Author Archives: homemaker4hire

Shaker Lemon Pie

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Shaker Lemon Pie

I’ve been intrigued by this pie idea since a friend of ours came around crowing about it. Equal parts marmalade, curd, sweet and tart, all wrapped up in a two crust pie, what’s not to love? It also meant I got to get out my spectacular new mandoline and get to work.

This isn’t a pie for the faint of heart. It’s not gently lemony, it’s very assertive and aggressively citrusy, with lots of texture from the lemon slices. It sounded like the perfect end to an evening of crab eating indulgence and I was right: I received the highest order of pie-eater compliments, that this reminded someone of his Grandma’s lemon pie.

My suggestions: use Meyer lemons, use a mandoline unless you have the knife skills of a ninja (and you don’t, so use a mandoline), and be sure to pick out all of the seeds. Use your favorite all-butter pie crust recipe, and don’t look back.

Shaker Lemon Pie

From Smitten Kitchen, as she adapted from Saveur

Makes one 9-inch pie

2 large lemons, preferably Meyers
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
4 tablespons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 egg white
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Dough for one double-crust pie

Thoroughly wash lemons, then dry with paper towel. Finely grate lemon zest into a bowl. Using a mandoline, slice lemons as paper thin as you can get them; remove and discard seeds. Add slices to zest and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out half the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface, fit it into a 9-inch (1-quart) pie plate, and trim the edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang.

Mix the macerated lemon-sugar mixture with eggs, melted butter and flour until combined well. Pour in to prepared pie shell.

Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface, drape it over the filling, and trim it, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp the edge decoratively. Beat one egg white until frothy and brush over pie crust, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife, forming steam vents, and bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F. and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let the pie cool on a rack and serve it warm at room temperature.

I also served mine with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, gently sweetened and laced with vanilla and limoncello. Go big or go home, right?

Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Rosemary Browned Butter

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Ah, Valentines’s Day. Loved my many, loathed by many. It’s a spark of love in the middle of an otherwise dark and dreary month. Whether you spend it with your love, in the presence of those you love, a handful of giggling girlfriends, or with your lovely self, it’s a day to express those glittery, pink and red feelings.

And so I bring you these festive little ravioli. Tasty little morsels in a sweet little package that just shouts Valentine’s. If you have a small heart shaped cookie cutter here’s a place to use it, if not don’t fret, ravioli are perfect in any shape they come in. No fancy tools required here.

They don’t have to be hard, either. That’s right, you out there, the one who’s thinking I must be completely nuts for thinking anyone with a job is going to make ravioli on a weeknight. I may be nuts but you can truly do this on a weeknight. The secret? Wonton or gyoza wrappers. Available in your grocer’s refrigerated aisle (in mine, near the tofu products), they make quick work of these. You can use gyoza wrappers (which are a bit smaller but you can still use a cute cutter), round gyoza wrappers, or the larger egg roll wrappers if you’d like to cut out larger shapes. They work just like fresh pasta sheets (and in fact ARE fresh pasta sheets), and take all of the work out of making pasta.

Fresh Pasta

In fact I did make my pasta for these ravs, but up until I got a pasta rolling machine I didn’t bother to try. You just can’t get the same silky, soft, and evenly thin results with your dough if you use a rolling pin. I’ve made many ravioli with fillings as wide as my dreams with gyoza wrappers, and very few were any the wiser. For purposes of this application, go grab your gyoza wrappers and your Valentine and get to work.

Cooking together is fun and can be very sexy. The tactile work of assembling something like this, getting your hands in it and building your filling, using your damp fingers to brush water around the edges of your pasta to seal it, feeling the filled nubs to make sure there aren’t any air pockets that will burst the packets in the boiling process, it’s all very sensual. And knowing, when you sit down together for dinner, that you made this little treat with each other and your own two hands, is a sexy thing.

For those who don’t cook, this is something so simple that you can do on your own that will impress the pants off of your Valentine. (Pun intended)

A few of these tasty ravioli with a quick browned butter drizzle, a light salad with quick vinaigrette (which I’ll give you another day this week), and a nice loaf of crusty bread and even dessert from your favorite local bakery(ies), and you have a great dinner for two or more. This recipe makes a bunch of pasta, and they freeze beautifully for later use.

Beet and Goat Cheese Ravoili
Makes lots, be prepared to freeze

1 package of gyoza wrappers (round or square, your choice)
1 large red beet (skip the nasty canned ones)
Zest of half of a lemon, about 1/4 teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 4 0z. log of goat cheese (don’t like goat cheese? Use half of a brick of cream cheese, or about a half cup of good ricotta)

You’ll also need:
A small bowl of water, for sealing
Flour for dusting your work surface
A sheet pan to rest your finished pasta on
A 2″ heart shaped cookie cutter, optional

Preheat your oven to 400*F. Wash and dry your beet, wrap it in foil, and place it in the oven. Cook until a knife slipped into the side of the package (no need to unwrap, just stab it) slides in easily, about an hour. Remove beet to counter and gently unwrap, allow to cool, Can be done a couple of days ahead, cool beet completely and refrigerate.

When cool enough to handle, put on a pair of disposable gloves or a couple of plastic bags on your hands and peel the beet – the skin should slip right off. Discard the skin and using a box grater, grate the beet into a bowl. You’re gloving up because otherwise you’ll have purple hands forever. 🙂 Sprinkle the lemon zest over and combine, adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

In another bowl, crumble up the goat cheese log so it’s easier to handle. Fill a small bowl with water and get your flour out. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour on your cookie sheet and your work surface, I use a cutting board and usually a piece or two of wax paper for easier clean up – I forgot the wax paper this time around.

Lay out a few of your gyoza wrappers, 6-8, and keep the rest in the package or between the layers of a damp paper towel. Pasta sheets dry out quickly and become difficult to work with. Now, you have a decision to make: large or small ravioli? Large ones will have the filling in the center and another sheet of pasta placed on top of the filling, small will have the filling placed just off-center and be folded over to create the ravioli. Choice is yours, you can flip for it.

if you decide to make hearts, cut out your shapes and toss the scraps, you’re going to be making larger ravioli. I used a 2″ cutter for my hearts

Beet and goat cheese ravs

Now. If you’re making large ravioli, put a scant half teaspoon of beet and scant half teaspoon of goat cheese in the middle of the pasta. Dip a finger in the water bowl, run your finger around the edge of the pasta sheet, and lay another on top of the filling. Seal the pasta around the edges, trying to get as much air out of the pocket as possible. It takes a couple of tries to get the feel for it, and even the pros have a few that get air in them and burst when boiled. Don’t stress about it.

Beet & Goat Cheese Ravioli

If you’re making small, fold over ravioli, place a scant quarter teaspoon of beet and goat cheese, respectively, just off-center of the pasta sheet. Using your finger, dampen half of the pasta, fold over and try to get as much air out as possible. Set the pasta on the prepared baking sheet as you finish them. Repeat with remaining filling and sheets until finished.

Pasta may be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for two days, or frozen for a month. Freeze the pasta on the sheet pan, and when solid transfer to a freezer bag.

Freezing Ravioli

To cook, bring a pot of salted water just to a boil. Slip the ravioli in gently (if frozen no need to defrost, just add 3-4 minutes of cooking time) and boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve in large flat bowls with a drizzle of Rosemary Browned Butter.

Rosemary Browned Butter
Serves 2, can be doubled infinitely

4 T. butter
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
2 t. grated grana padano or parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides and butter begins to turn brown. Stir in sage and cook, stirring, until sage is crisp and butter is golden brown. Drizzle over ravioli, dust each plate with 1 t. of grated cheese, and serve.

Smoky Sweet Chipotle Shredded Beef

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Over wine with a friend earlier this week, it was noticed and noted that I’ve been blogging in spurts when I blog at all. I try to live my life in a way that I don’t have to apologize, but I really am sorry I don’t make it around more often. I have a handful of posts drafted but haven’t taken pictures of the food, or I’ve taken pictures of the food and haven’t drafted recipes. Or, like this post, I didn’t make up the recipe at all, I once again tinkered with someone else’s. I’ve been reading and cooking a lot from other peoples places, and I feel like I’m just repeating their efforts (which makes me feel bad). But this one, well, I have to share. It was too damn good NOT to share.

So first, go visit this website. Andie’s blog is chock full of tasty goodness, and her writing is so honest and candid, I assure you, you will be hooked as fast as I was. She’s an inspiration, and her love of food is something to be reckoned with.

Second, make this shredded beef. I made it for Superbowl and we were going to make nachos out of it, but I lost steam and didn’t want to dirty another pan (and we were out of foil, so there went that idea), so we made tacos soft tacos with the sultry, silky shreds of beef. It made me feel a bit better that we sat around in our pajamas all day and didn’t have or attend a party. In fact, it made me a little glad that we didn’t do either – because we had enough meat left over for dinner another night and it was even better.

Andie’s recipe called for chicken which I’m planning to make soon, but I had a vision of shredded beef which was fueled by my visit to the clearance section of the meat counter at the store, which my dad affectionately refers to as the ‘used meat’ section. I had two pounds of boneless beef short ribs that needed to be used or frozen – and here’s what they became.

Shredded Beef Tacos

 

I actually like the picture below better because it’s prettier with the cilantro, but you couldn’t see the beef, so you get two pictures today.

 

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In making this beef I have found my One True Love of shredded beef –  replacing my other recipe, possibly for good. Try it out and see what you think. And take my advice, it tastes even better when eaten in your pajamas.

Smoky Sweet Chipotle Shredded Beef (In Taco Format)

1 T. canola oil
2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo
1 t. sauce from the chile can
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. liquid smoke
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 c. fresh cilantro leaves
3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper

Optional, for serving:
Corn Tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded red cabbage
Lime wedges

Grab your crockpot (should be a 4-6 qt. crock) and get it ready for game time. In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until glistening. Lightly salt and pepper the ribs on all sides, and brown all sides, removing to the crockpot when they are caramelized to your liking.

In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients from tomatoes to Worcestershire, and blend until smooth. Pour contents of blender/processor over meat in crockpot, apply lid and cook at low heat for 8 hours. Shred meat with two forks and serve on corn tortillas with shredded cabbage, shredded cheese, lime wedges and cilantro leaves.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Like many that love to cook, I have a vast array of cook books. It’s an incomplete collection, constantly growing and evolving. Some of my favorites have been bestowed upon me by my mom, who also has a vast collection of cookbooks and recipes.

A couple of  birthdays ago Mom gave me a couple of great cookbooks that she found at a local home collective, one of those being The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. I flicked through it a few times and dog eared some pages for future reference, but didn’t do a whole lot other than make some killer fried rice. Well, a few weeks ago I was paging through it while exploring the idea of an internet-search-free month of cooking (which I think I’m going to do, should be fun!). I un-dog eared a few pages and turned down a few different ones for things that are our ‘restaurant favorites’, now that we don’t have a Chinese resto within 15 miles of home (what the what? how’s a girl supposed to get a fix?!). We have a good one two towns south of here, but unless I’m already there I probably won’t make a special trip too often.

With the sadness of my dearly departed greasy Chinese joints (I used to live across the street from one of them and have fond memories of takeout and Sapporos and Sex and the City with a pal of mine), I decided to deploy some of the stuff I found in this book. The techniques that I learned in it made for superb fried rice, so what the hell, said I, let’s try some more.

One thing I love at most Chinese joints is really good Sweet and Sour Chicken. The bad stuff is bad to say the least, all that Red No. 5 and MSG and the 5 lbs of sugar and all. But when it’s done well, and is actually sweet AND sour it’s so, so good.

Granted, there’s still sugar in the sauce recipe but you can sub for honey if you have some, or brown sugar which is really tasty too. And spread out between 4 servings, it’s not that much sugar per capita.  The ingredients couldn’t be simpler and for me are things I always have on hand, so a batch of the sauce + whatever vegetables are in the crisper + a boneless skinless chicken breast + a pot of rice = dinner for 4 in less than no time. Less than the time it takes to order and pick up/have delivered your takeaway of choice. And I know there are a lot of recipes that claim this status, but this one means it.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serves 4 as a single main, 6 if you throw in some frozen egg rolls or pot stickers, and makes great leftovers.

