Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

I received a couple of butternut squashes in my Farmhouse Delivery (more on that later) and I didn't really know what to do with them. I stared at them for a week or two before I figured that i could just roast them and throw them into another dish. I haven't really cooked with them before so I wanted to find a recipe that would incorporate the squash but not totally highlight it.

I started off by roasting the squash, which is pretty simple. Quarter up the squash, remove the seeds (which looks a lot like pumpkin), use a little olive oil, sprinkle on some salt/pepper and stick it in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes. If you wanted a sweeter flavor you could also layer on some OJ or maple syrup on the squash. I figured that the squash is sweet on it's own and I didn't want the extra calories so I didn't add it.

Once the squash was done cooking, I let it cool down and scooped out the flesh and chopped it up and added it to the risotto which was almost done cooking (recipe below). We were really happy with the final result! The risotto was nice and creamy and the squash added a nice flavor without being to overpowering.

Basic Risotto Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
•1½ cups arborio rice
•1 qt chicken stock
•½ cup white wine
•1 medium shallot or ½ small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
•3 Tbsp unsalted butter
•1 Tbsp vegetable oil
•¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
•1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
•Kosher salt, to taste
1.Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.

2.In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot or onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until it is slightly translucent.

3.Add the rice to the pot and stir it briskly with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. Sauté for another minute or so, until there is a slightly nutty aroma. But don't let the rice turn brown.

4.Add the wine and cook while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed.

5.Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process.

Note: It's important to stir constantly, especially while the hot stock gets absorbed, to prevent scorching, and add the next ladle as soon as the rice is almost dry.

6.Continue adding ladles of hot stock and stirring the rice while the liquid is absorbed. As it cooks, you'll see that the rice will take on a creamy consistency as it begins to release its natural starches.

7.Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn't done, you can finish the cooking using hot water. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it's absorbed.

8.Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, the parmesan cheese and the parsley, and season to taste with Kosher salt.

9.Risotto turns glutinous if held for too long, you should serve it right away. A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn't run across the plate, nor should it be stiff or gluey.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A post full of our pups!!

Fun day of bikes, friends and beer!

As soon as I found out about the Texas Craft Beer Festival ( ) I made sure that I had that weekend off! We went to a beer festival last year at the Flying Saucer and we had a really good time. We chose to do this festival this year (instead of the Flying Saucer) because it was local brews and it was something new. This festival was being held at Fiesta Gardens which is right off of Lady Bird Lake.

Since this was the same weekend as the Pecan Festival, we decided to drive to downtown with our bikes, park in the middle of the two events and then just bike from place to place instead of looking for parking multiple times. Unfortunately the heat crept back up this weekend and the high was 102 so it was quite gross outside.

Here I am doing a self portrait while riding a bike, and Jim is in the background on the phone. We are talented peeps.

Our first stop, after meeting up with Chris and Lindsay, was at the Twisted X booth. I tried their Siesta Prickley Pear Lager as my first beer. Here is the description from their website: "A summer seasonal based on Twisted X. "Bloody Butcher" red corn from Richardson farms provides a slight hint of color. Prickly pears from the fields of Texas provide the rest of the color and add a fruity cactus flavor. Siesta is more carbonated than our other beers and this adds to its summer time drinkability. It has 5.5% alcohol by volume. We vote to reinstate the Siesta tradition, sit back, take a snooze, relax and ride the Texas heat wave with a refreshing Siesta." I really enjoyed this beer, a slight hint of sweet but not overpowering.

My second beer was one that I have read about on the internet and heard about from friends... From the website....This extra hoppy Pilsner has a jalapeno aroma, a mild jalapeno flavor, and leaves you with pleasant warmth in the back of your throat. At 6.5% alcohol by volume Fuego is strong yet still crisp and refreshing. Most chili beers are more focused on the heat, but this one is 100% beer. The secret to this beer is the amount and duration of the jalapeno soak, as it has taken nearly two years to get it just right. At my first sip I was a little disappointed because I didn't detect the heat but after a minute or two I got a little tickle in the back of my throat and that is when the heat came on. I really enjoyed this beer but I don't think that I could drink them all night long, it is more of a one or two beer at a time.

