Monday, September 30, 2013

Last week in Goodies

Last week was a delicious one, filled with creamy Peanut Butter Buttercream & Devil's Food Cupcakes, soft & chewy Molasses Cookies perfect for Fall & sweet blue & purple 'Onesie' Royal Icing Sugar Cookies for a baby boy shower.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Butternut Squash & Prosciutto Pizza

Pizza of just about any kind is good in my book.  I crave doughy, cheesy pizza probably at least once a week.  And usually, we indulge.  We were in the habit of ordering delivery pizza, but in an effort to cook more (& spend less!) we've been making our own pizzas & I have to say, they've been awesome.

The first time my now-husband Andrew cooked for me, he made pizza.  He also made it the next three or four times he cooked for me, which I love to tease him about.  Making pizza dough is still one of his regular jobs in our household & he always uses the recipe found in The Joy of Cooking.  Before we moved in together, it was the only cookbook he owned.  And if you're only going to have one, The Joy of Cooking is a good book to have.  It is a great 'catch-all' with recipes for a ton of staple meals, as well as how to make variations on those classics.  To do this day, when Andrew doesn't know how to make's to the pages of that cookbook he goes.

So, the basis of all of our homemade pizzas is The Joy of Cooking pizza dough.  Last night, I decided to play with some new-to-us toppings.  Inspired by the Naan Pizzas with Butternut Squash, Prosciutto and Fontina from Three Many Cooks, I decided to play around with the idea of butternut squash and prosciutto.  I love that even though prosciutto is sliced super thin, it  packs a meaty punch & while butternut squash is fairly new to me, every time I try it, I really enjoy it.  Not to mention, it's fallen below 100 degrees here in Austin, so Fall is officially upon us! And that means using winter squash or pumpkin in everything, right?

After Andrew's dough had risen on top of a warm oven for an hour or so, we got to work.  We started by doling out a few big spoonfuls of goat cheese on the pizza (next time I would spread it over the whole thing---it was that much of a winner) & sprinkled on some dried thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano & fresh cracked pepper, along with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Then, we layered on about half a package of prosciutto. We covered the whole dang thing. 

Next layer: cheese!  We used about half of a bag of pre-shredded Italian Cheeses mix.  And I added on some extra shredded Parmesan for good measure.  Because the only thing better than cheese, is more cheese.

We then added on about half of a medium-sized butternut squash  that I had cubed & sauteed with a little olive oil  for about 6-7 minutes in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Andrew also had the brilliant idea of adding on some quartered cherry tomatoes.  This added a wonderful brightness to the pizza.  Definitely add the tomatoes!

The pizza cooked at 450 degrees for about 8 minutes on a pizza stone.  You want the cheese to be oozey & bubbling & the crust to be golden.  After removing the pizza from the oven, we topped it with some chopped fresh spinach.  Arugula would be delicious as well.  Everything came together beautifully, and probably quicker than we could have ordered it.  We then proceeded to gorge ourselves on our newly invented pie while watching the season premiere of Two Broke Girls.

The crust was perfectly crisp & the goat cheese added creaminess while the prosciutto added a savory, salty bite.  The sweetness of the butternut squash paired well with the bright tomatoes & the fresh spinach.  All in all, a quick & easy, but oh so tasty pizza night at home.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saturday Morning Donuts!

Alot of Saturday mornings I wake up craving sweet, fluffy donuts.  I don't know what it is about donuts that just makes me happy.  I think sprinkles have alot to do with it.  Since moving into our neighborhood, we've found a cute little shop that has delicious varieties.  So, we indulge quite often.  Not so bad on the pocketbook, but definitely not great for the hips.

A few weeks ago, I saw a simple, tasty sounding baked donut recipe from Joy the Baker.  While I'm sure they're not fat or carb free, the idea of baked donuts at home sounded like a great, healthy-ish idea.  Last week, while browsing around Bed, Bath & Beyond, using up the last of our wedding gifts cards, I spied a cute little donut pan.  I just couldn't resist picking one up.