First, start a pot of rice, make a cup and a half (dry), using your favorite method. I like white rice with my Chinese food, and make mine on the stove top in a 2:1 water to rice ratio for 20 minutes, and this whole recipe comes together for me in about that time. But use your rice cooker, or boil and rinse method, whatever method you prefer. Start it early unless you’re using parboiled rice.

Sweet and Sour Sauce, adapted from the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook

3/4 c. water
1/2 c. sugar, honey, or brown sugar
1/2 c. rice wine vinegar (or regular distilled white or apple cider, whatever you have)
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. cornstarch
3 T. water

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add in vinegar and sweetener of choice, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir together soy, cornstarch and remaining 3 T. water and add to vinegar mixture, stir until thickened. Set aside.

Chicken and Veggies

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces, AND/OR
1 yellow or green bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces,
1/2 yellow onion, cut down the poles (top to root end), cut into thin half moon slices
1 1/2 c. pineapple chunks, preferably fresh but drained, canned chunks will work too
4 green onions, sliced into 1″ pieces
Canola oil, for frying (don’t use olive oil here, it doesn’t have a high enough smoke point and tastes icky when it gets this hot)

Cut up all vegetables and chicken and set aside. Heat a stainless steel or cast iron pan over high heat until SMOKING HOT. Add in 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil, swirl around the pan, and add in the chicken. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes, letting the outside of the chicken brown a bit and get crispy, and remove from pan. Add another teaspoon of oil, add in onions and stir fry for a minutes. Add in bell pepper of choice and pineapple, and stir fry for two minutes or until all vegetables/fruits are starting to char. Throw the chicken back in the pan, pour sauce over, add green onions and cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve over hot rice.

Desktop Breakfast: Warm Blueberry Compote and Greek Yogurt

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Breakfast has always been a struggle for me, even as a kid. My mom would try her hardest to make me eat something before school each day and I just never wanted to. If I eat too soon after I get up in the morning I get an upset stomach, but I can’t hold off eating until lunchtime or else there’s no filling my stomach for the entire rest of the day.

I’m a 10:00 kind of breakfast eater. No earlier, no later. It’s the Goldilocks approach to breakfast. It’s got to be just right.

My far and away favorite quick breakfast is a slice of  buttered sourdough toast with a gently fried egg on top, heavily peppered and lightly salted, all runny yolk and tasty goodness. During the work week, though, this isn’t easily accomplished. Granted, my office has a full kitchen with a range and oven, but the last time I tried making an egg in there I had 6 different people hovering around wanting one. I decided it’s just too much, and I am not a short order kitchen.

I usually keep some individual packs of yogurt in the work fridge for snacks and breakfasts on days when I don’t have any. I go in spurts with brekkie stuff: for a few weeks I’ll make oatmeal packets, one week I’ll make muffins, another I’ll grab some English muffins and a jar of jam from the pantry and I’m set. My goal is to bring breakfasts to work for a whole week each Monday, so I don’t have to think about it in the morning as I perpetually run late (but please don’t tell my boss!). My bottom desk drawer is full of tea, vitamins, my tea cup and saucer, a set of silverware, my Trenta sized reusable Starbucks cup for water (24 oz. at a time means I don’t have to get up as often – and I drink 3 every day), and my chosen breakfast for the week if it doesn’t require refrigeration. A veritable cafe of healthy goodness.

This is a yogurt week, and I’ve been craving fruit lately. I was fresh out of oranges and bananas to take and slice into my yogurt this morning – sad day! While washing my hair in the shower I took mental inventory of the freezer and remembered I have a few pints of blueberries stashed in the back waiting for a rainy day. As I blew through the kitchen and made my coffee, I tossed my soup and a slice of bread for toast into my lunch bag, along with 1/3 cup of blueberries in a baggie and the honey bear off the counter. Iblew a kiss to the cat and ran out the door.

