Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Was Here

My Christmas was super mellow. And by mellow, I mean lazy. Not that you need the details of my personal hygiene, but I may or may not have worn PJs the entire weekend (and I may or may not have washed my hair). I also may or may not have left the house, I mean, not even to go outside, anytime between Friday night and Monday morning. I should have tried to get a little exercise, considering we had ham on Friday, crab legs on Saturday, and prime rib on Sunday (not to mention all the other little noshes in between). I didn’t write down any recipes, and I also didn’t get my camera out once. I just wanted to enjoy time with the fam, and not spend the holiday behind my lens. I did, however, manage to snap a few iPhone pics here and there.

My parents’ kitty—Kitty—loves Christmas.
Ollie the parrot singing along to his favorite song.

Champagne, Pom juice, and pomegranate seeds (from the pomegranates Grandpa sent from his tree!)

Mel, Amanda, and I made pork tamales and cheese & pepper tamales. Amanda was the best tamale roller.

John’s Christmas morning butterscotch-nut rolls. Wouldn’t be Christmas without them!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Savory Oatmeal!

Have you seen this blog, V.K. Reese Photography, yet? It's pretty amazing. I love it for 3 main reasons. 1. The photography is phenomenal. Seriously, I could look at her photos all day long. 2. She includes a picture of her cat in every post (dammit, why didn't I think of that?!). 3. Her recipes are fantastic and inspiring. Like this one, for savory oatmeal. 

V.K. Reese's savory oatmeal has all kinds of good stuff in it, which I don't have in my house right now. I want that squashy, tofu-filled oatmeal…like, real bad, but my desire to not head out into a rainy-cold morning won that battle. So, inspired by her recipe, I did a quick Google search for savory oatmeal (who knew, this stuff is everywhere!?), and found a very simple version by Penny De Los Santos. Penny's version is one of those always-have-all-the-ingredient recipes that doesn't even need a recipe, and it took like 5 minutes to make. 

Oatmeal, olive oil, salt, pepper, parm, and a runny fried egg. It's good people. It's really, really good. 

How have I never done this before?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby I Need Your Lovin'

This morning I told Evan that we're having a Dutch baby.

He was a little confused, and perhaps concerned, until I added "for breakfast," then he let out a sigh of relief. Apparently cannibalism is easier to stomach in this household than parenthood. But, not to worry, the Dutch babies I was referring to are the puffy pancake variety, not the blue-eyed, blonde haired variety. 

Dutch babies are eggy, buttery pancakes, cooked in a skillet until they puff up about the edges, forming a flaky-but-chewy bowl shaped breakfast. And believe it or not, makin' babies has never been easier or more fun…er, well, it's probably been more fun. Just sayin…

Once the baby is outta the oven, top that hot goodness with even more butter, lots of fresh lemon juice, and powdered sugar. Then dig in. 

Go ahead...put on something a little more comfortable, mix up a few drinks (coffee, perhaps?), and make some babies! 

Dutch Baby
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • Clarified butter
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425. In a 10- or 11-inch cast-iron skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter over low heat (on stove top). In a blender, combine eggs, flour, and milk until smooth. Pour batter into skillet over melted butter, and bake 25 minutes. While the baby is still hot, drizzle on clarified butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. Serve with more lemon wedges and powdered sugar.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fresh Take on Fruitcake

You voted, and because of you (or, more appropriately, thanks to you) fruitcake is gettin' a makeover. I don't mean thanks to you because fruitcake needs a makeover, I actually kinda like the stuff. I don't understand why it gets a bad rap. Maybe it's because of the bright neon candied fruits, or the fact that it weighs more than a bowling ball. But I mean, it's not all bad. It's boozy, fruity, spicy…hello, holiday classic! 

Some classics shouldn't be effed with. It's a Wonderful Life, candy canes, and the holly-jolly fat man himself…those are classics that should remain the same. Some classics, however, deserve a makeover. And what better way to freshen up fruitcake, than by turning it into…cookies? COOKIES! FRUITCAKE COOKIES! YES! 

Swap out those tooth-achingly sweet candied cherries with brandy soaked dried fruit, and then wrap it all up in a spicy shortbread-esque dough. Roll it, slice it, bake it, eat it… and then wonder why the hell you've never made fruitcake cookies before!

