Monday, December 24, 2012

st. nick is coming...(recipe: gingerbread cookies & red velvet cookie link)

St. Nick is coming to town

Spicy, warm & crunchy-Santa will appreciate these idyllic holiday cookies.  When rolling out cookie dough, make sure you roll them 1/4" thick.  This will ensure you that your cookies will hold together nicely.

Gingerbread Cookies
yield:  18 cookies (depending on your cookie cutters)
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
Royal Icing
Sugar Sprinkles, Sanding sugar for decoration
  1. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper & salt in a large bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, on medium speed until fluffy.  Add egg and molasses to the cream butter/sugar mixture, mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until dough is formed.
  3. Shape dough into a disc and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  Space 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets, refrigerate for 15 minutes, until firm.  Bake cookies for 12 minutes, until cookies are crisp, but not dark.  Cool on sheets resting on wire racks.
  5. Pipe designs on cookies and sprinkle with sugar immediately.  Let stand for a few minutes before tapping excess sugar off of cookies.  Let icing dry for at least an hour.  Store in an airtight container for 5 days.
***To pipe designs, I use a mini squeeze bottle, available at craft supply stores.  I love squeeze bottle because they are reusable and the tip is fine enough to get by drawing designs.

Royal Icing (Quick & No Raw Eggs)
yield:  1 1/4 cup
1/2 pound confectioners sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
  1. Put sugar, meringue powder & scant 1/4 cup water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Mix on low until smooth, about 7 minutes.  If icing is too thick, add water, a teaspoon at a time; if too thin, mix icing a few minutes more and add more sugar if needed.
Link to Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies here.  Doesn't this color just scream Christmas!  So easy to make.  I wanted to use white chocolate chips, but didn't have any, so I followed the recipe exact.  Either way, I think Santa would approve.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

handmade-homemade (repurposing Christmas Cards & wrapping remnants)

 My front door wreath I literally threw together in 30 minutes before a holiday party

Teacher gifts of homemade marshmallows, hot chocolate mix & a mug.  Notice the mason jar covers match the mug.  I bought a coordinating napkin and cut the rounds to decorate the jars.

I've been stitching away the cutest felt ornaments for Eli's classmates.  Instructions found here

Baby's 1st Christmas.  Knitting needles clinked up this cute merino wool hat w/ felt flower applique.  I also made this cute woodland monogram.

I've been re-purposing last year's Christmas cards as well.  Using a 2" punch, I cut out scalloped circles of old cards.  I use them as gift tags and made a garland to hang in the kitchen.
To make the garland, attach punched out cards to bakers twine with color coded dot stickers (available at office supply stores).  Secure with craft glue.  String on a tree, hang in windows or drape them elsewhere for a festive look.

Don't throw your wrapping paper remnants away!  Glue paper onto clothespins and use the decorative pins to clip your Christmas cards onto ribbon or garland.  

How to:  Brush craft glue onto clothespins and lay clothespins, glue side down onto wrapping paper remnants (right side facing down).  Allow to dry.  Using an craft knife, cut paper to fit.  Repeat on other side.  Once both sides are dry, apply craft glue for a nice satin like finish.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

a silent moment (recipe: hot chocolate mix)

I rarely have a silent moment.  Those moments are so few that when I do experience absolute quiet I stop and immediately acknowledge it.  I meditate.  I exhale.  I cherish it.  I suppose I had taken silence for granted for so long that I never knew how beautiful silence could be.  Until now.

I sit here writing this post in quiet.  Just me, my fingers tapping the keys and the sound of a fan spinning overhead.  I've wrapped presents, vacuumed the stairs and rug, swept and polished Eli's floor and now I sit in the still, silent calm for a moment.

A few nights back my family took a stroll through our neighborhood000. admiring the lights.  The air was cool, the kind of coolness that seems to push the heft & weight of hot air far away, leaving the wind cleansed and pure.  And for a moment, just a hint of time, there was absolute silence.  It was a dream.  I breathed it in.  I recharged.  I exhaled.  I cherished that split second of time.

We returned home, laid Eli to bed and I poured myself a mug of Hot Chocolate.

