Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey and bean gratin: a recipe and a revelation

Turkey, bean and potato gratin with kale, un-Photoshopped
Maybe it was the flurry of Thanksgiving food creation -- planning, shopping, prepping, cooking and eating -- last week, but this week I've been feeling menu- and motivation-challenged.

Honestly, I sat with all the December foodie mags for hours and couldn't come up with a single thing I wanted to make this week.

It nearly gave me a panic attack.

Once I calmed down, I decided to wing it with some leftovers and wound up creating this hearty and yummy turkey, bean and potato gratin with kale. Quick, easy and very satisfying, and I even managed to get a couple of photos of it before we ate it.

But my near-panic attack made me stop and take a breath. Am I wound that tightly, I thought? Crap, I hope not. I mean, this isn't even a paying gig!

In fact, I've recently been feeling a bit depressed by the whole blogging adventure, which you may know I took on not only to give myself a creative outlet but also to get back to my writing roots with a goal of taking on some freelance projects. (As I said to someone recently, it's only "freelance" if someone pays you, otherwise, it's just free.) And it has been fun, no doubt. But the more I get involved in the food blogging community, the more inadequate it can sometimes make me feel.

Let me explain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving menu

Beauty shot from our recent trip to the Mount Washington Resort
It has been a little too crazy-busy this week to do a lot of food photography and, I'll admit, I'm not one of those bloggers that keeps posts in reserve for busy times. I write about what I'm cooking in the moment, if there's time.

And this week, there's not a lot of time.

But, since I'm excited about how our Thanksgiving meal is shaping up, I thought I'd just share the whole thing with you directly, in case you're still looking for ideas.

And you still might see some of these dishes show up in more detail next week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Thanksgiving Day Menu

Appetizers / Antipasto
I like to do charcuterie or antipasto in the early afternoon, when everyone starts getting peckish

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blueberry oatmeal muffins: a recipe

Blueberry oatmeal muffins
After focusing my time on making lots of soups and desserts lately, I  realized that I need to think a bit about breakfast again.

I'm back in a breakfast rut.

There are only so many ham-and-cheese mini paninis* that a person can eat in one week without crying uncle.


I found this recipe via Cooking Light (yes, I know, what a shock). I like it because it has quite a bit of oatmeal in it so I don't even have to use the cake-masquerading-as-breakfast ruse: this is actually designed for breakfast.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Scourtins: a recipe

I've gotten hooked on the savory cocktail cookie this year. It's my hors d'oeuver of choice because, frankly, who doesn't like cookies?

And apparently I'm not only not alone in my new love but also late in coming to this particular party. Of course the French have been loving the savory-sweet combination for years. No where is this more evident than in scourtins, the traditional olive shortbread cookies from Northern France.

Yes, olives. In cookies. You have to trust me here.

I was first introduced to scourtins by my friend Cynthia, who thought that my wildly insane love of the salty-sweet flavor of salted oatmeal cookies (Best. Cookies. Ever.) might make me more than a little predisposed to enjoying the olivey-sugary scourtin goodness.

By golly, that Cynthia is a genius.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Creamy turnip soup: a recipe

Creamy turnip soup
Regular readers here will know this is the time of year that I get a little soup crazy, given the onset of cool weather.

Although yesterday's 70 degrees was a bit confusing. Don't get me wrong, I'll take it, but it made it feel less like a soup day.

While menu-planning this week, I decided I want to add a new soup to the rotation, so I got my copy of The New York Times Cookbook (TNYTC) -- the old, Craig Claiborne one, not the new, Amanda Hesser one.

Funny story behind this one -- I bought the TNYTC in my early twenties as part of one of those 12-books-for-a-penny clubs. You remember those, like Columbia House was for music. Do those even exist anymore? Regardless, it seemed like a good value. But this is when I had no idea how to cook. Therefore, I was actually disappointed when I got the book because the recipes seemed way too complicated for someone who was just learning to master pan-frying a chicken breast.

So it sat on my bookshelf for years before I opened it again.

I'm starting to rediscover it and have already flagged a whole bunch of recipes that I'd like to try. I'm glad I held on to .

But now back to the soup.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making hard cider: part 2

Racking the cider from bucket to carboy
After about ten days, our airlocks stopped bubbling, which means only one thing: time to rack!

"Um, WHAT?" you may be asking. Let me explain.

The lack of bubbling indicates that the fermentation process -- which we helped along in Step 1 by adding yeast and sugar -- has stopped. The cider has stopped being a "soft" sweet cider and is on its way to becoming hard cider. If you were to taste it at this point (I usually do), it's incredibly tart but also a bit boozy. Success!
Now the cider is ready to sit and clarify, so it will end up looking more like a clear hard cider than a cloudy soft apple cider. To start this process, the cider should be siphoned (racked) out of the existing bucket into a new, sanitized container, where it will sit for the next several weeks.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Apple Biscoff cookie bars: a recipe

Apple Biscoff cookie bars
Why have I not made more cookie bars? WHY?

It's the perfect marriage of cake and cookie: it's like getting two treats in one.

Where has the cookie bar been all my life? WHERE?

I went trolling for an apple cake-ish kind of recipe the other day because I had a few Honeycrisp apples left. I didn't want them to go to waste, but they were a day or two past their crispiest point -- you know, the crispy point that makes you just want to eat it plain and not waste it by baking it.

And what goes better with apples, we all now know, than Biscoff spread? NOTHING.

Thank goodness the Internet Fates chose to throw an adaptable cookie bar recipe my way.

I doctored up a recipe that featured peanut butter and apples because I knew the Biscoff spread would just make it that much better (peanut butter is beginning to take a back seat in our house to Biscoff spread and Nutella -- how about yours?).

And I was right.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ginger dressing: a recipe

Ginger dressing
I love sushi.

One of the best things about living in Southern California (when we did) was that there were at least eight bajillion good sushi restaurants within a two-block radius of wherever you were standing.

I'm nearly not kidding.

I miss sushi.

Up here in Vermont, it's a bit different, as you can well imagine. We've discovered one passable sushi place in downtown Burlington, but that's it. (If you can recommend another, please leave a comment below!)

Again, I miss sushi.

This also means that I don't get my fix of that ubiquitous yummy ginger salad dressing that every sushi restaurant serves on its side salad of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots.