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Book Inspired Recipes

Mixed Seafood Fried Rice

Mixed Seafood Fried Rice
In case you hadn't noticed—maybe you haven't been here in a while or maybe this is your first time visiting—I'm craving fish and seafood hard lately. I can't seem to get enough of it. While I am happy to eat it absolutely any time of the year, there's something about the Lenten season that brings it to the forefront. I'm sure it's the fact that I watch too much tv, and all the fast food places are advertising their fish sandwiches at every commercial break (because I'm not Catholic). Whatever the reason, I'm taking full advantage of it and working daily to satisfy that craving.

The other day at the market, I was passing a little freezer case, one of the kinds that's open like a table, not shelves enclosed by doors. There amongst the packages of frozen mussels, clams, and lobster tails, there were a few packages of a cooked seafood mix that were labeled as "paella mix". It included individually quick frozen octopus, squid, mussels, shrimp, and surimi (aka fake fake crab legs or pollock). This triggered a memory of seeing Nigella use a bag of frozen seafood to make a speedy seafood supper once upon a time. I remember wanting to make that; into my cart it went. Okay, into my cart went 2 packages, because if you're gonna do it, you might as well do it right.

One package is still hanging out in the freezer awaiting it's seafood supper fate a la Nigella Lawson. The other package made its way into a big batch of fried rice. Does that sound strange?

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Rhode Island Clam Chowder
So, did you know that Rhode Island Clam Chowder was a thing? Until recently, I didn't. You see, lately I've been in the mood for seafood. Well, okay—I'm almost always in the mood for seafood. So how let's just say that I'm craving it even more than usual. This leads to me scouring my bookshelves and the internet for ideas and inspiration. It was on one of these missions that I happened across an article by Sam Sifton called The Clam Chowder Wars, and in turn, Rhode Island Clam Chowder.

Now, I've found myself to be in the minority when I declare Manhattan Clam Chowder to be my favorite type. Manhattan variety has a tomato-based brothy base, with a hint of heat from crushed red chile flakes. It's not only the flavor, it's the brothiness; I tend to prefer brothy soups. It was actually the very first recipe that I shared right here on my blog over six years ago, and I just happened to post an updated recipe less than a week ago.

That said, I do like the creamy New England variety...I think. Yes, I'm ducking right now. I saw that only because I can't remember the last time I ate any. It was probably when I was still working in restaurants. So, it's been at least seven years. You can probably guess where this is going; you'll be seeing yet another clam chowder recipe in this space soon.

Chop Suey inspired by Lady and the Tramp | #FoodnFlix

Chop Suey
For this month's edition of Food 'n Flix, we are watching a beloved oldie, Lady and the Tramp. Since it was made in 1955, pretty much everybody I know, from my mom's generation to my kid's generation, grew up watching Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp. I don't own it on dvd, but I do have it on tape (that would be a VCR tape for you young-uns)...you know the one that all the Disney movies used to come in—big, white, heaven forbid you stepped on a corner or you'd never be able to close it again? This month was the first time I'd actually watched it in quite a few years, though; while I do still have one of those dvd/vcr combo players, I don't dare actually put a tape in it, because it's old and hungry.

Tramp rolling Lady the last meatball
So, everybody knows the story of the unlikely romance between the posh cocker spaniel and the rough-around-the-edges mutt from the other side of the tracks. And I'm guessing that when you think of food in the movie, you think of spaghetti and meatballs. I mean, that is the classic scene—it even graces the most modern movie cover and poster. It's the inspiration for lovebirds sharing a plate of spaghetti worldwide. Although, my favorite part of that particular scene is when Tramp pushes a meatball towards Lady with his nose.

That said, I decided against making a "spaghetti special, heavy on the meatballs". Instead, I decided to watch the movie again with new eyes...eyes on the look-out for a different avenue of inspiration. Turns out, there are quite a few hidden gems. Do you remember when Jim Dear pours coffee into a saucer, then gives it to Lady along with a doughnut? How about the Siamese cats scene? That happens to be one of my favorites. I toyed with the idea of making cat treats that included milk powder (until I found out for the first time in 39 years that milk is not good for cats; no wonder they love it) or fish (remember the goldfish?).

Caramelized Grapefruit Margarita

Caramelized Grapefruit Margarita
Guess what day it is! No, not hump day. It's National Margarita Day! Since it's always more fun to raise your glass with friends, that's exactly what I'm doing. I've once again asked some of my food-blogging friends to conjure up a little margarita magic to share. It's selfish, really. I'm always looking for new cocktail inspiration, be it in the glass or on a plate, and this delivers that straight to my door, so to speak.

So, when I was trying to decide what kind of margarita I wanted to celebrate with, I started by looking around the kitchen. I really didn't want to brave the blindingly white outdoors. Fortunately, I had a huge pile of grapefruit just begging to be turned into that (unfrozen) concoction that helps me hang on.

Since I'd originally thought I was going to coat them in sugar and stick them under the broiler anyway, I figured I still would. A little deep caramel flavor never hurt anybody. So, brown sugar, a flame, and a few minutes later, I had some lovely grapefruit juice that was sweetened to taste like that popular breakfast treat.

Manhattan Clam Chowder Redux

Manhattan Clam Chowder
Six years (and nine days) ago today, I hit publish for the first time. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I wasn't familiar with the world of blogging. The number of blogs I'd even seen could be counted on one hand. I'd only recently left the restaurant world and gotten the internet at home, which meant I no longer had to shlep to the library with three young kids in tow in order to connect with the modern world.

The very first recipe I shared was for Manhattan Clam Chowder. I wrote a short, two sentence introduction proclaiming how much I loved soup. The sentiment holds true today, but I like to think I've come a long way since I those days in my tiny kitchen, snapping photos under artificial light with my little pink camera. I like to think that culinary school, an appreticeship, and working everywhere from fine dining restaurants to university test kitchens reinforced my cooking and recipe development chops, but my delivery left a lot to be desired.

I'd always enjoyed writing, but I rarely had the patience to do it well. Like many, I had teachers and professors who told me I had talent. But if I'm being honest with myself, I was just too lazy to do anything about it. The past six years has helped me develop the patience to sit down, form complete ideas, and actually write. I'm not saying it comes easy now, just that I've learned to enjoy and appreciate the process—and the end result, when it comes out as planned.

Guerilla Scallion Pancakes | #zpocwinter

Guerilla Scallion Pancakes #zpocwinter
"When the undead rise, social conventions will crumble faster than a good shortbread."

I wasn't always a huge zombie fan. I didn't clamor around the ticket office to buy tickets to the latest George Romero flick when it was released—but I always looked forward to watching them on dvd, tape (yes, I'm that old), or television. I still wouldn't call myself zombie-crazed, but there are a couple of amazing movies and tv shows centered around zombies that top my list of all-time favorites. I'm pretty sure that you can guess at least one of them.

Go ahead...I'll wait.

Oh yes, that was fast. If you said The Walking Dead, you would be correct. How could a fan of good television NOT love one of the best shows on right now? I'm hooked. I watch reruns and marathons and shake my fist at the writers and the far-too-long wait between seasons.

Bacon Fat Spice Cookies

Bacon Fat Spice Cookies
For as long as I can remember, I've kept bacon fat in my refrigerator. I'm talking before it was hip again. The talk of the town. I remember my grandma saving her bacon grease when I was little she'd fry up the best thin-cut pork chops in it. Her pork chops are a thing of legend amongst my siblings and I. As hard as I've tried, I've never been able to make them quite the way she does. I have my trusty cast iron skillet—just like she did. I have my rendered bacon fat—just like she did. It could have been the spice she used, but I'm pretty sure it was simply seasoned salt.

Of course, it could have been the pork itself. Or maybe it was just the fact that grandma made them.

So, a lot of people like to shovel blame back and forth about what is causing the obesity epidemic in the US (and world?) today. Some people blame cooking with fat. I find it hard to believe that cooking with fat (alone) is the culprit. Our great grandparents (and their great grandparents) have been cooking with fat for generations. I'm pretty sure it has more to do with processed food and immobility. Don't blame the beautiful bacon fat. Or lard (pure stuff, not the hydrogenated stuff made to last forever on the grocery store shelf). Or beef tallow. Or duck fat (liquid gold). Or even my friend butter.

Kouign Amann

Kouign Amann
Before I say anything else, I have to tell you to muster up every last ounce of your willpower and let these cool to room temperature before eating them. It'll be hard, this I know. Actually, go ahead and eat one while it's still really warm—I want you to compare. You see, once they've come to room temperature, and you bite through the crisp outside and into the soft, flaky layers...the cooled butter and sugar will have formed these gooey little sugar pockets that explode onto your tongue. It's kind of magical.

Kouign Amann, pronounced "koo-WEEN a-MON" or "queen a-mahn", is this month's Bread Baking Babes pick as chosen by Lien (our BBBabes Kitchen of the Month). I'll go ahead and admit that when Lien told us what we'd be making this month, I had never heard of it. But after looking around a bit, I first discovered that the name translates to "butter cake" in Breton, which is the ancient Celtic language of Brittany, France. Well, that in itself is enough to get me excited.