Chocolate Chaud (Hot Chocolate Mix)
I've already packaged some of this hot chocolate mix into jam jars and will be giving them as gifts this year.  It will go great with homemade marshmallows.  It is not too sweet, dense & chocolaty.

yield:  10 cups of Hot Chocolate
6 ½ ounces dark chocolate (55-65%)
3 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder  
1 oz brown sugar
6 ½ ounces granulated sugar
1 oz cornstarch
Optional:  vanilla stick

  1. Finely grate the dark chocolate using a food processor (though be careful of it getting too hot and melting) or by hand using a fine grater.
  2. Mix the sugar, brown sugar and cornstarch into a bowl.  Rub the mixture with your fingers to ensure the cornstarch is incorporated throughout and has no lumps.
  3. Add finely grated chocolate & cocoa into the bowl with the sugar and cornstarch.  Mix until combined.
  4. Place into storage jars and store in a cool, dry place.
To make Hot Chocolate
  1. Place 3 tablespoons of hot chocolate mix into a mug.
  2. Heat 2/3 cup milk until hot, but not scalding.
  3. Pour milk into mug and stir until chocolate in dissolved.
  4. Add marshmallow or sweetened whipped cream.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Gingerbread Morning (recipe: Gingerbread Pancakes w/ Lemon Syrup)

The morning began with pancakes.  Not just any old pancake, but gingerbread pancakes.  And lemon syrup.  This is how we welcomed Christmas into our home this year.  After breakfast we lit the tree, draped garland down the staircase, placed ornaments on the tree and hung our stockings.
As Eli grows older with every season, he is more understanding.  Understanding and excited and may be Christmas' biggest fan.  I find him under the tree laying, looking up into the lights and watching the gentle sway of ornaments just as I had when I was a kid.  He asked to sleep there for the night but I don't think the cat will let him.  He has his own tiny tree in his room.  It is lit, placed on his art table and decorated with tiny Santas, Snowmen & Nativity characters.
I love the fact that he knows Christmas celebrates Jesus' birth, the star that sits atop the tree represents the Star of Bethlehem, and that we give and receive gifts in honor of the king's gifts to the Christ child.

Speaking of gifts, all he has asked for is a hippopotamus...yes, just like the song.

Gingerbread Pancakes
Perfect for a Christmastime breakfast.  Serve with maple or lemon syrup.  These delicate pancakes darken quickly because of the molasses, and they don't bubble as much as plain buttermilk pancakes.  So please do be aware and careful.
makes about 16

1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons molasses

6 tablespoons butter
  1. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl.  Add buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and molasses.  Stir until blended.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy skillet over medium heat.  Working in batches, drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into skillet.  Cook pancakes until golden and cooked through, adding more butter as necessary, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to plates and serve with lemon syrup.
Lemon Syrup
make 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
zest & juice from one lemon
  1. In a large saucepan, rub sugar, cornstarch, salt & nutmeg together with your hands (this prevents lumps formed by cornstarch).  Gradually stir in boiling water, then simmer over low heat until thick, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove from heat; stir in butter, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Serve.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The trees have decided

"The trees have decided," my husband said nonchalantly as we were driving to my aunt's house for Thanksgiving.  He didn't specify what the trees had decided on, but it was evident in their colors.  This then led to a small talk of how trees, a living thing, are great story tellers.  Stories of children climbing them, camp outs in tree houses, picnics eaten under them.  Stories of bird's song, the wind's anger and rebirth every spring.  My husband is as literal as they come, and of course looked at me like I was crazy. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break.  We traveled to Lake Conroe and enjoyed a wonderful family get-together.  We enjoyed the traditional turkey fare, listened to stories my dad and uncles shared, went foraging for pinecones and watched Eli and his cousin play, romp, wrestle and hug.  Those two boys play and love so purely and freely.
Thanksgiving dog & young buck
Being that we traveled a good ways I didn't really make anything that needed to be reheated.  I brought a cooler filled with cranberry sauce and sangria.  Both recipes were from one of my new favorite food blogs, SpoonForkBacon.

