December 26, 2011

Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash

Luckily, cooking attempt number 2 was wildly successful!

This recipe is from Real Simple's December 2011 issue and it is a keeper. I love barley and I love one-pot meals that don't require a lot of fussing. This is an excellent simple, but hearty dinner that is savory and fulfilling.

Baked Tortellini with Bacon

The good news is that Marshal Mike is back from Afghanistan and I can start planning dinners for the week and cook for more than one person! The bad news is that I chose this lackluster beige dish for the first meal.

I was going through my old December food magazines and found this recipe in Everyday Food's December 2010 issue. At first glance, it should be really good: bacon, cheese and pasta; how could that be bad? Well, it wasn't a total failure, but it wasn't something I would make again. We decided that it needed more bacon (the recipe calls for 4 slices), and a hit of parsley at the end for some freshness.

We can only go up from here!

December 11, 2011

Spaghetti with Bacon and Tomatoes

Bacon was on sale a couple weeks ago, so I bought a package with no real purpose in mind. (Let's be honest, do you really need a purpose when buying bacon?!) This weekend I decided it was about time I did something with it.

I found a great recipe for pasta with bacon and tomatoes from Lidia Bastianich on Epicurious. The recipe calls for bucatini or another long pasta with a hold in the middle, but I didn't feel like going out to find that kind of pasta, so I used spaghetti. I usually don't like long pastas but it definitely works with this sauce. I halved her recipe, as I never end up finishing all the leftovers, and it worked out just fine.

One thing I really love about Lidia Bastianich is the way she tells stories. This recipe is a great example: the headnote is historically interesting, helpful with ingredients and gives the reader just enough personal information to feel like Lidia is in your kitchen teaching you to cook. Even her recipe is written like a story and not just as steps, as most recipes. You can feel how much she loves sharing Italian culture and food with readers, and we get to reap the rewards!

December 4, 2011

Nicole's Baby Shower

Over the weekend I was one of three co-hosts for my good friend Nicole's baby shower (longtime readers should know this is the same Nicole of birthday cake fame and a regular taster of BlB food).

We held the shower at a restaurant in the Ballston area of Arlington, called Rustico, but of course I couldn't help making some baked goods for all our guests.

For favors, I made a gingerbread mama and baby:

Gingerbread Mama and Baby
I used King Arthur Flour's gingerbread cookie recipe, and I don't think I will ever look for another gingerbread recipe in my life. These have just the right amount of spice, the center stays chewy and the edges are crisp. I used KAF's royal icing recipe as well. Meringue powder is really easy to find. I bought mine off of Amazon, but you can find it at AC Moore, or other craft stores that carry Wilton products.

I found the adorable gingerbread cookie cutters at The mama is 4 1/2 inches and the baby is their mini size.

For our dessert I made red velvet cupcakes.

Red Velvet Cupcake
I used the same red velvet cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipe that I used for my friend Amy's bridal shower last year. (If you don't want to click through, the recipe can be found on Simply Recipes.) They were delicious!

Brunch menu and favor
Tower 'o' Cupcakes
Our crafty friend, Michelle, made this adorable diaper cake snowman. Nicole said she doesn't think she can stand to take it apart!

Diaper Snowman
Michelle also made these great, simple centerpieces.

She spraypainted branches silver and hung a couple small ornaments from them. They were pretty and festive!