Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu

Since Full Circle Farm is now offering delivery of their CSA boxes, and not just pick-up, we signed back up about a week and a half ago.  In perfect timing to plan most of our Thanksgiving cooking around fresh, organic, and local ingredients.  This is the first year that I'm spending with Matao's family, and the first year in quite a few that will be a bit more civilized.  Hah!  Dinner + party vs. dinner party... there's a big difference.  I'm grateful to not have to worry about the turkey or mashed potatoes (I'm not a fan) this year, and instead I get to focus on making exactly what I want to make.  I am cooking with meat this year (as opposed to last year where everything I made was vegan!) but I did a quick walk through of Ballard Farmers Market this afternoon and picked up some locally raised sausage from Skagit River Ranch, which I feel more than okay about serving.  I also picked up the very last jalapenos that we'll see for a while, and a couple of apples for a quick snack this afternoon.  Anyway... here are the dishes that we'll be making, along with Matao's goat cheese stuffed and prosciutto wrapped jalapenos, mulled wine, and the side of wild king salmon that we've been saving.

- Country Bread Stuffing with Smoked Ham, Goat Cheese, and Dried Cherries ... I made this a few years ago, substituting good quality bacon for the ham, and cranberries for the cherries.  I seriously could have just sat in the kitchen by myself and devoured the entire pan.  This stuff is wonderful.  My love muffin Amy had a great hookup at the time for goat cheese, and we added much more than the recipe called for.  I don't think you can ever go wrong with that.

- Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon ... This is more of just an approximation.  I'm not much of a recipe follower when it comes to cranberry sauce.  I made some last night for a "practice" version of Thanksgiving, with red wine, fresh orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, and fresh ginger.  Absolutely wonderful.  Honestly, I'll probably just eat cranberry sauce and stuffing on Thursday and be happy as can be.

- Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms ... This is one of those recipes that relies 100% on the quality of ingredients that you use.  This is where locally sourced Italian sausage comes in, as well as (hopefully) homemade soft cheese.  If I don't have the time for cheese making I'll be tracking down something else that's soft, and much nicer than basic cream cheese.  This is another recipe that I've made before, and it really does turn out beautifully if you pay attention to your ingredients.  I can't even go off too much on that though, because the last time we made it I brushed the mushrooms with PBR instead of wine.  Oops. 

- Herbed Goat Cheese Tart  ...  Yes, more goat cheese.  I've been dying for a reason to make this, and if Thanksgiving isn't it, then I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. 

- Sweet Potato Pie with Three Nut Topping ... I'm using ginger cookies for the crust, rather than graham crackers.  I've never actually made or had sweet potato pie before, but I thought I'd mess around with something other than pumpkin or pecan.  Plus our CSA is coming with a ton of them, and I'm not a big fan of candied sweet potatoes/yams. 


As is typical with me- more will come about as I get to cooking.  We'll also be seeing an abundance of squash and potatoes with our CSA and I know I'll be hard pressed to really leave them alone.  We'll see!  What are you planning on making?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Air Plants

How did I have no idea that these existed before?  I was dinking around on Etsy like I do pretty much 37 hours a day and stumbled upon a listing identical to this.  HI!  You are so wonderful!  Plants that can just sit in cute pots that don't need dirt and turn pretty colors and are resilient to pretty much anything???  You are my soul mate!

So, needless to say- I ordered them and should have them by the end of the weekend.  I have a sort of obnoxious collection of little pots and egg cups with nothing in them that are just DYING to have cute little air plants in them.

Ahhh I am a genius.  And for bonus points, she also offers a three month subscription! 

My life is ridiculous.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Noooooo big deal.  Just chompin' on fresh Southeast Alaskan king crab legs... la la la.  I whine about work a lot... but this is one of the biggest, hugest, most wonderful perks.  That and health insurance.  Hah!  Sorry, I'm done being a jerk now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Ground Black Pepper, Cranberry Curd, and Whiskey Buttercream

Whoa.  That's a mouthful.

I made these cupcakes on Sunday night for a co-workers birthday.  It's the best vanilla cupcake/cake recipe that I've found, with a touch of fresh ground black pepper.  I know it sounds weird, but they were absolutely delicious.  I wanted a cupcake that would pair nicely with fresh cranberry curd, and I didn't want to go with just straight-up sweet.  I wanted something with a kick- and these were perfect.  They're also super easy to veganize, since they already call for shortening (I tried them with butter and it just wasn't the same), and the eggs and milk are easy to sub out.  I'd go for a flax meal or Ener-G sub rather than tofu, though.  Unfortunately I have no idea how to veganize curd at the moment, but really, they'd still be lovely with a dallop of jam or fresh cranberry sauce.  Alternately- here is a recipe for vegan lemon curd that you may be able to experiment with using fresh cranberries.  They're acidic enough that it just may work.  The whiskey buttercream came into play because I wanted something simple, but contrasting enough to do something of its own.  They went over wonderfully and I will 100% be making them again.  The recipes I've written out are the way that I made mine, and the original recipes can be found in the links (other than the whiskey buttercream, which is my own).  Onward!


- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon good sea salt
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (entirely a matter of taste!)
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 3/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla 
- 2 large eggs or equivalent egg substitute 

- Set oven to 350 degrees F
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour with sugar, baking powder, salt, and fresh cracked pepper until combined.
- Add in the shortening, milk, vanilla and eggs (or sub) and mix thoroughly.  The batter may be a bit thick, which is just fine.  You can add a splash of milk if it freaks you out.
- Pour into paper-lined regular size muffin tins filling under just three-quarters full. 
- Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the cupcakes test done.  DO NOT overbake.  Seriously.  I did this with some of mine and the texture was blah.
- Immediately remove from pans and allow to cool before filling/frosting.

Cranberry Curd:

- 2 very full cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs


- Combine the cranberries and water, and cook over low/med heat until all of your cranberries are popped.
- Force cooked cranberries through a food mill, or a fine mesh strainer- and return puree to saucepan.
- Over low heat, add the sugar and butter, allowing them both to melt without boiling.
- Beat eggs in a seperate bowl, and very slowly add to cranberry mixture.  It is VERY important that your cranberries not be too hot, otherwise the eggs will cook on contact and you'll end up with a nasty mess.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for around six minutes.   DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL!!!(!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- Your curd is done once it thickens and holds whisk marks.  It tends to happen rather quickly, so keep an eye on your curd while mixing.
- Set aside and allow to cool.

Whiskey Buttercream:

- 1/2 cup butter or shortening
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon whiskey (the cheap stuff is just fine!)
- 2+ tablespoons milk or non-dairy milk


- Dump everything into a food processor or bowl with a mixer, and mix the hell out of it, until it looks/feels/tastes like frosting.  Add more sugar or liquid as needed.  Fresh vanilla bean is also a nice addition. 


- Once cupcakes are cool, use either a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out the middle of the cupcake (don't go all the way down- just about halfway).
- Fill your holes back up with a good sized dallop of cranberry curd, then let them hang out in the freezer or your patio for about an hour.
- Top with a generous helping of buttercream, and if you're feeling extra fancy and special like I was at work the next day- a couple of candied cranberries*.

* Candied cranberries can be made by heating one part water to one and half parts sugar over medium/high heat until just boiling.  Allow to cool, then add about a cup of cranberries.  Put in the fridge for at least 24 hours, allowing the berries to get nice and sugary sweet.  Drain simple syrup from berries, then roll in sugar.  Place on wax paper, and allow to dry for about an hour. 


+ One more thing about these cupcakes-  even if you don't want to go through all of the extra steps of making the curd or an alcoholics dream version of frosting- at least try the cupcakes with fresh pepper.  I promise it will change you.  For the better.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Link Love!

This is really photo heavy for some reason.  Who cares!  My favorites right now:

- Ryan over at Go Means Go just posted an article on putting together your first alleycat that covers a lot of great points.  Ryan has organized a lot of really well put together races and is a good resource if it's something you're interested in doing.

- Thanksgiving Tables via Flickr on Re-Nest.  Agh!  I am a nerd.


- This womans photography is fantastic.  Garden of Knowledge is hands down my favorite set.


- Rubber Sidewalks Rescue Trees.  This is so cool, and totally genius.

- I made these last week.  Matao liked them, but I thought they were much too hard.  The flavor was amazing though, so I think I'm going to try re-making them with eggs this time.

