Gingersnap Recipe

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Husband loves crispy, spicy gingersnaps – the thinner and snappier the better. I wanted to make them for him, so I added it to my pre-thanksgiving baking list, but as I was being overwhelmed with Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins and having to get finished quickly before the trip, I ended up making another version of soft gingerbread cookies. What gives me hope is that the thinnest cookies were indeed quite crisp and delicious, and the thick ones were still yummy, just not snaps. I’d recommend experimenting with gingersnap recipes to find the consistency you like!

A Foodie Thanksgiving

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Normally, there are a variety of Thanksgiving foods that I feel “meh” about – I’m not crazy about the jellied cranberry sauce, wobbling gently on its plate, or plain corn or beans. However, this year, the family outdid themselves, and all kinds of food perfection made it to my plate:

  • The turkey was good, juicy and flavorful, but also had a crispy coat of bacon put on it before being set in the grill to cook.
  • The salad was all picked fresh from my brother-in-law’s garden, and those carrots, radishes, and greens were life-giving in an otherwise heavy meal.
  • The mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole got mixed up on my plate, and I have no regrets: everything was creamy and delicious and spiced with simple pepper, salt, and garlic.
  • The sweet potatoes didn’t have extra sugar on them, but they had butter and cinnamon which brought out all the best flavors of sweet potatoes.
  • The pecan pie was almost entirely pecans, with just enough of the sugary binder to hold it all together, and a homemade crust that just tasted like flaky layers of butter… mmmm. We ate at 3pm and so this was also my “dinner” at 9.
  • Treats like homemade chex mix, chocolate toffee, and thumbprint cookies abounded.

One of the cousins, K, talked about how much she’s enjoyed eating on Whole30, a program I’ve heard about and have considered trying. Husband and I are now resolved that January will be our Whole30 month, which will not be particularly easy but we think it could be good for some of our least healthy cravings to die down (many friends have said they just don’t want cheese and grains as much after the experience). Anyone know and like Whole30? Anyone know it and think it isn’t so great? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

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I remember this one coffee shop in my college town had the best pastries – they never had a wide variety, but of the 2 or 3 things they had, everything was always delicious. My favorite was the muffin with cream cheese in the middle – it was so decadent and added a rich tinge to anything I was eating that day. Not to mention, muffins are so light and airy – it’s a wonderful juxtaposition.

In my attempt to not be a burden on the family Thanksgiving celebration, I was determined to make some breakfast treats, as I mentioned in Adult Children and Family Holidays; one of those things was a batch of these blueberry cream cheese muffins! Crazy For Crust has this wonderful recipe, which worked up exactly as she said. I didn’t do the streusel – lazy – but I am confident they would have been even better with that added!

My favorite step was definitely putting a dollop of batter, a gem of cream cheese, and then another dollop of batter on top – it was a fun construction inside some cute parchment paper muffin tins, and after they cooked all brown and caramel-y, they stored really well in a big gallon plastic bag for the trip to see the in-laws! I cannot recommend these enough as an alternative to grabbing grocery store or coffee shop pastries – fast and simple!

 

Beautiful Food: Sweating Veggies

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The key first step to a great soup or pot pie is this: a pat of butter, a pile of onions and carrots and celery, and the exquisite heat that brings their flavors together. Veggies are beautiful in many forms, but I’m especially grateful for this combination when holidays are coming around – so comforting and fresh smelling and savory!

Beautiful Food: Chicken Pot Pie

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In a post-church hunger, Husband and I made this amazing pot pie, inspired by Seeded at the Table – we used whatever cream soups we had and some sweated veggies and shredded chicken, and made the cheddar biscuits for the top… enough said. It’s getting me through my long day of errands-running before the holiday!

The Return of Fiesta Chicken!

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Whipped up in a hunger-induced tizzy on Thursday night, this mix of leftover veggies, chicken, and rice was covered (not with salsa this time!) with the pepper jack cream sauce I devised in 28. M’s Fiesta Chicken/Arroz con Pollo – so tasty! I’ve been quite happy with the way we tore through the leftover enchiladas, leftover chicken, and now, most of the leftover rice and salad… Parties may feel like they cost a lot, but you’ve got to factor in the delightful leftovers for a week to come!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

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I love trying vegetarian recipes, but so often they call for things that some dinner party guests might not recognize – tempeh, or quinoa, or other plant-based protein. Tofu is pretty well known but not universally enjoyed, so when I found an enchilada recipe that mentioned both sweet potatoes and black beans on Pinterest, I thought, “that sounds hearty and recognizeable!”

I started by roasting a giant pan of sweet potatoes; I wanted to make sure no one had an under-done sweet potato in their enchilada. Then I mixed one can of black beans with chipotle chili pepper, garlic, salt, and a half cup of pepper jack cheese. In hindsight, I’d probably mix in some rice, though I think that takes the recipe more in the direction of a burrito, if I understand my burrito/taco/enchilada continuum correctly. We ended up doing rice on the side, so that was fine.

After the sweet potatoes were tender, I mixed them in with the beans and spices, and took out my store-bought enchilada sauce. I’d certainly love to try my own spice blend on some enchiladas, but this was for a party and I wanted to be sure… I recommend tomatillo and roasted garlic green enchilada sauce! I put enough sauce to wet the sides of the dish, and then began folding flour soft taco shells in half and lining the pan. Once the pan was full, I’d add some of the beans and sweet potatoes, fold up the taco shell, and flip it upside down, making sure it wouldn’t fall apart (I hoped?). It was a little messy and there’s probably a better way to do it, but if you’ve read Eating Together Isn’t Always about the Food, you know I was a little nervous at the time and was improvising.

Once those were all done, I covered them in more cheese and the rest of the sauce; I made 7 sweet potato enchiladas in my 9×13 pan. Into the 400 degree oven then went, though I turned it way down when guests arrived and I just wanted them to stay warm. The nice part was that cooking was good but not necessary for the food to be edible, so I felt confident my guests wouldn’t experience any scary food poisoning… a perpetual fear of dinner party hostesses, or maybe just me.

The result was spicy and hearty, flavorful and surprisingly healthy! It came across as a little different from normal enchiladas but not intense or fancy, which was exactly the balance I wanted to strike. 🙂

Delightful Baklava

img_4959Baklava is a work-intensive food, and though most people don’t want you to go to any trouble just to serve them dessert, I kinda like making a difficult dessert for a gathering – this weekend was no exception, and the dessert ended up divine!

I used this recipe as my base, but mostly just did what I wanted; Baklava is not so much mixed together as it is constructed like a house.

The materials for construction were: 1 pound or so of pistachios mixed with a half cup of brown sugar and ground down almost to a powder in my food processor. A pack of fillo dough, thawed and unrolled right before construction (it dries out very quickly and just flakes away into nothing!). A cup of melted butter, and a syrup made of vanilla, honey, water, and more sugar.

Construction proceeds thusly: butter the pan and then fillo dough in the bottom of the baking dish (9×13 worked well for me), more butter, more fillo, more butter, more fillo, a layer of nuts with a smattering of butter, fillo/butter/fillo/butter/fillo/nuts/butter/fillo… until you are out of fillo or the pan is full. If you are still left with a lot of butter, that’s okay. You need to cut the dish before you cook, if at all possible, because it will be much harder to cut after baking – once cut, you can pour the remaining butter on each cut area and it’ll soak in perfectly.

My recipe had me bake for 50 minutes at 350, and it turned out beautiful, as you can see. That gives you plenty of time to melt the ingredients of the syrup together. When the baklava comes out, the syrup is poured all over it while it’s still hot, creating a fun bubbling sound and the best wafting smell of vanilla ever… it soaks into the dessert and doesn’t end up soupy, just sticky and sweet.

It’s nice to be able to try this in a lot of variations – less sweet, more honey, try rosewater as a flavoring, try different nuts – but this classic was a hit with my guests. One woman ate 4 pieces! This is a wonderful compliment for a chef, even if we all know that the butter was the MVP. 🙂

Fast, Tasty, Plant-Based Breakfast

img_4954There is much yet to be done to prepare the house and the food for tonight’s party, so here is a quick recipe for you that yields a lovely breakfast to start your day of things-getting-done.

  1. Cut up at least one potato per person and a quarter of an onion per person, and use your favorite spices and a dash of olive oil to brown them in a pan.
  2. This will take a while, so use the time between pan-scraping to mix half an avocado, a teaspoon (or a tablespoon…) of sour cream, and a tablespoon of your favorite salsa in a small bowl. It should be a creamy sauce, not a chunky guacamole – think crema. Best to use a super-ripe avocado! Add salt and garlic powder to taste.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked through and crisped on the outside, serve in bowls with some of the avocado crema on top. Yes, there’s some dairy in there, but for the most part, you’ve got a hearty plant-based breakfast that tastes like someone’s brunch menu.

What’s your favorite food for going out and getting things done? This one vanished quickly for us and, once I post this blog entry, we’re off!

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