Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Black Forest Ham Panini and Creamy Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup

My B is usually in for a treat during my days off. He gets to eat more than once a day:-). Since I have too much time in my hands this week, what better way to spend my day off but in the kitchen, right? Ah, just where I belong! If I am not cooking, I am sitting  in front of the big screen watching cooking channels. It's just too cold outside to even go out. One show in particular that I like watching the most is Food Network's Giada at Home. I like the simplicity of her food but at the same time, there is so much flavor to it.


Here is my take on Giada's Ham, Gruyere and Apple Panini. Although, I used a blend of shredded Monterey, Muenster and Pepper jack. You can pretty much use whatever cheese you prefer.  Whatever availability you have in your fridge will do. Giada's recipe called for whole grain mustard. I used honey mustard instead. The mustard in this sandwich really does put a kick to the Panini. Easy and tasty!
What you'll need: whole grain bread (or any old country bread you prefer), shredded cheese (any kind will do), apple (peeled, cored and cut into thin slices, fresh thyme, whole grain or honey mustard, spinach (optional, this was my own addition), and butter.  Melt butter in a heated pan and saute your apple with fresh thyme for a few minutes. Let it cool. Preheat your panini press now if you have one. If not you can just use a heated pan also.  Now let's assemble the sandwich.  Spread each bread slice with 1 tablespoon mustard. Arrange 1/4 cup of cheese on each of 2 bread slices and top with 2 slices of ham. Divide the apple mixture evenly on top of the ham. Add the spinach on top of the ham.  Add the remaining cheese and cover with the remaining 2 bread slices. Grill in the panini press until the cheese has melted and the tops are golden and crispy, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Rosemary Soup
One of the best and creamiest soups I have ever made. Not only that but this was so easy to make as well.  If you like anything with sweet potato and Mascaporne cheese, you would absolutely enjoy this one.

What you need: butter, chopped shallots, chopped garlic, two big sweet potatoes (peeled and cut into cubes), butter, low sodium chicken broth, mascaporne cheese, maple syrup, rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper to taste.

In a round pot, melt the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, rosemary and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the rosemary stems. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender (but needs to be pureed in batches), blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese and maple syrup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Voila! Such a hearty soup during this cold weather. 
Stay warm mes amis. Bisous, Contessa

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Morning Breakfast

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas celebration with their family. I am still slowly recovering from a food coma caused by too much binge eating over the weekend. Though, rest assured that my week off break will be spent most of the time in the gym. I have to make room for some more eating for NYE, right? 

Anyways, here is my yummy cream cheese stuffed french toast to make your Monday bright:-). As if we haven't eaten enough sweets already! French toast is one of my favorite breakfast staple and nowadays, it's hard to find a good place that serves the best french toast. Most of the time, I get so disappointed. So I just make mine at home.  At least, I can control what goes in it.  

I drew from inspiration from the Mascaporne Stuffed French Toast we had at Cuba Libre.
Up to this day, I still dream about it. Although, I did not have nay Mascaporne Cheese when I was making this, nor slivered almonds. I made use of what I have in the fridge as always:-)
 

Contessa's Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast



What you need: four loaves of white bread (or any kind of thick slices of bread you have), half and half, 3 eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, honey, sugar, Neufch√Ętel cream cheese ( which is softer), berry preserves, blueberry, maple syrup and lemon juice. 

In a shallow baking bowl, combine three eggs, two cups of half and half (you can eye ball it as well, as long as there is enough to drown the bread), dash of cinnamon, one teaspoon of honey, one teaspoon of vanilla, and two teaspoon of sugar. Mix together.  

In a separate small bowl combine cream cheese and two table spoon of berry preserve (or any kind of fruit preserve you have).  Then take this mixture and spread it to your bread and make a sandwich. 

Take that sandwich and dip it into your milk mixture.  

For the meantime, boil one cup of blueberries and one half cup of grade a maple syrup. Let it simmer for three minutes, and add one table spoon of lemon juice.  Set aside.

Heat butter in the pan and brown your cream stuffed french toast on each side and pour your blueberry syrup on top. Enjoy!






Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Story - Reliving My Engagement

It's been exactly a year ago during Christmas that B proposed to me.  After saying "yes, I will marry you," I knew from then on my life will never be the same. I can almost remember the emotions that was running through me when B got down on his knee to pop the question. The feeling was so magical! I still get butterflies in my stomach each time I think about it. 


Although, our story was a little backwards. Before we even got engaged, I was already planning my dream wedding. I had my wedding gown picked out, the bridesmaids' dresses, and even the flower girls. I mean the whole she bang was completely done. I was just waiting for B to officially asked me to marry him. HA! HA! I know some of you are probably wondering why I couldn't just wait. But ofcourse, we didn't tell everyone that we are getting married until we officially announce that we were engaged. So, it was still a complete surprise to them.  My family and his family, on the other hand, already knew that we were already planning our wedding. 

