Tuesday, September 14, 2010

sMac-ked by Fall

Fall, people. Fall.

Sweaters. Football. The smell of the air. The comfort food. I always get excited when the seasons turn, but especially when fall arrives. To me, the telltale signs of the season include, but are not limited to: Minnesota air temp suddenly drops below 60 degrees seemingly overnight, green tomatoes abundant at the farmers market, fantasy football draft takes place, football begins, I lose my first fantasy game by one stinking point (one point!! Grrrrrrr.), the pugs shed less, the pugs pant less on walks, the Minnesota State Fair is over in a blink, and the urge to hibernate takes on sudden strength, making it nearly impossible to exit the warm bed.

Another sign of fall: pumpkins and squash roasting to tender yumminess.

I'd like to assert the opinion that if you've never roasted a whole pumpkin or butternut squash, you should just do it as soon as possible. Even if you have no intention of making my recipe below. Use it for homemade pumpkin pie or something. Anything. Just try it. First of all, just the act of successfully halving one of these behemoths makes you feel like a hero. Second, when you taste the end product, you'll never buy canned purée again.

Last year I made up this recipe based on a pizza I tried that had butternut squash and smoked mozzarella, and oh my. Yumazing, people. Yumazing. Something about the smoky and the sweet in harmony really did a little number on my usual flavor-pairing logic.

Notable disclosure on the subject: this is honestly one of my most favorite dishes I have ever made. So easy and good. My husband on the other hand, not so much. I think his exact word was, "eh." You be the tiebreaker.

Recipe for Mac & Cheese with Smoked Mozzarella and Butternut Squash Cream Sauce:

  • 2 cups of elbow pasta
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Fresh smoked mozzarella (enough to fill a cup or so when diced)
  • Fresh chopped basil (about a tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, you'll need to roast the squash. Slice the squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Place the two halves skin-side down on a roasting pan. Roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can comfortably handle. Scoop the fleshy orange goop into a food processor and cover, leaving that small opening at the very top for steam to escape. Pulse a few times, then mix continuously while slowly adding the cream in a steady stream through the opening. Add only enough cream to get the roasted squash to a sauce-like consistency.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water to al dente and drain. Add the pasta back to the pot and cover with the hot sauce. Then stir in as much or as little diced mozzarella as you like (I like a lot. Cheese is my weakness.) so the cheese melts just a little, but small chunks remain. Taste for salt and pepper, (it will probably need salt) and stir in the chopped basil. Is best served with a glass of red wine, a good movie, and a cozy blanket.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In Defense of Turkey Burgers

The first time I ever tried a turkey burger was a little over 2 years ago, when I had first moved to NYC. I had never seen so many menus offering turkey burgers.

What is this all about? I thought.
I order. I bite. Oh.

I don't really consider myself a turkey burger kind of gal. I don't know what that actually means; I realize the implications of how that may come across. A turkey burger seems like something salad-eaters eat. And I'm not really a salad kind of gal. I have nothing against salad, just lettuce. I also have nothing against salad-eaters, unless you're on a lettuce diet, with which I might take issue. All I'm really saying is, when it comes to burgers, I usually go for whatever will clog my arteries the fastest.

But this turkey burger thing... it's good. I'm diggin it. You've got to add some stuff to it to give it a little flavor, otherwise it's way too lean and bland. Which is also how I feel about lettuce.

Recipe for easy Turkey Burgers topped with Guacamole and Roasted Red Pepper:
  • 1 lb ground turkey meat
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp green Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Make a batch of Guacamole
  • Fire up a Roasted Red Pepper
  • Burger buns of choice

Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet with a little olive oil on med-high. In a big bowl, mix the turkey, red onion, cheese, cilantro, Tabasco, salt and pepper with your hands. Shape into burger patties and cook on the grill until nice and crusty brown on both sides and firm enough to let you know it is cooked throughout. Top with guacamole (and don't forget the chips to snack on extra guac) and a roasted red pepper slab. Devour, and envision your cholesterol lowering. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Speaking of Cake

Have you seen this yet? It's pretty fantastic.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scarlet Fever

What is it about red velvet cupcakes? Is it that signature deep jewel-red hue, or the steady growing trend of cupcakes and cupcakeries? Is it the many celebrity endorsements, or insertions in popular culture? No matter what the explanation might be, the world is all abuzz with red velvet cupcake fever. Ask any local cupcake bakery what their most popular current flavor is. If the answer is not red velvet, odds are it's in the top three. It's also very likely that said bakery has seen red velvet's popularity soar even higher in recent months.

Red velvet cupcakes are not only gaining popularity and growing in availability at restaurants and bakeries all over the U.S., but are also making quite a crimson splash overseas. As it soars to cupcake superstardom, red velvet quite easily maintains it's natural elegance and charm. Although it's exact origins are disputed, red velvet has long been celebrated in the southern tradition, and in my mind, is an indisputable southern belle at heart. I remember when the film Steel Magnolias was released. Set in Louisiana, there is an unforgettable scene involving a red velvet grooms cake in the shape of an armadillo. I was young and I remember being very puzzled by this, and wondering what it was exactly. I'd never seen cake that color (or shape, for that matter). It wouldn't be until years later that I would finally make the connection.

Later, when cupcakes became a pop culture phenomenon, red velvet rose in tandem. Pick up a People magazine and you're sure to read about Katie Holmes' cupcake deliveries to the set of her latest movie (red velvet, naturally). Who doesn't love a little celebrity gossip with their dessert?

The unique flavor and fine texture of red velvet is all about what goes into it. There is a distinct science to these ingredients that results in brilliant confectionery synergy. But I think the real secret to red velvet lies in its inherent charm in a way that can't fully be defined. It's beautiful. It's delicious. It's unforgettable.

Recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting:

Cupcakes (makes 12 regular cupcakes)

  • 2 and 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • 2 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 oz. of red food coloring
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (1 cup)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, sift the flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, make a paste by stirring the cocoa powder and food coloring together. It will look like blood. Seriously. Set these aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Next, add the cocoa and food coloring paste, using a spatula to get all the goopy red goodness. While the mixer is on a low speed, alternately add the flour/salt mixture with the buttermilk. Finally, add the vanilla, juice from the orange, and baking powder. Beat until smooth. Spoon the batter evenly into paper or foil cupcake liners in a regular muffin/cupcake pan, making sure not to overfill since the cupcakes will rise. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before spreading on the frosting.

Buttercream Frosting (will cover 12 cupcakes)

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the whip attachment, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to whip. Next, drizzle in the milk and vanilla. Continue to whip until the ingredients come together with frosting consistency. Frost cupcakes right away.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Good Great Stuff That Shall Remain Nameless

This is the story about the day I found I had some good stuff. Good stuff that I decided to throw all together. To make great stuff. Great stuff that I piled on my plate, and ate so voraciously that I realized I almost ate all of it before I could successfully snap a photo as evidence of its greatness.

I had some good bacon. It was thick-cut and meaty. I got it at a meat market - the kind of place that does one thing and they do it well. Meat. I also had some fresh green beans and new potatoes from the farmers market. Grown local. In season. Finally, I had some good herbs. Grown by me. Freshly cut.

Until this day that the bacon-potatoes-green beans came together as one, I had been operating under the misconception that these ingredients had conceded to side dish status. Supporting actors. Sure, bacon sounds like an amazing meal in its own right, but does it ever really take center stage without some pretty solid backup dancers?

Of course, the beauty of this combination is that it could go either way: make a big batch and devour all at once, or serve it as a clever, amped-up side at your next BBQ, picnic or potluck. It would go perfect with a burger or brat. But I really wouldn't know for sure - it didn't last very long in my presence.

Recipe for...


Ok, here's the deal. It doesn't have a name. And I didn't measure anything. Call it what you want. Eyeball the proportions of ingredients. I promise you this dish cannot be ruined by accidentally adding too much bacon. Or whatever.

Boil a whole mess of new potatoes, cut in quarters or small cubes. When they are tender, add a whole mess of green beans. Boil a few more minutes until the beans soften a little. Drain. Put the pot back on the heat and fry up some diced bacon in the bottom. As much as you want. Life is short. Go heavy on the bacon. Add the potatoes and green beans back to the pot and toss. The bacon fat should do, but you could also drizzle a little olive oil if you want. Salt and pepper to taste. A dash of lemon juice, and some fresh chopped parsely and chives for garnish. DIG IN.

The picture totally doesn't do it justice, by the way. I simply must get a better camera. It's on my wish list.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bitter Greens and Blues

I have the I-really-should-blog-today-but-oh-for-the-love-I-really-just-can't-right-now blues.

This morning I went to the farmers market and left with only raspberries. In my defense, I did just go on Thursday and pick up zucchini, green beans, fresh garlic, lettuce, carrots and tomatoes. But my shopping companions seemed worried. Or disappointed. Or both.

We did meet some very interesting women. One of the many factors that make me so very much my mother's daughter, is the quality we both possess when we are so overcome with curiosity about an intriguing behavior about food, that it is simply impossible for us to mind our own business. As we were about to pass by three women eagerly stuffing large garbage bags full of a mysterious green plant, subsequently wiping the vendor clean out of the stuff, my mother turned to me and whispered, "I've seen someone do this before, with the big garbage bags for all the greens; what is that stuff? I've got to find out."

Turns out, due to a very short window these greens appear at the markets, the women were stocking up for the whole year. Apparently this bitter green plant is very high in iron, and they considered it a treasure. Per their native country (which we found out was Kenya), they cook the greens down with onion and tomato to create a sort of stew, which they then would freeze and eat throughout the year - until the next season rolled around, when they could go out and collect as much as possible. I don't think this green had a name that was consistent to every culture. There were no signs to mark it. The women called it something that sounded like "managa," although I have no idea about the spelling because I googled "managa" and google seemed confused by my inquiry. One guy we asked gave a shrug and just said, "I think they're just bitter greens. Like spinach. Kinda."

I loved meeting these ladies and learning their story. I wonder if I told them about how I make fried green tomatoes when it's green tomato season, if they'd find that as fascinating as I found them. I got a big kick out of that thought since I don't think I could possibly fascinate anyone. Maybe if I went to Kenya. I'll have to try that sometime.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How to: Grill Ribs

I'm sitting here, eating strawberry ice cream, with a super-fun-weekend hangover.

Not that kind of hangover. Well, maybe a little.

I had a great weekend with family - filled with yummy food, good conversation, boat rides, and some serious ribs. Nathan and I hauled the pugs up north to my dad's lake house and spent Friday and Saturday with him and my stepmom Sandy. We ate, drank, laughed, and forced a swimming lesson on the pugs. On Sunday we went to oh-so-elegant La Belle Vie (sans pugs, naturally) with my mom, stepdad, brother, aunt, uncle and nana to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and life in general.

While La Belle Vie is always delightful plated perfection, on Saturday something truly miraculous happened. I learned to grill ribs.

Not buy grilled ribs. Not bake-broil-fake-some-good-ribs-because-I-don't-own-a-grill ribs, I learned the art of real deal ribs.

I can't tell you how exciting this is. Being married to a man from St. Louis, MO, and getting his nod of approval - and not just Nathan, but meeting my expectations as well - ribs are a favorite food of both of us.

How to Grill Ribs, ala my dad - Roger. Or "Rog" (pronounced Rodge) as we affectionately refer to him on occasion.

First, you gotta give them a bath in Italian dressing. Salt, pepper. Anything beyond that is up to you. Cook them low and slow in the oven until gray-brown and tender. When you're ready to grill, heat the coals in a charcoal grill using one of those little cylinder thingys so you don't have to douse them with lighter fluid. When the coals are lit, dump them in and spread them around. Add the ribs, and pour the dripping dressing over the ribs so the coals start smoking. Cover and let them smoke, leaving small holes for a little air escape.