Jim, Lindsay and Chris

Me, Jim and Lindsay

Another favorite of mine at the festival was the Austin Beerworks Pearl Snaps. Okay, not going to lie, I was pulled in by the name Pearl Snaps :) Description from Austin Beerworks website: When the temperature hits 100, this beer will be your best friend. When it hits 109, six of these will be your girlfriend. It has a bright hop character with a finish so clean it will pick up after itself. It’s Crisp, Refreshing, and Clean. I have to agree that the beer was crisp and clean. I didn't go back for seconds, but I will be looking for this beer in the future to give it a second try.

One of my favorite food carts, Chilantro, was at the festival. I have had just about everything on their menu and haven't found much that I don't adore. They had a limited menu at the festival so I went with the beef tacos. I was saddened by the fact they didn't have their wonderful kim chee on the menu :( In my opinion, their kim chee is what puts their food above other food carts.

Next up for our tasting, was Ranger Creek. They are a brewery out of San Antonio that brews their own beer as well as whiskey.

I tried their Heffe, which I really enjoyed. I am finding that banana is a common flavor in Heffe's. I tried to research it on their website but that beer isn't listed. I can't say their beer was my favorite, but they certainly weren't my least liked of the festival.

Ranger Creek Beers at Festival

I finally got around to going to Thirsty Planet. I am familiar with a couple of their beers so I didn't want to use up all of my "tokens" at their booth. When I finally got around to the booth I found out they had just opened a keg of their new beer, Smittle Fest, which is their Oktoberfest type beer. They don't have this beer listed on their website, but I did find the owners last name is Smittle, so I guess that explains the name :) I also asked one of the guys serving beer when they were going to bottle beer and I was told they are working on it but they were given directions in Italian. So Thirsty Planet so get Rosetta Stone and bottle your beer! I would love to buy your beer to enjoy at home!!

Me, Jim, Chris and Lindsay

Jim and Chris doing their tough guy looks

After a couple of hours at the festival, we were out of tokens and totally tired of sweating. We hopped on our bikes and headed towards Rainey Street. Our initial plan was to go to Pecan Street Festival but we were so sick of sweating that we wanted AC. So we headed over to Bar 96 bar.

First ever attempted self double portrait while riding bikes. So glad I didn't crash and burn while trying to take this picture :)

Ahhhh... AC at Bar 96. We ended up watching some college football and got a bite to eat.

Jim and I split a chicken quesadilla and a brisket sandwich. The brisket sandwich was really good. Not much to it but the brisket was cooked well. The quesadillia was just meh, nothing that really stood out to us.

After cooling down and eating at Bar 96 we headed over to Luster Pearl to play a little ping pong. We never made it over to the Pecan Street Festival, but we had a great day with good beer and great friends!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Roll On Sushi Diner

I love eating out, and I like it even better when it is a locally owned restaurant. Recently a new sushi joint opened near the house so we gave it a try. We walked in to a semi filled restaurant with a DJ playing in the corner. We sat at the counter and checked out our options. The first thing I noticed is that they have a lot of "cooked" sushi. That isn't a bad thing because the roll that we ordered that was cooked was delish! This would be a good place for people that want both options... or for a couple that one person likes sushi and one that does not :)

The restaurant is set up primarily around the middle of the store so you can sit at the counter and watch them make the sushi for you. I love watching the chefs at work, so this is the perfect set up for me.

Dy-No-Mite Roll

Tempura Shrimp, Rice, Nori and Spicy mayo

This roll was a simple roll with a fresh taste. I stuck with the pieces topped with tuna vs the jalapeno because I prefer not to eat the heat :).

The Beefy Texan

Beef Brisket, Wasabi Cole Slaw, rice and spicy BBQ Mayo

This roll had a wonderful flavor, the beef went well with the avocado and the spicy BBQ mayo sauce. We were very impressed with this faux sushi roll. The Wasabi Cole Slaw got a little lost in all of the flavors, so I wish there was just a bit more in there.


Tempura shrimp and spicy Tuna inside with avocado on the outside with spicy mayo

Hello yummy roll! We watched the chef take his time while slicing the pieces of avocado very thin (you can see them layered on top of the sushi). I think it had the eel sauce on top, which added a nice salty taste to it. It was a close tie between this roll and The Beefy Texan roll for being our favorites.

The ordered was very simple... you grabbed the paper, got a pen and marked what you wanted!! The prices were based on what the color was on the paper so you knew how much you were spending. We will be back soon, especially since it is on the edge of the neighborhood!

Sunday Funday
(during Labor Day weekend)

I had today all to myself so I decided to make the best of it. Jim was out of town with his dad for a shooting competition. I debated on whether or not to make breakfast or eat out, and I just couldn't pass up eating out at a new restaurant (to me). Foreign and Domestic has been on my radar for awhile now and honestly it was the only restaurant that I though of. After walking the dogs and watering the lawn, I headed out for a few hours.

I sat at the counter at Foreign and Domestic, which I totally love. I love to watch the hustle and bustle behind the counter and how they create the food. I wasn't in the mood for a boozy breakfast so i stuck with coffee. The coffee was delicious!

I couldn’t decide on what to order… it was between the Fried Green Tomato BLT or the Fried Chicken Biscuit. My decision was made when the guy next to me ordered the Fried Chicken Biscuit. Per their website, the Fried Chicken Biscuit had Red Eye Gravy, Romaine Slaw, Lemon Marmalade and a fried egg. I have heard of Red Eye Gravy before, but have never tasted it. After looking it up, some recipes have strong coffee and some have the coffee, bacon and ham. Not sure if the F&D had ham or bacon in the gravy, if they did I didn’t taste it. My plate came looking like a hot mess, but it was damn good. I believe the salad is supposed to sit on top of the egg, but since a fried egg is somewhat slimy, the salad slid right down the side. Didn't matter to me, it all tasted the same :)

The piece of fried chicken (a thigh) was so juicy with a crispy outside. The chicken sat on a split biscuit that was a bit dense but held up to all of the ingredients on the plate. The romaine slaw had a thick dressing on it and was a nice fresh cool crunch on the plate, perfect for the fried chicken and biscuit. The one flavor that really jumped up and slapped you was the lemon marmalade. It wasn't over powering but really added a brightness to the dish. It took a few bites to figure out what the flavor was (forgot it was mentioned on the menu).

F&D has a slightly limited menu for Jim and I. They have some items that I just don't think I have the stomach to try (Crispy Beef Tongue, Cincinnati style Tripe, Beef Heart Tartare), however there is plenty of items that appeal to me. Now I just need to drag Jim there, I know he'll enjoy it.

After brunch I headed to the City Wide Garage Sale. It is always a hit or miss whether I find something to buy or not. This weekend, I found a couple of items that I just loved. Both were small tables/side tables so I had to choose which one I liked the best. I ultimatly went with this white table because it was so unique. I LOVED it as soon as I saw it, and couldn't pass it up at $35. I'm still not really sure where I am going to put it but for now it is hanging out in the living room. Yay for finding unique pieces for the house!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old Friends

Last month when I headed back to AZ I met up with an old friend from High School. We found each other through Facebook recently. Brigita and I were best friends in High School, both jocks who played the alto saxophone and both fairly sarcastic :) It was a perfect match! We grew apart a few years after high school and lost touch. But once we found each other on Facebook, we chatted away like the old times. Our conversation flowed as if we had just seen each other a few days ago. I had a wonderful time at lunch and I look forward to rekindling our relationship!!

High School Graduation- Me, Leslie, and Brigita

18 years later--Lunch at a Greek restaurant in Chandler, Az