Well, let me get back to my engagement story now before I get distracted. I would have to tell you how I planned my wedding on another post. Prior to getting engaged, I was already planning my wedding. Heck, I even told B not to bother asking me or giving me an engagement ring. I think I sounded desperate there, huh? But ofcourse, I give credit to B, for still being traditional.  He still wanted to propose to me officially, sweep me off my feet, make me cry, you know the whole nine yards! I mean, what girl does not want that, right? I am sure it's every little girls dreams to meet a man of their dreams and be swept away. What was even more special was when B's mom offered her engagement ring to give to me. I don't think I deserve it. He engagement ring was older than both of our ages combined. She must have seen something really special in me. I guess the fact that her youngest son is finally getting married. We can all say "awwwww" now.

So, exactly a year from now during Christmas week, unbeknownst to me, B was already making plans on how he was going to propose. He made several trips to his mother's house without telling me (sneaky!).  I guess to decorate or prepare. At that time, he was also buying boxes of Christmas lights but never took them home.  But I promise, I had no clue what was happenieng. HA! HA! He was so sneaky that he was able to manage to keep this one from me. And mind you, my little detective in me would have known already. I mean, I knew it was going to happen around the holidays. I wasn't sure exactly when. I thought he would propose infront of my family during our family's annual Christmas eve dinner. But I went home disappointed when he didn't. HAHA! So I gave up after that.

The following day, during Christmas, we went to his mother's house for dinner. I noticed that the dining room had Christmas lights hung everywhere, but they were not lit. Although, I did not pay attention for I know that it was just one of his mom's decorations.  Maybe she was saving energy. We finished eatting dinner and dessert was served. Nothing was happening. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that maybe he will wait on New Year's Eve. I then went to the bathroom to get ready to leave. When I got back to sit down, B immediately got down on his knee. Okay you can now say, "awwwww" again. I was completely surprised. And in his words, let me just share with you. I still have it documented to this day. He said to me, "Chatney, you are the light of my life (then all the Christmas lights in the room lit up). These past seven and half years (yes, I waited that long, now you know why I was in a hurry, lol) that we have been together, have been the brighstest by far ( I guess the Christmas lights symbolized that:-). I can no longer see my future without you in it. Mahal Kita (where did you get this hon? Tagalog translator.com?), I love you, I need you.  Will you stay with me but now as my wife throughout the rest of my years?"  Awwww, isn't he the sweetest?

Up to this day, whenever I think about it, I have tears in my eyes. I am just the luckiest to have met my true love, my bestfriend, and my husband. Corny! But, in all honesty, I was just over the moon.  And this is our first Christmas as a married couple. 

Let me just take this opportunity to thank all of for allowing me to share with you our engagement story. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  


Bisous,
Contessa

Monday, December 20, 2010

Contessa's Catch of the Day

Happy Monday mes amis! Sorry for not posting anything lately. As you can see, I went on a fishing trip and was busy "catching fish." HAHA! Kidding aside, work has really consumed my social/blogging life. I have been coming to work as early as 5:30 a.m. and barely has time to blog anything. Not that any of you really care for that matter:-). 

Here is a quick and healthy post before we go on a holiday binge. As you all know, I am a big seafood lover and I try to at least have it three times a week.  And where I grew up, fish was always abundant and sometimes freshly delivered at our front door. I am used to having it all the time and on the contrary, my B was deprived of seafood all his growing life. So here I am trying to make it up to him. HA! HA!. Although, seafood can be very expensive at times.  And expensive it is especially if it's purchased from Whole Foods. Of course, you don't have to get your seafood from them. You can get it from any other grocery stores.

Last week, while doing my weekly grocery at Whole Foods, I discovered a new type of fish, the Turbot. It's a complete new discovery for me since I've never had it before. I asked the fish monger what it tasted like in comparison to any of the other fish they have.  I was told that it's in the same family as Halibut. And mind you, Halibut is really expensive. I only splurge on Halibut once in a while. I was thinking that if it's taste like Halibut, then it must be good. Lo and behold! It was good. The fish melts in your mouth and it does not take long to cook.   

Baked Turbot Fillet served with boiled Spinach
If you happen to go to Whole Foods, make sure to check out the sauce isle and get yourself a jar of the Bone Suckin Sauce in bbq flavor. It's a healthy alternative to those fat laden bbq sauce we usually get. It's fat and gluten free. Not only that but the sodium content is pretty low too. I think it's less than a 150 grams. It's my new best friend. It's a good marinade for any seafood, chicken, or pork. 

