Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lentil Stew with Swiss Chard & Sausage


Finally a bit of chilly weather here in Michigan!  It is time for stew!

Although for the sake of honesty, I totally made this stew a few weeks ago when it was still 80 degrees outside.  I felt like this colder weather gave me permission to share (60's are 'cold' HA!  Perspective is a funny thing...)!

I just love the ease of throwing a ton of veggies into one pot - soups and stews like this can be so nutritious!  I can only grill, roast and eat raw so many vegetables before I'm ready for still slightly crunchy veggies in a hot bowl of brothy soup!

I found the inspiration for this recipe on Cooking Light called "Lentil Stew with Ham and Greens" and I made it my own.  Adding quite a few more vegetables and making mini sausage meatballs instead of ham.

Are you looking forward to fall yet?



Lentil Stew with Swiss Chard & Sausage

Ingredients:

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 c dried lentils
1/2 c diced carrots
1 small to medium sized sweet potato, cubed
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 c roughly chopped Swiss Chard or spinach
1 medium sized Yukon gold potato, cubed
1 14.5 oz can of San Marzano diced tomatoes
1 medium zucchini, cut into thick crescents
1/2 c button mushrooms, removed tips of stems and quartered
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 pork brats
Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions:

In a large pot, heat your olive oil and add onions and garlic.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  Add broth, lentils, carrots, sweet potatoes and bay leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, partially covered.  Add Swiss chard and yukon gold potato, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, salt and pepper and simmer uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until the zucchini is just starting to look tender.

While you're waiting to add more ingredients to your soup, prepare the pork brat meatballs.  In a frying pan, squeeze the brat sausage out of the casing and loosely form into little meat balls.  Cook on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all sides of the meatballs are crispy and cooked all the way through.  Using tongs pluck meatballs out of grease and set them on a paper towel lined plate.

Once the soup is cooked - be careful not to overcook our you'll end up with mushy, soggy potatoes and zucchini - ladle a few cups into bowls to serve.  Top with a handful of meatballs and fresh chopped basil.

Pair with a Sangiovese wine and plus a few slices of crusty Italian bread and butter to sop up the broth!  You won't want to waste a bite of this stew experience :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting


I love to bake and one of my favorite parts of baking is sharing it with my family and friends.  Not only is it nice to get that burst of self-satisfaction "yay, me!  I'm a good baker!" but Andy and I don't get stuck with the temptation of having to eat it all ourselves.  Not sharing your baked goods is a sure-fire way to your pants fitting tighter.

Although I don't love, love cake, I love baking with zucchini and lemons (obvi).  I came across this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, White on Rice Couple, and decided to make it for the ladies dinner that I hosted last weekend.  It's funny how my invitations get out of hand.  I always invite everyone because I love everyone so much and then I accidentally end up hosting 10+ people.  Whoops :)

This cake is great for ladies dinner because this cake sounds a little more adventurous than a chocolate cake so everyone will want to try some, and it isn't too sweet so everyone can manage to eat their fair share.  Nothing worse than leftover cake.  We are not going to eat it, it's not going to happen.  We'll definitely end up throwing some away and throwing away food makes me way too sad.  (Anyone else have this problem?  I get really upset and ask Andy to do the dirty work, ha!)

So this cake was a success!  I was asked for the recipe a few times and the ladies obliged me and took slices home to their husbands to enjoy, hooray!  I think we ended up with only two slices leftover and my husband was happy about that...

With the abundance of zucchinis at the farmers market right now, I hope you'll scoop up some tender zukes and try your hand at this lovely, unique and not too sweet cake!



^^ My favorite recipes start out like this.  Lemon rind is my jam!


^^ Instead of regular olive oil, I used Fustini's Meyer Lemon olive oil because why not?  It fit.


^^ An array of happy spices!










^^ This recipes calls for two 9" round cake pans.  My obsession with my mini spring form cakes won't let me make just two 9" round cakes.  Minis!  Aren't they cute?



While the cake cools, I prepare the frosting...




Creamy and lemony!


