Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Pastry

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

It's been quite a while since I last posted.  Do you remember last year when I disappeared for a while? All of the flooding, basement overhaul, kitchen out of commission? Don't worry.  It didn't happen again.  In fact, this time I have a good reason why I've been incognito on the blog front.  We are getting ready to move into our new house.  It's very exciting and I can't wait to share with you my fabulous brand spankin' new kitchen and my office off to the side.  Some girls have been known to dream about their wedding days, planning it for years.  Others, perhaps having that first child and dreaming of motherhood.  For me, it was this kitchen.  I can't wait to take pictures on the blog and share them with you soon.  For now, we are still in our old home and preparing ourselves for the move.  Why we put ourselves through this bedlam right before the holidays is beyond me, but this is one headache I am willing to put up with.

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

In the midst of meeting with contractors and picking out furniture, we managed to find some time to get away to the Outer Banks in Emerald Isle, NC.  We have been going to our place in OBX for five years now during the Thanksgiving break.  This year I put up a big fuss because there was so much to do and so much to take care of before the moving date, but I was outnumbered.  Plus, it's hard to break with tradition.  And, I have to say I am so glad we went.  This lady was in desperate need of some R & R.

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

I was also in desperate need of cooking and baking, and I didn't even realize it.  Spending my days meeting with contractors in an empty house for the past couple of weeks gave me very little time to bake.  Throw on top of that the school concerts, soccer parties and practices, and school conferences, my family is lucky they have clean clothes and dinner at night.  As I sit here now, the blinds salesperson is running an hour late.  I really need to go to the grocery store.  I need fruit. I need comforting veggies.  I need good food.  Healthy food.  And, I could have knocked that out had I not rushed over here only to wait for this lady to show up!!! Okay...I'm off on a tangent.  I was trying to say that I was happy to have a moment away where I could stand in my kitchen for hours cooking, baking, and cooking again.  In my moment of zen, I was inspired to create something new to the delight of my daughter.


Madison has recently decided to be a vegetarian again, only this time it's the real thing.  She won't even touch seafood.  The only dish she planned to eat for Thanksgiving was my Broccoli Casserole.  I did also make roasted butternut squash, but that was wishful thinking on my part that she would actually eat it.  Madison does like mushrooms, so my plan was to saute mushrooms with a few herbs and balsamic vinegar. Boring, right? As I was preparing the mushrooms, I remembered that I had one sheet of puff pastry in the fridge.  Hmmm.... Then, I thought of my girl, which made me think of cheese.  Trust me, the two go together.  I remembered that I still had half of a block of cream cheese in the fridge.  I took it out to soften and decided I'd whip it up when it got to room temperature.  Meanwhile, I added a little salt to the mushrooms, chopped a bit of parsley, added a tablespoon of olive oil and mixed it all together.  I then rolled out the puff pastry and placed it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  After I whipped the cream cheese, I spread it across the puff pastry.  Then, I poured the mushrooms on top and began to fold the edges of the puff pastry.  I used an egg wash to seal the folded edges and then gave the mushrooms a light sprinkling of balsamic vinegar.

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

After baking to a golden brown and cooled, I cut the puff pastry into small rectangles, thinking we could snack on them while I finished cooking.  Madison asked to sample them and quickly ate two right away.  At dinner time, she ate even more with her broccoli casserole.  It is rare that I find something she will eat so willingly, so this was definitely a momentous occasion that I had made something that actually made my thirteen-year-old happy. You have no idea how joyful this made me.  Fellow moms of teen girls, do you feel my joy?

Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

The great thing about this Mushroom and Cream Cheese Pastry is that it can be used as part of a meal when meat is not called for, but it can also be a fantastic appetizer to snack on before your big meals when your guests are glaring at you with hunger in their eyes and that turkey just won't cook fast enough.  Think about it, too, for finger foods to counter the bubbly on New Year's Eve.  You could even cut the puff pastry into small squares and place in a mini-muffin pan to serve as bite-sized appetizers or finger food.

So, I'm still sitting here in case you're wondering about me.  Ho hum. At least I got some work in much to, hopefully, your delight.