At chow.com, I read that a kouign amann "begins with a slightly stiffer version of croissant dough folded and refolded around layers of salted butter (traditional in sea-swept Brittany) and sugar, then baked in tins smeared with more salted butter and sugar that caramelizes in the oven. The result is crisp on the outside, chewy inside, and with a sweet-salt balance that the croissant can't even aspire to." Yeah—SOLD!

Anise-scented Ice Cream w/ Candied Fennel Seeds

Anise-scented Ice Cream with Candied Fennel Seeds
What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, Leslie Knope and her lady friends leave their husbands and their boyfriends at home and just kick it breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas!

Today, some of my food blogging lady friends and I have done just that. We've left our husbands and boyfriends at home, and we're kickin' it around the table, sharing stories of other awesome ladies who have inspired or influenced us in some way over the years. I don't think any of us will go as far as Leslie's 5000 word essay today, but...

Today, I'm remembering my grandma (my dad's mom). I never got the chance to know her as an adult, since she passed away when I was a freshman in high school. Fortunately, I have lots of good memories of her through the years. Red-headed, fiesty (that combination of Irish and Native American blood running through her veins made sure that was a trait), independent, and opinionated as all get out.

Strawberry Chia Jam with Chia Seed Pancakes

Strawberry Chia Jam with Chia Seed Pancakes
It's the second Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time for another round of #bloggerCLUE! Our theme this month is RED—and for more reason than one. February is a busy month. Of course there's Valentine's Day. Red! And then there's the Oscars. Red (carpet). It is also National Heart Awareness month, and well...red! So yeah, I had all sorts of fun rummaging through my assigned blog for the month, which was Curry and Comfort.

Curry and Comfort is written by Ramona, who writes of her love for curry and American comfort food (and everything in between). Let's just say that I spent a long time perusing and hunting down red things, and I had a list so long it trailed behind me by the time I finished. Or at least it would have if it was printed out. Next I spent time slowly crossing items like Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, BLT Pizza, and Crockpot Paprika Chicken off my list.

What caused me to leave tempting food like that simmering on the backburner? Two words: chia seeds. To know me is to know my love for those little power-houses. I drink my daily chia, and am always looking for food I can sneak them into. Well, when I laid eyes on Ramona's Strawberry Chia Jam, nothing else stood a chance. I'd been meaning to try chia jam...any variety...for quite some time, but still hadn't gotten around to it. Mystery solved. Decision made.

Whiskey Raspberry Glazed Duck Breasts

Whiskey Raspberry Glazed Duck Breasts
Silly me, I got married on Valentine's Day, therefore condemning myself to a lifetime of anniversaries with over-booked, over-crowded restaurant dinners. Fortunately, the husband and I are resourceful. Instead of fighting those dinner crowds, we opt instead for eating out for lunch; {knock on wood} we've never once had to brave a crowded restaurant.

It was late morning when we said our vows, and afterwards, all the friends and family who were there (which were not many) headed over to a local Mexican restaurant for a celebratory lunch. It's sort of become a tradition for us to eat at that same restaurant for lunch every year on our anniversary. It's unspoken, but that's where we always end up.

Bacon Cornbread Muffins + a Cooking with Frank's® RedHot® Cayenne Pepper Sauce cookbook review

Bacon Cornbread Muffins
Surprises can come in the most unexpected packages. Recently, I was offered the chance to review a copy of the Frank's® RedHot® Cayenne Pepper Sauce cookbook. I was happy to, because I've always enjoyed Frank's, especially on basic hot wings or (best of all) Buffalo Chicken Dip. I thought I'd probably find a couple of tasty dishes to try. To be completely honest, I wasn't really expecting that much. I don't know why. I had some sort of preconceived notion about "brand" cookbooks in my head...that it was probably somewhat basic. In a happy surprise, I was proved wrong.

Let me back up a moment and note that the cookbook itself is actually not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with the manufacturer of Frank's® RedHot®; it is independently published and written. And it's written by a blogger. Aaaaaahhhhh, no wonder it's not boring and ho-hum. I mean, I may be a wee bit biased, but I know the hard work and long  hours that most food bloggers put into recipe testing and development. After learning that, it made sense that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the recipes in the book. It might be worth noting that I read through the book, and added my numerous bookmarks before reading about the author, Rachel Rappaport.

Hot sauce lovers are going to want this book on their shelves. It does contain things you might expect, like chicken wings and dip—but they go beyond run-of-the-mill. You can also find things more out of the ordinary, like jello shots, ice cream, and even cinnamon buns...and yes, they all have hot sauce as an ingredient.

