Preserved Lemons

Preserved LemonsLemon Scented

Okay, I officially overate last week. (It was the pie that put me over the top.) I know I am not alone, and am sure there are equal numbers of people who will agree with me…if I see any more turkey I will lose my mind.

Besides the copious turkey leftovers, my mother-in-law sent me home with a huge bag of beautiful Meyer lemons from her tree. The smell of lemon filled the car the whole ride. Heaven.

The sheer size of my lemon haul means I have been thinking about different ways to use them up. You can only drink so much tea and lemon after all…

This Lemon Chicken is a family favorite, as is lemon curd—a request from the kids.

By far, my favorite way to use a lot of lemons though is preserving them. Preserved lemons have a terrific, bright flavor and can be used in so many different ways. I use them mostly in Moroccan food, but they are also great in salad dressings or bruschetta. I have even seen a recipe for Preserved Lemon Ice Cream, though I’m a bit hesitant.

I have looked all over the internet for preserved lemon recipes, and this method remains my favorite. I was taught it by Kitty Morse while taking her Moroccan Cooking class.

FYI, these also make a great gift for the Holidays…

Preserved Lemons
Adapted from Cooking At The Kasbah by Kitty Morse
Read more…

Hearty White Sandwich Bread

Hearty White Sandwich BreadThe Left Overs

I think it’s safe to say that we all have our favorites for Thanksgiving. For some it’s the sweet potatoes or the pecan pie. For others, it’s the stuffing or the turkey. For me, the best part comes afterwards. (Well, after the pie anyway.)

The most anticipated part of Thanksgiving in my world is the leftover turkey sandwich. And there is no question that I am an unapologetic turkey sandwich snob. My husband would prefer to have the entire meal over and over again. Not me. I want a turkey sandwich. (Okay. Let’s not get crazy. I still want some more pie.)

The Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is a thing of beauty. and has taken me years to perfect. Now, I am not saying there is a right way or a wrong way but there is my way.

Here’s how it stacks up:
You gotta start with good bread. The concept of good bread is always a hot debate in my family. There are those misguided souls that prefer super-fluffy white bread with questionable nutritional value, but excellent moisture content. Other, more enlightened sandwich veterans, prefer honey wheat for its nutty flavor and ability to stand up to the fillings. Then there are the black sheep who opt for the tortilla wrap or even the rogue croissant. I shudder…

Next come the condiments.
I am using the word condiments loosely here. Because for my turkey sandwich, the condiments consist of the following: Mayo, a very healthy smear of left over gravy, and a smidgen of cranberry sauce. (Now you see why I may want a more substantial piece of bread!) These three combine to provide a whole lot of flavor, and some much needed moisture—because the stuffing and the turkey get piled on top. (Yes. You read that right. Stuffing on bread. Just go with it…)

With that, you now have perfection on a plate.

Because of my sandwich psychosis, I usually make a couple of loaves of bread for the day after Thanksgiving. I always make Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. But I have been known to compromise with the white bread lovers by making this Potato flour version as well.

Not only does this loaf of Hearty White Sandwich Bread make fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it also works well with your leftover turkey.

Hearty White Sandwich Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
This recipe works well in a bread machine. Read more…

Amy’s Sage Stuffing

Amy’s Sage Stuffing Traditionally Bad

I can’t speak for your family, but in my family there are holiday traditions that are sacred. And these cannot be messed with without serious repercussions. The rules are more strict for Christmas, but the other holidays still have their musts.

There must be Gam’s purple glasses on the table for Easter and, of course, a ham. There must be warm Gingies and Ebleskiver for Christmas. (There is no wiggle room for this one. Ebelskeiver in the Summer is a capital offense—though I have noticed a relaxing of the rules a smidge in recent years…) Thanksgiving is no different, though I do think it’s time for some thought and self-reflection on this one. Here’s why…

For my entire childhood, there were creamed onions on the dinner table for Thanksgiving. The only people who liked them were my grandfathers. And it baffles me to this day that they did. They smelled horrible as the onions bubbled in their sauce on the stove. And, the taste made me gag, Still does—even worse than red cabbage. (Seriously. I am gagging as I write this…) Of course there were always left overs, ’cause after my grandfathers had their serving, that was it. No one else went within five feet of ‘em.

