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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Mousse ...inspired by Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? {food 'n flix}

Chocolate Coconut Mousse inspired by Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe for Food 'n Flix |
This month's Food 'n Flix pick was one that I had never seen before.  An oldie, but goodie.  And one of my favorite genre's to boot - a culinary whodunit!  This film, which was loosely adapted from the novel Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe by Nan and Ivan Lyons (which I just ordered from Amazon), was released in 1978.

As the film begins, we are introduced to gourmand Maximillian Vandeveer, who is organizing a grand state dinner for the Queen.  The menu is comprised of a four-course meal prepared by Max's idea of the four greatest chefs of their region.

At a doctor's visit, Max is told that his weight is affecting his health, and that immediately needs to lose a large amount of weight to extend his life. To this, Max takes offense, stating...
Friday, November 29, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Rum Flan #CaptainsTable

Spiced Pumpkin Rum Flan #CaptainsTable by
Do you have a go-to dessert for a specific holiday?  I tend to choose lemon bars and a fresh coconut tart for Easter.  For Christmas I lean towards cookies, candies, and gingerbread.  And Thanksgiving?  Well, Thanksgiving it's always pie.  It really never seemed like Thanksgiving if there wasn't pie for dessert.  Not that it was a rule or anything...technically.  But if it was a rule, I would have broken it this year.

Of course, this year seemed anything but traditional.  I usually spend a solid month planning and re-planning my menu.  I paste together bits and pieces to make what I think will make the perfect meal for the year.  I have a notebook.  It has headings.  If you were to glance at it, you'd see Turkey and Gravy, Stuffing (which I should technically call Dressing, because I never actually stuff it into the bird), Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberries, Applesauce (the applesauce is always the same, but I still list the category and fill it in), Sides (because potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and applesauce are always there in some form or another...but the sides often change from year to year), Bread, Drinks, and Desserts.

Into that notebook also goes a shopping list, a prep schedule, and a cooking schedule.  It goes with me everywhere during the month of November, leading up to the big day.  You know, in case I have any things that need to be immediately added or changed.  Lest I forget those changes before I return home.  This was the first year that two or three pies were not listed under Desserts.  Some years, I just use Pies as the heading, as I know that's all that will be there, anyway.  But really, not a single pie.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fast Focaccia with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Shallots #passtheprosciutto

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Parma Ham - Pass the Prosciutto.  All opinions are my own.
Fast Focaccia with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Shallots #passtheprosciutto |
I'll be the first to admit that when the holiday season rolls around, especially the day-before and the day-of any given holiday, I sometimes leave my family high and dry in the "normal" meal department.  Between preparation of the big meal and lack of stove/oven/refrigerator space, we eat a lot of cereal, sandwiches, and leftovers while the scents of the season linger around us.

This is one thing that I've vowed to change this year.  I will not starve* my family in anticipation of the big meal. This will just take a little advance planning on my part.  That's where simple meals like stratas, that can be prepared the evening before and left in the fridge for morning baking, come in.  Or a tray full of assembled quesadillas waiting to be baked for a quick lunch.  Or, believe it or not, a loaf of focaccia and bag full of pre-chopped mixed lettuce leaves to go with it.

Yeast bread?  I'm sure you're wondering if I'm being serious right now.  Who has time to make a yeast bread in the midst of the madness that is a holiday meal?  I do.  You do.  Anybody does, when it's this fast focaccia!  After a quick mix and knead, it gets stretched into a prepared pan.  After that, it's pretty hands off.  Prepare something to top it while it rises, then slide it into the oven for less than 30 minutes.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why I'm sitting at the #CaptainsTable this holiday season...

#CaptainsTable Challenge Announcement at
Over the next 3 months, I will be joining 14 other bloggers in the #CaptainsTable Challenge.  We will be creating and sharing some delicious holiday food and drink recipes featuring Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and/or Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum.  The challenge consists of three parts: Thanksgiving, The Holidays, and Super Bowl.  I will be creating one drink recipe and one food recipe for each of the three challenges.

Chef Hugh Acheson will be reviewing the recipes and photos submitted by each blogger, and he will choose a winner each round to receive a $500 gift card to the retail store of their choice.  At the end of the challenge, an overall winner will also be awarded a trip to a Captain's Table US event in the spring where they will meet Hugh.

But wait, here's the really cool part - each time the #CaptainsTable hashtag is used across social media channels from now through the beginning of February, Captain Morgan will donate $1 to WhyHunger!  So, if you see a post labeled with the #CaptainsTable hashtag, please share it; we want to raise as much money as we can for a great cause.
Monday, November 25, 2013

Roasted Delicata Squash and Tuscan Kale Pasta {Cook the Books + 12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

Roasted Delicata Squash and Tuscan Kale Pasta |
I first read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 5 or 6 years ago.  I think it only took a couple of pages to kick-start the longing for my own parcel of useful land.  An area where I could plant not only row after row of vegetables to sustain us throughout the growing season (and beyond), but also an orchard with fruit trees, a few rows of grape vines tucked behind the house, and plenty of room for free-roaming hens, roosters, and turkeys that would produce not only eggs, but meat.

I can still picture an open room with exposed beams dripping with braids of garlic and onions, bunches of herbs and flowers; heavy sunflower heads with bags tied around the end to grab the seeds.  Shelves lined with random mason jars and re-purposed tins.  A root cellar stocked with potatoes and tubers that still have earth clinging to their skins.  Bejeweled jars of jams and preserves lining the shelves of the pantry, alongside tomatoes, purees, and pickles to carry us through the winter.

Half of me is drawn to a "simpler" (yet infinitely more satisfying, I imagine) way of life.  A life where all the food we need comes from our own hands, or the hands of those nearby.  A life where we give up the things that aren't a necessity.  A actual necessity, not a perceived one.
Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake |
What is a gooey butter cake, you ask?  And why is it called cake when it looks more like pie?  Those are both valid questions.  Let's start with the "what is it".    It's not a "cake cake", it's a "coffee cake cake".  With origins in St. Louis, Missouri, there are several claims to fame (like any famous recipe); ingredients switched...wrong filling mistakenly used...either way it seemed to come about as a happy mistake.  In it's basic form, it is the anti-diet food.  A base of a shortbread nature.  An ooey-gooey filling made from lots of butter, full-fat cream cheese, eggs (with extra yolks), and sugar.  How could it not be irresistible?

There are two schools.  One school uses a yellow cake mix as a base, the other does not.  This version does not.  And the original doesn't have pumpkin in it,either - but as you know, 'tis the season for me to stick pumpkin (or any winter squash for that matter) into anything and everything.
Friday, November 22, 2013

Flavored Sea Salts {DIY}

Flavored Sea Salts {DIY} #HandcraftedHolidays at
I hate to tell you this, but there is just over a month left until Christmas.  The time has come to to make a plan.   Will you brave the Black Friday madness or shop like mad from the comfort of your own home on Cyber Monday?  Maybe you've already been picking up little gifts here and there.  Maybe you're way ahead of me and your shopping is already done.  If so, you have my admiration.  I, however, am still trying to shake off the holiday denial.  Why does it always come so fast!?

Now, as much as I love to shop, I also love making gifts from my kitchen.  Last year it was homemade extracts and all-in-one beer bread kits.  This  year it's homemade liqueurs and do-it-yourself flavored sea salt.  Next year I'm thinking do-it-yourself flavored sugars, lip balms, and sugar scrubs.
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stuffed Mushrooms {vegan} #SpreadCheer

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of GO Veggie! in conjunction with Kitchen PLAY.  All opinions are my own.
Stuffed Mushrooms {Vegan} from #spreadcheer
I have always considered myself (and my loved ones) extremely lucky when it comes to eating.  There has never been anybody diagnosed with a food allergy or an intolerance to a certain food group.  There's never really even been any dietary restrictions involved for anything other than choice.

Until two weeks ago.

My mom and brother drove down to visit me on my birthday.  It was the first time we'd all seen each other in over a year.  We'd talked here and there on the phone or via some social media channel, but this was the first set of hugs we'd exchanged in that long.  I've been asking my mom for ages (literally) to dig out some of her old boxes filled with photos and photo albums.  Well, happy birthday to me, because when they walked in the front door, my brother was lugging a big old box with him.
Monday, November 18, 2013

Pumpkin Hummus Mashed Potatoes {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

Pumpkin Hummus Mashed Potatoes for the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash from
I had intended to share an entirely different squashy dish with you today.  It had pasta and kale and colorful Delicata half-moons.  But it got moved to the back burner after I found a fun new way to use my Pumpkin Hummus!

