Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When in Russia...or Mexico

Ok, so I know I said move over cookies, but you should know me well enough by now to know that I didn’t really mean it. And besides, when I said it, I was in a sugar coma from these buttery little balls of heaven and needed a good stiff Brussels sprout to cut the richness of the platter of these I had just consumed (pretty much single handedly).

I know, I know… we’ve all been eating these guys for years. We call them snowballs or Russian teacakes, or Mexican wedding cookies, and moms have been rolling these in powdered sugar and serving them up during the holidays for generations. At least that’s what everyone at Food 52 told me when I posted my recipe for them. But most people probably don’t add cinnamon and fresh ground nutmeg to the buttery-nutty dough, or a heap of orange zest to the powdered sugar coating…which is probably why my spicy-sweet version was an editor’s pick in the holiday cookie contest!

While you folks may have been tucking these decadent butter balls into your holiday stockings for years, my family wasn’t. The closest thing we had to these growing up were Oma’s walnut crescents, which were similar and amazing (my favorite Oma cookie) but different than the typical ball of walnutty dough rolled in powdered sugar. Actually, I didn’t even try one of these goodies until college… and I didn’t call it a snowball or serve it during the holidays or with Russian tea. I called it a Mexican Wedding Cookie, and served it to a room of classmates.

For a Spanish oral presentation, I did a report on the tradition of Mexican Weddings… mainly so that I could try my hand at Mexican Wedding Cookies. It turns out that Mexican weddings aren’t much different than American weddings, and that my Spanish isn’t much better than that of a two year old. Good thing I brought in the cookies, otherwise I probably would have failed the presentation altogether! If only I had a batch of those cookies to save me from my awful Spanish the first time I was in Mexico, the whole ‘Beach-Party Tequila Incident of 2007’ might have been avoided!

So, without further ado, and before you start asking questions about the tequila incident…here’s the recipe! Hurry and make these before Friday, as they’ll surely break all of your New Year’s Resolutions!

Orange Spice Russian-Mexican-Teacake-Wedding-Snowball Cookies
Makes 2 dozen-ish

1 cup butter-softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup powdered sugar
zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and vanilla until smooth. Mix together flour, 6 T sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into butter mixture until just blended (will seem flakey and powdery). Mix in walnuts. Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling rack. Mix together remaining powdered sugar and orange zest. When balls are cool enough to touch (but still warm), roll in powdered sugar, they’ll get a gooey frosting like coating. Once balls have completely cooled, roll once more in powdered sugar. Enjoy with a cup of tea, at a wedding, or during the holidays.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Move Over Cookies...

It's the most wonderful time oooof theee yeeeaaarrr! Amanda and I have made the trek to our hometown for Christmas with Mel and John, the stockings are hung, the tree is all lit up and shiny, and I've been filling my belly with sweet treats. Over the past couple days, John has been busy in the kitchen whipping up crazy concoctions like nutella-walnut-rum-piedough-cookie-roll-things...which I've been stuffing into my mouth like there's no tomorrow.

However, there is a tomorrow...and it's Christmas Eve! And with all these goodies around, believe me... I know it’s easy to avoid veggies during the Holidays. Especially when the most common, traditional Christmas vegetable is…(dun dun duuuunnnnn) the dreaded Brussels sprout .

I personally love Brussels sprouts, and I think they get a bad rap... However, I have seen a lot of people mistreat the mini cabbage-like gems of deliciousness with poor preparation, so it’s no wonder people fear it, bad mouth it, douse it with butter or cheese sauce to cover the flavor… or skip it altogether and head straight for the dessert table.

This year, instead of skimping on the veggies, make them the highlight of your holiday meal! My Brussels sprout recipes put the boring ol' over-boiled version to shame, and will convert even the biggest skeptics. Seriously, make these. Screw cookies and milk... I'm leaving santa a plate of Brussels sprouts and a pint of stout for Christmas!
Fresh and Fruity Brussels Sprout Salad

1 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
1 Granny Smith Apple- diced
1 carrot- peeled and grated
1 cup toasted pecans
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
2 tablespoons shaved parmesan
Coarse ground salt and pepper

Cut off Brussels stems, halve sprouts, and separate each layer. Thinly slice the middles that won’t separate. In a bowl, Mix together sprouts, thinly diced apple, grated carrot, chopped toasted pecans, cranberries, and parmesan. Whisk together salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Add dressing to salad and toss to coat.