When my 10:00 hunger pangs struck, I put my blueberries in a bowl, drizzled on about a teaspoon of honey and eyeballed a tablespoon of water over the top. Covered with a paper towel and zapped for about a minute, the berries blew up and bubbled into a thin compote, into which I spooned the contents of my yogurt cup. I reminded myself to get a cute bowl from home (that matches my teacup, natch) to make stuff like this, because while a paper bowl is convenient, I like real ‘china’ when I’m dining a la desktop. It just makes the whole experience of eating at one’s desk a bit more civilized.

Warm blueberry compote

Warm Blueberry Compote
Serves 1

1/3 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 T. water
1 t. honey

Place blueberries in a microwave safe bowl. Drizzle water and honey over, stir to combine. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Spoon 1/2 c. yogurt over the top, and dine a la desktop.

Smoky Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

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Anyone pinching pennies knows that brown bagging (or cute coolering) one’s lunch saves a bunch of money on a weekly basis. I take myself out for lunch every now and again, but I really try to bring something every day.

I had a soup a week or so ago when I was under the weather that I’ve been dying to knock off. It was a vegan sweet potato soup with chipotle powder that was so silky and wonderful, I was sad that I didn’t buy the larger size. The nice man running the soup and prepared food counter at my favorite little lunch spot in walking distance of my office winked at me when I asked for the recipe, which told me I was on my own.

I bought some sweet potatoes at the store this weekend and roasted them last night, knowing I would make this soup tonight to tuck into my lunches all week long. it’s not vegan, but it’s still healthy, clocking it at under 250 calories a serving. A slice of buttered sourdough toast and a glass of hearty red wine were the perfect end to a cold winter’s day, and I have plenty for lunch for the next couple days.

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Smoky Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
Makes 4 generous servings

2 lbs red skinned sweet potato
1 T. butter
1 c. diced yellow onion
1/4 to 1/2 t. chipotle powder (start slow, this soup gets spicy quick. You can always add more but can’t take it back!)
1/2 t. smoke paprika
1 t. fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 quart of chicken stock
1 t. worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. molasses
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350*F. Wash sweet potatoes, pierce with a fork, wrap in foil and bake until easily pierced with a sharp knife, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle (potatoes can be roasted and stored in the fridge, still wrapped, for 2-3 days prior to use. Let them come to room temperature before using).

Melt butter in a 6 quart pot over medium low heat, add onion and saute until onion is soft, 3-5 minutes. Stir in chipotle powder, paprika, and rosemary. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out of the peels, dropping them into the pot and mashing with the spices and onion (I peeled them and squished them with my hands before dropping into the pot, it was so much fun). Stir all together and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Pour in chicken stock, Worcestershire, and molasses. Add about a teaspoon of salt and simmer all together for 15ish minutes. Puree in a blender in batches or grab a stick blender if you have it and puree the soup until it is smooth, uniform and silky. Season with pepper and a bit more salt if you’d like, and more chipotle powder for the daring. Serve in warmed bowls with buttered sourdough toast for dipping and bowl wiping.

The Best Homemade Hummus

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If you’re like the majority of red-blooded America, you’re either hosting or headed to a houseful of people for at least one football game this weekend. What would January be without playoff games? I think for many (men, at least) it keeps the inevitable doldrums away. You get some time to be social, some healthy team rivalry, beer drinking time with buddies, and good food.

Football food falls into the same indulgent category as camping food in my book. It stuff that’s on the far end of the health spectrum, and oftentimes includes but is not limited to chicken wings, burgers, gooey baked dips, pulled pork sandwiches, and on a lot of buffets the inevitable veggie platter of carrots, celery sticks and broccoli with a bowl of ranch dressing for dipping. (The ranch, by the way, completely negates the health of the veggies for the most part. Just saying, ) A smorgasbord of tasty saturated fat, punctuated by a platter of vegetables. It’s nice to have something different.

And like many of you, we hosted some friends for the later game yesterday (go niners!). I’m on my annual campaign to health it up and in that trying to put out healthier snacks, for the most part. Getting away from the group favorite cheese board and bowl of butter and truffle salt-laced popcorn was a must. There were no wings, no sausages or spinach dip or sliders on the table. I went a different route and made hummus because I had everything I needed here and didn’t have to go back to the store to make something else, and I wanted to give us all a little something tasty and good for us, since we were eating fried abalone and tri tip for dinner.

