Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year Waffles - Dec 31, 2010

Gingerbread Waffles with Maple Syrup and Pear with Honey and Ginger Jam

Happy New Year Dinner Clubbers! 2010 was certainly a delicious year and we thought we ought to see it out in style, starting with this yummy breakfast. It's a perfect idea for a New Year's brunch. The waffle recipe I found at the Kitchn and it's amazing, made even more so by this fantastic topping that arrived in our "Madison" Christmas box.

Quince & Apple Preserves - 'Pear with Honey and Ginger'

Greg and JJ thoughtfully included this lovely jar along with our other Wisconsin goodies. According to the label, Quince and Apple makes preserves in small batches in 'the upper Midwest,' specifically our beloved Madison. The ginger in the preserves complimented the gingerbread waffles perfectly. I poked around a bit online and found out that locally, our own France 44 uses this exact spread on their prosciutto and taleggio sandwiches. Next time I'm there, I'll have to see if they sell it in jars as well. I didn't see any retail locations for the preserves in Portland or Seattle, but Alexandria, VA is listed, and of course, they're all over in Milwaukee...just an FYI for you Dinner Clubbers looking for a treat from home (perhaps to serve at a Rose Bowl viewing party...Go Badgers!).

Happy New Year to all!
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chicken Tostadas with Refried Beans and Grilled Fennel - Dec 29, 2010

Coriander Chicken Tostadas with Refried Beans and Grilled Fennel

We made this last night and it was a bit finicky for a weeknight dinner even though I already had the chicken cooked. The recipe is from January 2011's Bon Appetit. Despite the fact that preparing it stressed me out a bit, it was tasty. I particularly liked the grilled fennel and thought it a nice addition to the plate. The refried beans had chipotle chili with adobo in them so they were nicely spicy and smokey. I cheated and used some pre-cooked chicken I had on hand, dusting it with coriander and warming it in a saute pan on the stove top. The lime juice makes the dish, I think. Make sure you have some limes on hand.
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Pan Roasted Cauliflower and Sunchokes - Dec 29, 2010

Pan Roasted Cauliflower and Sunchokes with Rosemary and Orange Zest

This was delicious. I used Heidi Swanson's method for cooking the cauliflower but took some liberties with the recipe. Namely, I added sunchokes into the mix. Sunchokes are so amazingly good. I love them to death, and they are in the co-ops now, Dinner Clubbers. Go get yourselves some! I also used fresh, chopped rosemary (a sprig of which arrived in our Christmas box from Portland...thanks Nat!) instead of chives, which are hard to come by these days in Minnesota. Similarly, the lemon zest got replaced by orange zest (I cannot get enough of the orange/rosemary flavor combo lately) and I drizzled with orange infused olive oil. It's hard to tell from the picture, but we finished this dish with some of our fancy new Black Diamond salt, also from Portland. Nick and I both gobbled this right up.
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Smoked Trout Salad with Crunchy Vegetables - Dec 29, 2010

Smoked Trout Salad with Beauty Heart Radishes, Cucumber, and Apple

This recipe is from January 2011's Food & Wine magazine. I was really excited when I came across it because it was very favorably marked, contains our favorite smoked fish, and I had all the ingredients I needed to make it on hand, more or less. The original recipe calls for mackerel, but states any smoked fish can stand in as a substitute, so we used trout. I also used beauty heart radishes instead of regular radishes because we have so many of them from our CSA. And, instead of a Granny Smith I used a HoneyCrisp. I omitted the chives because I cannot bring myself to pay $3 for a little box when they grow like weeds in my yard all summer. I finely sliced a tiny onion instead. With all that taken into consideration, neither Nick nor I cared much for this dish. This came as a pretty big surprise, since we are huge fans of almost anything with smoked fish. Perhaps it was a case of all my crazy substitutions messing things up. All in all, we are much bigger fans of the smoked trout and sunchoke salad from 'Asparagus to Zucchini.' Which reminds me that I just so happen to have some sunchokes on hand.
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Chicken Soup with Dumplings - Dec 29, 2010

Chicken Soup with Whole Wheat Dumplings

Of course, we couldn't get through the holidays without sickness descending upon us. This year Nick caught a nasty cold the week before Christmas. In an effort to help him get better and prevent myself from getting sick I made a batch of chicken soup. I used my favorite "Cheater's Asian Broth" from 'How to Eat Supper,' which involves broiling some onions, ginger, garlic, star anise, and cloves along with black pepper to get them nice and toasty before adding them to your stock. They make the stock flavorful and a little spicy, which I find nice when doing battle with viruses. To the stock I added chicken, carrots, celeriac, and a little fish sauce and let this simmer all day in my trusty crock pot. Just before dinner I made some whole wheat dumplings to add some substance. They certainly accomplished their goal, but next time I will add some fresh herbs to season them a bit. Nick is on the mend and I have thus far managed to avoid catching said virus. Thanks to chicken soup and my beloved apple cider vinegar concoctions,* I'm sure.

*Heat water in a tea kettle to boiling, pour in a mug. To the hot water, add a tsp of apple cider vinegar, a tbsp of honey and the juice of half a lemon. Drink one in the morning and one in the evening (and brush your teeth afterward to protect your enamel from the acidic vinegar). This is my favorite cure all, although Nick is not a fan and thinks I'm a little crazy. Hmm, who was the sick one...?
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Chevre and Dried Fruit Spread - Dec 29, 2010

Chevre with Dried Fruits, Walnuts, and Orange Infused Olive Oil

I totally copied this from the Cheese Shop at France 44. They sell a house made version of this and it's soo good. We had a little holiday shin-dig to attend and I wanted to bring a little something and thought this was just the ticket. It couldn't be easier and it was a crowd pleaser, if I do say so myself. If you want to make this yourself just put some chevre cheese in a bowl, top it with assorted dried fruit ( I used cranberries, currants, and dates) and nuts (optional...I used walnuts), drizzle some olive oil over the top (orange infused is particularly good methinks) and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the proportions to your liking and serve with some good quality crackers or baguette. And, of course, if you live in the Minneapolis (or St. Paul) area and want to try the real deal, stop by France 44 and buy some for yourself. You won't regret it.
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Blueberry Bread Pudding - Dec 29, 2010

Blueberry-Thyme Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream

In preparation for cooking and hosting over the holidays, I made a few big trips to various grocery stores and co-ops. This meant that I had to find space to store all of the food I purchased. Which, in turn, meant I had to clean out the fridge and freezer. One thing that was taking up way too much room in the latter was a bag of hot dog buns leftover from a cookout this summer. Also, I have a lot of fruit picked over the summer sitting, frozen on the shelves. I decided to make use of both of them in this bread pudding. I combined a few different recipes to get my ratios right and ended up with what you see above. We topped it with some homemade vanilla ice cream, which, incidentally, made even more room in the freezer. I probably wouldn't recommend hot dog buns for a bread pudding generally speaking, but this was an efficient use of resources and was pretty tasty to boot.
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Culinary Christmas Gifts - Dec 29, 2010

Fancy Finishing Salts

Whew! Sorry for my absence over the holidays Dinner Clubbers. I hope you have all been enjoying time with family and friends, eating good food, and drinking seasonal cocktails. That's what we've been doing around here, hence I've been shamelessly ignoring our little blog. To get myself back into the swing of things, I thought I'd share some of the fun cooking related gifts we received this year. To start with, Natalie and Jamie sent us some interesting and delicious finishing salts from The Meadow in Portland.* We've used some of the Black Diamond already and I love the smokiness it adds.

Culinaria Spain

My thoughtful in-laws got me this coveted 'Culinaria Spain' book. Nick checked out this cultural cuisine book from the library a few months back and I read every page, squealing in delight as I realized how many of my favorite foods are Spanish in origin. It's packed with fun facts, history and recipes organized by geographic region. I decided that I had to have it for our permanent collection (along with Culinaria France and Germany). I love it!

'The How Not to Cookbook'

And, Greg and JJ sent us this hilarious book that had me laughing out loud. Each page has kitchen advice from random contributors, some of which is completely conflicting and most of which is thoroughly entertaining. I picked out a particularly seasonal bit of advice to share with you above. Along with the book, G and JJ sent us some lovely Wisconsin treats, most of which we have consumed already.

As you can see, Nick and I really raked it in this year, and I hope you all were equally lucky.

* I love that little shop! We also received some fancy orange bitters in our Portland box, which The Meadow carries in addition to salt, chocolate, and fresh dreamy is that? Stay tuned for a cocktail recipe that makes use of them (the bitters, that is).
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crock Pot Chicken and Spinach - Dec 15, 2010

Herbed Crock Pot Chicken with Sauteed Spinach

The crock pot has been getting a workout in our kitchen lately. The thing that I love about cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot, besides the obvious convenience factor, is that you get simultaneous broth. That's right, no need to reboil that carcass with veggies after the fact. The crock pot just collects all those juices at the same time it cooks the chicken. I guess technically speaking, that is convenience too, but it's a convenience that I hadn't considered before. This simple meal came together with some spinach sauteed in orange infused olive oil. It was tasty, and allowed for chicken leftovers to be used in future meals. 'Tis the season for some creamy chicken based hot dishes, methinks.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hoisin Ginger Pork Wraps with Peanut Slaw - Dec 14, 2010

Hoisin Ginger Pork with Peanut Slaw in a Whole Wheat Wrap

This recipe was posted on the Kitchn a few days back, along with a round up of other Crock Pot meals. I have to say, I find it immensely satisfying to throw some meat and spices in a pot first thing in the morning, flip a switch, and have dinner cooking all day long. It makes me feel as though I'm one step ahead of the game. This sounded too good to pass up and so we tried it out on Sunday. I made the slaw to go along with it, adding broccoli to the cabbage, which was pictured, but not listed in the actual recipe. The visual cue seemed like a good one, as we're broccoli lovers around here, and so it got tossed in the mix. It was delicious and easy, made the house smell great, and was perfect for a snow bound evening with friends.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Treats - Dec 14, 2010

Peppermint Bark and Marshmallow 'Wreaths'

I made a couple batches of Christmas sweets over the weekend. First is a new favorite recipe from last year, published in Bon Appetit and online here. The peppermint bark is easy to make, tastes fantastic, and looks quite festive.

The next I have no excuse for, other than I was experiencing some hard-core food nostalgia. These childhood favorites seriously danced through my head as though they were sugar plums; frighteningly and artificially green sugar plums. I actually went to three different grocery stores looking for those little red hots, known as 'cinnamon imperials' in some circles, because we all know that they absolutely 'make' the marshmallow wreaths. Although actually, I can't in good consciousness even call what I made wreaths. I was far too impatient and the medium was far too sticky for that kind of high class sculpting. No, Dinner Clubbers, my creations are affectionately referred to around here as Christmas 'clumps.' And, in the interest of full disclosure, sometimes I call them lovely lady clumps. The fact that I used high fiber multi-grain breakfast flakes purchased from the bulk aisle at the Co-op, fortified with omega-3's and folic acid, doesn't come close to making up for the fact that these lovely little clumps stand for nearly everything I am apposed to in our collective diets. Oh well, sometimes, against all reason, I need high fructose corn syrup-packed, artificially colored, and highly processed foodstuff in my life. I also really love Cheetos. You're my friends, so I know you'll forgive me my cravings.
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Rosemary Orange Allspice Gin and other Beverages - Dec 13, 2010

Rosemary Orange and Allspice Infused Gin

I have been busy infusing various liquors for gifts and for consumption around our house. Of the several I've done, this mix is currently my favorite, as you might be able to tell from the nearly empty bottle above. It makes for a fantastic winter gin and tonic. If you're looking for a quick homemade gift idea, or a fun cocktail to serve at your holiday soiree, I would highly recommend giving this a try. Here's a loose recipe to follow, although you must keep in mind that I rarely measure anything and you should tweak to your own tastes.


2 cups gin (use a good, middle of the road gin...we used New Amsterdam because it was on sale)
zest of one orange, avoiding the pith as much as possible
1 fresh sprig of rosemary
1 tsp whole allspice, crushed slightly

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit, covered for 24 to 36 hours (the longer it sits, the stronger the flavor). Strain into a clean bottle using a fine mesh sieve or a funnel lined with a coffee filter. Use this to mix a gin and tonic however you like it. We chose to omit the limes in this case, but a wedge of orange served in the glass might be a fun addition. Also, if you belong to the category of people who despise gin, this can easily be done with vodka, rum, tequila, whiskey, or any liquor of your choosing.

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

This is my other current beverage obsession and a perfect little luxury on weekend mornings. Oranges are really delicious right now!
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Falafal Sandwiches - Dec 13, 2010

Falafal in Pitas with Cucumbers, Lettuce, Hummus and Yogurt Mint Sauce

Ever since my visit to Madison last month I have been craving these. JJ made them for lunch one day and they were so satisfying. I have tried making falafal from scratch, but it always seemed to turn out too mushy. This time around I procured a pre-packaged mix. Saturday, after shoveling out our driveway (for the first time), Nick and I came in and enjoyed this for a hearty lunch. After cooking up some garbanzos, I made a quick hummus and mixed up some yogurt mint sauce, using some freshly made yogurt. I cooked up the falafal JJ style, which is to say I omitted making patties and just pan fried it as if it were ground meat. We stuffed some freshly toasted pitas with slices of cucumber and leaves of lettuce, and then piled in the hummus, falafal and yogurt sauce. This little bit of garbanzo on garbanzo action filled us up so completely that we didn't even make dinner because we were still full. That's pretty impressive on a day that we shoveled 13 inches of snow, including that heavy crap down at the end of the driveway that the plows push up. We got the remaining 4 inches of snow shoveled yesterday, bringing our grand total to 17 inches here in Minneapolis. I hope all you upper Midwesterners are dug out and I hope all the rest of you aren't too jealous of our awesome blizzard!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Adobo Rice with Tomato and Poached Egg - Dec 10, 2010

Brown Rice with Adobo Sauce, Tomatoes and Poached Egg

Can you tell that I'm getting my cooking juju back? This was a little bowl of goodness that came together somewhat intuitively, if you will permit me. I mixed a minced chipotle pepper and some adobo sauce into brown basmati rice. To this I added fresh thyme, chopped peanuts, pickled onions, a poached egg, and the last of our garden tomatoes, which took it's sweet time ripening on my window sill. It would have been better with some cilantro and black beans, but I didn't have any. Despite this, it was pretty tasty and satisfying.

Minneapolis is set for a huge winter storm, with 6 to 10 inches of snow predicted for tonight and tomorrow, followed by some truly frigid temperatures throughout the weekend. I ran all my errands today, along with half the city it seemed, and am prepared for a weekend spent home bound. The pantry is stocked and I am planning some quality time in the kitchen. Happy weekend to you all. Be safe and stay warm!
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Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Gratin - Dec 10, 2010

Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Gratin with Pepper Toast

We have approximately one metric shit ton of sweet potatoes in our 'root cellar' due to a hugely abundant crop from our CSA this year. In an effort to work my way through some of them, I made this meal a few nights ago. It was completely inspired by this recipe that Rima made for Thanksgiving last year, but of course I changed nearly everything, starting with swapping out the butternut squash for sweet potatoes. The leeks also found themselves replaced by a combination of onions and shallots, and chevre got the boot in favor of blue cheese. I decided the hazelnuts could stay. Despite all these modifications, this dish turned out just as rich and delicious as the original, and worked great for an entree along with some pepper toast on the side.

*I don't know if you peeps can tell, but I'm having fun editing photos in a little something called 'picnik' which seems to have appeared in picasa after a recent update. This photo got the winterization treatment. I will try to use my new editing tool sparingly and refrain from putting santa hats on top of everything/making everything look like a polaroid. No promises, however.
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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cauliflower and Kale Salad - Dec 9, 2010

Cauliflower and Flowering Kale with Warm Grain Salad

It's been so long since I've posted that I am trying to rack my brain to remember what was in this dish. I used the last of our CSA cauliflower and some flowering kale, which I sauteed. The grains are the last of a bag from Trader Joe's that I found on my pantry and the mix included cous cous, red quinoa, millet, and orzo. The dressing was some tasty orange infused olive oil from Vinaigrette. It was delicious and vibrant.

I don't know what's been wrong with me lately. I am really in a cooking slump. It's time to get my Christmas baking done and I am dragging my feet. Perhaps a solid day in the kitchen tomorrow will get me back on track.
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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers Pizza - Dec 2, 2010

Turkey and Cranberry Sauce Pizza

Yes, you read right. After you're tired of turkey and mashed potato sandwiches, give this a try with your leftovers. Inspired by a similar pizza made by Fay and me two years ago in the very same kitchen, I whipped this up for me, Nick, Chip, and Nan on our last night in South Carolina. I topped the pizza dough with olive oil and herbs (fresh rosemary from just outside the kitchen door!), shredded turkey, dollops of cranberry sauce, caramelized onions and Harvarti cheese (it's better with Brie, which we used on the original, but Havarti isn't bad either). It's a fun and crafty way to use up some of those massive quantities of leftovers. It tastes good too, trust me.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Stuffing and Sweet Potatoes - Dec 1, 2010

Stuffing and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

We were at Nick's parent's for Thanksgiving this year, and Chip and Nan know how to do Thanksgiving up right, let me tell you. It was great having no cooking duties, however, I found myself craving stuffing in the days before we left town. I ended up making a batch one night last week. I cut up some whole wheat bread, onions, and celeriac and combined with some walnuts, chicken broth and butter and roasted until it was good and toast-y. Certainly, I could have eaten just a whole bowl of that and been happy, but I also roasted some sweet potatoes to balance things out a bit. I put butter and a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder on top of the potatoes, which is my new favorite stand-in for cinnamon. It was very tasty. I hope you all had happy and delicious Thanksgivings!
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The Muddy Mary - Nov 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Anna!

This is a bit belated, but we need to celebrate the last Dinner Club Birthday of 2010 in style. Happy Birthday Ms. Anna! Nick and I crafted this signature cocktail in your honor. For those of you who don't know, Anna is our resident cyclocross star, racing her bicycle over hill and dale and getting deliciously muddy in the process. We thought a kick-ass athlete deserved a kick-ass drink. Cue the Muddy Mary, the perfect sports drink to replenish a drained body. Based on the Bloody Mary, we tweaked things a bit until they were to our liking.

Muddy Mary (makes 2)

1 cup tomato juice
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Bragg liquid aminos
dash of hot sauce (we used Cholula)
pinch of Old Bay Seasoning
pinch of Penzey's Fox Point seasoning
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated horseradish root

Mix these ingredients together and fill a glass halfway. Top off the glass with a favorite beer, we chose New Glarus Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale, because Anna certainly isn't coasting out there on her bike. Mix again and top with a favorite blend of veggies, which in Anna's case would probably mean broccoli, but we used pickles and radishes. The result is a fantastically spicy blend that is lower in alcohol than the original vodka version and perfect for sipping post cyclocross race or for a holiday brunch.

Cheers to you Anna, our dear friend! We wish you the happiest of birthdays and would love to be drinking this with you in the lush green hills of Oregon, after cheering you on to another successful race finish!
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Maple Chipotle Drummies - Nov 17, 2010

Maple Chipotle Drummies

Mmmm...these were a football watching snack this weekend. We've posted wings/drummies before, but really, it's a good idea to revisit this tastiness every so often. I just have to say that these are one thousand times better than any wings I've ever had out at a bar or restaurant. Making them at home means we get to control the level of heat, as well as mix up awesome flavor combinations including maple chipotle, among others. It also means we can roast them instead of frying. Food & Wine posted a bunch of wing recipes last winter and they are still my favorites. You should also check out their sweet and sticky, ginger honey, and Thai green curry recipes.
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Affogato - Nov 16, 2010


Over the weekend, I made a batch of vanilla bean ice cream specifically for the purpose of pouring espresso over it to make this dessert. I used the recipe that came with my Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment, and tweaked it ever so slightly. Instead of using vanilla extract, I used a vanilla bean, which I split to scrape the seeds, putting both bean and seeds in the custard to infuse. I threw in four whole coffee beans to lend subtle flavor to the custard as well. All of these assorted beans I removed before freezing the custard. Once the ice cream was done, all I had to do was brew some espresso and pour it over the ice cream for a super simple and tasty treat. It's like a root beer float's sophisticated Italian aunt.
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Baked Sugar Loaf Radicchio - Nov 15, 2010

Baked Sugar Loaf Radicchio with Sweet Potatoes

Since Sugar Loaf Radicchio was completely new to me, I took a cue from the HVF newsletter and made this baked casserole. First I chopped up the radicchio and sweet potatoes. I mixed these two together and filled a ceramic casserole dish. Next, I poured about 3/4 cup of cream over the veggies and topped with toasted bread crumbs, pine nuts, and Pecorino-Romano cheese, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I baked this in a 375 deg oven for about 45 minutes. The radicchio's flavor is that of a bitter green, very similar to endive, so this bitterness combined with the sweetness of the potatoes and creaminess of the cheese and cream made for a complex and tasty dish. Nick is a huge fan of the bitter greens and really enjoyed this. I must say, I am a fan as well.

Snow Day!

In very exciting news, Minneapolis got a ton of snow on Saturday! Nick and I took advantage of being 'snow bound' and totally piled on the blankets and had a cozy weekend of watching football (yeah Badgers!) and Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. Even though everything is melting now, I am so excited for the cross country ski season ahead of us. The first big snow always makes me a little giddy. I hope you all had great weekends.
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