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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spicy Sweet Onion Dip

Thanksgiving is in two days you say? Really? How did that happen? The last few weeks of my life has been an endless sea of beer, wine, and liquor bottles. Don't worry, I'm not writing to you from rehab! I am finally comfortable announcing that I have a new job. I hope to talk about it more later, but after much thought I decided to make a major career change. My position is Beer Sales Manager at a brand new store here in Fairbanks. Besides the fact that I feel like I have been doing aerobics twelve hours a day for weeks (because I have), I'm really loving the job. Now that the place is open I am enjoying chatting with customers about beer and seeing the excitement over such a huge selection. I'll soon be teaching beer education classes every week and I'll have opportunities to improve my own knowledge as well. Not to mention that my next "business" trip will be attending the Beer and Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage.
So, to say the least...I'm totally not prepared for Thanksgiving. For our first Thanksgiving together David and I had chips and salsa for dinner. I had just returned from a long trip the night before and he worked all day on Thanksgiving. We were both exhausted, so we stopped at the grocery store and picked up a bottle of wine and some chips and salsa. To remember that first year, we now have a Mexican/American Thanksgiving every year by spicing up some of those traditional dishes. It is the one time each year I make mole sauce. This year I'm so exhausted that chips and salsa and a bottle of wine sounds pretty good. I'd have plenty of wine to choose from!
I think I could also muster up enough energy to make this Spicy Sweet Onion Dip as well. This dip is incredibly easy and very delicious. It was the very first recipe I bookmarked from Todd and Diane's new book called Bountiful. It's a really beautiful book full of recipes from their home garden and mini orchard. I spiced up the original recipe with some hot sauce and red pepper flakes resulting in a sweet and spicy combination that is hard to resist. Make sure you use the sweet onions from the grocery store and not the regular brown/yellow onions. They are usually labeled Mayan Sweets and this year our Fred Meyer store had a huge display of them. This would make a perfect appetizer to keep the hunger pangs away while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner, or if you are having a week like mine, the perfect dinner.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin and Pomegranate


Every year when the first pomegranates of the season show up at the grocery store I can't resist buying one. A few pomegranate seeds sprinkled on a dish really adds a festive touch. I like to use the water bowl method to de-seed my pomegranates, but this (ahem) spanking method seems to be making the rounds on the internet these days. Have you tried either method, or maybe both? Which do you prefer? Do you have another method for de-seeding a pomegranate? I'd love to hear about it. Leave me a message in the comments.
I like to keep the seeds in a small bowl in the refrigerator, that way I can quickly add them to salads or even on my morning granola or oatmeal. A simple winter fruit salad is especially beautiful with pomegranate seeds.
This roasted cauliflower recipe is one I have been meaning to make for a long time. I love roasted vegetables in the winter. I can go for months without roasting a single vegetable and then the cold weather sets in and roasted vegetables are the only thing I want to eat. They seem to show up with every meal. I had never roasted cauliflower before and I have to say that it might be the only way I eat cauliflower from now on. It has a wonderful nutty flavor that you don't get when you steam it or eat it raw. This dish makes a nice lunch, or a great side dish with roast chicken, it would also be a great accompaniment to Indian food as well.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Creamy Sunchoke Soup

A few years ago I had some sunchokes in a CSA. I had never cooked with them before and wasn't really sure what to do with them. We had been getting behind with our CSA, fruits and veggies were taking over our kitchen, so I decided to make this monstrosity Squash, Sunchoke, and Pear Lasagna. I still consider that experiment one of the bigger disasters I have had on this site. I couldn't bear to see all that expensive produce go to waste, so we suffered through two nights of trying to get that horribly heavy, and dry lasagna down. When I went to look for that post I realized it was exactly five years ago today that I posted about that experience. I haven't had another sunchoke since. You can now find them in the grocery store in Fairbanks on occasion. It wasn't until I saw some exceptionally beautiful ones in the produce section of our new Co-op that I seriously started thinking about giving them another try.  Then, by chance I was making another recipe and on the opposing page of the cookbook was a recipe for this creamy sunchoke soup.
I love the nutty flavor and simplicity of this soup. It is however, incredibly rich. I recommend serving it in small portions. The soup would make a great starter for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm definitely warming to the idea of sunchokes and hope to try them again soon. I'll just be keeping them out of my lasagna for now. Have you tried sunchokes? Any great recipes you would like to share? Please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Fangled Old-Fashioned

I feel like I always have a bottle of dark rum sitting around the kitchen. The thing is that most of the liquor you find in my house comes not from making cocktails, but baking, or making preserves. Most of the time I just buy the tiniest bottle I can find, but unfortunately (or maybe not) dark rum only comes in the very large size bottle. So, as I looked through the new book "Winter Cocktails", this one caught my eye. It was both the rum and the cherry bitters actually. I've become a bit of a bitters fanatic, well maybe fanatic is a little strong since this is only my fourth bottle. It all started with the amazing margarita recipe from White on Rice couple that uses orange bitters instead of triple sec. I don't make my margaritas any other way now.
So, I knew that dark rum and cherry bitters was bound to be a winning combination as well. This cocktail is a new take on the classic Old-Fashioned cocktail. I have to say it's a lot more fun! To top it all off I got to buy a box of sugar cubes. Do you have any idea how fun sugar cubes are? I had a hard time not taking them all out of the box and making my very own igloo.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bake Shoppe Peanut Butter Cookies

