November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Tried and True

corn husk poms poms

Who doesn't like Thanksgiving? Lots of good food, wine, football and kids underfoot with none of the greedy grabbing that can rear it's ugly head at Christmas. I've hosted a big group for the past three years and have learned to put my energy into the bird (fresh, local, brined and roasted), gravy (see below), harvesty decor, a running-through-the-neighborhood hunt that sends my family and friends from clue to clue then finishing with a mad dash back home to claim their prize (something silly for the kids and a glass of something for the adults) and dig into a meal they've worked an appetite up for. I say "yes" to everyone who offers to bring something including mashed potatoes and stuffing and buy the rest. Hey, I want to have fun too!

Here are a few links to tried and true things I love for Thanksgiving. I hope yours is peaceful and delicious.

Corn Husk PomPoms—Happy chic. Last year I hung them from the dining room light fixture and ended up leaving them there all year.

Pimenton Roasted Cauliflower—Flavorful and crowd-pleasing. I'll make this again and again.

Make-Ahead Gravy—My go-to for the past three years. Delicious, easy and I think this blogger is sweet.

Cranberry Orange Sauce with Walnuts—Tart, sweet and crunchy. I make extra and eat most of it myself.

Alice's Restaurant—My personal Thanksgiving tradition is a morning run around the lake listening to this funny nearly 20 minute long song by Arlo Guthrie. Never gets old.

November 9, 2014

Triple Decker French Onion Grilled Cheese

Triple Decker French Onion Grilled Cheese

This sandwich, a crispy, gooey number that tastes like french onion soup, is an indulgence that may send you to the couch for an afternoon of napping or watching any old movie that happens to be on. Especially if you eat it with a cold beer, like me. 

November 4, 2014

Winter Slaw

 Winter Slaw

I yanked the last of the tomato plants out of the cold soil this past weekend, re-potted some herbs in small vessels to bring inside (where they will live for a few weeks in their healthy green state then begin the long slow wither to March when they'll eventually gasp and disintegrate having done the best they could to get me through winter). 

So goodbye tomato and basil salads and hello tough little winter vegetables; carrots, cabbage, fennel, parsnips, beets, etc. Hardy produce that make a nice, slaw that's nutritious, crunchy and bright. I dressed it with this creamy Yogurt Dressing but lemon juice and olive oil is good too. If you throw in some chicken, nuts or lentils, you've got lunch.

October 27, 2014

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

Whole Wheat Maple Scones

I've had many scones that are nearly indistinguishable from muffins—soft and fluffy with a top that is just slightly firmer than the interior. That's not what I'm looking for in a scone. I want a scone to be very crisp and even a little dry so you can break off chunks and pop them in your mouth to be followed by a sip of hot tea or coffee. 

I've been on a maple kick lately so my pantry has an arsenal of maple essentials; syrup, sugar and extract—and using all three in a recipe really punches up the maple flavor which is kind of hard to achieve with just one of these elements.

I used whole wheat pastry flour which subs so well for AP and delivers heartier flavor while still staying tender, and made a maple glaze with butter and cream to spoon over the top of the finished scones. You can skip the glaze, if you like. Still good—lightly sweet and less sticky.

October 21, 2014

"New Midwestern Table" Milk Cabbage

"New Midwestern" Milk Cabbage

"New Midwestern" Milk Cabbage

Last weekend I read Amy Thielen's cookbook, The New Midwestern Table from cover to cover and I really can't say enough about it.

I'll try and make nearly everything (perhaps not the headcheese although she manages to make it look and sound delicious) but the recipes aren't even the best part of the book. The best part is the way she writes, with a voice that is sure of itself but not show-offy and laced with affection and appreciation of her roots that, like mine, aren't sexy Mediterranean or Latin but stolid German, Slovakian maybe with a little French Canadian thrown in. The food reflects the sensibilities of these people—straightforward, thrifty, nourishing and delicious. Meat, potatoes, gravy, lake fish, seasonal vegetables, preserved foods.....done simply and really well.

Photos by Jennifer May

October 14, 2014

Spinach Arugula Tart with a Potato Crust

What's the difference between a tart and a quiche? It seems like a tart has less filling than a quiche and possibly fewer eggs.  Also, tarts are usually baked in a pan with removable sides and may or may not have an 'e' on the end. So I'm calling this a tart(e). 

I pinned a pretty picture of a potato crust herb tart from the Sweet Daily Blog about a year ago and have finally gotten around to giving it a whirl. Excellent. Just the thing for anyone who craves the comfort of a warm, savory tart but could do without the pastry crust. The potatoes are soft and crispy and the filling fresh, tangy and flavorful from the cottage and feta cheese and not too eggy ('cause it's not a quiche, right?). 

October 8, 2014

Apple Dumplings with Cider Cream Sauce

Apple Dumplings with Cider Cream Sauce

I won't lie. There's a boatload of butter in this recipe. But, man, it makes for delicious, flaky, flavorful crust and these little guys have a lot of it. A crispy personal apple pie with a sauce that tastes like melted apple cider ice cream.  An idea from Vanilla Bean blogger Sarah Kieffer. Taste like autumn, plus I get to practice making pastry which I'm steadily improving at, even enjoying.

October 3, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes — Because summer is over and we can turn the oven on now.

Roasted Tomatoes

Every fall I try and hit that sweet spot where the tomatoes are still fresh and cheap at the Farmer's Market and the weather has cooled enough to allow me to run the oven all day. When that happens I roast tomatoes to freeze for winter. I use them in sauce and soup and pizza. They're so much better than canned or the hauled from afar on a truck variety. Put them in freezer bags in one cup portions for long-term frozen storage or cover with olive oil and stash in fridge for a week or so to use on sandwiches, bruschetta, quesadillas and salads. 

September 29, 2014

Salt-Roasted Beets

I've wanted to try a salt-crust for awhile, probably because I'm such a salt fiend. I have at least six varieties in my pantry (grey, pink, black, truffle, flaked, kosher, slab) most of which have been gifts from people who know me well. I salt almost everything. I even carry around a little baggie of it in my purse in case I'm caught with a takeout sandwich or salad that needs a little pop. 

With salt-roasting you bury the food (fish, meat, vegetables) in a sandy mixture of salt, egg whites and herbs. It creates an oven within your oven and cooks the food gently and evenly. When it hardens and browns you crack open the crust to reveal a tenderly cooked thing. 

September 25, 2014

Maple Glazed Maple Banana Bread or How Many Times Can I Use the Word "Maple" in One Post?

Maple Glazed Maple Banana Bread

Nineteen, as it turns out. My thesaurus provides no other option.

My favorites pancakes are at The Egg & I, a breakfast place in Minneapolis. I used to go there in my post-college hangover days, then my post-long-run training-for-marathon days, then my post-childbirth up-all-night-jiggling-a-baby-to-sleep days. Now I just go with the kids when I'm hungry for a big breakfast and too lazy to cook. Their multi-grain "kamikaze" cakes are huge and tender and topped with berries, bananas, nuts and lots of butter and maple syrup. I also love their veggie omelet but today I was thinking about those pancakes when I made this bread (I would've included berries but fresh berries never stick around for long in our fridge).

I used maple sugar—a pricey alternative to white or brown that has nice maple flavor and is twice as sweet so you use less—and maple syrup. I also browned the butter. Ever since I made this bread with brown butter I don't want it any other way. It didn't have quite enough maple flavor so I added a sweet glaze on top, with a good dose of salt to liven it up. If you have maple extract, I would substitute it for the vanilla. I couldn't find any at my local grocery so will be ordering some online because I think there's a bunch of maple goodies in my future.

