Farro with Cranberries and Pecans

Farro with Cranberries and PecansSide Job
Truth be told, I am a Thanksgiving freeloader which means I do not usually host Thanksgiving. However, since food is my job, I have been thumbing through numerous magazines and cookbooks looking for interesting recipes for the big day and I have found a few that are intriguing enough that I gave them a try.

Most people are pretty traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving and are resistant to change, myself included. I have been known to pout like a child if certain things are missing. However, if the usual required dishes adorn the Thanksgiving table alongside a few new introductions I can be talked off the ledge. The bonus is sometimes you run across a recipe that works in everyday life and not just for special occasions. The recipe below falls into that category.

I have always loved the nutty flavor of farro. The fact that it is easy to prepare is a bonus. Farro is the perfect fall side dish. Whether it’s plain with a little butter or dressed up with garlic and onions it can be a welcome change from the usual when served beside your favorite roasted meats. In this case, the addition of cranberries and pecans just screams turkeys and pilgrims. Ergo, it would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

You don’t have to wait for Turkey Day, though. I made this the other night and served it alongside some pan-fried pork chops and it was delicious…

Farro with Cranberries and Pecans
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Whoopie PiesPumpkin Perspective
Halloween is here and I am just not feeling the Halloween spirit. I’m thinking that it’s because our priorities are focused elsewhere this week. Maybe it’s because most of the Bay Area is worried about having power or, worse if their house is still standing. It’s probably more important to have candles to see at night versus candles to put in your pumpkin. I’m just sayin’.

It is kind of a bummer, though. I actually had plans to make fun treats and dress up like I usually do. But, I no longer have the will nor the energy. This past weekend wore me down mentally. At one point there was fire 4 miles to the south of me and fire 3 miles to the west of me with air tankers overhead. With those ridiculous winds, you just didn’t know where it was going to pop up next. It’s the unpredictability that drives you nuts. Thankfully, my home was not threatened but I got a tiny taste of what they are going through in Healdsburg and the surrounding areas. My heart goes out to everyone. I can’t even imagine the stress and heartbreak…

I may still try to make the Whoopie Pies that I had planned on because, you know, stress eating. Whoopie Pies, I have been told, are an East Coast thing. I love them—though I couldn’t tell you where I was the first time I tried one. The traditional version features a chocolatey cakey cookie that is filled with vanilla-flavored cream. Kinda like a giant, soft Oreo. The recipe I was planning to make for Halloween have pumpkin cakes with a cream cheese filling. Anything with cream cheese filling is a winner in my book. And, I have made these before and I know how good they taste.

Here’s hoping conditions improve and the fires can be put out quickly. In the meantime, if you have the will and you have the power, give these treats a go. I am fairly confident they will improve anyone’s mood.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 1 dozen 4-inch Whoopie Pies Read more…

Chicken and Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings

Chicken and Buttermilk-Chive DumplingsFalling Ill
Fall is here! You know how I know? I’ve already had two kids stay home from school sick. There is something about the transition from hot to cool that plays havoc with the immune system. Since our weather has been a bit non-committal with one week being chilly and the next week climbing back up to 90, it’s no wonder the two of them went down without much fight. And don’t get me started about flu season…

With the possibility of more colds to come, I bought a bunch of chickens and got to making stock. Perhaps it’s a myth, or an old wife’s tale, or even just plain witchcraft but something about chicken soup helps people recover from colds quicker. Really. I think they even did a study on it. Check Google.

While I love a good chicken noodle or, even better, a matzo ball soup, I almost always head in the direction of comfort food when I am not feeling well. My “older son” is the same way. (He’s a twin. He’s only older by a minute but to him, it’s an important minute.) Which is why I found myself making him some chicken and dumplings Saturday night to get some of the magical chicken qualities in him and to make him feel better. I like to tell myself it was just for him but I know better.

Anytime is a good time for chicken and dumplings and I haven’t made anything like this since last fall. I love chicken and dumplings but this is the same son who can finish an entire large pizza by himself and still want dessert so I made a big pot. It was marvelous but there were no leftovers. Sigh.

The good news is he was back in school the following Monday. Whether that was because of the soup or sheer boredom from being at home remains a mystery. I choose to believe it was the chicken stock. The recipe is below if you would like to try your own experiment….

Chicken and Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings
Adapted from Tyler Florence and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Chocolate Stout Cake

Chocolate Stout CakeIt’s For The Kids
A friend of mine is holding a beer pong tournament this weekend. In fact, this will be the 6th Annual tournament and my husband and I will be there. Our attendance is remarkable for two reasons: 1. At the age of 46, I don’t really feel the need to relive the days of my ill-spent youth (it hurts too much). And, 2. As a general rule, I don’t like to drink beer.

The first reason is easily overcome because it is a fun night hanging out with friends and raising money for charity. The people-watching entertainment alone is pure gold. The second reason my attendance is strange is much more problematic.

There have been only a few occasions where I have purposefully ordered a beer and was satisfied with my choice. The bucket of ice-cold beer with lime I enjoyed while lounging on the beaches of Mazatlán 20 years ago was beyond perfect, both in setting and in thirst-quenching achievement. The winner for best beer I ever tasted in my life was the pint of Guinness I drank after taking the tour of the brewery in Dublin, Ireland with a pint of that same brew that I had in Boston being a very close second. Both pints were smooth like liquid chocolate and both were the best remedy for a very blustery cold day.

I doubt very seriously that the beer being poured into keg cups this weekend will be of the same quality. I’m pretty sure it will be a mix of the cheaper fraternity party favorites in the beginning with the better stuff only coming out as the competition gets tighter. My husband, a beer lover, has vowed to take one for the team and drink the beer for me ‘cause he’s a giver like that.

In a preemptive strike, I am planning on making this chocolate stout cake to bring to the party to help take the bitter cheap beer taste from everyone’s mouth while still sticking to the theme…

Chocolate Stout Cake
Yields 12 servings Read more…

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones

Chocolate Hazelnut SconesOregone
I spent last weekend in Oregon and it was glorious. True, I spent four years living there—so I may be biased. But, the drive down to Eugene from Portland reminded me just how much I love it up there, green rolling hills, fields of frisky animals, charming red barns….

There is no greener state than Oregon. And yes, it does rain up there. A lot. And that rain makes for some of the most stunning scenery you can ask for. This time around, I was blessed to experience one of the few absolutely perfect-weather weekends. No rain and 70 degrees. Perfect. Add to that a football win for the home team and you just can’t get much better than that…unless we start talking about the food.

Oregon is a food lover’s dream and it’s no secret that the hot Portland restaurant scene is where innovation is happening. With the abundance of fresh-grown veggies and humanely raised meats available within an hour or two of the city, you’d have to work pretty hard to not to produce a quality product. Needless to say, I ate pretty well on this trip.

I took advantage of what there was to offer including the fresh veggies, and the Pinots, and of course, the coffee. Coffee is a religion up there. Like, literally. Oregonians don’t mess around. While consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of caffeine at one of my favorite coffee stops, I had the privilege of snacking on a hazelnut chocolate scone freshly made from Oregon grown hazelnuts and fresh butter. It was ah-may-zing!

I brought a bunch of coffee beans home with me in an effort to extend my trip (if only in my mind and coffee cup). For this same reason, I have been searching for a hazelnut scone recipe on the internet. I found this basic recipe on Food 52 and have been experimenting to duplicate my Oregon scones. It’s a tough job but I am definitely up to the task….

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 12 servings Read more…