I have been trying to find the perfect homemade peanut butter cookie for a couple of years now. The kind like you get from the corner bake shoppe (if you live in the kind of place with a corner bake shoppe). Nothing fancy, just a good, solid peanut butter cookie. I couldn't help but wonder if the world really needed another recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies? Then that got me to thinking about why I started this blog in the first place. This started as a place for me to keep my recipes, a place for notes, for trial and error. In the beginning I made several brownie recipes and several chocolate chip cookie recipes trying to find the perfect one. Over time I grew more concerned about what my readers wanted to see, I tried to do more of whatever it was that was driving more traffic to this little old corner of the internet. Many times I think I have been guilty of trying to be original or unique, when to be honest all I really wanted was one really good peanut butter cookie. Don't get me wrong, I like to be cute and clever at times and those recipes are really tasty. Sometimes I don't post things here because I think that it's not something really all that exciting. Then I thought about it like this...I think of this space as a place where friends should gather, to sit down with me over a cup of coffee. If you came to my house for a chat and a morning cup of coffee and I offered you these peanut butter cookies would you tell me that you had already been at Jane's house and she also made peanut butter cookies and she served them on a much fancier plate and last week Mary made you some peanut butter cookies drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt? Would you say these cookies seem a little plain compared to all the other peanut butter cookies you have been eating? No, of course not. Well, if you did I'm not sure how long we would be friends!
What I did realize in making these cookies is that peanut butter cookies are only as good as the peanut butter they are made with. This is true with so many recipes, good quality ingredients really matter. So, make sure you are using peanut butter that you would want to eat straight out of the jar with a spoon, because that is what these cookies are going to taste like. So, if you too are still looking for that perfect yet simple peanut butter cookie, then pull out your best ingredients and give these a try. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Buttermilk Pie

Three years, three and a half years to be exact. It took me that long to try this pie and I have to question my sanity for waiting so long. If you like buttermilk, don't be like me and wait until you have a carton of buttermilk that is close to going bad before making this pie. You see, in addition to eating less meat, I'm also obsessing about not wasting food. So when I accidentally bought way too much buttermilk after making a red velvet cake for a friends birthday, I furiously starting searching for recipes to use the remaining three cups from the quart (yes, I do have another recipe that I made with the remaining two cups after making this pie). Then I remembered a recipe I had bookmarked over three years ago, it came after a visit to the Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. I had stopped in one morning for breakfast when a woman at the table next to me ordered a slice of buttermilk pie for breakfast. Her friends teased her a bit, enough to draw the attention of the neighboring tables. When her pie arrived I think we were all secretly wondering why we didn't order pie for breakfast. I chuckled when the waiter took my plate away and asked if I wanted any dessert after my breakfast. I thought he was just joking because of the woman who ordered the pie. The next morning when I went back for breakfast, another waiter asked the same thing at the end of my meal. Then I noticed other tables being asked the same thing at the end of their breakfast and some were indeed ordering dessert after breakfast. I'll tell you I was tempted, but pie after biscuits and gravy is just a bit too much for me. After I left Charleston I couldn't stop thinking about that buttermilk pie. I had never heard of it before and was curious what it would taste like. When I returned home I bookmarked the Hominy Grill site, at the time they had their recipe for buttermilk pie on the site. I've looked at it a few times, but just never got around to making it. Maybe that's a good thing. This pie is way too easy to make for it to be this good. The recipe is no longer on the Hominy Grill website because they have now published their own cookbook. I can see why if all the recipes are as good as this one. With a little research I found that the recipe for buttermilk pie in The New York Times Cookbook is actually the Hominy Grill recipe. Since I never actually had the pie at Hominy Grill I can't tell you how close it is to the original, but I can tell you it is everything I imagined it would be. Smooth, custardy, tangy buttermilk pie, what are you waiting for?