September 22, 2014

Yogurt Dressing (especially for lentils)

I'm happy when I've got a container of cooked lentils in the fridge. Peppery and meaty with lots of protein and fiber—they're great with a salad of greens, leftover roasted vegetables, slivered onions and walnuts for a hearty, healthy, quick lunch. But this isn't a recipe for lentils—I just cook them according to the tiny words printed on the bag and you can too. This is a recipe for the simple sauce that is my favorite way to dress lentils—warm or cold. The salty, garlicky yogurt is rich and creamy and provides a zesty counterpoint to the earthly legumes. Happy lentil lunching!

September 11, 2014

Blue Cheese Dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing

I just don't like store-bought salad dressings. They always contain some "weird" flavor that I can't put my finger on even when I search the ingredient list. Sugar? Maybe. Xanthan Gum? Does that have a flavor? But I still occasionally buy a bottle because they're quick. My last purchase was a jar of blue cheese dressing from the refrigerator case that set me back almost $5. I spooned it over a buffalo chicken salad and, yep, was let down. Again, that indefinable flavor.

Serendipitously, a few nights ago my husband came home with a huge, HUGE wedge of Gorgonzola from our local Italian deli (he gets a little panicky when he's procuring food and tends to blurt out things like - "I'll take a pound!" in this case of really good, $20 a pound cheese). So it's a fine time to make a batch of luscious blue cheese dressing. This is creamy and rich and the blue cheese is prominent but not overpowering. I like the flavor of fresh herbs and added chopped parsley—basil would be nice too or you could skip it. Measurements are approximate. Add a little more or less to taste and for the thickness you like.

September 5, 2014

Brown Butter Brownies

Brown Butter Brownies

I'm such an culinary jerk sometimes. Last weekend our good friends came over for dinner with their two young kids, ages 5 and 7. They live in a distant suburb and we don't get to see them as often as we like so I was really excited. They were bringing some wine from a vineyard we visited on a fun trip to Napa a few years ago and I was in charge of the food. 

September 1, 2014

Corn Soup with Tofu Larb

Corn Soup with Tofu Larb

Did you know they grow sweet corn in Thailand? Me neither, but I googled it after I tested this recipe for Food52's "best warm weather soup" contest and they do.

Kind of fun to discover that our Midwestern summer staple, corn, is a natural and delicious partner to Thai flavors. This soup delivers big corn taste in a broth that's spiked with ginger and cilantro and finished with a pile of crispy Thai-sauced tofu, a riff on larb, which is a southeast Asian staple of minced meat flavored with fish sauce, chili's and herbs.

August 26, 2014

Sambal Chicken Skewers

Sambal Chicken Skewers

I made this because my husband asked me to "cook the cover" which happened to be last June's issue of Bon Appetit. I'm always going through old cooking magazines looking for ideas and I leave them all over the house. This one caught his eye. Chicken cut into chunks, skewered, grilled and basted with a sticky, spicy chili and sriracha sauce. 

I apologize for the lack of family was sitting at the kitchen counter harassing me about their hunger as I tried to take pictures. And then they ate all of it—fast. And then my husband starting doing the dishes, so I vacated the kitchen—fast, and ran upstairs to listen to the radio and sort my tee-shirt drawer. Don't judge. Everyone relaxes in their own way and getting control of this drawer by sorting my cotton tops into long sleeved, short sleeved, turtleneck and time-to-go and folding them into neat little geometric piles makes me feel like a person who has drawers that look like this, who never miss an appointment, who always get the forms in on time and never walk the dogs in their pajamas with yesterday's mascara raccooning their eyes. Like Babe Paley. Except Babe Paley probably didn't own 23 tee-shirts. Nevertheless, I'm sure her drawers of say, Hermes scarves, looked as good as my tee-shirt drawer does now making it just as effortless for her to choose which scarf to tie on to the handle of her handbag or over her coif as it will be for me to select a tee that perfectly complements my cargo pants or jeans. Babe and I have much in common. 
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