Happy Merry

Are you home or headed there?  I hope you this year you have a great visit with your family and friends!  And a chance to enjoy all your favorite food traditions.  This is the only time of year that we get my mom's secret recipe ultra-luxe flaky buttery sandwich cookies.  They're kind of a big deal.

Decorating some gingerbread villagers is still on my wish list, but I can check off some Gretchen's eggnog and these fig-date swirls.  Nat helped me make them!  It totally made my day.  The nice thing about these is that you can freeze the rolls of dough and just slice off only as many cookies as you need.  (Recipe from Lottie and Doof.)

And after the holidays we can talk about why, next to the other roll of fig-date swirl cookie dough, there is a rabbit in my freezer.  Guesses?

Vindaloo Burgers

"The scale of complexity in recipes is in no way a litmus test of how good or bad a recipe is."  - Monica Bhide

This spice mix was a Christmas gift that I got last year.  I love it, and now that there is a Penzey's down the road from us, I'm all stocked up.  It would be nice if Penzey's sent several recipes along with their spice mixes, more than just the one on the package, but you don't really need a cookbook.  This spice mix is really easy to use.

Quick lamb burgers for dinner, plus some roasted vegetables, is the quickest way I know to make a flavorful dinner.  Forgive the lack of pictures.  We only had one burger left after dinner, and I decided not to bother trying to photograph a food that looks like a greasy hockey puck.  But they do taste good.  We've liked them with chopped onions mixed in, and left them out.  We've also liked beef vindaloo burgers, and a cucumber raita to go with them.   Basically, vindaloo seasoning is versatile and fun to experiment with.  How would you use it?

Vindaloo Burgers
Cooking technique from this recipe 

1.5 lbs ground lamb
2 Tablespoons of Penzey's Vindaloo seasoning
Salt to taste (at least 1/2 teaspoon)

1.  Work spices into ground meat and shape into six patties.

2.  Grill (if it's warm).  To cook on the stovetop, heat two frying pans, one two medium-high, and one to medium.  Add a bit of your preferred cooking oil to the pan.  Cook each patty 2 minutes on each side in the hotter pan, then 2 more minutes on the medium pan on one side.  Our lamb burgers ended up cooked about medium.  They shrunk a bit and released a lot of fat, so you might need to pour some of it off as you go.

By the way, Penzey's has no idea that I or my blog exist, I'm just a happy customer.  All opinions about their products are my own.  

Almond Flour Cupcakes with Cranberry Chutney

Let's be honest: one of the best reasons to have a food blog is so you can get up in the morning and convince yourself that you need to make cupcakes.

Emma Galloway has a beautiful rhubarb, lemon & almond cake on Food52 that I've been meaning to try, but of course it's not exactly rhubarb season right now.  I did have half a jar of cranberry chutney in the fridge though.   I am definitely planning to go back and try the original recipe once rhubarb is in season, but I think the cranberry substitution was delicious and seasonal.

While I'm admitting to hacking other people's well-tested recipes, I have to admit that I didn't have lemons, do I made a daring substitution of ground coriander, which was subtle and tasty.  Also, I only mixed up a half batch, so I could put the whole recipe together quickly in my 3-cup food processor.

These are as sweet as normal cake and have normal cake texture.  The flavor is maybe a bit eggier - if that doesn't sound good to you, add a dash of your favorite flavored extract.  The almond flour means they are definitely more filling than your average wheat cupcakes and have lots of protein.  This is good news - you are unlikely to eat more than two, even if you are very hungry!  Data comes from a very scientific test I ran on myself, where I didn't eat breakfast and then made cupcakes.

As written (and as I made it) the recipe is gluten-free.  This was my first time using brown rice flour - the amount is small and I can see how you might not want to go buy a bag of it just to make these, so if you don't have a problem with gluten you could sub in your normal flour.  Still, if you are at all curious about baking with alternative flours, but haven't tried it yet... start with this recipe.

