Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


I couldn't let 2009 come to a close without thanking everyone who has stopped by this little blog to check out what I've been cooking this year. I also couldn't resist the opportunity to take a little trip down memory lane...

June 1st, 2009
The blog, Girl Gone Gourmet, is born.

This was the original banner... kinda cute, no?

June 4th, 2009
My First Comment and the Realization that People Might Actually be Reading my Blog (gulp).

Teresa said... "Good tips! I have yet to grill a pizza, I'll have to give that a try!"

Thank you, Teresa

August 2009
August brought a lot of excitement...

1. Girl Gone Gourmet joins Foodbuzz

My first Foodbuzz Profile Pic... I was a little shy.

Foodbuzz introduced me to so many wonderful food bloggers-- they inspire me every day.

2. I got my SUPER AWESOME camera...

My pictures went from looking like this...

To looking like this...

3. I made the Foodbuzz Top 9 for the First Time

December 5th, 2009

My 100th Post... 

I never thought I would make it past 10 posts, so making it to 100 was definitely a milestone!

And now, with 2009 coming to a close, I want to leave you with the countdown of my Top 5 posts of the year based on the total number of views...

And the #1 post of 2009 is... (insert drumroll sound here)


Without readers there would be no Top 9, no Top Posts of 2009, and no wonderful comments to read every day, so THANK YOU for stopping by. You've helped make 2009 a great year for me and for that I raise my glass in honor of you...

Then sing, young hearts that are full of cheer,
With never a thought of sorrow;
The old goes out, but the glad young year
Comes merrily in tomorrow.
--Emily Miller

Wishing you and yours all the best in 2010!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tortilla Soup


One of the gifts I gave myself this year (yes, I buy myself gifts) was Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday cookbook. Many in the food world credit him with educating America about true Mexican cuisine and, for many of us, has expanded our Mexican culinary experiences beyond bean burritos and crunchy tacos. He is also won Top Chef Masters this year, which, I might add, he did with a lot of grace and class.

His tortilla soup recipe, the first I made from the book, is delicious and easy to do. I even managed to find the type of peppers the recipe called for, pasilla chilis. What makes this soup so delicious is the technique used to make the broth, which includes cooking down a puree of chili, tomatoes, onions, and garlic until it's almost a paste before adding in the chicken stock. This technique concentrates all of the flavor and the broth ends up tasting like it had simmered all day even though the soup really takes less than an hour to come together.  

The soup itself is very simple, just chicken and broth, but the toppings make it extra special. The tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream and cheese all add different types of textures and flavors and make the soup perfect for lunch or a light dinner.  

I'm guessing that you are now craving tortilla soup, so if you don't have Rick Bayless' book I found some tasty sounding recipes from some trusted sources...

Tortilla Soup from Simply Recipes

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup from 101 Cookbooks

Turkey Tortilla Soup from Debi Shaw Cross

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mushroom and Leek Soup


When I travel for work I don't often look forward to the food. Most of the time it's hotel catering, served buffet style in large, impersonal ball rooms. Boring pasta for 200-- need I say more? So my expectations were pretty low, food-wise, for this last trip I took to Scottsdale, AZ.

However, during the third day of the meeting, after sitting in a freezing cold conference room for four hours, I helped myself to some mushroom soup that graced the buffet table during lunch. After a tentative first sip, I happily slurped up the rest, which was a simple concoction of portabello mushrooms, leeks, herbs and cream. It was comforting, warming and (gasp) tasty, which worked wonders on my spirits after three long days of meetings, networking and not-so-stellar food. 

Soup is one of my favorite things to make so I had to try out my own version after returning home. I started by chopping up a medium leek, two celery stalks, a couple of garlic cloves and a medium sized onion. I cooked them over medium heat, in a large pot, with a few tablespoons of olive oil just until the veggies started to soften. I tossed in 3 or 4 handfuls of chopped portabello mushrooms and continued cooking it all until the mushrooms released their moisture and started to brown.

