pan-fried chicken salad with honey mustard dressing

Pan-Fried Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing 1

I know, I know. You guys are probably like, but you just DID salad, Carter.

Yeah, well… welcome to my house. I’m not really all that creative.

(It’s why I picked food instead of fashion. Also, I can’t sew.)

Seriously, even Lindsay asked me what’s up lately:

Well, I’m in charge of cupcakes for the St. Patrick’s Day party this weekend. So there’s probably going to be booze AND dessert here on the blog soon. Possibly in the same dish, no less.

But for the meantime – back to salads. (You need to eat lots of salad to counteract all the green beer this weekend, right?)

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Last night, I emailed B asking him if he was going to make it home for dinner (if he doesn’t come home, I tend to default to a bachelorette-style bowl of noodles. Don’t judge me.) What are you going to make? he asked. Was thinking crispy chicken over salad greens… nothing fancy, I typed, hoping he wouldn’t remember we had eaten the same thing for dinner just last week, and probably the week before. One of my favorites, came his answer. Honey mustard dressing?

Well… crap. I’ve never made honey mustard dressing before.

But I HAVE made honey mustard dipping sauce before… meh, I’ll just wing it.

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And although it might sound self-righteous, I have to say… this might be the best honey mustard dressing I’ve ever had. Tangy and not too sweet, and not so thick that it’s like trying to mix concrete into your salad greens. (I hate that.) With the crispy chicken, it’s like a grown up version of chicken nuggets. Minus the uncomfortable driver’s seat and soggy fries, of course.

We loved this dressing so much, it’s probably going to be the new default dressing ’round here for the next few weeks. But, should honey mustard not be your thing (not everyone likes mustard – I don’t know who you are or what’s wrong with you, but I know you’re out there) this goes perfectly with the balsamic vinaigrette or champagne vinaigrette I featured the other day.

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Pan-Fried Chicken

Serves 2

1/4 pound chicken tenderloins (or chicken breast, trimmed of fat and sliced laterally into 1/4-inch-thick pieces)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
a pinch cayenne, optional
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk or water
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon safflower oil or other high-heat oil
chopped mixed greens and honey mustard dressing, to serve

Combine flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a wide, shallow bowl, and stir to mix. Whisk together egg, milk or water, and mustard in a second bowl. In a third bowl, mix panko and grated parmesan together. Dip each piece of chicken into flour mixture, coating lightly. Shake off excess flour and dip each piece into the egg mixture. Shake off excess and finally dip each piece into panko mixture. Press panko mixture onto chicken with your fingers. Put coated pieces of chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate. Ideally, place your baking sheet or plate in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes – it will help the crumbs adhere to the chicken during cooking – although if you don’t have time, skip the refrigerator.

Heat safflower oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When you think the oil is hot, drop a few stray panko crumbs into the pan – if they start to sizzle and brown immediately, your oil is hot enough. Carefully place chicken in pan in a single layer, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Turn chicken to other side using tongs or a fork, and cook another 2 minutes, or until browned. Remove to a plate covered in a paper towel, and let drain.

Cut into slices and serve over mixed greens, if desired.

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Honey Mustard Dressing

Serves 2

one heaping tablespoon of yellow mustard
two teaspoons honey
one tablespoon olive oil
one teaspoon mayonnaise
one to two teaspoons water

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. (Note: if you have access to a microwave, heat the honey up for 15 seconds – it will mix in much more readily with the other ingredients.) Adjust seasoning to your preferences.

breakfast quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa

So the other day, I wandered into my pantry (which is just a glorified word for the never-ending chaos that is my utility room – it just happens to have shelves and is right next to the kitchen) looking for some crackers… and it became clear to me. I mean, I had to gingerly remove and stack jars of chickpeas and brown rice on the floor. All to get to a box of crackers that was hiding behind a 5 pound bag of flour. In a moment of pure clarity, I knew. I needed a pantry clean out.

(I mean, there was some mild cursing when I almost knocked over a jar of dried currants, but mostly it was a moment of very dignified contemplation.)

One of the things I am drowning in is COPIOUS amounts of quinoa. I think I have like, 2 pounds. Which is basically – since quinoa is not very heavy in the first place – like a barrel of quinoa. Sure, there are about a million recipes for quinoa salads out there, but that just wasn’t what I was feeling.

I had tried breakfast quinoa once before, but I wasn’t thoroughly satisfied. Previously I had used rice milk and it just… didn’t do anything for me. It was pretty darn tasteless, in fact. I used regular milk here, but by all means experiment with almond or soy milk if that’s more your thing, and let me know how it turns out. And of course, this is mostly just a base recipe; you can add whatever you have in your crazy, over-stuffed pantry: nuts of all kinds, dried fruit if you have some, honey or maple syrup drizzled on top… the sky is the limit.

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Breakfast Quinoa

Serves 2, easily halved

Gather: 
1 cup quinoa, rinsed until the water runs clear
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
yogurt, to serve
jam or fresh fruit, to serve
toasted almonds or pecans, to serve
turbinado sugar or honey, to serve

Prepare:
Bring quinoa, milk, water, and vanilla extract to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and scrape down sides. Cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Top with yogurt, jam or fresh fruit, nuts, and/or sugar or honey to your heart’s content.

New everything.

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HEY GUYS. (Pretend I’m saying this with attitude, perhaps with a snappy hand gesture or two.)

So I know it’s been 6 months and all since I last wrote. And I could be all apologetic and whiny, but honestly, I hate reading those posts. And I could tell you in detail what I HAVE been doing while I’ve NOT been blogging but it all boils down to: I moved from Colorado to Virginia. From an apartment to a house. From no backyard to a garden-friendly one. And I think I might have even convinced Brad to let us get a dog to go with our picket fence (which is not white, but whatever, that’s just details.)

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I still squee when I look at my new house. It’s so sweet it practically gives me diabetes.

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The kitchen. Looks a little white to start with, but I’m painting it a bright, bright green. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.

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The backyard, where Dad and my brother and I have already installed four raised garden beds. I’m getting topsoil and compost delivered later this week, even though I know I’ll only get to grow some quick-maturing leafy greens with what’s left of the season. Having never grown anything before (not a single potted plant, people) I am slightly terrified that I’m going to find out I have the brownest thumb ever. But, I figure I can probably grow zucchini and summer squash pretty easily. And if we end up with 4 raised beds’ worth of zucchini each summer and that’s it, well at least I will have a lot of zucchini bread, right?

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There’s been lots of cooking going on in the new house, although I’ve fallen back on some of the old favorites rather than trying many new ones. But after what seems like the LONGEST SUMMER EVER, what with the hot Colorado sun and then the stifling Virginia heat, I’m so desperate for fall I’m about to rent a snow machine and spray paint my trees yellow. I’m pushing the fall season like Wal-mart pushes Halloween candy in August, and making butternut squash lasagna and roasted potatoes instead of hanging onto the last few days of summer with marinated tomato salads and such.

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I found this recipe on that time-suck-to-which-no-other-compares, Pinterest. It was so pretty I just HAD to try it. I added a pinch of paprika for extra flavor, but next time (and there WILL be a next time) I’m thinking of infusing the butter with roasted garlic first. The shallot just wasn’t enough for me in this instance, although the texture of the dish was SPOT FREAKING ON. Extra crisp top and smooth creamy slices of potato that fall apart on the plate. A dish made perfect with those last potatoes of the summer, especially on the first cold night of fall. (Or so I would imagine, considering it’s still 75 degrees here at night.)

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Crispy Potato Roast

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 6

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Martha says there’s only 25 minutes of prep time for this recipe. Martha is full of lies. (But it’s totally worth it.)

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Gather:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds potatoes, peeled
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
a pinch paprika
a few springs of thyme, and

a mandoline or a sharp knife

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Prepare:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the potatoes on thinnest setting of a mandoline or as thin as you can with a knife. (The thinner the potatoes, the crispier they will bake up.) You can prevent them from browning by putting them in a bowl of water as you slice.

Combine the butter and olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the olive oil mixture on the inside of a cast iron skillet or other heavy baking dish. Arrange the potato slices in the skillet as you like. Wedge slices of shallot between slices of potato. Sprinkle with salt, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of paprika. Bake for 75 minutes. Arrange a few sprigs of thyme on top of the potatoes and bake for another 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are crispy on top. Serve.

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Fitz & the Tantrums / Don’t Gotta Work It Out

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Simple Seasonal Breakfast

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For the past two weeks or so, I’ve been having exactly this for breakfast – a bowl of plain yogurt with blood orange segments on top. I’ve been using homemade yogurt, which is super thick like I like it. After I segment the oranges, I like to squeeze the leftover membranes over top of the bowl, to get all the extra juice into my yogurt. It’s like a customized blood-orange-flavored yogurt, minus the horrible sugary taste you get with commercial yogurts. So, so tasty.

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And then there was the day that I ran out of blood oranges… so I used some frozen berries left over from last summer. I microwaved them for 30 seconds on half-power, and let all the juices mix in with the yogurt. Definitely the best way to start the day.

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The Love Language / Brittany’s Back


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Rosemary White Bean Soup

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You want to know what is REALLY hard to make look delicious?

That would be, a bowl of this here soup.

I mean, it’s freaking tasty stuff, this soup, but it will definitely be filed under the category of what I like to call, ugly food. Don’t get me wrong, ugly food is almost always tasty – we’ve been over this before – it’s just that you’re going to have to convince your guests/spouse/disbelieving children of that fact before they’ll even sit down to the table. I tried to be all Ina-like and add “a garnish that reflects the flavors present in the dish” – that’s why the rosemary spring is just hanging out over there on the left – because honestly, brown soup is just a wee bit unappetizing.

Okay, so we’ve been over the basics of why you probably WON’T want to try this soup. But this is a food blog, so its not like I’m going to post horrible recipes. So let’s go over the reasons why you should try this, non?

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1. It’s a recipe from Ina Garten, whose every recipe is a foodgasm in the making, and who is only second to God in our foodie world next to Martha Stewart. (But is actually first in God’s eyes because Ina hasn’t been to jail. Go Ina.)

2. It’s made with all natural ingredients like chicken stock and white beans, so you know it’s good for you without tasting like cardboard.

3. This is a perfect dish for winter, since it uses just about the only thing “in season” in Colorado – dried beans.

4. The end product is creamy without being heavy, flavorful without being full of fat. The best of both worlds.

5. The ugly factor of food is inversely related to how delicious the food is. So this dish is obviously off the charts. (Obviously.)

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So, now that I’ve thoroughly convinced you, Law & Order-style, get thee to your grocery store/farmers market/pantry some cannellini beans.

And make sure to distract your children/spouse/guests with cartoons/sports/booze before you serve this.

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Rosemary White Bean Soup

Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 6

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The only “adaptations” included reducing the amount of olive oil (because she alway uses a ton, bless her heart) and removing all references to “good” ingredients that will make you feel inferior.

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Gather:
1 pound dried white cannellini beans
4 cups sliced sweet yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large branch fresh rosemary
6 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
kosher salt, to taste
fresh cracked pepper, to taste

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Prepare:
Pick through the beans to remove any pebbles or other debris. In a large bowl, cover beans with at least 2 inches of cold water. Let soak overnight or at least 8 hours. Drain.

In a large stockpot, saute the onions with the olive oil until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. (Note: Instead of adding more olive oil, just add a bit of water if the onions start to burn. And if you do burn the onions, just tell your guests it’s “Caramelized Onion White Bean Soup.”) Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover; bring to a boil, and simmer 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are soft. Remove rosemary and bay leaf.  Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or puree half of the soup in a blender/food processor. Continue pureeing and mixing until you reach a consistency you like. (I prefer a course puree.) Return the soup to the pot, and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

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Best Coast / The End

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Sweet Potato Frites with Roasted Garlic Aioli

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I made these for the first time a few weeks ago, when I just had some white and orange sweet potatoes hanging out in my house, leftover from the fall produce sales. They were starting their own mini sweet-potato-reproducing-factory in my cabinet, and I needed to get rid of them. Naturally, I decided to make some fries. It’s the default thing to do with leftover sweet potatoes, right?

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But you can’t just serve fries on their own… and for me, ketchup/catsup/catchup isn’t what you serve with a big platter of sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries are the sophisticated older sister of regular fries. You need something to woo her with…

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Like intense garlic breath, of course.

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Thus, roasted garlic aioli. An aioli is much like mayonnaise… except hopefully homemade, and with a fancier name.

Honestly, you probably just want to invite all your friends over for these fries. You want to make sure all the people you know are eating this, lest you see a friend or five out and about later… because they won’t want to be within 10 feet of you. (Unless that’s what you’re going for… in which case, I applaud you for your creative strategy.)

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Sweet Potato Fries

From the Kitchenette
Serves 8 as an appetizer or side

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Gather:
4 sweet potatoes, orange or white or both, scrubbed clean
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
coarse salt
fresh cracked pepper

Prepare:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch sticks. (Note: I’m not too concerned about getting each fry the perfect length or width. Perfection is BORING. Plus, having some fries be more crispy than others is quite tasty, honestly.) Toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper, adding more oil until fries are just barely coated. Roast at 425 degrees for approximately 40-50 minutes, tossing each 15 minutes or so.

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Roasted Garlic Aioli

From the Kitchenette
Yields about 3/4 cup

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Gather:
1 head garlic
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 egg
salt
fresh cracked pepper

Prepare:
To roast the garlic, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off the head of garlic, and place on a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over top the head. Wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic, and roast at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until garlic is translucent and soft inside.

To make aioli, put 3 cloves of roasted garlic (you can squeeze them out of the head with your thumb) in a food processor or blender. Add in the egg, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and turn on the food processor/blender to high. Add in the olive oil in a VERY slow stream, as slowly as possible. Check the texture of the aioli intermittently while adding the olive oil; you are looking for a texture akin to a thin mayonnaise, and you may not need all the oil, or you may need a bit more. Once the appropriate texture is reached, transfer to a serving dish.

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Warpaint / Undertow

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Superbowl Sunday 2011 | Cranberry-Cheddar and Scallion-Chevre Cheese Balls

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So I actually meant to post these in time for Christmas, but as you probably remember, I went home to Virginia

and accidentally disappeared off the face of the earth for approximately 30 days.

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As you can probably tell, the red ball is covered in chopped dried cranberries. It’s filled with delicious mango chutney and shredded cheddar, along with some other delicious things. The green one is covered in chopped parsley, and is filled with heavenly, creamy goat cheese and scallions. (If you start drooling, I won’t say anything. I’m totally drooling just writing this.)

These cheese balls are a staple at any of our family gatherings. My cousin Grayson, and my brother Jeff, have been known to request them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I see no reason you can’t serve them for Superbowl Sunday… or even just a Tuesday afternoon. I mean, honestly… who can resist a cheese ball???

In fact, if you are able to resist a cheese ball, then I’m unsure you have a soul.

And I’m positive we can’t be friends. It’s just a requirement to friendship.

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This is another Martha Stewart recipe, because I swear, that bitch can do no wrong. (I tried a banana bread recipe from her the other day, and I swear I saw angels with the first bite. Damn her and her perfect, perfect recipes.)

Martha suggests serving the parsley-goat cheese ball with slices of cucumber, but clearly that’s for people who are trying to ignore the fact that they are eating a large ball made entirely of dairy fat. Own it, and serve it with water crackers.

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Base for Cheese Balls

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes one 4-inch ball

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Gather:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons lemon juice
scant 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes hot sauce
pinch salt
pinch white pepper

Prepare:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth and combined.  Proceed with variation chosen below. (Base may be multiplied if making more than 1 variation; just divide evenly between separate bowls before proceeding.)

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Cranberry-Cheddar Cheese Ball

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes one 4-inch ball

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Gather:
1 recipe Cheese Ball base, above
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons mango chutney (or other complimentary flavor)
3/4 cup finely chopped cranberries

Prepare:
Combine the cheese ball base, cheddar, and mango chutney, and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pull out a sheet of cling wrap and lay on flat surface. Shape cheese into a ball, and wrap in cling wrap. Chill in fridge 1 hour.

Scatter chopped cranberries on a cutting board or other flat surface. Unwrap cheese ball from cling wrap and lightly press into cranberries, until dried fruit clings to surface. (Cheese ball can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate, and let sit at room temperature approximately 1 hour before serving.)

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Scallion-Chevre Cheese Ball

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes one 4-inch ball

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Gather:
1 recipe Cheese Ball base, above
8 ounces goat cheese, softened
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1/3 cup curly parsley, finely chopped

Prepare:
Combine the cheese ball base, goat cheese, and scallions, and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pull out a sheet of cling wrap and lay on flat surface. Shape cheese into a ball, and wrap in cling wrap. Chill in fridge 1 hour.

