Friday, January 25, 2013

Creamy Orzo with Bay Scallops, Asparagus & Parmesan

I'm currently working on a fun project, that I'm so excited about...I'm photographing a cookbook all about fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, and I can't wait to see the finished book.  It's going to be filled with awesome recipes and everything you need to know about all the different species of fish found in the Gulf.  And I don't know about you, but it's pretty hard to beat a plate full of fresh, yummy seafood!

This recipe is a family favorite around our house and is easy, delicious and incredibly comforting.  Fresh, sauteed bay scallops are the star of this dish, which will make an appearance in the upcoming book.  

 The creamy orzo pairs perfectly with the satisfying crunch of the asparagus, and the addition of grated Parmesan cheese rounds it out wonderfully.  In fact, this recipe is a new version of THIS DISH that you might remember from an earlier post.  That recipe has become such a big hit with you guys, that I decided to add a little bit of a new spin to it.

I hope you like it.  :)

Bon Appetit, my friends!  

Creamy Orzo with Bay Scallops, Asparagus and Parmesan

By Celeste Ward


1 lb. bay scallops

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced

1 lb. orzo pasta

1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

5 Tbsp butter or margarine, divided

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Rinse scallops and pat dry.  Set to the side.

Melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 4 - 5 minutes.  Remove the onions to a plate and set aside. 

Next, add 2 tbsp of the butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add the prepared scallops and sauté for 4 - 5 minutes.  Place scallops on a heated platter and cover with foil.

Fill a large sauce pan of water with 4 - 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and stir.

After the orzo has been boiling for 5 minutes, add the asparagus to the same pot and continue to cook for 5 additional minutes.  Once the orzo and asparagus are cooked and tender, drain well and pour into a large mixing bowl.

Quickly add the parmesan cheese and the final 2 tbsp of butter to the orzo and asparagus mixture. Stir thoroughly, allowing both the cheese and butter to melt. Slowly add the cream, while stirring.  Next, add the sautéed onions, scallops and fresh parsley.  Mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with additional parsley.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake...Sinfully Delicious!

Folks, this just might be the most decadent, mouth-wateringly rich, sinfully delicious cake that I've ever made...seriously.

Brad wanted a chocolate-peanut butter cake for his birthday this year, and you know how it goes - Ask, and you shall receive!  I wanted to make my awesome hubby an extra-awesome cake this year.  I came across this recipe over at Smells Like Home, and I stopped in my web-searching tracks the minute I saw it.

It was perfect looking - Three rich, extra chocolately layers of cake were surrounded by a creamy, peanut-buttery icing.  And if THAT wasn't enough to get your mouth-watering, it was all topped off with a gorgeous layer of chocolate ganache, artfully dripping down the sides of the cake.


You'd think that this cake would take hours upon hours in the kitchen to skillfully create.  The truth?  It's easy.  I promise.  Trust me!

This cake is absolutely worth every single calorie that is hiding inside of it.  The icing...OHHH the icing!  It's beyond words.  Please make this soon...You NEED this cake in your life.  :)

Fudgy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Adapted from:  Sky High:  Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, via Smitten Kitchen and  Smells Like Home

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
For the frosting:

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
For the chocolate-peanut butter ganache:

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease (no flour is needed here) three 8-inch round cake pans with butter or baking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and lightly grease the paper.
  2. In a very large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water – splashing may occur if you add it too quickly (trust me). Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and be sure the batter is well-mixed and no flour bits remain. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans – using a kitchen scale really helps to ensure the layers will be equal in size.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes on the same rack, if possible, without the cake pans touching each other, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the peanut butter and butter.  Sift the sugar into the bowl.  Add the vanilla extract and salt.  Starting on low and gradually increasing (to prevent the sugar from covering your kitchen) the speed to medium-high, beat the ingredients until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, about 3-4 minutes.  Beat in the heavy whipping cream.
  5. To frost the cake: Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand, cardboard cake round, or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup of the peanut butter frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with a scant amount of frosting to make a crumb coat to keep the crumbs from popping through the final frosting.  You’ll need just enough to lightly cover the cake – there’s no need to be neat here. Let the cake chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.  Once the cake is fully frosted, chill the cake again and let it firm up before covering it with the ganache.
  6. To make the ganache: In the in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.  (I put the ganache in the fridge for a very short time, just to help it firm up a bit before adding it to the cake.  I didn't want it to be too "drippy".)
  7. To decorate with the ganache:  Gently pour the ganache over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache to set completely. Take the cake out of the fridge about 1 hour before serving – it will be difficult to cut through the ganache if it is too cold.
Yields: 12-18 servings

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm Speaking at FoodBlogSouth 2013, Ya'll!

So, I've got some pretty exciting news...I'll be speaking at the upcoming FoodBlogSouth 2013 Conference in Birmingham, AL on Saturday, 1/26!  If you're a food blogger and haven't heard about FoodBlogSouth, you're missing out.  It's an awesome event, and with speakers like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Virginia Willis, Marti Duncan, Cynthia Graubart, Helene Dujardin and Tami Hardeman, it's definitely not one you'll want to miss out on.

FoodBlogSouth is what you get when you combine 200 foodies and bloggers, amazing cookbook authors, incredibly talented food photographers and food stylists, and wonderful chefs all in one building!  I attended for the first time last year, and absolutely had a blast.  It's a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with other bloggers, and you'll leave with great ideas on how to make your blog even more fabulous.  I wrote a recap of the event last year, which you can see HERE, in which I described it as a "whirlwind of culinary wonderfulness!

I'll be speaking on a panel along with Paula Jones (bell’alimento), Susan Whetzel (DoughMessTic), and Lindsay Landis (Love & Olive Oil) about how to keep a blog going.  The name of our session is:  "Make It Happen! Experienced Bloggers Share Day-to-Day Strategies & Secrets for Keeping a Blog Going."

Hurry...There's still time to register, before it sells out!  CLICK HERE for all the details.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

RIP Our Sweet Hannah

Friends, it's with an incredibly heavy heart that I write this post tonight.  Last Wednesday, our beloved Hannah passed away from what we think was a heart condition.  One minute she was having the time of her life, and the next she was gone.  To say that we're heartbroken is an understatement.  Hannah was an exceptional dog and very, very special to us in every single way.  

She was constantly by our side, with tail wagging, and a happy expression on her face.  She had the most remarkable personality and the most sincere eyes you've ever seen on a dog.  Sometimes I was convinced she was more "human" than some humans.  :)  She gave the best puppy hugs and if I so much as sniffled, she rushed to my side to make sure everything was okay.

I sure do miss my sweet girl.

English Springer Spaniels are known for their companionship and loyalty to their owners.  They are simply incredible as a breed, and Hannah was a "field bred" springer.  Brad and I sure did love her to pieces, and losing her has been tough...I mean TOUGH.  Unless you've ever really loved a dog like that, it's hard to understand.  She wasn't just "a dog" to us...She was a huge part of our family.  And as such, it's been like losing a family member. 

Coming home to an empty, quiet house isn't easy.  We lost her so suddenly and unexpectedly, which compounds our sadness that much more.  She was only 8 years old.  Losing a beloved dog suddenly like that is something I wouldn't wish on anyone.  We lost our cocker spaniel, Lady, less than a year ago.  That was terribly difficult as well, but we're fortunate that she lived a long, happy life.  Hannah was just taken from us way too soon.  She was right by our sides when it happened, and for that, I am grateful.

So friends, if you are a dog owner, go give your pup a huge hug and belly rub for me.  I'd do anything for one more "Hannah Hug".

Here are a few more photos of our beautiful girl:

Hannah LOVED going on walks every night around the neighborhood.  She looked forward to her nightly walk with us all day long (and so did Brad and I).  We had to actually spell the word "W-A-L-K" when she was around, because if she heard us say it, she'd go into an excited, happy frenzy.  Here she is on a of her favorite things ever.

Me and my sweet pup

This sofa was definitely "hers".

She never missed anything...always attentive!

This video always puts a smile on my face: