Friday, December 31, 2010

So this is the new year, redux

Ah, New Year's. It used to mean a kitchen dance party with Emmel and a bottle of Andre. Today it means a lunch date with Edwin, having a frittata for dinner, and attempting creme brulee.

And going to bed before midnight.

I'm a big fan of resolutions. I'm a goal-oriented person, and there's not anything more satisfying to me than setting a goal and reaching it.

2009's resolution was to make at least one new recipe a week. I made it.

2010's resolution was to blog about at least one recipe a week (old or new). I made it.

2011's resolution? I'm going to create at least one recipe a month. I figure if I can blog 194 times in a year, I can create 12 new recipes. Besides, I made up 6 last year. I'm going to make it.

Any ressies for you? Maybe you'll be like my hissers and resolve to slow down while you eat? Or you can take a cue from Ash and vow to do a pull up. Or you can make like EDW and not make any resolutions.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

chipotle quinoa

My sister raves about Mark Bittman, so when I saw The Food Matters Cookbook at the library, I scooped it up. After browsing through it, I've decided to purchase. We have a gift card for Barnes & Noble, so Mark Bittman, here I come.

I made Chipotle Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans* for dinner last night. I love quinoa and am always excited to cook with it. (You can make like Emmel and call it "kwaNOna" if you want.) Everything came together quickly and easily. I sauteed onion and garlic, then added a minced chiptole pepper in adobo sauce (seeded for gentle EDW) and dried oregano. To that went the dry quinoa, which was followed by vegetable broth, black beans and corn.
I covered and cooked for 15 minutes and was done.
We had our quinoa over spinach, and we both added salsa to our plates (spicy chipotle for me, obvi). Edwin and I loved this, and I'm looking forward to the leftovers. There will be more Mark Bittman in the new year. He's fun.
Bittman, Mark. The Food Matters Cookbook. "Chipotle Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans." p. 310.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

mincemeat challenge

I love mincemeat. My Granny has always said that None Such Mincemeat is the very best, and that's what we usually have in our family if we have mincemeat pie. I sent my sister a jar of None Such in her Christmas package, but I wanted to try homemade mincemeat this year. I went with a meatfree version, even though I can never taste the suet in None Such anyway.

I made meatless mincemeat on Thursday morning. I used my food processor to chop everything, and I used 2 clementines instead of 1 orange. I also zested my citrus and used just the segments instead of putting the whole thing, pith and all, into the processor. Instead of chopping all the raisins, I left about half of them out of the cuisinart so I'd have different textures in my mincemeat. When it came time to add the spices, I followed the recipe's guidelines, but I added a heaping 1/2 teaspoon all spice. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Everything cooked down nicely, and it made my house smell exactly perfect. Then I refrigerated my mincemeat until I was ready to bake on Christmas Eve.
I made one double crust pie (a big thank you to my friends at Pillsbury for the refrigerated dough) and one oatmeal crisp. I decided to try a crisp because my Joy of Cooking has a recipe for a mincemeat oat crisp in it, and I didn't have enough pie crusts to make more than one pie. The crisp topping is pretty straight forward: oats, butter, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
I took the crisp to my in-laws for us to enjoy on Christmas Eve after our big dinner, and I was planning on taking the pie to the Mize family Christmas on Christmas day.

We had the crisp after an enormous and delicious meal of ham, cheese grits, sauteed kale, and roasted winter root vegetables. Elin and Steve hand whooped some cream, per Arnaudin tradition.
I loved the crisp-- the oats go perfectly with the sweet and tangy mincemeat. Edwin had never had mincemeat, and he thought the crisp was fantastic. In fact, EDW says mincemeat crisp is now one of his favorite desserts ever, which is saying a lot.
We got snowed out of our Mize Christmas plans, so I left half the pie with Mary and Steve and brough the rest home with us. EDW and I had pie last night, and though the pie is delicious, we both agree the crisp is the clear winner. Edwin says for him, mincemeat is out-pied by apple and pumpkin-- but as a crisp it out-crisps almost all other fruit combinations. I agree.
So. Buy some None Such or make your own. Make it into a crisp instead of a pie. Get your in-laws to hand whoop the cream. All will be right in the world.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