Despite their position as the Thanksgiving pariah, the onions were still there year after year. My grandfathers have been gone for a while now, and I think it’s time that we consciously uncouple from the onions…as a public service. Who’s with me?

So, I asked a number of my friends if they had similar experiences with their Thanksgiving feast. I was pleased to know that my family wasn’t alone in it’s tradition weirdness. Not surprisingly, the one Thanksgiving side that avoided any bad press was the stuffing. I mean it makes sense. How can you go wrong with seasoned buttery bread goodness? And if you make your own not from a mix? Forgeddaboutit!

It’s got to be simple though. None of that newfangled stuffing. If you get funky with the stuffing, we might have problems…

Amy’s Sage Stuffing
Serves 6
This recipe for Amy’s Sage Stuffing tastes best with fresh sage, and is only as good as its ingredients. But it’s so good…
Read more…

Comforting Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Comforting Slow Cooker Pot RoastGive me Comfort…
When I sat down yesterday to write this post, I came up with nothing. I was having a difficult time putting together a coherent thought. To say that I was distracted by Tuesday’s events would be a gross understatement—frankly, I wanted go back to bed. Since that was not an option, I chose to comfort myself with carbs.

There is something about the starchy and the cheesy that can make the most difficult of days just a tad brighter. Also, little slow-cooked protein can go a long way towards a positive attitude adjustment. The combination of the two has been my M.O. for the past couple of weeks.

In fact, over the weekend I made a Slow Cooker Pot Roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. (That’s a whole lot of comfort in a crock pot.) There’s nothing easier than pot roast and it’s a great way to have dinner done when you walk through the door at the end of the day…

Comforting Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Adapted from the Food Network
Read more…

Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving RecipesTurkey Trot

I apologize in advance if this catches you off guard but did you know that Thanksgiving is almost here? Yep. I kid you not.

Last night, after I inhaled my 500th peanut butter cup, I took a gander at my calendar, and had a mild panic attack.

Holy tights, Batman! Did you know there are only three legit weeks until Turkey day? I say legit because that Sunday thru Wednesday before Thanksgiving? The kids are out of school. There ain’t nothin’ productive happenin’ in my house…

So it’s time to hit the ground running and start planning the Main Event. Now, full disclosure, I don’t actually make Thanksgiving dinner. I’m more of a backseat driver. My Mother-in-Law is at the wheel and in charge of the cooking. For that, she has my eternal thanks…

However, over the years I have compiled a long list of Thanksgiving recipes from the traditional to the weird and passing into the down right nutty… And, each recipe is delicious in its own right.

If you are looking for something different, or you’re just not sure where to start, take a peek at the following list. And see if it gets you off to the races,

And don’t forget to give our meat department a call to reserve whatever it is you decide on!

Thanksgiving Recipes

Read more…

Spiced Apple Cake with Cinnamon Cider Glaze

Spiced Apple CakeCake Walk

This week I am full-on geeking out.

“Why?” you might ask.
“Because Halloween is Monday,” she said.
“Why would that cause you to geek out?”
“Because I was a history major, and my main focus was Celtic history.”

Still confused? (Buckle up. It’s about to get nerdy…)

The modern day celebration of Halloween has it’s roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which celebrated the end of the summer and the harvest season. The Celts believed that during the festival of Samhain, the spirits of their ancestors would walk amongst the living. Villagers would make offerings of food and wine in order to make contact with the spirits of loved ones who had passed away.

With the good comes the bad. So, for those spirits who were not welcome, the villagers would wear disguises so that they would not be recognized. And the costumed villagers would then lure the evil spirits away with a parade.