After several minutes, see if they're getting brown on the bottom. If not, cover again and wait. When they do start to brown and crisp, flip and brown the other side. Cover. When the other side is ready, flip again and paint the top side with BBQ sauce. Cover. Keep monitoring the size of the air holes. Too much oxygen will cause the coals to flame up and burn the ribs. After several minutes, flip and paint the other side with sauce. Cover. Check after several more minutes. When ribs reach desired done-ness, remove from grill. Cover grill and close all air holes to put the flames out. Serve ribs with extra sauce, corn on the cob, corn bread, lots of napkins, beer and a hammock.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Biscuits for the Lazy

Well hey y'all. I made biscuits.
And they were gooooood.

I had some cute helpers...

And thank God for that because I am LAZY. I am so damn lazy. And thank God biscuits are easy. Lazy. First of all, I read tons of biscuit recipes. I did my research. I tested some out. That part was not lazy. I did not go out and get any Lily White flour or whatever the Southerners use. I did not make my own baking powder or whatever the non-lazy people do. I wanted to use what I had, which was regular ol' unbleached flour and regular ol' baking powder. This, I could argue, is simply practical for my life - not lazy.

I did not roll out the dough and use a cute little ring-shaped biscuit cutter to cut perfect biscuits. Also not lazy. I like slapping down imperfect balls of dough for a more rustic final product. Fully informed and deliberate decision.

Lazy is a weekend morning spent in bed until 11 then rolling yourself down to the kitchen, whipping up a batch of biscuits, and eating them all before returning to bed. Please don't judge me. I like my weekends. I like my breakfasts. I like my bed.

If you'd like to judge me on this little tidbit, however, please feel free: the reason my biscuits ended up being baked in a muffin pan is because I was too lazy to pull out the cookie sheet. I would have had to pull out like three extra pans from my drawer under the stove to reach it. Totally unacceptable.

They turned out fine, of course. Pan irrelevant. A handy tool you may want to enlist for your own biscuits is a pastry blender (see below). If you make pies - let me rephrase that - if you make your own pie crusts, you probably have one of these. Less effective substitutes (I've tried both) are forks, or a food processor. Eh. They're fine, I guess. If you're not lazy. If you ARE lazy, the forks are too much work and the cuisinart is too heavy and a pain in the ass to clean.

My mom is totally going to lecture me. I can't wait.

Recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits (adapted for the lazy), from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook:

(By Christopher Kimball, the man behind Cook's Illustrated, so you know he's tried these a million which ways, done science experiments and probably sent them to the moon. So you know they're good.)

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp cold butter
  • 3 tbsp cold crisco
  • 3/4 cup of buttermilk

Heat oven to 425. In a large bowl, mix the first 4 ingredients. Add the butter and crisco, and cut and mix using the pastry blender, until the butter/crisco is about the size of small peas. You should be able to still see little chunks and the dough should resemble coarse meal. Using a spatula, stir as you pour in the buttermilk very slowly in a thin stream. The dough will come together, and feel free to start using your hands to get it to hold together. It will be wet and sticky. Take fistfulls and lay them out on a cookie sheet (or muffin pan, whatever you can find, you lazy bum!!), then transfer to the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or a little longer until they are nice and golden. Serve hot with butter, jam, gravy, whatever you like.

This is the aftermath of biscuit breakfast, about 47 seconds later....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nothing Fancy

My farmers market finds from the weekend did not go to waste. I used my heirloom tomato, sourdough baguette, potatoes, scallions and strawberries for a simple Tuesday dinner. Nothing fancy. Just fresh and delicious. Yumazing, actually. Fresh and simple usually trump fancy, in my humble opinion.

It's admittedly a little cliche, but Nathan and I adored Cafe Lalo when we lived in NYC. I only say cliche because a.) they hock their own merchandise all over the place, and b.) on unabashed display in the front window are photos of scenes from late-90's-Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks-romantic-comedy, You've Got Mail, that took place at Cafe Lalo. You know... when she goes and sits alone with a rose and book waiting for her secret mailer guy to show? That place. With the twinkle lights and the windows and whatnot. You remember.

Annnnywho, my point is that no matter how much Lalo seems like a recipe for a tourist trap, - besides, we pretty much were tourists anyway, having only stayed a short while - we loved it for so many reasons.

Such as: introducing us to the simple-yet-genius combo of grilled sourdough + heirloom tomato + swiss cheese.

So, a quick trip to the store to grab a block of swiss solved my dinner puzzle yesterday, along with a few snipsnipsnips from my herb garden to sass up the potatoes. Staples like butter, salt and pepper were crucial for overall execution, and we had the strawberries for dessert.

To recreate the meal for yourself after a trip to the market, all you need are the ingredients mentioned above and a stovetop/broiler.

Recipe for Grilled Swiss & Tomato on Sourdough:

Slice a sourdough baguette to desired length and slice in half, cut side up. Lightly butter and place under a heated broiler for a few minutes, just until the edges crisp slightly. Remove and top with heirloom tomato slices, a small amount of salt and pepper, and then top with swiss cheese. Place back under the broiler until the cheese is nice and melty and the corners of the bread are golden. Easy peasy.

Recipe for Farmers Market/Herb Garden Potato Salad:

Get a pound or so of little new potatoes at the market and wash the dirt off. Boil for several minutes until a butter knife can slide through. Drain and set aside. Then heat a tbsp of butter in the same pan and add a handful of chopped scallion, the white and green parts. Saute until softened just a little, and then add the potatoes back to the pot. Add more butter if you'd like, and smash with a wooden spoon so the potatoes are about halved, not totally mashed. Stir to incorporate the scallion, then sprinkle chopped herbs of your choice. I used basil, parsley and chives, and it was pretty outstanding. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. I'm a butter freak so I like to maybe even add a wee bit more here. Serve warm. Don't forget the strawberries for dessert; this is their season to shine.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More Peas Please

Because it's pea season, and because they're just so damn cute, I'm back with another good pea dish.

