Friday, December 11, 2015

My One Year Blogging Hiatus

Hello everyone! It's Alexandria. I decided to make a quick blog today explaining where I've been and why this blog hasn't been updated in a year. I truly didn't intend for this to happen but honestly life took over. My junior year of high school became more hectic and demanding as well as preparing for college and filling out applications as I am now in my senior year. Even though I haven't had much time to blog I'm still cooking and constantly being inspired by food. I have several ideas that I want to execute to make the content on this blog more than just recipes that I post weekly or biweekly. One particular idea that I have for this blog is to cover all aspects of the food world which means posting not just recipes but occasional restaurant reviews, discussing which fruits/vegetables are in season as well as how to cook them, food styling tips for food bloggers, and the list goes on. I want to make this blog very personal for myself and anyone who reads it and has a passion for food and cooking. I'm currently working on a new visually appealing website that will hopefully be launched by early January of 2016, I'll keep you guys updated on the exact launch date as it approaches. But, I just wanted to reassure everyone that I didn't completely neglect this blog and that better content will be posted very soon. If you have any suggestions on what recipes or food related blog posts you want to see on this website, feel free to comment and I will take it into consideration. Thank you so much for reading, supporting, and cooking along with me!

                                                                                Peace, Love, & Food
                                                                                 Alexandria Brooks

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Appetizer #2: Spicy Baked Almonds

In a selection of appetizers, it's important to have a variety of different textures from each appetizer to enhance the food experience. And these spicy baked almonds are a perfect crunchy addition to any holiday array of appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. This is another super easy appetizer that can be thrown together very quickly and that's delicious as well. You can use any variety of raw nuts such as cashews, peanuts, pistachios, or a combination of the three. Also, you can make these nuts sweet by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and more honey instead of paprika and cayenne pepper. Plus these baked almonds aren't just great for parties but they also make a healthy, delicious snack for anytime.

2 cups raw almonds
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 heaped tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp honey 
a pinch of salt and pepper 

Preheat your oven to 325ºF

Line a baking tray with parchment paper

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until the almonds are well-coated in the seasoning

Pour the almonds onto the baking tray then bake them in the oven for 15 minutes until the almonds are golden brown and toasted

Allow them to cool down then serve them in a festive bowl

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Appetizer #1: Rosemary & Orange Baked Camembert

This is the first of three Christmas-inspired appetizers that I'll be cooking up on the blog this weekend. This wonderful rosemary & orange baked Camembert is so delicious and so simple to make. You can throw this together a few minutes before your Christmas party starts and you'll capture everyone's attention once you place this hot, oozy baked Camembert on the table. The texture of the Camembert once it's baked reminds you of cheese fondue, without all the effort and stirring.

1 (8 oz.) wheel of Camembert cheese
1 orange, peeled
1-2 sprigs of rosemary
1 tbsp. olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350ºF

Take the Camembert out of the plastic packaging and place it back in the circular box

Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips of the orange peel and pick off sprigs of the rosemary

Score the cheese in a crisscross pattern then stud the top of the cheese with the orange peel and sprigs of rosemary

Drizzle the Camembert with olive oil, sprinkle it with some black pepper, then bake it for about 15-20 minutes

Serve the golden, oozy baked Camembert immediately with a selection of breadsticks, crudités, grilled breads, and/or grilled vegetables

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving is coming up really soon, so it's good to have an idea of what you're going make early or else you'll be stressed out at the last minute. This is my modern approach to a thanksgiving meal that is perfect if you're feeding a smaller crowd of about 3-4 people. If that's the case, I recommend roasting one or two turkey breasts instead of huge turkey. Now I know a Thanksgiving meal is more than turkey, stuffing, roasted vegetables, gravy, and cranberry sauce but I want to focus on the key elements of the meal in this particular blog. And you can even get some of the dishes done in advance, such as the stuffing and the cranberry sauce, so that you're not totally stressed and frazzled the day of Thanksgiving. So without further ado, here is my Thanksgiving meal!

