Category Archives: mastering the art of

mushroom ravioli & recipe fails

Just when I start to think that someday I’ll be a good enough cook to be a personal chef in LA, I have a huge recipe failure and I’m swiftly brought back to my Minneapolis (and winter) reality.


Take the sun-dried tomato & mushroom alfredo I made recently. It wasn’t horrible, but it made me want to add mushroom ravioli to the menu the next week just so I could redeem myself. I thought I was being creative and heath conscious as well as finally getting around to using the Hoosier Mushrooms from Lori and the Buitoni Ravioli I received as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. It was all going perfect in my mind – a nutritionist-ed alfredo sauce made with ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms over mushroom ravioli…

But when I tasted the sauce it needed something. So we added some 1/2 & 1/2, a few more spices and it tasted ok. I should have just given up then. Nixing the whole sauce idea all together would have been a good decision. But it was a decision I didn’t make and so mushroom ravioli with sun-dried tomato & mushroom alfredo it was.

When I tried the ravioli plain, I realized that it didn’t need ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes or more mushrooms. It would have been perfect with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh parmesan cheese.

So I picked up some more Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, this time knowing it needed nothing but a sprinkling of cheese. And it was delicious with just that.

Sigh. I guess part of being a good cook is knowing when to leave good things alone – something I’ll be working on.



Filed under cheese, eating experiment, mastering the art of, pasta, product review, Recipes, Uncategorized

coconut peanut sauce with crispy tofu

I know, I know, you are probably thinking really? another peanut sauce?  But this particular sauce was inspired by a curry peanut dish from Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in the Twin Cities. I loved the steamed spinach that was served with it – and I’d much rather fill up on spinach than rice!

Made spicy by sriracha, the various flavors of ginger, soy and green onion in this sauce went so well together – I will be making this sauce again -and following the directions so I can get it exactly the same!

Coconu-Peanut Sauce

  • 1 can lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1- 5″ long piece of ginger, minced

Add all ingredients to small sauce pan and simmer for at least 20 minutes. (If you simmer longer it will just get thicker and thicker)

Crispy Tofu:

  • 1 package extra-firm Organic tofu
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp agave
  • garlic spray
  • red pepper, herbamare, salt & pepper

Cut tofu in half lengthwise. Press under heavy plate so excess water is squeezed out – takes about 20 minutes.

Mix all ingredients in small bowl and toss with tofu. Bake on metal pan at 400° (sprayed with cooking spray) for about 30 minutes or until tofu is crispy.

Serve tofu and coconut peanut sauce over steamed spinach and brown rice. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

Do you have a dish that you make over and over but slightly change it each time?


Filed under gluten-free, great meals, mastering the art of, Recipes, sriracha, vegan, vegetables, whole foods, whole grains

stir, stir, stir: mushroom & thyme risotto


I made risotto for the first time about a year ago. I decided it was a dish I wanted to master and after a few tries I think that I can make a pretty mean risotto. (That of course is my own opinion though 😉 )

I decided to go with a mushroom and thyme flavor combo – it felt very “fall” to me and I thought it would pair well with some simple chicken.



Warm 2 cups chicken broth and 1-2 cups water in sauce pan. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large pan. Once hot add 1 small white onion, chopped. Saute until translucent. Add one cup arborio rice and stir until toasty. Pour in 1/2 – 3/4 cup white wine and stir until bubbly. Don’t get sick of the stirring yet, I swear it isn’t bad!


ready for more liquid

When you stir and the liquid does not rush back into the middle (above) you are ready for more liquid. (This is the case with the rest of the process) Add 2 ladels of broth mixture (needs to be hot) stir a few times and let heat. You don’t need to stir the entire time either. I usually give it a few stirs, then let it go for a bit. A perfect time to go chop some mushrooms and thyme. When it is ready for more liquid, add a few more ladels, tasting along the way to check on the rice.

I sauteed the mushrooms separately – 1 8 oz package of baby bellas – and set aside when finished.


stir and heat

Once the rice is done cooking it should be very creamy. Now is the time to fold in the sauteed mushrooms, 2 Tbsp chopped thyme and 1/2 cup grated parmesan. (I used the leftover pecorino pepato leftover from my sizzled sage pasta)

While I was stirring, the taster cooked some chicken thighs. Why thighs? My girl Rach had some going and I thought I would try. He simply cooked in some olive oil with salt and pepper. It tasted so good. I’m not a huge chicken person but these are from Whole Foods and (taster, are you listening??) I think the great flavor has something to do with the fact that it is not pumped with antibiotics, not fed crazy things and is raised in a humane way.

Expect to see more risotto this winter – I heart it lots.


Note: the first time I made risotto I used brown rice. It did not even remotely work. If anyone has done it using brown rice I would love to hear how!


Filed under cheese, great meals, mastering the art of, Recipes, Uncategorized, vegetables

mac & cheese


Macaroni & Cheese was obviously a childhood favorite of mine. (Is there anyone who didn’t love the mac??) But growing up we didn’t have Kraft, we usually had Annie’s mac & cheese – Shells & White Cheddar. Kudos to you Mom! 🙂  I rarely make the cheesy goodness anymore, but once in a while I will pick up some Annie’s for old times sake.

What to do with a drawer-full of cheese and two new baking ramekins?? (ok, I lie, I actually bought the ramekins so that I could make the mac & cheese) The old favorite was calling my name and I wanted to make it from scratch. It went pretty well but the possibilities are endless with this and I can’t wait to try some exciting, more flavorful cheeses and toppings like carmelized shallots, crab meat, crispy sage, …..hmmmmmm.


I totally didn’t know if this was going to turn out or not and my only complaint is that it wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked. Now I know and next time I will use some sharper cheeses. Problem solved. Other than that it was perfectly creamy without powdered cheese!


Cook pasta until al dente. Do not overcook. Save some of the cooking liquid, I left about 1/2 cup in the pan. (I used about 1 cup of brown rice pasta)

I made a quick roux with about 2 T of butter melted in a hot pan and added a spoonful (about 1 T) of flour. Mix together over heat until smooth. Pour in 1/8 cup 1/2 & 1/2 and 1/3 cup skim milk, dash of hot sauce and salt & pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded italian cheese blend and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella.

Pour cheese mixture into pasta and reserved cooking liquid and when all pasta is covered pour into ramekins. I sprinkled some whole grain panko bread crumbs and some fresh parmesan cheese to form a crust when broiled. Broil until top is toasty . I happened to have some chives on-hand and I loved what they added to the dish.


You can bet I will be making some more versions of mac & cheese in the near future. I have noticed that I’m starting to crave more pasta, soups and warm food this fall. I love pasta but can go weeks without it in the summer but once the chill in the air starts? I’m all over it as seen here and here.


Filed under cheese, great meals, mastering the art of, pasta, Recipes, whole grains

Andrew Zimmern’s Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops are something that I’ve wanted to master for quite some time now, the taster is pretty good at getting the perfect crust but it was my turn to try!

I came across a recipe from Andrew Zimmern, who if any of you don’t know is host of the show Bizarre Foods and also happens to live here in the Twin Cities.

These scallops were anything but bizarre. In fact, they turned out great. I was hoping for a “crisper, more seared” crust, but I didn’t want to over-cook them so I settled :/ The sauce was a white wine, caper, shallot, butter and pan scrapings. I loved it over the scallops. Here is the recipe if you are interested. I guess I will just have to try again to perfect this recipe 😉


PS. I made some focaccia to go along with this meal but it did NOT turn out and so I’m waiting until I can get that one right to share it with you!

the brick :(

the brick 😦


Filed under mastering the art of, Recipes, scallops, seafood, vegetables

mastering the art of: eggs

I love it when Sunday mornings start like this – some yoga already under my belt, coffee with a quiet city and some sunshine!

This particular Sunday I decided to make some eggs. Not any eggs, the way eggs are meant to be…
I love eggs – pretty much any way they come, I’ll take ’em! (I do draw the line at Organic and Cage-Free though!) But I had yet to really master the preparation – real preparation. You know, Half & Half, butter, etc? I usually just pan-fry or poach and don’t get me wrong I love my eggs these ways too but I always like to try new things! I had caught Ina on the Food Network making some eggs so this is what I’m basing it off of. Hey, it could be worse, my Grandmother Leola used to fry eggs in the bacon grease! 🙂

I turned the burner between 2-3 and then put a pat of butter to melt in the pan (no Pam in these eggs!) I then poured the eggs (2 beat with 1 Tbsp Half & Half) into the pan and slowly, slowly stirred.

Then when they are just about done, add another pat of butter to “stop the cooking” as Ina said…or “make them taste even better?!?!” Whatever the reason, it worked for me. These were honestly the best eggs I have ever had! So creamy (obviously) and I couldn’t get a great picture, but I had to give up – I wasn’t about to sacrifice these eggs for the sake of a picture!
This was definitely a very rich breakfast (I also added some bacon into the mix) and I certainly wouldn’t have it on a daily basis but when I added the calories of the eggs and bacon the calorie count was about 500. Not bad for a totally indulgent, satisfying, special breakfast.


Filed under coffee, eggs, great meals, mastering the art of, Recipes