Giveaway: Ciao Italia Family Classics

It's a tradition that my mom gives each of us a cookbook for Christmas every year, so I've always had a lot of cookbooks around.  I find inspiration and sources for current recipes in all of them.  The transition to eating along paleo lines hasn't changed that - I think cookbooks with only paleo recipes are great if you're just getting into the lifestyle, but I am not going to stop being a cookbook junkie.

Ciao Italia: Family Classics is the most recent acquisition.  A (primal & gluten-free) Supreme Lasagna recipe won me a copy in a PBS Food contest, but due to a mix-up I was sent two copies.  They were nice enough to let me share the extra copy with you!


Congrats to entrant 38, Carolyn!  She said:  "The "Fried Ricotta Cheese - serve on red pepper wedges instead of bread" caught my eye right away. Sounds interested! And yummy!!"

Here's how you can get a free copy of Ciao Italia-Family Classics:

1.  Read through the paleo/primal friendly main dish recipes from the book (listed below the jump), then leave a comment saying which recipe you find most intriguing.

2.  For an additional entry, follow me on twitter @shemanufactures & tweet a link to this giveaway, then come back here to leave a comment saying that you did so.

Entries close at 9 pm. Eastern on Wed. Nov. 30. One winner will be chosen by a drawing on random.org.  Accidental duplicate entries will be deleted.  Sorry, for legal reasons this giveaway is only for residents of the continental US who are 18 or older.  Entrants agree not to hold me liable for any unforeseen technical problems (like Blogger crashing).

World's Easiest Ham

If the presentation of a traditional holiday ham is Megan Fox on the red carpet, this looks something more like Britney Spears caught walking her dog in sweats and no makeup.  The ham falls apart into chunks and threadlike shreds, like BBQ, from being slowly braised.  The surrounding water turns pink.  This may not be a main dish you make to impress company, but it makes a ton of tasty meat.

The recipe is basically what you see in the picture above.  I put a ham butt of about 7 lbs in our 6 quart Le Creuset, and covered it halfway with about 4 cups of water.  I had to trim the ham a bit to get the lid on.  Then, it went into a 275 oven for 5 hours.  My mom sometimes has left the ham in overnight at 250, which will make it fall apart a bit more.

Mom got the recipe from a neighbor, Mrs. K.  Once, my sister, a friend and I went on an expedition through the corn fields between our house and hers.  It turns out that in Ohio, being able to see a house doesn't mean that it is close by.  By the time we arrived at Mrs. K's house, we were exhausted.  She seemed unfazed by three children showing up via the back field, gave us something to eat, and most importantly, drove us home.  Good neighbor.

For reference, here's the meat I started with:

Primal Party: Thanksgiving Menu

via thebittenword

Do you have a plan for Thanksgiving yet?   I have some suggestions!

Our favorite turkey recipe, for its citrus flavor and crispy skin.  When I say irresistible, you should imagine us crowding around this turkey when it came out of the oven, sneaking dainty samples at first, but then not able to stop pulling off chunks to eat.  We honestly ate dinner with our fingers right there, even though I was raised to pretend to have manners.  Don't judge.  More importantly, don't forget to thaw and get some salt in that bird ahead of time.

Gluten-free gravy!  via Serious Eats


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter

Tiny Roasted Root Vegetables

Mashed Cauliflower

Cranberry Orange Relish  Cranberries definitely need some sugar, but oranges will add natural sweetness.  Try adding in half of the suggested amount of sugar, tasting and adjusting from there.

via llsimon53


Pumpkin Custard via Food Renegade, with real whipped cream + brandy.

Ripe pears with a creamy cheese

Roasted Almonds  You know that amazing smell you get walking past a roasted nut stand?  Make these and your whole house will smell like that.  (You can reduce the sugar or use a substitute.  While I was going through a sugar substitute phase, I successfully used Truvia for half of the sugar.)

Today I'm grateful for a delicious homemade latte, a sunny day, the easy comfortable feeling of being with friends, and for the Harvest Dinner we're headed to tonight!