Fruitcake Cookies
  • 1/2 cup of each of the following, coarsely chopped:
    • dried cherries
    • dried apricots
    • dates
    • dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • zest from one lemon and one orange
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • raw sugar
Combine dried fruits, nuts, zest, brandy, honey, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Let sit overnight at room temperature.
Cream butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the egg and mix until incorporated, then slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Add the fruits and nuts, and stir to combine. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Before slicing, roll each log in raw sugar. Cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Holly Jolly Cookie Men

My halls are decked, my stockings are hung (by the dvd rack, with care), and my apartment is merry and bright! I've been so busy decorating, getting a tree, and going to holiday parties, that I've had no time for holiday baking! Luckily, Amanda's got me covered. The girl is a Christmas maniac. She spends every waking hour doing homework, working, or working out, yet she found time to make a million Christmas cookies. 

She belongs in Who-ville. So far she's made sugar cookie snowflakes, gingerbread men, and these adorable cut out-chocolate-candy cane-stained glass-guys. I think that's their official name. 

Maybe this weekend I'll hunker down, do some baking, watch some classic Christmas movies, and drink a few HBRs. I mean, there's a good chance that FRUITCAKE will be on the menu…based on the poll results! Today's your last day to vote! 

Oh, and if you want to make these little darlings, use this recipe (chocolate dough) with candy cane pieces for the stained glass.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Hot & Buttery

You voted and the results are in! Hot Buttered Rum is your favorite hot boozy bev. HBR's are the best because they're basically like dessert in a mug, and they can be made with rum, brandy, bourbon, whiskey (wait, are those the same?)…you name it. You can even leave out the booze and just have a hot buttery virgin mocktail. 

Full of warm wintery flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon, HBRs are the perfect drink for a cold night or a warm fireplace. And, believe it or not, the mix is a total breeze to whip up. Vanilla ice cream, brown and white sugar, spices, and buttah. Lots and lots of buttah. 

When you're mixing it up, you can taste as you go, and add other spices or flavors, like pumpkin pie spice or ginger…and then gift it! Just pour some mix into little jars, and add a tag with instructions. 

PS. My dad supplied the wood pile for the photo shoot. Thanks dad!

Hot Buttered Rum Mix
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
pinch salt
2 cups old fashioned vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine both sugars, salt, and butter in a saucepan. Heat over low until butter is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring occasionally. Combine warm buttery sugar mix with ice cream in a large bowl (of your stand mixer, if you have one). Add spices and mix /beat at medium speed until smooth. Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer. 

To serve, fill a mug 1/3rd full with HBR mix, add 1 oz. rum, and fill the rest of the way with boiling water. Add more mix (or rum) if desired. And whipped cream… whipped cream is always desired. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank YOU!

I'm so, so, so, so over the moon thankful for all of you: family, friends, readers, fans (fans?!?). I hope you all have an amazing Thanksgiving. Draw some hand-turkeys, make a few celery cars with carrot wheels, curse at the yams, watch football (or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade...we won't judge), drink too much "cider," try a new recipe or two, get up at 4AM for Black Friday shopping, buy 800 pairs of socks because you only buy them once a year (half-off on Black Friday!), relax and stop thinking about work, and be with people you love. 

PS. See those little gourds...the ones with tea-light candles in them? Yeah, those ones. They're unbelievably easy to make...and you'll totally have the best looking Thanksgiving table out there. Just carve (using your pumpkin carving kit, or a little drill, if you're Martha Stewart) a hole big enough for your tea-light, and voila, instant centerpiece! 


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quiche Cups!

I worked from home last week, so you would think I might have had tons of extra time for cooking and blogging (considering I saved myself nearly an hour and a half in commute each day, not to mention 'getting ready' time). But, I was so busy taking care of my sick man-child, that I barely had time to cook anything other than chicken noodle soup. 

Turns out Evan has pneumonia, and it also turns out that pneumonia can be contagious, so my boss asked that I stay home, to avoid potentially wiping out my entire office. Quarantined! It was probably for the best though, since Evan was far too sick to even get out of bed. Sick men are more helpless than babies! After a couple days on antibiotics, he's finally on the mend… and that means I finally have time to do more in the kitchen than heat up soup and pour orange juice. 

After being home all week in this chilly fall-meets-winter weather, all I want to do is bake! (These pumpkin pie scented candles aren't helping, either). But, since I can't share potentially germy goods, I didn't want to make treats that I would have no choice but to eat all by myself.  So, instead of dessert, I made breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Quiche! And not just any quiche… individual quiche cups! 

Quiche is amazing, because you can add anything to it, and you can eat it warm, cold, or room temperature; next to a salad, or alongside a hot cup of joe. What was once reserved for fancy luncheons can now be eaten for any meal of the day, and these little individual cups pack up nicely for work (that is, if you're not quarantined at home). I use a press-in tart crust dough, so you don't have to chill and roll it—making these little cups of deliciousness even easier than a traditional quiche. I didn't pre-bake my crust, and though they still turned out great, for a flakier, crispier crust, I would recommend popping them in the oven first.