sweet potato frittata

I made a one potato version of two-potato frittata on Monday. Instead of using two sweet potatoes and one yukon gold, I went for three sweet potatoes. If you've been reading this blog for more than a week you'll know I love sweet potatoes-- why include regular potatoes when the orange ones do a much better job?
I used a mixture of eggs and egg whites, and I added crumbled blue cheese instead of semi-soft cheese with garlic and roasted pepper.
And wow. This was easy and quick and amazing. EDW said it's the best of December. The sweet potatoes and blue cheese complement each other so well, and the whole thing is slightly reminiscent of a Spanish tortilla, one of my all time favorite foods.
I will make this again and again, with one kind of potato and blue cheese always.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

butternut squash, kale, and chickpea soup

Food Blogga referenced a soup she made a while back in one of her recent posts, and I knew I had to taste it. It's butternut squash, kale and chicpea soup, and I made it Sunday night.

I have very little to say about the soup, except:

I LOVE this soup. It's life changing. Seriously.

It has everything I love about my favorite recipes: it comes together in no time; it has few ingredients; it's healthy; and it's delicious. Absolutely delicious.
What's so revolutionary to me is that it doesn't have tomatoes. I like tomatoes. I like them in soups, but usually vegetable soups are only in my okay category, because of the tomatoes. I feel like classic vegetable soup is red and has mushy, unidentifiable veggies floating around.
This soup has a lovely golden broth (from the squash), and you really get to taste each vegetable. Because it cooks quickly, the veggies retain their crunch.
Make this soup. Make it often. You'll be glad.

have yourself a little fancy christmas: the barronesses

I told you Emmel and I planned our baking together. Saturday, she went over to Barbara's beautiful and fancy kitchen to make her holiday treats. She brought Grant, too, and I'm assuming the bassets, who must've been napping while the Barronesses baked.

On the menu?

chocolate peppermint crunch cookies

soft gingersnap cookies
shortbread cookies
mexican wedding cookies

gingerbread biscotti

Here's the photojournalism.
They even made their own almond flour! Look how pretty Barbara's fingers are. She always has such a nice mani.
There was an unfortunate incident with powdered sugar.
I wish Emmel had french braided her hair, but isn't she a vision?
Emmel said her favorites were the shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate (I'm thinking I would prefer the dark chocolate dipped, since that's how I roll).

She also mentioned that some of her biscotti burned, and we decided it was because she put them in the top and bottom thirds of her oven instead of the middle. So when you make the biscotti, and I'm begging you to do so, put them in the center. Also with the biscotti: use heaping spoonfulls of all the spices. You'll be glad.

We're still talking about our baking, even though all our gifts have been given. Are Emmel's cookie tins not the cutest things you've ever seen? I'm totes jealous.

I hope her giftees give feedback on their favorites. I'm still getting good reviews from my baking last week, and the overwhelming stars of the show are cousin Laura's molasses crinkles. So make those. And Emmel's shortbread. And the Mexican wedding cookies.

And send us some.

I hope you like it. Emmel made it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

beer review: guest post from EDW!

EDW here with another booze post.

Christmastime means many things, and for beer drinkers in Western North Carolina, it's a time for seasonal offerings from local breweries. King of the land is Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing Company. Back in the day (early 2000s), it was the stuff of legend, sliding into Asheville in late November and disappearing seemingly within days. Highland's regular beers were available year round in grocery stores and restaurants throughout the area, but unless you were willing to descend on the city for a taste of the limited edition brew, you were out of luck. I wasn't of legal drinking age at the time, but I could dream.

The first time I had a pint was in December '06 at Jason's Main St. Grill in Brevard. Various Brevard High alumni had organized a holiday get-together and a good number of us wound up staying until last call. At the bar for my first drink of the evening, I was shocked to see Cold Mountain on tap. How did it get out of Asheville? Did the brewery know of the renegade keg? I made my order and was not disappointed. It was Christmas in a cup, as Sarah has come to call it. It was dark, but not too dark; hoppy, but not in an overpowering IPA way. I tasted hints of cinnamon, chocolate, and the culinary equivalent of a holiday air freshener. (I promise you that's a good thing.)

All of that was when Highland was still primarily a small time outfit, operating under Barley's Taproom on Biltmore Ave. Two or three years ago, they moved into a larger building and their production likewise expanded. Need proof? 22oz-ers made it out to the Daily Grind & Wine in Andrews, NC, in '08 (and were promptly purchased by this gobsmacked writer) and a sufficient supply of 12-packs hit the Murphy Ingles the next year. I stocked up the last two years and served chilled bottles for guests and on special occasions. Each batch is slightly different, but I couldn't taste much of a difference. It was still that chocolatey, cinnamony, hoppy, nutmeggy(?) flavor that I loved.

In November, Highland had a pouring party at their HQ to celebrate the debut of the 2010 variety. Sarah knows my affinity for the brew (she's also a fan), and agreed to go check it out. We each got a glass and tipped 'em back. I frowned. It tasted hoppy but watery, barely reminiscent of previous incarnations and what flavor there was faded quickly. Maybe it was the location: was it as cold as it would be at a bar? (The frigid name is important to me, even if it's in reference to the landmass.) Maybe it was the tap itself: I'd had exclusively bottles for the past two years, and the freshness of a keg could make a big difference. The taste improved slightly in the middle third (had it settled?), but still felt weak. Sarah said my expectations for Cold Mountain might be too high and that if my current beverage had another name, I might like it. I wasn't convinced, but was far from giving up.
I tried it again a few weeks later at Barley's and two pints couldn't change my mind. It was time for the bottles.
With the help of a 12oz-er from my dad, I set up a comparison of this year's batch with last year's, thanks to one of a few remaining bottles from last year. As with the Yuengling Light commercial, an instant difference is evident. 2010 looks like a light amber beer while 2009 is significantly darker and cloudier. And the taste? No contest. 2009 has everything I love about Cold Mountain and has remained flavorful even if it probably should have been consumed months ago.
It makes sense that Highland wants to make each year's Cold Mountain unique and that many beer drinkers look forward to guessing the new tweaks implemented by the brewers. I guess I'm not one of those consumers. I like Cold Mountain to be fairly consistent from batch to batch and to deliver the Christmasy flavor that I've come to expect. If it's going to be this watered down business, I'll stick with Highland's Black Mocha Stout or Samuel Adams' Chocolate Bock.

Better luck next year.

***Sarah's comments: I like both years (the shot glass portions were mine in the taste test), but I can definitely taste a difference. 2009's is a stand alone beer to me-- you want to drink it by itself, and really enjoy it. 2010's is a better beer for a meal, since the flavors are more subtle. If you can find some Cold Mountain where you live, I still say go ahead and try it. While you're at it, grab a bottle of this year's Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, Edy's special edition egg nog and Edy's special edition peppermint ice creams. You can make like the Arnaudins and savor the specialties of the season. I hope you like it. He made it.***

Sunday, December 19, 2010

honey, rosemary and balsamic pumpkin butter

My mother in law is hosting her office Christmas party on Monday. Everyone is bringing dishes to share, but I offered to send something along in case she wanted a hand. She accepted and I took over honey, rosemary and balsamic pumpkin butter.

I've been eyeing this recipe since someone posted it on google buzz, and I couldn't wait to make it Saturday morning. It couldn't be easier-- just dump all the ingredes in a pot, stir, heat, and cool. I halved the recipe and came out with plenty. I got whole wheat crackers and cream cheese for Mary to put out with the pumpkin butter at her party, but EDW and I sampled it yesterday with wasa and laughing cow cheese. (I also licked the pot clean, because that's how I roll)It is amazing. It's sweet and tangy and pumpkiny and very unexpected, and we love it. I'm kind of sad I halved the recipe now, because I'd really like to keep some. Maybe there will be leftovers when we head to Brevard to spend the Christmas weekend with Mary and Steve?

Friday, December 17, 2010

have yourself a little fancy christmas

I baked Wednesday. A lot.

Emmel and I decided we wanted to do a ridiculous amount of baking this holiday season, and we've spent a lot of our phone time lately discussing sweets. With the exception of the fudge, I made recipes I'd tried before and loved. Since we gave most of these treats away, I wanted to be sure they'd all get the fancy seal of approval.