What are you hoping to make or eat for Thanksgiving?

This post is part of a roundup of posts by real food bloggers called Fight Back Friday.

Creamy Chicken, Kale and Red Onions over Spaghetti Squash

Have you ever been introduced as someone else?  And was the person who confused your identity someone you interacted with pretty regularly?  This happened to me once.  Even though it was an innocent mistake, and the person apologized profusely, and I always had a hard time keeping my students' names straight too, and actually sometimes their gender, so yeah, really I've done much worse...well, honestly it didn't feel great.

Maybe that's why I feel so protective of spaghetti squash when I see people recommending sauces for spaghetti squash that are designed to go with pasta.  Imagine the awkwardness!  "Sauce, you'll love my friend, spaghetti!"  "Er, actually I'm a squash, but don't worry, I don't have any identity issues from being constantly mistaken for spaghetti or anything."  Poor gold string melon.

Spaghetti squash doesn't taste like spaghetti, so I'd rather not pair it with a traditional tomato-based spaghetti sauce.  They just taste irrelevant to each other.  Why not respect the individuality of the spaghetti squash by choosing a sauce that builds on and enhances its flavor profile?

Tiny Roasted Root Veggies

I read recently that a writer should bleed in the first line.  But that only seems appropriate on a food blog if you're dealing with beets.  It's so aggressively cheerful when they bleed and turn everything pink.

Beets have been repeatedly showing up in our delivery box, so I tried pink soup (otherwise known as borscht) and on a whim I even tucked some pureed beets into brownies.  The bad news was that the brownies didn't turn out with the intended red velvet effect.  The good news was that no one suspected that the dessert had been booby-vegged.  People aren't inclined to trust you after a low-down trick like that.

These roasted root vegetables with shallots and herb salt are another reliable recipe from Fast, Fresh & Green book.  They're comforting, a very good way to warm up the kitchen and round out a weeknight dinner.  Dicing makes the vegetables cook faster and you get a nicer blend of flavors in each bite, but obviously it means the prep takes longer.  You could cut them into larger cubes and bake them about five minutes longer, but in that case leave out the shallots, which will burn.  Cutting the veggies into dice could be a good job for willing but inexperienced helpers during prep for Thanksgiving.  The herb salt is quick and makes this feel special without being fussy.  

Mashed Cauliflower

In general I think gotcha recipes like Fake Mashed Potatoes are silly, but when a beautiful head of cauliflower showed up in our Boston Organics box, I was getting ready to make a stew that would be perfect on top of some creamy mash.  It was a good enough excuse to try subbing cauliflower for potatoes.  And actually, I really liked this.  I don't usually go out of my way to eat cauliflower.  But this was tasty.

Mashed cauliflower is a tad bit easier than mashed potatoes, because there is no peeling.  Just cut the head into florets, boil until tender, drain & dry, and blend together with some creamy seasonings.  You do need a food processor, preferably a large one, so that you don't have to bother with processing multiple batches.

Glorious Apple Pie

It was decadent, and decadent pie is the only kind worth eating.  Almost as good as my mom's apple pie.  She claims that there is no secret ingredient, but it wouldn't surprise me if her amazing results had something  do with her fearless liberality with butter, sugar, and heat.  Butter goes into the apples inside as well as the crust, and she bakes the pie long enough to reach a deeper color than golden brown, like the mahogany of a seasoned Floridian sunbather.  She also never uses thickeners like flour, preferring the risk of bubbling juices to gumminess or muted flavor.

I actually set out to make a paleo rustic apple pie.  And I will admit that I completely screwed up the proportions of the crust ingredients, so that the crumbly mixture of almond and coconut flour was not holding together.  I hoped I could save it by patting it into a tart pan, and layering the McIntosh, Honeycrsip and Granny Smith apples on top.  It smelled so amazing as it baked.  And it was beautiful.

