Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day! Mine was filled with some of my favorite things - running, cooking, relaxing with Pat, and eating inappropriate amounts of chocolate. If Valentine's Day isn't an excuse to eat your favorite sweets then I'm not sure I understand the purpose of the day. I'm kidding! (sort of). The purpose of the day, to me, is a great reminder to go out of your way to tell people you love them. Be as corny as you like!

Before leaving work I went for a run (loving running outside this week!) down to and around Jamaica Pond. It was supposed to be 40 degrees, but it got all the way up to 55 degrees! It was so nice I could have worn shorts and a t-shirt. Long sections of sidewalks were still covered in snow and ice, but most of the trail around Jamaica Pond was cleared, and lots of sand and salt had been put down where there was snow left on the trail. Even though it still looks like winter, it felt like spring (and that's the most important thing to me).

After my run I got on the road for a couple Valentine's deliveries. I made plates of cookies, brownies and cupcakes for my mom and dad and brought them to their houses.

Sugar Cookies and Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies, with some Fudge Marble Cupcakes (not from scratch)

Then I headed home to make a nice dinner with Pat. We prefer to stay in on Valentine's Day and cook together. Well actually, every year he has cooked for me (he's an amazing cook) but this year I cooked with him, which was a lot of fun.

On the menu: filet mignon with mushroom wine sauce, cheese risotto, sauteed spinach and garlic, and beets. 

Do you like the pink Valentine's risotto? I colored it with some of the water we boiled the beets in.

Once our meal was ready we dug in to all of the delicious flavors. Everything turned out so well - it was the perfect Valentine's meal. I planned to make chocolate fondue for dessert to have with lots of fresh fruit, but neither of us managed to finish our dinners, so instead I packed fruit salad for both of us to bring to work today. Even though I didn't have room for fruit and fondue, I did find some space for a few Lindt truffles. Pat bought me the biggest box of truffles I've ever seen, and way too many other things (including a deep tissue massage and a foot treatment at a spa that I'm going to use after my half marathon at the end of the month!). 

It was a wonderful, relaxing night at home. I wish today was another Valentine's Day so we could do it all over again!

Dinner Preparation:

-Peel and halve beets.
-Put in small pot of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer until fork slides into beet easily (about 40 minutes).

-Heat olive in in pot over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for a few minutes until fragrant.
-Add spinach (we used two bags of organic baby spinach), toss with garlic and olive oil, then cover pot. Stir and check on spinach every few minutes and remove from heat when wilted.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce
-Pat is the mastermind behind this, so I can't really say much (perhaps he'll write a post about how to make an amazing filet).
-Your pieces of meat should be uniform in shape and size (or as close as you can get). Tie filet with butcher string to make the pieces round. Cover both sides of meat with a salt and pepper rub (coarsely grate salt and pepper on a plate) and sear both sides for a couple minutes in cast iron skillet. Transfer meat (in skillet) to oven and cook until it reaches desired color (about 10-15 minutes for a medium-rare steak)  - flip halfway through cook time. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting so meat is juicier.
-Mushroom Wine Sauce - heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add minced onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add sliced mushrooms (we used 10 ounces) and cook for a few minutes. Add 1 cup white wine. Continue to cook until liquid reduces to a thicker sauce. If necessary, add a couple teaspoons of corn starch to thicken. Serve on top of filet.

Cheese Risotto
I think this was my third time making risotto, and this is by far the best. In the past I think I've rushed it and kept adding more liquid before the liquid in the pan was fully absorbed. This risotto was rich, creamy, and very cheesy. I knew I wanted to make pink risotto for Valentine's Day (because I'm a big nerd) and planned to use beet water to color the risotto. I decided that I didn't want to add a lot of other things to the risotto and I thought the cheese would be a nice complement to the filet and mushrooms. If you've never made risotto, you really should. It seems hard, but all it is is a lot of stirring, and the end result is well worth it. Pat is usually indifferent about risotto, but he couldn't get enough of this one.

Here's the trio of cheeses I used:

I just need to say that I bought all three of these cheeses for $8 at Trader Joe's! They have the best food and the best prices!

Heat about 3 1/2 cups fat free, low sodium chicken broth in a small pot on the stove. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and keep it at a gentle simmer.

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.

Stir in arborio rice and cook for about 2 minutes.

Here the stirring begins! Add 1 cup white wine and continue to stir until liquid is absorbed, about 3-5 minutes.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of the warm chicken broth into the rice pan. Stir until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding and stirring until you've added all of your chicken broth (this takes about 20 minutes). Be sure not to add more liquid until the liquid already in the pan is totally absorbed. And keep stirring!

I added about 1/2 cup of the beet water in at the end to make my risotto pink. This added nice color but did not alter the flavor at all.

Once all liquid has been absorbed you should have nice, thick, creamy risotto. Add 1 tbsp butter (cut up) and some salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Add your cheese, stir to incorporate, and remove pan from heat.

Cheese Risotto Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 1/2-4 cups fat free, low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
*you could use any cheese in this risotto - but this combination is really good!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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