Tangy Brussels Sprout Chips

1 pound Brussels sprouts- rinsed
1/2 lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse ground salt and pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut stems off end of Brussels sprouts. Separate the outer leaves, until they will no longer pull away. Cut the remaining sprout centers in half. Put leaves in mixing bowl- (you can either add the sprout halves as well, or save those for another use). Drizzle in enough olive oil and juice of 1/2 a lemon to coat leaves. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder- to your liking. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast leaves until some of them are crispy (8-10 minutes). Remove crispy leaves (keep, but set aside in serving bowl), and roast remaining leaves until crispy. Continue until all leaves are crispy (but not burnt). Chips are delicious eaten straight out of the bowl as a snack (instead of nuts or potato chips), or serve them over the top of another dish, whole or crumbled (sprinkled over roasted potatoes, etc).

Caramelized Parmesan Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels Sprouts- halved or quartered
1/2 red onion- diced fine
2 cloves garlic- minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small pat butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat- add onions. Sautee until onions are translucent, add garlic and Brussels, cut sides down. Once Brussels have just started to brown and caramelize, mix together wine, vinegar, and sugar- add to skillet. Turn down heat slightly, and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add salt, pepper, cheese and toss, then remove from heat. Serve alone or tossed with pasta.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannolis

One of my favorite things about the holiday season… other than the decorations, giving gifts, receiving gifts, Santa, the reindeer, the tree, the lights, the days off work, the Christmas Eve crab legs and Christmas day prime rib dinner, snowmen, poinsettias, candy canes, joy, peace, happiness, carolers, mistletoe, cookies, fruitcake, Christmas movie classics, roast beast for the Whos in Whoville, stockings hung with care, eggnog, jingle bells, elves, and the family time… is the abundance of parties!

I’ve had parties coming out my ears this December. Brian’s housewarming, Robb and Amanda’s post-Thanks-pre-Christmas, my company holiday party, a few birthday parties, and a Christmas white-elephant party. So that’s what have I been sooooo busy with that I haven’t had time to write, you ask? Well, sort of. Here it comes. Are you ready for it?? I haven’t just been attending parties this holiday season… I CATERED A PARTY!

Amanda’s coworker Cory (the mastermind responsible for getting us hooked on the Godfather) hosted a Holiday Purse Party, and was awesome enough to ask me to cater it! Now, I’ve prepared food for parties, but this is the first time I was recognized as the ‘caterer,’ and served food to a bunch of gals and I had never met with a fancy sign that said “Food by Loves Food, Loves to Eat.” I feel like this could be the start of something big. Obviously this is all unofficial and under the table...and, well, I don’t have a business license or certified kitchen, so technically it could even be illegal… but if you have friends that are having parties or anything… and aren’t afraid of getting in with a little organized food crime (c’mon, Godfather looked pretty glamorous to me, especially if you add some crostinis to the mix…) then… let's talk.

Anyway, what to make for a house full of mommies that are fully focused on a house full of purses!? What is good enough to keep the attention on the hors d'oeuvres instead of the Kate Spades? Two words. Oreo Bonbons. Chocolaty, creamy, rich, and small enough to make you yearn for more, Oreo Bonbons have been a go-to holiday goodie for my family for years. Oh, and did I mention that they’re the easiest thing to make…ever? 8 oz of cream cheese. 1 package of pulverized Oreos. Combine. Roll into little balls. Done. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Sometimes we drizzle them with melted white chocolate. Sometimes we fully envelop them in dark chocolate and put them in little foil candy cups to give away in gift baskets. This time I dipped the base in melted bittersweet chocolate, rolled them in crushed candy cane, and served them on a pick. While the ladies OOOooh’d and AAahhhh’d around the bonbons, I took my pick of the purses!

While the bonbons were definitely the show stopper, my other treats were also quickly devoured. Keeping with the holiday theme, and complimenting Cory’s delicious cranberry-champagne punch, I made goat cheese crostinis and mini chickpea cakes. The crostinis were made up of buttery and delicious homemade goat cheese crackers, with just a hint of cheesiness.

I put a generous smear of goat cheese on top to bring out the full flavor, before layering it with a crispy apple slice, tupelo honey infused with fresh rosemary and cracked black pepper, and a few deep ruby pomegranate gems to make the flavor and appearance pop.

The mini chickpea cakes were adorable and zesty—a mixture of mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans), grated carrots, bread crumbs, egg, herbs and spices, and sour cream, formed into bite-sized patties, baked, and topped with a dollop of citrusy avocado mousse and fresh red pepper. Delish!

Everyone at the party loved the food, and wanted my business card…which I didn’t have. I mean, did Don Vito Corleone have a business card? Or Tony Montana? Or even Tony Soprano? Nope. You’ll just have to have your people talk to my people, and we’ll see what we can come up, maybe you’ll make me an offer I can’t refuse.

Or you can send me a message via blog comments and I’ll probably jump up and down with giddy school girl excitement, as I work frantically to make a business card.

Goat Cheese Crisps

10-12 ounces fresh goat cheese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Coarsely ground fresh pepper
Egg whites from 1-2 eggs

In a food processor or electric mixer beat the goat cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the flour and salt and beat until well blended. Divide the dough in half and roll back and forth to create two logs (your desired thickness, I liked them pretty skinny). Sprinkle the pepper in a baking sheet, and roll the logs in it to coat. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or freeze for 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut log into 1/3-inch thick diagonal slices. Brush the top of each slice with egg white, and place on an ungreased baking sheet (eggwash side up). Repeat with the second log. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Flip and continue baking until the crackers are a golden, 15 to 20 more minutes. Enjoy hot out of the oven, or let cool and top with whatever your heart desires.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Madness

I'm so busy! December has been (and will continue to be) insane for me this year! I have something planned almost every single day from here until Christmas! The upside to that (for both me and you) is that the majority of my events and activities involve absolute deliciousness! The downside, however, is that I've been so busy cooking and eating that I haven't had time to write about it! And today is no exception.

Today is the much anticipated Post-Thanksgiving/Pre-Christmas Extravaganza hosted by Amanda and Robb. I'm pretty sure there will be three turkeys. The event is potluck style, with Robb preparing the birds, Amanda putting together a main side, and everyone else (30-ish people) bringing sides, desserts, appetizers, drinks, salads, and bread rolls. Last year I made pumpkin tamales and chocolate kahlua cake. This year, I'm planning on chocolate peppermint schnapps cake and butternut squash-caramelized onion pizza squares...  but I've been so busy I haven't even had a chance to get to the store for supplies...and the party is in four hours! On that note, I better get moving!

When I have a minute, I'll sit down and fill you in on the tasty details of the last few weeks... but in meantime, here's a preview:


Saturday, December 5, 2009

What's in a Name?

It’s crumbly, it’s crispy, and it’s delicious. I’m talking about Apple-Pear Crisp…er, Crumble!? After researching on the internet, I still couldn’t’ tell you the difference. Some people say a crumble has an oat streusel, some people say a crisp has the oat topping, while a crumble has a flour-sugar-butter crumbly crust like topping. Really, I don’t care what you call it, as long as I get to eat it. I love crumbles/crisps, with their sugary streusel topping over hot, syrupy fruit or berries. You can have your pies, because I’ll take one of these bad-boys over pie any day.

Ever since the leaves started turning orange and the temperatures dropped (to the 20s… we’re cold up here in Seattle!) I’ve been dying to make a crisp/crumble. Luckily, recent events left me with a box full of apples and a bag full of pears. Amanda and I ordered the HUGE box of apples from a Washington orchard that was having an Apple-Cup apple-buying contest between Huskies and Cougars. Clearly our donation was in favor of our alma mater, the University of Washington. We split the mixed box of fresh, crispy apples—leaving us with about 20 apples apiece. The freshly picked pears came from Mel and John, who live near orchard country and always have boxes of fresh fruit. I don’t know about you, but when I have an overabundance of apples and pears, I immediately dream of cinnamon and envision that crumbly streusel topping.

After a Saturday spent doing chores and decorating for Christmas, the last thing Evan and I wanted to do tonight was go out. I, of course, wanted to mess up that freshly cleaned kitchen, so I rolled up my sleeves and started peeling fruit! I looked at a few basic apple crisp recipes for the general step by step involved, and mixed and matched flavors and ingredients for this simple yet super-satisfying apple pear crumbly crisp. Clean, warm apartment, holiday decorations, staying in with the boyfriend and cat, and apple pear crisp…it doesn’t get much better than this.

Apple Pear Crumbly Crisp

2 firm-ripe pears, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks
2 tart apples such as Granny Smith, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 crushed sugar cubes (or 1-2 teaspoons of granulated sugar)
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Stir together fruits, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Place in a buttered 1-2-quart baking dish. Stir together oats, flour, salt, and brown sugar. Blend in butter with your fingers until mixture is thoroughly moistened. Press over fruit and sprinkle with sugar cubes/white sugar. Bake until juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly, and serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or a drizzle of heavy cream.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Three Lives of a Turkey

Thanksgiving is pretty awesome, obviously... I mean, why else would I dedicate a 50th post to a Thanksgiving photo montage?! While I love Thanksgiving… in my family, what happens AFTER Thanksgiving is just as special and steeped in tradition as Turkey Day itself. I'm not talking about throwing around the ol' pig-skin or watching football (although we did win Apple Cup...go Huskies!), I'm not talking about spending time with distant relatives or catching up with home-town friends (although we did grab a beer), and I'm definitely not talking about working off the big dinner or sleeping in and unwinding... I'm talking about Black Friday and leftovers, baby!

Amanda, Mel, and I wake up at 3:30 am on Black Friday (Amanda’s favorite holiday of the year) to join in on the retail craziness. Door-busters, mega-sales and madness aside, we mostly just love the wild adventure that only happens once a year. When we get home, car heavy with shopping bags and bellies full of doughnuts and pastries, we usually crash for a few hours while John watches football, and then wake up to the preparation of what may be an even more exciting turkey feast than Thanksgiving itself. TURKEY ENCHILADAS!

Mel makes killer turkeyladas—corn and flour tortillas filled with creamy sauce, shredded turkey, lots of cheese, and slathered with verde sauce and black olives (topped with a heaping spoonful of sour cream). Served with cheesy baked refried beans, Mel’s homemade salsa, and Juanita’s tortilla chips, Black Friday Turkeyladas are just the spark your taste buds need after all those rich Thanksgiving flavors the day before. This year, we had a much smaller Thanksgiving crowd than usual, which—lucky for us—left us with plenty of leftover turkey, even after our Black Friday enchilada binge.

What to do with all that delicious leftover bird!? We saved out some white meat for basic turkey sandwiches, and we put the remains toward some very un-basic turkey sandwiches. BBQ Pulled Turkey sandwiches! Amanda found the recipe in November’s Bon Appétit, and I definitely think it has potential to join our turkey leftover tradition.

The bacon studded sauce mixed with the shredded turkey was tangy, smoky, and delicious, not to mention reminiscent of one of my favorite sandwiches—pulled pork! Piled high with sweet, fresh, and crunchy homemade slaw on top of a soft wheat bun and served alongside potato chips, pulled turkey sandwiches feel homey and simple, while lending a totally different taste profile to Thanksgiving leftovers.

Traditional roasted turkey with all the Thanksgiving fixings; cheesy, Mexican-flared turkey enchiladas; and smoky BBQ’d pulled turkey sandwiches—if you’re gonna eat a turkey once a year, this is by far the best way to do it.

Barbecue Pulled Turkey Sandwiches
(from Bon Appetit)


3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

Whisk mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and celery seeds in small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cabbage; toss to blend. Cover bowl and chill. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Barbecue sauce:
2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
1 cup tomato puree (we used home canned tomatoe sauce)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/3 cups shredded cooked turkey (light and dark meat)
4 soft rolls
Sauté bacon in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water, dark brown sugar, chili powder, and ground cumin. Bring sauce to boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add shredded cooked turkey to barbecue sauce and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until turkey is heated through, stirring occasionally. Split and toast rolls. Divide turkey and slaw among rolls. Press tops down lightly to compress, then serve.
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