It was also extremely dry.  The crust was inedible, even after a soak in frozen yogurt, and I ended up picking the baked apples off the top and throwing the rest away.  Again, this is probably my fault for mixing the thing up incorrectly.

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

Recently The Hungry One came home late, and was not excited about the plan for dinner.  "Soup just doesn't sound like a meal."  The Hungry One is not me, and is not Nat, but sometimes it can look a lot like one of us.  Also, the Hungry One is not exactly what you would call rational, emotionally stable or polite, because it is a monster with low blood sugar.

I quietly panicked, as people tend to do when attacked by weird made-up monsters, and brandished a serving of this tomato soup...

Supreme Lasagna

Why supreme?  The sauce for this lasagna is full of sausage, peppers, garlic, tomatoes and onions, so the flavor instantly reminded me of a slice of supreme pizza.  This was also an experiment in lasagna so full of vegetables that you don't really need lasagna noodles - a supremely veggie, post-noodle lasagna.

Kitchen Fails: Mix by Hand

Photo by Hello Turkey Toe

As someone who enjoys the history of words, I find it particularly funny that the phrase "mix by hand" really means no such thing.  I'll explain for any non-cooks out there: in the context of a recipe, it's a way of abbreviating "stir with a spoon instead of potentially over-beating the batter with a machine mixer of some sort."

And when I was nine, my mom found it particularly funny to come into the kitchen and find me elbow deep in a bowl, both hands covered in lumpy coca-cola chocolate cake batter.

Sauteed Broccoli and Prosciutto

Adjustments are happening around here - most obviously a new look for the blog, but also learning by trial and error to photograph what I cook in a new lighting situation, and in a season less generous with daylight hours.

Summer Vegetable and Tomato Tian with Parmesan Bread Crumbs

Roasted tomatoes, toasty cheese and crunchy bread belong together.  Grilled cheese with with a slice of fresh tomato inside?  Bruschetta with tomato?  This strata?  Yes please, especially when there is a layer of caramelized onions hidden underneath the tomatoes.

Spicy Mustard Greens with Ginger-Garlic Cream

I've been having a string of bad luck in the kitchen.  This dish turned out great, but when I tried to adapt the recipe to a faster cooking green (calaloo/asian spinach, pictured above), I wandered off and burned my first attempt into a disgusting mess.  Yesterday I made the ugliest blueberry muffins ever, which turned grey-green from blueberry juice and were missing an ingredient.  And for dinner there was also an almost inedible lemon chicken dish that came out tasting strongly of bitter pith instead of zest. 

The Perfect August Salad

This recipe was a team effort.  We made it before we moved with the help of some friends who brought over homemade pesto.  It's full of veggies that are in season right now, and really easy.

Kitchen Fails: Less is More

Kitchen Fails is a series about how I once had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen, and managed to survive through all the grease fire and pyrex shrapnel and sharp knives that were involved in learning, until I eventually came to have great satisfaction in my amazing culinary skills.* 

*Except for when the stories are about a cooking disaster from last week.  

Before and After: Built in Cabinet

I loved this apartment right away because of the built-in cabinets.  It helps that it's also in a great location, has lots of space, and the landlord put in a brand new dishwasher, but when I saw this china hutch I knew right away that I wanted to live here and what my first project would be.

Work in Progress

Hey there!  It's been a bit.  I've been wanting to tell you about our new place, but...there was the fact that both of us got bad colds for a week in the middle of moving.  And there was the last minute decision to part with our car for the winter and maybe longer, which meant a spontaneous car trip out of state and train ride back. Followed by some mild panic about where to buy things like hangers now that I can't drive to superstores.
But also the camera was lost, until today, when I got annoyed with some boxes of clothes that we can't put away, because we don't have hangers yet, and while hauling them to the closet found the camera.

Setting up our apartment right now is going a lot like making this terrine, which is my first cooking project since the move.  It's an unfamiliar process with a lot of steps, I had to spend some time visiting different stores to collect all the ingredients, but when it's finished I hope for lots of long-term enjoyment.  Also, I am not currently capable of making the terrine or the apartment look delicious on camera.  

At least the kitchen is on its way to orderly and serene!

Sour Cherry Cake

I found a solution to my last few bags of sour cherries, with the help of Klara over at Paleolicious.  She was so kind - not only did she translate her original recipe for sour cherry cake from Hungarian, but also converted it to Paleo in the process! Here is the recipe for the paleo-friendly version with almond and coconut flour.

Not only that, but she recently started a new blog in English.  So pop over and say hello!  I'm glad I did.

Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms with Rosemary-Garlic Oil

Green beans are in season.  And sometimes when green beans are in season, it is ridiculously hot, and all the cooking you can convince yourself to do is toss some veggies in some olive oil and roast them in the oven, while you escape to a cooler part of the house with an iced drink.  This recipe is here to say that's okay.

Double Coconut German Chocolate Cake

I've always wanted to try boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk to make caramelized milk.  I read about it first almost ten years ago in a Russian novel called In the First Circle - prisoners in a special academic prison camp manage to acquire a can of it for a birthday celebration.  The recipe sounded magical and improbable, about as unlikely as their "orange cake" made of potato peels, but Solzhynitsyn did not make this one up.

Big-Bowl Spinach and Snow Pea Salad with Cashews

We've been on vacation with family at Lake Tippecanoe.  Almost every day last week I was riding in a pontoon, reading, window-shopping for dream vacation homes, or watching my dad and brother catch, fillet and cook lake bass.

But there was also a quick trip up to South Haven, Michigan, where you can see the vacation side of Lake Michigan and pick your own fruit from trees absolutely covered in ripe cherries.  The several pounds of sour cherries Susie and I picked are destined for greatness of some sort, but after hours of work all I've managed to do so far is pit them.  My mom showed me how to use a bobby pin to fish out the pit while we sat down by the water.  It's a miracle I didn't stain all my clothes red.

Grilled Potatoes with Creamy Lemon Dressing

I had a hard time taking a good picture of this because people's hands kept moving in on the plate - and then all the potatoes were gone.  It's a great make ahead recipe for grilling, it doubles or triples easily, it travels well, uses ingredients you most likely already have, and the smokiness and bright lemon elevate the flavor miles above the average potato salad. 

Speedy Stir-Fried Asparagus with Toasted Garlic

A family friend once tasted my mom's innocent-looking mashed potatoes, and immediately observed that "a little bit of garlic goes a long way."  It became a bit of a running joke for us to repeat this, because my mom does really love garlic as a seasoning for savory foods.  Be warned!  This recipe does not follow our friend's garlic-in-moderation line of thinking.

You Deserve Flowers, but You're Getting Asparagus

Which is just as good, because it's really delicious braised asparagus.  Look how tender and bendy the spears got in the wine and chicken stock.  But it's not a bland dish, what with the Dijon mustard and thyme.  The one limitation of this recipe is that it doesn't make more, and that is really the fault of my pan, not the recipe.

Kitchen Fails: Boston Cream Pie in the Night

This is the first in a series of personal stories about embarrassing failures in the kitchen that were part of learning to cook.  I've been baking a lot of cake and cupcakes recently, including the German Chocolate Cake above (recipe soon!).  So it seemed appropriate to start with a cake story nominally connected to Boston, where I may eventually give Boston Cream Pie another chance.


We found an apartment for next year!  Unfortunately the snapshots that we have don't do justice to the interesting architectural quirks and floor plan, so instead, here are some ideas I have for decorating....

"Go Green" Simple, Sassy Slaw

Have you met this handsome devil?  Savoy cabbage is a new acquaintance to me, more glamorous than the cabbage I'm used to.  I love how frilly the leaves are.  To me, all those unfolding petals are dramatic and mysterious. But I was the kid who sat in the back seat on the way home from the grocery store peeling off every layer of an onion because I wanted to see what was inside. 