For this fillet, I brushed about two table spoons of the Bone Suckin Sauce and seasoned a little bit with lemon pepper. I wrapped it in parchment paper (this helps seal in the moisture and the juice) and baked in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.  While you are baking, you can boil some spinach to go along with it. I don't eat a lot of salt so I used lemon juice to season my spinach. If you prefer, you may add salt to it.  

Please let me know if you tried this at home. Cooking something healthy does not have to take a lot of effort prepping in the kitchen. 

Bisous, Contessa

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sunday Brunch at Clydes Tower Oaks Lodge

Not even a cold, rainy Sunday can stop B and I from going to brunch at Clydes. Is it that good? Well, yes. It does not disappoint. And it's a nice local place we can go to if were craving for a good brunch. Trust me, there is not that many around our area:-(. The other bonus is their raw bar is offered at 50 percent off during their brunch hours. A great deal if you are a fan of oysters like us.

Unfortunately, they don't serve bottomless mimosas. These are priced at $4.00 a glass, which is not that bad.

Crab and Artichoke Dip

Their popular Pickled Jar (mix of pickled cantaloupe, grapes, onions, cauliflower).  Not sure about the taste of pickled grapes. The pickled cantaloupe was not bad, though.

We are oysters lover! And Clydes serves the best..we have a mix of everything here.

Freshly shacked oysters. yum! yum!

My order - Croque Madame (egg batter dipped griddled ham and Swiss sandwich topped wtih an over easy egg and mornay sauce).  This is actually one of their appetizers but the size can be mistaken as the main dish already.

B's steak and eggs (NY strip steak, brunch potatoes, and some bernaise sauce on the side)

Our friend's order - Belgian Waffle

Gingerbread Pancakes - I tasted a little bit of this and it melts in your mouth goodness.

Ahh, ruining my diet.  Sticky toffee buns spiked with bourboun sauce and vanilla icecream on the side. This was good!


I hope you guys are keeping warm in this freezing weather.  Happy Tuesday!
Bisous, Contessa

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Impromptu Dinner Party

Yesterday at the last minute, B and I had a spur of the moment. We decided on a whim, while we were out running errands, to invite one of our couple friends to have dinner at our house. We decided at around 3 p.m. and asked them to come to our house at 7 p.m. At this time, we were still running errands but it was rather cut short as we had to decide on our menu.  I had to think quick. Do we just pick up food to serve them? Trust me, that's all I wanted. But of course my husband wanted to show off how good his personal chef is (aka moi) to his friends.  I had to no choice but to think of something quick, yet delicious. Sounds easy, right? Come to find out that B's friend's wife does not eat meat. Good thing shes not a complete vegetarian so I had a little bit of leeway. Okay, I can do seafood. No problem! 
 Right after errands, B and I made a quick stop at Whole Foods to get some ingredients. Time was not on our side, so we were out of there in 15 minutes.  This time, it was 5:30 p.m. already and we had to act fast.  Not too mention, we haven't even cleaned up the house or have taken a shower. lol!




Caprese Salad - with fresh Mozzarella, Roma Tomatoes, Basil, drizzled with Old Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Mussels with Pork Italian Sausage (e-mail me for recipe)

Vodka Shrimp Penne Pasta (e-mail me for recipe)
Banana Blueberry Muffin
May I present to you my festive holiday table scape.  What do you guys think





Fresh Tulips from Whole Foods. I love having fresh flowers around the house.

Our tiny Christmas Tree. 

I hope you all had a great weekend. Tomorrow will be posting Sunday's brunch.

Bisous, Contessa

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hearty Soup On A Cold Weather

This is my own version of Mung Bean soup known as Ginisang Munggo, a popular soup from the Philippines. It's usually cooked with sauteed mung beans and pork belly. However, my own version involves less cooking and healthier.  Everything is cooked in one pot. I don't the sauteing process since that will just add additional oil on the soup.  I also use a leaner cut of pork than your usual pork belly. :-)
 
If you want to get your servings of vegetable and protein in one meal, this soup is for you.  I grew up eating this soup in the Philippines and now that I am a grown up, I am still eating it:-). One would probably think that since I am now living in the states, my meal would probably consist of anything fancy. Usually the ones we grew up eating are the ones that are good for us.  I remember my mother forcing me to eat vegetables and I hated it. Now that I am a grown up (wow really?), I am slowly catching up on all my vegetables.  Not too late you know! 

I make this soup on a regular basis. At least maybe once a week as it is loaded with all the nutrition we need. And it's very filling on its own. But of course, if you are hard core Filipino, you will be eating this with rice.:-) What you need to make Contessa's Mung Bean soup:

Mung beans (purchased from Whole Foods)
Kale
Spinach
Mushrooms
Shrimp
Cooked Lean Pork chopped in small cubes
Garlic
Tomatoes
Onions
Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil your mung beans with 3 cups of low sodium vegetable broth until soften and the beans split up. Once your beans are cooked, add your chopped onions, garlic, and tomatoes on the pot and add more broth or water to fill up the pot.  Let it boil, add your cooked pork, shrimp and slowly add the rest of your vegetables until cooked.  Let it simmer and season with salt and pepper to taste. 


Easy, hearty and healthy! 


Bisous,
Contessa
 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lanvin X H&M?

I wish! I don't think I would have the patience to line up in the cold when it first went on sale. Although, the other side of me was playing around the idea of waking up early on a Saturday morning on my day off and spend a few hours in line just to get a piece of Lanvin's collection for H&M. 

I know this was a rather delayed post as everywhere in the fashion blogosphere were blogging about this when they first heard of the collaboration. But, hey!, I was busy doing other things that matter. Like preparing for my sister's baby shower. HA!HA!

May I present to you my Lanvin x H&M inspired outfit. I've purchased this dress from Banana Republic a long time ago (before Lanvin even came out with his design for H&M, lol!). And up to this day, I still haven't had a chance to wear it out. Perhaps to a New Year's party? Any suggestions?

If I am not cooking, I play dress-up. Yes I know, I am not only a frustrated cook, but, also a frustrated model. Thank God B was not around when I was doing my photo shoot. Otherwise, all I would hear is, "Honey! you are so full of it." HA!HA!I am sure, I don't only speak for myself but to other self obsessed gals out there as well:-)So I know you can relate!!

Sorry for the hat, I was trying to conceal my bad hair. 



 That's it for now mes amis. Please excuse our little condo. It's slowly coming together. 

Stay warm! Bisous, Contessa 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Sister's Baby Shower - Last Installment

Happy cold Monday morning from the nation's capital mes amis! I hope everyone had a great weekend despite of the freezing temperature. I promise you that this will be the last post of my sister's baby shower. We took pictures of every details and it's just hard not to share every bit of it with you. It's also a way to share some inspiration with you incase you have parties to plan in the future.

When we first started planning our menu for the shower, we had many ideas on what to serve. The first thing we considered, though, was how to avoid stressing ourselves and spending most of our cooking time in the kitchen (yes, we have other things to worry like getting dressed and putting make-up on, haha). Since it was an afternoon party, we didn't want anything too heavy. Of course we didn't want to serve too much pick up foods either. Just enough to satisfy but not overwhelm the guests. I say this because in most Filipino parties, it's so typical of us to serve so much food on the table. Guests get so ovewhelmed and instead of savoring each entrees, their plate ends up looking like a mix match of different flavors. One food gets overlooked from the other. Minimal is the key. At least you get to showcase and savor each one.

Here are some food that we served during my sister's baby shower. I don't think we took pictures of all of it since we were rushing to get the party started. Our menu included mini tuna melt sandwiches, grapes antipasti, empanadas, cheese rolls, fruits, thai ice tea, chocolate ganache cake and sans rival.


Mini Tuna Salad Melt Sandwiches (e-mail me for recipe)


Grapes with cranberry pepper jelly, parrano cheese, basil, drizzled with almond oil


Filipino Fried Cheese Rolls


The Desserts


Thai Iced Tea (to keep with the B.O.W mottif)




Condensed Milk to mix with the Thai Iced Tea


My sister was registered with Buy buy baby. Love their packaging!


With my lovely mother and two equally beautiful sisters.




The celebrant, blooming as always!

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for letting me share with you all the behind the scenes preparations of my sister's baby shower. We are so excited for my new nephew to come. He will be much loved. I guess the next major party we have to plan is the Christening:-)! Ah! the joys!

Thanks for always reading my blog.

Bisous,
Contessa

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Sister's Baby Shower - The Decor and the Creative Geniuses Behind it

Mes Amis, may I present to you the hostesses of the party!!!! Moi, my Fashion Stylist cousin, Kathy and the Creative Director, Mary. If you are looking for party planners, you can hire us! Please please please:-)



And of course, the man behind all the decadent desserts, John. I am shamefully plugging our group again. If you need us to take care of your party needs (food, decorations, desserts), we got it all. HEHE!



Half of the table scape. Party utensils were from Party City, decor was from Michael's and floral were from Wholefoods.

Gourmet Cookie Favors


Yours truly, Contessa:-)


Zizi de Fiori and her creation.


View of the table scape from the stairs.












What do you all think? Next post, I will be featuring our food presentation.

Stay tuned. Bisous, Contessa