Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Appetizers - Goat Cheese Crisps

Thanksgiving is this week -- the quintessential celebration of food in America (oh, and something about Pilgrims and Native American people sharing...).  In spirit of the holiday, I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for a Thanksgiving appetizer which is super simple and easy.  And it highlights some delicious fall flavors - goat cheese and rosemary.  The recipe is intentionally very basic so you can focus your attention on the main dish (TURKEY!) and it's not too heavy to spoil your appetite.

  • 1 loaf of french bread
  • 8 oz of goat cheese
  • 3-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup of walnut pieces
  • honey
so simple, you only need these 4 ingredients + bread!


1.   Slice the french bread into thin, diagonal slices (they should be about 1 inch thick)

cut these thin so they toast quicker
2.   Remove the goat cheese from the refridgerator and let it soften so it's easier to spread.  Remove the rosemary leaves from the stem and chop into little pieces.

Lightly chop, do not mutilate your herbs or they will leave their flavor on your cutting board
3.  Spread the goat cheese on the bread and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and the bread is slightly golden brown.

4.  Remove the toasts from the oven.  Place on a serving dish.  Sprinkle walnuts on the cheese toasts (sometimes you need to press them on there).  Then sprinkle the rosemary on the cheese toasts.  Then lightly drizzle honey over top the toasts.  You can opt out of the walnuts if you have folks with nut allergies (see above, I made some with and without walnuts).

5.  Viola!  Now you can focus on carving that turkey!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Do GOOD and Eat GOOD Blog Post at Captial Cooking

This past week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Farmland Feast, a celebration of local food in the DC area hosted by FRESHFARM Markets.  Instead of one dinner prepared by one chef, we were able to enjoy foods prepared by 10 renown chefs in the DC area.  Check out the scoop over at Capital Cooking!

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Night to Remember at the Joshua Wilton House

This month I celebrate my 8th wedding anniversary with my husband.  Every year for our anniversary we go somewhere special for dinner.  For our first anniversary, we went to dinner at the Inn at Little Washington, which was absolutely lovely but hard to top in year two.  Last year, we went to my favorite restaurant in DC, CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental.  And for our 10th anniversary, I fully expect to be taken to French Laundry in Napa Valley (I've been hinting at this for YEARS and posting in this blog makes it official!), one of the few restaurants awarded 3 Michelin stars in the US.  I know, it probably sounds a little demanding but I like GOOD food.  I want to taste a dish and be knocked off my feet wondering "how did they come up with that!?!" or think "I have never tasted anything like that in my LIFE!" It's a tall order to fill.  But it's who I am.

This year, my husband (bless his heart) spent a lot of time trying to come up with a good place to go dinner for our anniversary.  Ultimately, he decided on a two-night stay and dinner at the Joshua Wilton House in Harrisonburg, VA.  Given that I went to college in North Carolina, I had never heard of the Joshua Wilton House.  But my husband went to JMU (located in Harrisonburg, VA) and apparently, the Joshua Wilton House is a legend unto itself for those familiar with the Harrisonburg area.

The Joshua Wilton House is a bed and breakfast in an elegantly restored Victorian home in downtown Harrisonburg.  We spent two nights at the inn, enjoying a luxurious four-poster bed, a little sitting area and terry cloth robes.  It was quite lovely (not to mention, peaceful and quiet).  The inn also offers a full service restaurant on its main level featuring fine dining with locally grown produce and meat.  The inn boasts a charming, simple and cozy dining area coupled with a quaint bar area complete with fireplace and leather arm chairs.

Our package at the Joshua Wilton House featured a 5-course tasting menu for dinner.  To start off our evening, I ordered the Grace, a specialty cocktail featuring Dibon Sparkling wine, Hendrick’s gin, St~Germain, Chambord and house-made sweet and sour mix.  This little cocktail was crisp and light, a delicious aperitif.

Before our first course, we received an amuse bouche (a tasty little tidbit some restaurant kitchens send out "compliments of the chef").  An amuse bouche is a way of teasing your appetite and setting the tone for meal.  For our dinner, it was a date stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in bacon and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  The date was baked to perfection, soft and tender with gooey cheese oozing from the middle.  The balsamic vinegar was a wonderful compliment to the blue cheese and savory date.

The first course consisted of lamb served with shaved Manchego cheese, capers and white truffle oil over a bed of arugula.  The dish was simple and classic, focusing on the lamb and Manchego pairing.  It was good, but did not offer anything distinct or innovative.

The second course was one of my favorite courses of the evening.  The Chef offered scallop and pork belly accompanied by corn and zucchini served over grits with a roasted red pepper sauce.  The scallop was delicious - pan-seared to perfection, light and flaky.  The grits with the corn and zuchini, with the touch of the red pepper sauce were absolutely wonderful with the scallop - they added a sweet southern flare and flavoring to the scallop.  I realize that these were supposed to giveway to the salty, meaty flavors provided in the pork belly.  But for some reason, the pork belly didn't hit the mark.  The pork was just sort of an add-on, it didn't really create the 'ying and yang' that I think they were going for by pairing with the scallop.  I would have been perfectly happy with just the scallop topped with bacon crumbles. 

The third course featured swordfish served over soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms and red peppers accompained by ginger infused wasabi aioli.  This was a good dish but the Asian-inspired dish with the soba noddles and wasabi didn't really follow the flow of the first few courses.  It sort of seemed out of place.  It was definitely good, but not really in line with the tasting menu.

The fourth course won out as the star of the evening.  This dish was truly remarkable -- duck breast served over pureed sweet potatoes topped with a blueberry hickory glaze accompanied by chili-glazed green beans.  It was the perfect symphony of the four flavors (sweet, sour, salty and bitter).  And the most intriguing part about the dish was the house-made hickory-blackberry sauce.  It highlighted the sweet undertones of the potatoes while adding a rich finish to the duck.  Truly a dish that 'knocked me off my feet.'

The fifth and final course was dessert.  I was definitely full at this point and then they brought out chocolate.  A bittersweet chocolate ganache tart topped with hazelnuts and served with a pistaschio crisp.  Silky smooth and decadent.

Our anniversary celebration at the Joshua Wilton House was exceptional.  A quiet and elegant bed and breakfast with delicious dining and a knowledgeable, friendly staff.  Truly, a night to remember.                   
Joshua Wilton House on Urbanspoon     

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cake Poppy-licous from Buzz Bakery

For those of you late to the dessert party, cake pops are all the rage.  Even Starbucks sells them.  Cake + lollipop stick = cake pop.  It's a great way to get your sugar/cake fix in a small quantity on a stick.  And everybody loves food served on a stick, just ask Jon Stewart.

Anyway, I threw a little baby shower at work the other day and got the cake from Buzz Bakery in Arlington, VA.  In addition to the cake (which was delicious with buttercream icing), ordered a few cake pops to take home and enjoy with the family.  

Single serving size, slender enough to fit in  your purse!

I ordered the red velvet cake pop.  It reminded me of a cake version of an M&M.  Hard icing coating on the outside, deliciousness on the inside.  

It's like a cake ball from heaven...
 The red velvet cake pop was sinfully delicious.  The icing was sugary sweet and inside, the cake was moist, spongy and melt in your mouth.  I was nice enough to share my cake pop with my husband and he loved it as well.  The perfect small dessert after dinner.  Be sure to try out Buzz Bakery's cake pops.  And while you are there, order the 9:30 cupcake.  I PROMISE you will not be disappointed.  


Sunday, November 4, 2012

That's What I Get For Trying To Be Nice...

My blog is normally a food blog - I review restaurants and I post recipe ideas.  But today, I'm going to take a little detour.  Food will be involved, but it is not the star of today's blog post.

So on Friday, I won two tickets to the Metro Cooking and Entertaining Show.  Woo Hoo!!  I never win anything (especially at casinos -- I might as well just hand them my money when I walk in the door).  But apparently Friday was a deviation from the norm and I actually WON tickets from Capital Cooking.  Thanks Capital Cooking!!

I opted to go to the show on Sunday instead of Saturday because Saturday was a busy day for us with haircuts, early voting and the like.  Unfortunately, my mother-in-law was out of town so we couldn't get her to babysit our kids so my husband and I could to the show together.  And my friend down the street was out of town too.  So I figured I would fly solo (and enjoy some quiet time.... time I rarely get).

The Metro Cooking and Entertaining Show was fun... and a little on the crowded side.  They had lots of food exhibitors selling everything from salsa, juices, dips, and sauces to cookies and cake.  At points, the lines to even get to a booth to just see what they were selling were ridiculous.  This was because most vendors were giving away free samples.  And everyone was lined up for the free samples.  I felt like I was at Costco when they put out the food samples and everyone runs over to the table for a slice of a ham and cheese hot pocket.  It got really annoying after a while because I was actually trying to buy things.  As opposed to some of the freeloaders who were clearly trying to eat lunch off of free samples.