- Hahahaha.  Not a link.  But still.  I love Married to the Sea.

- A really wonderful article about how photographers got their toughest shot.

- Daily Drop Cap rules.   This is obviously my favorite.

- This makes me feel so sick every time I look at it, yet it's completely beautiful in a really horrific way.


"These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking."

- And finally, on a much less depressing note, here's Luna, again.  She has been INSANE this week.  This isn't her yawning... it's her trying to eat Matao whole.  Aside from that, she's decided that everything that I eat is hers too.  She helped herself to my lemon/ginger/blueberry muffin that lovely Becca made me, she took a bite out of the peanut butter falling out the bottom of my PBJ the other night, and yesterday she snatched a tortilla chip right out of my hand.  What a dear.


Monday, November 9, 2009

North Douglas Chocolate Cake

This recipe is kidnapped from The Fiddlehead Cookbook which was a staple in most of the kitchens of my childhood.  Unfortunately The Fiddlehead restaurant is no longer around- but this chocolate cake (and their French onion soup) were, to me, the two things that mattered the most.  I had to dig around online to find this recipe, since I don't own the book (AHEM HINT HINT), but now that I have it I think that it needs to be shared.  It doesn't look like anything all too special- but I have always thought of it as the most perfect chocolate cake that there could possibly be.  And knowing that Alaskans have been making it for years should be assurance enough.  Plus, hello- it's named after Douglas Island.  You can't beat that.

North Douglas Chocolate Cake

1 cup water
1/4 pound butter
1/2 cup safflower or corn oil
3 1/2 tablespoons sifted Dutch process dark cocoa
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 pound plus 4 tablespoons butter
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sifted Dutch process dark cocoa
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 375 F and arrange racks so they are evenly spaced in oven. Generously coat two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with butter and dust with flour.
Combine water, butter, oil and cocoa in a small pan and bring to a boil. While butter and water are reaching a boil, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
When butter and water are boiling, pour over sifted flour. Stir just until combined. Add egg mixture and gently fold together. Pour into prepared cake pans.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven when a probe inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Allow to rest briefly in pans, and then turn out onto racks to cool completely.
To prepare icing: In a medium bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add confectioners sugar and cocoa and stir gently until they are partially combined. Stir in milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth and spreadable. It may be necessary to add additional sifted confectioners sugar if mixture seems too soft.
Assemble cake as usual. Decorate as you wish. Chill cake briefly to firm icing.


What are your childhood-era foods that still feel just as special now?

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Confession:  I am obsessed with our cat.  And she is equally as obsessed with me.  This sort of came as a surprise- as I have never been anything close to a cat person.  Both of my families always had a dog (or dogs) growing up- and thus I have learned the hard way (too many times) that cats do not want to be picked up, wrastled with, or fed Pop Rocks or Lemon Heads (yes we had dogs who not only tolerated- but actually loved both of these things).  Cats are tricky business.  Luna somehow seems to be a weird combination of cat/dog/monsterbeast.  She will let me pick her up without clawing my face/neck/shoulders, she is constantly chasing me (and only me, for some reason) around the apartment and trying to eat both my toes and ankles (she's a big fan of the front claw grab/rabbit kick thing and also likes to swat me in the butt from the arm of the couch or the dining room chairs), and while I haven't tried to feed her candy- she has already developed a very demanding taste for expensive cheeses and (only) vanilla ice cream.  She actually starting crying at me tonight when I was eating rosemary asiago and tried to feed her cheap cheddar cheese.  Poor thing.  This morning the two of us both passed out on our couches for a good chunk of time- but for some reason I was scrunched up on the small loveseat, while she took over the person-sized fleece-blanket covered futon.  That's actually where she is now.  Upside-down and looking rather pleased with herself.  Shocking.

Okay, tired of that yet?  I think my entire Facebook and Twitter feeds have been nothing but "Luna did something!" all week.  Sorry sorry.

This post was actually supposed to be a weekend recap/food post- but Matao just got off work early and is on his way home to help me eat pumpkin ice cream from Snoqualmie Gourmet with herbed and salted squash seeds that I roasted tonight.  Oh yeah and I think there's a movie in there somewhere, but we all know where my mind is. 
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