Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Most Viewed Recipes of 2015

I saw another blogger round-up her most viewed recipes of the year and it got me thinking: what do my readers actually click to read? Here goes...from number ten to number one. My most viewed recipes of the year. Click on the title to go to the recipe post.

Number Ten

Number Nine 

Number Eight

Number Seven
(Salmon Burger on a Cuttlefish Ink Burger)

Number Six 

Number Five

Number 4

Number Three

Number Two

Number One 

I have to admit that I was surprised by the list. I was definitely surprised by number one! 

So, I'll ask you: what would you like to see more of in 2016? 
I'm game for anything.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hedging Our Bets with New Year's Eve Traditions from Around the World

We always ring in the new year as a family. Jake and I have our date nights all year long. We figure: New Year's Eve should be about forging fun memories with our boys; we should end the year - and start a new one - with our favorite people, right?!

Do you have any New Year's Eve traditions - food or otherwise - meant to bring good luck in the coming year?

I'll be posting about our 2015 to 2016 transition tomorrow. We like to hedge our bets for good luck and do a lot of different things! Over the years, we've embraced several traditions from around the world.


There are many, many different traditions from all around the world but the reasoning behind their lucky foods are oddly similar. Here are some of the overlapping auspiscious attributes: food that’s round (the shape of coins), food that's yellow or orange (the color of gold), food that's green (the color of spring leaves and paper money), fish (symbol of bounty), pork (prosperity and an animal that roots forward), legumes (coin-like seeds that expand like wealth) and cakes (sweetness is richness).


This year, we'll be doing things, and eating things, from Ireland, Italy, the Philippines, Greece, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Cuba, and Russia.

What traditions do you have? 
Maybe I'll work them into our celebration next year. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Kale-Stuffed Acorn Squash


This is a mostly hands-off dinner that we love. My husband said to me, "How long have we been together?"

Almost eighteen years. 

"It only took me eighteen years to come around to your way of eating." That is to say - lots of vegetables and a little meat.

What does that mean? You've always eaten what I've cooked.

"Well, I haven't always liked it. But now I like it."

Ingredients serves 4

  • 2 organic acorn squash
  • olive oil
  • 1 C diced fennel bulb
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 4 C chopped kale
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice

Procedure
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the squash halves with olive oil and place them, cut-side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes until tender.

While the squash roasts, add a splash of olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Sauté fennel and onion until soften and beginning to caramelize. Add the kale and cook till it turns bright green and is slightly softened. Stir in the cranberries and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Set aside.

To serve, turn the squash, cut-side up, on a plate. Fill the hollow with kale. Serve immediately.

Aliment: Tasting Notes

al·i·ment ˈaləmənt
noun, archaic - food; nourishment.
verb - provide with nourishment or sustenance


Our Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf's birthday celebration had to involve a great restaurant, right? Less than three blocks from our hotel in San Francisco, we found Aliment. Well, I found it online ahead of time and made reservations. So, after a full day at the Cal Academy of Sciences, we cleaned up, bundled up, and headed out the door and down the hill.


I think, at first, our waiter was dubious about us being in there with two kids.


But as soon as D opened his mouth and ordered, our little foodie won him over. He even brought D a complimentary dessert once he heard we were celebrating.


Here's what we had...

We started with salads: beet salad and squash salad. The squash salad had roasted kabocha squash, crushed hazelnuts, and a curry vinaigrette.



We ordered two of their bar bites: riblets with kimchi and roasted Brussels sprouts with fish sauce caramel. Yes, you read that correctly - fish sauce caramel. I don't typically like my vegetables sweetened, but these were tasty. D said we should try to replicate this. Okay, it's on my to-do list.


If a dish has the word 'curry' in it, D will order it. From the small plates menu, he asked for the Red Curry Mussels. And they were his favorite of the evening.


For our main dishes, we ordered the diver scallops and the ricotta gnocchi to share.



R actually asked if he could not share. He wanted the Pasta Bolognese all to himself. The waiter told us that the menu changes all the time, but that is a constant. It's a customer favorite and, thus, was a menu staple. R did end up letting us taste it, grudgingly.


We feasted. We toasted. And we celebrated our little Wombat.


Even though he has a sophisticated palate, he's still 12. Spoons do not belong on your nose!


And, as I mentioned, when the waiter heard we were celebrating a birthday, he brought out two Thai basil panna cotta...on the house. D's even had a candle. Very sweet.



Well, we were impressed with Aliment and will definitely find our way back there if we're in the Nob Hill neighborhood for dinner again.

Bon Appetit's Food Lover's Cleanse

from bonappetit.com

When I saw a link to this posted on a friend's Facebook feed, I laughed. Out loud. For a long time. I'm glad I was alone in the office. "Food Lover" and "cleanse" do not belong in the same sentence. However, I trust her, so I clicked. And I was instantly intrigued.

Here's a link to the cleanse, to the menu, and to the recipe .pdf. I'm horrible at following a meal plan to the letter, but a lot of this looks like what we eat anyway. So, I might give it a go. Thanks for the nudge, Andi.

Single Origin Chocolate Tasting

Do you get chocolate in your stocking? When I found the Single Origin Chocolate Taster Kit at Mouth, I knew someone who would love it. Whether he'd share it, or not, was undetermined. But he did, in fact, decide to share. So, last night, after dinner, he unwrapped the chocolates and we tasted, savored, and commented.


Just a quick note about "single origin chocolate." The term is pretty self-explanatory and it's a simple idea. Single. Origin. It’s chocolate produced from one variety of cacao that's harvested in one region.

Think about terroir in wine. Same idea. Cacao, like grapes, is a plant whose flavor profiles are affected by the characteristics of the soil, the climate, and more. And, just like wine, many terms used to describe single-origin chocolate will be familiar to wine lovers. Think earthy, floral, herbal and berry.

What we tried...
Ritual Chocolate's Madagascar Bar. It's a 75% cacao, harvested in 2014. This was from the batch number one! Made with organic cacao from lower Sambirano Valley in Northern Madagascar, the chocolate boasted some tart berry notes. Jake declared it his favorite. And, after sharing a tiny bite with each of us, the bar was squirreled away never to be seen again. Well, it was in his stocking.

Woodblock Chocolate's Trinidad Bar. It's a 70% cacao bar from the birthplace of the Trinitario cacao. This was the least flavorful of all the ones we tried, but R declared it his favorite. But, then again, the kid likes uncomplicated flavors.


Cacao Prieto's  Dominican Cacao is hand crafted from 72% organic Dominican Criollo cacao. The producers say they can date the genetics of their cacao back to Christopher Columbus. While it tasted fantastic, the more notable things we all gushed about: the texture. It was the smoothest chocolate we have ever tried. Oddly smooth.


French Broad Chocolate's Belize Bar was incredibly flavorful. The tasting notes read: vanilla and pineapple; I called it 'honeysuckle'. But, like wine, everyone's impressions are dependent on their previous taste experiences. Still, it was flavorful, aromatic, and distinctly floral. D actually like this one the best.

Dandelion Chocolate's offering was a 70% Mantuano from Venezuela. This was - bar none! - my favorite. The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I tasted mace with a slight bitterness of coffee. Yes, I was in love...and happily tucked the rest of the bar away for future nibbles.

What a great curated collection from Mouth! I will be seeking out more of these bars soon.

Moules Frites with Fennel Cream

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf requested Moules Frites for his birthday dinner. It ended up being a day late as we were stuck in traffic coming back from San Francisco. But, we did it and D was happy. After dinner he also got his wish of a birthday Bûche de Noël.

Moules

Ingredients
  • 1 C organic heavy cream
  • 1 t fennel pollen
  • 2 pounds mussels, soaked, scrubbed, and dried
  • 1 stick of butter, divided in half
  • splash of olive oil
  • 3 to 4 whole juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced (approximately 1 C)
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced (approximately 1 C)
  • 1 C white wine (I used a Pinot Gris)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C fresh chopped herbs (I used a mixture of parsley, oregano, and thyme)

Procedure
Place the cream in a small sauce pan and stir in the fennel pollen. Warm the cream until bubbles form around the edges of the pan, but do not bring it to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let come to room temperature while the flavor of the fennel pollen infuses into the cream.

Place 1/2 stick of butter and crushed juniper berries in a large, flat-bottom pan with a lid. Add a splash of olive oil to keep the butter from burning. Heat until the butter is completely melted and foamy.


Add in the fennel slices and leeks. Cook until the fennel is softened and the leeks are beginning to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Once the wine begins to simmer, place the mussels in a single layer in the pan and add the remaining butter. Cook for one to two minutes, then pour in the fennel-infused cream. Stir to combine, then cover and steam until the mussels open. Check them after five minutes. They are cooked and ready when the shells are completely open.


Remove the mussels to your serving platter. Turn up the heat on the sauce until it bubbles. Let it bubble until it thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the herbs. Pour the sauce over the mussels. Serve immediately.

Frites

I'm not sure they are really 'frites' since they are baked, not fried. But we'll go with it since that's the name of the traditional dish. My Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf painstakingly sliced the potatoes by hand so that they were "the perfect fry size!"

Ingredients
  • potatoes, washed, dried, and sliced into preferred fry size
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 t salt
  • olive oil
  • Also needed: parchment-lined baking sheet

Procedure
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl toss together the potatoes and fennel slices with olive oil to coat. Fold in salt and flour until well-coated. Place fries in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn fries over. Then roast for another 20 minutes. Frites are done when they are lightly browned and their outsides crisped.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

After-Star-Wars Salt-N-Pepper Lobster


After opening all of our Star Wars-themed Christmas presents (think Star Wars shirts, Star Wars books, Star Wars games, and more), we definitely had Star Wars on the brain. I, casually, asked "Which Star Wars should we watch?" 

I got a resounding and definitive answer: EPISODE 7!!

Wait! Really? Truth be told: I was thinking more along the lines of popping in a DVD while sitting in front of the fire. But, we went with it. It was 8 o'clock; the first showing was at 9:30am. I still had time to finish my coffee without feeling rushed. So, this happened on Christmas morning...


And they were all so happy. More truth: my husband and our eldest son had already seen it twice before. Our youngest and I had only seen it once before. It only opened a week ago. You can say that we're huge fans.


If you're wondering when I'm going to stop writing about Star Wars and give you a recipe. You made it. We came back from the movie and I knew we were heading out in a few hours for my large family's celebration. I needed something quick and easy. I had fresh lobster tails in the fridge.


This recipe is so simple and, as long as the tails are fresh, is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 lobster tails (I used 4 ounce tails)
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Procedure
Butterfly the lobster tails. Read a detail of the process in this post: Purple Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Lobster. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the butterflied lobster meat with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground salt and freshly ground pepper. For a 4 ounce tail, roast for 16 to 18 minutes.

Serve immediately. I rounded out the plate with some blanched asparagus and a tossed green salad. Lunch is served!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A #WinePW Invitation: Celebrating the New Year with Something New

Though this theme was originally chosen by Martin at Enoflyz Wine Blog - due to an unforseen trip he needs to make abroad -  I'm stepping in to extend the invitation for next month's adventure. 

For January 2016's iteration of #WinePW, I'm inviting all my wine-pouring and food-loving blogging pals to get out of their comfort zones. Let's celebrate the new year with a new wine.

January's Wine Pairing Weekend will be all about "Celebrating the New Year with Something New." It's happening on Saturday, January 9, 2016. Hope to see you at the table!


Let me say another word about what we're looking for on this theme. Pick a wine from a new-to-you country; recently someone asked if I have ever tried a Canadian wine. I might have to go that route because I haven't. Pick a wine from a new-to-you varietal; through this group and some other groups to which I belong, I have been exposed to grape varietals that were complete unknown to me. Pick a wine from a new-to-you vintner; it's always a pleasure to explore wines from winemakers that were previously unknown, isn't it?! So, that's the gist of it - new year, new country, new varietal, or new vintner.

On the food side of things, think sweet or savory. Think appetizers all the way to desserts. Get creative, and join us for the #winePW fun!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty about how you can join us for #winePW, let me give a shout out to the bloggers who just joined us for the December #winePW event:


It's a great group, and we'd love to add you to the list for #winePW if you are a blogger who loves good food and great wine. Are you ready to jump in and participate in #winePW? Here are the details…

Details for participation

Send an email to tell me you're in: Include your blog url, Twitter handle, link to your Pinterest profile, and any other social media detail. If you know your blog post title now, include that...but you can send me that a bit closer to the event, I'd like to get a sense of who's participating and give some shoutouts and links as we go. The email is constantmotioncamilla AT gmail.com.

Send your post title to me by Monday, January 4, to be included in the preview post. I will do a preview post shortly after getting the titles, linking to your blogs. Your title should include " #winePW " (Note: I'd like us all to use the hashtag in the title to make it easier to see the posts getting shared on Twitter).

Publish your post between 12:01 a.m-7:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, January 9. You can always schedule your post in advance if you will be tied up around then.

Include a link to the other #winePW participants in your post. I'll provide the html code you can include in your post which will link to people's blog homepages. Then I'll provide updated code for the permalinks to everyone's #winePW posts.

Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers posts' to comment and share. I'll follow-up later with some specific strategies for that social sharing.

Sponsored posts OK if clearly disclosed. Please be sure to disclose if your post is sponsored or if you are describing wine or other products for which you have received a free sample.

Live #winePW Twitter Chat January 9, 11 a.m. ET: Participating bloggers and others interested in the subject will connect via a live Twitter chat. It's a nice bring way to bring in others interested in the subject who didn't get a chance to share a blog post. You can definitely still join the blog event if you're not available for the live chat.

OK, that's all I can think of for now. For more of the backstory on Wine Pairing Weekend, check out David’s original post introducing the idea. Please let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments; or you can also email me at is constantmotioncamilla AT gmail.com. Cheers!

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf's Nutty Bûche de Noël


Every year I make a Bûche de Noël for my almost-Christmas baby's birthday cake. This year we were a day late because this week has been crazy busy. The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf made all of the marzipan fungi for the decorations.


This bûche had at least four different kinds of marzipan mushrooms. I'll have to check with him on what types he actually made. While he created the marzipans, I baked the cake and made the filling and frosting.

I use Nick Malgieri's recipe in Perfect Cakes as my starting point. You can also find his recipe on the FoodNetwork website. His chocolate genoise is, well, perfect. Actually his book is aptly named; there is not a recipe in there that I've made that hasn't turned out just divine. I did opt for a chestnut puree-whipped cream filling instead of the traditional coffee filling.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1/3 C cornstarch
  • 1/4 C alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa
Butter and line a 10" x 15" jelly-roll pan with buttered parchment. Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm; test it with your finger. Then whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled and tripled in volume.

Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. Don't overbake or it will become too dry and will be hard to roll.

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.

Chestnut Cream

  • 1 C organic whipping cream
  • 2 T chestnut puree
  • 1 T organic granulated sugar
  • 1 t almond extract

Whisk chestnut puree, sugar, and almond extract into cream until smooth. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Cocoa Buttercream Frosting

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa
  • 24 T (3 sticks) butter, softened

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Whip on medium speed until cooled. Add cocoa. Beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.


To Assemble
Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with the chestnut cream filling. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Slice a piece from one end and place it on top of the log to make a branch stub. Frost with the buttercream and decorate with marzipan mushrooms.

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