As Christianity spread across Europe, the harvest holidays (including Samhain) were basically absorbed into a Christian celebration called the Feast of All Saints and All Souls. So, the food and wine offerings were replaced with soul cakes, which were spice cakes that were baked and given to the poor. They would in turn pray for the souls of the departed as thanks for receiving the cakes.

The concept of Halloween arrived on American shores with the Irish Immigrants in the mid-19th century. Halloween, as we know it, complete with peanut butter cups, Trick-or-Treating, and rubber masks, didn’t really come about until the 1950s. (If you’ve made it this far, thank you. My kids would be rolling their eyes and writhing in pain right now.)

This Friday, my daughter’s school is having their Fall Fest carnival with games, pie eating contests, and the most popular attraction of all…the Cake Walk.

The Cake Walk is basically musical chairs with Devil’s Food. Families donate a cake and the kids walk around in a circle to Halloween-themed music. When the music stops, you find a number. And, if your number is called, you win the cake of your choice. Yee Haw!

Since there is a cake decorating contest to go with it, most people bring Halloween-themed cakes. I, however, will be going the super-traditional spice cake route, as only a card-carrying history nerd can. It will probably be picked last.

Spiced Apple Cake with Cinnamon Cider Glaze
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Read more…

Almost Gam’s Applesauce

Almost Gam's ApplesauceFalling for Apples

I don’t know where the pumpkin spice craze started. And, now that there are Pumpkin Spice Triscuits available for your tasting pleasure, I think we have perhaps taken it a bit too far.

The funny thing is that I actually like the Pumpkin Spice flavor (scent/color/lifestyle). The occasional pumpkin spice latte can be just what the doctor ordered. But it is by no means the only flavor representative of Fall. If you ask me, the real flavor of Fall is apples.

If you have been anywhere near a produce market or stand recently you, I am sure, have seen that the apples have come in. There are the usual stand-by Fuji and Golden Delicious, of course. But, October has also ushered in the Jonagolds, Pippens, McIntoshs and Ambrosia apples with the Arkansas Blacks not too far behind.

I love apples. They’re crunchy. They’re sweet. They are an easy and portable snack. As a family, I think we go through at least three dozen a week—just grabbing one and eating it. And at this time of year, it is fun to try out all of the different varieties.

Not all the apples I buy are grab and go, though. Some are better suited for other things like cakes and crisps. And, the best use of apples to me, besides the obvious, is for applesauce.

Applesauce is great on it’s own, or on the side with a pork roast. Use it as a dipping sauce for some really great Vermont cheddar and you will thank me. Add some to a spice cake for added moisture. Spoon a little on your oatmeal…the list goes on. And of course, in my family, it goes on Ebelskiver!

My favorite applesauce was my grandmother’s. Unfortunately, her recipe has been lost along with her equally fantastic apple chutney recipe. And, I’ve looked everywhere to no avail. It was super chunky with a lot of cinnamon and raisins…maybe a little ginger.

Also, she was very specific about what apples she used. Gam’s applesauce was probably more of a compote that a sauce. It was pretty thick. I haven’t given up the search, though. I will find it. And when I do I’m making a big batch…

In the mean time, this is a close as I can get.

Almost Gam’s Applesauce
Makes about 2 1/12 quarts.

Read more…

Favorite Marinara Sauce

Favorite Marinara SauceKids in the Kitchen

Over the weekend, I hosted a few 4th and 5th graders for my Beyond Chicken Nuggets cooking class. I had auctioned it off during our school’s Spring fundraiser.

I believe in the If you teach a man to fish… philosophy. I figure if you teach kids to cook from an early age, not only will they never starve once they are out in the cold, cruel world, but they might actually eat better in the process.

My goal was to introduce this group to some easy recipes that are out of the ordinary, and perhaps a little more adventurous for the elementary school palette.

First up was Paella. In every culture around the world, there is at least one dish that consists of chicken and rice—think of chicken and rice as global comfort food. The only difference is how you spice it, and in some cases how you cook it.

I chose to go with the Spanish version, mainly because it’s something that I make on the regular. And also, it is easy for the kids to throw together—with supervision, of course.

And we also tried to make cream puffs, which are usually not too complicated. But in this case were an epic fail. My guess is we were too focused on our other dishes, so we weren’t patient enough with the puffs. They tasted fine, but they didn’t puff up. So, I sent everyone home with a jar of pastry cream and a spoon…

By far the biggest success of the afternoon was the handmade pasta. All of the kids made their own, from scratch, with very little help from me. And it turned out beautifully.

Fresh pasta may sound daunting, but it’s easy enough that you may never buy dried pasta again. And the flavor difference is incredible! If you want to give it a try yourself, here is a good tutorial.

As for the sauce? The simpler the better, if you ask me. We ate the pasta my daughter made with a fresh tomato and basil cream sauce. But, you can never go wrong however, with my favorite Marinara sauce.

Favorite Marinara Sauce
Using fresh herbs makes all the difference in this quick and easy marinara.
Serves 6 Read more…

Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian GoulashGhoul-ash

It’s officially October. (What the heck happened to September?) You know how I know it’s October? Well, besides that calendar thing? Because our cookbook club was scheduled to have our latest dinner on Saturday the 1st—and that’s what we did.

I gotta say, I am more excited about the date on the wall than I was with the food we made. And, the rest of the group agreed.

Our theme this time was anything by Jamie Oliver. And, we could pick any recipe of his from a book or online. Initially, I was looking forward to it. And, I figured with his get everyone eating better movement, and the overall success of his restaurants, we would once again be eating very well. Wrongo!

To be fair, it wasn’t that bad, it was totally edible, but the man does not season his food.  Every single one of us said we had to alter the recipe by adding salt and other spices. Maybe it’s a British thing? Maybe it’s just him? Who knows but the food was bland.

I had high hopes for the Spicy Pork Goulash with Chilies that I made. It sounded so good to me, and perfect for a blustery fall dinner. While it was cooking, the aroma was amazing. The end result? Meh.

I love a good goulash. It’s hearty and satisfying and paprika is one of my favorite spices. Since this weekend’s disappointment, I have been looking forward to having the real deal. And, Goulash is another great option for your freezer so make more than you need and freeze some for later.

Hungarian Goulash
Adapted from Lizthechef on Food 52
Serves 4

Read more…

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with FigsA Good Melon

There are a lot of great lines in the movie When Harry Met Sally, and I use them often. But, there is this one favorite scene where they are interviewing a couple about how they met and fell in love.

One of the actress’s lines is, At that moment I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon…

Ninteen years ago, I met this great guy at work, and I just knew. I can’t really explain it but I did. We were not an obvious couple to say the least. Our backgrounds were just so different, but there was something about him… And again, I just knew. He, on the other hand, required a little stalking convincing.

We became great friends, and spent a lot of time together outside of work. But we didn’t actually start dating officially until about a year and half later. I think I just wore him down…

Three years after that we were married.

This week marks our 15th Anniversary, and to celebrate the fact that we haven’t smothered each other with a pillow, Mr. Wonderful and I decided to get away to the wine country for a day, with just the two of us. We sipped. We spa-ed (is that a word?). We ate. It was fantastic, and it was great to be just the two of us again, if only for a few hours.

Dinner at Ad Hoc was one of the highlights. The food was good, the wine was good, and it was so nice to enjoy a romantic dinner with my husband—and be able to have an actual conversation.

The after dinner activities were a little different, though. Fifteen years ago we probably would have met up with some friends and/or have gone dancing. Now?  We ate so much that went back to the hotel and fell asleep watching the Giants…at 9 o’clock. I know. Total party animals…

I have made a number of recipes from the Ad Hoc At Home book but, let’s face it, I’m good but I’m no Thomas Keller. The food we had that night was simple but so, so tasty.

The Smoked Pork Loin that we ate is not one of the recipes featured in the book, but this Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs is, and as the weather gets cooler (eventually) it makes for a perfect fall dinner.

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs
Recipe adapted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller
Serves 6 Read more…