(Simple) Tomato and Sausage Risotto

I’ve slowly realized that I wander often into Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Felipe’s, or [insert grocery store of choice] with the best intentions…and depart with groceries bag full of vegetables, meat, and other misc. items.  What’s wrong with that you ask?  Well, all too often I don’t use 25-50% of the items I buy because none of them form cohesive dishes so I end up wasting food.

I’m been trying for the last 3 weeks where I actually sit down Sunday mornings and decide in advance what I’ll be making for the upcoming week’s dinners; I usually plan for 4-5 nights of cooking on the assumption I’ll end up eating out once or twice for dinner.  And surprisingly, it’s working so far.  The result is a nearly empty fridge (except for kitchen staples) by Fri/Sat.

One of the recipes I stumbled across during my Sunday morning planning sesh was Smitten Kitchen’s (yes, I love her website) Tomato and Sausage Risotto. I simply had to try making it since it incorporates all the major food groups: meat, a carb-y item, and veggies.


Tomato and Sausage Risotto

Tomato Sausage Risotto

What you’ll need:

  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed (SK’s recipe gave the option of sweet or hot sausage but since tomatoes have their own sweetness I went with spicy)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine – I used Honig‘s Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 bunch chopped spinach, stems removed
  • Salt & pepper for taste, grated parmesan cheese for topping
  • 2 tablespoons butter

What to do:

  • Combine the canned, diced tomatoes with 3 cups of water in a small saucepan.  Bring to simmer and then just keep warm.
  • In a medium/large saucepan (this is where everything will go), drizzle some oil and add the diced onions with the Italian sausage.  Let cook for a few mins and break up sausage (mine had a tendency to clump together) until onions are slightly opaque.
  • Add the Arborio rice until it’s lightly toasted and incorporated.
  • Add the white wine and cook, over medium-low heat, until absorbed.
  • Now the fun part — slowly keep adding the tomato/water mixture one cup at a time and stir to incorporate; don’t add more until it’s mostly absorbed.  Keep going for the next 20-30 mins (felt like an eternity because it smelled fantastic).
  • Once fully cooked (creamy and tender), remove from heat and stir in the chopped spinach and butter. Salt and pepper for taste.
  • Serve warm and top with the grated parmesan cheese.
  • Enjoy! Bon Appétit!

Tomato Sausage Risotto

 

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10 Minute Recipe: Bruschetta

Bruschetta

With the end of Summer coming about, and the heat wave we were experiencing last week in the Bay Area (yes, for us 90-100 degrees F is hot for us), I decided to change things up from the normal pasta/lasagna/rice I cook.  I’ve always loved bruschetta at restaurants and finally decided to try making it.

Ingredients/cooking-wise, it was really quite simple: a baguette sliced up, tomatoes (I used a mixed of grape and roma tomatoes, diced), sliced basil + mint, finely diced garlic, a dash of olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Begin by preheating the oven to 450 degrees, brush olive oil onto the baguette slices and bake for 5ish minutes. Take all the remaining ingredients and mix together.  Once the baguette is toasted, spoon out the tomato mixture on top and voila, you’re done. Enjoy!

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Sugar Chouquettes

IMG_20150506_181226

I had tried at the beginning of April to make chouquettes, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.  Of course, as most first attempts go, I wasn’t very successful.  Don’t get me wrong, they still tasted good (I mean, when does chocolate and sugar not taste good) but I had used large chocolate chips and as a result, my chouquettes refused to rise — see below.

IMG_20150409_203843

Fast forward a month and I thought I’d give them a try again today as they were so promising and seemingly simple.  This time, I was successful.  Recipe and picture(s) below the line.


Chouquettes, or sugar puffs

  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 table spoon of sugar
  • 3 tablespoon of butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • if you so choose, 1 egg yolk & 1 teaspoon of milk for an egg glaze

What to do:

The entire process took about 30-35 minutes from prep to finish and is very simple.  Begin by combining & heating the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a saucepan until the butter is melted.  Once melted, removed from the stove and stir in the entire 1/2 cup of flour; depending on how fast your oven heats up you can preheat to 425 degrees before or after you heat the butter.  Stir the butter/water/sugar/flour mixture until a smooth dough forms (and it pulls away from the sides of the pot).

Let the dough rest and cool for approx. 5 minutes. Once the 5 mins are up, beat in the 2 eggs until a more-watery dough/batter forms.  My dough was thinner the first time I made the chouquettes and both times they rose just fine.  Using a spoon or pastry piping bag, spoon out walnut-sized mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Smitten Kitchen calls for sucre perlé but as I hadn’t bothered ordering some in advance, I just piled on the sugar (regular, plain ole cane sugar) and it worked out just fine; you’ll want to make sure you really distribute the sugar/topping of choice as this puffs do expand.

Once portioned out, pop them into the oven and wait anywhere from 20-30 minutes — I think the 1st time I made them it took 30 mins, but today it only took 23 mins before they really took on the gold-brown crust you’ll want.

