Homemade Croque Madame

Having tried Croque Madame sandwiches in both France and the Be Our Guest restaurant at Disney World, we know that this is one of our favorite savory sandwiches! Awhile back, we decided to see how difficult it would be to make them at home. The recipe turned out to be surprisingly easy, with tracking down Gruyere cheese being the most challenging part! A few weeks ago, we were trying to figure out what to make for breakfast and realized we were inching closer and closer to lunch – the perfect opportunity to whip up some Croque Madames!

Most of the ingredients are ones you probably already have on hand in your kitchen: butter, flour, milk, salt, and eggs. The only other ingredients are Parmesan and Gruyere cheese, thick cut sourdough bread, and sliced ham.

You start off by making the bechamel sauce with the flour, milk, butter, and Parmesan cheese.

While that is finishing, you can start grating your Gruyere cheese and begin prepping your bread on a cookie sheet with ham.

Spread half of the bechamel sauce on top of the ham with half of the Gruyere before adding another slice of bread.

Next step is to toast the bread on a skillet until it is toasted on each side before topping the sandwiches with the remaining bechamel and Gruyere.

The sandwiches go into the oven on broil to melt the cheese and give it a golden brown toast while you finish off the sandwich by frying eggs. We were extra hungry so we did two per sandwich, but one is what the traditional recipe calls for.

Once you pull the sandwiches out of the oven and top them with the fried eggs, it’s time to dig in! One of our favorite brunch items that looks and sounds way more impressive than anyone would guess! Bon Appetit!

To see the full recipe we use, check out: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alexandra-guarnaschelli/croque-madame-sandwich-recipe-1922870

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Sushi Making Class – Everything You Need to Know

Meagan here to tell you all about our awesome sushi making experience at the Cooking School at Irwin Street! Grant gave me the class as a Christmas present, and we finally had the opportunity to book a class. One of our goals as a couple in 2018 was to cook at home and together as much as possible. We’ve made pretty good on that so far, though we sometimes get in a rut of making the same things every week. We were really excited to try something new at cooking class and settled on sushi making – something neither of us have done before. But since we love eating sushi, we figured it would be the perfect class for us!

Living in Alpharetta, we typically only venture ITP for work or special events. We quickly remembered why we love suburbia life when there was no parking at the cooking school and Grant had to put his parallel parking skills into action. Luckily, it turned out to be a nice day, so the short walk wasn’t bad. The Cooking School at Irwin Street is located in the Irwin Street Market, right down the street to Krog Street Market and the Beltline.

We waited in the market for class to begin, then were brought back to the kitchen by Chef Mihoko. Other than us, there were only another 9 people, which made it great to follow along with the Chef’s instructions and ask questions along the way. Each pair was given their own station complete with all the prepped ingredients. We had sushi rice, nori (seaweed), fresh salmon, crab, shrimp, avocado, peppers, cucumber, and asparagus.

The Chef showed us first how to make the “inside out roll” with the rice on the outside, as opposed to the traditional method with the nori outside. We started by placing our nori on the bamboo mat (covered in plastic wrap to prevent any sticking), then spreading a thin layer of rice across it. TLB Tip: Make sure to dip your fingers in water before ever touching the sushi rice – this is very sticky rice and you’ll end up with more of it stuck to your hands then to the nori! Once you get an even layer of rice, you flip the nori and rice layer over and can start adding your fresh ingredients for the center of your roll.

After placing the ingredients about an inch away from the edge, then slowly rolling it up with the bamboo mat. Once it’s completely rolled, you use the bamboo mat to squeeze it a little more to make sure everything is locked in. Then voila! You have a perfect California roll!

Once we made our California rolls, we had the chance to do whatever we wanted. The whole process is fun and relatively easy once you get the hang of it! You do realize that less rice is more – it goes a lot further than you think. Grant and I each made our second roll, then realized we didn’t have much rice left to do anymore. Luckily, the wonderful Chef shared some of her rice (and salmon) with us so we could make one more!

From instruction to eating, the class took less than an hour and a half. We had no idea how simple it was to make your own sushi and it was delicious when we got to enjoy our own creations! TLB Tip: Most classes are BYOB (with the exception of their knife skills classes), so it would be the perfect date night or activity with a group of friends.

After class ended, the ice cream shop that shares space with the cooking school gave everyone a free scoop of ice cream! Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed afterwards! We ended our adventure with a short walk down the Beltline, mainly looking for cute puppies.

We are really excited to put our new skills to the test! Next stop for us will be the Buford Farmers Market or H Mart to get all of our sushi making ingredients. We would highly recommend the Cooking School at Irwin Street and will be keeping an eye on their future classes. TLB Tip: They sometimes offer a Groupon which can be a substantial savings! However, classes book up quickly and not all are eligible for the Groupon offer. (New to Groupon? Sign up here!)

Hope you all check out the classes they offer on their website: https://www.irwinstreetcooks.com/ We had an awesome time, and you realize how fun it is to try something completely new. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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Homemade Pizza (with cauliflower crust!)

February 9th was “National Pizza Day,” so it only seemed fitting that we had pizza night this weekend! Homemade pizza night has always been one of our favorite (and cheap) date nights, but we actually haven’t had once since before we were married. Since it was a rainy Saturday, we decided it would be a perfect evening to break out the pizza stone in the new apartment!

We usually buy the pre-made pizza dough from Kroger or Publix, but I had heard a lot about cauliflower crust as a dough substitute. I wasn’t able to convince Grant, but I did decide to give it a go on my own pizza. We had bought cauliflower rice from Costco, which is essentially just finely chopped cauliflower florets. I steamed 2 1/2 cups of the riced cauliflower in the microwave for 7 minutes as the package directed. Next, I wrapped the steamed cauliflower in several paper towels to squeeze out the excess water.

After getting out as much of the extra water as possible, I mixed in one egg, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and mozzarella cheese. Once the mixture comes together, I shaped it into a circle resembling a pizza on a cookie sheet lined with foil. The recipe called for parchment paper, but since we didn’t have any, I had to improvise!

I baked the crust at 400 for 20 minutes before taking it out to officially assemble my pizza. I let it cool for a few minutes and then coated the crust with a mixture of olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. From there, I added my favorite toppings – Greek olives, portobello mushrooms and goat cheese and finished it off by topping it with a lot of mozzarella cheese!

Back into the oven for another 20 minutes, and after a brief cooling period, it was finally ready to try! Appearance wise, it looked (and smelled) delicious!

The foil instead of parchment paper proved to an issue when it came time to remove the pizza. It stuck a good bit, but with Grant’s help, we were able to cut a few pieces and transfer them to a plate for dinner. Next time, I plan to make the crust a little thinner. It didn’t get super crispy this time, and I had to eat most of it with a fork and a knife. Overall, the flavor was really good and I felt just as full as I would with real pizza crust (though with a fraction of the carbs and calories!).

Final consensus, definitely give the cauliflower crust a try if you love pizza but are looking for an alternative to the traditional gluten crust. I recommend making the crust fairly thin and using parchment paper. If you love picking up your pizza and a thick crust, then this crust probably isn’t for you (AKA Grant). Check out the full recipe I used here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/katie-lee/cauliflower-pizza-crust-2651381.amp

Homemade Limoncello – Part 1

For those of you who don’t know, Grant and I met on a European studies trip to Italy and Greece nearly ten years ago! My great grandfather on my dad’s side came over from Sicily, Italy, so you could say Italy has played an important role in both of our lives! When we were deciding on a rehearsal dinner location, we had one of the best Italian meals (that wasn’t in Italy) at Tuscany Italian Restaurant in Woodstock. After gorging ourselves on a sampling of basically the entire menu, the owner sat down with us for a celebratory toast of limoncello. Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur, mainly produced in Southern Italy. Traditionally, it is served chilled as an after-dinner drink. I love all things lemon – lemon bars, lemon Italian ice, and limoncello! For whatever reason, I decided to see how it was made and found out that it is surprisingly simple! Being the patient man he is, Grant indulged me and agreed for us to give it a try at making some homemade limoncello this weekend.

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We started off by gathering all of the necessary ingredients: lemons, alcohol (we went with vodka), and a large glass jar. After a visit to Costco to purchase the biggest bag of lemons I’ve ever seen ($6.99) and a 1.75 liter bottle of their private label vodka ($13.99), we grabbed the final item – the glass jar – from Target ($5.79), all in all spending less than $30 dollars! There are a lot of recipes out there for homemade limoncello, but this is the one we decided to follow with a few tweaks: http://theitaliandishblog.com/imported-20090913150324/2012/7/3/how-to-make-homemade-limoncello.html

You start off by zesting or grating the lemons. I used ten lemons and alternating between using the large grater for thicker peels with the small zester to get the hard to grate edges. A word of caution that every recipe says: make sure to no zest the white pith of the lemon or else it will be very bitter.

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It took a good 30 minutes to grate and zest all of the lemons. Once they are settled into the glass jar, you add one liter of alcohol. Some recipes call for Everclear, others call for vodka. Vodka was more easily accessible and cheaper, so that’s what we went with! Costco has some awesome deals on both their private label as well as other national brands. TLB tip: you don’t even have to be a Costco member to go to their liquor store!

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Once we sealed the jar up tight, it goes in a cool, dark place for the next 7-30 days (we read differing reviews on this one, but plan to err more on the longer side of it). At that point, you make a simple syrup to add to the lemon/vodka mixture. TLB tip: use the leftover grated/zested lemons to make lemonade, lemon bars, or infuse into water.

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Stay tuned for part two of our limoncello making adventure! Keep your fingers crossed for us that it turns out!

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