This past weekend was another round of Saturday farmers market followed by Sunday cooking with Mama Bette. Truthfully, I did not get any peas, although I was tempted. I got all kinds of other Great Stuff, including strawberries and new potatoes, but this weekend the process went a little something like this: I made plans in my head to be gourmet-extraordinaire with my finds, I picked out some Great Stuff, and then it sat on my counter all weekend because I went to my mom's house and we used her Great Stuff.

Two things: one, fresh garlic smashed with new potatoes is so good you will feel like you never actually knew what garlic tasted like, and two, peas + peas + peas = yumazing.

By the way, I've decided "yumazing" is my new catchphrase. If you know of anyone else who currently uses it as their catchphrase, please let me know. I'll be thoroughly disappointed, but I'd rather know than not know. Also, if you actually think it's obnoxious (like I think "Yum-O" is obnoxious) let me know, because I think it's kind of cute, but again, I'd rather know these things. Thanks.

Moving on, here's the recipe for Three-Pea Toss adapted from The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper cookbook:

  • 1 cup of sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup of snow pea pods
  • 1 cup of baby peas (frozen is fine, or hand-shelled if you're slightly insane)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup of salted, roasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 generous tbsp of fresh chopped mint leaves
  • A generous pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp XV olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

First, prepare all the ingredients, string and wash the sugar snap peas, and set aside. Heat a wok on high heat and swirl the olive oil in the bottom. Toss the onion, sugar, salt & pepper for about a minute. Next, toss the sugar snap peas for about 30 seconds, then add the snow peas and cook for 30 more seconds. Last, add the frozen peas and cook until thawed, about 30 more seconds. Continue tossing while you turn off the heat and add the mint and almonds. Toss together and transfer to a serving bowl.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Peas-ful Weekend

I hope you're not disappointed, but I'm not writing a posting on a "traditional" Memorial Day holiday weekend recipe. No ribs, burgers, or hot dogs. Nothing grilled. Cue the rounds of boos.


Okay, that's enough. Knock it off. No more booing.

Here's the deal. Nathan and I are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary a weekend early by doing something we almost never do. We're going away together. Off to Stillwater in Minnesota for a nice romantic excursion. See? Now you feel a little bad for booing at me, don't you?

While it's much more likely that I'll be ordering off a menu this weekend (as I relax on the waterfront, swirling a glass of wine...ah.) rather than slaving over a hot grill, I do have a nice little recipe to share that I tested earlier this week. Lately I'd been thinking about trying my hand at pasta alla carbonara - a classic pasta dish that seems quite easy although I'd never actually done it. All carbonara recipes essentially just require pasta, eggs, pepper, bacon (or pancetta, or similar) and parmigiano. Ingredients which I almost always have hanging around, so why I've never done this dish before is truly a mystery.

I read several different recipes and variations while determining how I wanted to go about this. I was most inspired by Marcus Samuelsson's version, which included peas and basil. This pasta dish is a perfect meal on a day when it's too hot to heat the grill or the oven, or when you just need a break from ribs, burgers, and brats. Plus there are about a million variations on classic carbonara so feel free to take some creative licensing.

Recipe for Pasta Carbonara with Peas and Fresh Herbs (serves 2 with leftovers):
  • A fist full of angel hair pasta (about 4-5 ounces)
  • 4 thick cut slices of bacon, diced into thin strips
  • 1/2 of a small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of peas (frozen works great)
  • 1 generous tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 generous tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh grated parmigiano (or pecorino romano)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon zest (for finishing)

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain the pasta and toss with a little olive oil; a couple teaspoons should do the trick. Leave aside. Bring a small amount of water back to a boil in the pot and cook the peas for only a few minutes. Drain separately and rinse under cold water.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy pan (either a fry pan or braising pan - something big enough to toss all the ingredients later), drizzle a small amount of olive oil and cook the onions on med-low heat for several minutes until they start to soften. Add the bacon and cook until done but not crisp. Meanwhile, in a small bowl beat the egg with the cream and stir in a large pinch of cheese, and a little salt/pepper.

When the onions/bacon are done, with the heat still on, add the pasta and combine. Add the peas next and combine. when the pasta has heated back up, pour the egg mixture all over and toss. Keep tossing until the ingredients are combined and the egg mixture has coated the hot pasta. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg, leaving you with a nice light sauce. Taste for salt/pepper.

Transfer to whatever cute serving bowl you'd like to use and mix until it looks nice and even. Sprinkle the fresh chopped herbs all over and add lemon zest (about a half a lemon should do) and fresh cheese to the top.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Farm-to-Table Sunday

The morels (previous article below), fresh spinach, and herbs I gathered on Saturday morning at the Minneapolis Farmers Market seized their destiny yesterday in a zenith of Sunday Dunch (like brunch, but closer to dinner than breakfast) perfection. Fresh food, family bonding, epic meals consequently followed by epic naps - it's the stuff of life.

I had made plans post-Saturday market to meet up with my mom (Bette) and stepfather (Ernie) on Sunday for a post-church meal. Often you don't need a reason or occasion to make plans with loved ones. Sometimes you find several reasons at the farmers market. I think spring produce is an occasion all its own. For those following along with my new stovetop struggles, you'll also understand that I find Bette and Ernie's stove to be an occasion all its own. It's serious business - like something you'd find in a very legit restaurant kitchen. Four huge gas burners, warming lights and racks, more bells and whistles than I can imagine. My husband dreams of owning a motorcycle. I dream of owning this appliance.

Another dream of mine - for the past 3 years - has been to attempt to recreate one of the most memorable dishes I tasted while working at Kitchen Conservatory is St. Louis, and the missing ingredient has always been an abundance of fresh morels. Chef Joe Herbert's popular "Sauce Boss" classes became famous for his amazing sauce artistry and would always sell out fast. As a privilege of working the class, I was able to taste along, and smuggle copies of the best recipes. His recipe for Chicken with Morel and Truffle Sauce holds firmly in my memory of one the best chicken dishes I'd ever tasted. The sauce was rich, fragrant and comforting, and slightly enigmatic given my lack of experience with the mushroom. I'm sure it would be just as tasty if other wild mushrooms filled is as substitutes, but I always wanted to recreate it with the morels.