Here's how it came about:  me, two hours of "waiting room time", and a big stack of holiday food magazines.  I've saved Thanksgiving issues of magazines for years.  At least 15.  Yes, it's my favorite holiday.  Planning my Thanksgiving menu is almost as much fun as enjoying it.  And you never know what will jump out at you from the pages of the past.

So, in the midst of ripping up the subscription cards to make bookmarks, I stumbled on one of those little booklets stuck in the center of a Food Network magazine.  Usually I take them out, but this one got missed.  It was a "50 Mashed Potatoes" version.  Out of the purse came a pencil (yes, I carry a pencil around...but it's mechanical, so my purse doesn't get all marked up).
Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Hummus w/ Spiced Lamb

Pumpkin Hummus with Spiced Lamb
Everybody has a few dishes that they make that are miles above the same dish when made by someone else.  Don't they?  For example, I am basically in the kitchen at any given hour; cooking, baking, testing, experimenting, eating, or just thinking about food in some form or another.  It's what I do.  But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy eating somebody else's cooking every now and again.

However, there are two or three dishes that I make better than anyone else.  For me.  For my tastebuds.  And I know that just because I think something is the best, it doesn't mean that you will think it's the best.   But sometimes, you've just got to toot your own horn.  That's okay.  It's healthy to appreciate your talents.

One of my talents is making hummus.  I make a seriously mean hummus.  It was actually my fourth-ever blog post, which means that I've been churning out good hummus for at least the past five years.  So yes, I like hummus in general.  I'll eat hummus if you make it.  And I'll like it.  I'll eat store-bought hummus.  I'll like that, too.  But I get silly with a batch of "my" hummus.  I scoop it up with warm pitas like it's going out of style.  I slather it on toasted bagels.  I eat it on veggie sandwiches.  I dip major amounts of roasted broccoli in it.  I eat it from a spoon.
Saturday, November 16, 2013

Aloo Paratha {Bread Baking Babes}

Aloo Paratha from
My paratha rolling needs perfecting.  To say the least.  These whole wheat flatbreads are stuffed with a spicy potato filling that was bound and determined to find its way out.  Oh, and I should probably mention that there wasn't actually any whole wheat flour in my parathas.  There was meant to be, but since I found myself attempting these very last moment (as in, this morning), I was unable to zip to the market to pick up another bag of whole wheat flour when I discovered that weevils were making a home in mine.

So, I went through every bag of flour that I had tightly rolled, but not put inside a container or zippered baggie.  This morning I threw out 3/4 of a bag of white whole wheat flour, half a bag of regular whole wheat flour, 1/2 bag of buckwheat flour, a whole box (minus a tablespoon or so) of cornstarch, 3/4 of a bag of masa harina, a box of rice flour, and a 1/4 of a bag of cake flour.

I was left with all-purpose flour that I have in an airtight jar, plus a bag of unopened bread flour.  I'm praying that those nasty little things didn't find their way into that unopened bag.  It seems to be sealed pretty tightly, so hopefully it's good.
Friday, November 15, 2013

Pizza Toast

Pizza Toast
For Weekday Supper, we always share meals that can be made quickly and without a lot of fuss.  But this week, we've sped things up even faster to share ways of getting food on the table in a flash!  Now, there are all sorts of ways to make lightning fast meals.
  • use pre-cooked grains (that's what the weekend is for) for a stir-fry or salad
  • slice/dice up leftover bits and bobs floating around in the fridge for quesadillas, pastas, or pizza toast
  • cook angel hair pasta - it's so thin that it cooks in 2-3 minutes
  • add a rotisserie chicken that you picked up on the way home from work to a salad that uses simply different lettuces, fruits and/or berries, and a simple vinaigrette
  • pop a roast or chicken thighs into the slow cooker before you leave in the morning with simple sauce or seasoning that you can pour over.  Pile it onto crusty buns with your favorite condiments after you peel off your coat

Those are just a few options.  What are your tricks for getting a busy weekday supper on the meal in 15 minutes or less?
Thursday, November 14, 2013

#SundaySupper is Squashin' Winter!

A Winter Squash Menu #SundaySupper is Squashin' Winter PREVIEW POST at
'Tis the season.  The season for piles upon piles of winter squash.  From deep oranges to warm yellows to surprising blues to dark greens...from smooth and long to oblong and knobby...the Sunday Supper team is bringing you a whole menu celebrating winter squash in all of its many forms!