I love cranberry sauce, and I especially love the Spiced Cranberry sauce from SpoonForkBacon.  Click the link for the recipe.
Spiced Cranberry Sauce in the making
Spiced White Wine Sangria
recipe courtesy of
Makes 2 quarts

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 (750ml) bottle pinot grigio
2 tangerines, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup pomegranate seeds
optional garnish:
cinnamon sticks
star anise

1. Place sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cardamom pods into a small saucepan, stir and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
2. While the spice simple syrup cools, spread tangerine slices onto a baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with a small amount of brown sugar.
3. Place the baking sheet under a broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until caramelized.
4. Place the orange slices and pomegranate seeds into a large pitcher.
5. Pour the wine over the fruit and add extra cinnamon sticks and star anise, if desired.
6. Add the simple syrup into the pitcher and stir until well combined.
7. Place the sangria in the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least an hour. Pour into glasses and serve

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Salted Roast Turkey Breast with Honey Chipotle Glaze

The big day is a week away!  But remember, we are celebrating Thanksgiving on a smaller scale over here-so there shouldn't be any panic.  Right?  The greatest thing about preparing for a small crowd is that you don't have to prepare that huge bird.  Don't worry, we won't skip out on turkey, just the whole turkey, because we are only using boneless skinless turkey breasts for the small feast.
We are turkey eaters in this house, so by the time Thanksgiving has rolled around turkey is not too exciting for us.  Salted Turkey Breast with Chipotle Honey Glaze is one of our favorites and you can find us roasting it during the winter months or grilling it during the summer months.  It is our go-to turkey recipe in our repertoire.

Salting the bird not only seasons it but it retains moisture resulting in a tender and juicy bird.  The flavors of this turkey dish is well rounded-smokiness from the salt, cumin, smoked paprika; spiciness from the chipotle; and sweetened by a lacquering of honey.
If you don't make this for your Thanksgiving meal, revisit this recipe and make it at any moment during the year.  You won't regret it.

Salted Roast Turkey Breast with Honey Chipotle Glaze
serves 6
Southwestern Spiced Salt (recipe below)
2 (1 1/2 pound) boneless, skinless turkey breast halves
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

Southwestern Spiced Salt
can be made 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature
1 oz smoked salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder
  1. Mix ingredients together in a small bowl 
  1. Rub spiced salt over turkey breast halves on both sides and place in a plastic gallon sized bag or baking dish.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Remove turkey from refrigerator.  Rinse turkey and pat dry.  Rub butter over the turkey breasts and place on a foiled lined baking sheet fitted with a rack.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, meanwhile, mix honey and chipotle powder in a small bowl.  Brush half of the honey mixture and pan juices over turkey halfway through cooking time.  Remove from oven when juices are running clear or until thermometer registers 160 degrees F.
  4. Turn on the broiler.  Brush the remaining honey glaze over turkey and broil until honey thickens and turns golden.
  5. Remove from the oven, brushing pan juices over the bird.  Rest for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving: Smaller Scale; Big on Flavors (Brussels Sprout Slaw w/ Maple Glazed Pecans))

I have a habit of bringing salads or vegetables to holiday dinners.  During the summer months, I love making a broccoli slaw.  It is my favorite dish to eat and share during the warmer months and then it got me to thinking...what kind of slaw could I make for the cooler months.  Slaw...cabbage...(do you see where I'm going with this) sprouts.  Yuck?  No.  Delicious. I sounded like a plan to me.  And what is so great about this dish is that it doesn't take up any oven or stove top space during those final moments when the host is finishing up the feast.

As the holidays are fast approaching a slight panic is stirring inside.  I need to remind myself to take a breather and enjoy the season.  I hope you all will too.

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing & Maple Glazed Pecans
4 servings
1/2 cup large pecan halves
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
kosher salt
1/8 cup Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 pound brussels sprouts
1/2 cup cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with a sheet of foil with nonstick spray.  Place pecans on prepared pan.  Stir together maple syrup, small pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Add to pecans and toss to coat.  Spread in a single layer.  Bake nuts for 5 minutes, stir, and bake for another 5 minutes.  Glaze should be bubbling and thick.  Cool completely.
  2. Whisk mustard, lemon juice, sugar in a small bowl; whisk in oil.  Season with salt & pepper, sugar if needed.
  3. Rinse and trim brussels sprouts, removing any dirty or bruised leaves.  Peel layers until the leaves look shiny and bright.
  4. Slice brussels sprouts 1/8-1/4 inch; transfer to a bowl.
  5. Toss brussels sprouts with enough dressing to coat.  Place in serving bowl and top with pecans & cranberries.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Smallest of Thanksgivings (Recipe: Parsleyed Potatoes)

Lava Fields & Basalt
Years ago my husband and I were miles away from our family during the Thanksgiving holiday.  I must confess, I was excited to create a grand Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us.  I embraced the quiet, slow Thanksgiving cooking in my own kitchen.  We gave thanks over  pomegranate glazed Cornish hens, fresh green beans tossed in butter, garlic & almonds, succotash, sauteed mushrooms over mounds of mashed potatoes and gingery pumpkin parfaits for dessert.

After our bellies were full, we sat down and watched football until we fell asleep in front of the glow of our television.  The Friday following was definitely a black one.  Though I did not find myself in long retail lines but amongst fields of black basalt and snow, hiking through the Craters of the Moon rather than the corridors of the local mall.  Later on that night we sat bundled on a curb while the temperatures dipped into the mid 20s watching the Old Town Holiday Light Parade.  This is what I'd call the best Thanksgiving ever.

Syringa  & Basalt in the snow.
I do love Thanksgiving celebrations with my family.  I've been to dinners seating 20 to 40 people.  I've walked through rooms filled with tables seating absolute strangers and I've sat next to friends or family I had not seen in years, and even though I enjoy the camaraderie between loved ones, that Thanksgiving, the smallest of Thanksgivings was my absolute favorite.

I love that many in the blogosphere are talking turkey, but notice that their eyes are set on such a large scale.  The prize golden bird, the mounds of mashed potatoes, all the traditional sides, yes delicious, but what about those who celebrate the smallest of Thanksgivings like I had years ago?  Well, that is where I come in.  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing traditional and not-so-traditional recipes for the smaller Thanksgiving.

Our first featured recipe for Thanksgiving:  Smaller Scale, Big on Flavors is Parsleyed  Potatoes.  The humble potato is steamed, sliced, sauteed & crisped in butter & tossed with parsley.  Golden potatoes, flecked with green makes for a beautiful side-if you feel like straying away from the traditional mashed potatoes, you should try these.

Parsleyed Potatoes
4 servings
print me!

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt
  1. Steam the potatoes* until tender.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool and dry out for about 5 minutes.  Then cut in thick (3/4 inch) slices.  (some skins will peel off)
  2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high and add the butter.  When the butter has stopped foaming and had begun to color lightly, add the potatoes and turn the heat to medium.  Cook on one side until crispy and lightly browned, about 5 minutes, then turn over and cook on the other side until crispy & golden.  Add parsley and salt, toss together and serve.
*How to steam potatoes:    pour boiling water from a kettle into a pot fitted with a steamer, then place the potatoes in the steamer, sprinkle with salt – about 1 rounded teaspoon per 1 lb.  Cover tightly and let them steam over a low heat, just enough to keep the water gently boiling until the potatoes are tender. This will take 20-25 minutes, or 15-20 minutes for small new potatoes.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Cozy Bee

Today is a most glorious day.  Overcast skies, wind blowing through the trees, light rain just strong enough to be heard tapping gently on the rooftop.  The kind of weather stirs something inside me.  I feel excited.  I feel giddy.  I feel justified to snuggle under my quilt, drink some chamomile.  I don't like sunny days-they are monotonous.  But days like these, they have personality and the elements seem to be more alive.
Cozy Cup
Days like these are for sipping hot tea.  I just poured a cup for myself-drizzled some of the most golden of honeys into the amber drink.  My parents brought me some local honey from Point Barrow a few weeks ago.  The comb is suspended in the golden liquid-it is a treasure.  I broke a piece off while my tea was steeping.  I chewed it like bubble gum and savored the floral flavors, wondering what it must be like to be a bee.
Barely Touching The Floor
I hope everyone stays cozy and warm this weekend.  Try to find time to relax and enjoy some warmth in a cup.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Golden Hour (Recipe: Roasted Garlic-Sage Roast Chicken)

I'm sitting in the house with only the glow of this netbook as my sole source of light.  It is silent.  Calm.  The only thing I hear are my fingertips tapping the keys in a rhythmic pattern only I know.  My cat is giving himself a bath-he is not very modest at the least-slurp, slurp.  Rain is hitting the windows and there is the slightest rumble of distant thunder.  I'm sitting here amidst the golden hour-a perfect opportunity to go exploring in the days first light and click away through the camera lens.  But I don't want to move from the couch.  I don't want to wake anyone up.  I want this.  Silence.  Calm.  It doesn't happen often.
Autumn Sunset
This brief moment of pause wraps up my weekend perfectly.  I cherish the weekends I have at home, usually I'm working.  But this weekend, since the hubs was at a conference, it was just me, E (aka Baking Tot) and nothing but time on our side.  I had planned to spend Friday in Austin-visiting my favorite grocery store, hitting the park and then I remembered ACL was in town.  No worries, there will be other days.  Yesterday, we spent a good portion of the day at our neighborhood festival.  E had so much fun.  He rode the oil drum train three times and as we sat in the park eating a yellow sno-cone he said, "Mom, that train was awesome."  I was so happy we both enjoyed ourselves, especially after last year's episode.
Nature Walk Bounty
As I look out the window now, the golden hour has passed.  It is grey and a car's headlight is reflecting off of the wet pavement.  It may seem like you would be greeted by a burst of cool, crisp autumn air if you'd open the door but the air here is at the very least room temperature.  The rain though can have one ache for some comfort.  A cup of soup, a warm cup of tea, a comforting Sunday dinner.
Golden October
Friday, my Father-In-Law offered me some snippets of herbs from his garden.  The sage was beautiful and where there is sage, there is usually a roasted chicken to follow.  I love making roasted chicken-the different combinations of flavors, the comforting sides that accompany the bird, the beautiful, crisp golden skin-for all these reasons I believe roasted chicken is the epitome of comfort food.

And maybe I have not missed my golden hour after all.  Maybe all I will have to do is roast a golden bird.

Golden Hour Roast Chicken
serves 3-4 
Print This!
This is a very detailed instruction to a Roasted Garlic & Sage Roasted Chicken.  You do not have to follow this recipe word for word.  You may want to use a different herb-great! If you don't want to make the compound butter-fine!  Plain ol' butter will work just as well and you can skip step #2.

1 5- to 6-pound whole chicken
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1 head of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 handful of sage
1 lemon, halved
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large yellow onion, thickly and evenly sliced (about 1/2 inch thick slices)
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon flour
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Make Roasted Garlic-Sage Butter:  Pluck 2-3 cloves off of the head of garlic and place the unpeeled garlic on a square of foil.  Reserve remaining head of garlic for aromatics. Drizzle cloves with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper and fold foil into a packet.  Place foil packet in the oven as it is heating.  At 10 minutes remove foil packet and poke a paring knife into the cloves of garlic.  If cloves are golden in color and knife enters with ease-garlic is roasted and ready, let it cool enough to handle.  If not, place back into oven for a few more minutes and try again.  Meanwhile, place the room temperature butter into a small bowl.  Reserve half of the sage and set aside for later.  Chop the remaining sage finely yielding approximately one teaspoon and add it to the butter.  Squeeze the cooled, roasted garlic out of its skin and add it to the butter mixture.  Mash roasted garlic, butter and sage with a fork until incorporated.  DO-AHEADButter can be made in advance, keep refrigerated for 2-3 days or freeze it for 6-8 weeks.  Just bring it to room temperature before rubbing it on the bird.
  3. Prepare Bird:  Remove the giblets, innards, etc.  Rinse the chicken inside and out.  Remove any excess fat and/or pinfeathers and pat the outside dry.  Place onion in the bottom of a roasting pan creating a "rack" for the chicken.  Place the chicken on top of the onions.
  4. Add Aromatics:  Liberally salt & pepper the inside of the bird.  Stuff the cavity with the remaining bunch of sage, both halves of the lemon, slice the remaining head of garlic in half crosswise and add it to the cavity as well.
  5. Time For A Massage:  Rub the chicken down with the softened garlic-sage butter-give her a good rub down and make sure you hit every surface, nook & cranny.  Loosen the skin on the breasts and rub a generous amount of butter underneath the skin.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper-even underneath the skin on the breasts.  Tie the legs together and tuck wingtips under the body of the chicken.
  6. Get Cooking:  Roast the chicken for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F and then bring the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F.  Roast for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until the juices run clear or the temperature registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Remove to a platter and tent the chicken with foil.
  7. Good Gravy:  Remove all fat from roasting pan, reserving 2 tablespoons.  Add the chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan.  Combine the reserved chicken fat with the flour and add to pan.  Boil for a few minutes to cook out the flour.  Strain gravy into a small saucepan and season it with salt and pepper.  Keep warm over low heat.  Serve with chicken.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Grown Up Grilled Cheese

Lately I have felt as if I have been living under a heavy cloud.  There have been times where I feel like I am suffocating, smothered and unable to grasp a breath.  The past few months seems like a snowball of items that have broken, in need of mending and repair and I feel like I have been treading in a sea with no where to go.  At times I don't see the horizon.
Amazing Mammatus Clouds over Pocatello, ID (photo is an oldie but goodie)
It seems silly to admit I feel this way because of material objects, but that is just how I feel.  Earlier this summer I rear ended an elderly woman, only to be rear ended by a college kid a few weeks ago.  Our truck had numerous (four or five) repairs throughout the summer only to end up as sad leverage for a new car & new note.  My MAC's graphics card went out, we have a roof leak and one toilet is on the fritz.  It is just one thing after another.  I realize I could have it a lot worse than I do, but it just seems like too much all at once for the household.

My husband says this is what happens when you grow up.  Well, call me Peter Pan and send me to Neverland because being a grown up has not appealed to me lately.

Last Sunday a few co workers and myself went out for a little bit of drink and a little bit of food courtesy of our company.  As I finished my very grown up drink and was dreaming about the Grown Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich on the menu, we discovered that the restaurant would not accept our company card.  So up we went to another venue and I left my Grown Up Grilled Cheese Dreams at the table.
Roasted Tomatoes about to become the best Tomato Soup EVER!!! Recipe link below.
Yesterday I decided to make my version of the Grown Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich I had reluctantly walked out on.  The sandwich had so many wonderful layers of flavors.  It had a nice tang from the sourdough, delicious salty crust created by butter and Parmesan, a great bite from the Dijon and tied all together by my amazingly warm and sweet Caramel Pear Butter.  The shredded cheddar ensured a perfect melt and made me think that pear butter and cheddar was MFEO (Sleepless In Seattle reference-made for each other). It is perfect with this soup, which I made as well and the first word that left my mouth was "ridiculous" (as in ridiculously delicious).

Grown Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich
two sandwiches

The Grown Up Grilled Cheese at The River Pub includes bacon and tomato, which I did not have-nonetheless my sandwich was delicious.  Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are quite versatile, so feel free to add some goods to this.  Goes great with this ridiculously good soup!

4 slices of sourdough bread
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 oz. Parmesan Cheese, grated on a microplane grater
3 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated on a box grater
Dijon Mustard
Caramel Pear Butter (recipe coming soon)
  1. Brush one side of bread slices with melted butter and press Parmesan into bread slices, coating completely.
  2. Place bread cheese side down and spread two slices with mustard and the other two with pear butter.
  3. Assemble sandwiches with bread, shredded cheddar & arugula.
  4. In a non-stick skillet , cook sandwiches over medium heat until bread is crisp and golden and cheddar is melted.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apples & October (Recipe: Apple Butterscotch Blondies)

Happy October everyone.  October is by far my most favorite month.  I love the turning of the seasons, the cooler, grayer weather, and my most favorite of all holidays, Halloween.  For some reason October always has me thinking about apples.  Strange to me because September and the apple always seemed to coincide with one another, possibly paying homage to the teacher/student relationship.  But for me it has always been apples & October.

Apple Butterscotch Blondies are perfect for a fall day.  It is a very simple recipe with a wonderful butterscotch flavor, thanks to the dark brown sugar.  Using fresh apples ensures that these little guys will definitely be moist, especially if you sit them out overnight.  I found a dusting of confectioners sugar to be a simple and perfect topping, that is if just have to have one.

Apple Butterscotch Blondies 

1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped apples (I used a mixture of Granny Smith, Honeycrisp & Gala)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter and flour a 13x9 baking pan.
  2. Stir together brown sugar, butter, applesauce, eggs and vanilla
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking powder & salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to incorporate.  Add apples and pecans, stirring gently to incorporate.
  4. Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 35-45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool completely before cutting.

