Sunday, February 24, 2008

Heavenly Salad

Bacon Wrapped Pear Salad, originally uploaded by razzieswirl.

I've re-discovered recently just how much I adore salad.
I've rationilized that it is because they're like a sandwich without the bread.
I'm a HUGE sandwich freak, I love them. I think I love them so much because they are so versatile, you can put just about anything inside of them and they're always delicious and satisfying. Salads are very much the same. They can have all sorts of flavors and components tossed in, they can be spicy, they can be fresh, cool, creamy, tangy. So many possibilities!

This salad is mind boggling delicious. . . creamy gorgonzola is tossed with a mixture of fresh spinach, romaine, and arugula that's been topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, slivered almonds, reduced balsamic, basil infused olive and oil and the crowning glory (*insert some royal horn sounds here*) oven roasted bacon wrapped pears. It's really quite healthy (except for the bacon, but it's not enough to truly count, this would make an excellent healthy lunch), fairly easy, and filling yet light at the same time. There are many different flavors mixed in that all seem to shine both together and separately. I urge you to give this recipe a shot, you won't be dissapointed, trust me! I paired it with a freshly brewed mint/decaf english breakfast iced tea with a little whipped honey mixed in. Truly, outstanding!

Recipe: Mixed Green Salad with Bacon Wrapped Pears

Serves 4


1 pear of your choice (I used a green anjou) 
1/2 pound thick sliced pepper bacon, sliced in half and also cut lengthwise in half 
whipped honey (see #3 in directions)
1 cup washed baby arugula 
1/2 cup washed spinach
1/4 washed and chopped romaine
A healthy chunk of creamy gorgonzola (I rarely measure cheese, especially in salads, adjust to your own preferences and taste)

10-15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 TBLS slivered almonds 
Reduced Balsamic to taste, used as dressing to drizzle (recipe below)
2 TBLS basil infused olive oil (I simply purchased this at the store)

Directions: (Preheat oven to 375 degrees)

1. Wash pear thoroughly, cut into thick slices (I had about 12-14 thick slices of pear) 

2. Wrap slices of bacon around each slice of pear, secure with a toothpick and place on a wire rack above a sided cookie sheet prepared with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup).

3. Place a small dollop of whipped honey on top of each pear/bacon combo. (This will create a sugary caramelized crust on top of the peppery bacon, mmmmm). 

4. Place bacon wrapped pears in the oven for appx. 15 minutes, after 15 minutes flip the bacon wrapped pears over and continue to roast for another 10-15 minutes until bacon is cooked, juicy and crisp. 

5. While the pears are cooking: place arugula, spinach, romaine, gorgonzola, almonds, tomatoes in a large bowl and toss. 

6. When the pears are finished roasting allow them to cool for about 5 minutes.

7. Place slightly cooled pears atop your salad mixture. 

8. Drizzle with reduced balsamic and basil infused olive oil and toss.

9. Eat it and enjoy!

Reduced balsamic is extremely easy, a little hard on the nose while it's reducing, but oh-so worth it. My advice is: open all the windows, and turn the fan above the stove on full blast! This sweet, rich, thick gooey balsamic reduction is good on EVERYTHING! Crostini, sandwiches, salads, soups, sandwiches, seafood. . . you name it. . . the list could go on and on. It's a staple in my house, especially in the spring and summer (it's easier to have all the windows open during those seasons, if you know what I mean. . . ) For this recipe I will give you directions for what I do when making it for this particular salad, just know you can reduce any amount you want, the key is: you will get about 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount originally being reduced. For example, if you reduced one cup, you'd get about 1/4-1/2 a cup. 

Recipe: Reduced Balsamic 


1/2 cup aged balsamic 
pinch of sugar (this is not necessary if your balsamic has been thoroughly aged, about 10 years or more) 


1. Place balsamic (and sugar if using it) in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Whisking constantly bring to a simmer.

3. Continue to whisk and simmer for about 15 minutes, until balsamic is thick and syrupy.

4. Cool.

So, brew up a good batch of refreshing mint iced tea, sit and enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentines Day!

Small Army., originally uploaded by razzieswirl.

I wanted to wish everyone a simply divine Valentines Day.
About a week ago I made a gaggle of red velvet cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese for a friend of ours in Seattle. We drove down to pick Thomas' sister up at SeaTac. She spent most of January and part of February traveling around India with her high school. So, since we had to drive down to pick her up, I wanted to put a little smile on someones face I love dearly, but don't see too often. She's a lover of Holidays, like myself, and I knew she'd appreciate these little red lovelies. I also brought her a bag of Amelie tea (a rosey black tea that's absolutely amazing). I thought the two together would make a wonderful pair.