Roasted Turkey Breasts

2 (3lb.) turkey breasts, skin on
stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
3 sprigs of thyme, chopped
2 onions
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375ºF

Roughly chop the onions, carrots, and celery and put it in the bottom of a deep roasting tray

In a bowl mix the butter, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper together and rub it on each turkey breast

Season the turkey breasts generously with salt and pepper then place it in the roasting tray with the vegetables

Roast the turkey in the oven for about 45 minutes-1 hour, until a meat thermometer registers 165ºF when inserted into each turkey breast

Then take it out of the roasting tray and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving

Herb & Baguette Stuffing

6 cups of stale baguette, cubed 
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350ºF

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan then sauté the chopped onion and celery for a few minutes until soft

Pour the sautéed onion and celery into a bowl then add the cubed baguette, chicken stock, ground, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper and mix until all the ingredients are well combined

Transfer the mixture into a buttered casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes then cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered to get the top crispy

Serve immediately with the rest of the meal
Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
2 lbs. parsnips
1 lb. carrots
2 tbsp. honey
1 orange, juiced
2 sprigs of thyme
3 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425ºF

Peel the carrots and parsnips then cut them into 1 inch thick matchstick pieces

Toss them together in a bowl with the honey, orange juice, thyme, salt, and pepper

Scatter the vegetables in one even layer on a tray lined with parchment paper 
Roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes tossing occasionally, until the carrots and parsnips are tender 

Cranberry Sauce
1 lb. fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of sugar, plus more to taste
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups water

Rinse the fresh cranberries in a colander and pour them into a medium saucepan

Add the sugar, orange, and water and cook on a medium to heat for about 25-30 minutes until the mixture is thick and all the cranberries have burst out of their skins

Taste the cranberry sauce to see it needs more sugar, if you like it sweeter

Serve it immediately or let it cool to room temperature or in the fridge until ready to serve

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
turkey pan drippings, strained and fat skimmed
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, if needed

Heat the pan drippings and chicken stock in a saucepan over medium heat

Meanwhile in a bowl mix the softened butter and flour together then whisk it into the warm stock and continue to stir until thickened

Season to taste, if needed, and pour it into a gravy boat

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pumpkin Soufflé with Spiced Creme Anglaise

It's officially pumpkin season but instead of making a pumpkin pie, I'm taking the flavors of pumpkin and spice and infusing them into a soufflé. This pumpkin soufflé with spiced crème anglaise is excellent for this time of the year and is a delicious dessert for Thanksgiving. This recipe takes effort and time to make but it really is worth it. The light, fluffy soufflé pairs beautifully with the spiced, sweet crème anglaise. Also, I personally like to make the crème anglaise the night before so that it's really cold and once you pour it over the hot soufflé it cools it down a little. But, even if you don't make the crème anglaise serve the soufflé with ice cream or whipped cream.

Pumpkin Soufflé:
1 (15 oz.) can of pumpkin puree
4 eggs, separated
2 heaped tbsp. light brown sugar
1 heaped tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
Spiced Creme Anglaise:
2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350ºF

Heat the heavy cream in small saucepan with the ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until the cream is slightly simmering

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl then add a ladleful of the heated cream, mix, then gradually add the rest of the cream to the egg yolks and sugar

Pour the mixture back into the pan over medium-high heat and stir until the custard is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon

Strain the custard in a fine-mesh sieve and set it aside or refrigerate it to cool down while you make the soufflé

Whisk the egg whites with the salt until stir peaks form either using a stand mixer or by hand

Meanwhile, mix the pumpkin puree, egg yolks, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg together

Gently fold the whisked egg whites into the pumpkin mixture then ladle the mixture into 6 greased ramekins

Bake them in the oven for 30 minutes until the soufflés are risen, light, and fluffy (don't open the oven door while they're baking because they'll deflate and lose air)
Serve each soufflé immediately with a dusting of powdered sugar and the spiced crème anglaise

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pan Seared Salmon with Zucchini Parmesan Risotto

An impressive meal that is cooked at home shouldn't take hours to prepare. This dish is a perfect example of that because it looks really fancy, it's delicious, and it takes about a half hour to prepare. Okay so you're probably inmidated already because of the risotto but my easy method of pouring all the stock in at once and letting it cook in the oven produces the easiest, fool-proof risotto ever. Also, the unlikely paring of zucchini and parmesan add a little bit of freshness to the rich and luxurious risotto.

