Monthly Archives: November 2012
Just over a month ago, I got to spend a long weekend away with my blogging girlfriends in Connecticut. Since this was my first time being away from Clara, I was absolutely terrified of leaving. It’s not that I doubt Eric’s parenting skills (please, he’s amazing), it’s just that I was worried about being away from her for that long. Up until this trip, I had spent every day since she was born with her. Of course Clara was fine, and we even got to FaceTime while I was gone. She and Eric had a lovely weekend, and she didn’t seem to mind at all that I had been gone.
This trip had been in the works since February, back when I was surprised to find Annie, Josie and Tara here in Richmond. We knew we had to get together again, this time with Elly, and it just so happened that Tara’s house was the perfect place to do it. She invited us all, plane tickets were bought and plans were made. It’s hard to succinctly describe the weekend because it was almost indescribable. Just like when they visited me earlier this year, it was almost surreal. This is what blogging is truly about – the people met and friendships made. These are some of my best friends, and I hate that we live so far apart. Even though we text and email daily, it’s not the same as being able to cook a meal together or share a laugh at something ridiculous online. I absolutely treasure the time we get to spend together, even if it isn’t as often as we’d like.
We all flew in Thursday night, and I was so excited to be able to wait at the gate for Annie and Josie to arrive because people never get to do that anymore. I curled up in the nearly-empty terminal and finished reading Divergent, which I had only just started when I left Virginia (if you like dystopian novels, you must check this one out!). As soon as I saw them coming off the plane, it was like no time had passed since we last saw each other. Once Elly arrived and we made it to Tara’s house, we stayed up way too late catching up. This is par for the course for us, and thankfully Tara had plenty of coffee for us to drink the next morning. For Friday morning breakfast, Tara took us to one of her favorite local spots, Leo’s, where I tried hollandaise for the first time. I have the hardest time deciding between sweet and savory for breakfast (please tell me I’m not the only one), but thankfully Josie got a waffle topped with pumpkin cannoli filling and shared some with me. It was the perfect start to our day. That night, Tara drove us to the Hudson Valley area of New York, and we had dinner at Taste in Buchanan. We shared a cheese platter that had the most amazing blueberry honey, and I had Stella battered lobster tails as my entrée. After dinner, we went to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and got to see thousands of illuminated pumpkins. On our hunt for post-pumpkin blaze dessert, we stumbled across Sleepy Hollow. I love that story, and I love the Johnny Depp film too, so you can guess how excited I was when we randomly found the area. After being touristy and taking a picture with the sign, we continued on our dessert quest until we came across a frozen yogurt/crepe shop. After dessert, we went back to Tara’s and again stayed up way too late chatting (do you see a theme here?).
Saturday, we went to Cupcake Camp New Haven, and had a healthy lunch of pizza and cupcakes. The variety of flavors was insane, and this is coming from someone that worked in a cupcake shop. We taste-tested as many as we could before stopping for lunch. Some were out-of-this-world original, some were simple but flavorful and others were lacking in originality and taste. My favorite was the french toast, and I hope I can recreate it at home soon. I don’t even want to guess how many cupcakes we tasted that day, and I’m glad that we cut each one into five pieces to share. For lunch, we had the most amazing pizza at BAR, where Cupcake Camp was held. Tara recommended the mashed potato pizza, and it was such a unique and delicious combination. After lunch, Tara drove us around Yale, and it’s a gorgeous campus. I’m so glad we got a tour from someone who knows so much about it.
Somehow, even after all the cupcakes, we still needed dinner that night. We spent some time hanging out on Tara’s front porch and planning the menu. We finally decided on chorizo cheese dip, guacamole, and shrimp enchiladas. It was my first time eating homemade tortillas, and I can’t believe I haven’t made them myself. That will most definitely be changing soon. We ate dinner late because we were all talking and photographing while we cooked. If you’re a food blogger, there is seriously nothing better than cooking with your best blogging pals. As sad as I was for the weekend to end, I was glad to get home to Eric and Clara. I’ll spare you the details of my trip home, but it involved me running through the Philadelphia airport carrying my ridiculously heavy bag only to miss my connecting flight. Still, it was all worth it because I had such a fabulous time.
Since this is a food blog, it will come as no surprise to you to find out that I like to DIY ingredients and foods that some people might normally buy. (See: caramel sauce
, peppermint simple syrup
, hamburger buns
, granola bars
and even pasta
.) What can I say? I like doing things the homemade way. This barbecue sauce is no exception, and I guarantee you you’ll be hesitant to go back to the store-bought kind once you see how easy and delicious this one is.
This sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy (you know, in case the title didn’t give it away). I’m not a fan of those cloyingly sweet barbecue sauces, but I also don’t like ones that taste like a bottle of vinegar. This one is the best of both worlds and is a great recipe to have because it will please almost anyone. It takes less than 20 minutes to make this sauce, and I promise it’s time well spent. You can do so many different things with it (I’ve got a couple recipes to share soon), and it keeps in the refrigerator for a week. Eric was recently away on business for several days, and I made pretty much every dinner around this barbecue sauce. This time of year can be hectic, so I’m planning to make a jar of this to have on hand to toss with shredded chicken on the nights I know will be particularly crazy. Also, if you’re gifting anyone a grill for Christmas, this could be a fun little extra to include.
Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce
1 onion, peeled and quartered
¼ cup water
1 cup ketchup
5 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1½ teaspoons liquid smoke (optional but recommended)
1 teaspoon hot sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place the onion and water in a food processor, and pulse for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture is slushy. Press through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup. You should have ½ cup of liquid. Discard the solids.
Add the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, liquid smoke, hot sauce and pepper to the onion water. Whisk until well combined.
Heat oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the liquid mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Cool to room temperature before serving or storing. Sauce can be refrigerated, in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
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I know I already posted my Thanksgiving recipe ideas
, but I couldn’t resist adding one more dessert to that list. I made this pumpkin tart over the weekend, and it was too good not to share before Thursday. This tart is like pumpkin pie’s more sophisticated older sibling. The filling to crust ratio is much better than standard pumpkin pie, and this one has bourbon. Automatic win. Pumpkin pie really doesn’t stand a chance next to this tart.
This recipe is about as simple as a dessert can be, and you can even make the tart dough ahead of time to cut down on day-of prep. You don’t even need a stand mixer for the filling, just a bowl and a whisk. The texture is similar to pumpkin pie, but the flavor is a step above. The spices add all the flavors you would expect from a fall dessert, and the bourbon adds a hint of something special. I’m not sure I’d be able to recognize it as bourbon if I hadn’t put it in there myself, but it definitely adds a distinguishing flavor. I was a bit hesitant to add the full half-teaspoon of cloves since I’m not a huge clove fan, but I followed the recipe and am so glad I did. The amount of spice in this tart is simply perfect and only helps to elevate the pumpkin flavor. If you really want to take this over the top, make whipped cream with a splash of bourbon and pipe it around the borders (just don’t make the mistake I did and pipe it while the tart is still warm). So, to recap, we’ve got bourbon and pumpkin, two things that are practically a necessity for family holiday gatherings (at least in my family). Replace your pumpkin pie with this tart for Thanksgiving, and I promise everyone will be thanking you.
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup sugar
⅔ cup (11 tablespoons) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup chilled heavy whipping cream (plus more as needed)
For the pumpkin filling:
1 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin
3 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup firmly packed, dark-brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup bourbon
Freshly whipped cream, for serving (optional)
To make the crust, combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed for about 1½ minutes, until the mixture looks crumbly with small, pea-sized pieces of butter throughout. Whisk together the egg and the cream, then add to the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined, and then continue mixing for about 10 more seconds. If the dough is too dry to form a ball, add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together. Gently mold the dough into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
When ready to make the tart, generously flour a large surface. Roll the dough into a circle about ⅛-inch thick, fold over the rolling pin and transfer to a 10-inch tart pan. Gently press the dough into place. Heat oven to 350º.
To make the filling, spoon the pumpkin to a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, one at time, until thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the sugar and spices, then the cream and bourbon. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling has set. Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before serving. When ready to serve, top with freshly whipped cream, if desired.
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Though I can hardly believe it, Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Before it gets here, we’ll be traveling to Philadelphia to see a specialist about Clara’s hand. As you can imagine, we’re most definitely thankful to have something fun to look forward to after that (not that we’re expecting bad news, but the time with family will be a welcome distraction). We’re celebrating Thanksgiving with my dad and little brother this year, and we are super pumped about visiting them and spending some time in Charleston (my first time there). They just moved into a new house, and we’re so happy that we get to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a brand new kitchen. The thing we’re most excited about? My dad’s fried turkey. It’s succulent, crispy and perfect, and I pretty much want to keep it all to myself. Our usual tradition is to eat one at Christmas, but since Eric and I are celebrating Christmas in Virginia this year, we get to eat fried turkey a month early. Heck yes!
Even though we’re not hosting Thanksgiving, I kind of took over planning the menu. My dad is making the usual Thanksgiving fare – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes – and I’m making the green bean casserole, rolls, some type of sweet potatoes and dessert. We’re still debating what vegetables we want to make, but the menu is mostly finalized. And since no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without wine, we’ll be taking along a couple bottles from our favorite Virginia wineries. I’m sure we’re going to have a fabulous time, and I’m already salivating thinking about that fried turkey. It’s no joke, guys. If you’re still searching for some ideas for your menu, here are some of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving.
Fried Herbed Almonds
Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Goat Cheese, Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Terrine
From-Scratch Green Bean Casserole
Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese
Crispy Roasted Potatoes
Rosemary and Pepper Dinner Rolls
Bubble Top Brioches
Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits
Roasted Garlic Compound Butter
Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
Classic Pumpkin Roll
As fall fades away and the dark creeps into the early evening hours, we find ourselves bundling up with winter blankets near the warmth of our fireplace. This is, without a doubt, soup weather. Soup is a food that literally warms you from the inside out, and that’s always a welcome treat in the winter. Since the cool weather is really just beginning here, I’m sure this soup will become a staple on our menu well into the new year.
While this classic chicken noodle soup is one of my favorites this time of year, I thought it would be fun to change things up a bit and give a new chicken soup a try. I’m so glad I did. This creamy soup is rich and comforting, thanks to a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your perspective) dose of brie and half and half. Don’t fret, though, because there’s also a good bit of spinach in this soup, which totally makes up for the amount of dairy goodness in it (hah, if only). Served with a slice of crusty bread, this is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal that’s perfect for chilly weather.
Creamy Chicken and Brie Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
3 cups raw spinach, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2½ cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
8 ounces brie cheese, chopped into small pieces
½ cup half and half
Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and pepper and cook for about 6 minutes, or until they start to soften. Stir in the spinach and garlic. Add the butter and, once it's melted, whisk in the flour to create a roux. Continue whisking for about a minute, just until the roux comes together.
Add the chicken, broth and milk to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the brie and stir until it has melted completely, about 5 minutes. Stir in the half and half. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the soup is boiling, decrease heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes.
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