Answer: a smaller onion.

Cucumber Salad with Greek Yogurt, Lime, and Honey

Tomorrow is my very last day of school!  Although any actual learning ended a while ago - we've been goofing around watching old movies and enjoying the escalating violence of the flyswatter game.  I'm getting my first taste of saying goodbye to our CU community, but today it was sweetened with cake and flowers, kind words and handing in my grades.

Rhubarb and Apple Baked Compote

The Urbana Market at the Square opened for the season last weekend.  The vendors are a little thin because it's early in the growing season, but the options still feel plentiful.  I intended to come home with a lettuce mix and asparagus, but I left with rhubarb. 

Pasta with Pesto & Roasted Vegetables

Dear RSS readers:  if you wish you could see the picture above, take a minute to click on the subscribe button on the right side of my blog homepage.  You'll still receive updates about new posts in your preferred reader, but now you'll also get full posts and images.  Thanks for reading!  

About eight months ago I got talked into signing up for a half marathon with friends, although at the time I couldn't run a mile.  Out of generosity, I also decided to share this experience with my husband.  Or in his version, I coerced him.  I was really motivated by my friend's encouragement, invested in training regularly, and by last weekend, we were picking up our race numbers and carb-loading.  (I was as surprised as anyone.)

Worth Repeating

I like variety, but that can make me a spazz in the kitchen.  More than once I've made something totally delicious, never made it again, and eventually forgotten how to repeat it.  But there are a few fail-proof recipes that I keep going back to.

Quick-Roasted Cauliflower with Zesty Orange-Olive Dressing

On all the relish trays I've ever seen, cauliflower is the the last thing to go.  And usually the relish tray is the last thing to go when there are other options, making raw cauliflower the worst of the worst.  But wait, it doesn't have to be like that!  I approached this recipe with caution, but a quick brush with the oven sweetened and deepened the cauliflower flavor into something tasty.

Quick-Roasted Beet Slices and Two Salads

I love beet chips, and that almost spoiled this recipe for me.  I got my hopes up that these would be like the sweet, crispy chips at Seven Saints that come with goat cheese dip, which I have sometimes, accidentally, embarrassingly, tried to order as "goat chips."  I actually had to go back and read through the recipe after baking these slices before I would admit that I was not promised crispiness. 

The recipe explains that the point of slicing the beets is cooking them quickly.  Once I started snacking on them, I forgave them for their texture, and also remembered that roasted beets are part of my favorite salad.
So, you know, give beets a chance.

Roasted Mushroom Quiche

Quick-roasting is becoming my go-to vegetable strategy, under the influence of Susie Middleton's Fast, Fresh & Green.  This was a fairly spontaneous dinner that only required a few relatively inexpensive pantry staples.  I'd like to take all the credit for dreaming it up, but the recipe is loosely modeled on this one from Epicurious - I am not the type of person who has quiche filling proportions memorized.

Caramelized Tomatoes

I have always firmly believed that people who make homemade ketchup are confused about their life priorities.  These roasted tomatoes might change my mind - the deep, sweet flavor makes me wonder if a roasted tomato ketchup might not be earth-shattering.

Sweet Potato Fries with Limey Dipping Sauce and Spiced Salt

These were another success story from Fresh, Fast and Green.  We really liked pairing these fries with salmon for an orange riff on fish and chips, and the dipping sauce was also delicious with the fish.  Middleton mentions that the Spiced Salt is optional, but the flavorful toppings are really what put this recipe over the top.  It's worth it.

Some of the fries did get a bit soft instead of crispy, and it turns out that this is a common problem with homemade sweet potato fries.  It's important not to crowd them on the pan.  If you really hate mushy fries and want a challenge, check out some suggestions for other sweet potato fry interventions over at The Kitchn.

Honestly, the texture issue didn't prevent us from powering through all of these before they could get cold.  We really loved these!  Check out the recipe and more pictures below: