Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out With a Bang

Red Mill Burgers. The best big, greasy, bacony burgers in Seattle—hands down. This is quite possibly the last beef I'll eat until February. 

To free our bodies of the heavy winter ales and holiday baked goods we’ve over-indulged in the last two months, Amanda and I are doing a meatless and boozeless(ish) January. Also, we’ll be wearing bikinis in February for our sister’s trip to Tahiti (!), so that’s another reason behind our madness. On top of that, Evan and I are going to try to (loosely) follow Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse. Just for funsies. And because the vanilla-date smoothie and the breakfast quinoa look amazing.

So today, for one last hoorah, we went for it. The full on bacon cheeseburger. Milkshake and all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Santa Came Early

Evan and I celebrated Christmas over the weekend. After dating for six years and living together for almost two, we’ve still never spent an actual Christmas eve or morning together. Some people might think that’s weird, but we think it’s pretty good. We see each other every day, and don’t see our parents nearly as often. So, instead of sacrificing time with our families to make it work, we just have our own early Christmas together, just the two of us. Eventually we’ll probably do the his family/my family holiday split, so that we can spend time with each other’s families as well, but for now, our set up works. And, we have our own little Christmas tradition together.

On “Christmas” morning, Evan and I get up, make coffee, and open presents. Then we help Biscuit open her presents (this year she got a cat-nip filled mouse, a big square of wrapping paper, and a good-sized length of ribbon), we have a nice little breakfast, and go on a walk around our neighborhood. We usually try to make a lighter breakfast, because later in the afternoon is my favorite part of our Christmas tradition—we stop by one of the diviest bars in Seattle, sit under the Christmas lights and mounted fish, and order a huge serving of deep fried mushrooms and beer. It just wouldn’t be our Christmas without those hot, juicy, greasy little bites of fattening deliciousness, dipped in ranch, and chased with a deep, dark, chocolaty porter. Ah, so festive!

If your holiday tradition also involves a fattening, deep fried, dive-bar treat, then you might want a light breakfast too. You might want Christmas Eggs. Ok, that’s the worst recipe name ever, I know… but they’re red, white, green, and gold, and perfect for the holidays. And they’re delicious—sweet roasted tomatoes with baked eggs, peppery arugula, and nutty parmesan cheese. You can easily scale the recipe from two people to ten people, and it requires little time in front of the stove. And, since I’m full of holiday-spirit today, I’ll even let you change the name of the recipe. What a thoughtful Christmas gift!

Christmas Eggs

3 medium sized tomatoes, quartered, then quarters halved
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
drizzle olive oil
drizzle balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
4 eggs
1-2 tablespoon freshly grated or shaved parmesan
a small handful of arugula per person
Optional: toast, sliced french bread, bacon, crispy baked pancetta,

Preheat oven to 400. In a small shallow baking dish (that would perfectly fit the amount of eggs your serving), toss tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Bake until tomatoes are caramelized and juicy, about 30-40 minutes. Crack eggs directly over top of tomatoes, spacing apart and keeping yolks intact. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until whites are set. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve over a bed of arugula, or with arugula on top (as an open face sandwich, with bread on the side, or simply on its own).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the Season

My first round of holiday baking this Christmas season was not full of snowflakes, jingle bells, and angels getting their wings. It was a little more “Bad Santa” than “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Well, maybe not fully Bad Santa, but it left me wanting a drink.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a baking failure. I mean, sure, sometimes I bake stuff that isn’t ahhhmazing, but generally it’s pretty good, or at the very least, edible. My first batch of holiday cookies this year, however, was a different story. And my second batch.

I whipped up my chocolate chai biscotti—generally a no brainer. That is, until my flour canister came up empty, and I used the end of the flour bag that had been in my cupboard. My spice cupboard. I didn’t even think twice about it, until I tasted the biscotti...chocolate with a faint undertone of onion, garlic, and curry does NOT scream Christmas. But, not to be deterred, I opened a new bag of four, and started over. I mixed my butter and eggs, measured out my fresh flour, cocoa powder, and…sugar? I was out of sugar! I decided to move forward anyway, with only half the amount of sugar. I figured the chai mix, cocoa, and vanilla would make up for it. I even added a little extra cinnamon, sure that it would help.

