Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Risotto

I like chicken parm. What’s not to like? Crunchy, cheesy, saucy goodness.

As much as I like chicken parm, my husband LOVES it. He loves basically anything that is served over pasta. So my idea to serve it over a pillow of risotto really rocked his world. After a long day of work, though, I think he was just happy to see dinner.

Risotto sounds fancy, and thus complicated. I’ve made it a few times, and the first time was definitely a bit scary. The most important thing with risotto is to stir continuously while the rice is absorbing the broth. I once tried to do risotto while doing other things… it did not end well. I suggest cooking the chicken first, then setting it aside while you finish the risotto.

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I prepped the chicken, set out my dredging equipment and got everything for the risotto ready first.

Dredging the chicken is probably the worst part of this whole procedure. Any recipes that require dredging, boo… It makes such a big mess. But it tastes so good.

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Look at that beautiful crust.

Then I moved on to the risotto, spoon, broth and measuring cup at the ready. IMG_0451.JPG

Keeping everything in arm’s reach made this SO much easier.

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I stopped stirring just long enough to take this picture!

Once all the broth is absorbed, you’re done. The rice should be a bit al dente, with just a little bite. So rich, so yummy. At this point, I broiled the chicken until the mozzarella was melted and then combined everything. And topped with more mozzarella. And parmesan. Because of course.

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Magnificent.

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Christmas Gun Cookies

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I can’t believe it has already come and gone. I realized about two weeks beforehand that not only had I not done any shopping, I didn’t even have any ideas for anyone on my list.

 

Of the 12 shopping days left, we drove to Pittsburgh for four days to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday, spent two days travelling for work, and did half marathon training runs four days after work. Leaving two days to get it all done.

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But I did get the chance to make these beauties for the party… recipes to come.

Gifts were, by some miracle, brainstormed, found, purchased and wrapped just in time. Some of my family  came to visit for the holiday weekend, so my day off on Friday was spent cleaning the entire house. Saturday was a relaxing morning with family, successful escape from an escape room challenge (with 10 minutes to spare!), lunch, Christmas Eve mass, then took one of our cats to the emergency room. Where he spent Christmas Eve and Day in the ICU. And I only wish I was kidding.

(He’s okay so far… diagnosed with asthma and currently extremely congested, but home and relaxing comfortably.)

After all of that, I did not successfully have cookies ready in time for Christmas. So I enlisted my Mom and sister to help bake them all on Christmas morning.

I did manage to find time to prep the dough before Christmas morning, which was fortunate. I don’t know why these cookies are called “gun” cookies. Technically, they are spritz cookies. Some cookie presses kinda sorta resemble guns, I suppose. When we started making them as kids, my Mom’s cookie press was the traditional hand-crank type, which looked absolutely nothing like a gun. But, the name stuck one way or another.

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Yep, that’s what two pounds of butter looks like.

I do these cookies a bit more low-tech than other desserts. Hand mixer to combine the wet ingredients, then a pastry blender to work in the flour.

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Just make sure butter, sugar, eggs and extract are WELL combined before adding flour.

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One of the tines on my pastry blender snapped off about two minutes after this photo was taken.

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Nine cups of flour later…

Making the dough is only half the battle for these cookies. Next up, press time.

My Mom’s old hand-crank press was TOUGH to operate. Then we upgrade to a newer style press. It had replaced the hand-crank with a trigger. Which was just as difficult to operate. I eventually got a hand-me-down battery powered press, which works a bit better, as long as the dough isn’t too cold.

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Of course we went with Christmas tree shapes.

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Just add sugar!

These are some of my favorite cookies, but they are a lot of work. I usually only make them twice a year – Christmas and when we go to the beach (because that’s normal, right?). Fortunately, the recipe does make between 12-15 dozen cookies. So lots of work, lots of reward!

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These taste like Christmas.

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Bacon-Wrapped Salmon (for breakfast!)

I’m clearly in a bacon rut. I would say it was becoming a problem if it wasn’t so freaking delicious.

I’ve also been in a brinner rut. Wherein I eat primarily eggs and toast every day. If only I could come up with a clever name for it, I could call it a diet, sell a book and retire (the working-from-home-but-too-busy-to-make-anything-but-eggs-and-toast-diet?).

Given the two ruts, it should not come as a surprise that I made salmon, wrapped it in bacon and topped it with a fried egg for dinner a few nights ago. In my defense, it was a more interesting meal than yet another night of Thanksgiving leftovers.

I started out wanting to make salmon.

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So I got some salmon and started to sear it.

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Then I decided to wrap it in bacon.

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And then finish cooking these gorgeous meats in the oven.

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And then top the whole thing with a fried egg.

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I guess I’ve had worse ideas, right?

When I first made this, I served it over a toasted English muffin (as pictured). My husband informed me that this was not enough food. So the next time I made it (I told you, a rut!), I made some tasty parmesan grits and served the salmon over the grits. I highly recommend this, just didn’t get any pictures!

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Boozy Cranberry Cream-Stuffed Angel Food Cake

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, etc., etc. Been a while.