Enjoy!

xx

 

 

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Sriracha Shrimp Cakes et Sur la Table

As of today, April 8th, I’m now on my fifth day of being unemployed.  Between bouts of frantic job hunting and emailing just about everyone I know, my mind wanders to something very dear to me: food.  To be precise, “what will I be cooking for dinner?

I stumbled upon the lovely Sam Hopper’s Coconut Shrimp Cake recipe on Instagram yesterday (her bacon lattice avocado sandwich looks absolutely, on point) and decided that today would be the day.  After letting it gather dust in the cupboard of my kitchen, I would finally get some use out of my Cuisinart 8-cup Food Processor.   With my handy food processor, the shrimp cakes were a breeze to make and probably only took 20-30 mins from beginning to nom.

As an aside, the Cuisinart food processor is available everywhere but I purchased mine at Sur la Table as I absolutely lovelovelove that place.  Sur la Table has some awesome sales, periodically, and is a great place to go when one feels like doing a little kitchen splurging.

Back to the shrimp cakes.  I made a few tweaks to the shrimp cakes recipe as most recipes I found were on paleo sites and therefore called for the use of coconut flakes and coconut oil both of which are not kept in my kitchen.  The final result? They were boyfriend-approved and my tummy was happy, so I’d say it was a success.

Any suggestions on how to improve these shrimp cakes?  I’m all ears!


Sriracha Panko Shrimp Cakes

sriracha shrimp cakes with a side of bacon & balsamic vinaigrette salad
sriracha shrimp cakes with a side of bacon & balsamic vinaigrette salad

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb of (defrosted) peeled + deveined shrimp
  • approx. 1 cup of panko (I suppose coconut flakes or bread crumbs would easily work too)
  • 1/4 cup of diced chives
  • 1 large egg
  • sriracha – a dash, or a few depending on your taste preference
  • 2-3 tbsp of coconut oil for cooking
  • salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

  • Add the uncooked shrimp into the food processor.  Using the “pulse” option, process until the shrimp is finely chopped (I may have overdone it a little).
  • Transferring the shrimp into a large bowl, add the chives, egg, dash(es) of sriracha, 3/4 cup of panko, and salt + pepper.
  • Mix until everything is evenly combined.
  • Using a large spoon (or utensil of choice), form your shrimp patties.  The mixture should result in 8-ish patties (as seen below).

Raw Sriracha Shrimp Cakes

  • Gently coat both side of the patties with the remaining panko.
  • Meanwhile, heat up the coconut oil in a large skillet and when it’s hot, drop the patties.
  • Cook on both sides, generally around 2-3 mins per side (although I err on the side of caution), until golden brown/crisp.
  • Serve while hot, and omnomnom away!  I chose to serve the shrimp cakes with a bacon and balsamic vinaigrette salad as, a) bacon is awesome, and b) the salad makes up for anything unhealthy I might’ve eaten during the day (or at least that’s what I’d like to think).
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‘Tis the Season

It’s about that time of the year when family, friends, & companies begin hosting holiday parties for some good ole fun times.  This year, I got the honor of planning our company holiday event — not only was it our company’s first “real” holiday party but, it was also my first time planning an in-house event from beginning to end.  In the end, despite the hours of work and running around, our company party, despite not spending $5k+, was awesome, if I may say so myself, and so utterly worth it.  There are plenty of tech companies that easily spend $5k, $10k on a holiday party but I feel like for many employees, our office is an

extension of their home. I tried to give our holiday party a more homey, warm feel rather than the standard over-the-top, Photobooth-equipped (don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome), extravagant touch often found at tech parties.

I guess I just love the holiday parties, both big & small.  There’s just something nice about everyone coming together to celebrate the end of a year that warms my heart.


How I cobbled together a holiday party for 20+ people in less than 2 weeks or, AKA how I managed to plan a Christmas party for ~$1k.

The Venue ($0): In the hopes of keeping it simple, and because I was given a budget of approx. $50-60/person, I decided to host at our office.  I figured the office could turn out nicely with a little sprucing up and decorating — thank god I was right.

Food/Drink ($650):  Our office uses ZeroCater for our daily catered lunches and we have a wonderful account exec. (Janelle).  She was able to get us several options at our price point of ~ $16/person and we ended up going with Sweet & Natural.  The menu for dinner consisted of coq au vin, garlic masked potatoes, vegetable wellingtons, & roasted vegetables — due to budget constraints, I opted to go for warm, homey comfort food over complex, intricate dishes.  Drink-wise, we just kept it simple with a bar of standard alcohols, beer (Anchor Steam Christmas Ale!), and wine.

Decorations ($150):  It’s amazing what a miniature Christmas tree, strings of christmas lights, glass paint, nice plate settings, poinsettia centerpieces, and paper snowflakes can do to an office.

