Breakfast/Brunch · Sponsored · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Crispy Polenta Cakes with Poached Eggs & Asparagus

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Spring has most definitely sprung!

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, the flowers are in bloom (Aaaa-CHOO! My pollen allergies are terrible!) and everyone seems to be in a festive mood for celebrations and leisure meals. And why not? So many delicious items are coming back into season!

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Asparagus is one of those beautiful produces that are coming back and are popping up all over at our Farmers Markets and grocery stores. And in my opinion, nothing pairs more lovely with asparagus than eggs. Eggs and Asparagus….what could be more “Spring-like” than that winning combo?!

Safe Eggs
To celebrate the comeback of my favorite season, Spring, I’m partnering with the makers of Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs to create a quick and easy dish that would be perfect to make for breakfast or even a last minute brunch gathering and featured that winning pairing.

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Veggies? Check!

Bright and sunny egg/protein? Check!

But what about a starch?

I’m not a gal to shy away from bread or potatoes — I’m unabashedly carbo-holic like that. Though for this dish, I thought I’d bring a little Italian slant to it by pan frying up some crispy polenta cakes by using a pre-made polenta roll.

Now before you yell at me for using a pre-made polenta, let me justify it by the following:

  1. One of my favorite stores carries a wonderful organic polenta roll that is extremely tasty and affordable.
  2. If I made the polenta myself, I would have to wait for it to cool before frying them up into crispy cakes.
  3. It’s QUICK! And who doesn’t need some short cuts every now and then?

But hey-if you prefer to make your own, I’m all over it! In fact, it would be a great opportunity to use up any leftover polenta you may have lingering in your fridge.

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After roasting the fresh asparagus with simple S&P and lemon zest, I topped them with the crispy polenta cakes and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. And the pièce de résistance – a beautifully poached Safest Choice™ pasteurized egg. In my humble opinion, there are few other culinary beauties than seeing an unctuous egg yolk over a dish.

Perfection!

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And not only is a beautiful but it’s functional. The yolk becomes a rich sauce for both the crisp polenta cakes and asparagus. I know some folks are wary of under cooked eggs but rest assured. Davidson’s Safest Choice® uses an all-natural egg pasteurization process to eliminate the risk of salmonella–all without changing that farm fresh flavor or nutrition. Plus their wonderful chicks are Hormone free, Antibiotic free, and Vegetarian-fed. You can learn more over at SafeEggs.com

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As for the next few months, I’m looking forward to all that Spring has to offer as well as fixing up more dishes fitting of the season. But in the meanwhile, you can find this quick and delectable recipe for Crispy Polenta Cakes with Poached Eggs and Asparagus here.

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*DISCLOSURE: This recipe and post was created in partnership with Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs. However, as always, all opinions are my own.*

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Sunday Family Dinner

SFD – It’s a Family Thing

October 2015 SFD

It’s crazy to think of it but it’s been 3.5 years since my siblings and I first started having our monthly Sunday Family Dinners.

Every month we try to pick some type of theme for dinner and build a menu around it. Each of us are in charge of contributing some portion of the meal whether it be specialty cocktails, appetizers, entrees, desserts–or even staffing the grill.

And we try our darndest to not replicate dishes—which, I don’t mind saying, is kind of tough after 3+ years!

October 2015 SFD

If you’ve been with us since the beginning of our little tradition, you’ve seen the progression of the meals and in fact, some of them are quite elaborate. From “grilling” steaks with a BBQ chimney to breaking down whole ducks to use them beak-to-tail to reducing lobster stock for hours to make lobster martinis to full on N’Awlins seafood boil to a 9-course Korean feast with homemade kimchi….and that’s just to name a few!

October 2015 SFD
I get a lot of comments and compliments (THANK YOU for them!) about how great the food comes out. We’re often quite proud ourselves, too, but here’s a confession. Nearly every month, there’s some point in the preparation where things get really stressful and one (or more) of us starts freaking out.

It could be anything from the porchetta catching on fire (yeah…that did happen), the dessert not setting properly or having to double-fry pounds and pounds of French fries.   And that’s where the bickering usually comes in—but remember, we’re REAL siblings who are very close. If we didn’t bicker, we wouldn’t be family.

That, and the fact that we’re all Type A and OCD.

We blame it on our parents.

October 2015 SFD

But here’s the thing. Although the food is definitely a perk, the best part of SFD is hanging out with each other for no other purpose or cause other than Family Dinner.

It’s a time where the kids get assigned kitchen tasks to build their confidence in their own selves while allowing the adults to pass down a part of ourselves.

October 2015 SFD

It gives the siblings dedicated time to catch up on family gossip, work, and be silly with each other— over cocktails, of course. And the educator in me also sees it as an opportunity to do a little “team-building” as we come together and challenge ourselves with creating dishes that we often have never tried, let alone never made before.

October 2015 SFD

Because of the blog and because I love to document things, I’m always the one running around snapping pics of the fam, food and puppies. Since I’m still a novice/trial-and-error photographer, one of my stresses during SFD is trying to capture photos that I like. I love to snap photos with natural light and try to stay away from photo editing. But this gets particularly difficult during the latter part of the year where it gets dark so early.

So imagine me trying to finish my dishes while running around the house/kitchen/backyard to take photos. I can be a hot mess!

October 2015 SFDWhich, in full disclosure, is why it can take a couple of weeks after a SFD before I actually post the photos and write-up of the dinner. When I get back to San Diego after a weekend at my seesters’ respective houses, I’ll download the shots I took and peruse through them. If I’m unhappy with the quality of the photos, I start to procrastinate because, again, I am not a fan of photo editing……or at least my photo editing skills.

October 2015 SFD

That was certainly the case for our most recent dinner.

But after these past few days of horrific, HORRIFIC events that have taken place in the world, I’ve been reflecting a lot about my family, my loved ones, my work…..and really – just evaluating everything that is important to me.

October 2015 SFD
So when I pulled up the photos from our last SFD, I saw them from a very different perspective.  Shots that I was upset with because the white balance was off or not sharp didn’t frustrate me as when I first reviewed them. Instead, I focused on why I stopped to snap those particular pics in the first place. Like how Nini was covering her face because she didn’t want me to post pics of her (too bad!) or how sweet it was when Maya and Lucas were playing Wii.

October 2015 SFD
Or how the Coq au Vin big seestrah N made was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Or when seestrah T was rolling out homemade dough for her pie–because she rarely bakes!

Or how the boys decided to push tables into the tiny living room instead of using the dining room or backyard so that we could watch Green Bay get the smack down by the Broncos while we ate (HELL YEA!). GO VIKES!

October 2015 SFD
Essentially what I’m saying is that the next time I start freaking out about not being able to snap the perfect shot or become upset that the meat pies browned too much, I need to take a deep breath and check myself and remember to appreciate/enjoy the important things.

Don’t worry– that doesn’t mean the sibling bickering will ever stop.

October 2015 SFD

So indulge me this time around, Friends. In light of the heavy hearts so many of us have had these past few days–please go hug someone you love today. ❤

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Hard Pear Cider Sangria
Appetizers: Pot Roast and Cheddar Hand Pies
Entrees: Coq au Vin over Cheesy Polenta
Dessert: Flaky Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Drinks · Sunday Family Dinner

A Week of Holiday Cocktails – The Spiced Apple Pie

The Spiced Apple Pie

I barely survived Thanksgiving weekend.

After a marathon meal and 18+ hours of Black Friday shopping (no, I’m not exaggerating), my sibs and I dived into a delish fall/harvest themed Family Dinner.

November 2013 Family Dinner

Since we were all consumed with preparing Thanksgiving dishes (times two for my sibs since they also had Thanksgiving with their in-laws), we wanted a menu that was pretty low maintenance.

For starters, we had a charcuterie and cheese platter to munch on. Then we moved on to roasted bone marrow – utterly decadent over toasted baguette slices and then topped with an herbaceous gremolata. For the entree, a slow-braised, saffron beef ragu. It’s a lovely spin on my seester’s delectable ossobuco that is slow cooked over a few hours. After the initial searing, you let the beef do it’s own magic with little babysitting. Perfect for recuperating shoppers. We served the rich ragu over a quick, yet utterly creamy parmesan polenta from Ina Garten.

The Spiced Apple Pie

To add some veggies to the dinner, I made a salad from dark hearty greens and topped them with homegrown pomegranates (from my seester’s in-laws) and thin starfruit slices from our mother’s old tree that now resides at our auntie’s house. I also threw in some Asian pear slices, goat cheese and a drizzle of a light Dijon based vinaigrette.

And for dessert (because there’s always room for dessert!), big sis made spiced-white wine poached Bosc pears that we enjoyed with vanilla ice cream. Quite a wonderful way to end the meal.

The Spiced Apple Pie

With a fall/harvest themed dinner, I created a cocktail that celebrated the flavors of the season. For this- and to kick off our Week of Holiday Cocktails, I’m delighted to share with you all the Spiced Apple Pie. It’s made from cider, warm spices and spiced rum. Truly apple pie in liquid form—with boozey goodness, of course 🙂

Another Family Dinner done and in the books and I can’t wait for December’s Family Dinner where all 5 Nguyen Siblings (and their fams) will be present! Totally a Win-Nguyen!

And here’s to the start of our Week of Holiday Cocktails!

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The Spiced Apple Pie
Serves 2

Ingredients:

ice
8 ounces unfiltered, apple cider
2½ ounces dark spiced rum
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground clove
dash vanilla extract
cinnamon sticks
apple slices

Fill a large cocktail shaker with ice and add all the ingredients except the cinnamon sticks & apple slices. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds and strain the contents between 2 glasses that have been filled with ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and apple slices. Cheers!

Desserts/Pastries

Valentine’s Dinner…The Sequel

Our travels to New York left us quite weary and in need of some substantial rest. With that said, the BF still managed to take his gal out for a romantic Valentine’s Dinner—the same lovely spot that we had celebrated our 1st Valentine’s Day 4 years before. 🙂 What a sweetie.

A few days later, I decided to pull together dinner to reciprocate the love and extend the Valentine’s Day celebrations. I admit my final entrée wasn’t exactly what I had in mind at first. In fact, I had hoped to try my hand at a crispy duck breast but after 5 stores later (which included poultry shops and specialty stores) I was left “duckless”. Who knew duck would be so hard to find—especially non-frozen ones? I’ll definitely have to plan a week ahead next time. 🙂

I settled on making a rack of lamb but served it with a side dish that I hadn’t used before—polenta. After all, my 2010 Foodie Goal was to cook with an ingredient that I had never previously used…..and for February, it was polenta.  As opposed to our regular lamb chops preparation, I went with a traditional marinade of rosemary-garlic-lemon zest & juice-olive oil. I was hoping this brighter flavor would compliment the sautéed mushroom medley and polenta cakes.  (The latter was inspired by my dear cousin—author of Nutrition to Kitchen).

But I believe the star of the evening was dessert…..a Dark Chocolate Torte with a Cabernet-Berry Coulis. Rich, decadent, divine, and just screamed of Valentine’s after plating. Hey, I needed to pull out the big guns since I couldn’t produce the duck. 🙂

The results? I believe the BF was very happy with our dinner—particularly with dessert as he kept on repeating, “This is craaaazzzyyy….”. I took that for “crazy good” than “crazy bad” as he had a second helping of dessert. 🙂

Lessons learned from this dinner:
1) When attempting something “special” or out of the ordinary, plan ahead;
2) When things don’t go as planned, don’t be afraid to quickly jump to Plan B;
3) Chocolate and Wine makes EVERYTHING better;
4) Don’t wait for only Valentine’s Day to show someone you love how much you care about them.

Here’s to 365 Days of Valentine’s Celebration!

*Note: I’ve only included my preparation of the Dark Chocolate Torte with the Cabernet-Berry Coulis as this was the extra special component to dinner 🙂

Rosemary-Lemon Rack of Lamb with Sauteed Mushroom Medley and Crispy Polenta Cakes

Dark Chocolate Torte with Cabernet-Berry Coulis

Dark Chocolate Torte with a Cabernet-Berry Coulis
Ingredients:

Dark Chocolate Torte
1 2/3 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli)
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (I used Ghirardelli)
2 Teaspoons Instant Espresso Powder
5 Large Eggs
1 Cup Granulated Sugar

Cabernet-Berry Coulis
3 Cups Frozen Mixed Berries (Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries)
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Using a 9-inch spring form pan, generously cover the bottom and sides with cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips with butter in 20-30 second intervals in the microwave. Be sure to stir the chocolate between each interval and be careful to not burn the chocolate as different ovens vary in temperature. Melt and stir until smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso and cool for 15 minutes.

In a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until extremely thick. I did this for about 8-9 minutes. Gently fold in chocolate mixture and be careful not to deflate egg mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake torte until tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 40 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if it looks cracked. Cool in pan on rack for at least 1 hour—the center of the torte will drop. Using a long thin knife, run blade along the sides of the pan to assist in releasing the cake and remove sides. Place plate on top of torte and flip onto plate. Remove pan bottom and peel off parchment paper. Continue to cool at room temperature.

While torte is cooling, place all coulis ingredients in a medium sized, heavy saucepan. Simmer on medium-low until berries have broken down and the wine has cooked off. Approximately 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

To serve, slice torte into wedges and spoon coulis on top.

**Use the highest quality chocolates and cocoa powder when possible. This will add to the intensity of flavor to your final product.