I followed Joy the Baker's recipe to the letter, and it can be found here.  The donuts came out airy & soft....most similar to a cake style donut.  And the chocolate glaze was spot-on similar to your favorite shop's.  We went with traditional toppings, sprinkles & chopped peanuts.  They were satisfying & low effort enough that we will definitely be making these again.  Probably next weekend. 

What I'd Change Next Time: I think next time I'll use half the amount of nutmeg, as it was a little too much for our taste.  I also think that replacing the nutmeg with cinnamon or doing half & half would be good as well.  For variety, I also want to play around with a vanilla glaze & maybe something a little zingy like lemon.  And there are a million toppings you could try.

The hardest part of the entire process was waiting for the chocolate glaze to dry.  It takes 30 minutes!  But definitely a necessary evil.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My New Baking Adventure!

I love baking.  First & foremost, I have a huge sweet tooth.  My grandmother is always baking pies & trying new recipes.  My Mom loved to bake as well, growing up most weeks we had a batch of cookies or a new cake to try out after dinner.  It is in my blood.  We don't have holidays or get-togethers without at least one dessert.

In college, I started dabbling in baking, making chocolate chip cookies every once in a while, or a batch of cupcakes.  But after college, once I moved to Austin, I really started my love affair with baking...and especially decorating sweets.  After a few years, I got more serious, baking up goodies to take to family events, parties at work & just about any other dinner, game watching party or event we got invited to.  

A few weeks ago, a work friend of Andrew's asked if I had ever or would ever consider selling my cookies.  I had never sold my baked goods before, but had always thought that it would be so fun.  Andrew's friend asked if I would make Ninjago cookies for her son's upcoming birthday.  I of course said I would love to do it.  I casually mentioned that I was doing this to a couple of my work friends the same day.  By mentioning my excitement, I ended up booking two more jobs that same week: cupcakes for a co-workers birthday & 'building tool' themed cookies for a meeting that my office was having the next week.  So, by luck, the baking arm of Home Made Austin has been born.

I'm so thrilled to be starting a baking business!!  I love making & decorating baked goods & it makes my heart smile when I can create something in my kitchen that makes others happy & helps them celebrate!  I'll be offering cupcakes, sugar cookies & traditional cookies.

So, if you're in the Austin area & are interested in ordering from Home Made Austin, please see my Sweet Treats Menu here on the site.  I've also included a few photos of those first jobs below.  And I can be reached by email homemadeaustin@gmail.comhere.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Italian Style Tomatoes & Beans

In an effort to do nice things for the earth AND my body, I've been trying to incorporate Meatless Mondays into our weekly routine.  The concept has been around for quite a while, but we're just now getting on it.  We're behind!  It's not hard, and definitely makes you feel good, but I find planning for this meal is especially key.  Without some good veggies & meatless protein in stock, you're stuck munching nachos or a PB&J.  I love the meal idea below because so many of the ingredients can be kept on hand in your pantry, ready to go for any weeknight.

While browsing Pinterest, I came across an easy 20 minute recipe for Cauliflower Steaks with Beans & Tomatoes from the Cooking Channel.  I had roasted cauliflower before as a side dish & we enjoyed it, so I thought the idea of cauliflower 'steaks' sounded delicious.

I made a couple of adjustments to make it my own, but you can check out the original recipe here.

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Italian Style Tomatoes & Beans

Adapted from Patrick Decker's recipe featured at Cooking Channel TV here.

