My favorite “fancy”, crowd-pleasing cracker spread

Now at the outset, I need to credit my mother with this recipe because it is just absolutely divine. Anytime we would have guests over, she would whip up a quick batch of pesto and create a “wow”-worthy dip with another ingredient always in our kitchen: goat cheese logs.

Most days, I don’t have the time to whip up pesto, so I just grab a small container at the grocery store around the corner. But if you have time, make your own pesto for an even better version of this delicious spread.

Ingredients

  • 1 batch pesto (see below for pesto recipe)
  • 1 log of your favorite plain goat cheese, at cool room temperature
  • basil leaf, for garnish
  • favorite crackers

Press goat cheese into bottom of serving dish to make a thin layer. Spread pesto over goat cheese, completely covering the cheese. Add basil leaf in center of pesto as a garnish. Serve. Receive lots of compliments and silently thank my mother for giving you the easiest appetizer recipe ever. Enjoy!

Annie’s Mom’s Famous Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup walnuts (my mom uses whole walnuts)
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 freshly grated romano cheese

Process first 3 ingredients together until moderately chopped. Add Olive Oil in drizzle while processing, then add cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until use, although I recommend using immediately.

adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

7 Comments

Filed under cooking, eating, snacks

Events in the City: Chicago French Market Brunch

In February, I went to a brunch event at the Chicago French Market. If you haven’t been to the market, you really must go because it’s set up like a European market and they have some really phenomenal vendors (including those that sell macarons…but we’ll talk about that another time). The event, “Meet Alpana Under the Eiffel Tower”, was sponsored by Wine D.O.C. & Wine Cru and was an 8-course tasting menu of foods prepared by the vendors of the market. Alpana Singh of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants and WTTW’s Check, Please! was the special guest of the event and provided us with some reflections on the wines that were paired with the food that we tried.

It was lovely getting to meet Alpana, as she was gracious meeting everyone and even taking the time to answer our questions. This was the first time that this specific event was hosted, and while they have some kinks to work out if they decide to host the event in the future, it was all-in-all a fun and well thought out program.

Each attendant received a signed copy of Alpana’s new book Alpana Pours, which I have really been enjoying, as well as a goodie bag filled with snacks and other tidbits from the vendors. It was truly a lovely Saturday morning.

MENU

Beverages
Veuve de Vernay Brut Rose (France)
Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Lavazza Tierra Blend (Rainforest Alliance Certified)
Espirito Lagoalva (Portugal)
Monastery Tvrdos Cabernet Sauvignon (Bosnia & Herzegovina) <–I loved this
Domaine Saint-Vincent Brut (New Mexico)

Course 1

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice by Chicago Organics <– delicious
Cavapi Beef and Lamb Kabobs by City Fresh Market
Fresh Feta Salad by City Fresh Market
Course 2
Raw Vegan Lasagna by Raw <– couldn’t even tell it was raw (except that it was cold)
Crushed Red Pepper Popcorn by Pop This! Gourmet Popcorn & Candy Shop <– unreal
Course 3
Op la Frittata by Saigon Sisters
Hot Chili & Teriyaki Chicken over Fried Rice by Bowl Square
Course 4
Pastrami on Rye Bread by Fumare
Belgium Fries with Curry Mayo by Frietkoten <–i can’t even begin to explain how much i love curry dipping sauce
Course 5
Sole Fish Taco by City Fresh
Homemade Guacamole and Chips by Buen Apetito
Course 6
Croque Monsieur by LM Cafe
Rigatoni and Marinara Sauce Fasta Pasta
Course 7
Ambre Dessert by Vanille Patisserie
Red Velvet Cupcake by Sweet Miss Giving’s
Strawberry and Cheese Kolacky by Provo’s Bakery
Sorbetto Cremespresso by Lavazza Espression
Marzipan and Raspberry Macarons by Delightful Pastries
Course 8
Delice de Bourgogne
Aged Marieke Gouda
Aderkase Reserve
Fig and Black Tea Spread
Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
Assorted Berries

Leave a comment

Filed under drinking, eating

What I love about quinoa

Quinoa has been getting a lot of love lately. And for good reason. It’s high in amino acids, protein, and fiber. Plus it’s gluten-free. I always have some quinoa in my pantry ready to pair with anything from a filling breakfast, to an elegant dinner, to use when emptying the fridge of leftovers.

It’s easy to prepare since it requires 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer 10-15 minutes until all of the water has been soaked up and the germ separates from the seed. Use how you see fit.

Quinoa Breakfast Parfait

The slightly nutty flavor of quinoa brings a savory edge to this yummy breakfast treat.

  • Quinoa, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Your favorite fruits (blueberries & strawberries for me!)
  • a pinch of cinnamon

Combine and enjoy! Add some milk if you prefer a cereal variation.

Quinoa for Dinner

Mustard Marinated Chicken on a bed of quinoa

Quinoa with Leftovers

One of my favorite ways to enjoy leftovers is to make a batch of spaetzle (german egg noodles) and add last night’s Indian, Thai, Chinese etc. for a lovely leftover creation. In an effort to be more versatile I realized that quinoa would be a great substitute for my spaetzle.

Just cook the quinoa as listed above (or as the box indicates) and add to your favorite leftovers. I find that it works best with dishes that have a lot of sauce as the quinoa will soak it up.

1 Comment

Filed under breakfast, cooking, dinner, eating, likes

Sweet Crepes

From a Groupon class at Flip Crepes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 brown eggs
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pint skim milk

Mix all solids with a whisk (I find that wire works best). Dig a well in the solids and add the eggs, butter, and vanilla. Add 2 cups of milk and begin mixing until the batter is smooth with no lumps. Add the rest of the milk and whisk well. Optional: let the batter rest for 2 hours.

Butter and heat the crepe pan. Ladle a few drops of batter into the pan if they begin to cook immediately, the pan is ready. Ladle the batter into the pan, swirling to coat the entire pan. Once the surface of the batter is no longer shiny, flip the crepe and cook until the down-side is slightly browned. Fill with your favorite filling. Repeat until all the batter is gone, being sure to butter the pan in between crepes.

1 Comment

Filed under cooking, eating, likes

I learned how to make crepes!

For those of you who don’t know, I have 2 sisters, one of whom recently graduated from college. I’m a big fan of “activity” based gifts, so my gift to Carrie was a crepe-making class. Our grandmother loved all things French (one of the many things I inherited from her), but she especially loved making crepes. She would hand make sweet crepes every year for Christmas to serve with vanilla ice cream inside and my mother’s famous fudge sauce drizzled on top with some raspberries. I was actually lucky enough to inherit her crepe pan and recipe. But as crepes have always intimidated me, I was nervous to attempt crepes without a bit more guidance.

The crepe making class was a perfect fit for us both. Hosted by Flip Crepes, the class consisted of 12 students and 2 instructors. Over the course of 3 hours we learned how to make sweet crepe batter, actually cook crepes, as well as learn a very thorough history of crepes. It was such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I am now exponentially more prepared to make crepes in future!

Below are Carrie’s thoughts on the crepe experience (a pseudo-guest post)

Annie and I had such a fun time learning how to make crepes. Our grandmother used to always make us crepes and it was nice to finally learn how and to make her proud. We had a rough time starting out with all the flipping. Annie seemed to get the hang of it sooner and was making perfect circles and flipping like a pro. I did not do so well with the flipping, but i think in the end they turned out alright 🙂 We were able to add different toppings and then made our own orange topping. It was so much fun to be in a little french crepe shop with french cooks as our teachers. It was a wonderful way to spend a sunday night!

Click here for our recipe

awkwardly attempting to flip the crepe

Loosening the crepe from the pan

 

Completed crepes and the topping selections

sisters 🙂

Batter in the pan

with the flaming crepes!

Our Crepes Suzette (with Grand Marnier sauce) yum

4 Comments

Filed under cooking, eating, likes

Sunday Funday

Is there anything better than Sunday Brunch (or Sunday Funday)? One of my favorite things about brunch is the beverage selection. I love champagne or sparkling wine, but sometimes nothing hits the spot quite like a Bloddy Mary.

My parents invited us over for brunch a couple weeks ago, and as to not show up empty handed, I brought them some of my favorite Bloody Mary mix: Zing Zang. I love this mix because you don’t need to add anything to it, but you certainly can. It’s great with vodka or without. Ben even likes it and he doesn’t really like tomato juice. A perfect addition to Sunday Brunch.

Annie’s Perfect Bloody Mary

  • 2 parts Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 part favorite vodka (I like to use Absolut Peppar)
  • 1/4 of a lime squeezed
  • 2-3 drops Tabasco Sauce
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Celery Salt
  • 1/2 Bottle MGD or other favorite beer

For Garnishes

  • Celery Stalk
  • Dill Pickle
  • Salami Cubes
  • Mozzarella Cheese Balls
  • Grilled Shrimp
  • Pickles Asparagus

Mix Bloody Mary Mix with Vodka over ice in highball glass. Squeeze limes into glass. Add Tabasco, cracked pepper, and celery salt. Add garnishes. Pour 1/2 Bottle MGD into another glass. Chase Bloody Mary with Beer.

Ben’s Bloody Mary Alternative

  • 2 Parts Orange Juice
  • 1 part vodka
  • Splash of Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix

Combine in highball glass.

Leave a comment

Filed under drinking, likes

Winter Macarons – Mexican Hot Chocolate

I’ve really been enjoying making macarons lately, but my most recent attempt needs some slight tweaking (I didn’t even take pictures). But I thought I would share it with you anyway

Using the recipe that I previously posted, I modified the cookie ingredients to achieve the Mexican Hot Chocolate Flavor. For those of you that don’t know what Mexican Hot Chocolate is, click here. I would highly recommend trying some. And for those of you in Chicago, Xoco (a Rick Bayless restaurant) has STELLAR Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Ingredients (for cookies)

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or almond flour…I used Red Mill)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3 large egg whites (at room temp.)
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

Combine the ingredients using the recipe linked here, including the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cocoa-powder in the sifting process.

I think that I added too much cayenne, but everyone in my office really liked them and thought it was ok. The next time I make these, I’ll probably be doing 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne.

All in all, the macarons paired really nicely with the bittersweet ganache that is listed in the recipes linked. (I love that ganache). I think that a light vanilla cream would also work well.

Any suggestions on the next flavor pairing?

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, desserts