After a few weeks of work travel (and play travel) and general holiday business, I finally got back to the blog. And then my computer died. Blue screen of death after blue screen of death. Many frustrating days of troubleshooting later, I’m on my husbands computer. At least until I can figure out a different repair/replace situation for my poor little laptop.

SO. What have we missed?

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Check.

Friends trip:

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Yep, that’s a gourmet cappuccino popsicle dipped in an oatmeal stout.

Our first doggie daycare overnight, followed quickly by our first bath:

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Little drowned rat.

And Christmas decorating, of course!

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Now I just have to do all that shopping…

Lots going on! But lets rewind quickly to Thanksgiving. I hosted this year, my second year in a row and second time ever hosting. With the kitchen remodel and one year of T-day cooking under my belt, I felt a lot more confident going into this year.

Day-of, I made the entire dinner, turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, risotto, green beans, salad and rolls. My mother-in-law, fortunately, offered to make the stuffing (which I find abhorrent).

Day before, however, I made dessert. No pies this year, though I’m not morally opposed to pie (just not a big fan of pies of the pumpkin variety). It just seemed like a great occasion to make a really involved cake. I had the full day off work and had already done the Thanksgiving shopping, cleaning and decorating. So it was a cake day. (It actually took about 5 hours from start to finish, so I still had time during the day for other prep if I had wanted it.)

Cakes, particularly layer cakes covered in buttercream icing, are SO sweet. I decided to cut the sweetness by stuffing the cake with a cranberry compote and marscarpone cream. Cranberries are quite tart on their own, so by adding just a bit of sugar (and booze!) they helped cut the sweetness of the cake.

The cake itself was an angel food cake, one of my favorites. So light. So fluffy. So fun to make. So important to prep your pans first.

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Line those bad boys with parchment paper.

Next, separate your eggs. You can preserve your yolks, if you like, for another recipe. I just tossed this time, didn’t have any other dozen-yolk recipes on deck (stay tuned for a Christmas cookies post…).

I cracked the eggs into the bowl of my stand mixer and then let them sit there and warm up to room temperature. This is important. Cold eggs will not whip up as nicely as room temperature eggs.

While the eggs are warming, prepare the dry ingredients by sifting the flour and powdered sugar together into a bowl and set aside.

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Once the eggs have warmed up, add the cream of tartar and salt and whip using the whisk attachment on medium or medium-high speed. I started at speed six and went up to eight as I went on. When the eggs start to get foamy, add the sugar (granulated) in 2-3 batches.

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Foamy, sugary, almost done!

Continue beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form. Not sure what a stiff peak looks like? Check it out:

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Is that a well-whipped egg, or are you just happy to see me?

Now. Adding a cup or so at a time, g-e-n-t-l-y fold in the flour/powdered sugar mixture. I actually re-sift my mixture into the batter for extra smoothness. Once all of the flour/sugar is incorporated, stop mixing! And divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans.

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Bake these lovelies in your preheated oven for about 45 minutes. The tops should be light brown and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Meanwhile…. while the cakes are baking, prepare the fillings and then the icing.

The cranberry filling is easy to make: put all ingredients in a saucepan and boil. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Then let it all cool. No problem.

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I used rye whiskey. I’m not a big whiskey drinker, and this is what the hubs had on hand. I haven’t tested it, but I’d imagine lots of other whiskeys would also taste delicious in this recipe.

Now, for the cream. I added gelatin to help thicken the cream, and I liked the texture of it. The cream is similar to the cranberries. Add ingredients to mixer, mix until everything is well combined. Easy-peasy.

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At this point, I loaded the cream into a ziploc bag (my current version of a pastry bag), and set it aside. And then cleaned the bowl. Again.

At long last, I made the icing. It gave me some trouble, so I don’t have many pictures of it. The icing, much like the fillings, is essentially simple to make: mix butter, extracts, milk and powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency.

I, however, forgot that I was making icing for a delicate little cake, and made it WAY too thick the first time around. I adjusted the ingredients in this post, so it should work. But it’s best to start slow – add a bit of milk and powdered sugar to start and then thicken/thin from there.

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The one thing I DID get right with the icing is the towel-over-mixer trick, which helps prevent your kitchen from being coated in powdered sugar. Patent pending. (If only!)

Now. At this point, your cakes should be done. And probably cooled. So you should be ready to assemble. Not traditionally my favorite part, but I’m getting better.

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Run a knife along the edge of the pan before you flip it – and it should pop right out. Slice each cake in half (each pan = two layers).

Pipe the marscarpone cream mixture around the outside of each layer and then fill with the cranberry mixture (and more cream, yum!). As you stack the cakes, trim off any weird edges. This will help you end up with a nice, cylindrical, straight cake. That doesn’t fall over or look like it’s been hobbled.

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Once all four layers are layered, apply a thin layer of frosting. Chill the cake for about an hour before frosting completely.

IMG_0416.JPGCrumb coats are my new favorite thing.

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Look at that beauty.

I suggest storing the cake in the fridge, since it’s full of cream on cream and iced with butter and milk. It was tough around Thanksgiving, but we figured out a way to make it work.

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Bring it to room temperature when you’re ready to eat. Then slice and serve!

My Dad’s slice is stored in a sealed container in the freezer until he comes to claim it at Christmas!

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