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mushroom Bourguignon

For many reasons, I have been trying to cut back on our consumption of meat lately. I'm going with the opposite of the meatless Monday trend. I'm trying to make the majority of our meals meatless with only one special meal that includes meat each week, or maybe a couple meals with a much smaller serving of meat such as soups or stews. Like I said, there are many good reasons to make the switch to eating less meat and they all have come into play in my decision, but I also have to say that I am enjoying the challenge of coming up with easy weeknight non-meat meals. This one isn't technically vegetarian as it includes beef broth, but you could easily substitute vegetable broth if you were indeed looking for a true vegetarian dish.
I was inspired to make this after I saw fresh pearl onions in the grocery store. I thought it would be fun to give them a try. They are kind of fussy for a weeknight meal however, the peeling of all those little onions was more than I really wanted to take on. The second time I made the dish I used frozen pearl onions and noticed little in the way of difference in flavor, but the substitution brought the dish from special weekend meal to a possible weeknight dinner. I served the mushrooms over whole wheat egg noodles, the hearty whole wheat flavor was a nice compliment to the mushrooms, but I could see this served over rice or mashed potatoes too.
Have you ever peeled fresh pearl onions? What did you think, worth the effort?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bittersweet Chocolate Crunch Bars


*Full Disclosure: I am a HUGE fan of Mast Brothers chocolate, I was not paid to write this post, and I purchased the cookbook myself. 

A few times a year I will order special chocolate to savor in small pieces over several nights by the wood stove. Mast Brothers is one of a handful of places I regularly order from. Now it goes without saying that they have great chocolate, but I wasn't really sure that would translate to a great cookbook. I knew the book would be beautiful (it is), but would any of the recipes actually be appropriate for a home cook? I was hesitant to make the purchase (the book isn't cheap) until I saw the trailer. Have you seen the trailer for the Mast Brothers cookbook? It's fun and clever and probably the best cookbook trailer ever! Go watch it now...I'll wait 'til you get back....

So fun, right? After watching it I immediately purchased the book. I was still nervous, would this just be another cookbook that I enjoy "reading" and then it goes on the shelf, never to be cracked open again? When the book came in I sat down with my little pile of page markers. When I first buy a book I usually only mark recipes that really stand out, things I want to make immediately. It wasn't long before I had 12 recipes marked and I wasn't even half way into the book. The recipes like this one that I am sharing today are fairly easy to make. No hard to find ingredients or complex techniques, they really are family recipes (chocolate family recipes) that you might find in your Mom's recipe box. This book won't be sitting on a shelf anytime soon.
As for this recipe, I cut the original in half. There are only two of us in the house and I don't have co-workers to share this stuff with right now. Even with half the recipe I still had to tuck a few pieces in my neighbors mailbox so we wouldn't eat a whole (half) batch. The one thing that I liked about this cookbook is nowhere in any of the recipes did they say you had to use Mast Brothers chocolate. Since I like to eat my Mast Brothers Chocolate in its purest form I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet baking bars for this recipe. Also, the finished bars are a bit crumbly, you will want to slice them into thick pieces otherwise they will crumbly to bits.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pork Chops with Madeira Bay Butter Sauce

Lately I've been in the mood for good, reliable food. It's not that I'm not feeling food adventurous, it's just after being away from my kitchen all summer I am craving all my old favorites. At first I was wondering how I could make that work with this site, but then I realized that a lot of my older posts for some of my favorite foods could use a little sprucing up. I think it's a good thing to bring those tried and true recipes back to the spotlight. These pork chops are another recipe on regular rotation here. They come from Rozanne Gold's cookbook, Radically Simple. I love this cookbook because it includes super quick and easy meals that look like they could have come from some fancy restaurant. Every time I sit down to eat these pork chops I'm rather stunned by how beautiful they are. I think part of it is that they take so little time to make. It's almost as though they arrive on your table by magic.
The original recipe calls for fresh tarragon, but in the last few years it has become more difficult to find in Fairbanks. Now, I use fresh thyme for sprinkling on top, but I recommend substituting tarragon if you can find it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spicy Chicken Rice Soup with Sweet Potato

Another quiet Halloween has come and gone. We don't get trick or treaters here in our neighborhood. I'm not even sure we have kids in our neighborhood. Once in a while I'll see a couple walking down the road or riding their ATV's at top speed kicking up dust in the summer. I'm not sure they even live close by. Either way, they don't go trick or treating apparently. Maybe our long driveway intimidates them, or maybe our three dogs that weigh a total of 275 pounds. I don't really see many kids trick or treating in town either. Usually it is just too darn cold. This year wouldn't have been so bad, it was probably in the 30's last night (above zero). We did get our required Halloween snow last night though. Don't get me wrong, I love the unseasonably warm temperatures, but this year has just been a little discomforting. No matter what, we all like to complain about the weather; too hot, too cold, too much
snow, not enough snow. These days you never know what to expect.
Now that the temperatures are finally cooling down we are officially in "soup season". I think I would eat soup for dinner every night in the winter if given the chance. I love everything about soup, the smell of it simmering on the stove all afternoon, the fact that it is warm and filling after walking the dogs, and there is usually at least enough left for lunch the next day if not a second dinner. The perfect winter meal.
This original recipe called for pearl barley, but I couldn't find any in Fairbanks. I looked in three places where the bulk bins were empty and I couldn't find it anywhere else in the store. The brown rice was a perfect substitute, but I bet quinoa would be great too. Also, if you want to give this soup an extra kick, substitute Maple Chipotle Sauce for the tomato paste. Warm and Spicy, perfect!
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