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Archive for February, 2009

The Bachelor alla Vodka

Sometimes our Sundays are just so fabulous that we find ourselves also liking Mondays by some strange twist of fate. And today was definitely not just another manic Monday. Our Sunday was pleasantly perfect; post-Valentine brunch extravaganza, we snoozed-in on Sunday and decided to treat ourselves to a brunch out. We headed to Good Enough to Eat, a cute Vermont-esque cafe on 85th and Amsterdam that often has a line spilling out onto the sidewalk. Despite Amanda’s poor choice in footwear (flats instead of Uggs), we braved the cold weather and were rewarded with perfectly poached eggs and biscuits. After brunch we saw the much anticipated “He’s Just Not That Into You” with our temporary sous chef, Nils. Sadly, we were just not that into it. So maybe we had a lazy day, but Saucy does not rest for long.

For dinner tonight we decided to break out a recipe that has been on our mind for a long time: vodka sauce. Though vodka sauce is foreign to some, it’s really more approachable than you would think. In addition, some historians credit Columbia Alum (woot woot!) as the inventor of penne alla vodka! Amanda returned from her Italian class just as Jason Mesnick graced the screen of our television. Listen closely, because we’re about to let you in on a secret: Saucy is absolutely obsessed with this season of The Bachelor. He’s pretty dreamy…::sigh::…but nonetheless, we multi-tasked like pros and applied the emotional intensity of the show to our dish. As the sauce simmered we roasted asparagus, prepared a salad, and brought water to boil. Saucy enthusiast Dan Dan arrived just in time for the finishing touches. We popped a bottle of Prosecco, sprinkled fresh basil on our pasta, and sat down to enjoy both a great meal and a great episode.

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1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup vegetable stock
1 large can crushed tomatoes
Coarse salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, cut a la Emily Dittmann

Heat a large skillet over medium heart. Add oil and butter to the skillet. Once the butter has fully melted add the garlic and shallots. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add vodka to the pan and heat until vodka has reduced by half, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock and tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble then reduce heat to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. As the sauce simmers cook pasta; penne is often paired with vodka sauce. Stir cream into the sauce, bring to a bubble, then remove from heat. Drain pasta and toss with sauce. Top with fresh basil.

P.S. We had a “dance like nobody’s watching” dance party post penne inspired by Margene from Big Love. It was more epic than that 3 ft wave Tom Stewart rode that one time.

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February 14th. Valentine’s Day. To some it’s a Hallmark holiday, to others it’s simply nervewracking, but to us it’s a day to embrace all that is red, pink and heart shaped…and each other, of course. This Valentine’s Day we decided to share the love and spread some cheer by hosting a brunch.

As our first Saucy-sponsored event, we had many expectations to not only live up to but to completely blow away. The menu was edited and re-edited throughout the week until we were confident that our choices would result in both festive cheer and satisfied palates. Prep began with a 9am wake up. Despite our sleepy eyes and slightly grumpy attitudes, we were soon cracking eggs and measuring flour with true Saucy gusto. With the quiche baking in the oven, we finished the scone dough and heading out on a hunt for our 20th bag of Valentine’s m&ms. It was a Valentine’s Day miracle–one bag left with our name on it. Giddy as ever, we hurried back home, took the quiche out of the oven and popped in a batch of granola. We cleaned up and dressed up, put on our aprons and tackled the scones. Before we knew it, guests started to trickle in. We offered them mimosas as we put the finishing touches on our culinary creations. The brunch was a huge success. People left with happy tummies, smiling faces, and a new admiration for our favorite holiday.

dsc01194Clockwise from the top: heart-shaped whole wheat pancakes; fresh berries; raspberry scone; vanilla yogurt with granola; more berries (can’t get enough!); goat cheese, tomato and onion quiche

Goat Cheese, Tomato and Onion Quiche:

5 eggs
1-1 1/2 cups half and half
3 tablespoons goat cheese
1 small onion, diced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pie crust!

Line a glass pie pan with pie crust, make it yourself or store-bought works well too. Spread the goat cheese on the bottom. Saute onions in a little bit of canola oil until translucent. Add the onions to the pie pan and layer tomatoes on top. Whisk together 5 eggs and add enough half and half to fill 2 1/2 cups. Pour into pie pan on top of cheese, onions and tomatoes. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes then turn down to 350 for 45 minutes or until eggs have just set.

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Raspberry Scones:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whipping cream
1/3 cup (about) raspberry jam (do not use seedless)
handful of raspberries

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add the cold butter into the dry mixture and incorporate by hand. Gradually add one cup of heavy cream. Gently mix in desired amount of raspberries. Chill covered dough for thirty minutes.  Preheat oven to 400F. On a piece of tin foil, roll dough to a 1/2″ thickness and cut using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.  We experimented with the next part, cutting some partly in half and filling them with jam, while others we left as they were. Bake for about 18 minutes or until lightly golden.  Add more jam if desired and serve warm if possible.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, Stina & Manda

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Valentine’s Day in a Cupcake

If you know me at all I’m sure you can imagine the look on my face when I saw the February 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living: eighteen chocolate cupcakes, whose different shades of frosting created a gradient from yellow to purple, arranged in a heart shape. Written inside the heart? “Irresistible Cupcakes” and “Charming Valentines.” Oh Martha, you really know how to push my buttons. The magazine was promptly purchased and lovingly leafed through on multiple subway rides and in my economics class. On Tuesday, after having been hit with a sudden blast of Valentine’s Day spirit at work, I commissioned Anil, my sous chef imported from Paris, to help me bake my first of what I’m sure will be many Valentine’s day goodies. Many ideas were tossed into the air: classic red velvet? dark chocolate? marzipan starfish?! (I kid, I kid.) In the end we chose Martha. More specifically, we chose strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream frosting. The result? Bliss.