And so, hummus, the humble dip of champions, with a bag of pita chips and some carrots for dipping. Creative? Nope. But I made my hummus from scratch and have deployed the best method ever for doing so. The secret is, well, um, how do you say?… you have to peel the garbanzo beans.

Yes. Peel. The. Garbanzo. Beans.

So, if you’re done laughing at me, we can move on. Thoughts on absurdity aside, by peeling said garbanzo beans, you eliminate the sandy texture that generally comes with homemade hummus. The peels break down into what can only be described as grittiness, and my previous adventures in homemade hummus netted me precisely that. I’ve seen a hundred times over in as many recipes as I’ve looked at a suggestion or instruction to peel the beans, but I’m WAY too busy to do something so tedious. Except that, well, the product of the peeling is perfect, puffy fluffy hummus that you can’t get enough of, and I am remiss anytime I haven’t peeled my garbanzos and subsequently throw half of my hummus away. Peeling a can of garbanzo beans took me less than 8 minutes, including the time to gather up the ones that shot across the counter.

To peel your beans, open and dump the can (or for you hipsters boiling your own, boil them up and cool them then dump them) into a fine strainer, and rinse thoroughly, using your hands and some high-pressure from your faucet. A little garbanzo bean massage. This will take the skins off some of them, and rinses a lot of the sodium out of the canned types.

Then, grab a bowl and one by one, take the beans, with the pointy ends facing toward your palms, and squeeze the bean into the bowl. Try to aim, they’re slippery little beasts and will fly everywhere. Discard the skin. Tom Sawyer some kids into doing this if you happen to have any roaming around, they’ll have a blast. Repeat as necessary, then proceed with the recipe.

I have listed in here high-test olive oil, which can be described best as the stuff you bought at gold prices that you don’t use because the flavor is so delicate and grassy and gets lost in most food. Yeah, that one. Use it here.

On an unrelated note, does anyone have a recommended brand of commercially produced pita chips that they buy? Every single brand I’ve ever bought is nothing but pita chip DUST when I open it and it’s getting really old. I’d like to get a bag that is mostly whole chips, if it isn’t too much to ask. Anybody out there with a suggestion, for when I’m too lazy to make my own? Let’s see if any of you are brave enough to comment.

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Best Hummus Ever
Makes about 1 3/4 – 2 cups

1 15 oz. can of garbanzos/chickpeas (they are one and the same), drained, rinsed and peeled. I buy low sodium beans or make my own.
1/2 c. tahini paste
Juice of 1/2 of a juicy lemon
3 small or 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced or run through a press
1/2 t. salt, or to taste
4-6 T. water
Good, high-test olive oil for drizzling

Toss garbanzos into the bowl of a food processor, and whizz until they are powdery and uniform, close to a full minute. Add in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt, and blend away for another minute, stopping to scrape down the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. With the machine running, add in the water a tablespoon at a time, until the hummus is smooth and creamy and fluffy. Stop and taste it for consistency, as less water is more here, but you’ll need at least 4 tablespoons. It should be super fluffy and light. Adjust salt and lemon to taste.

Scrape into your favorite serving bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour. Before serving, drizzle with a few tablespoons of good olive oil, a couple cracks of black pepper, and a sprinkle of fresh rosemary if you have it. Or, use the olive oil and whatever spices/seasonings you’d like (smoked paprika, a dusting of cayenne, some minced fresh cilantro and lime zest, whatever sounds good). Serve with your favorite dippers.

In Closing

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Jenner

Dear 2012:

It seems like just yesterday that I was addressing you formally, asking you to straighten up your act and fly right, to slow down so time doesn’t fly so quickly. I wrote you an open letter pointing out that you weren’t being friendly so far, and respectfully requested that we do this thing together.

This was a hard year for me. And I’ll be the first to admit that it didn’t go according to plan (which reminds me, I need to not try to plan everything so much). My mantra was ‘this year sucks’ and it stuck with me. I had a lot of scary hurdles, ones with spikes and flames, set before me, each one higher than the one before it. Some I flew over. Others I walked around. A girl has to choose her battles.

I didn’t start working out more, but I’ve never been one to exercise and actually enjoy it, so something has to give. I would like to find something that doesn’t feel like such a chore when I do it thrice weekly, that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do (local yogis, I’m side-eyeing you). I did take my swim class, but when I wasn’t working I cancelled my gym membership because it was something I couldn’t afford and could live without. I didn’t lose the 30 lbs. that I wanted to either, but I’ve mostly made peace with that too.

I did have my garden this year, and while it wasn’t at my own little house it was still a nice little garden. In the coming year I’m joining forces with a friend who has a great spot for a garden and we’re going to double down on our efforts. And we moved, which was on the docket for the year. We moved under duress and it didn’t feel like the experience it should have been (but when is moving fun, right?). And all of our family and our friends pitched in and made it a breeze, we were so thankful. Are we in our perfect home? No. Do we love it and recognize our good fortune to find such a beautiful place to live that we can afford, in this outrageously expensive county? Yes. Someday we’ll have a house with a yard again, but for now an upstairs flat with hardwood floors, beautiful views and a gourmet kitchen is nothing to sneeze at and we are so thankful.

I got that ‘time’ that I whined about, in the form of not working a traditional job for the entirety of the spring and summer. While unplanned and entirely scary, it taught me a lot about myself, reminded me how to make a dollar stretch when you don’t know where the next one is coming from, and showed me just how much Having Not is better than Having (i.e. not having a job as opposed to having a high paying job that makes you physically and mentally sick, not having that new pair of shoes that are stunning and on sale but having a houseful of those you love over for dinner on that same $30, you get the idea). I was scared shitless most of the time that I wasn’t working, worrying about all kinds of things that were beyond my control. And just when I put my foot down and stopped worrying, I found a great job at an amazing company, doing something that I never ever thought I’d be able to do, much less do well. Getting out of my comfort zone for just a few minutes put me smack dab in the middle of an even better one. After a couple months at said job I was having lunch with a friend who was also my boss for a long time, and when I told her I was back in sales I expected her to laugh. And laugh she did, at the fact that I ran screaming from something and came full circle back to it. She praised my decision and said that I have a mind for it, whether I like it or not. She’s not one to sugar coat things and it made me even more proud of my decision.

And I’m still a stress case. I’ve always been one, even my mom will tell you that I have always had deep worries in my heart, most of them completely unfounded. It is who I am, and I’m OK with it. Being a worrywort stress case also makes me a control freak (Cadi? A control freak? Nooo…). Yeah I said it. If I can control a situation I don’t have to worry about it. Most of the time it’s helpful, the rest of the time it’s like herding cats. But it’s me. I did read an article yesterday about the top 10 jobs for control freaks, and wouldn’t you know that the first job listed is Sales? I had to laugh. And I didn’t do the swimming and yoga or as much gardening as I thought I should, but damn if I didn’t hone my sewing skills this year. I can’t stress out when I sew, because it requires so much single-minded thought that I just can’t think about anything else (just ask that loaf of bread that got forgotten in the oven this summer ~ always set a timer when sewing). And I have a handful of great new clothes and pillows for my house that are one-of-a-kind and mine all mine.

Looking back, 2012, I do see that there were a lot of good things this year, that came in strange packages. It took some long gazes at some of them to see what they really were. On this end of the year, I have to say you shaped up your act, 2012. And I also have to say, so did I.

See you around, 2012. And thanks, for everything.

~Cadi

Hearthside Happy Hour: The Sleigh Ride

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It started with a text message, with a link to a food blog I hadn’t visited before. It continued with a trip to the store where the prime ingredient was on sale for a killer price, and concluded with an impromptu dinner around our little dining room table. The Sleigh Ride was born.

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I’m a cocktail kind of girl, especially in the winter time. Nothing says cozy like a tummy warming mixed drink, especially a hot toddy. Warm adult beverages have the tendency to freak some people out – I’m not sure if it’s because they are usually of the apple cider or hot cocoa based persuasion, or what – but in my family, and in my house, a toddy is the cure for what ails you. And when we’re sick, there’s no cold medicine better than a toddy.