I next added some chicken stock (you could also use veggie stock) pouring in just enough to cover the veggies by a couple of inches. I let the soup simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Using my immersion blender, I pureed the soup and then added about a 1/2 a cup of heavy cream. I stirred it all together, tossed in a few tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I garnished the  soup with a little fresh parsley before serving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Turkey Wrap

For someone who loves to cook I very rarely take my lunch to work.

I know-- it's shocking.

I'm trying to be better about it.

So, here's what I made for lunch today...

A turkey wrap with spinach & avocado. I also included mayo that I mixed with some crispy bacon that I chopped up and fresh thyme.

It was so good I think I'm going to take my lunch more often.

What do you like to take for lunch?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hot Chocolate


Recently, I had an experience with hot chocolate that can only be described as disappointing. This experience is what motivated me to make my own, but first you have to understand what happened.

While shopping with my mom I had a sudden craving for some hot chocolate. It was a chilly day, the holiday season was upon us and I felt that a steaming cup of hot chocolate would complete the picture.

I spotted a bakery/cafe nearby and thought, for sure, that I would find a decent cup of hot chocolate. Boy, was I wrong. After I ordered I watched as the man behind the counter pulled out a giant canister of Swiss Miss, scooped some in a cup and mixed it with some boiling hot water.  I didn't want to cause a scene so I paid ($3!!??) and moved on. I attempted to drink the scalding liquid and was bitterly disappointed.

Here I am, with my mom, trying to pretend like I'm not offended by the hot chocolate...

Since that day I have been on a quest to find a recipe for hot chocolate that is everything that that particular cup was not-- decadent, rich and chocolaty. Happily, I found one and, honestly, I'm thinking about printing it out and sending it to that bakery in the hope that they use it. Trust me, they need a good hot chocolate recipe.

In fact, I think they would have a line out the door if they served this...

The great thing about this recipe is that you can make a big batch and keep it in the refrigerator. That way, a steamy cup of rich hot chocolate is only a few seconds away whenever you want it-- just heat and serve. At first glance the recipe might seem complicated, but it's not. It all comes together quickly, so click here to get started. 


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Olive & Red Pepper Cream Cheese Spread

I think it's always good to have items on hand that can be tossed together at moments notice in the event that unexpected guests drop by. It does seem to happen a little more this time of year, so it's nice to have an ace in your pocket just in case you get that call that starts with "we're in the neighborhood and thought we'd stop by!"

Jars of roasted red peppers and olives are great examples of things to have hanging around in case of an emergency. Although, to be honest, I made this spread mostly because I wanted to take pictures of the garlic-stuffed olives and not because someone dropped by for a chat.

Aren't they cute? Here they are from another angle...

However, if we did get some unexpected visitors I would definitely make this again. It's so easy to do and took less than ten minutes from start to finish. It's as simple as taking 8 ounces of cream cheese, 4 or 5 olives (preferably the ones marinated with herbs and stuffed with garlic), and a small roasted red pepper from a jar. First chop up the olives and red pepper in a small food processor, or by hand with a knife.

Then just mix the olive and red pepper mixture with the cream cheese until combined. 

That's it. Totally easy.

Serve it with some crackers and you have an instant appetizer/afternoon snack for your visitors.

Or, if you don't have any visitors stopping by, enjoy it on some toast like I did. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sweet Potato Pancakes


The Christmas season has arrived and with it all the wonderfulness including peace, love, joy and house guests. I find that a lot of the peace, love and joy in our house depends greatly on how well I plan for guests this time of year.

To maintain the peace, love and joy I try to plan. However, I find that I focus a lot on planning special dinners only to realize, after the guests have arrived, that I hadn't planned any breakfasts.

Cereal, anyone?

Let's face it, failing to plan for breakfast when guests are in town is kind of like getting the guest bedroom in tip-top shape only to neglect the bathroom. It's a little disappointing.