And guess what?  I'm hosting!  If you know me, you know that come this time of year, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to conquer these fantastic beasts.  Judging from the preview of the menu below, I'll have enough to keep me busy for the whole season!  Heck, maybe two seasons.

Take note, if you will of the awesome photo featuring a few of the many varieties of winter squash that you will find at your farmer's markets and local grocers.  It is actually a dish towel that the lovely Renee of Magnolia Days owns; how fun is that!?  So, of course I asked her if she could snap a photo of it for me to use this week.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gram's Seasoned Chops (+ Sweet Brown Butter Cornbread)

Gram's Seasoned Chops (+ Sweet Brown Butter Cornbread w/ Boysenberry Jam)
One of the food "subjects" near and dear to my heart is food memory.  The way a smell, a taste, a scent, a feel, or a sizzle can send a wave of nostalgia crashing down on you in an instant?  That blows me away.  I've written many times about dishes that pull me back to a time when Sun-in and jelly shoes were all the rage.  So, that's why, when my friend Lora (aka Savoring Italy), asked me if I'd like to write a post to contribute to her Food Memory series, I immediately said yes.

I adore the way that cooking a dish that a loved one used to cook for you, 24 years after they've passed away, makes it feel like they're at the table with you.  That's exactly how I feel when I sit down to a table loaded with a heaping plate of my Gram's Seasoned Pork Chops, a cast-iron skillet of cornbread, and some Boysenberry jam on the side.  I hope that you'll drop by and read a little food memory story that I wrote about my grandma, and some of the food that never fails to push her back to the front of my memory when I eat it, at Lora's place today - my Sweet Brown Butter Cornbread.

But to go along with the cornbread at Lora's place, I've also whipped up a batch of the simplest, most delicious pork chops in the world (to me).  My grandma always had the absolute thinnest cut chops, which she'd season up right with Lawry's seasoned salt, and then fry in a little bacon grease in her cast iron skillet.  We could tear through a pile in no time flat.  I've never been able to find chops quite as small as I remember hers being, but when I ask my butcher sweetly, he'll slice up some really thin chops (rib or loin, bone-in, depending on my mood...heck, maybe both).
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Skellig Biscuit Apple Cobbler

Skellig Biscuit Apple Cobbler |
Trying to eat cheese with apple pie cost me the tip of my finger.  But I've told you that story before, so I won't make you listen to it again.  I just wanted to stress the point that eating cheese with your apples is worth a little pain and suffering.

It just so happens to be apple season.  So, you may be able to guess what went through my mind when I opened up a box to find three glorious packages of Skellig, a sweet, yet still pleasantly tangy Cheddar from Kerrygold.  Yes, apples and cheese were on the menu.
Monday, November 11, 2013

Spaghetti Squash w/ Apples & Pistachios {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

Spaghetti Squash w/ Apples & Pistachios {12 Weeks of Winter Squash} |
Okay.  I'll be the first to say it.  This dish looks kinda boring.  But if you just give it a chance, it may surprise you.  Sit down and spend some time with it.  It's the unexpected girl that you want to take home to meet your mother.  The one who makes you want to give up all of those crazy one-nighters.

Get my drift?  Of course you do...that was about as subtle as Miley Cyrus at charm school.

Really what made me try this dish in the first place was an attempt to make something other than "my usual" with Spaghetti Squash.  I mean, I could probably eat THIS daily weekly, but variety is good.
Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cheesy Italian Sausage & Kale Quiche

Cheesy Italian Sausage & Kale Quiche
Ah yes, how I adore the four basic food groups: Bread, booze, garlic, and CHEESE.  What's that?  Those are not the four basic food groups?  Oh yes, I forgot - there are five basic food groups.  How 'bout I add fish?  Yes, that sounds much more complete.

Today's Sunday Supper menu is focusing on one of those basic food groups.  Maybe my favorite one of them all.  Well, next to bread.  Bread and CHEESE are equal in my book.  Heck bread with cheese is pretty much what I call bliss.  Anyway.  Cheese  makes everything better.

Take for example, this already stellar quiche.  It's a glorious meal; slightly spicy sausage, ribbons of kale, and piles of paper-thin shallots - all resting in a thin, crispy phyllo shell.  Sounds pretty amazing right?  How in the world could it possibly get any better?
Friday, November 8, 2013

Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops

Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops
These fat pork chops smothered in a rich and tangy sauce pack such a massive flavor punch that you'd never guess that they went from fridge to plate in 30 minutes.  Two types of Balsamic vinegar are reduced down with brown sugar to bring out their sweetness, until they are concentrated and silky. Although onions usually have to cook low and slow for a long period of time to become sweet and caramelized, simmering them in this reduction tricks you into thinking that that's exactly what happened.

Who said quick weekday suppers had to be basic, because the complex flavors going on in your mouth after you pop a bite of these smothered chops in there, would tend to disagree.
Monday, November 4, 2013

Spiced Butternut Squash w/ Red Onion {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

Spiced Butternut Squash w/ Red Onion {#12WksWinterSquash} |
Guess what time it is? WINTER SQUASH TIME!  Yes, today kicks off another edition of the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash!  You may remember last year when Joanne and I would bring you a new winter squash recipe every Monday.  Joanne had already been doing this yearly, but as an effort to incorporate more types of winter squash into my life...explore it...become one with it...I asked her very, very nicely if I could join her.  She said yes.  Love that lady.

This year, we're expanding even more.  You may remember that we always included a linky tool in our weekly posts, so that you could share the winter squash recipes that you made during a particular week, as well.  Well, we're doing that again this year...but we've also invited a bunch of our friends to join us on Mondays.  One can never have too many winter squash recipes.
Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fried Cauliflower w/ Sesame Parsley Sauce

Fried Cauliflower w/ Sesame Parsley Sauce
When I was in high school, my favorite food to buy when the fair was in town (aside from elephant ears) was tempura veggies.  It was like the best of both worlds - veggies AND fried food.  Mushrooms, broccoli, onions, zucchini, and cauliflower all tender and nestled inside they're lightly crisp and golden coating {wistful sigh}.  I've just succeeded in giving myself a massive craving.

Don't get me wrong, I'm under no illusion that the veggies were still healthy once they were battered and bathed in hot oil.  But I like to pretend.  I only ate them like that once a year, so I think it was relatively okay.  And sadly, when trying to think back to the last time that I had tempura veggies, I think it was around 20 years ago.  Eeeep!  My 20-year reunion was this year (I didn't go).  I don't remember a time since then that I've had them.  I need to make a batch for old times sake.
Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Make Basic Mexican Sugar Skulls

Dia de Los Muertos Ofrenda + Basic Sugar Skulls Tutorial
Every year I tell myself and anyone else who will listen that this is the year that I will be making my own sugar skulls.  And then Dia de los Muertos comes and goes, and I still haven't made them.  I know why.  It's because this is the time of year when everything gets crazy-busy.  Like, even more so than usual.  October is officially the start of the holiday season in my mind.  We have birthdays and holidays piling in one after the other from October through January, and I partially lose my mind in that space of time.  With. Out. Fail.

This year was different.  But only by the skin of my teeth.  And I have to credit Zulka Sugar for that.  When they asked me if I'd like to partner with them to do a tutorial on how to make sugar skulls, I knew that this was the year that my declaration would be met!

First, I want to mention how much I adore Zulka.  THIS MUCH.  Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar is produced in family owned sugar mills, from sugar cane grown on family owned farms that are located in tropic regions.  Since it is unrefined, it has a beautiful, light golden brown color, a slight crunch, and the lovely molasses-like flavor that I LOVE in a sugar.  You can use it in any application in equal amounts that you would regular refined, granulated sugar.  Plus, it's non-GMO project verified.

Cinnamon-Cardamom Buns

Cinnamon-Cardamom Buns {#twelveloaves} |
We eat our fair share of freshly baked bread in this house (as you well know if you hang out here at all).  Everybody has their favorites, the ones that are requested on a regular basis.  My oldest prefers pretzels, potato bread, and crusty white bread; my middle child adores cinnamon rolls of any variety; my youngest is forever asking me to make pull-apart bread of the cinnamon-sugar variety or a long loaf of Italian bread.  The hubster?  Well, he's happy with anything, as long as it's not pumpernickel or something equally dark that doesn't taste like chocolate.  He firmly believes that if bread is dark brown, it should be sweet.

Me, myself?  I have a hard time choosing.  It seems that whichever bread, roll, bun, or twist that is warm and fragrant and cooling on my counter is the one I prefer.  Most recently, these Cardamom-Cinnamon Buns.