3 (6oz.) salmon fillets, skinless
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 zucchini, grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lemon, zested
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350ºF

In a medium saucepan melt the butter then add the Arborio rice and stir until all of the rice grains are coated in the butter

Add the white wine, stir until the wine is reduced, and add all of the stock at once  and bring it to a boil

Then cover it with a lid and place it in the oven for 20 minutes until all the risotto is creamy and has absorbed all of the liquid

Add the parmesan cheese, grated zucchini, lemon, salt, and pepper to the risotto then keep it warm

Heat the olive oil in a pan then season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and add it to the hot pan and cook it for 5-6 minutes then flip and cook it for 2 minutes on the other side

Serve each plate with a portion of risotto topped with a salmon fillet

Serves 3

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rhubarb Streusel Coffee Cake

During the weekend, I love to indulge in a Saturday morning brunch complete with poached eggs, smoked salmon on bagels, waffles, and coffee cake. Coffee cake is the main focus of this week's recipe. I love coffee cake but it can be very boring at times so I'm using seasonal rhubarb and a pinch of cinnamon to liven up this classic breakfast treat. Rhubarb is very tart and sour so when it's in a dessert or anything sweet, it really cuts through the some of the sweetness and richness. I also personally think that rhubarb is very underrated because it's super versatile; it's excellent in desserts but it's also delicious with meat, fish, & pork as well as on top of oatmeal for breakfast. And while it's in the oven, the rhubarb and its juices leak into the cake so it keeps it nice and moist. 

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 sticks of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tbsp. light brown sugar

Streusel Topping:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350ºF

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then add the eggs, one at a time, along with the vanilla extract

Mix the flour and baking powder into the mixture then pour in the milk and stir until a cake batter forms

Spoon the cake batter into a buttered and parchment-paper lined 9 in. square pan

Toss the rhubarb in the brown sugar in a small bowl and scatter it on top of the cake batter

Rub the flour and butter together in a bowl, add the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it ontop of the rhubarb and cake batter

Bake it in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it's golden brown and when a toothpick is inserted into the center it comes out clean

Let it cool for 10-15 minutes and serve it with coffee and tea

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Roasted Balsamic Pork

I love a Sunday roast and this particular recipe highlights the classic flavors of fall such as pork, apples, rosemary, and balsamic vinegar. The fruity balsamic vinegar adds sharpness as well as character to an otherwise boring piece of meat such as pork. This pork roast remains very tender by searing it first before you cook it in the oven. Searing not only keeps the moisture in the meat but it also allows the meat to brown and caramelize before you roast it. This recipe is not only delicious but it's also very easy to prepare and is impressive enough for dinner parties or special occasions.
1 (3 lb.) boneless pork loin roast
1 large onion
2 Granny Smith apples
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 sprigs of rosemary 
2 slices of smoked bacon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup water
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350ºF
Heat the oil in a pan over high heat then season the pork with salt and pepper
Sear the pork roast in the hot pan until golden brown on all sides
Meanwhile roughly chop the onion, apples, and bacon then place them in a large roasting tray with the rosemary and water
Pour the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar into the pan and continue to cook for pork for a few more minutes, then place the pork and balsamic juices on top of the apples and onions 
Roast the pork in the oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145ºF using a meat thermometer
Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving with creamy polenta

Friday, October 3, 2014

Soda Bread

Not all homemade breads need yeast in fact this soda bread recipe is really quick and easy to make. Soda bread uses baking soda instead of yeast to give it a light, airy texture and to help it rise. Also it doesn't need to rest or proof so once all the ingredients are mixed together, it's ready to bake. This soda bread is best served warm with butter or with a stew or soup.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
generous pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 375ºF

Mix all the ingredients together until a very sticky dough forms

Place the dough on a floured baking tray then using a greased piece of plastic wrap, form it into a round loaf

Bake the soda bread in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown then let it cool for about 15 minutes

Serve the soda bread with butter or a rich, hearty stew

Friday, September 26, 2014

Passionfruit Creme Brûlée

I Iove to take a classic dish and add a fresh spin to it to make it more interesting . This time I make creme brûlée but give it a tropical twist by adding passion fruit. Passion fruit is a tropical, exotic fruit that is available at some specialty stores. By adding passion fruit to the creme brûlée, it cuts through the richness and gives it a fresher, slightly tart flavor. Plus this is a dessert that can be made in advance so it's perfect for a dinner party or any occasion.
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 passion fruit, cut in half

Preheat your oven to 325ºF

Pour the heavy cream into a saucepan and scoop the passionfruit pulp and seeds into the heavy cream and heat until it comes to a boil

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together then gradually add the heated cream 

Ladle the mixture into 6 (4 oz.) ramekins and place the ramekins in a roasting tray and fill the tray half way with hot water

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until it's mostly set but slightly jiggles in the center

Let them cool at room temperature then let them chill in the fridge for a few hours

When ready to serve, sprinkle each creme brûlée with about 1 tsp. of sugar then caramelize the sugar with either a kitchen torch or place it under a hot broiler