Pine Nut Vinaigrette

Pine Nut VinaigretteGiving Thanks for Dad
If there is one thing I know it’s that my family isn’t normal. From the outside looking in, we may seem like your typical family of five. But, in reality, we are more than a few degrees off-center. The following is the most recent example.

Like most other families during the shelter-in-place order, we have been spending more time outside enjoying our backyard. The more we were out there the more it became obvious that our backyard space was in need of some serious help. So for the last month, that’s what we have been doing—little by little. It started with a fire pit that the family gave me as a birthday present. And, quickly turned into a much larger home improvement project culminating in the building of an outdoor bar.

The bar happened because we were sitting around the fire pit one night and I got thirsty. I mentioned that it would be cool to have a bar outside ‘cause I was feeling lazy and having to walk to the kitchen was just too far. This is where things got kinda nutty. Ideas and possible designs were thrown out for consideration. The kids were in on it, too. (I know. Great parenting. The kids are designing a bar. At least they learned some rough carpentry skills. That’s good, right?) Everything came together when I remembered the Mexican tiles and sink we had sitting in the garage.

Seventeen years ago I was pregnant with twins and my husband and I, knowing things were never going to be the same again, went on a vacation to Peurto Vallarta as the last hurrah before the boys showed up. While we were there we found a tile shop downtown that was filled with the most amazing Talavera tiles and sinks. I forced my husband to haul a sink and about 40 tiles home on the plane in a backpack with the idea that we would use them in the bathroom of our new house. That never happened. They sat in the garage until we moved into our current house ten years ago where they sat in the garage again until last month.

Long story (sort of) short, the tiles and sink are now part of a lovely and very sturdy (my love has a tendency to over-engineer) outdoor bar that looks like a Mexican cantina complete with a palm roof. The plan was to get it done by Father’s Day and we did. Naturally, I assumed we would be toasting Dad and breaking in the new bar with tacos and margaritas. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

When asked what he wanted to have for his Father’s Day feast my husband declared that he wanted his favorite dinner in the world, Thanksgiving. In June. In 90 degree heat. Do you know how hard it is to find Thanksgiving stuff in June? During a pandemic?

The turkey was the easiest part. I roasted two turkey breasts, mashed some potatoes, and baked the stuffing outside of the bird. We even had pecan pie thanks to my daughter. My sister, the smart one, was in charge of the green beans and made something that was more in line with the weather and the time of year. She got a bunch of green beans, steamed them, and dunked them in cold water to stop the cooking and keep them crunchy. She then dried them off and spread them on a platter, scattered some sliced cherry tomatoes around, and topped them off with a tasty Pine Nut Vinaigrette. It was the perfect way to cut all of the richness and carbs of Thanksgiving in June. In our Mexican cantina…

Pine Nut Vinaigrette
Adapted from Six Seasons: An New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden Read more…

Mini Frittatas

Mini FrittatasEasy Like Christmas Morning
Christmas morning is a time of magic, wonder, and barely-controlled chaos. Sometimes it can be a challenge just to get the coffee pot going. Though for most people, that is priority one especially if your children woke you at the crack of dawn because they just couldn’t stand it anymore.

By the way, this doesn’t end just because they hit their teenage years. Mine still do it. It’s harder to have the family snuggle in our bed though when the 15 year olds are both 6 feet tall or above…but they still try!

Making breakfast amongst all of this activity can be difficult. For one, there are too many excited people running around in your kitchen. At least that is how it is for me. For another, who wants to be in the kitchen all morning and miss out on all of the fun. Lastly, sometimes you just don’t think about it until the last minute. In the rush to make sure you have gifts for everyone including the dog, forgetting that your family would like to eat breakfast has been known to happen. Something easy and tasty for Christmas morning with ingredients you probably have on hand is the answer.

Sure you could go the tried and true pancakes or waffles route. Those are always a hit. Personally, I like these little guys listed below. They’re quick and easy and you can pretty much put whatever you have on hand in them. No ham? No worries. How ‘bout a little jack cheese and chilies? Or sausage? Or diced green onion and red pepper? No matter what you decide to put in them, you could easily serve them alongside the pancakes and waffles. Because it’s Christmas…you get to live a little and have both…

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Mini Frittatas
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis and the Food Network
Yields servings
Read more…

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes

Amy’s Fat Pants PotatoesAny Way You Slice It
I have a number of kitchen tools that I just can’t live without. Some of them I use on a daily basis (like my mini prep) but other tools only come out occasionally. These tools are worthy of their spot in the cabinet because they make quick work of whatever I am doing. My tortilla press is one example. My mandolin is another.

If you do not own a mandolin, I would highly recommend you put it on your Christmas list. It doesn’t even need to be one of the super-expensive freestanding kind, though those are pretty nice. The only requirement is that it be sharp because to do what it needs to do, you gotta have a sharp blade. Just watch out for your fingers. It’s really easy to take off the tip of your finger. I speak from experience!

Don’t let the danger turn you away, though. A mandolin can be the key to crispy homemade potato chips or really fantastic gratin dishes like the one below that I like to call Fat Pants Potatoes. I only ever make these during the holidays because if you eat them more often than that you will have no choice but to wear pants with a little give in them.

If you don’t have a mandolin, never fear. A similar result can be found using a food processor with a slicing blade or by even, gasp! using a knife like most people.

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes
Adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Something Different
I don’t know about you, but for me, the hardest thing to around Thanksgiving is to figure out what to eat. I know that sounds strange…but let me explain. This time of year I spend a lot of time looking at seasonal and Thanksgiving-related recipes and talking about new possibilities. As you might expect the seasonal recipes are dishes that could easily be appropriate for the Thanksgiving table. So, it can be difficult to try recipes for Thanksgiving without getting Turkey Day burnout. Obviously, I am not cooking a turkey every night but the side dishes are a different story.

Of all the holidays we celebrate during the year, Thanksgiving, for the majority of my immediate family, is the favorite. (I’m still a Christmas hold out.) So, while I am trying out new recipes, I have to make sure I don’t wreck the anticipation for the big day. If you’re eating sweet potatoes and stuffing for the days leading up to the meal you could see why excitement for the main event could wane. This is why, while I’m looking for new stuff, I am also on the lookout for different things to do with the same ingredients. Pumpkins are a perfect example.

Pumpkins can be used for more than just pies. They can be filled with cheese and other buttery goodness and roasted. They can be tossed into fresh pasta or spicy curries. Pumpkins are the taste of fall but, during the month of November, I look outside the traditional flavors and look towards other cuisines where pumpkins are year-round—which, for me, means North Africa.

It is no secret that I love Moroccan food and, thankfully, Morocco loves their pumpkins and squashes. If you find yourself with a leftover Cinderella pumpkin from Halloween or if you just can’t bring yourself to make a pie yet, give this recipe a try for a little something different.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Stew
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Yields 6 servings Read more…