I love red velvet, I don't know if it's so much the flavor, as it is the color. Each cupcake sat in a fun polka dot red or pink paper, when you peel the paper off and take a bite and it reveals itself to be an amazing vibrant red, this makes my heart beats just a little bit faster. . . I topped each cupcake with a generous swirl of thick vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, two pear dragees and one silver. I placed them in a fun pink cupcake box with a window, I pasted a vintage image from a costume book of a very Audrey Hepburn-esque illustration (for more pictures of this click the link below the picture). The whole thing was achingly adorable, pink, red, and oh-so valentines appropriate.

I always use Magnolias recipe for Red Velvet, I'm not sure it's the greatest, and to be honest, I'm too lazy to look for another. I tried quite a few before I stuck with Magnolias recipe, and since I generally only make them once or twice a year, I'm not extremely eager to find another recipe. Also, I think the cupcake liners you use really make a difference. Though, I couldn't tell you why exactly. I've found the normal grocery store bought kind hold moisture better than some specialty papers like the ones I used. Maybe it's just my imagination, but I swear different papers cook the cupcakes differently. Since I've seen the recipe on other food blogs I'll go ahead and post it so you don't have to search around for it. . . of course instead of following the regular cake directions, place batter in liners. You'll get about 24 cupcakes:


Magnolia Bakery Red Velvet Cake Recipe

3 ⅓ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons red food coloring
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and lightly flour three 9 x 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overheat.
In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then the ice top and sides of the cake with frosting.


Thick Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting


8 ounces Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter, soft (room temp)
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla with vanilla beans in them or
1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 small vanilla bean scrapped


Beat butter with a mixer until light and creamy.

Scrape the bowl, add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla (and bean) and beat until smooth.

I want to wish a very special Valentines day to a few of my favorite people out there I love dearly, who I know take time out of their busy schedules to check the blog:

A Very Happy Valentines Day to:

Miss Katie Cathersal : You truly are one of my most cherished friends, no, family. My life just isn't the same without you in it and I love you dearly!

Miss Kelli Bolling: You know exactly how much I adore you my sweet little cupcake. You always put a smile on my face, and you make my heart oh-so happy! You and Nick are both loves of my life and I hope you're having a romantical amazing day together!

The Asher Collective: Asher is truly like an older brother to me. Growing up I never wanted siblings, until I started to get a little older, and I found myself a little jealous of my girlfriends that had older brothers. They were always protected (and teased respectively) by them, and I began to wish I had one of my own. Well, now I do! You've brought many other lovely people into my life (*ahem* Lauren) and I know you've always guided people to my food blog (a special thank you to Ashers mother who I believe reads this from time to time and has sent many a lovely blog compliments my way). For as crazy as you can drive me Asher, I love you unconditionally!

To All of my Regular Readers: I know there are probably only a few of you out there, but your support and kind comments keep me inspired!

And lastly, to my mother: Hands down, above all others, the most important person in my world. I love you more than life itself. You've given me the inspiration and strength to be the person I am. You're the best mother that has ever been, and will ever be. You're an amazing woman and you provide me with an unimaginable amount of love, support, strength and encouragement. You are truly amazing!

I hope everyone has a magnificent and relaxing day. It's little Holidays like this that are not for couples alone. I think Valentines day can serve to remind us of all the loved ones we have and the blessings they bring into our lives.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lasagna "Soup"

Lasagna "Soup", originally uploaded by razzieswirl.

So, I've seen this recipe for lasagna soup floating around flickr and a few food blogs here and there and have always been longing to try it. The problem with being food blog and food flickr obsessed is, one minute you see something utterly tempting and delicious that you want to make, and the next thing you know there's yet another tempting delectable on the next page erasing your memory of the previous food delight.

Well Sunday morning, breakfast hunger fate would plop this long forgotten gem back in my recipe box. Rushed by the terrible growling erupting from my belly and Thomas hopping around the bed like a kid on christmas morning groaning about his own empty belly, I had to make a quick decision on dinner. Quickly, I flickr'd some magical combination of words and viola! Long lost lasagna soup! Bellasimo!

Both Thomas and I were excited about our dinner prospect, however, at the urging of my dear sweetheart I double up on the noodles, because frankly 1 cup for all that liquid didn't quite seem like enough. Well, oops, 2 cups, way too much. If you want absorption pasta go ahead and add 2 cups, if you want soup, stick with 1 cup. Thomas and I both really enjoyed it, but I really had my heart on a rich tomato broth with bits of caramelized onion, spicy turkey sausage and orange carrots floating about. I got a rich, starch laden, thick pasta, still with a lot of flavor though!

I'm going to direct you to the Desert Culinary where I got the recipe to give the original creator credit:

So, hey, even if you mess this one up, it's still delicious. Great recipe no matter how it turns out!