I made the following:

chocolate peppermint crunch cookies
(my favorite cookie find from 2009)
peppermint brownies (recipe below)molasses crinkles (recipe below)
gingerbread biscotti
pumpkin granola
Little Fancy's Peppermint Brownies
makes 12 big brownies

Prepare a pan of brownies. (Sometimes I use a mix but I went from scratch this go round. The recipe involved 2 sticks of butter and the batter was amazing.)

Bake according to recipe. When there are 5 minutes left to bake, remove brownies from the oven, and place broken peppermint patties on top. Return pan to oven to cook 5 minutes.

After the brownies are done, immediately spread the melted peppermint patties with a spatula. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Cousin Laura's Molasses Crinkles
makes 4 dozen

3/4 cup softened butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1/4 cup white sugar (optional)

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

Mix butter, sugars, egg and molasses thoroughly. Stir in flour, soda, salt and spices until completely mixed. Chill dough 1 hour.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Dip tops in sugar, and place 3 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

I was especially excited to make the molasses crinkles, gingerbread biscotti and pumpkin granola because I got to use my new spices from Penzeys (thanks, Barronesses, for the fab hostess present!).
I made 24 bags, 12 of each theme. The chocolate bags had 1 large peppermint brownie, 3 peppermint chocolate crunch cookies, and 4-5 pieces of fudge. The molasses bags had 2 pieces of biscotti (one dipped in chocolate, one plain), 4 molasses crinkles, and 2 big scoops of pumpkin granola.
I shared a bag of each with our upstairs neighbor, and my in-laws got one of each as well. EDW took 19 bags to work, and we kept the last one (I also have extra everything except peppermint brownies and molasses crinkles). Edwin made like Santa and took the treats around, letting his coworkers choose which they wanted. We thought for sure the chocolate bags would go faster, but he ran out of the molasses bags first. Maybe it's because chocolate and peppermint are already so popular at the holidays, and people were intrigued by my exotic molasses offerings? Which would you choose?
I tried to rank the desserts for you, but I really can't. The fudge is definitely at the bottom of my list, but that's just because I don't like fudge. (Check that. It's not that I dislike fudge, and I certainly had my share of tastes on baking day, but it's not something I crave. Fudge and cheesecake are probably the only two desserts I can pass on-- I think it's because neither has an interesting texture.)

It was a looooong day in the kitchen. I started at 7 and finsished at 6 (with about a half hour break for breakfast and 45 minutes for lunch), but it was well worth it. For one thing, it's nice to give homemade Christmas presents to people. For another thing, it made my house smell incredible.

Too bad as soon as I finished cleaning the kitchen I made curry for dinner.

My home no longer smells like Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

three pepper rice bowls

First of all, welcome to the new blog! A HUGE thanks goes to Andrea at Slightly Askew Designs for designing my blog makeover. I found Andrea's personal blog a couple years ago when I was just getting into blog stalking. She's designed our Christmas cards the past two years and is wonderful to work with, and I knew I'd love whatever she came up with for my bloggie. And I did. Thank you, Andrea! I think we would be friends in real life. (sidenote: scroll all the way down to see my fun footer)

And now for some food.

I made up another recipe on Tuesday, and I'm calling it three pepper rice bowls. Here's what I did:

Three Pepper Rice Bowls
serves 6

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
ground pepper to taste
chopped cilantro

Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onion is tender and translucent.

Add peppers, tomatoes, and spices. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans and corn, and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in a generous handful of chopped cilantro.

Serve with spinach and brown rice. Garnish with cheddar cheese and salsa.
This was good. It wasn't blow me away good, but EDW and I liked it well enough. I'd make it again, if only because it's super easy, inexpensive and healthy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

pumpkin barley soup

Even though it's almost Christmas, I'm not about to move on from pumpkin. Asheville is frigid right now-- Monday, with the windchill, it felt like 1 degree. It was a perfect day to make pumpkin barley soup.

Instead of andouille sausage, I used some turkey sausage I had in the freezer. I cooked that and added the diced onion and dried sage. I poured in 4 cups chicken broth instead of bouillon granules and water, and boiled it along with the quick barley. In went the pumpkin, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup, and dinner was ready.
Edwin and I LOVED this soup. It was creamy and flavorful, and I will definitely add this to the repertoire.
I hope you like it. I made it.