This is a deeply warming drink, just a hint of sweet, and the warm gingery goodness is perfect after dinner when everyone is sitting around the Christmas tree in a holiday haze. This will also make one just sleepy enough to turn in for a long winter’s nap and a great night’s sleep, because who are we fooling here, it’s a healthy dose of booze.

And finally – rye. Bourbon and whiskey drinkers, have you ever had the great pleasure of drinking rye? Rye whiskey is made with mash of at least 51% rye in order to be called such; we are fans of the Bulleit Rye, which is 95% rye. It’s zesty and peppery and delicious, and plays so well with both ginger and lemon. Our band of buddies discovered a deep love of rye a couple of summers ago (where we spent an afternoon mixing it with ginger beer, lime and salt on the rocks and devouring every drop), and haven’t looked back. My first love of brown liquor was and will always be bourbon, but rye is catching up fast.

And so, this evening when you’re done with your chores and baking and shopping and wrapping, make yourself a nice hot Sleigh Ride, and sink into your favorite chair for a spell. I won’t even make you resist the urge to sing yourself a little Christmas carol: Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing / Ring ting tingle-ing too / Come on, it’s lovely weather / For a sleigh ride together with you….

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The Sleigh Ride
Makes 1

2-3 thin slices of ginger
1.5 oz. rye whiskey
2 t. honey
a nice lemon wedge (use a Meyer lemon, if you can get your hands on one)

Heat a cup of hot water and the ginger slices in a pan on the stove until boiling (scale this up, will ya – you’re going to want another I promise). While the water heats, combine the rye and the lemon in your favorite cheery mug. Pour hot water over rye and lemon, holding back the ginger. Stir in honey, find your favorite chair, and enjoy.

Manifest Sticky Bun

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I’m struck with cooking ideas at times that just won’t go away until they manifest themselves into a real life scenario. There I was, sitting on the sofa with the cat, reading and enjoying my coffee, and had a need for cinnamon rolls. Our little hamlet is 10 minutes from anywhere that would have one worth driving for, and even if I could muster the gumption to get dressed and go there is no guarantee that one would be waiting for me. I could make my own, but the mixing and rising and punching and all just sounded so unattractive, This, and I wanted a cinnamon roll before 2:00, and classic risen yeast ones weren’t going to be ready.

I dropped the idea, and drank my coffee with Ted. Read a chapter and thought ‘we could make biscuit buns, ones that don’t take rising time.’ Meh, dropped it. Read another page, ‘Pumpkin biscuit sticky buns?’ That one got me off the sofa. Ted stayed put.

I mishmashed a couple of recipes, most notably the spiced pumpkin biscuit recipe on Cooking Light as the base. Made those, rolled them out thinner and into a big rectangle, added cinnamon and brown sugar to the middle, and placed in buttered muffin tins. Topped with vanilla glaze when cool, and voila, a pumpkin sticky bun in no time flat.

 

Pumpkin Sticky Muffin

 

Pumpkin Sticky Muffins (Sticky Buns? Sticky Bun Muffins? I can’t decide)
Makes a dozen

Biscuit dough:

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. salt
5 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 c. buttermilk, cream or half-and-half
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
3 T. honey

Filling:

2 T. melted butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Glaze:

6 T. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T half and half

Preheat oven to 350*F, and lightly butter a standard 12 hole muffin tin.

Thoroughly combine flour through salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse mea. In another small bowl, combine combine the buttermilk, pumpkin and honey. Add wet ingredients to dry, and combine  until the dry ingredients are just moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4-5 times. Flatten it out into a rectangle with your hands, and using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a roughly 9×13″ rectangle, about 1/4″ thick, making sure one of the 13″ edges is closest to you.. Brush surface of dough with butter, and brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts (if using( over the dough, leaving about 1/2″ space on the long edge furthest from you. Starting at the long edge closest to you, gently roll the dough up and seal at the blank long edge, using a bit more butter if needed to close the dough. Cut into 12 even-ish pieces using a serrated knife, and place cut side down into the buttered muffin tin. Bake at 350*F for 25-30 minutes until lightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract and half and half in a small bowl. When sticky buns are cool enough to handle, remove to a plate and drizzle with icing.