Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Black Friday! Instead of going shopping, today I'm going to 'Color Me Mine,' which is a pottery painting place.

Anyway, Thanksgiving in our house was quite successful. We had more people over than I'm used to cooking for but it was delicious and everyone had a great time and we were all stuffed and happy when the meal was finished.
Here's what was on the menu:

Monday, November 25, 2013

What I Ate: Smashed Potatoes & Bacon Sprouts

All right, so Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I shared a bunch of recipe cards last year and more recently, I shared a mashed potatoes recipe, a mac and cheese recipe, a cornbread recipe, and a caramel apple dessert. But, I had two more suggestions to throw out there: smashed potatoes and bacon brussels sprouts. I made these a little while ago and thought they would make great additions to any Thanksgiving feast. The reason I'm not making this a recipe post is because these aren't v. technical or labor intensive (and I'm lazy and I didn't think to take more photos while I was making this stuff).

I started off by rendering the fat off of some bacon and getting the bacon itself nice and crispy.
Meanwhile, to prepare the potatoes, I boiled up about 2 or 3 lbs of fingerling yukon gold potatoes. I cut the bigger pieces in half so that all of the pieces would cook in the same amount of time. Then, I drained the potatoes and placed them on a foil-lined sheet pan. I used my potato masher to just smash the potatoes into a flat mess and drizzled them all with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cinnamon & Cardamom (Chai Spice) Macarons

Here's another seasonally appropriate dessert suggestion for Thanksgiving: cinnamon and cardamom macarons with chai spiced ganache. For a more thorough explanation of the technique for making macarons, you can visit my vanilla bean and dulce de leche macarons post from last year. I'll be much less technical in this post.
Ingredients:
macarons
100 g egg whites
50 g granulated sugar
110 g almond flour
200 g powdered sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom

ganache
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate (I used 60% cacao)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chai spice tea
¼ teaspoon salt

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, is just a week away and I thought that I'd share my menu and strategy for making the meal. I feel like I won't really have anything new to say, but being a home cook, I feel like the way I give my advice might be a bit more relatable than say, a Food Network Star might give his or her advice. Eh, I don't know. Whatever! I'm sharing so if you want to read on, you can. It's a free country, you know.
So when I plan a big meal like this ("this" meaning it's quite literally a feast where I use up all of my large platters for dozens of dishes, we all stuff ourselves until the buttons pop off our pants, and I anticipate enjoying the leftovers for a week afterwards) I like to have a game plan. I like to write down all of my ideas for dishes, making sure I include a few different carb dishes, a variety of vegetables, and one or two desserts. I probably go through two or three iterations, cutting dishes that seem redundant, scrapping ideas that seem too ambitious, etc.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mushroom Ravioli

I love mushroom ravioli and often, I'll grab a pack from the market when a craving hits. It's a yummy treat but store bought ravioli is usually too salty for me. So, I made my own and they were pretty delicious. And, you could certainly serve these at Thanksgiving; they're rustic and delicious and you can brag that you made them from scratch.
Ingredients [makes 5 to 6 dozen ravioli]
¾ lb pasta dough (½ of the recipe I normally use)
3 portobello mushrooms
6 cloves garlic
4 sprigs rosemary
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
olive oil
salt & pepper

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I Ate: Salted Caramel Apple Galette

So I've shared a few savory Thanksgiving dishes, and that's all well and good but dessert is really important too so I thought it would be prudent to share a couple of sweet recipes too. This first idea isn't a recipe post, as you can tell by the title, but a 'What I Ate' post. I formatted it this way because 1) I recently made galettes so it felt like overkill to do it again and 2) it's a really easy dessert that doesn't require too much instruction. You can definitely make ahead of time, which is perfect for big meals that take a lot of preparation (re: Thanksgiving).
I started by making a batch of pie dough. Here it is in its crumbly stage before it was pressed together. It looks like grated cheese, huh? By the way, do you like my new marble pastry board? It's from Sur La Table. It's super affordable and amazing quality. Sur La Table is my new favorite store for kitchen supplies. World Market is a close runner up, though. Actually, I can't say which I like better. They're both great.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Kitchen Supplemental Post Part 3: Budgeting Tips

This is probably the last entry I'll be posting in my 'new kitchen' series, I'm 99% sure.
I wanted to share some of my budgeting tips because with every week that passed during this renovation, I had a little less money in the bank and it was sad, but I didn't go broke so I do have some tricks up my sleeve. Now that my kitchen is finally complete, including all the little chores we had to finish up here and there, I'm ready to share some money management suggestions.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What I Ate: Scarpetta's Tomato Basil Spaghetti

If you are curious about what I did with my fresh pasta, you are in luck because that is what I'm sharing today. Back in the summer, I went to Scarpetta for the first time (and I actually went there again just a few weeks ago). It was the best pasta I'd ever eaten, outside of Italy. Scott Conant became my pasta hero so I decided that the first thing I wanted to make with my first batch of fresh pasta was Scott Conant's tomato and basil spaghetti. I haven't actually tried it so I can't compare mine to his, but both times I was dining at Scarpetta, neighboring diners ordered it and it looked amazing. I'm sure his is better but mine was still pretty delicious.

I followed along with the recipe and steps from Serious Eats and the result was fantastic. This 'What I Ate' is quite a bit more detailed than I usually am, because the Serious Eats post didn't do a step-by-step photo diary. I didn't want to just call it a normal recipe post though because it's not my original recipe and I don't want to steal credit.
First, let's start with the sauce.

Ingredients:
10 ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons + ¼ cup olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 stems of basil with leaves

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homemade Pasta

I created a substantial wishlist of kitchen gadgets I wanted for our new kitchen. One of the items on this wishlist was a pasta maker. I am a carb-loving girl and I will never go on the Atkins diet or any other restrictive regimen that prevents me from eating bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, basically all the best stuff. I knew that if I got a pasta maker, I would put it to good use, so I bought one and I did.
Today's post is slightly different from my usual recipe entries because I don't have a step-by-step photo diary. Instead, once you scroll down a bit, you will see a video. I did my best to document my morning of pasta making and hopefully you enjoy it. And just a little tidbit of information, this was my first time making pasta from scratch and it was quite a successful venture so I'd like to say to anyone who feels intimidated: don't! It's pretty easy and the reward is delicious.

Ingredients [adapted from Scott Conant's recipe, yields 1½ lbs of dough]:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
4 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Kitchen Supplemental Post Part 2: Meal Ideas

Renovating a kitchen is hard work and it takes a lot out of you. The demolition is strenuous, the painting is tedious, the assembly is tiring, the final touches are burdensome. But not having a place to cook for months: that was pretty terrible. Thankfully, we timed our renovation to take place during summer (into autumn) so despite not having a stove, we could still fire up the grill and cook in a baseball cap and flip flops.
As promised, I'm finally sharing a 'what to eat and how to cook when you don't have a kitchen' post.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sweet Cornbread

So, before our kitchen was renovated, I had difficulty with food styling and photographing because I was so limited. At first, it was just a matter of experience; I needed practice and to develop an 'eye' for it. But once I got the hang of it, I was still being held back because we didn't have any surfaces that were worthy of photographing, I didn't want to include any of our kitchen in the background because it was so ugly, and the lighting was subpar. But now, all of that has changed and I feel so free! Hopefully, you've noticed positive changes in my photography too. I feel like I'm learning so much and so quickly. It's a lot of fun.

Anyway, enough rambling. Today's entry is a continuation of last week's posts about Thanksgiving side dishes. Cornbread is one of the most comforting, warm side dishes. It's so fluffy, the color is a lovely yellow, and you get to smother it in honey and butter. What could be bad about that? I'm channeling Ina Garten big time with that last sentence.
I previously posted a more savory cornbread recipe which I like to use when I'm making cornbread stuffing. But, the cornbread that gets tossed in a basket next to the butter dish? I want that cornbread to be sweeter. I'm just a fan of sweet cornbread and if you are too, this is a great recipe.

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ stick + 1 teaspoon butter
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup corn (optional, fresh or frozen)

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Kitchen Supplemental Post Part 1: Why Ikea?

Before I start this post, I'd like to say thanks to all veterans and current soldiers for their service. Without their fight to maintain our freedom, I wouldn't be here typing on this blog, right? Thank you.

So I thought I'd do a few more posts about the new kitchen, just extra stuff that I thought would be useful to share that would have otherwise bogged down my normal posts. In this first post, I'm discussing the benefits and disadvantages of using Ikea.
I've been thinking a lot about the quality of Ikea's cabinets lately because for some reason, Ikea has a reputation for being cheap, in the bad kind of way, and there are people who have an embarrassed attitude about admitting they own Ikea furniture. I personally love it. If you shop and style carefully, Ikea furniture can look awesome.
{my simple Ikea glasstop desk}
Instead of "cheap," a better way to describe Ikea is "affordable, efficient, and practical." Why do so many people think that things that cost less are automatically poorer in quality? I feel like it's an American attitude to think that more is always more; disclaimer: I'm American so I'm allowed to generalize us. I have a few friends who work long hours at their jobs and they think that means they are hard workers. Honestly, if I were a boss, I'd prefer to hire an employee who is able to execute all of his/her work properly in a shorter amount of time over an employee who takes 10 hours to finish a simple task; I'd prefer someone efficient and smart. Let me clarify here that of course there are exceptions to this. I know that many times, cheaper is cheaper and you get what you pay for. But in the case of Ikea kitchens, they are just the hard workers in the scenario.
{Ikea kitchen display}

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cheddar Mac & Cheese

As I promised on Tuesday, I'm sharing a cheddar mac and cheese recipe, which would make an awesome side dish for Thanksgiving, so I'm filing it in that category. There are hundreds of different recipes for mac & cheese out there, both in cyber space and regular world space, and I'm just adding mine to the pile. I also have a recipe for lobster mac & cheese on my blog if you're feeling fancy but this is just the bare bones version of mac & cheese that I make all the time.
If you're not into cheddar, you can certainly use a different cheese, like american or swiss or gruyere. Whatever you're into is fine by me. You could also use a combination of cheeses, if you like. But, I do suggest you choose a good melting cheese and not, for example, grated parmesan cheese from that green can or orange foam spray cheese. I decided to choose cheddar for this particular batch because that's what I was craving. Plus, I knew the pretty orange color would lend itself nicely to photographs.

Let me also be a little candid here and say that I never measure when I make mac and cheese. In general, I rarely measure when I'm cooking. It's all a 'feelings' thing. However, I did my best to mark down how much of everything I was using as I was cooking so that I could share it here.

Ingredients:
½ box (½ lb) short cut pasta (elbow macaroni is the classic shape and what I chose but you could use shells, cavatelli, cavatappi, penne, gemelli, rotini, rotelle, fiori, ditalini, gomiti, mostaccioli, etc.)
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (or other good melty cheese of your choice)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Garlic & Leek Mashed Potatoes

Did you guys see my new kitchen reveal post yesterday? Well now that that's all good and done, I'm back to posting more recipes. Somehow, I managed to sort of keep up with recipes here and there (prepared a bunch of posts in advance too; prior to our kitchen being kicked down). But I'm sure you noticed that I was sharing more recipes in the past few weeks, ever since our kitchen has been functional.

Now that Halloween is over, we can start thinking about Thanksgiving. For me, November 1 is when I start planning my Thanksgiving menu. So, I thought I would share a few appropriately themed recipes in the coming weeks.

First up is garlic and leek mashed potatoes. What's delicious and "special" about these potatoes is the addition of leeks. The fibrous dark green parts of leeks aren't the most desirable bits but they still have a lot of flavor and it's wasteful to throw them away. I used the whites to make a soup and then had a bunch of tops leftover and thought they would add a lot of yum to a batch of mashed potatoes.
The leeks are just used in the cream and they add a lot of delicious flavor. Leeks look like giant scallions. They're in the onion and garlic family so they have a similar flavor but they are much more subtle.

Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]
1½ lbs yukon gold potatoes (3 to 4 medium sized potatoes)
1 cup heavy cream
6" piece of leek greens
3 or 4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt & pepper

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Kitchen Part 10: Tada!

I didn't really know how many parts this "series" would have, but it somehow worked out that Part 10 is the big reveal post. How perfect. This kitchen renovation has taken almost three months from brainstorming to completion and it was worth every minute. FYI, we had a few delays with the delivery and we were limited in scheduling the countertop templating and installing so maybe we would have been finished if everything had been timed a bit more smartly but it is what it is. I did the math and it took exactly 70 days from finalizing the design to caulking. We still have a few (relatively minor) loose ends to tie up but I'm really pleased with what it looks like right now so I'm sharing anyway. I'm impatient and I just can't wait.
If you are unfamiliar with the journey it took to get to this point, you can take a look through my previous New Kitchen posts. If not, just jump ahead to see what our finished kitchen looks like (though, the title photo kind of spoils the big reveal, right?). Ah! I'm so excited! I must warn you, this is a photo-rich and text-rich post but if you're uninterested in what I have to say, you can just scroll through the photos and just ignore the words. It's a free country!
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