Bette and Ernie live near a fantastic meat and fish market called Clancy's, and they ordered some chicken breasts (skin on; easy on the bones) just for the occasion. And of course I couldn't leave without also purchasing some deli ham and bacon/chive/Gouda sausage. At home we set the table with farmers market flowers and got to work on the chopping and prepping.

Having never worked with this mushroom before, I sliced them lengthwise, per Ernie's advice. "You don't want to cut rings," he pointed out in his inherent English accent.

Meanwhile, the chicken crackled on high heat in a stainless steel All-Clad pan, a pan with a flat bottom and high walls, ideal for meat-searing-followed-by-oven-cooking-followed-by-sauce-making. I love pans that do all the work.

Despite a brief panicky moment when I thought I botched the sauce, and a minor notion that I may have oversalted a wee bit (a tendency of mine; I adore salt) the final product turned out just as delicious as I remember. Judging by the silence at the table I knew that Bette and Ernie agreed.

Here's the recipe, adapted slightly based on number of people at the table and what I did a little - that is, inconsequentially to the end product - differently.

Recipe for Chicken with Creamy Morel-Truffle Sauce:

  • 3 chicken breasts, skin-on
  • 1-2 cups chopped fresh morels
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp white truffle oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs - rosemary & thyme
  • Dry sherry for deglazing pan (you could also use dry white wine, original recipe calls for Madeira, just don't use anything too sweet)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

You'll also need: A deep, heavy bottom pan that can go from stovetop to oven back to stovetop, and time built in after the meal for a nap.

Heat the oven to 350. In your pan, heat the olive/grapeseed oil on high heat. Rub the chicken breasts with salt & pepper and about half of the chopped rosemary/thyme. Sear the chicken skin-side down for 6 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 3 minutes. Flip the chicken back over to skin-side down and transfer to the oven. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place the pan back on the stovetop and set the chicken aside on a platter to rest.

Heat the pan to med-high heat and add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have softened and absorbed the pan juices, deglaze the pan with a couple of splashes of sherry. When the sherry has been reduced/absorbed, add the heavy cream. Keep the heat high while stirring for a while, until the cream reduces by about half and starts looking more like a saucy consistency. Turn the heat down and stir as the sauce continues to thicken. Finish the sauce by stirring in the truffle oil and remaining herbs, and taste for salt & pepper. Serve the chicken with the sauce poured over the top.

Serve warm crusty bread on the side for mopping up the sauce, and a green salad to balance out the richness.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cue Halleljah Chorus

It's been a cloudy Saturday morning spent at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, where, I am not ashamed to confess, I ate a foot-long corndog for breakfast. I am a glutton of the highest order.

On display: the most gorgeous exhibition of fresh morel mushrooms I've ever seen! Treasure!

Yes. I bought some. It was no foraging, but that's ok.

Someday I will find my own. Today I snatched up 6 in one fell swoop.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ISO: Biscuits

Lately I've had a major hankering for biscuits. The good ones. The ones that are fluffy and warm and buttery and big. The ones I had on a visit to New Orleans earlier this year.

I remember a time in my life where I would never - seriously, never - eat breakfast. It was when I was in college and shortly after where no one was around to make me eat it, so I could just roll out of bed and head to class, and really, I wasn't even hungry because I had probably been eating an entire pizza at 11 p.m. (or later) the night before. Now at this pushing-30-stage, where I am in bed long before 11 p.m. without a belly full of carbs to start my day, I find myself wanting a big fat biscuit at sunrise.

My husband and I ate brunch at a fantastic little spot in NOLA off the beaten path aptly called EAT. **I should disclose that my experience exploring The South is limited to this one weekend in New Orleans before I declare that EAT is where I had the best biscuit I've ever tasted.** Last week I sent an email to EAT begging them for the recipe of this biscuit. They have not responded, so I am left frustrated by unfulfilled craving.

Can anyone point me to a decent - No. No decent. Scratch decent - a mouthwateringly brilliant recipe for buttermilk biscuits?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Morel of the Story

First, I should reiterate that I am actually thrilled to be living in Minneapolis again. I must make this very clear. It is exactly the direction I have wanted my life to take, and I can't wait for the many, many food adventures I will have here. Including, but not limited to, learning how to effectively go foraging for morels, per my recent Twitter post (morels are in fact the Minnesota "state mushroom," so they must be around here somewhere). The point being emphasized because I am about to whine, just a little, about how desperately I miss New York today. And not because it snowed this past weekend. Well, maybe that has something to do with it. Just a little bit.

Morel photo courtesy of (read: "courteously borrowed without permission") Wikipedia.

I mainly miss New York because one of my dearest friends is there, and she happens to be my foodie soulmate. I've mentioned Genny in previous posts. She is a no-nonsense 100% Mexican force-of-nature who has opened the restaurants of famous chefs (you may have heard of Philippe Chow), speaks rapid Spanish (much to my awe and envy) during margarita happy hours, and can make a kick-ass rack of ribs, along with just about anything else. Not to mention she has guided me to some of my most memorable new food and dining experiences, fed me many comforting meals during movie nights at her apartment, and is just an overall sweet and amazing lady. We are in the process of considering business plans needed to open a taco truck, and travel the country tortilla-style. But that's a whole different story altogether.

We celebrated my last week in New York the best way we knew how - with eating. She took me to one of her favorite restaurants, one that she'd been telling me about for ages but we never seemed to make it there until it was almost too late. Mario Batali's Casa Mono is a place that Genny would frequent with her Spanish boyfriend, Frank, so my lack of ability to fully translate the menu didn't matter because she already knew what to order. It's probably better that I didn't know what I was getting myself into anyway. I'm all about trying new foods, in fact I would say with confidence it's something I live for, and I also trust Genny with my life and taste buds. But when I hear "cow stomach lining," aka tripe, will be one of our main dishes, images from the 2001-2006 TV show "Fear Factor" begin to develop in my mind. However, when Genny explains, 1) the care in the process that the restaurant goes through to clean and prepare it, and 2) that it was a key dish in her childhood, much like meatloaf to me, and how much it would mean to her if I gave it a shot, I am much more at ease with this whole situation.

The entire Casa Mono experience was one of my most exciting dining experiences to date, a perfect way to end my 2-year stint in NYC. I wish I had taken photos of each dish we tasted, but since I had fully embarrassed my lunch date with this very sneaky and quite un-glamorous self-photo below (dining next to signature orange Croc-clad Mario Batali himself) I decided to "play it cool" for the rest of the meal.

We sampled the "Fois Gras with Cinco Cebollas," which tasted like butter. I've never had fois gras that was seared so perfectly; I actually didn't know what it was at first. Paired with the five varied onions and a subtle reduction sauce, it was heavenly. We also tried the "Pork Croquetas with Green Tomatoes" which was warm croquetas served over diced tangy green tomatoes, and some special seasonal additions of cuttlefish (which reminded me of fish french fries, because they were firm and mild, almost like calamari - cuttlefish and squid are Cephalopod Mollusk cousins - but were shaped like french fries and were garnished with a fresh herb aioli) and some delectable little clams topped with fried angel hair pasta.

I was toiling over how to effectively describe the unique look and texture of the tripe dish ("Tripe and Chickpeas with House-Made Morcilla." I asked Genny, "What's morcilla?" She wisely replied, "Eat first. Ask later." Morcilla, also known as "black pudding" or "blood sausage" is essentially sausage made from dried blood. I thought it was morbidly delightful.), and I found the tripe itself impossible to describe. I literally could not think of anything to draw a parallel. Until I was obsessing over morels earlier today! See the morel photo above? That's what the tripe looked like. It was thin and holey, tender and apparently has no real flavor - I could only taste the chickpea and morcilla and whatever the spicy, middle-eastern inspired sauce was. Genny informed me that tripe actually absorbs the flavors of whatever you cook it with. One of her personal favorite tripe dishes is "Warm Tripe 'alla Parmigiana'" on the antipasti menu at another Batali locale, Babbo Ristorante. It's tripe that's been simmered with a robust tomato sauce and topped with fresh parmigiano cheese. She claims it's the best tripe dish in the city.

We also polished off a bottle of wine, and after fighting over the check, we strolled through the Gramercy neighborhood, loopy and laughing, totally blissed-out from the meal. It was a perfect way to spend one of my last afternoons in the city.

I'm looking forward to a lifetime of discovering all that there is out there to try. While I do miss NYC for so many reasons, it doesn't offer everything. Now, who wants to go foraging with me?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Kitchen, New Challenge: Must. Be. Alpha!

Wow. Cross-country moving. Not for the faint of heart. I finally made it to Minnesota last week with my sanity (top importance), our 2 pugs (also very important), and, eventually, all our worldly stuff. I unpacked the kitchen first, naturally, and I finally cooked something for the first time in almost 3 weeks. It had to be something easy (necessary), warm and comforting (holy smokes, it can get cold here!) and capable of generating leftovers (always good).

The thing about our newly rented home - a lovely little town home near downtown Minneapolis - is that, selecting it sight-unseen left us little room to be picky. We actually did very well for ourselves - we really love the space. However, lurking in the kitchen, I discovered one of my biggest fears nestled in and taking residence between the pantry and the fridge. An electric stovetop. One of those flat thingys that are nice and easy to clean, but I never know what the hell it's doing with those little disks of varying size when I turn the dial to, say, the number 4. Is that hot? How hot is that? What's happening down there?? Why can't you just be a gas stovetop I can get along with? Why must you taunt me with your crazy uneven heat?? We also have a microwave, which I have absolutely no use for, and it's just taking up space where I could be storing my hand mixer, but my husband is thrilled because he now feels empowered to prepare his own food.

As I unpacked the kitchen, I found myself occasionally pausing to glance inadvertently and uneasily at said stovetop as if to size it up. Thus beginning several days of our unspoken dance for kitchen dominance. I knew I'd have to confront it eventually. Hey - watch it, stovetop. What's your problem, stovetop?? Tomorrow night, stove top. Seven o' clock, sharp. You. Me. We tangle.

Thankfully, my first dinner on the flat stove went without a hiccup (even WITH my All-Clad cookware, thankyouverymuch. I refuse to buy special flat-friendly equipment for you, stovetop! You will make it work, I say!). It was a pot of chili so it was pretty easy (again, necessary), but I'm still proud of myself in spite of that fact. Tonight I'm making a pizza (I better go get started on the dough, so it can sufficiently rise) and we'll see how the oven fares. I'm wasting no time giving it the ultimate test of heat - the hotter for my pizzas, the better. I'm curious to see how high this baby goes.

I have a sneaky feeling this isn't over between us, stovetop. It has only just begun.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Full Disclosure

Last week I went back to Curry Hill and tried the Chicken Tikka Masala at Dhaba, and it had all the qualities I wanted: rich and creamy, well-executed chicken, sufficiently spicy. Plus, the lunch special came with naan. Hurrah! I still want to visit Curry Leaf and sample their fare. I suspect I’ll do that sometime this week. I also found a fantastic Middle Eastern Market that I could have lost myself in for hours had I not been on my lunch break. They offered fantastic goods not found in most local supermarkets, including a wide-array of hookahs. Although I find smoking utterly disagreeable, I am fascinated by these devices. I imagine myself lounging on a giant mushroom-esque pillow with slippers, ala the Caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland, puffing away and saying WHO. R. U?

But this was not really what I wanted to get into today. Today I wanted to share my exciting and disquieting news.

I am leaving New York for whiter, colder pastures. Many of my friends and family have been informed, so I must now share the news that I will be moving back to Minneapolis in about a month. I am fully thrilled. I am absolutely freaked out.

Thrilled because Minneapolis is my home. I love it there. Freaked because the whole process of relocating sucks, quite frankly. For me, at least. I don’t find it one bit rousing, no matter how wonderful the destination. My husband’s job is typically the main culprit, which always leaves me floundering to find a new one, and this time around is no exception. So if my writing is/has been a little off, please forgive me. I fully intend to keep up with blogging when I move, which brings me to my top ten reasons I’m psyched to bring Breakfast & Bed to Minnesota:

1- Spending quality time in the kitchen with my Mom/Step dad & my Dad/Step mom
2- The Minneapolis Farmers Market
3- The food at the Minnesota State Fair
4- The local grub. Walleye!
5- The Heavy Table
6- Cooks of Crocus Hill
7- All the amazing restaurants I used to love
8- All the amazing restaurants I have yet to discover
9- Eat Street
10- Above all, cooking and eating with family and friends

I admit it: I'll miss my cute little New York kitchen!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Curry Me Softly

Work has been fairly busy lately, leaving me little time to cook, let alone go on any food adventures. I hadn't gone on a food adventure in a while, until I found myself on one last Friday quite by accident.

The weather in New York on Friday was beautiful. Stunning. So fabulous, that no matter how busy your schedule, you simply had to make time to go for a walk outside. Here's the thing about the neighborhood I work in - the food pickings are not so hot. It's just South of the Empire State Building between Broadway and 5th, next to a McDonalds, Subway, and Quiznos. I don't get out for lunch much. On this lovely particular Friday I decided to "Google Map" the phrase, "New York Restaurants" and zoom in on my little area, within a certain radius. The results were as I expected. Sparse. Blah.* However, I did notice a concentrated cluster of dots at about 28th and Lexington, exactly 4 long blocks East of me. So naturally I decided I had to check it out.

As I reached my dotted destination, it suddenly dawned on me: I found Curry Hill.

Remember several months back you voted to send me to Curry Hill, I wound up with squid, but promised I'd go to Curry Hill at some point? Well, I went. The cluster of dots on the Google map was actually the high-concentration of Indian restaurants in the area, hence the original name, "Little India," now more commonly known as "Curry Hill" (because it's just South of the Murry Hill neighborhood. Ha ha get it?).

Let me quickly mention that I am, at this particular moment in my life, Obsessed (yes, capital "O") with Chicken Tikka Masala. It has become my ultimate comfort food. I adore it and long for it and savor it. The problem with this dish (which also happens to be the wonderful thing about this dish) is that there is no one way to make it, so every place you try it will be slightly different.

This is a problem for me because, being the food adventurer that I am, I really will need to try every single possible version of Chicken Tikka Masala before I am satisfied. So far my favorite has been from Tandoori on the Upper West Side. I have had many others that have been good. But not as good. Will I order from Tandoori again? Possibly. But as long as there are more versions for me to try, I will be out there trying them all. Which is all at once frustrating and exciting and disappointing and exhilarating.

This brings me back to Curry Hill, where I am trying to decide where to sample the Chicken Tikka Masala. I land on "Curry in a Hurry," because a.) that establishment helped give rise to the original neighborhood nickname and b.) I was in a hurry. I had to get back to work.

The dish was good. Still not my favorite. Wouldn't get it again. At least I know now that I am a short walk away from exploring more Chicken Tikka Masala recipes. If I find one that beats Tandoori, I'll let you know.

*I feel I should disclaimer this: There are a few bright spots around for midday lunches. Koreatown is lovely. Shake Shack is delightful. But I usually only have enough time to grab and go. And Shake Shack lines are at least a 45 min wait on a crap-weather day. I haven't even tried it on a nice day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


While engaging in massive-scale Spring cleaning today, I came across three 2009 issues of Gourmet magazine. I don’t like clutter, so I’m not surprised that only three survived. But I was disappointed. I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately for this particular publication. The gorgeous, full-page photos. The stories. Ruth. Sigh. How depressing is it that the first thing I thought of was framing the covers for display on my wall, like they are retro pop art? I suppose it's a tribute to the magazine, really – and its elegant art direction and beautiful (IMHO) interpretation of food.

Thank goodness for the wide community of writers and bloggers that keep me informed, entertained, enlightened, artistically fulfilled, and well-fed. A colleague when I was working Kitchen Conservatory, and someone I follow on Twitter, Kelly of http://www.barbaricgulp.com/ is always talking about “crack corn” - an affectionate moniker she uses to describe popcorn tossed with truffle salt. I decided this would make a fantastic cleaning day snack.

I found some black truffle salt at Chelsea Market about a month ago, and I since have been trying to find the perfect way to enjoy it. (Aside from the tip of my finger. Straight from the jar. I’m not ashamed.) Fresh popcorn is a blank canvas to display the subtle truffle taste. I don’t have a special popcorn-popping contraption. Just a stove, a 3 qt. pot, and a lid. That’s all it takes. And the kernels of course. And a little vegetable oil. And, of course, truffle salt.

Here’s how: with a 3 qt. pot, measure 2 tbsp of oil and 1/3 cup of kernels and pour 'em in. Turn on the heat to about medium, and cover the pot so a little steam can escape. Wait for that magical popping sound, and when it starts to wind down to silence, take the pot off the stove. Transfer the popcorn to a big bowl. If you have a heart-failure-induced-death-wish-crippling-weakness-for-butter similar to my own, drizzle some melted butter over the popcorn before tossing with truffle salt. Indulge. You’ll never eat the microwave stuff again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


This photo. Impressive.

Picture yourself, perhaps even in black & white in 50’s-style garb and ruffled apron, smiling effortlessly as you place this roasting pan in your oven. An hour or so later, you pull it out, and voila! Is it Thanksgiving? Is it Christmas? Why, no - it’s just another Fabulous day of being Fabulous.

The best part is that it’s actually not. Impressive. But that can be our dirty little secret.

No, seriously. I’ll count it on one hand: #1 A whole chicken #2 Chopped shallots #3 Grapes (red and green for extra glamour) #4 Chopped thyme and #5 Staples: Salt, pepper and olive oil. That’s all there is to it. No, seriously.

I found this recipe somewhere in a recent Bon Appetit; I can’t remember which issue, but the simple and unusual combination of ingredients caught my attention. Plus, I’m a big fan of #1 Easy-yet-big-impact meals #2 Roasting whole chickens #3 Shopping lists I don’t have to write down #4 Less dishes to wash and #5 Leftovers.

Abridged Recipe for Impressive Roasted Chicken & Grapes:

Place a whole chicken in a roasting pan and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stuff the bird with several sprigs of thyme. In a large bowl, toss the different kinds of grapes with the chopped (quartered) shallots, chopped thyme, and a little olive oil. Arrange the grape-shallot mixture around the edges of the pan. Roast at 400 for an hour to an hour and a half, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees throughout the meat.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Big Black Banana

Do you ever pick items out at the grocery store that you have absolutely no idea what purpose they will serve in your upcoming meal plans? That's my story. I am a total impulse-grocery shopper. Occasionally I'll know what I want, and successfully leave the store with only those ingredients. But it's not likely.

Which is, as I type this now, how I came to have a covered pot on my stove containing chicken, coconut milk, basil, jalapenos, and ginger. And a big black banana on my counter.

I just peeked in the pot. Oof. It's pretty ugly in there. And by ugly I mean totally nasty looking. I have no recipe for whatever the hell I am doing.

I just hope it ends up tasting good.
I just hope my husband doesn't abandon me for Chinese take-out.

Last night:
"Is that a big black banana in our fridge?" -Nathan
"No, it's a plantain." -Me

The real question here: What exactly did I think I was going to do with a plantain? All I know is that you grill 'em, fry 'em, whatever. Well, I hope they taste ok with this crazy coconut experiment. I'm making a double batch of rice just in case this whole operation goes South.

So, I just checked again, and it still looks pretty gross, but I think the chicken is about done. I shredded it and now its just sort of sitting in this coconut-ginger-basil-jalapeno swamp. Hmm. Alright pot, step aside; I'm going to fry me some plantains...

Well, that was pretty easy. All I did was heat up some vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook on each side of the sliced plantain until golden brown. Let's taste test this chicken... oops, I dropped a piece on the floor, splashing white coconut milk on my black pug. Well, the dogs seem to like it. Me: chewchewchew. Kinda bland. Needs a little salt.

The verdict: It actually turned out okay. I liked it. Not one of my favorites, but good. Nathan liked it. The dogs liked it. This is why I love to experiment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to: Fire-Roast a Pepper

Dear winter, you've gone on long enough. It's time to pack up your miserable freezing rain and blistering wind chill and take it somewhere else. While I do appreciate February's efforts in brevity, calender-speaking, we can move ahead into spring any time now. Annnnnyyyy time now (coupled with a show of checking wrist for invisible watch).

Darn this miserable late winter weather. Let's cook something over a fire, shall we? A tiny fire in my tiny Manhattan apartment on my super-tiny Magic Chef gas stove, but fire nonetheless.

The first time I saw someone plop a pepper directly over a gas stove fire was in a Mexican cooking class a few years ago. The guacamole recipe called for "roasted poblano pepper." I'll never forget the collective reaction of the class as the pepper, assisted by tongs, was placed over a high flame by the bold instructor. It seemed as though everyone for that brief second held their breath, recoiling ever so slightly, as if half-expecting the stove to erupt in a peppery fireball as a result of the lack of cookware to direct the heat. What happened instead, after a few settled moments, were a few hisses and pops, and then we were on our way to a true fire-roasted treat.

To roast your very own pepper, you need a gas stove top, a pair of tongs, and a pepper. Turn up the heat to high, and place the pepper over the flame. Turn the pepper over with the tongs as the skin gets black and when it has blackened all over, remove from the flame. To remove the flakey skin, you can either set it aside in a bowl to cool and then peel it off, or if you're impatient like me, run it under cold water to cool it off and wash off the black pieces. Use your roasted pepper in all kinds of recipes... such as...

Recipe for Easy Roasted Red Pepper Meatballs:
  • One pound of ground beef
  • One diced roasted red pepper
  • One clove of minced garlic
  • One small onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper

Mix all the ingredients above together in a big bowl. Roll the mixture into large meatballs and arrange in a single layer at the bottom of a big pot. Cover with a little tomato sauce and cook, with the pot's lid on, over medium heat until meatballs are done. Probably 10-15 minutes depending on size.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Full Disclosure. No, Wait... Partial Disclosure.

Holy shit it's February.

So. I've pretty much abandoned my blog. This "extended lapse," we'll call it, has been carefully justified in my head. I am burned out. I have no creative drive. I'm totally boring. I have no readers. Who cares? If I don't feel like doing it, then dammit, I'm not doing it.

As it turns out, I do have a few readers. Thank you so much for reminding me.

I've still been eating and cooking and having some pretty wonderful adventures. Thoughts and stories that I would like to share, but somehow I have felt overwhelmed at the idea of putting it into words.

The truth is, I do have some pretty major stuff brewing in my life right now. Changes on the horizon that are exciting and scary at the same time. Big events that shake up my cozy little life always freak me out, even the big events that are totally necessary and that I desperately want. Big events tend to track me down no matter where I hide. While I am not quite ready to fully cyber-disclose the details of these events, all will be revealed very soon (Mom, please refrain from posting comments).

In the meantime, I will try to rediscover the words to return to my blog. I've already talked about "me" way too much in this post. As someone who innately celebrates food, doing this was always meant to be a way to live my dream life as someone who shared stories and thoughts and the occasional iPhone-captured photo as a creative outlet on a passionate topic. I'd like my blog to focus on food and my interactions with food, and not be about me, as much as possible. And to be perfectly honest, my thoughts these past couple of months have been extremely self-centered as I get ready to dive into this next phase of The Journey. So there. That's my excuse.

I had one friend request a "good winter recipe." I made these Banana-Black Bean Empanadas from epicurious.com and they were easy, interesting, and fabulous. They make great leftovers, too.