I managed to get a few yummy goodies...

Spicy and sweet!
And I also got to go into the Celebrity Theater to watch Carla Hall (from Top Chef) and Iron Chef Michael Symon.  That was entertaining, they were funny to watch.  

So on my way out, I still had the other ticket to the Celebrity Theater with me since I was friend-less.  Mind you, this ticket was worth $70.  So I went up to the area where you could purchase tickets and I approached the next couple in line.  I basically said, "Excuse me, are you buying tickets to the Metro Cooking Show?" and the woman turns around and says "Yes."  So said, "I have this extra ticket that I didn't use, would you like it?  It's for today." And then the woman from behind the counter gets involved and is like "Are you trying to sell them a ticket?!?" and I say "NO!  I just have this extra ticket was was offering it to them for free!" At this point, I see the man in the couple party looking like "Hmm... that makes sense, free ticket and I don't have to spend $70." But the woman with him looks at me with this disgusted look (like I was a homeless person begging for money) and say "No.  We are buying tickets with a credit card" and turns around to complete her purchase.  

UNBELIEVABLE!  How is that people are offended when you offer them something for free?  Are you joking?!?  Are you some how ABOVE free?  You would rather pay for a ticket than get one for free?  The economy must be doing better than I thought.  Shit, this chick can probably afford to donate boatloads of money to those devastated by Hurricane Sandy, since she would RATHER PAY FOR A TICKET THAN ACCEPT ONE FOR FREE and I most certainly hope she has.  

Her poor man-partner just looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.  Yea, good luck with THAT one, friend.  She's going to be a handful.  I hope your wallet is ready.  

And this is what I get for trying to be nice.  I get treated like I just offered her a dirty diaper.  My, people are so friendly these days!

Not to be deterred, I found another woman walking up to the line with a child in a stroller.  I offered her the ticket.  She was so nice and appreciative - she was like "really, that would be great!" and smiled like that made her day.  Then she took her stroller with her little boy, got out of line, and went to enjoy the Metro Cooking Show for FREE.  I hope her and her son had a good time!    


Friday, November 2, 2012

Warm and Creamy Chicken and Dumplings

The weather is getting colder here in the DC area which means, it's time to hunker down with some comfort food.  Chicken and Dumplings meets the mail on this one! 

Here is a super easy recipe for delicious chicken and dumplings.  It only requires a few ingredients and is ready to serve in 45 minutes - perfect for a weeknight dinner.  Another plus - kids will love it (well, at least one of the two if you are like me!).

As you can see from the picture, this recipe is NOT trying to create chicken and dumplings soup - the chicken and dumplings will not be swimming in broth. It is more the consistency of a stew.  And, this recipe is adapted from this submission on (truth in lending). 


3 stalks of celery
1/2 onion
1 can of cream of chicken
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of milk
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 teaspoon of celery seed
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil


1.  Slice the three stalks of celery.

Good sized slices, not thin!
2.  Dice 1/2 onion.

This is not diced.  This is what the start is, but flip the onion flat side down when you cut, then dice

3.  Cube 2 chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I like bigger chunks of chicken
4.  Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a Dutch oven.  Turn the heat to medium high and add the chicken to saute.

Do not eat.
5.  When the chicken is half-way cooked, add the onion and celery to saute with the chicken.  Then add the teaspoon of celery seed.  Cook for 6-8 minutes.

Cook until onion is translucent.
6.  While the onions, celery and chicken are sauteing, get a second pot and add the cream of chicken, chicken stock and milk.   Bring to a simmer over medium heat to blend flavors.

7.  Add the liquid (chicken stock, cream of chicken and milk) to the Dutch oven with the chicken, onions and celery.  Bring to a simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

8.  Prepare your dumplings!  Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in one bowl.  Combine the milk and oil in another bowl.

 9.  Add the liquid (milk and oil) to the flour mixture.  Stir until all the flour is moistened and it begins to form a doughy ball.

 10.  After the chicken is done simmering (30 minutes), drop spoonfuls of the dough into the sauce.  Cover the pot with a lid and turn up the heat to medium-high so it is lightly boiling.  Cook for 12 -15 minutes.

Raw dough balls, ready for action!
11.  Remove the lid and your dumplings should now be cooked (doughy balls).  Ladle chicken and dumplings into bowls. Serve immediately!