December 14, 2014

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits

UNCLE, I say!
To bacon that is.
You win.

Universally loved and appreciated (not that many vegetarians or kosher-keepers in my circle) I don't know why I've resisted so long and in this case, deviled eggs with pickled celery and homemade bacon bits, a little goes a long way. A bit of work peeling, scooping out and re-stuffing the eggs but worth it for the happy people who scarf them up at the "bring an app" party. The pickled celery is so good too. Great idea from Smitten Kitchen. Tangy and crunchy like a pickle but without the assertive flavor of dill.

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits

Makes a dozen

7 eggs (one extra just in case)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pickled celery*
1 tablespoon minced chives or scallions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 slices bacon

Note: I made the eggs and pickled celery the night before so it came together quickly the day of the party

1. For the hard boiled eggs I tried this new method and found them easier to peel. You boil the water first, then gently add the eggs, let them boil for 30 seconds, cover, turn off heat and let them sit for 10 minutes before transferring them to an ice bath for 15 minutes before peeling.  If you can do this the night before and put the unpeeled eggs in the fridge it's even better.  

2. Make bacon bits. Preheat oven to 350º.  Lay bacon on rack set over sheet pan and bake flipping once halfway, about 10 minutes per side until crispy.  Maintain oven temperature. Drain on a paper towel and chop into bits. Scatter bits on sheet pan and bake for another 10 minutes (but keep an eye on them so they don't burn, although I like a tiny bit of char on mine). You can do this a day ahead. 

3. Peel and halve eggs. Pop out yolks into a bowl and mash smooth along with mayonnaise, chives, salt and pepper. Stir in pickled celery. Spoon back into eggs (about 1/2 teaspoon per egg half) and top with bacon bits.

Pickled Celery
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

2 stalks celery, chopped into tiny dice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Put everything in a jar, shake and chill for one hour. Good for a week in the refrigerator.

December 7, 2014

Garlic Fennel Pork Roast

Garlic Fennel Pork Roast

Most Saturday nights during junior high I had dinner with my dad and his wife. My parents had split when I was in grade school and I was lucky that my dad got re-married to a nice woman who thought it was important for us to spend time interacting during our weekend visits. So they always put together a sit-down dinner that was usually followed by a board or card game and a movie.

Garlic Fennel Pork Roast

December 3, 2014

Cardamom Spice Cookies with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Cardamom Spice Cookies with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Serious cooks stress the importance of using fresh spices and I'm sure they're right but I made these cookies with spices that have been in my pantry since I unpacked them from our move three years ago (who knows how long they had been at the old place) and they taste great. 

Better than great—eyes flare in surprise great. Nothing fancy or bedazzled about this holiday cookie–just a homely little nugget that's cakey and crisp with lightly spiced flavor and a big hunk of caramel cream cheese frosting.

November 30, 2014

Cranberry Sauce Crisp

Cranberry Sauce Crisp

I have a daughter who plays hockey. She's 11, bright-eyed, friendly and focused on the ice. She cheers the loudest (really, I'm not exaggerating, she's loud) and laughs the hardest. If I ever wonder where she is all I have to do is cock my head like a bird-dog and listen. If she's in the vicinity, I'll hear her. Being a quiet, reserved person myself I can hardly believe she came out of me and it's kind of a thrill.

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!

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!
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