Can you imagine what a mouth full of cardboard with a heaping spoonful of cinnamon would be like? Well, I think it would be pretty similar to my second batch of biscotti. It was dry and hard to swallow, it tasted bitter… it was almost worse than the first! For some reason, at that point, I thought that making the icing extra cinnamonie would add something to the biscotti. It did…it added more moisture-sucking cinnamon. Another batch of biscotti… in the trash. A couple of hours, 2 sticks of butter, a bag of chocolate chips, 6 eggs, a destroyed kitchen, and a frazzled Amber later…and I had no baked goods to show for it.

I’m not a Grinch, or a Scrooge, or even that magician that constantly tries to foil ol’ Frosty the Snowman, so I stared over the next day…without biscotti. This time I made Dori Greenspan’s insanely chocolaty World Peace Cookies with crushed candy cane bits, buttery Almond Brown Sugar Cookies from Gourmet, and soft, slightly chewy spice cookies.

It was a holiday baking miracle on 24th street, after all.

Better Than Biscotti Spice Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 large baking sheets, or use parchment.

Whisk together flour, spices, and salt- set aside. Stir baking soda into warm water in a cup until dissolved, then stir in molasses. In stand mixer (or with handheld) beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in baking soda/molasses mixture until combined well, then beat in flour mixture until just combined.

 Roll teaspoon size balls of dough and arrange them about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten balls into 1 1/4-inch rounds with tines of a fork. Bake cookies until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Enjoy while watching White Christmas and NOT making Biscotti.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Not Your Mama's Pork n' Beans

Unless, maybe, your mom is Ruth Reichl. This Cannellini with Pork and Rosemary recipe from Gourmet is worth the time and multiple steps involved, and it's perfect for winter. I recommend adding more roasted tomatoes to up the flavor, and be sure to add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Hard Nut to Crack

By “nut” I mean squash, and by crack I mean “cut.” I suppose the title would be much more clever and relevant if I was trying to cut a butternut squash (get it, nut…crack) but alas, it was an acorn squash, and after a super-duper busy week at work, my creativity is just about zapped. But anyway, back to that squash.

I had an acorn squash lying around, so I decided to make soup. Now, I’ve made plenty of butternut squash soups, but this was my first acorn squash soup. Also, even though I have cooked them (baked with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon) it’s been awhile. Maybe I’m far wimpier than I used to be, or perhaps I had just completely forgotten about all the hard work prior to the delicious outcome…but let me tell ya, those things are a mother-effer to cut through! After several attempts to saw it in half, a few near finger amputations, and some serious machete-style action, I finally had to call Evan into the room to give it a go. He even struggled. Then once that bastard was halved, I thought peeling and cubing it would be a breeze. It was not. I had to roast it for about 15 minutes to get the damn thing soft enough to cut through. Next time, since I’ll plan on roasting from the get-go, I might even add some oil and spices while it softens, but this time around, I just wanted to get a knife through it. So, unless you have a chainsaw in your kitchen, I would recommend briefly roasting, and then cubing and peeling your acorn squash.

After that ordeal, however, the soup really was a breeze. I love basic winter-squash soups, because you can really follow a basic formula and adjust as you go. First, chop and sauté one medium sized yellow onion in a little bit of olive oil, and butter if you prefer. Once the onions were translucent, I added some toasted cumin seeds and garlic. Then, while my solid-as-steel squash roasted, I (effortlessly) peeled and cubed a sweet potato, and threw that into the mix. Finally, I was able to get the acorn squash into the pot, and I let it all meld together for a few minutes. Next, I added about 4 cups of chicken broth, and let everything simmer until the squash and sweet potatoes were fork-tender. Into the blender (in 3 batches) it all went, pureed until smooth. With the last batch, I added about a half-cup of roasted tomatoes before blending (canned tomatoes or tomato puree would also work). Finally, while the puree warmed on the stove, I lightly toasted a spoonful of mustard seeds and cumin seeds, to sprinkle on top. And there you have it. Roasted acorn squash and sweet potato soup.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Here Come the Brides

Congratulations to all of my engaged friends… you can no longer put your hands up (up, up) to “All the Single Ladies”…But you can certainly still shake it like one!

Here’s to an upcoming year full of Champaign toasts, cake tastings, pretty frilly things, flowers, naughty gifts, bachelorette parties, fancy Hors d'œuvres, and of course… lots and lots of love!
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