Sunday, March 13, 2011

Greek Inspired Orzo Salad

This is a great recipe if you need to make something quick for a BBQ, Dinner Party or other sort of gathering and don't have a lot of time.


1 box Orzo
1 Block Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 Can Chick Peas
1/2 Red Onion- finely chopped
1 Cup Feta Cheese- (You can use more, I do- because Feta makes it betta)
1/2 Cucumber (Peeled, scooped and chopped)
1/2 Cup Chopped Artichoke Hearts
1/2 Yellow Pepper- Diced
1/2 Red Pepper- Diced
Olive Oil

Take spinach out to defrost in plenty of time. Quite often those containers leak when they are defrosting- so be sure to keep a plate or bowl underneath. Drain well. You want to make sure the moisture is removed so that your salad does not become mucky. (I know, such an advanced terminology) I also will wrap the spinach, once removed from the container/brick/packaging and place it in paper towel and squeeze the water out. It works well and you lose less of the spinach that you would if you were to use a colander.

Cook the orzo until desired tenderness. Drain- and set aside to cool off. If it starts to stick, toss it with a bit of olive oil.
Chop, slice and prepare other ingredients while orzo cooks and cools.

For the artichokes, it is up to personal preference- but, I chop the leaves off and only use the meat of the heart. I think it works better here.

In a LARGE bowl- combine all ingredients. Toss with olive oil, salt & pepper.
Refrigerate overnight (if you have time) and toss with a bit more oil before serving as the ingredients will absorb a bit of it.

Baked Brussel Sprouts with Brown Butter Guinness Sauce

Since it is nearing St. Patrick's Day and I already had some Guinness conveniently handy, I decided to dress up some Brussel Sprouts, I thought a lil Irish influence might be nice.

This is a very easy recipe.

1 Stick of Butter
3/4 Cup Guinness- there is no substitute.
1-2 lbs of Brussel Sprouts
Olive Oil

First- clean and drain the Brussel Sprouts.
Then cut off the bottom stem part and halve. If they are very small you can leave them as is.

In the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish-drizzle olive oil, 1/4 cup of the Guinness-(the rest is for the butter mixture) salt and pepper. Toss the sprouts until well coated and bake in 350 oven for about 20 min. They should be tender but not soft when they are done. About 10 min in you can remove the pan to adjust and turn the sprouts.

Use a silver bottomed pan- don't use a dark pan as you can't properly see the browning of the butter. The color of the butter sauce is important.

Place the butter in the pan and melt over medium heat. When it is completely melted you can add the Guinness- stirring while pouring. You need to make sure that the butter and the stout do not separate. Stir constantly and do not leave the mixture unattended.

Stir with a whisk and let reduce for about 20 min. You need to be sure that the alcohol reduces. You should end up with a light caramel colored sauce with a nice nutty aroma. It should be thick like heavy cream.

 Remove Brussel Sprouts from oven and arrange in serving dish. Top immeidately with Guinness Butter.
Serve Hot and Cheers! 

Green Guinness Cake with Bailey's Buttercream and Whipped Cream Filling

My Goodness - My Guinness.

The recipe was developed from a Red Velvet recipe...Paula Deen's to be exact.
I took components of the Red Velvet and made it less southern and more Irish- and dare I say, more delicious. Who needs Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Patrick's Day?!

Green Guinness Cake:

2 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 ounce green food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Guinness
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Container of Green Sprinkle Sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture (I always do this in a disposable solo cup- to avoid staining anything); mix well.

Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and Guinness. Blend in vanilla. Add baking soda to mixture.

Pour batter into 2 or 3 (depending on how many layers you want. I went with 2)8-inch round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting I wanted a traditional Buttercream texture-wise but need a little more ooomph.
There are 2 parts to the frosting and filling of this cake. To keep it lighter- I used a Bailey's Whipped Cream for the center filling. To top it off I used the Bailey's Buttercream.

Whipped Cream Filling
12 oz. Heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup Powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

Combine ingredients in KitchenAid or use a hand mixer in a large bowl. Be careful as you will get a splash of cream if you turn it on too high. (I wrap a dishtowel around the mixer to prevent a splash.)

**Just as a side note- if you want a less intense Bailey's flavor, use plain whipped cream. Just leave out the Bailey's in the above recipe.

(-The middle of the cake, between the 2 layers can  be filled with either the Whipped Cream Filling -as listed above- or extra Bailey's Buttercream.)

Bailey's Buttercream

2 sticks softened butter
4 cups Sifted Powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
2 Tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Beat butter for a few minutes on medium speed.  Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and set mixer to the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.  Increase mixer speed to medium and slowly add vanilla extract, salt, cream and Bailey's and beat for for 3 minutes.  

If you need to make the frosting thinner- add more cream or Bailey's. If you need to thicken it- add more sugar. It should be firm but, fluffy.

This amount of frosting will only frost the outside of the cake. If you want an interior layer of frosting - double the amounts above. 

To frost the cake- I cut off the uneven top portions of the cakes so that they are flat and level. You can do this by laying them flat on the counter and using a bread knife so take off the rounded top of the cake. Make sure it is level.

Spread the whipped cream filling on the top of the bottom layer, then place 2nd layer on top- rough side down.

You should have the smooth side of the cake facing up- as you don't want crumbs to break off and muddy up your frosting skills.

Use a large scoop of the frosting- place it in the center of the cake and swirl out to the corner of the cake. Finish off with the sides.

Sprinkle green colored sugar on top of the cake from some sparkle.

**The original Buttercream recipe came from The Savory Sweet Life and was altered to create the Bailey's Buttercream.