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.