Happy 2015

27 Jan

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Did anyone else have a whirlwind of a holiday season? Even now, mostly through January, I’m just now getting to writing. After Thanksgiving, Christmas was just a hop, skip, and jump away. After Christmas, Rob and I traveled up North visiting Boston, Maine, and Connecticut. Two weeks later, we took a road trip to visit my sister and friends in New Orleans. Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the overall holiday/New Year season with family and friends was more than wonderful, it was truly a blessing.

But so was all the amazing food.

For a quick run-down, starting from the week of Christmas at my mom’s house for hor’derves, ending with this week’s vegan inspired meals, here are our holiday dishes in Cliffs Notes: Foodie Volumes form.

NOTE: It’s ok to drool. No one will judge.

  • Dungeness crab cocktails and Mom’s dip (yep, my absolute fave straight from the waters of our former backyard)
  • Beef Wellington (Rob’s fave, and he only gets it once a year. Poor guy.)
  • Pork Loin Chili
  • Oysters from off the Massachusetts coast
  • Oysters from off the Maine coast
  • Oysters from 2 different river beds in Maine
  • Maine Lobster (in the best way: a simple roll in a local fisherman’s pub. Also had great coffee.)
  • New England Shrimp
  • Oxtail Tortellini (yes, I will be recreating this)
  • Scottish Salmon (Chinooks, you’re still No.1, but this beast of a fish takes a close second)
  • Lamb Shoulder Risotto
  • Lamb Leg
  • Lamb Rib (Lamb. Rib. OMG.)
  • Oh, and all those lambs were in one dish. Well, it probably was just one lamb…
  • Maine Finnan Haddock with Absinthe Cream (Absinthe cream, people!!)
  • Goat Meat Chili
  • Duck Confit Poutine. The real deal.
  • Fermented apple, cider beer. Kinda like kombucha, only better.
  • Truffled Venison
  • Wild Boar Pappardelle
  • Wedding Cake Latte (pumps of vanilla and almond syrups)
  • Jenn’s Bacon and Spinach Wrapped Chicken
  • Lemongrass Hot Wings
  • Etouffee French Fries
  • And finally…. Duck Sausage with Spicy Mustard and Cranberry Sauce (in hotdog form, mind you)

After finally taking yet another step into the social media world, I did document many of these on Instagram, #eatingacrossAmerica and #42potatoes. Needless to say, it’s been fun. And filling. But mostly fun.

So now it’s back to the real world; Rob is back flying and I am back teaching, and in four days I’ve given myself 7 paper cuts. One of which is in that little soft spot between my fingers (now, if that’s not cause for a choice word or two, I don’t know what is). However, reality doesn’t mean the food adventures have to stop. Oh no, my friends, it’s only just beginning.

I am taking a new approach to the new year. Like many resolutions, the oh-you-made-a-new-years-promise-to-eat-better-and-detox-but-after-three-days-of-quinoa-torture-you’ll-give-in-to-the-hidden-frozen-candy-bar resolutions obviously don’t work so well. I’ve learned not to make resolutions that will end up in failure, making me feel defeated and diving into plate(s) of nachos. So this year, there are no resolutions, just more fantastic eating.

We have an overabundance of beets from our farm, so I’ve been trying to be creative with them (plus, almost every restaurant we visited in New England had some sort of beet salad on the menu, so I’m inspired). Beets are an incredibly versatile veg, and after putting in the initial efforts to prepare them, having them ready to use in the fridge lends to infinite possibilities.

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To prepare roasted beets: cut off all the greens (if you have beets with their green tops – they are edible and delicious, by the way), then wash and dry the skin. Place the beets 3-4 at a time in a foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap the foil loosely around the beets making a little package. Pour in about ¼ c of water, and leave a little opening at the top for steam to vent. Place in a 400 degree oven for an hour to an hour and a half; until a paring knife slides easily in the beets. Remove, let cool, and peel the skin off using a paring knife, or just your fingers. NOTE: you will get beet-red stained hands, but it will fade with a few washes.

At this point, they beets are ready for whatever beety plan you have for them. I choose to lightly marinate them with rice wine vinegar, salt, lots of black pepper, and dill, and keep them in a glass jar for making salads, hashes, or pureeing with white beans and garlic for a delightful and healthy crostini topping. They are great for breakfast, on sandwiches for lunch, chopped up finely as a relish on tacos, and fantastic paired with sweet, fatty fish.

In other parts of the country, beets tend to be the start of the spring season. Here in Northern Florida, they are a staple at the moment. So, whether you are able to use them now, or have to wait until April, hopefully some inspiration has sparked for a healthy new year. Enjoy!

 

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Turkey Day Trials 2014; Floating

25 Nov

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Sometimes, just silly things happen in the kitchen. Like when I went to strain a sauce and acting on habit, strained it down the drain. Or when (and this is from my mom’s perspective) I do a little kitchen jig when the food I make is good. Or spicy. Well, the other day, as a part of my Turkey Day Trials, another mishap came about that still has me giggling.