I'll admit this is not the prettiest cake.  In fact, this batch, I didn't grease the pans well enough and things were a bit sticky.  Luckily frosting covers the imperfections up and so does putting the best side forward for pictures.  You do NOT want to see the other side of this cake!  Of course my first cake, the one I served to my guests, was beautiful and perfect, but it was dark outside and I refuse to use anything but naturally lighting because I don't know how to make artificial light look appealing.  So here we are...still delicious!!!




Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Zucchini cake ingredients:

2 c grated zucchini, squeezed of excess water
3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
3/4 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c white sugar
1 c olive oil (I used Meyer Lemon infused)
finely grated zest from 2 medium lemons
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from freshly grated lemons)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Lemon frosting ingredients:

12 oz full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c confectioners sugar (original recipe calls for 2 1/2 c sugar, but I think it is too much)
finely grated zest from 1 medium lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* A few notes on the ingredients for your frosting.  Since this isn't cooked, I went for the good stuff the time I served this to guests.  I made this recipe the second time to photograph and skimped on the good ingredients because I wasn't serving this cake to anyone and it made a world of difference.  Specifically the cream cheese and the butter.  I used Philadelphia brand with 1/3 fat cream cheese the second time and it was terrible, in fact I hate it - use the full fat good cream cheese, not the Kraft brand if you can.  You might be able to get away with using the regular cream cheese if you're not a food snob like me, your call.  You've been warned.  I also splurged on the butter since the butter is a key component of the frosting, I used salted Kerrygold Irish butter.  It is softer and just better than regular butter.  Again I skimped the second time and it wasn't as good.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt.  Set aside.  Beat the eggs and add to your brown sugar, white sugar, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Fold in the flour mixture until no dry flour remains, then stir in your grated and drained zucchini.

Prepare two 9" cake pans, lining them with parchment paper, then grease (I use butter or canola oil) and flour.  I also sometimes use Pam original spray.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.  Allow to fully cool to room temperature.  This is a very important step, I usually wait to frost until the next day.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth then add the confectioner's sugar.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract, then beat on high for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Remove the cooled cakes from their pans, frost one layer, just on top, with half of the frosting.  Lay the other cake on top and frost with remaining frosting.


This cake is coffee's perfect match.  If you do find yourself with an extra slice after your guests have gone, you have something really spectacular waiting for your taste buds in the morning!



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

1-Bowl Nutella Banana Bread



Ah, food blogging!  I've identified this as the real reason that I blog.  So many times since I started Lemon Butter Love this past January, I've logged on to look up my recipes.  A few of my favorites - in no particular order - to refer back to are...






Just to name a few ;)  My recipes were previously scribbled on an index card or on a crinkled up, 'scratch & sniff' print out in a drawer in our kitchen.  I've tried to categorize and organize them but of course it was impossible to keep them that way!

I decided to try to make this 1-Bowl Nutella Banana Bread since we had two bananas that weren't doing so hot and two jars of Nutella in our pantry that I wanted to cut back to one.  I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers, Dana at Minimalist Baker.  I first found her when I was searching for a Macaroon recipe - as seen on my Instagram @charlielblhere is the recipe, which is SO incredibly easy and delicious with only 5 ingredients.  I highly recommend you make these!

Her blog is mostly vegan and gluten-free.  Her recipes are so creative, flavorful, mostly healthy and simple enough to motivate me to actually try them!  I love her recipes (and photos and writing...!) but with no personal dietary restrictions, I skip the flax egg and grape seed oil and go for a real egg and melted butter.

I considered using my Banana Bread with Wheat Germ recipe and just adding Nutella but my recipe is already pretty moist and adding Nutella, sort of a liquid, I thought it would be too mushy.  I'm glad I did because this 1-Bowl Nutella Banana Bread turned out to be a keeper!





Usually with baking, I keep the dry ingredients separate from the wet ingredients and sugar until the batter is almost complete.  Since this is a one bowl recipe, the baking powder went right in in the beginning and apparently it gets foamy when wet...


Luckily, nothing was mucked and quick whip got the foam under control ;)








Isn't Nutella luxurious?  Velvety, creamy, rich!


At this point my camera battery died.  By the time it was charged up after baking and cooling, only one mini Nutella Banana bread remained...







1-Bowl Nutella Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 egg
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 milk
2 c white flour
1/2 c wheat flour
1 1/4 c oats
1/4 c Nutella, give or take

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your loaf pan with your favorite cooking spray.  I use the original Pam since it doesn't add any flavor and it works, my baked goods never stick to the pan.  Also, I obviously divided the batter between mini-springform pans and a regular loaf pan so I could keep some of this bread for our house and give some away!

This is a one-bowl recipe so I tried to stick to it, despite my natural desires to use all my prep dishes.  I did manage to use two ramekins, one to warm up the butter and one to warm up the Nutella ;)

In a large bowl, mash your ripe bananas until mostly smooth.  Add the next 8 ingredients (egg through milk) and mix together.  Finally add your flours and oats until a batter forms, don't over stir.  Distribute evenly into your baking dish(es).

I warmed the Nutella a little bit and gave it a stir with a butter knife before dolloping a bit on the batter.  I used my knife to swirl the Nutella around, I even attempted to make it a pattern but that quickly went out the window...take care to not let the butter knife touch the bottom of your pan(s) or you'll scratch them and ruin them!  (Pretty sure I ruined all of my mom's pans growing up with scraping knives/forks on the bottoms - sorry Mom!)

For easy of transfer and uncertainty if this batter would overflow I put all of the baking pans on a baking sheet before putting them in the oven.  You don't have to do this with just a loaf pan but I kind of like it!

For multiple baking pans, bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  For a loaf pan, bake for 1 hr to 1 hr 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before removing from the baking dish.

This bread holds up nicely while warm so I recommend cutting a few slices right away and enjoying this nourishing bread while the Nutella is still toasty!



Thanks Minimalist Baker for the inspiration!





Saturday, August 1, 2015

24 hrs in Florence


This skyward photo between the stunning buildings and rooftops was my first shot in Florence.  I took this while carrying all of my stuff and speed walking to our hotel trying to take it all in while keeping up with Andy - our height difference causes some issues when I need to keep up and we're in a hurry!  We had been up since before dawn to leave Elba Island, spent three hours on a train, we hadn't had a meal yet and we were both hot and sweaty, ready for a refreshing shower, clean(ish) clothes and FOOD!

When we arrived at our hotel the room wouldn't be ready for another couple of hours so we set out in our travel clothes to find some nourishment.  Preferably of the pasta and wine variety...










I'll eat you heirloom tomato!










And nourishment we did find...


The ever palate pleasing prosciutto and melon with beers to start...


Wild boar ragu over a bucatini-type noodle



Andy got the truffle risotto (my recipe is better, just saying)






The white tee-shirt squad made it out of lunch without splashing any wine or red sauce on ourselves, go us!

With full bellies we headed back to the hotel to shower and change...


Don't you just love horses?  So majestic.  Poor thing had to eat on the job - I wish he was in some shade on a farm rather than tourist central.


Here is photo of the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore number 10 of 1,000.  We walked passed it on our way to everywhere and it is so stunning in real life that I just kept taking pictures of it.  Normally I like to pare down blog photos so it isn't exhausting to view but...look at it!






This was quite a long and not relaxing day!  So we stopped for an espresso (that helped!) and cruised over to the oldest bridge in Florence, Ponte Vecchio...




Ponte Vecchio is one of the few remaining bridge that still has houses and shops on it.  Although this was common practice during the middle ages, I can't get passed how odd it would be to live on a bridge.  I wouldn't want my room to be in the bright yellow one in the middle there, yikes!






If you follow me on Instagram @charlielbl you already saw this but this was the best gelato I had on the trip!


The line at La Carraia was the longest of all the gelato places I visited on this trip so that will tell you something!  I ordered a vanilla chocolate chip and yogurt - yogurt because the bin was half empty so I figured it was popular, but I have to say it wasn't for me, and I LOVE yogurt.  Oh well, maybe I don't love gelato (I know blasphemous) but this trip made me realize just how picky I was about ice cream versus gelato!



The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella -



^^ I liked the turtle holding up his corner of the obelisk of marble from Serravezza (a town in the province of Lucca)

The colors of the blue sky, wispy with clouds were brilliant against the warm facade of the buildings..













We decided to take it easy on ourselves and went across the street to Konnubio for dinner.  It had great reviews and there were a lot of people there - a good sign!


They started our meal with a complimentary vegetable dish that wasn't memorable.  The thought was nice but all I remember is how it didn't taste like anything - vegetables or otherwise.


We ordered the grilled octopus for antipasti...again bland and tough.  Hrm...


For primi we ordered Spaghetti Konnubio - finally something right!  This pasta had ham, strips of chicken and sausage cooked in Chianti, cream, tomatoes, pepper and curry.  Curry is a very general term but I believe this curry was just the jar you can by in your local grocery store.  It was unexpected but really made the dish.  I hope to recreate this at home soon.


For secondi we ordered grilled chicken with rocket, parmesan and balsamic.  It was dinner nine of our trip and we were both ready for something simple like this dish.  Something that we would make regularly at home.



We didn't order dessert but every restaurant insists on handing out Limoncello and I don't like it!  That Limoncello was left untouched but the short bread cookies were outstanding and Andy generously gave me his share of cookies too :)


The next morning, we had tickets to go to the Accademia Gallery to see Michalangelo's David.  I didn't take a picture of the line but, like I mentioned in this post about the Vatican, the line was down the street and around the corner...



The Accademia Gallery is relatively small and the star of the show is obvious...


Although in this hallway there were unfinished or abandoned sculptures by Michelangelo.  It was interesting to see the huge squares of marble with the tiniest chiseled marks in them.  So that's how it is done!  Of course this is how sculptors sculpt, but it was pretty cool to see the creation in action, despite never seeing the finished results.











The David pictures do not and will never do him justice.  The size and proportions are as magnificent as everyone says.  He is a huge sculpture, much larger than any others I've seen, but of course you don't realize that David would tower over them without seeing him up close.  With our short time in Florence, I'm glad this is the one thing that we made sure to book.

After spending a good amount of time admiring the David with everyone else, Andy - the musician - wanted to check out the instruments.  We found a Stradivarius violin...


Caught one last peek at David on the way out...


And did a few more small laps around the city before heading 'home' to Rome...



So it was Fashion Week in Firenze and many of the bloggers that I like were in Florence just a few days before me with Luis via Roma.  I recognized this Dolce & Gabanna dress from Rosie's Instagram...


Andy picked this one out for me...


How fun would it be to take these beauties for a spin?  I love pointy-toed flats...




This "My Little Pony" theme was incredibly creepy...






We had a little time to get lunch before heading to SMN to go back to Rome.  We decided to try our luck with a long line at All'atico Vinaio and it paid off - there was almost no line!  And the guys working there are super fast and don't mess around with getting you in, making your panini and moving onto the next one.


All paninis are 5 Euro, no extra cost for extras just a few rules:

"Don't mix meats!!!  It's a blasphemy"

"Don't mix cheeses, is sandwich no pizza"

IS SANDWICH!  I loved it.















Have I told you of my love for tomatoes?  I asked for tomato spread and fresh tomatoes (mine is on the left) and he gave me a funny look.  But I just can't get enough!  These sandwiches were delicious, fresh simple and a great value.  I highly recommend this place.

After eating what we could of these massive sandwiches, we scooped up our bags from the hotel and headed for Roma on the high speed train.  It was pretty awesome so I took a bunch of videos - it felt like we were flying at 250 km/hr!  See a video here on my Instagram!

We also received this photo from our cat-sitter, our nephew Daniel.  Look at that Jules was being nice for a hot second ;)  We were missing home pretty badly and couldn't wait to get back to LBJ!