Savory Maple and Sweet Potato Risotto

We love real maple syrup to such a degree that we have never allowed the fake stuff into our home, and when venturing out to a restaurant for breakfast, Amy will bring a small container of her cousins' syrup with her. Yes, it's that important. We even used it in a brownie recipe once. So why not in a savory one-pot dinner dish?

We repurposed an old risotto recipe of ours to make it easier. So easy, in fact, that it can be make in one pot. And this recipe, now, has it all: deliciously creamy rice, slightly caramelized chunks of sweet potato, soft onions, an herby savoriness that comes from fresh rosemary, and a delightful hint of sweetness from - you guessed it! - real maple syrup.

As for using maple syrup in a risotto dish? That's just our way to...

We, and the neighbors we shared it with, loved this dish so much we thought we needed to enter it into Pure Canada Maple's "Think Outside the Griddle" contest.

The recipe, as always, is below. Like we said, it's a one-pot wonder, and here's the best thing - it makes lots of risotto. And we have a great idea for the leftovers - make arancini the next day! To do that, just take the chilled leftover risotto, form it into small balls, roll the balls in Italian breadcrumbs and fry in a skillet filled about 1/4-inch of the way up with vegetable oil. Serve with a nice green salad to make another meal!

Savory Maple and Sweet Potato Risotto


4 cups vegetable broth 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (about 1 large) peeled, diced sweet potato
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 cup real maple syrup

Place the vegetable broth into a saucepan and place over medium-low heat to become warm. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced sweet potato and a pinch of salt and cook until sweet potato starts to brown. Add onions and continue to cook until the onions become translucent. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Pour in the rice and continue to cook, stirring, until rice starts to toast. Add the warm vegetable broth to the rice one ladle at a time, stirring constantly, and waiting until all the broth is absorbed by the rice before adding more. This could take up to one-half hour. When the broth is gone and the rice is done (not too firm, not too mushy), stir in the chopped rosemary and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, then add the maple syrup, stirring gently so that everything is well combined, then serve and enjoy!


Slightly Smoky Ham and Bean Soup

We attended an Oktoberfest celebration thrown by friends C and L, and indulged in some hearty beer, homemade soft pretzels, spiraled ham, grilled brats and other sausages, and fabulous fall desserts (among other things). And then, C and L were generous enough to let us take home the ham bone along with some of the leftover meat. Chris had his eye on that bone all night, so he was delighted, and started trawling the web for soup recipes the very next morning. He finally chose the recipe for "Northwoods Smoked Ham and Bean Soup by Crock-Pot" from ICookbook, an app on his IPad, and as usual, we fiddled with it, adjusted it, and in an effort to avoid errands, did what we could with what we had. 

This recipe has a lot of wonderful qualities. The best part is that this is a slow cooker recipe. That almost all of the work is done for you by that magical little machine, while you are at work, or wherever it is you go during the day. Which is made even more wonderful by the aroma that greets you when you come back from wherever you were. Plus the fact that you are probably tired from wherever you had been, and now dinner is already done. Oh, the fabulousness! 

The ham was sweet, and we wanted a little smoky flavor, so we added a couple of dashes of liquid smoke. We decided against adding pasta, because we felt it was hearty and chunky enough with the beans, and neither of us need the extra carbs right now. It's definitely our kind of soup, similar to, but different enough from our Tuscan Sausage Soup or our White Bean and Leftover-Easter-Ham Soup.

Slightly Smoky Ham and Bean Soup


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 cups chicken stock (we ran out at 5 cups, so used 1 cup water)
1 leftover ham bone (from a large spiraled ham, with meat scraps still on it)
2 cups cubed cooked ham
28 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon dried parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
5 dashes liquid smoke 
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 15-ounce can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can small white beans, drained and rinsed

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Place onion and garlic mixture, stock, ham bone, ham, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, liquid smoke, salt and pepper in slow cooker. Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Stir in beans, and cook for about 15 additional minutes, or until heated through.


Food Porn and a Favor

The Food Porn: Have you heard the term "food porn"? People like us, foodies with food blogs, might use that term to describe our food photography. And we're not the only ones. TouchVision is an internet news channel that streams a variety of "NewsMovies" on pop culture items, current affairs, weather, and various and sundry other topics including food. And they wanted one of our photos for their "Food Porn: Burgers of the East" segment. Woo hoo! One caveat: all of these burger photos will make you drool, so don't watch if you're hungry. Ours is the fourth one - the Fried Cheeseburger from Shady Glen in Manchester, CT, which is right down the road from us (fortunately or unfortunately, we're not entirely sure). 

The Favor: If we can ask again so soon after last week, two of our recipes are in the running in the "My Fresh Twist" recipe contest over at Fisher Nuts. If you are willing, and have a moment, check out our recipes and vote for one, or both, of them. You get 5 votes per day from October 23 until November 5. The links are below. Many thanks!

Rosemary Almond Butter Toffee
Rosemary Almond Butter Toffee

Sweet Potato Risotto with Glazed Walnuts
Sweet Potato Risotto with Glazed Walnuts


Skillet Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

"Whole roaster chickens, buy one get one free? Seems like a decent deal. Let's do it." Later, at home: "Now...where are we going to put these?"

This was the conversation we had on Saturday, when we decided take advantage of our local grocery's chicken offer, then freeze one and make the other one for Sunday dinner the next day. It just so happened that Sunday morning, while sipping coffee and reading rag-mags in her pjs, Amy saw what looked to be a great recipe for "Skillet Chicken" by Jessica Seinfeld.

Chris butchered the chicken while Amy sliced the onions and potatoes and cut a couple of sprigs of rosemary out of the garden. In less than an hour, we had crispy-skinned chicken over a bed of melted onions and soft, herby potatoes. What a cozy, one-pot wonder, just begging to be made in that cast-iron skillet.

Skillet Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
slightly adapted from Jessica Seinfeld's recipe out of People Magazine

1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
8 new potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sprigs (about 2 tablespoons) fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 roaster chicken, butchered (we saved the breasts for another meal)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion salt
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons ground coriander

Preheat oven to 425. Scatter onions over the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet. Add water. Lay the potatoes over the onions. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary leaves over the potatoes, then season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken pieces over the pototoes, skin side up. Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt, onion salt, Italian seasoning and ground coriander. Roast until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 1 hour.


Winner, Winner, Lemongrass Dinner!

As we mentioned earlier, thanks to many of you, we managed to win the Whole Foods Market's "Your Best Recipe with Lemongrass" Contest with our Curried Mussels with Lemongrass recipe. As part of our "bragging rights," they did a little Q and A with us, including photos. Check it out if you get a chance!

Soft and Chewy Gingersnaps for Secret Recipe Club

It's been a perfect fall weekend - bright and sunny with a slight crispness in the air and leaves falling everywhere. And to top it all off, it's Secret Recipe Club Reveal Day! The blog we were assigned for October was Mommy's Menu, written by Toni, a stay-at-home-mom who has a fantastic recipe index filled with all sorts of delicious delights.

Some of Toni's recipes that sounded particularly good for this weekend included Caramel Apple Marshmallow Dip, Super Duper Hot Chocolate, Smokey Chipotle Chili, and Homemade Pumpkin Puree. But even though we always claim that we are not really into making desserts, it seems that something about the Secret Recipe Club brings out the bakers in us. For some of this year's SRC's, we've made Brownies with a Twist, Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down CakeMeyer Lemon Bars, and Golden Cinnamon Buns, for example. This month, Toni's Soft and Chewy Gingersnaps sounded so easy and so yummy and so perfect for this time of year, we just went for it.

And they were both easy (done in about 1/2 hour, including baking time), and yummy (we got 42 cookies out of them and we each ate 4 or 5 straight out of the oven), and perfect for this time of year (our house smells amazing). We love Toni's suggestion of crumbling them over ice cream topped with caramel sauce. Doesn't that sound fabulous? 

Soft and Chewy Gingersnaps
recipe from Mommy's Menu

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup granulated sugar 

Preheat oven to 375. Cream together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar and egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix together until well combined. Form into small balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place (staggered, as they will spread) onto a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

UPDATE: Click here to see what was done with one of our recipes!


Thank You!

A Couple in the Kitchen had a couple of successes this week, and we wanted to express our gratitude. First, our dessert photos from CT Restaurant Week at Market Grille in Manchester, CT won the CT Restaurant Association Photo Contest. Then, thanks to our readers, family, and friends, our recipe for Curried Mussels with Lemongrass won Whole Foods Market's "Your Best Recipe with Lemongrass" contest, and they will be featuring a   Q and A with us starting Monday morning, so check it out if you get a chance. We have to say that we love the photo they took of our recipe. So, thanks to everyone who voted, all of our readers, CT Restaurant Association, and Whole Foods. You made our week!


CT Restaurant Week 2013: Market Grille

Are you aware that it's Connecticut Restaurant Week 2013? You must not be if you live in Connecticut and you are at home reading this! Yes, there are over 100 restaurants throughout the state participating in this awesome promotion. Most restaurants are offering 3-course meals (some lunch, some dinner) for the steal-of-a-deal price of $20.13 (some charge a little more). Yes, you are reading that correctly. If you click on the link above, you can see a list of participating restaurants with links to their special menus, and they will make you drool! So get out there, enjoy a girls' night or a date night, or heck, treat yourself to an amazing experience and support Connecticut's restaurant businesses! 

The two of us had a nice date night at Market Grille in Manchester. The philosophy behind this restaurant is all-American, from the creative cuisine to the extensive beer, wine and spirit offerings. The location is perfect for this time of year, too, as the restaurant sits atop Buckland Hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding woods (foliage!) with the Hartford skyline (and sunset!) in the distance. So romantic! It's still warm, so take advantage of their outside seating area, which is heated for those upcoming chillier nights.

Chris enjoyed the beautiful heirloom beet salad, slow-roasted pork osso bucco that was served with a roasted tomato and zucchini risotto, and a slice of pecan pie. Amy loved her cheesy baked penne appetizer that she followed up with the grilled hangar steak with sides of roasted carrots and a delicious root vegetable puree (although to have both seemed a little redundant), and a chocolate peanut butter sundae made with Manchester's own Shady Glen ice cream. An added bonus? They had a small selection of wines available at a special $25 per bottle!

We're hoping our exuberance and photos will encourage you to head there or to your favorite CT spot. Restaurant Week ends Sunday, so get out there and enjoy!


Cooking Club: Glazed Chicken with Apple Salad

Amy writes:

The first meeting of my school's cooking club was today, and the student-chefs-in-charge this year are focusing on 30-minute recipes. Today's recipe was one from Pampered Chef, and can be found in various places online, including here. Our market did not have watercress, so teacher-chef-in-charge (Dave) substituted escarole, the bitterness of which balanced nicely with the sweet salad dressing. Speaking of dressing, who would have thought to use jelly in salad dressing? Certainly not I. 

The results: Did we make it in 30 minutes? Yes, in fact, just under. Then we enjoyed it, sharing some future serving suggestions, such as adding walnuts or Craisins. But all of us thought it was an easy, tasty, healthy meal and we'd all make it again. Success!


Burrata, Prosciutto and Tomato Chutney in Carrozza

We are cheese people. We can easily by-pass a candy store in favor of a cheese shop, especially a really good cheese shop. Italian delis are some of our favorite places to buy cheese, but we are trying to branch out beyond our usual mozzarellas, parmigianos, and provolones to ripe, stinky French cheeses, strange-sounding Swiss cheeses, and best of all, any of their counterparts, locally made.

On a weekend jaunt to the up-and-coming village of Brattleboro, Vermont, our cheese cravings were satiated by the fantastic selection offered by the welcoming and knowledgeable staff of the Brattleboro Cheese Shop and Cafe. The shop was busy and the cheesemonger did her best to meet everyone's needs while she made suggestions, wrapped purchases and created gorgeous cheese plates for sharing. We bought a beautiful fresh burrata made an hour away from the shop, plus some house-made tomato chutney to pair it with. Both of us had visions of the gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches we would make when we arrived back home.

We grabbed a rustic loaf from nearby Brattleboro bakery Amy's Bakery Arts Cafe, and when we got home, we laid our our purchases. The burrata was soft and pillowy, filled with curds, and reminding us of a delicately poached egg. We broke it open and used some of the soft curds and the outer, more-mozzarella-like layer  to make a fancied-up version of mozzarella in carrozza*.  It was fabulous. The tomato chutney had a deep, dark, slightly sweet richness about it that contrasted beautifully with the creamy burrata. The addition of prosciutto contributed a chewy texture and smoky flavor. Deep frying it to an eggy golden brown? Well, that's just good lovin'.

The next day, via email, we received a perfectly timed invitation to the Connecticut Cheese Festival to be held at the Coventry Regional Farmers Market on Sunday October 13th from 11 to 2. Tastings! Pairings! Classes! Food trucks! Even a cheese-wheel-rolling contest! We can't wait to see how our state's offerings compare to Vermont's. For more information about the festival, read the press release here. Hope to see you there!

*Note: "in carrozza" is Italian for "in a carriage" - the golden-fried bread being the vehicle for the delicious fillings. No chutney? Use your favorite preserves!

Burrata, Prosciutto and Tomato Chutney "in Carrozza"

Ingredients (per sandwich):

2 slices rustic bread
1 tablespoon tomato chutney
1/4 large burrata
2 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying

Fill large skillet or frying pan 1/4 inch high with oil and heat. Spread one slice of bread with chutney or preserves and cover with folded prosciutto. Break open the burrata and spread some of the curds onto the sandwich; add some of the mozzarella as well. Assemble into a sandwich. Dip each side of sandwich first in flour, then in the egg. Fry in hot oil on both sides, until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.


Onyx Moonshine Apple Cake

The other day, Amy's co-worker, also named Amy, brought it the most deliciously moist and tasty apple cake. Joanne (another self-professed foodie) pronounced it better than her mom's. (We're kind of hoping Mrs. K doesn't read our blog. If she does...sorry!) But anyway, yes, it was that good. Good enough for us to beg for the recipe, which Amy D. gave us tout de suite (she's a French teacher, so we owed her that)!

As luck would have it, our friends at Onyx had a tasting at the Coventry Farmers Market the other day, where they were sampling a delightful concoction of apples, cinnamon and brown sugar mixed with Onyx moonshine and apple cider. Then they offered us the leftover apples. Yeah...the boozy leftover apples. "Certainly the two of you could do make something with these!?!" they said. Hollah.

Yes, amidst this amazing planetary alignment (okay, maybe not that important) - we had the apples and the recipe, and as far as we were concerned, "Thunderbirds are go!" It was moonshine-apple-cake-baking-time!

We made Amy D's apple cake with those boozy apples and included the recipe below. Feel free to make it with plain old apples, if you must. But it won't be quite as good, just so you know. (wink wink)

Onyx Moonshine Apple Cake

Cake Ingredients:
5 medium apples, peeled and diced (feel free to soak them in Onyx Moonshine for a day or so, if you dare)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to coat apples. Place in a 9X13 pan that has been greased with butter or sprayed with cooking spray. In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients and pat over top before placing in oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bubbly. If desired, dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.