When Rob and I lived in Oregon, for a treat we would go for a cocktail and appetizers at the lounge at Bandon Dunes. We would dress up Pacific-Northwest-Golf-Club-fancy (yes that is a real fashion category) and watch as the cold-to-the-bone expert golfers would finish up the 18th. It was a little bit boushie and out of our Coos Bay ordinary, and we always struck up conversations with the most interesting (and sometimes famous) people. It got to a point that “our” bartender would put in the usual orders when he saw us walk in the door, and a few minutes later our Blue Cheese Chips were fragrantly awaiting our devour.

The bowl of freshly-fried potato chips always went down quickly and shook off the lingering chill from the constantly-present coastal winds. But what always added to our Bandon experience was driving by the cranberry bogs on the way to the golf resort. I’d always strain my neck to see what stage of growth the cranberries were in, and harvest was always the best time. Stretching fields of red bogs, like giant ruby blankets against the green pines, the floating berries were sucked up into a tube and then shot out like miniature cannon balls into a truck, ready for processing and distribution.

This water-powered firing of small, red fruit usually marked the autumnal season, signaling Thanksgiving was right around the corner. So this year, I paid homage to the cranberry by making an irresistible cranberry relish – one that puts even the coveted, jellied amazingness to shame.

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By simply taking 1 quart of fresh cranberries, ½ c sugar, a bottle of strong ginger beer (I like Reeds), a 4-in stick of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and (here’s the kicker), a tea infuser of chamomile flowers, you will end up with a reduced, naturally pectin-infused bowl of beautiful, fragrant, and more-than-tasty cranberry relish. The trick is waiting until the boiling bubbles are shiny and slow-to-pop in the pot, almost like preparing a jam. After the relish is cooled, it will be thick yet spreadable, sweet yet tangy. Simple perfection at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or just the everyday autumn and winter breakfast spread.

So what was so silly about making this relish? The fact that in my first batch (a major mishap), I added a bit of liquid, then a bit more, then a bit more, each time expecting the berries to be covered and give me a culinary visual of the accurate liquid amount. And after all those days watching the bogs, I completely forgot that… cranberries float!!! No matter the liquid amount, the cranberries will never sink in the pot like they do with other jam fruit. So stick with the recipe – it works, thanks to my silly mistake.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy with food, love, laughter, and memories!

Turkey Day Trials 2014

16 Nov

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While October seemed to have sluggishly ambled by, November has been no joke – it’s already half-way through the month and only a week and a half away from the biggest foodie day of the year. Already, Christmas decorations, songs, sales, and Santas have inundated the stores, almost like Thanksgiving is that afterthought of a day firmly arriving to devote its purpose solely to the day after, when all the crazy shopping happens.

Really, people?

Let’s slow down for a moment and savor this season. It’s fall. Beautiful leaves, filling foods, and get-togethers lending perfect excuses to have just that one more glass of wine. For me, aside from the food, Rob has safely made it back from a deployment, creating another reason to celebrate. But this year, I’ve taken a different approach.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by small gatherings, simple entertaining, and outrageously good tastes. So, I’ve been creating small bites that are perfect for giant, festive entertaining, or just a special holiday dinner for two. My mom will attest that since I was old enough to chew, my favorite foods were the traditional turkey, stuffing, and cranberry dinner tastes. So for me to step out of the traditional American turkey day box is a little uncouth.

But go with it. Try it. You’ll be surprised – I was!

Try my Pumpkin Seed and Pomegranate Guacamole. Guac? On Thanksgiving? Oh come on, the avocado needs some holiday love, too. Especially with so many meatless options these days, this is a perfect stand-alone dip, elegant atop a crostini, or the silent hero in a leftover cranberry, lettuce and guac sandwhich. It’s creamy, with a roasted bite from the pumpkin seed oil, plus a surprising tang of sweetness only known by the pomegranate.

This guac is great and extremely versatile. Dress it up with a pairing of champagne, or make it comfort food extraordinaire while enjoying on the couch watching football. It is fancy enough to be a holiday-party-go-to, comforting enough to be a pot-luck favorite, and simple enough to whip up for a festive fall evening for two. No, it’s not a turkey, and no, it’s not stuffing. But in our house, this is definitely going to be a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Seed & Pomegranate Guacamole
(this recipe serves 4, but alter ingredients to make as much as you need!)

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  • Juice ½ lime
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ tsp roasted pumpkin seed oil
  • ½ tsp pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds
  • s&p

In a large bowl, use a fork to combine all ingredients except for the pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Season to taste with s&p (I always find that I need a bit more pepper than expected when working with avocados). When well combined, top with the pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Serve as is with chips, or shmear on crostini, or slather on a sandwich for a perfect holiday-inspired meal! Enjoy!

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