For a print-friendly version of the recipe, click: https://sites.google.com/site/mushroomcreamcheesepuffpastry/

Ingredients:
One sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8-ounces baby portobello mushrooms, washed and quartered
8-ounces button mushrooms, washed and quartered
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg white
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Directions:
After puff pastry has thawed in the refrigerator, remove it from the wrapping and let it sit on your counter for 10-15 minutes to avoid cracks when you unfold it.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and unfold your pastry sheet onto the pan.

In a mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy.  Spread the cream cheese on top of your puff pastry.

In a separate bowl, combine the mushrooms, parsley, salt, and olive oil.  Mix to combine.  Pour the mushrooms into the center of your puff pastry, leaving about an inch free on the outer edges.  Fold the sides, just covering the edges of the mushroom mix.


Combine the egg white and water and brush on the folded edges of the puff pastry, especially the corners.  Smooth the edges together to ensure that they don't open up when baking in the oven.  Lastly, sprinkle balsamic vinegar over the top of the mushrooms.
Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool before slicing into small rectangles.
Mushroom and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry from Food Therapy

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wednesdays with Logan

Be very afraid (of the boy, not the dog)
I know, I know.  I started a new feature on the blog two weeks ago and already failed in my weekly update.  Yet, sometimes life and all things driven by to-do lists cause you to run out of time and that was me last week.  Instead, Logan and I did what many across America do when they have time on their hands...they spend their mornings at Target. Yes, Target, people.  It's fun times with a four-year-old the Wednesday before Halloween shopping through aisles with costumes and their various accessories, candy galore exploding down the aisle, and whining voices wanting this and can I get that.  Logan is quite the negotiator, too.  It makes his daddy beam with pride and his mom say repeatedly, "No, no, no.  End of story period.  Do you hear me?"  Does it end there? No, it does not.  He is a relentless chap.

As if he really needed another mask
As an example of his negotiation tactics, we found ourselves in the toy aisle. Yes, I asked for it. Call it a martyr complex.  Logan really, really, really wanted an Iron Man mask.  I mean really.  He pointed out that we already had an Iron Man costume that had been Aidan's.  He suggested that if I got him the costume he would be Iron Man for Halloween.  We had half of it already and his Power Ranger mask was broken. I took the bait. What if I couldn't fix that broken mask to his satisfaction. I am officially a sucker.  For one day, he wore that mask and he was, indeed, Iron Man (Tony Stark when the mask flipped up). Yes, one day to be exact and it wasn't Halloween.
Riley was not about to miss any of the flying pumpkin bits

Sweet and Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
 In the afternoon, we went ahead and carved our pumpkins.  If I haven't mentioned it before, Logan is my chef-in-training.  He is the only child in the family who really takes a keen interest in food and cooking.  He is also quite good at it.  He pours carefully and slowly without dumping and watching the splatter.  He stirs patiently and holds his bowl steady the whole time.  And, his favorite activity is "baking" something special for mommy, which includes grabbing random ingredients and spices and combining them in a bowl.  I smile at this since it was also one of my favorite secret activities when I was four and left to my own devices in the kitchen.  All of that being said, Logan has taken his precocious abilities and believes they also apply to the cutlery, making him already an expert with knives at the age of 4.  You can imagine the image of a four-year-old reaching for the knives as he steadies a pumpkin with the other hand while saying, "Let's get started." Knives? Pumpkins? Eeek! I don't think so.  Suffice it say, an argument occurred in the kitchen as a pried him away from the butcher block and handed him markers to draw the faces on the pumpkins. Whew! It's called redirection.

Homemade costume number 1

Homemade costume number 2 with plastic knives on hand
The rest of our week was spent baking and toasting pumpkin seeds.  Logan went through several costumes as I'm sure you can imagine and finally ended up with the costume of choice on the big day.
Final costume change (for the day, as it turned out)
Then came this past Wednesday and it was our day alone again.  This time it was my turn to find a costume.  Gary and I have a gala to attend next Saturday for the Kidney Foundation.  Last year, we were severely underdressed. We thought surely not everyone at this event will be in tuxes and gowns.  Let's just say we were among the maybe three people not in formal wear. I've had all year to rectify the situation because, believe it or not, (I say sarcastically) I do not own a formal gown.  Yes, it's true.

Logan is all about the selfies
So, Logan and I began our morning heading out to Nordstroms in search of a dress for Mommy.  Being all of five feet in stature, full-length gowns that don't make me look like a five-year-old playing dress-up in her mom's clothes are hard to come by.  Surprisingly, for once in my lifetime, they actually had a lot of dresses to choose from and I was very happy with my final choice. Logan enthusiastically helped me make my decision and gave his opinion for each dress. Ultimately, I went against his wishes and did not choose the sparkly flapper dress he liked the most since it was "so cool" when I spun around, but I am very happy with my choice.
Logan didn't know what to do with all of those mirrors except pose, of course
 Of course by the end we couldn't finish fast enough. Logan knows when we are in Nordstrom's and his belly is calling, the cafe is the place to go. Here I am looking through dresses as ladies are looking through the bras and panties which are right next to the dress racks.  Logan starts chatting away as he begins running his hands through the fancy panties and squeezing the bras to tell them all about his lunch plans and how he just loves the pizza at the cafe.  Have they ever had the pizza? It's the best.  Can we go now? Ugh, I'm starving!

The best pizza ever

Chicken club with brown sugar bacon and avocado
At long last, his patience paid off and we headed to lunch.  By the way, they really do have good pizza.  I, on the other hand, went out of my comfort zone with my usual salad and had a chicken club.  It was delicious as well and might become a new favorite.  They did it up just right by serving it with bacon coated in brown sugar that paired well with the salty chicken breast and the always and forever favorite of mine, avocado.  I ate the whole darn thing.

What to do next Wednesday? I'm not sure yet.  I am looking forward to going somewhere fun.  I'm feeling burned out doing the usual scene and might venture somewhere different.  Any suggestions?  In the meantime, you can find Logan and me probably in the kitchen.  We have been baking up a storm lately and trying recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks.  Coming soon: at long last cookbook reviews featuring some of my favorite recipes from them.  Breads, cookies, sides, etc. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash

Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash from Food Therapy

I am having a new love affair these days and it's with a vegetable.  Can you guess which one? Hint: Look at the title. Yes, genius, it's butternut squash.  My family members are not fans of the squash family.  Zucchini? Yellow Squash? Spaghetti? Not unless it's the wiggly kind with a red meat sauce on top.  I know there is something odd texture-wise with squash.  It can go from hard to soft and squishy in a matter of seconds.  This has never bothered me, but it has haunted my husband since his childhood.  He tells horrible tales of being forced to eat this hated vegetable in all its mushy glory and not being allowed to get up from the table until it was gone.  Now, as he lectures the kids on finishing their vegetables, it is the one type of vegetable he will overlook and for sure not sneak bites off of their plates.

Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash from Food Therapy

Knowing that this aversion seems to pass from child to child in my house, I have stayed away from the squash family, for the most part.  It's not the end of the world.  However, recently I was standing in front of the prepped veggies at Whole Foods and saw a large plastic container of chopped chunks of butternut squash.  With the smell of cinnamon in the air, apples and pumpkins on display, and rows and rows of yellow, orange, and red mums, these chunks of orange caught my eye, silently urging me to take them home.  Come on, it's fall.

Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash from Food Therapy

One of my favorite things to do for a meal, especially a light weeknight meal, is to build a salad.  I love color.  I mean, I absolutely love color.  A dish needs to look as appealing as it tastes.  It can be that dish of black pasta we had at our dinner party back in August.  The appearance didn't make me in the least "grossed out", for the lack of a better description, but instead I loved the contrast in colors.  A white bowl with black pasta made it interesting and appealing to me.


So, while looking over the various colors around me in the produce section at Whole Foods, I quickly found myself gravitating toward other fall colors.  Arugula is always a favorite with me and would provide the green backdrop and contrast in flavor with the sweetness of the squash.  Then, I was craving grains and immediately thought of quinoa, but not just any quinoa would do.  Red quinoa.
Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash from Food Therapy
One more fall color added to my palate.  Red, green, orange.  Now, I'd like some purple.  Beets. I'll make any excuse to add beets to my salads.  Sprinkle on some black beans and goat cheese with a mild vinaigrette and you've got a good-looking salad.

To add a little flavor to the salad, I focused on that fine butternut squash that I bought.  First, I chopped the squash into smaller chunks to make it more bite-sized for the salad.  I then tossed the pieces in grapeseed oil, coriander, cumin, and salt.  I roasted the mixture until the squash was fork-tender.  The texture of the squash in its meaty bites mixed with the quinoa, beans, and beets makes this salad a good substitute for a heavy meat-focused meal.  When you are getting tired, bored, and belly-heavy with the roasted meats and casseroles we all know and love with the season, turn to this fall salad for good, clean eating.
Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash from Food Therapy

For a print-friendly version of the recipe, click:  https://sites.google.com/site/arugulasquashbeets/.

Ingredients:

For the squash
1 lb. butternut squash, chopped into one-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the quinoa
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup red quinoa

Remaining salad ingredients
8 ounces ready-to-eat beets, chopped
15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
12 ounces baby arugula (baby spinach would work just as well)

For the vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon dijon
1 teaspoon honey

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425.  In a medium bowl, toss the squash with the oil, coriander, cumin, and salt.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.  Spread the squash mixture onto the pan.  Bake in the oven for at least 20 minutes.  The squash is done when you can easily stick a fork in it.

While the squash is roasting, heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Add the quinoa and stir continually until the quinoa begins to give off a toasty smell.  Add the broth and let the mixture come to a boil.  Turn down the heat to allow the quinoa to simmer and cover for 15 to 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the grapeseed oil, white wine vinegar, dijon, and honey.  Whisk until combined.

Meanwhile, place the arugula in a large salad bowl.  Add the beets and beans.  When the quinoa and squash have cooled slightly, add them on top followed by the goat cheese.  Pour the vinaigrette over top and toss to mix all of the ingredients.
Arugula Salad with Beets, Black Beans, and Butternut Squash from Food Therapy

Note:  The roasted squash and quinoa can be prepared ahead of time and given a chance to cool before getting the rest of your salad together.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesdays with Logan

The early days of a sous chef
Today I am starting a new feature on my blog, Wednesdays with Logan.  There are no recipes but it is food-related.  Well, kind of.  Wednesdays with Logan will feature my adventures with the guy, the big man that we like to call "Logie" and our culinary escapades around our great city (and suburbs).

It's been nearly five years since we first found out I was pregnant with Logan.  It came as a big surprise.  Yes, I had wanted a third child.  No, Gary did not.  I had spent the month before miserable because I had just started the school year dropping off what I thought would be the last child to full-day kindergarten.  I was filled with regrets of not enjoying the time I had with Aidan at home enough.  I should have done more with him, not rushed to get things done around the house, and spent more quality time just enjoying being with him.  Now, it was all over.  No more alone time. No more cuddling on the couch with him. No more company in the house.  Coming home from drop-off was lonely and so, so quiet.

A boy and his costumes
After a month I began to get used to the quiet and solitude.  I enjoyed the freedom to do what I wanted and the idea of moving on and putting myself first for a change.  I was looking forward to the kids getting old enough that we could travel more and go out more. The need for another child was disappearing, and I was okay with. Yet, God had other plans for us and we were shocked to learn that another was on the way.  Time to do this all over again.  Of course, shock and dismay eventually gave way to excitement and joy.  We couldn't imagine life with out this entertaining little guy.  And, given this one last chance, I made a vow to relish every moment I had with Logan and to enjoy all of the days I had alone with him before he, too, would leave me for school.

Frosting first
Well, as we all know, finding that kind of time isn't always easy.  Life does get in the way, and having two much older kids really makes it difficult to have that one-on-one time.  Most of my free time is spent running around getting things for the other two or Gary.  The house never stays clean and the laundry is never done.  Our evenings are even worse with soccer and music lessons, dinner and homework.

This is the last year Logan will be at home with me before he begins full-day kindergarten.  Right now, he goes to school four days a week but gets home earlier than the others. We have that.  We also have our Wednesdays.

At the beginning of this school year I made a pact with myself that every Wednesday Logan is off from school I would devote my day to doing something fun with him.  Yes, I have guilt that I never did this with Madison or Aidan, but they also got to spend more time with me throughout the day when they were Logan's age.  There weren't older kids back then who had homework or so many activities. We actually had nights off with nothing to do. Imagine that! Those days are long gone.  Since my new career relates to food and Logan is my chef-in-the-making, I thought that one of the best activities to plan our day around should involve food.  What else!

Whipped Cream first
So far we have kept up the pace.  We haven't made it into DC to try anything fabulous yet, but we have managed to scout around our local eateries.  We've done sushi with Gary, breakfast with Gary, Fat Burger last week. We had a movie day followed by lunch at PF Chang's. This week it was Korean.

Real Bibimbap
On Monday, Logan came home from school saying "Bee Beem Bop," "Bee Beem Bop," "Bee Beem Bop."  He sounded like Mr. Crabs when Spongebob thinks he's a killer robot. I asked him what the heck he was talking about.  Then, he told me they were reading a book about families and asked if I knew what "Bee Beem Bop" was.  I asked if he meant "Bibimbap," a rice bowl with veggies and meat. He was shocked I even knew what it was and then went on to explain how it was prepared. I was impressed with how much he remembered from the story.  I asked if he'd like to spend our Wednesday trying it at a real Korean restaurant, and he enthusiastically said yes.

Rice, Rice, Everywhere
Yesterday, we met up with our friend Robyn for lunch at Shin Chon in Ellicott City, Maryland. Shin Chon is one of my favorite places to go to for lunch.  It doesn't look like much on the outside as it is part of a strip mall off of Route 40.  However, Shin Chon is a go-to place for authentic Korean food.  It is even recommended by Andrew Zimmern as one of the top Korean restaurants in the country.

On this particular Wednesday, it was rainy and cold, but we were prepared with our rain jackets and boots.  Robyn had ordered some hot tea and Logan settled in with a Coke, his dining-out treat.  Just in case he didn't care for the Bibimbap, I ordered a tuna roll for him.  You have no idea how crazed Logan is for sushi.  As soon as it came, he scarfed the whole thing down in five minutes or less and then wanted more.  He ate some of the bibimbap, the rice and sprouts, but I don't think he was crazy about it.  I, on the other hand, loaded my hot clay bowl with all of the fixins' such as kimchi, pickled turnips, and more sprouts.  I fired it up with some more hot sauce and devoured nearly the entire bowl.  With an order of plain rice to finish off his meal and some hot sake for me, we were stuffed and headed back home.
Not the best manners, but he was tired.
It might not seem like spending once a week dining out or going to a movie with a four-year-old will make a lasting impression, a memory that will endure over time.  However, when I hear my older two talk about fun memories from when they were little, they don't automatically talk about trips to Disney or Hawaii.  They talk about trips to Costco, that time they found the hidden bear at Trader Joe's, or even the time the electricity went out while we were playing board games at the beach.

It's all about the gear
It took three kids to learn, but I realize now that enduring memories are created in our day-to-day lives, the time you give one-on-one attention to your kids rather than the grand occasional memories we provide them with on fancy trips, ball games, or concerts.  Yes, don't get me wrong because I love all of that, too.  Yet, providing these small, special moments can easily make as much, if not more, of a lasting impression on them as they add up over time and fill more space in their memories down the road. For me, setting aside that time, which is not as easy as it seems, and creating those moments are even more satisfying at the end of the day than a week-long trip that is easily forgotten in a blur soon after arriving home.

Yesterday, as we were driving home, Logan told me he enjoyed his church camp from over the summer more than school.  When I asked why he said it was because it wasn't as long.  He wished he could get home sooner from school.  Since he's been going on lately about wishing he was in kindergarten, I pointed out that next year he'd be in school all day like Madison and Aidan.  His response: "What! Then, I don't want to go to kindergarten any more." I asked why and he said, "Because then it will take longer to get back to you." That's when I knew that this time I was doing things right.

Endless entertainment