2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large head Cauliflower, remove bottom core & leaves & cut into 1/2" thick slices, creating 'steaks'

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small Shallot or 1/2 small Red Onion, dice
1 Celery stalk, diced
1 cup Tomatoes (Either fresh Cherry Tomatoes or canned Diced Tomatoes Work Well)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
14oz. can Cannellini Beans
1 tsp. dried Thyme
1 tsp. dried Oregano
1/2 tsp. dried Rosemary
1/4 cup Green Olives, diced
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
2 TBS fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 TBS fresh Basil, chopped 
Parmesan, grated for garnish

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees & lining a baking sheet with foil.  Then in a large skillet, heat 1 -2 TBS olive oil to medium high heat & brown cauliflower 'steaks' cooking about 3 minutes per side.  Work in two or three batches, as to not crowd the pan.  Between batches, add extra olive oil to the pan if necessary.  When 'steaks' are done browning, transfer them to the baking sheet.

Place cauliflower 'steaks' in the oven for about 8 minutes, flipping with a pair of tongs half way through cooking time.

While the cauliflower is in the oven, saute remaining ingredients, using the large skillet you used before.  Begin by adding 2 TBS olive oil to the pan & cooking the shallot or onion over medium high heat until just softened, about 2 minutes.  Add celery, cook 1 minute more.  Add tomatoes, garlic & the cannellini beans.  Add dried thyme, oregano & rosemary & let mixture simmer.  A minute or two before the cauliflower is ready to come out of the oven, add in the green olives, lemon juice & zest & parsley.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Place roasted cauliflower steaks down on serving plates & top with the tomato & bean mixture.  Garnish with Basil & Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Officially in HUGE debt! (But it comes with a sweet view)

I have become accustomed to living in places without having any attachment to them. Since graduating high school, I've lived in tons of different apartments, a few houses & even a teeny, tiny cramped dorm room. I rarely stayed in any place more than a year & even after moving to Austin 5 1/2 years ago, where I've stayed in just a few places for a few years each, I never really felt emotionally intertwined with any of them. But a few months ago, my husband & I started looking for a home to buy; a place we could become totally attached to.

Austin is a tough place for home buyers right now. Inventory is small, demand is big & prices are only going up. We also knew that interest rates were about to start rising & mortgage insurance rules were about to change. So, we needed to find something kinda-sorta quickly, but neither of us wanted to settle. My husband Andrew & I are both extremely stubborn. We both have lots of opinions & we do not always have the same way of seeing things. What I might see as a deal-breaker, he sees as an opportunity & vice-versa. But after weeks of doing tons of online stalking of potential homes, walking through quite a few & having our heart broken a couple of times, we found 'the one.'

A cute, decent-sized, fairly new, 'starter' home of sorts in deep, deep South Austin. It's got a spacious kitchen with a space large enough for a big dinning table & lots of countertops with a big 'ol pantry perfect for storing all of those wedding gifts that we were never able to break out before. The bedrooms are all comfortable size, with enough spaces for Andrew to have a game room, me to have an entire room devoted to crafting & still have a guest room for friends & family. It's perfect for our needs right now. And if we want to expand the fam later, it's flexible enough for that too. And the view; that's what really sold both of us on the house. The backyard is definitely not traditional, with no real grass to speak of, but lots of wide-spanning Oak trees that shade most of the area & a waterfall/pond that will be awesome once we get it going again.  

While there is nothing majorly wrong (thank the home Gods!) with the house, there are lots of little things that need fixing. Some purely cosmetic, some simply annoying and some just not our taste. When we started the house-hunting process, Andrew said that he was really excited to learn how to fix things & make a home unique. In the month or so that we've been in the house, we've already had some 'learning experiences.' We've done a few small projects, gotten supplies to do alot more & started making a very long, extensive list of to-dos.

Below are pictures from the first few days in our new home. Please excuse the 'mess' in alot of these photos.  We hit the ground running & started painting on Day 1.  Before I could start taking pics.

Soon, I'll be sharing what we've done so far & some of the things that are still on the top of our list.  Replacing black & blue 'marbled' handles in the guest bath may be tops.  Be sure to check back often, as I'll be writing about our home projects, tips we find along the way & more.

Welcome to our Home!
Entry Way
Not a very good picture, but this is part of our living room.  It's a good size, but a little awkward in shape!

Our dining room.  It even came with the 'lovely' leaf light fixture.
The Kitchen.  Check out all of those cabinets!

Holy pantry Batman!
Some of the trees in the backyard.  There are so many!

And this is the view just outside our back gate. So beautiful!

Stairs up to the 2nd Floor!
This will be my craft/writing room.  So excited!
Guest bedroom.  Notice the 'interesting' wood border on one of the walls.   Hmm.
Our master bedroom.  There's a sitting room to the left, leading into our big walk-in closet.

Master bathroom.  The bathtub is a-mazing.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tortellini with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

During the week we try to cook as much as possible.  It keeps us from overspending on take out, & keeps me from overeating large amounts pizza or chinese....or anything else that can be ordered & delivered without me having to leave my little spot on the couch.  Part of making the 'cook at home' weeknight pledge means that I have to have an arsenal of quick, easy recipes. 

One of my favorites is a quick & easy pasta recipe that is inspired by a dish I've had several times at the Austin location of Taverna, Fiocchi al Gorgonzola e Pera.  Taverna's deliciously rich plate includes gorgonzola & pear filled pasta with arugula & walnuts in a dolce latte cream sauce.  Wow, it's so good.  The blend of the tangy gorgonzola with the nuttiness from the walnuts goes perfectly with the brightness of the pears & the smoothness of the sauce.

I've come up with a shortcut pasta dish that packs in all of the flavor of that awesome restaurant meal, but is quick enough for any weeknight in.  And cheaper too!

Tortellini with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

1/2 medium onion, diced
2 tsp. Olive Oil
2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 green apples, diced
1 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups heavy cream or half & half
2 -3 large handfuls fresh baby spinach, diced
1 container crumbled gorgonzola
1 container shaved or grated parmesan
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
Black pepper, salt to taste
Zest & juice of 1 lemon

1 Large, family size package fresh cheese tortellini

Start by filling a large stock or pasta pot with water & putting it on the stove to boil.  While your water is coming to a boil, start sauce (instructions below).  Cook tortellini according to package directions, mine was 7 - 9 minutes.  And remember to generously salt your pasta water -- always a must!

While waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil, dice the onion, green apple & baby spinach.  Put the cream or half & half in a small sauce pot & warm over low heat.  Using a heavy bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil & butter over medium heat, just until butter is melted.  Throw in diced onions & cook until just softened, then add in green apples & cook  a few minutes more.  Be careful not to cook the apples down too much, or they will loose alot of their flavor & texture.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the apples/onions mixture & stir, allowing the flour to 'cook out' the rawness.  This should only take a minute or so.  The flour should be incorporated into the mixture, making it very thick.  Slowly, pour in the cream or half & half that has been warming, whisking while doing so to incorporate.

Increase the heat to medium high & bring the sauce to a bubble, still whisking every so oftern to insure that everything is incorporated.  Once the sauce begins to bubble, cook for about 10 minutes, letting the sauce thicken.  Once the sauce is thicken, whisk in the cheeses & the spinach.   To melt in the cheese, whisk in a figure 8 pattern.  It's a trick I picked up from watching Rachael Ray & it works really well.  After a few minutes, the cheese should be melted into the sauce & the spinach should be wilted & incorporated.  Add salt & pepper to taste, as well as the zest & juice of 1 lemon.  If the sauce is too thick, add in a little extra half & half or cream, until it's the desire texture.  Add in the cooked tortellini.  

Let the pasta dish sit for just a minute or two longer on the stove, while toasting up the chopped walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat.  Watch the walnuts very closely, as they'll toast up quickly, usually within a minute or two.  If you can smell them, remove them from the heat immediately.  They're ready!  I like to leave the pasta in the skillet over a little bit of heat to keep everything hot & let everything meld together.  

Serve with toasted walnuts on top & extra parmesan or gorgonzola if desired.