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Brighten Your Day (Lemon Yogurt Cake)

I live in a land kissed by the sun.  I wake up before the she rises and see her break the horizon almost every morning.  So soft and beautiful, a delicate ball rising only to sear my shoulders in a few short hours.  Living under a cloudless sky seems like happiness, maybe romantic, but I grow tired of the bright, hot days.  It is as if I live in my own Groundhogs Day.  A repeat of sunny days, bright weeks and scorching months.

Last week we were granted a break.  A glorious gloomy day.  The sun never broke through the clouds and it was a perfect gray.  The drizzle and light rain danced around one another and never grew tired.  The performance was lovely.  For a moment I was transported to the overcast skies of the northwest, though the heft and warmth of the air quickly brought me back home.

I found myself making a bright, bold lemon cake that day.  Ironic to find me, the one who loathes the bright sunny days, making up for her absence.  As fall begins and will turn into winter, the grayer days are upon us.  If you find yourself missing the sun, make this cake.  She will brighten your day.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home, Ina Garten
yield:  1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  Grease and flour the pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.  In a bowl of an electric mixer, mix together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  With a large rubber spatula, fold vegetable oil into the batter, making sure its all incorporated.  Pour batter in prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, cake tester will come out clean.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.
  4. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan and place on a rack that has been set inside a rimmed cookie sheet or pan.  While the cake is still warm, poke holes on the top using a skewer.  Using a brush, soak the cake with the lemon syrup.  Allow it to soak in.  Cool completely.
  5. For the glaze, combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and pour evenly over the cake.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nutmeg is her BFF (Macaroni & Cheese-Greek Yogurt Style)

I saw the following quote months ago as my friend Charles's FB status.  I appreciate really good food humor and of all my FB friends out there, he never disappoints.

"I love making Bechamel. Such and easy sauce, equal parts flour to fat with enough milk and bay leaf to bring it to the right consistency. What a versatile little kitchen slut. She'll go with cheese, dairy, wine, whatever. Nutmeg is her BFF."

Cute right?  I also followed a link of his that led me to a Macaroni & Cheese recipe using FAGE Total Greek Yogurt.  The recipe makes a great cheese sauce and the sauteed onion & red bell pepper lend a slight sophistication in flavor.

Macaroni & Cheese-Greek Yogurt Style
serves:  6
8oz medium shells whole wheat pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, plus more to butter casserole dish & dot the topping
1 1/2-2 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
10 ounces sharp cheddar shredded, plus 1/4 cup shredded for topping
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Bring pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook for 6 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
  2. Saute the onion & bell pepper in olive until onions are translucent.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & butter a 2 quart casserole.
  4. Melt 1/2 cup butter in saute pan and add flour, cooking for 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk and 1/2 cup of yogurt, whisking until smooth.  Add nutmeg.  Bring to a low simmer and remove from heat.  Add 10 oz. cheddar and whisk until smooth.  Add remaining yogurt & sriraca.  Toss together pasta, onion/pepper mixture & cheese sauce.  Transfer into prepared casserole.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss 1/4 cup cheddar, feta & panko bread crumbs into a small bowl.  Remove casserole from oven and add topping.  Dot with butter.  Return to oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown & bubbling.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summers last berries (Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Candied Pecans & Poppy Seed Dressing)

Spinach Salad+Frittata=a perfect summer meal
I can hear the hum of the yellow school bus at the stop.  The kids are back in school and the neighborhood is now quiet.  I see the transition of fruit in the produce department-less berries, more apples and oranges.  Honeycrisp apples have arrived and I can't wait to sink my teeth into their crisp, sweet flesh.  I am anxious for fall.

The air is still hot and heavy and fall is definitely absent from the gentle breeze, but I suppose it can be present in my heart.  Before I dive into the dreams of golden, cooler days, I will share with you this very summery salad.  Sweet, crunchy, tangy and bejeweled with summer's last berries.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries & Candied Pecans & Poppy Seed Dressing
1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 pt fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup candied pecans (found in the bulk sections of the market)

-Toss with poppy seed dressing just before serving

Poppy Seed Dressing
1/2 cup sugar
2 T sesame seeds
1 T poppy seeds
1 1/2 tsp minced onion
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

-Mix first 6 ingredients.  Slowly add  vegetable oil.  Refrigerate 1 hour before tossing the greens.