I don't think that it needs to be hard, but I think making a breakfast that someone might not normally make for themselves is special and creates great memories. For example, someone might say, "Remember the sweet potato pancakes <insert your name here> made when we visited? They were so amazing!"

So, if you're like me, and need to build your special breakfast repertoire try these sweet potato pancakes. I recommend making the batter the night before so all you have to do in the morning is cook the pancakes. That way it's all so effortless, which is always a nice thing. 

Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 and 1/2 cup flour, sifted

3 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 and 1/4 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Place the chopped walnuts in a medium sized zipper bag. Using a meat mallet crush the walnuts into small pieces. In a small pan toast the walnuts over medium heat until they release a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in the toasted walnuts In a smaller bowl wisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add in the mashed sweet potatoes and the brown sugar, stirring until combined.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the pan. Cook until both sides are golden brown. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cranberry Applesauce

It's a great day when you have five pounds of granny smith apples and a bag of fresh cranberries in your possession.

Oh, the possibilities.

But let's be real-- I have a tendency to run around like a crazy person this time of year, so I made something simple and easy.

Cranberry Applesauce is just that-- simple and easy to make.

Not only is it simple and easy to make, but it also tastes amazing since I used this recipe from Simply Recipes.

Fresh apples and cranberries combine to make a sweet and tart sauce that's perfect just as it is. All you do is toss it all in a crockpot, add in both white and brown sugar, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and cinnamon. Let it cook on high for an hour or so, or until the apples are tender enough to mash.

Oh, and the aroma? The aroma will fill your house, melt away all your stress and fill you with holiday cheer.

I like to enjoy my applesauce just like it is, but it's also delicious served warm with ice cream.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turkey Pot Pie

I've decided that turkey pot pie should be the gift to give for 2009. I really think that this savory, comforting dinner could be the next Tickle Me Elmo or Nintendo Wii or whatever 'of the minute' product is out there this year. Seriously-- I'm not kidding.

Who wouldn't want to break into this to find out what's inside?

Think about it-- it's homemade, but not in a bad "oh, you made this sweater?" kind of way. There's all kinds of good stuff in it-- fresh veggies and juicy turkey-- and a little decadence, too. Serving it in individual bowls makes it personal-- everyone gets their own buttery flakey crust to dig in to.  

It's classic-- just as every perfect gift should be.

To start, melt 3-4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Toss in 4 large handfuls of spinach and allow it to wilt down until it's tender. Remove it from the pan and set aside.

Next, dice 3 medium carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 medium onion, and 3 garlic cloves. In the same pan, melt another tablespoon of butter along with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the carrots, celery and onion and cook over medium heat for several minutes, or until the veggies start to soften.

Add in 3 or 4 chopped baby portabello mushroom caps and the garlic. Pour a generous splash of white wine and simmer until the wine has evaporated.

Using a clean towel, squeeze the excess moisture from the cooked spinach and then rough chop it before adding it to the pan with the other veggies.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In another pan, melt 1/4 cup of butter over medium heat. Add in 2 heaping tablespoons of flour and mix it with the butter. Allow it to cook for a couple of minutes-- you'll know it's ready when there's a nutty aroma.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups of chicken stock to the butter/flour mixture and stir until combined. Add in 2 cups of cooked turkey that's been cut into cubes. I used some leftover turkey that had been cooked with some herbs.

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Let the sauce cook until it reduces and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the sauce into the pan with all the veggies and stir to combine. Add in some finely chopped fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary (I skipped this because my turkey had been cooked with herbs). At this point also add in salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the veggie mixture among four oven safe bowls. 

Top the bowls with pie dough-- you might want to use an egg wash on the edges to help seal the crust around the edges. And, no, I didn't make my own dough-- I am a pie crust cheater and used a premade crust.

Cut some slits in the top for steam to escape and sprinkle some shredded Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake at 450 minutes for 15 minutes then turn the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Allow the pot pies to rest for several minutes before serving.

Didn't you hear? 
Turkey Pot Pie is the hottest gift of the season, so...

Dig in.


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