One-Pan Sausage, Squash, and Onion Roast + 46 more Winter Squash Recipes

One-Pan Sausage, Squash, and Onion Roast
Aaaaaaaah, best intentions. Sometimes they just don't work out the way we planned. You may remember back in November when I kicked-off the Twelve Weeks of Winter Squash with this Sesame and Chile Roasted Butternut Squash. I was excited for another year of delving deeper into the world of winter squash. I was determined to find new ways to use them, and to use the ones I use less often. Alas, I did really well for the first six weeks—and then I dropped the ball.

Life started moving at a dizzying pace, the end of the year was upon us (which I know is supposed to be a joyous time, but for me, it's always the most stressful). Winter squash sat on my counter, neglected. I kept thinking I'd get to a recipe later, and squeak in towards the end of the week. Before I knew it, it was the next week, and I'd be saying the same thing. I did manage to complete one winter squash recipe in the final six weeks. Lame.

A few of my winter squash compatriots actually did manage to delve deeper, and post all twelve weeks, though—to them I take my hat off. So today, I'm sharing a simple one-pan recipe featuring Acorn squash, but I'm also sharing the entire list of recipes made by the Twelve Weeks of Winter Squash group throughout our event this year.

Olive Tapenade Focaccia

Olive Tapenade Focaccia
I have a handy-dandy focaccia recipe that comes together very quickly, is easily customizable, and never fails to impress. I've shared variations on it before, such as this Strawberry Focaccia (the ultimate version), this savory focaccia with prosciutto, asparagus, and shallots, and this Peach Focaccia. In honor of today's Twelve Loaves them, I decided to share a savory version featuring olives.

If your fridge look anything like mine, you probably have a couple of half-full jars of olives claiming residency on the shelves. Turning them into a batch of savory, salty olive tapenade is one of my favorite ways to put that prime fridge real estate back on the market. I almost always have some capers and a half a lemon hanging out, too. Garlic and olive oil are always in my kitchen. All it takes to make some of this addictive relish is a few pulses in the food processor.

A quick batch of tapenade tumbled atop this bubbly dough worked out beautifully. This loaf of focaccia would make a wonderful addition to any lunch or dinner table; it would also be tasty alongside a cheese tray or some charcuterie. But I just went ahead and called it lunch all by itself. You know, because I could.

Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef

Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef
Just when I dared to dream that we were done with snow, it dumped a good twelve inches on us. I thought if I didn't put voice to my wish, that I couldn't jinx it. Wrong. It's just a good thing that I had a chuck roast waiting in the fridge, a crockpot waiting on the counter, and a husband willing to go outside and shovel while I "prepared" the food. Somebody drew the short straw there.

I love being able to just throw a big hunk of meat into a slow cooker, then douse it with some sort of flavorful liquid and seasoning, and magically open the lid 4 to 6 hours later to an almost complete meal. In the case of this beef, I did pour out the liquid to reduce it a bit; this concentrates the flavors and thickens it up a bit. You don't have to take this extra step, but I like adding thickened cooking juices back to the meat once it's been shredded with a couple of forks. In this instance, the vinegar adds a good tang.

I suppose being stuck inside isn't so bad, as long as you've got something good cooking up in the kitchen, with a warmth and smell that envelopes the entire house in a cozy blanket. Maybe I'm not quite done with snow for this season yet after all.

41 Chicken Wing Recipes to wrap-up Wing Week!

41 Chicken Wing Recipes for #wingweek
Well, it's here, and it came fast—today is officially the final day of #wingweek 2015. The fact that today also happens to be Super Bowl XLIX is no accident. Since I start craving wings come football play-off time, I figured other people might be doing the same. What better way to gear up for a day of food and football than with a virtual buffet of chicken wings recipes coming your way for a whole week? Plus, it gave me a chance to try out some new recipes and techniques, and have a few friends drop by with their contributions, as well!

I kicked things off last Sunday with a simple tutorial on how to break down whole chicken wings and how to cook them. If you're armed with the basics, you can use them to adapt any other recipe or flavor profile to suit your needs. I had such an awesome week, and believe it or not, I'm still looking forward to eating more wings during the game tonight. But after that, I'll probably be good for at least a short while.

In case you missed any of the chicken wing recipes I shared this week, here is a recap:
MondaySlow Cooker Sweet 'n Tangy Wings
TuesdayCrisped Ginger Soy Chicken Wings (guest post by Camilla)
Wednesday - Bloody Mary Chicken Wings
ThursdaySlow Cooker Sticky Wings (guest post by Karen)
FridayPopcorn-crusted Chicken Wings
SaturdayCrispy Oven Baked Hot Wings (guest post by Bernadette)