Blood, Bones & Butter

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Over vacation I discovered that I can borrow e-books from the library and read them on my laptop using Kindle for PC. A few I titles I was interested in were already “checked out” but Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef was available and it sounded worth my time.

What a great read! I couldn’t “put it down”. It’s a memoir written by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune restaurant in New York City. She starts by reminiscing of her childhood and her family’s annual pig roasts and the imagery is just incredible. As an adult, she marries an Italian and spends a month every summer in Italy – so as you can imagine, her descriptions of her time there are fascinating.

Though I had never heard of her prior to reading this book, I am definitely a fan of her approach at cooking (and eating!) as it is much similar to mine (I’d like to think, anyway) in that she takes a “no frills” approach. She believes that food should be straight forward and that the flavors should come from the quality of the food itself and not by adding “foams” or “emulsions”.

If you are a fan of memoirs, especially ones that involve food, you will enjoy this book. The author’s journey to becoming a chef was both an accident and an adventure.

Side note: I totally recommend the e-book feature from the library – getting a book to read for free (for a 14 day rental period) without even leaving my house? Sounds good to me!

Vegan Lentil Pâté

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If you’ve had pâté before, the animal kind, and enjoyed it – then you will most likely be a fan of this vegan version. As you may know if you eat lentils, they almost mimic meat in that they are protein rich and super filling. While the flavors in this create a pâté that is unique, it is remarkably reminiscent of it’s animal-based counterparts.

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If you’re skeptical, I don’t blame you. There are a bunch of less common, perhaps even intimidating, ingredients in this recipe. Finding Umeboshi paste (plum paste) took a trip to the local Asian Supermarket where I could not find it, a trip to my local health food store where it was too expensive for my wallet and finally a trip to Whole Foods where I splurged on it because I had a gift certificate. The Mirin (sweet cooking sauce) and Miso I picked up at the Asian Supermarket for quite a bit less than the regular supermarket/health food store. The French lentils I picked up in the bulk bins at Whole Foods and they were even cheaper at my local health food store. So all in all, it’s not a cheap dish but you’ll only be using a bit of the more expensive ingredients so you can make it many times (and I suspect after one taste you will want to) over.

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If it’s the actual idea that this is pâté that makes you reluctant, perhaps you are vegan, don’t let that deter you. It doesn’t taste “meaty” by any means, it is reminiscent of pâté in that it has great depth of flavors.

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Vegan Lentil Pâté

from Bojon Gourmet

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c dried green lentils (sometimes called “French lentils”)
  • 3 c water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 med yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 T Mirin
  • 1 1/4 c walnuts (I used a combination of walnuts, pecans and cashews – what I had on hand), toasted in oven at 350 for 10 minutes and cooled
  • 1 T fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 T miso (I used the yellow/brown variety)
  • 1 1/2 T Umeboshi paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Add water, lentils and bay leaf to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then cover partially and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender but not mushy. Stir occasionally to ensure lentils don’t stick to bottom of pan. When lentils are done, drain and allow to cool completely. I suggest putting them in the refrigerator, spread on a plate, to speed up the process.

While lentils are cooking, add 2 T olive oil to another pan heated over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the Mirin and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely, I put mine in the refrigerator to speed this up.

Add the toasted and cooled nuts to the food processor and process until they have become the consistency of nut butter. Add the lentils and onion-garlic mixture and process until smooth. Add in the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Drizzle with olive oil and additional fresh herbs for serving. I served mine with a baguette cut into thin slices.

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NYE Snack: Sriracha Party Mix

I’m not a goal setter but here, in front of you few loyal readers, I hope to post more in 2012. With that said, please make and enjoy one of the favorite things to come out of my kitchen this year.

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Wish I could take credit for the recipe because it’s a good one, but I can’t. You can find the details regarding measurements and such over at The Food in My Beard.

What you will need:

  • Chex cereal (I used rice… a mix of rice and corn would be or Crispix)
  • Wasabi Peas
  • pretzels
  • Chow Mein Noodles
  • Peanuts
  • Butter
  • Sriracha
  • Soy Sauce (I actually used a combination of soy, Worcestershire, and Hendersons Relish)
  • Garlic (minced)
  • Ginger (minced)

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Add dry ingredients to bowl.

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Mix wet ingredients in another smaller bowl. Pour wet into dry mixture.

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I found it easiest to mix with my hands – just make sure wet mixture isn’t still piping hot.

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Spread mixture onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

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Seek out the pieces that are clumped together – they are the best.

Warning: this is quite spicy… make sure you have a beverage, or two, nearby when eating.

Where is Santa?

Merry Christmas Eve, folks. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then Happy Holidays to you and hopefully you are enjoying time with loved ones.

Currently I’m sitting by the tree, enjoying a glass of wine and watching Home Alone… one of my all time favorite holiday flicks.

In case you were wondering, I have an important update:

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Santa’s current location is Tarrafal, Cape Verde. Looks like he’ll be crossing the ocean to our continent pretty soon though.

So, I saw this survey cropping up around the interwebs and thought I’d participate for fun (the wine helps).

Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Always wrapped. That’s part of the fun!

Colored lights on tree/house or white?

Definitely white. Though I’ve seen trees tastefully done with colored lights, white it is for me!

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

I’d probably say stuffing or potatoes… though squash is definitely right up there! Oh and Christmas morning we always have some sort of coffee cake – I think I look forward to that more than Christmas dinner itself!

Favorite holiday memory as a child?

Definitely Christmas morning – my brother and I would wake up SUPER early and were allowed to open up our stockings. Then we’d watch a Christmas movie until mom and dad got up to open the rest of the gifts.

Snow? Love it or dread it?

I don’t mind it for Christmas – after that I’m quite all set.

Real tree or fake tree?

Real! My parents have always had real trees. I will say, though, that I don’t even get a tree for my place because I can’t stand the clean up – pine needles, woof.

What’s the most important thing about Christmas for you?

Being with family and friends, of course, and just the “magical-ness” of the day.

What is your favorite holiday dessert?

We have different desserts every year, but I don’t think it’s Christmas without at least one peanut butter ball tasting!

What is your favorite tradition?

Again, Christmas morning. We have coffee, eat coffee cake and open presents in our pajamas. Typically there is a viewing of the Disney Christmas Parade at some point.

What tops your tree?

A star

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Carol of the Bells

What do you leave for Santa?

Nothing, both of the Santa’s in this house are watching their figures Winking smile

Do you have a Christmas morning tradition?

See above.

Do you prefer to shop on-line or at the mall?

I did a little bit of both this year.

Wishing Everyone a Happy, Healthy Holiday and New Year!

Current Obsessions, Vol. 1

I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, promise. I’ve just had no interest in blogging. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch… I just haven’t had much to blog about. Having December off has been just what I needed. For the first time in months, I’ve actually allowed myself to watch TV after work and spend hours doing absolutely nothing and NOT feel guilty about it. Okay, well there’s some guilt there when I look at the laundry pile in my bedroom that just never seems to go away but, you get it.

Anyway, because I’m sure you find yourself at my blog because I’m highly fashionable (read: not at all, today I realized shortly before closing time at work that my sweater had been on backwards all day) and have impeccable taste in all of the things, I present to you: my current obsessions.

1. The apartment has no tree or wreath but I do have what I have titled, for the sake of this post, my holiday corner. It’s actually not a corner at all but rather the top of my radiator unit. Classy should have been my middle name.

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How embarrassed I should be for showing you the 5 Christmas cards I’ve received this year. But I’m not, because it’s my holiday corner and I don’t care about your hundreds of cards.

2. This candle. It smells amazing. I light it when I get home from work,  or when something doesn’t smell right.

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3. These Gorgonzola Biscuits. WOW. Jessica posted these today and I already made them. But not the pinot noir butter, not today anyway, I had TV to watch remember?

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They don’t look quite like hers (read: not at all), but were still cheesy deliciousness.

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Oozing cheese, is there any other kind worth eating?

4. And speaking of Jessica, I made her Gingersnap Crusted Salmon for dinner last night. SO good. So so SO so so SO good.

5. Burnt Habanero Crema Salsa. I’ve made this twice now. Once with sour cream in place of the crema (couldn’t find it) and once with Greek yogurt. Both times it was fantastic and both times my mouth was on serious fire.

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Bring it to a party. Wow your friends. Their mouths will burn but they won’t be able to get enough.

6. My Growler of Blue Hills Brewery: Black Hops. Though the brewery isn’t too far from where I live, I found growlers at my local liquor store. I can’t get enough of this delicious dark beer.

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What are your latest obsessions? TELL ME, TELL ME! Food, drinks, music, restaurants?!

Muffins and Muppets

Long time, no post. Good news is, my finals are over and I’m on break from school for the month of December. I thought that a break from classes meant I’d be posting a lot more but I’ve been enjoying relaxing and being obligation free so much I haven’t really gotten around to it.

I did make some delicious Clementine Date Muffins. The recipe is a Pinterest find and I barely made any changes to it so here it is:

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Photo Source and Recipe

In other news, Matt and I went to see The Muppets last night. It was such a fun movie. I busted out laughing during the song, “Am I a man? … or a muppet?” I actually have been singing it all day. So ridiculous.

Speaking of movies, I still need to go see Breaking Dawn. Anyone?

Well, hopefully I’ll whip up something in the kitchen blogworthy soon but in the meantime, go see The Muppets and sing the man-muppet song all day the next day to your coworkers.

I’m off to watch more Vampire Diaries on netflix, is anyone else into this show?!

Better than Biscoff

I stopped at Trader Joe’s in Portland, Maine yesterday on my way back to Massachusetts and found this:

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It’s seriously amazing and I can’t keep my fingers out of the jar. It must be the gingerbread but it tastes just like the holidays to me. Though I’m a HUGE fan of Biscoff spread, I think this takes the cake.

That’s all.

Now go run and get some!

Almond Joy Doughy Cookies

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It will come as no surprise that coconut is one of my favorite ingredients. I think it is delicious in both sweet and savory foods – I actually may even prefer it in savory – but these are an exception. The coconut, along with the chocolate and almond, marry well to make some of the most fantastic cookies I’ve ever made.

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Almond Joy Doughy Cookies

makes about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. homemade almond butter
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy whipped butter spread (regular butter is fine)
  • 1/2 t. almond extract
  • 1 t. coconut extract
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. mini chocolate chips
  • 1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk (regular milk is fine)

With a mixer, beat together almond butter, sugars, butter and extracts.

In a separate bowl, mix together baking powder, baking soda, salt and flours.

Add dry mixture to mixer bowl a little at a time. Beat until fully incorporated. Repeat until dry mixture is fully mixed with wet ingredients.

Dough may seem a little mealy. Add in almond milk 1/4 c. at a time until a dough forms.

Once dough is formed, stir in chocolate chips and coconut.

Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Scoop using a tablespoon measuring spoon and place on ungreased cookie sheet (or you can use a sheet lined with parchment). Leave about a half inch between cookies because they will spread a little.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Not a minute longer. This is the key to keeping them super soft!

Let cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling racks.

Try not to eat them all while transferring to cookie sheet to cooling rack.

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Drizzle with melted chocolate if you wish. This will make them more “almond joy” like. But you don’t have to – they are great just the way they are.

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Banana Coconut Mini Donuts

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On Friday night for dinner I had 1/2 a leftover chile relleno and 4 of these.

Yes, I said 4.

Don’t look at me like that.

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Now do you see why?

These are itty-bitty and perfect for popping in your mouth one after another.

I made them using this, a birthday gift (thanks Ben & Amanda!)

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Banana Coconut Donuts very slight adapted from Bakingdom

for 3 dozen mini-donuts

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 T buttermilk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 c cake flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 6 T coconut spread, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut

Mash bananas and add in buttermilk and vanilla. Stir and set aside. In another bowl combine flour, baking soda and baking powder, set aside. In another bowl, beat together coconut spread and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, mix until combined. Add some of the flour mixture to the coconut spread/sugar mixture until combined, add some of the banana mixture. Alternate adding flour and banana mixtures until it’s all combined. Gently stir in coconut at end.

Place mixture in a ziploc bag (cup the end off) and pipe into preheated donut maker*. Cook until golden in color, about 7 minutes.

*Alternately preheat oven to 350, pipe donut mixture into well-greased donut pan. Cook for about 10 minutes or until golden in color.

Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 t milk
  • food coloring
  • sprinkles

Combine sugar and milk and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Add food coloring. Dip donuts in glaze as soon as they are cool enough to handle (but still warm). Add sprinkles.

Enjoy.

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Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

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Hopefully some of you stuck around…

I know I’ve been absent but I haven’t done a lot of cooking lately. Unless making soup on Sunday and eating it until Thursday, counts. Between traveling to Maine for one of my best friend’s weddings, school projects and laziness, there hasn’t been much to share with you.

But I feel that might be changing. I hope so anyway. Life seems to have slowed down a bit. (As if I’m saying that going into the holiday season!!)

So anyway. This bread. I will NOT be making it again. Why? Because I cannot stop eating it.

Okay, so I lied, I most definitely will be making it again. It’s addictive and it PULLS APART! It’s just begging for me to take “one more piece” before I walk away from it.

I hope it lasts the weekend.

Actually I don’t because then I can make more.

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Okay, so this photo is heinous. I have some explaining to do. In the recipe (to follow) for the frosting, you will see that I used coconut oil. My intentions here was to create a bread with a glaze rather than frosting. And I was successful, as you will see, so consider this a “before” picture if you will.

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I couldn’t resist pulling a piece off while it was still warm… and eating it while I still had my camera in my hand. I may or may not have dipped this piece in the extra glaze.

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This is the aforementioned “after” photo. As you can see, the “glaze” is now (mostly) clear. If it’s any indication to the deliciousness of this bread, know that the reason this picture is cropped like-so is because 1/3 of the loaf is already gone. Truth.

Make. This. Now.

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
  • 3/4 c warm water
  • 1/2 c quick cooking steel cut oats
  • 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 T Earth Balance coconut spread, melted (or butter)
  • 1 T chia seeds mixed with 3 T water (or 1 egg)
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 c all-purpose flour

For filling:

  • 3 T Earth Balance coconut spread, softened (or butter)
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 t ground cinnamon

For glaze:

  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 1/2 t unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 4 1/2 t coconut oil, softened

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, coconut spread, chia egg, salt and 1 c AP flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

3. Punch dough down. Toll into an 18-in. x 12-in. rectangle. Spread with coconut spread. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough to within 1/2 in. of edges.

4. Cut into 36 (approximate) 3-in. x 2-in. rectangles. Make 2 stacks of 18 (approximate) rectangles. Place, cut sides up, in a greased 9-in x 5-in. load pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Make glaze and drizzle over warm bread.

Serves one I mean, 12. Enjoy!