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Showing posts from November, 2012

A Dickens of a Dinner {Christmas}

I know, I's still November. Barely. But because December is such a quagmire of events - all fun! - this serial planner has to plan things even earlier. Between Nutcrackers and three birthdays, I began thinking about our Christmas Eve menu this week. While I'm decidedly non-traditional for Thanksgiving, I decided to go ultra -traditional for Christmas with a Dickens-inspired feast, replete with a Christmas goose and plum pudding! I need to do some reading and figure out what the heck a Smoking Bishop is. Here's my Christmas Eve dinner plan... Recipes and photos to come.

Scheduling Serendipity {Food52 Potluck}

When I saw the post to host a Food52 Potluck during the month of December , I was excited. I love bringing people together around a central food them. But...during December?!? I should have had my head examined. Not only is our December as hectic as everyone else's, but add to that the annual Holiday Fund Drive for the non-profit that I chair, Nutcracker performances to see, Dylan's birthday, and the birthdays of four of our close friends - two of whom whose birthday cakes I always create. Needless to say, December is more than a little full. But I had committed, so I tried to squeeze it in somehow, piggybacking onto a dessert holiday party that a friend was already hosting. That didn't work. I thought of doing it at our family Christmas potluck. Then...serendipity: my mom heard about my scheduling dilemma and asked, "Can I do it?" Ummmmm...okay. My mom always hosts a Christmas party at her house for her friends - from ballroom dancing, from her ukulele cl

Rancho Gordo Beans {Food52 Potluck}

One of the great things about being a food writer: learning more about artisan foodsmiths. Today I received a package from Rancho Gordo Beans , one of the sponsors for all the Food52 potlucks coming up next month . Rancho Gordo Beans grows heirloom beans in Napa. Heirloom varieties tend to have lower yields than other beans, but the payoff is in the flavor and texture. Most Rancho Gordo beans are new world crops, meaning they are indigenous to the Americas.  Originally from Colombia, these beans - Cargamanto - have been bred around the world and have become Madeira, Borlotti, Tongues of Fire, Wren's Egg and many more. While I packaged up most of these for the potluck giveaways, I kept a pound for myself to try this recipe... Pasta e Fagioli adapted from the Food Network recipe olive oil 5  cloves garlic, smashed red pepper flakes, to taste 1 T chopped fresh rosemary 1/4 C cubed pancetta 5 canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand 1 C dried cranberry

Food Matters Project: Pumpkin Soup with Bacon and Persimmon

The Food Matters Project  challenge for this week was Mark Bittman's Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Apples and Bacon, chosen by Jen of Prarie Summers .  Click here  to see what everyone else made; look in the comments section. I really wanted to call this a pumpkin 'bisque'; that sounds more sexy than pumpkin 'soup'. But then I did some reading and realized that you can't categorize something as a bisque unless it has fish stock as its base. So...this is fenneled pumpkin  soup  made with pumpkin puree from the bounty of pumpkins I had gotten for a pumpkin-themed baby shower last month. I roasted and pureed all of the leftovers, stocking my freezer for things such as this. The bacon adds a delicious smokiness and the persimmons impart an exotic sweetness. I served this as the first course for our Thanksgiving lunch. It was a hit! 1 C diced bacon 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced 1 T minced garlic 6 C pumpkin puree 10 C organic chicken stock

The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles Dinner I {Review}

I am one of thirteen bloggers who has received copies of the Rinku Bhattacharya's new cookbook  The Bengali Five Spice Chronicle s  from  Hippocrene Books . Over the next few weeks, I'll be cooking from, reviewing, and giving away a copy of the book . Tonight was my first dinner based on Rinku's recipes. The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles is a deceptively small volume, with less than 300 pages; once you crack the cover, however, you find yourself engulfed in fifteen chapters with multiple recipes per page. It was initially daunting, but my trepidation quickly transformed into giddy enthusiasm once I began to explore her recipes. Rinku's prose is vivid and colorful. I could clearly imagine "heralding the morning with the sound of a conch shell blown by the mistress of the house." Wait...I am the mistress of the house and I do have a conch shell. Hmmmm....I'm not sure the boys would appreciate that kind of wake-up call! And her recipes...let me just

Riley's Double Chip Cinnamon Cookies

All day Riley has been asking if he could make cookies. I think he asked me twelve times, at least. So, I finally got everything out and let him create. And I decided that for every time he pestered me, I'll let him bake a different kind of cookie. Here's the first of Riley's 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. It won't be twelve days in a row, but it'll be twelve days between now and Christmas! He wanted to make cinnamon cookies with two kinds of chips. Here's his recipe... 1 C butter 1 C organic dark brown sugar 1 C organic granulated sugar 2 eggs 1 t baking soda 2 C white whole wheat flour 1 C ground almonds 2 t pure vanilla extract 1 T ground cinnamon 2 t eggnog 1 C semisweet chocolate chips 1 C white chocolate chips Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together. Add the eggs and blend until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and eggnog. Sift in the dry ingredients - except the chips - and blend with a

Triple Gingered-bread with Pumpkin

When we were headed down the coast yesterday, I turned on the radio and was horrified to hear Christmas music. Already?! Well, Turkey Day was over. And when we came back up the coast at the end of the day, there were Christmas decorations hanging from the street lamps. Really. But it got me thinking about gingerbread. So, this morning, I used the last of my pumpkin puree and made four mini loaves of pumpkin gingerbread for breakfast. The "triple" ginger part = ground ginger + candied ginger + ginger syrup. This is not for the faint of palate! 3 C white whole wheat flour 2 t baking soda 3 t ground ginger 1 t ground cinnamon 1/2 t ground nutmeg 2 C pumpkin purée 1 C butter, softened 1 C organic dark brown sugar 1/2 C unsulphered molasses 1/2 C ginger syrup 4 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup candied ginger chips/chunks Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease your baking pans; I used my mini loaf baking stones. In a large mixing bowl beat togeth

Vanilla Cremeux with Poached Quince {Local Thanksgiving}

My kitchen elf Dylan helped me make the first of our Thanksgiving desserts. Inspired by Chef John Cox's butterscotch cremeux that I had at The Grand Public Tasting during the 2012 Big Sur Food & Wine Festival at Post Ranch, I (1) looked up what a cremeux was and (2) decided to make a version of it for myself. Click to read my piece for Edible Monterey Bay about the Grand Public Tasting . Since I try not to use gelatin, I looked at a multitude of recipes, picking and choosing different techniques until I came up with this. So easy...and so delicious. Step 1: Make the vanilla cream. Place 1-1/2 C organic heavy whipping cream in a sauce pan along with the caviar of one vanilla pod - plus the pod. Heat the cream until it begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes. Step 2: Melt the white chocolate. Remove the pod from the cream. Bring to a bubble again. Add in 2-1/2 C white chocolate chips and swirl until they are completely submerge

Riley's ATOMIC Cookies

Remember the giant peanut butter cookie request from Riley ?!? Well, this is what he made for the Thanksgiving feast goody-bags: atomic cookies for each of the guests. He made a royal icing and attached chocolate chips to the cookie, correlating an element with each person, For instance I, Camilla, got Carbon. The circles represent the electron shells while the chocolate chips are the electrons and the neutron. Royal Icing 3 egg whites, at room temperature 4 C powdered sugar 1/2 t cream of tartar 1. Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature before beginning. 2. In the clean, dry bowl, place the egg whites, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar. Using a hand mixer,  beat the mixture on medium speed until very thick, shiny, stiff and white.  3. Check the texture to ensure that it is suitable for your needs. If you require a stiffer icing, add a little more powdered sugar at this point.

Braised Lamb Shanks {Local Thanksgiving}

I am not one to have turkey on my Thanksgiving table. Not that I have anything against turkeys - in fact, I drive past a rafter of turkeys every day on my way to work - but it's not my favorite fowl. So, in recent years I've served quail (in both  2010 and 2011 ), pheasant , duck, and chicken. This year, my parents requested lamb shanks, "just like the one in the picture from that dinner." Here's the picture. My friends and I had attended Edible Monterey Bay 's pop-up dinner at La Creme in Pacific Grove in September. You can check out my Edible Monterey Bay piece about the event . The braised lamb was only one of the magnificent courses cooked up by Chef Jon Moser. But it made an impression. While my lamb is not locally-raised, I did pester the butcher at Whole Foods for the scoop. The lamb shanks I picked up are from New Zealand, completely grass-fed and grown without antibiotics, growth hormones, and are pasture-raised. Sounds good! Besides, it was

Crab-Topped Shrimp Tarts {Local Thanksgiving}

Commercial crab season opened a couple of weeks ago with the promise that "there will be crabs for Thanksgiving!" Sweet. With that in mind, I put crab on my Thanksgiving menu that is celebrating the bounty of our county. Though the crab I'm serving isn't from my friend Mike, I wanted to share a photo of him with his crustacean loot! The take is ten crabs and each time he's gone out, he and his buddies have all gotten their limit. Amazing. I'm green with envy over here. But I dutifully bought my locally-caught crabs and whipped this up for our kick-off course.... I started with the tart dough that we used to make Eliopitakia , Cypriot Olive Pies , on our tabletop adventure. It's flaky and citrusy, the perfect pairing for a seafood tart. Pastry 3/4 C orange juice 3/4 C olive oil 4 C white whole wheat flour 2 1/2 t baking powder In medium bowl, mix all the pastry ingredients and knead to make a soft dough. Let stand while preparing fillin

Fenneled Pumpkin Soup {Local Thanksgiving}

I really wanted to call this a pumpkin 'bisque'; that sounds more sexy than pumpkin 'soup'. But then I did some reading and realized that you can't categorize something as a bisque unless it has fish stock as its base. So...this is fenneled pumpkin soup made with pumpkin puree from the bounty of Borchard Farms pumpkins I had gotten for a pumpkin baby shower last month. I roasted and pureed all of the leftovers, stocking my freezer for things such as this. Ingredients 1 C diced bacon 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced 1 T minced garlic 6 C pumpkin puree 10 C organic chicken stock 1/2 C orange juice 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 t smoked paprika 1 t fennel seeds freshly ground salt and pepper to taste persimmons, peeled and julienned for garnish Procedure In a souppot, cook the bacon pieces until they begin to brown but are not crispy. Add the fennel and garlic and cook until the fennel begins to caramelize. Add the pumpkin, chicken stoc

Kourambiedes-Crusted Tart

Unbelievable! My mom called and asked, "you didn't need those cookie crumbs, did you?" YES! "Oh, we ate them today." OH, BROTHER! So I had to make some more Kourambiedes crumbles  before our Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. And because I had some extra dough, I decided to press it into a mini tart pan. After baking this in a 350 degree oven till golden, I made an impromptu Kourambiedes -crusted tart: tart crust smeared with lemon curd , topped with honey-sweetened Greek yogurt, and sprinkled with raw turbinado sugar.

Plum Liqueur {Local Thanksgiving}

Back in July, when our friends were out of town for the summer, they asked me to rescue some of their plums. I made a plum-vanilla jam and I did the first part of making this liqueur , halving the plums and drowning them in vodka. Now that it's Thanksgiving, this is finally ready. I strained out the chunks, bottled the liqueur, and gave it a taste. Delish!

Rhubarb Liqueur 2012 {Local Thanksgiving}

Back in July, I chopped up some organic, locally-grown rhubarb and drowned it in vodka for the first part of making rhubarb liqueur . Just in time for Thanksgiving, it's finally ready! The second part is so simple, it hardly bears blogging...except that it's gorgeous and delicious! Strain out the rhubarb chunks, bottle, and enjoy. Cheers!

Spiced Peanut Butter Cookies

"Mom, I need cookies THIS big [ picture hand gestures showing a cookie about the size of his head ] . And I want them to be peanut butter cookies." ~Riley These giant peanut butter cookies are part of an elaborate goody-bag project for our Thanksgiving guests...all concocted by my 10-year-old. I'll post photos of his creations later. But here's the one Jake snagged for breakfast. Yes, breakfast. Well, it does have protein... 1 C organic granulated sugar 1 C packed organic brown sugar 1 C butter, room temperature 1 C organic crunchy peanut butter 2 eggs 1 T unsulphered molasses 1 t pure vanilla extract 1 t ground ginger 2 C white whole wheat flour 1/2 C ground almonds 1-1/2 t baking soda 1 t baking powder Beat the butter and sugars together until creamy. Mix in the peanut butter, molasses, vanilla, and eggs. Mix together the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar-butter mixture.

Our Locally-Inspired Thanksgiving

With a little bit of tweaking here and there to accommodate my mushroom-averse friend and what I actually had from our CSA box and at the markets this week, here's the actual menu for our Thanksgiving feast, celebrating the bounty of our county. I used organic and locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible, but we all know that vanilla doesn't grow on the Monterey Peninsula. So, it's as much as I could do.... Photos and recipes to come.


Grissini are pencil-sized breadsticks that originated in the Turin-area of Italy. I decided that I needed to serve a bouquet of grissini with my pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving. Of course I could have picked up a package for less than $5, but where's the culinary adventure in that?!? So, here's my first attempt; I used this recipe from the L.A. Times as a jumping off point. I used whole wheat flour and added ground almonds; I seasoned mine with porcini salt and freshly ground pepper. Success! I can't wait to serve these at our feast. 1/2 C warm water 1 T active dry yeast 1 t organic raw sugar 1 1/4 C white whole wheat flour 1/2 C ground almonds 2 T olive oil porcini salt and freshly ground pepper 1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast, sugar and 1 C of the white whole wheat flour. Let bloom for 10 minutes. 2. Stir in the remaining flour, ground almonds, olive oil and salt and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 min

Kourambiedes Crumbles

I had some extra dough from making the Kolovos Family Kourambiedes last weekend and decided that I could use that buttery, anise-kissed dough to make cookie crumbles for the top of my Vanilla Crémeux. Here's for the dough recipe . Instead of rolling them into balls, I crumbled the dough into organic, pea-sized chunks and baked them in a 350 degree oven until they were golden brown. Look for these on my Thanksgiving table this week!

Be a Good Cookie. Bake a Difference.

Look what I had in my mailbox Good Cookie Spatula from OXO for participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012 . 50% of the profits from the Good Cookie Spatula benefit Cookies for Kids' Cancer.* Last year, the OXO Good Cookie Spatula helped raise over $250,000 for pediatric cancer research as part of OXO’s partnership with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for pediatric cancer research. The program surpassed all expectations with the “Good Cookie” Spatula being the most popular item – ever – on the OXO website. The program is back again in 2012, but the Spatula is now available in orange, the favorite color of the little boy who inspired it all. 50% of the proceeds of each cookie spatula will go to pediatric cancer research. Not only is this Spatula a great cooking tool, but it’s a constant reminder to “Be a Good Cookie.” *Cookies for Kids' Cancer is a recognized 501(c)3 public charity duly incorporated

The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles GIVEAWAY *Ended*

I am one of thirteen bloggers who has received two copies of the Rinku Bhattacharya's new cookbook  The Bengali Five Spice Chronicle s  from Hippocrene Books . They are on the way. I can't wait to get started! One copy I'll be cooking from and writing a review on; the other copy is up for grabs. So, here I go with my very first giveaway. The giveaway is open from right now to midnight of December 3rd. I'll be picking a winner and announcing on my blog - and emailing the winner - by noon on December 3rd. Good luck! Click here to read Rinku's blogger roundup. Drumroll, please...and the winner is Jennifer G. Congratulations! I will get your information to the publishers and the book will be on its way to you. Thanks for participating! a Rafflecopter giveaway