PS. My hot winter drinks poll is now closed, and I see rum in my future! more on that later!

Quiche Cups
Makes 12 cupcake sized quiches

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small cubes
1 egg yolk (save white for filling)

Preheat oven to 425 (if you choose to pre-bake crust). Whisk together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender (or a fork or your fingers), cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. Whisk the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water together, and add to flour mixture. Blend (again, using pastry blender or hands) until combined and can be formed into a ball. Separate dough into 12 balls, and press into bottom and sides of 12 greased cupcake/muffin cups.  Poke each one with a fork, and bake for 8-10 minutes (until golden). Remove from oven and cool.

Reset temperature to 325.

Filling (inspired by The Grand Central Baking Book)
5 eggs (plus 1 white from dough)
1 cup half and half
1 cup grated swiss cheese
salt and pepper
1 large leek, thinly sliced and sautéed in a little bit of butter and olive oil, sprinkled with salt

Whisk together eggs, half & half, salt, and pepper. Mix in grated cheese.

To assemble:
In each crust, add a spoonful of leeks, and top with egg mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes (at 325) until egg mixture is set in the middle. 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hot Cup of Democracy

I'm trying out something new! A poll...where you can vote! We all love voting, right? Look over there, to your right. See the poll in all its shiny, democratic glory? Go ahead, try it out! Vote for your favorite hot winter drink, and then I'll make it... and I'll blog about it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On the Bandwagon

Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it's a totally lame cliché . Clearly main-stream is in for a reason. Duh. Because it’s cool, that’s why everyone loves it.  You’re not a hipster for following the trends, you’re just hip! So, jump in line, join the club already, and make pumpkin gnocchi. And if you really want to follow the in-crowd, toss those pillowy clouds of goodness in sage brown butter sauce. 

You're pop.u.lar. Own it, honey.

Want to be an even bigger deal, hot stuff? Try this recipe (but add a little grated parm to the dough, a la this recipe), and toss with this sauce, plus thyme. But, word to the wise: you should maaayybe avoid serving buttery-rich pumpkin gnocchi alongside cheesy-rich Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good...or at least throw a little something green and leafy on the plate, for good measure. You're on top now, but those in-crowds, they're ruthless! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Everything Good

That's a pumpkin. It's stuffed with everything good. But before we get into that, are you ready for some heartbreaking news? Are you sitting down? Here it is...I bailed on Halloween.

Amanda and I are kinda legends in these parts when it comes to Halloween, and we both skipped it this year… much to the shock and dismay of everyone in Seattle. Ok, so maybe we're not that big of a deal, but for reals… we're really, really good at Halloween. We put together amazing costumes (not to brag or anything, but I mean, prizes have been won). We don't mess around with the store bought costumes or the slutty pandas.

No, we spend hours making our costumes...and the gnarlier, the better. Read: zombie 1950s housewife, roadkill, Bonnie & Clyde after getting shot up (with a cameo appearance by Evan), and the gal from The Birds after the bird attack. We also aim for total realism, because we're real serious about Halloween like that. Last year I was Mrs. Lovett (with meat pies), and I guess everyone hadn't seen Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, but everyone did say "let me guess… you're Helena Bonham Carter?" And Amanda was Edward Scissorhands. I don't mean she dressed like him… I mean, I think she really was him. She may have actually been JD's stunt double (and trust me, I know Johnny Depp, I was writing the man love letters in crayon on Lisa Frank stationary back in the Cry Baby days). She looked so much like him, that I almost had a crush on her that night. Is that weird to say? 

This year, however, we chose to skip it. This is my first weekend home since… August? And Amanda has grad school midterms coming up. We're exhausted. In our 20s, and no energy for the best holiday of the year. I'm tellin' ya, it's a fat shame. Instead of lazily pulling together half-assed costumes, we stayed in. When it comes to Halloween, we go big or we don't go at all. So this year, as swarms of inquiries about our costumes came in, we had to tell the disappointed masses "sorry, we're not doing Halloween this year." Rob Zombie himself may have shed a tear over the news. 

We ended up having our own Halloween party, and dressed up like couch potatoes (read: stayed in, cooked, watched a movie… and wore sweat pants). Costumery aside, we had a great night…with lots of pumpkin. We cooked a very unbalanced meal of really heavy pumpkin dishes, for just the two of us. Including something geniously named "Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good."

I like pumpkins, and I like "everything good" so it was a given that I would jump all over a recipe for Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. How could you not fall head over heels for a dish with a name like that!? Oh man. Dorie Greenspan isn't lying… her pumpkin really is stuffed with everything good: bacon, cheese, bread, and cream. The filling bakes up like a gooey stuffing, and the pumpkin gets all soft and delicious, and practically melts into the filling. And it looks pretty impressive.

It's also fun, because you can adapt it any way you like. Want sausage instead of bacon? Do it. Have a hankering for sautéed mushrooms? Stuff 'em in there. Want to go sweet instead of savory? Get it, girl! Amanda and I even talked about goin' all southwest on our pumpkin, and using rice, ground beef, tomatoes, and peppers. Go wild, people! Stuff that pumpkin! 

Dorie's recipe can be found at Epicurious. But you should also buy her book… it's full of everything good—page after page of everything good.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Restaurant Week and Cacio e Pepe

Seattle just wrapped up another successful (for me, at least) restaurant week. Restaurant week—actually spanning 2 weeks—is when tons of local restaurants offer 3 course menus for $30. I happen to love restaurant week, although, I read in Seattle Met that a lot of local chefs don't feel so hot about it, and basically think they have to dumb down their food for cheapskates. It's really too bad they feel that way, because a bad restaurant week experience can tarnish my opinion of a restaurant from that point forward. And I throw down on good food… I just don't usually do it 3 times in two weeks. With restaurant week, I can try out a lot of spendier joints, so that I know where I want to go back to for nice dinners, and what places I want to recommend to friends.  If I get a dumbed down, half-assed meal during restaurant week… well, sorry, you may have lost one future diner. And a lot of her friends…who also like to throw down on good food. 

After last week's "try-outs," I'll definitely be going back to Andaluca and How to Cook a Wolf—two restaurants owned by Seattle 'celeb chefs.' The kitchen of one local celeb chef, however, delivered a pretty…underwhelming experience. I hate to say it, because the guy is pretty much a god among men in these parts, but sorry Tom Douglas, my meal at Dahlia wasn't too impressive. I loved my cocktail, a rosemary/blueberry shrub, and of course TD's famous coconut cream pie was amazing, but the entrees were bland, and came out so fast that it was almost like they had a line of restaurant week plates stacked up and ready to go, a la Micky D's. The whole thing felt rushed, something I don't want to feel at a nice restaurant, no matter how much I'm paying. I'm not giving up on Tom just yet (he has about 6 restaurants in Seattle), but I doubt I'll be doing dinner at Dahlia again. Andaluca and How to Cook a Wolf made up for it though. 

Andaluca's executive chef, Wayne Johnson, competed on Iron Chef…and makes a mean bowl of clams. The restaurant is a mediterranean-spanish-northwest-tapas type place, and seriously had the best clams I've maybe ever had. And I've had a lot of clams. Clams are one of my go-to dishes. Andaluca's were swimming in a bright orange, slightly creamy, garlicky bath of white wine and harissa butter, and were surrounded by big, salty, spicy chunks of chorizo, and topped with cilantro. They were salty and spicy, and seriously amazing. The sherry-almond scallops were also incredible, and weren't dry or overcooked, like a lot of restaurant scallops I've had. Aside from how delicious everything was, it was just a great experience. We were served a ton of food (which isn't typical with restaurant week), and the waiter was super nice, even though we did have a loud party of 10 that shut the place down. 

How to Cook a Wolf is one of Ethan Stowell's restaurants. Ethan is another big-deal chef around here, with a lot of big-time restaurants under his belt (don't tell him, but I may have stalked him at Burning Beast, just a little bit). How to Cook a Wold (named after MFK Fisher's book) is a fun, small space in Queen Anne, with simple, rustic Italian-style food, meant to be shared. Everything was delicious, from the burrata with grape mostarda, to the beef carpaccio, to the simple but fabulous pasta dishes. My favorite dish was the semolina gnocchi with pork sugo. The gnocchi were almost like big, fluffy polenta cakes, but made with semolina, and were covered in cheese, and sitting atop a salty, savory tomato sauce with shredded pork. To. Die. For. And, if the amazing meal wasn't enough, they sent us home with little bags of fresh-raw pasta. 

I wanted to do something simple with the pasta, so I played homage to another local celeb chef of sorts, and made Mario Batali's pasta with cacio e pepe (Batali is from Washington, and his family owns Salumi, the unbelievable salumeria in Pioneer Square (right below my office)! Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper) is just that—pasta tossed with cracked pepper, butter and oil, and nutty parmesan cheese. That's it! And it's so good! You don't really need to follow a recipe—boil pasta in salty water, and in a separate pot, toast cracked black pepper, and melt in equal parts butter and olive oil, then mix that with pasta water, the pasta, and a hearty amount of grated cheese. There you have it. A dinner for far less than $30, that's sure to impress. 

PS. I'm not a restaurant critic or even a "restaurant blogger," and the reviews above are strictly my opinion... though you should really get the clams at Andaluca, just sayin'. 
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