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The Cake:

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4cups sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 cups finely cut strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and blend. Blend in the milk and vanilla and then slowly incorporate dry ingredients. Stir chopped strawberries into the batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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The Frosting:

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, pureed

Place egg whites and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160F on a candy thermometer. (**Earth to Martha…nobody actually has a candy thermometer**) Remove from heat and whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to high and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add strawberry puree with mixer on low and beat until smooth. (**The icing was a little thin for our liking so we refrigerated it for a bit**)

-Amanda

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Perfecting Poaching

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Despite  sleeping in on Saturday we woke up in classic grumpy morning moods. Amanda complained that she was hungry and Christina whined that there were no good brunches within walking distance. We dismissed the idea of bagels, our sweet tooths were apparently still asleep so pancakes weren’t an option, and cereal just screams weekday.

Poaching eggs is tricky. And that’s an understatement. After experimenting a bit, we soon figured out the perfect temperature, the perfect water-swirling technique and Christina became an expert at helping the egg stay compact. While we poached and re-poached, diced fingerling potatoes and white onions sizzled in a bit of olive oil in a frying pan. The toaster rang just in time and we happily topped off a whole wheat english muffin with perfectly poached eggs. Add that to fresh raspberries and blackberries and a heaping spoonful of breakfast potatoes andwe think we have our new Sunday standard.

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Being second semester seniors has changed our whole attitude on Sundays.  As underclassmen, it was a day of stress and worry about the upcoming work week, and now it is a day to cherish (Madonna style) all that we love about our lives.  While searching for winter gala garb in union square, our tummies growled for some foodand we scouted out a Garden of Eden for a quick snack.  Perusing the aisles, we stumbled upon a little memory of Paris–precooked crepes.  We giggled in excitement over these crepes and bought a pack for dessert, and picked up a few things to munch on as we continued our quest.

After a few more stops we gave up on our quest for winter gala-appropriate attire and decided to head home, exhausted but smiling. On our way across town we stumbled upon the same little Belgian restaurant that we had discovered on an almost identical so-called “Great Day” last semester. As fate would have it, Amanda spotted Kriek (a beloved beer that she had been introduced to on a trip to Belgium) sitting in the window and we obviously had no choice but to order one to split. Sipping on Kriek while sitting at the bar, we plotted our dinner for the night and began a shopping list. After our final sips of the bright red, candy-like beer we fought urges to hail a cab and instead boarded the uptown 1 train. Armed with our grocery list, we quickly stopped at West Side, picked up a bottle of wine and got cooking. The menu? red wine, fresh bread with fresher chevre and roasted winter vegetables followed by nutella and banana crepes.

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The following picture really just doesn’t do our roasted winter vegetables justice. But trust us, they’re amazing. This time we went with baby potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and zucchini. We mix it up all the time because they’re so easy to make (drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for 30-45 minutes!) and we’ll be sure to snap a more flattering photo next time.

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Oats

If my life were Top Chef and I was involved in last week’s Quickfire challenge involving Oats I totally would have won immunity. Stefan’s Banana Oatmeal Mousse with Almond Crisp and Oat-Almond Petit Four has nothing on my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Or my granola, for that matter. What started out as a cookie experimentation in my cupcake-dominated life has quickly turned into one of my trademark sweets. There is always a multitude of Quaker Oats in cuddlegan due to my and Nina’s obsession with their grainy goodness so I’m whipping up batches of cookies on a pretty regular basis. In fact, I’m chomping on one right now.

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1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and sugars then blend in the eggs, milk and vanilla. You’re supposed to mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl then slowly add it to the wet mixture but I don’t do this…I just throw everything but the oats and chips in the same bowl and blend away. I usually have to incorporate the oats and the chips into the mixture by hand because it gets so thick. I then use an icecream scoop to form the dough into balls and then space them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Wait a bit for the cookies to cool before removing them from the pan…or eat the cookies right from the pan being careful not to burn your tongue.

Now I have a few secrets to making my cookies top-notch that I probably shouldn’t share. But! I’ll give you one: I use 1 cup of “Old Fashion” oats and 1 1/2 cups of “Instant.” I like the juxtaposition of the bigger heartier oats with the smaller…use all big and your cookie doesn’t seem unified, use all small and the oats are almost lost! And another half-secret is that I like to do the same with chocolate chips.

And, since this post is oat-themed. I’ll take you through my granola as well. My mom and I made granola for the first time this summer and it was so good and so simple that I make it all the time. It’s yummy by itself or paired with yogurt or milk (or ice cream!)…put it in a container, tie it with a bow and you have yourself a nice little home-made thank you gift for old bosses!

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2 cups oats
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine the oats, almonds and coconut in a large bowl. Heat oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and toss with the dry ingredients. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes at 325F, stirring every ten minutes.

That’s the basic recipe. You can also add 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds to the oats and/or dried cranberries or other dried fruit after the baking.

-Amanda

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