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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vassilopitta (New Year Wish Cake)

Vassilopitta (New Year Wish Cake)
I love hearing people's new year traditions. Whether a tradition between a small family unit, or something native to a region or country, it's so fascinating to get that glimpse into what makes people tick. Growing up, we didn't really have many traditions revolving around welcoming a new year. Unless you count watching Dick Clark, counting down with the ball, and yelling "Happy New Year" as the hour changed, hugs and kisses all around. Okay, I guess that is a tradition in itself. But I'm thinking something beyond that.

A few years ago, I started with the twelve grapes at the twelve strokes of midnight thing. I always prepare five cups of twelve grapes and we try to gobble quickly as the year changes. It's a pretty fun tradition, but I don't like that it takes away from the kissing and hugging. I mean, giggles and gagging are always a good time, but I miss kisses and hugs with loved ones on the hour.

One tradition that I started myself when the kids were young is drinking mimosas all day on New Year's day. I used to pop the cork at midnight—and then I had kids. I just couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to enjoy a whole bottle of champagne before passing out (from exhaustion). So, I'd wait and the hubs and I would pop the cork as soon as we woke up...full bottles of orange juice (and maybe some other fun juices and additions) ready in the fridge. Don't worry (I know you were), I buy sparkling juices for the kids.
Monday, December 29, 2014

"Oh Fuuuuudge" Pops + 8 other dishes inspired by A Christmas Story | #FoodnFlix

"Oh Fuuuuudge Pops" inspired by A Christmas Story for #FoodnFlix
I know Christmas is over, but I'm guessing I'm not the only one with a tree still twinkling in the corner. And since I had a hard time getting in the spirit this year, it's only been up for about a week now. We'll probably take it down on New Year's eve. In the same spirit, I'm bringing you a bit of an afterthought (though not really, because it was planned) today—what's four days in the grand scheme?

Now, I say it was planned. It's true. You may remember me mentioning earlier this month that I was hosting the current round of Food 'n Flix with my pick, A Christmas Story. I didn't actually make the entries due until yesterday, so I knew I'd be posting food with a bit of holiday inspiration behind it after the fact. And can I just say, I had so much fun coming up with something inspired by the movie!

I actually had a hard time narrowing it down. This is one of those movies that I watch at least once (usually more) every December; the whole family does. And I've been doing it for 30 years. I'll go ahead and call it a tradition. Though it's not a typical "foodie" flick, there is plenty of inspiration throughout. From the most basic inspiration, the holiday itself, to actual movie scenes. I'm not going to lie, the meatloaf and mashed potatoes that make regular appearances at the Parker's dinner table left me hungry for some good comfort food. Even the pot of red cabbage boiling on the stove got me thinking (you'll see a salad featuring red cabbage soon that I almost used for this post).
Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spiced Pear-Pumpkin Whisky Fizz + Ideas for Hosting a Gift Wrapping Party

Spiced Pear-Pumpkin Whisky Fizz + Ideas for Hosting a Gift Wrapping Party
Soon the floor will be littered with brightly colored paper, torn hastily from boxes. Trash and recycling bins will be stuffed to the brim. Sounds of new gadgets and devices will be filling every room in the house. As you walk the room, offering a trash bag to anybody who will add to it, you'll remember the care you took putting on all that pretty paper, those shredded bows. Hours to wrap, minutes to destroy. But that's half the fun, don't you think?

Today I'm here to offer some last minute ideas for holding a gift wrapping party! If you can carve out an afternoon or evening with some of your friends the week before Christmas, one of these parties can be a much-needed break from the madness. These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Ideas for Hosting a Gift Wrapping Party

PICK A THEME: You can go as basic or specific as you like. Change it up each year!
Some ideas are snowflakes, Santa Claus, Natural (think raffia and jute, pine cones and sprigs, holly and pointsettias, etc), Snowmen, Christmas Trees, Birds, Jingle Bells, Musical, Nativity, ugly sweater, cartoon. The possibilities are endless!

PICK A COLOR SCHEME: Something that matches the theme. I've included a few ideas to get the juices flowing.
  • Snowflakes = blue, silver, and white
  • Santa Claus = red, green, and white
  • Natural = browns, pine greens, other colors found outdoors
  • Birds = golds, reds, yellows
Again, endless possibilities. I'd stick with about 3 colors at the most for most themes.
Sunday, December 21, 2014

Spicy Mushrooms

Spicy Mushrooms
Guess what? I'm not going to talk your ear off today. You're busy. I'm busy. I can count the days until Christmas on one hand (with leftover fingers). I can just picture some of you raising your hands in praise. In lieu of waxing poetic, I'm going to share an easy side dish with you. It would be a welcome accompaniment at any holiday table.

The reason I love these spicy mushrooms so much is that they go great with so many things. Sure, you can scoop them straight into your mouth, but I love spooning big helpings over green beans, roast beef or steak, chicken, or turkey. They're even good atop a tall mound of mashed potatoes.

So, if you're looking for a vegan side dish with a little oomph to add to your table, look no further than these tender mushrooms combined with roasted tomatoes, garlic, and chiles!
Friday, December 19, 2014

Ginger and Rye Truffles

This is a sponsored post written by me on half of Templeton Rye and Simply Organic on behalf of The Baddish Group. All opinions are my own.
Ginger and Rye Boozy Truffles
My grandparents have a turntable cabinet in their kitchen, and I was fascinated by it when I was little. It's where they kept boxes of cereal, snacks...and liquor bottles. I didn't really think anything of it, but it gives me a good giggle now. I suppose we use our space the best we know how.

The liquor bottles always stayed in the same spot (that I knew of) until the holidays rolled around, then they were pulled out and set on the counter with a big bottle of gingerale. I know now that those were bottles of whiskey.

On the other side of the counter were plates and extra tins full of chocolates, candies, and cookies that my grandma had made all week long. The family would gather at my grandparent's house, chocolate and whiskey-ginger cocktails in the appropriate hands as the day wore on.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The cast of The Wanderer's Children talks FOOD, plus a recipe for Chocolate Soufflés!

Heads-up—this is a lengthy feature, but it includes a review, an interview, a sinfully delicious chocolate soufflé recipe, a 50% book discount code, and a ridiculously cool giveaway. If you could carve 10-15 minutes out of your day for a little escape, I'd love it if you'd take that escape with me here today.
Chocolate Soufflés
I love finding a good book series.  Sometimes I "discover" them late in the game and come home from the library with a stack of them—because I have to start from the beginning (I'm the same way with tv series). Other times I'm lucky and discover them from book one. That's what happened with The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles by L.G. O'Connor. Now, at first I wasn't so sure. That hesitation had nothing to do with the fantasy or paranormal aspect of the books—angels, demons, and looking beyond are a draw in my book. It was the romance part of the equation I wasn't so sure about.

Before I read Trinity Stones, I'd never read a romance novel in my (at the time) 38 years. I just never had any interest in them. My experience with them only goes as far as standing in front of the small bookshelf at the supermarket when I was in elementary school. I'd study the men with muscles defined under their flowing shirts, long hair whipped back in an unseen wind. I was fascinated, yet I can't remember ever picking one up and flipping through it. I'd reach for a Stephen King novel instead. But apparently, I don't mind a little paranormal romance. Though I do still feel like I need to read it when the kids are in bed or at school (or look over my shoulder the whole time...because everybody knows kids magically appear there at the most inopportune times).

Nine months ago I stumbled into the world of the Angelorum not knowing what to expect. And like so many times before, I've been mentally willing the author to write faster! I love to savor a new book in a series, but have a hard time not just devouring it after the wait. Book two did not disappoint. O'Connor introduces us to a few new members of "the twelve" in this book. There are actually a sizeable number of characters (aka cast members)—but the story calls for it. In book one, we were introduced to Cara and Simon. I'd consider them the main characters. Michael, Sienna, Kai, and a several others were also introduced, but seemed to be more supporting characters. In this book, Michael and Sienna come to the forefront and we get to know more about what makes them tick. Kai, Brett, Angel, Paco...all of their stories are simmering on the backburner, as well...waiting to have their turn in future books.
Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pickled Cranberries and a Dirty Cranberry Gibson

Pickled Cranberries and a Dirty Cranberry Gibson
The cranberry-madness still has a hold on me. I seriously can't enough. Anytime time I make something, I stop to wonder if cranberries would go well in it. Over the years, I've always had at least two or three bags of cranberries in my freezer at any given time. Right now I have zero, and it's making me a little uneasy. I'm worried that next time I go to the market, they'll be all gone—that I'll have missed my chance for the season.

Since that hasn't happened yet, I'm just gonna go with the flow. So,  you know how Food Network Magazine has those awesome little inserts every month? They have titles like "50 Pies", "50 Potato Salads", "50 Super Bowl Snacks", "50 Smoothies", "50 Things to Make with Bacon"... those may be my favorite part of the whole magazine. I have a ton of them (okay, not a ton—but at least 27) stacked on my working bookshelf. They full of great ideas and inspiration. You probably know where I'm going with this.

Yes, there was one on cranberries. It was in the November '14 issue, and titled (surprisingly) "50 Things to Make with Cranberries".  I'm thinking of trying all 50. Maybe that will make my little obsession disappear. Today, I'm checking two off the list—pickled cranberries, and the cocktail that they tumble perfectly into.
Friday, December 12, 2014

Pomegranate Salad

Pomegranate Salad
Are you knee-deep in holiday sweets yet? Since it's already two weeks into December, that scenario is almost impossible to avoid. It can be easy to forget that life is not all about the butter...the sugar...the chocolate...the glacé fruit (okay, maybe nobody ever thinks it's about the glacé fruit). That is why I'm sharing this salad with you today. Okay, that and the fact that I'm today's stop for the Sharing Morocco blog tour!

The thing is, looking at this salad, you don't necessarily think healthy. You think beautiful—or at least I do. The deep, rich reds and greens that come straight from the earth rather than a tube. Busting out this salad in the middle of the holiday madness is like bringing home somebody to meet your family for the first time. Everybody's nervous and wondering if they'll fit in. But instead of being awkward, it's like they were supposed to have been there all along. They just fit.

Aside from the colors that just scream winter, I think it has a lot to do with the addition of lightly candied nuts and nature's own little sugar bursts, dates. This salad is just one of the many vibrant dishes lining the pages of the new (released in October) cookbook by Ruth Barnes, otherwise known as The Petite Gourmande.
Thursday, December 11, 2014

Beyond the Cranberry Sauce: Over 100 Cranberry Recipe Ideas!

Beyond the Cranberry Sauce: Over 100 Cranberry Recipe Ideas!
I'm currently enamored of cranberries. Is that an odd thing to say? It's just that before now, I liked them, I looked forward to making cranberry sauce for the Thanksgiving table. I usually have a container of dried ones in the pantry, and an extra package or two of fresh in the freezer. Every once in a while, I drink a vodka and cranberry. But for the most part, I didn't think much about them.

I'm like that, though. Something that I overlooked (and probably took for granted) will suddenly captivate my attention. Like now, it's all cranberries, all day. I'll be looking for other recipes, imagining other meals, and before I know it, I'm pinning cranberry recipe ideas like a madwoman. It's a constant battle within. I've just learned to go with it.

I have a few cranberry recipes on the horizon, and I'll be sharing those soon, but today I'm bringing you a definitive (for now) round-up of some amazing recipes featuring this little bush-dwelling, mouth-puckering red orb. I recently asked some of my fellow food bloggers if they'd share some of their own cranberry recipes with me. For the most part, the recipes you find below are all delicious ways to use fresh cranberries that go BEYOND THE CRANBERRY SAUCE—but I'm also including a few sauce recipes (because I do love it), and some of the recipes make use of the dried berries.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Roasted Grapes with Thyme

Roasted Grapes with Thyme
I went back and forth for a few days trying to decide whether or not to share this recipe today. I mean, it's roasted grapes—that's it. Simple to make, no big frills, no huge backstory. Just roasted grapes. For all I know, I was the last person on the face of the earth to actually make (or try) them. I've seen them floating around in one form or another for a number of years now. I've been meaning to make a batch. I finally did. They're everything I thought they would be. I didn't roast them alongside a chicken or a pork roast. I didn't press them into any focaccia dough. I didn't toss them with some perfectly cooked tender grains. They're just grapes, but they're totally worth sharing. Because maybe I wasn't the last person in the world to try them.

It's usually the simple pleasures that delight me the most. I'm constantly amazed by the product of time and temperature. Slowly simmering fruit and a bit of spice can yield a jar of rich, silky fruit butter (like this Cardamom Pear Butter). Roasting broccoli and cauliflower takes both of those humble veggies to a whole different level. Pureed fruit and a low, slow heat produces chewy and sweet fruit leather. Duck legs wiling the day away in a bath produce meat so meltingly tender it just falls into your fingers at the lightest touch (like these Asian-inspired Braised Duck Legs). Nothing more than time, steady heat, and its own rendered fat can turn pork into the most flavorful Carnitas you'll ever taste.  It's kind of amazing.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Winter Waltz cocktail + The North American Whiskey Guide

Winter Waltz Cocktail (whiskey)
What's your favorite kind of whiskey? Do you know the difference between a Bourbon Whiskey and a Tennessee Whiskey? Would you be able to pinpoint if a whiskey was made with corn, rye, wheat, barley, or a combination? Not sure which whiskey pairs well with that Arturo Fuento Lost City cigar?

I don't  know many people who have definitive answers to all of those questions. Well, perhaps other than the first one—but I'm willing to bet even that one would be open for debate were hundreds of bottles lining the shelves before you. There are hundreds of North American varieties of whiskey alone. I'm partial to Scottish whisky. I have some Irish recommendations, as well. But you can also find whiskey being made in Australia, Sweden, and even Japan (I have a few on my to-try list right now). So really, I think the quest to find the next greatest whisk(e)y is always on the forefront.

I recently received a copy of The North American Whiskey Guide from Behind the Bar, the newly released book by Chad Berkey and Jeremy LeBlanc (who between the two have over 40 combined years behind). They chose over 250 different varieties of North American Whiskey (the ones most frequently ordered by their patrons) to feature in the book. They asked 4 professional bartenders to join them in blind tastings of each whiskey, and combined their feedback with their own tastings and reviews, and feedback from the patrons in the bar, to offer honest and thoughtful insight on each type in the book.
Monday, December 8, 2014

Roasted Buttercup Squash & Tahini-Yogurt Dip

Roasted Buttercup Squash & Tahini-Yogurt Dip
Somehow, we've already reached the halfway mark of the Twelve Weeks of Winter Squash. Today kicks off week numero six! My personal goal is to use a different squash each week than I've featured so far this year. That means no more pumpkin or butternut squash recipes. Sadly it also means no more spaghetti squash. I can't guarantee inspiration won't take control and wind up requiring one of these varieties, but I'm going to try my best.

As of today, I can officially check buttercup squash off of my list, too. I like working with buttercups because they're fairly manageable—smallish (for a winter squash), thinner skinned, seeds scoop out easily. Once cooked, their flesh is creamy and sweet (though not as sweet as a butternut); it also tends to have less moisture than a lot of other varieties.

Yesterday I was looking for something to munch on while doing all of my Sunday-things—laundry, dishes, housework, prep for the upcoming week...last minute oh-I-just-remembered homework. I found a recipe from Food & Wine for a dip made with butternut squash and decided to switch it out for the buttercup I had hanging out on the counter. With a few other minor adjustments, I had my munching food.
Friday, December 5, 2014

Slow-Cooker Beef and Bacon Stew

Slow-Cooker Beef and Bacon Stew
Raise your hand if you love baby showers! I really do; they're always so much fun with the games and the adorable little eensy-weensy clothes and the nibbles. But the truth is—I haven't been to one in years. I don't even remember the last one I went to. Apparently most of the people I know (local or family) have already had their babies.

So I will turn to my friends who live a bit farther, like the beautiful lady that we're celebrating today—Alyssa from Everyday Maven! Now, I feel like I've known Alyssa for a long time. In reality, it's probably been about three or four years. I don't remember exactly how we met, but it was through the world of food blogging. About two and a half years ago, I was a guest blogger at her site, and I shared a simple, delicious side dish of Arugula and Lemon Couscous. This was before Alyssa began her Paleo journey, and now I feel a bit guilty about the pasta, but she is gracious enough to leave it on her site.

Alyssa herself has actually been a guest blogger right here on All Roads Lead to the Kitchen a couple of times, as well. Two years ago she stopped by during the Twelve Weeks of Winter Squash winter squash! The next summer she helped me cool off during The Summer of the Popsicle with these Triple Berry Ice Pops. I love her style, and both she and her food are very approachable. One visit to her world and you'll feel the love for her family and for feeding them healthy food.
Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cardamom Pear Butter + Castello Aged Havarti Cheese Pairing

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Castello® in conjunction with Honest Cooking. All opinions are my own.
Aged Havarti Cheese Pairing + Cardamom Pear Butter #cheese #CastelloArt
I've often waxed poetic on the subject of cheese, otherwise known as  my ultimate weakness. I could live on cheese plates alone. You know, because they're always accompanied by other good things like bread or crackers, fruits and nuts, slices of charcuterie, perfect little condiments, and of course, alcohol. Nibbles and tastes, turn into swoons and flutters, turn into claiming a cheese tray as my dinner plate. Really, what more does a person need?

