Sunday, February 26, 2012

Valentine's Day 3 Course Dinner

Happy Valentine's Day! Every year that comes by, I can't seem to figure out what to get my husband. He has everything he ever wanted or need (yes, he is spoiled). I know cooking a nice dinner is always something cheap to do, but he loves food and I love cooking. This year I decided to make something that I've never tried before, but only thought of. My husband's a beef kind of guy so beef stew it is! The only difference with my beef stew is that it's made with sweet potatoes and bell peppers (I like a sweetness in my meats). I then topped it off with a pair of pan fry polenta rounds and strips of fresh basil to bring out the earthiness of the flavors. Best part: it was cooked in a crock pot so I had free time to do other things. We started off this 3 course dinner with an appetizer of artichoke bruschetta. It was a light start which made us even hungrier for the entree. We then ended the dinner course with a delicious cold raspberry cheesecake.

Artichoke Bruschetta (this recipe serves 2 people or about 4 people)
6 oz jar of artichoke hearts
7 oz jar of roasted red peppers
4.25 oz can of chopped black olives (optional)
Olive oil
Grated parmesean cheese
Fresh basil
Baguette (I bought a small one just enough for me and my husband)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice baguette in diagonals about 1/2 inch thick and place them on a baking tray. Drizzle olive oil and bake for 10 minutes until crispy.

Take the artichokes out of the jar and chopped them into smaller pieces. Do the same with the roasted red peppers (if you don't use all the roasted red peppers, it's okay). Mix them both in a bowl. Add a small pinch of chopped black olives (olives are very strong in flavor so it can be eliminated, but it provides a saltiness to the mix). Drizzle about a 2 teaspoon or less of olive oil. Sprinkle some grated parmesean cheese and mix well (parmesean cheese does not have to be grated, but it was all I had; can add shaved parmesean cheese on top for a more parmesean flavor).

Drop spoonfuls of artichoke mix onto slice baguettes. Take fresh basil and, starting from the tip of the leaf, roll fresh basil and thinly slice through the roll to create thin shreds of basil. Sprinkle basil strips on top and serve. *The longer the artichoke mix sets on top of the baguettes, the more the bread soaks in the flavor*

Beef Stew with Pan-fry Polenta

2 lbs cubed beef (used prime rib)
1 clove garlic

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 onion, thin slices
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
1 chicken boullion cube
4-6 cups water
salt and pepper
fresh basil

1/4 cup water
1 tsp corn starch

Sautee beef in heated pan with drizzle of oil. Add grated garlic and pinch of salt. Brown the sides of beef a bit. (Do not cook all the way)

In crock pot, add onions at the bottom, potatoes, garlic, thyme, oregano, beef, wine, chicken boullion, water, and salt and pepper. (Can add more salt and pepper later to taste later)

Turn crockpot on high for about 6-7 hours. On the last hour, add the roux mixture. Towards the last 30 mins, add the bell peppers. Taste to see if needs more salt or pepper.
Take fresh basil and, starting from the tip of the leaf, roll fresh basil and thinly slice through the roll to create thin shreds of basil. Set aside.
Meanwhile, start on polenta. (I couldn't find the polenta where I can make it from scratch so I bought premade polenta)

Pan-fry Polenta:
Premade polenta (comes in a round tube-like form)
Olive oil

Cut polenta into thin slices (circles). Heat a pan with oil and brown both sides of polenta slices on medium heat (about 5-8 minutes). Sprinkle salt on top of one side.

Serve beef stew, top with polenta and fresh basil strips.

Raspberry Cheesecake:

9 sheets of graham crackers
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulverize graham crackers until grainy like texture. Add melted butter and mix. Press graham cracker mixture to the bottom of a 4 ramekins or 8x8 baking pan (I used 2 ramekins for individualized servings, but had enough to also make an 8x8). Bake crust for 10 minutes and set aside.

2 (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pack of fresh raspberries
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp almond extract

In a mixer, cream together sugar and cream cheese. Add vanilla extract. Add one egg at a time making sure to incorporate the egg thoughout the mixter and scrape down the sides every now and then. Once all eggs are added, blend until the mixture is smooth with barely any lumps.

Meanwhile, in a blender, blend fresh raspberries with sugar and almond extract. Drain out the liquid discarding the seeds. (If not sweet enough, add more sugar) *sauce can be used for a ton of things; I used it to make mixed drinks*

Pour the cheesecake mixture into the baked crust. Drop spoonfuls of raspberry mixture on top. Take a tooth pick and make swirls throughout the raspberry drops and cheesecake. Add more drops if needed. Bake in a water bath at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour until cheesecake is no longer jiggly. Have it rest in the fridge for about an hour before serving. Top off with more raspberry liquid and whip cream if desired. (a water bath is placing the actual dish on a larger and deeper dish and adding water to the larger dish only until it's half as tall as the smaller dish; make sure the water is not poured into the cheesecake dish)


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