Intricate Gingerbread House

Activities ($200): Our office consists of quirky, interesting people – something which I’m proud of – and therefore, I couldn’t rely on food and alcohol to keep the party going.  Instead, we had a gingerbread house making competition, an ugly sweater making station, and to finish the night, a white elephant gift exchange — thank you, Michaels!  Who knew, 20 and 30 year olds would get so excited over hot sauce, chia pets, and soylent — I think they’re now advocating for monthly white elephant exchanges.

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Apples, Beets, & Kale – Oh My!

I was fortunate enough to work at Harmless Harvest for nearly two years – to this day I’m humbled by the amount of trust and responsibility the founders granted me.  Being able to say I worked for Harmless Harvest, the darling of the organic (& raw) food & beverage industry, opened doors for me and instantly provided a topic of conversation with whomever I ran across.

You learn quickly in the food & beverage industry that a) everyone knows everyone (or at the very least they talk) and, b) many people aren’t in the business merely to turn a profit – some, if not most, owners truly believe deeply in their product and care greatly about their customers.  While I could talk for days about Harmless Harvest, one company, in particular, captured by attention.


The Juice Shop

I met Charlie, one of the owners of The Juice Shop, during my Harmless Harvest days while making a delivery to the Real Foods Co. in the Marina.  They’d just opened a little shoebox-sized kiosk on Union St. featuring an awesome handcrafted wooden sign.  We started chatting and he shared the story behind The Juice Shop (which you can find here); The Juice Shop is family-owned and it’s not uncommon to find one of the brothers manning the shop.

They offer various juices and cleanses including: Coco-Chlorophyll, Bright Green, Liver Green, Pineapple Pear Chia, Beta Beet, Beta Green, Apple Lemon Ginger, Lemon-Aid, & Almond Drink.  The juices share ingredients commonly found in most healthy, raw juices such as: apples, kale, ginger, spinach, carrots, and lemons.

The Juice Shop - Bright Green
The Juice Shop – Bright Green

My absolute two favorites were the Pineapple Pear Chia & Bright Green (shown above).  The Pineapple Pear Chia tastes amazing – sweet, but not overwhelmingly so while the chia just adds a little something to the texture; of course, those not fans of chia seeds or tapioca-esque texture may want to try something else.  The Bright Green is perfect as it’s not too vegetable-heavy (the pineapple and apple do their job well) and is the perfect way to ease your way into more “advance” green juices such as the (A+) Deep Green.  If you’re debating whether or not to try raw juices (or cleanses), the Juice Shop is a perfect way to dip your toes into the figurative water.

I’ve watched them grow from their small shop to five locations throughout San Francisco and Marin; my favorite location is their (now-permanent?) pop up in the PROXY (Hayes Valley, SF).  They truly care about the product and their customers, many locations greet regulars by name, and I cannot wait to see where they go next.

 

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Baking: The Perfect Yellow (Vanilla) Cake

I’ve always loved Smitten Kitchen’s blog and spent many a nights salivating over her beautifully photographed dishes and desserts.

In anticipation of RethinkDB’s 1.15 release, I decided to attempt her “Best Birthday Cake” recipe as we have a tradition of having “Release Cake” here at the office.  Usually I’d resort to the every-trusty Whole Foods Market to satisfy the office’s cake needs but I figured I’d try something new.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was a little lazy and used store bought frosting/Nutella instead of tackling her Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting recipe; one new recipe was enough experimenting for one night.

Yellow (Vanilla) Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Yellow (Vanilla) Cake with Chocolate Frosting

I followed Deb’s recipe down to the tee except, I was a little impatient and didn’t wait for the butter to soften sufficiently before blending in the sugar.  The result?  My boyfriend walking over, whilst sniffing the air, asking, “what is that smell?” The answer? My poor, slightly overworked ancient electric hand mixer.  Other than that snafu, the rest of her recipe was simple and easy to follow resulting in two 8in. round cakes that rose a little too much for my liking. Any hints as to how I can help my cake not rise so much in the oven? It was easily fixed by trimming with a knife so that the sides lined up perfectly.

The recipe calls for a chocolate sour cream frosting that doubles as the filling.  Since a) I was too lazy to attempt the frosting, and for lack of a food processor, and b) I didn’t want to go overboard on chocolate, I decided to experiment with Nutella.  I used store bought Duncan Hines chocolate frosting for the…frosting and Nutella for the filling.  It seems the hazelnutty-ness of the Nutella nicely tempers out the sweetness of the chocolate frosting.  Of course, to top it all off I had to use rainbow sprinkles — I think next time I’ll plan ahead and make nonpareils to use my decorative topping.

Overall, I’d say this recipe turned out absolutely delightful — I can see this becoming my go-to when I need a cake without needing to make an extra trip to the grocery store as the recipe only calls for nine (9) ingredients, of which only one, buttermilk, is not a staple in my kitchen.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Share them! I’d love to hear.

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