I could blabber on and on about the virtues of a well thought out cheese plate, the kind that includes several cheeses and an array of complementary food and drink. Today I'm partnering with Castello® as part of their #CastelloArt campaign, so I'm going to do something a little different and feature a single cheese—Castello® Aged Havarti.

"Castello® Aged Havarti is based on the authentic Danish recipe for Havarti dating back to 1952. Made from traditional cheese methods with the addition of a special culture, the Castello® Aged Havarti is then matured for 12 months.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bacon Fat Spice Loaf (variation on a Lardy Cake)

Bacon Fat Spice Loaf (a variation on Lardy Cake) #twelveloaves #bread #holidaybaking
This bread has been four years in the making. I swear, I feel like that's always something I'm saying. I collect recipes and ideas the way some people collect stamps. Tucked away in every imaginable place, filed away, sticking out of every nook and cranny, in books or folders—you name it and there's probably at least one recipe idea sticking out of it. Fortunately, I know I'm not the only one with this affliction.

Four years ago, I bought The River Cottage Bread Handbook. It's a great book—portable, inspiring, useable. It helped me start my very first sourdough starter. The first half of the books is an introduction, of sorts. It talks about why to bake bread yourself, and then moves into ingredients and step-by-step guides for every part of the process. The second half is all about the recipes, and putting the techniques you learned in the first half to use. There's even a tutorial on how to build your own clay oven tucked into the back of the book. I haven't used it yet, but oh, how I'd love to one day!

There are several pages that have had bookmarks marking their spot since day one. I've worked my way through a good amount of them, but one has been hanging out, patiently waiting its turn ever since. It's the recipe for Lardy Cake. Which is actually bread, not cake. You know how that goes sometimes.
Monday, December 1, 2014

Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie

Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie #12WeeksofWinterSquash #pie
I can't make it through Thanksgiving without eating at least one slice of pumpkin pie. Does anybody else feel that way? I'm sure it's a tradition-slash-nostalgia type of deal. But the crazy thing is, if we're not having Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family (my grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.), I am the only one who will eat it. Not a single one of my kids likes it. My hubby doesn't like it. And yet, I can't do without it. Therefore, I wind up either trying to eat a whole pie by myself or throwing the majority of a pie away. Both scenarios make me sad.

I need to buy one of those split-decision pie pans. I would feel much better about finding something a way to consume or save half of a pie. But then the problem lies in what to make on the other half of the pan. Pretty much all of the other pies are devoured in their entirety. I suppose that could be my "experimental pie" side. Sounds like a plan. Or there's always an individual tart...

But this year was still a full pie. And we stayed home, so you can probably guess what happened to the majority of it. I always try to switch things up a bit, try a variation on the Libby's recipe I grew up with (not that there's anything wrong with that one, it's just in my nature). This year's pumpkin pie used buttermilk in the filling, which added a nice little tang that worked to temper the sweetness and complement the spice.

Event Announcement: A Christmas Story for #FoodnFlix

A Christmas Story is the December '14 pick for Food 'n Flix - join us or drop by to see what we're cookin'!
I am hosting this month's edition of Food 'n Flix, and seeing how it's already a snowy December outside of my Indiana window, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get lost in 90 minutes of Red Ryder bb guns, triple-dog-dares, and the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window via A Christmas Story!

A Christmas Story is a classic (I think) holiday movie that conjures up memories of tongues stuck to frozen metal poles, huge red bars of soap to wash out a "dirty" mouth, and snowsuits so puffy you can barely move, but does it make you think food?

I know I can think of a few obvious scenes—mommy's little piggy, a turkey being carried off by the dogs, and the Chop Suey Palace are what immediately come to mind. But there's all sorts of inspiration to be offered up, such as the setting and the season. And for the more adventurous and inventive, some of the "key" movie scenes are just ripe for the taking.