pistachios

In a blender mix lemon juice, shallot, tarragon, red wine vinegar, sugar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth. With blender running, add olive oil in a steady stream until well incorporated. Turn off blender, add pistachios and pulse until finely chopped.

Just a couple tips:

2. You will not use much of the dressing for this recipe, only a couple of tablespoons. It is delicious though and can be stored in your fridge for about a week. It'd be great on a salad but tonight I'm using it as a marinade for some chicken I plan to grill which I'm pretty sure is gonna be goooood!

p.s. the photo above is not actually of my dish, it's of the dish that inspired me. my dish looked a little different, but sorta the same... you get the idea!