Scatter chopped parsley on a cutting board or other flat surface. Unwrap cheese ball from cling wrap and lightly press into parsley, until herb clings to surface. (Cheese ball base can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Do not roll in parsley more than an hour or two before serving; the parsley will wilt in the fridge. Let cheese ball sit at room temperature about 1 hour prior to serving.)

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November Can Jam | Apple Butter, Times Four

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Remember how I confessed to never having tried apple butter yesterday?

Remember how I said I remedied that immediately?

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Yeah. This is how I remedied that.

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It would be waaaaay too easy for me to take the easy way out and just do one batch of classic apple butter. I mean, you know me by now. You knew that when faced with 14 cups of apple butter, I would make 4 different kinds. Right?

Right.

Of course, I hit the classic apple butter – just some cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove thrown in. Very delicate, not too sweet. I like it. I kind of wanted to eat it straight out of the jar.

Then I figured, a ginger apple butter. Extra-light coloring, a hint of ginger to spice things up a bit. Ginger is like cowbell – you always need more.

And let’s do bourbon! I mean, I have plenty laying around, for pete’s sake.

Finally, I had to play the savory note. Flavor Bible says: rosemary. Thankfully, when I burnt this batch a bit, I just called it “caramelized.”

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Mostly all I want to do right now is eat it straight. But as an apple butter virgin, I ask you, dear readers: how do you eat your apple butter?

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Classic Apple Butter

Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes 8 8-oz jars

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Gather:
6 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
water as needed
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Prepare:
Cook apples over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add water to just cover the bottom of the pan. Stir the apples occasionally and add more water if the apples begin to stick. Cook apples until softened, about 15 minutes. Put through a food mill. Measure puree, and divide into smaller batches if you will make adaptations as directed below. Prepare canner, jars, and lids. Return puree to pot, add in sugar and spices as directed; add in ginger, reduced bourbon, or rosemary as needed. Stir until sugar dissolves and butter becomes thick and begins to sputter. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary. Leave in canner for 5 more additional minutes; let stand for 24 hours before checking seals. Store for up to 12 months.

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Adaptations:

Ginger – Skip cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Add freshly grated ginger to taste before canning and processing. I used about 1/2 teaspoon for each 8-oz jar.

Bourbon – Reduce cinnamon by half; skip nutmeg and clove. Reduce 1/2 cup bourbon over medium heat. Add to apple butter before canning and processing. (I used about 1/2 cup straight bourbon for 4 jars of bourbon apple butter.)

(Caramelized) Rosemary –  Reduce cinnamon by half; skip nutmeg and clove. Add finely minced rosemary to taste before canning and preserving. I used about 1/2 teaspoon per jar. Burn apples unintentionally for about 3 minutes before freaking out, complete with wild hand gestures and increased heart rate.

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The Decemberists / Down By the Water

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Almond Cake with Sugared Pears and Salted Caramel

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Happy Birthday to me.

Today is my grand 27th birthday. I celebrated by making this cake, and then watching a horrible, horrible guilty-pleasure teen movie while I ate a slice. I can’t even tell you which movie it is, I’m so embarrassed. I also scheduled myself a dentist’s appointment for Monday afternoon and went grocery shopping. It was a good day, all things considered.

And Brad gave me my present. I know some of you probably hold the same fear I do when it comes to presents from your husband. Will it be a vacuum? Some lingerie that borders on trashy rather than sexy? Or worse, some new Xbox game that he really wanted for himself??? None of these situations have happened to me, but everyone has heard the stories. It’s like urban legends… but instead pf some girl who maybe got murdered in the university cafeteria, it’s your mother’s best friend’s niece’s step-sister who got A FREAKING VACUUM for her birthday and OH MY GOD HOW COULD HE??? (For the record, that would be before the Dyson came out. I think many women would be happy with a Dyson… because I know two friends who are drooling over them.)

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Well, anyways, no vacuum for me. B has really been on the ball lately – for our anniversary he got me Ugg boots! which I would never ever buy myself – and he gifted me two boxes of Weck jars for my birthday. Some of you are probably all, WTF woman? You got canning jars for your birthday? What kind of weird urban homesteading freak are you? But I didn’t have any! And I really wanted some! So this was a great gift.

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While normally I’m a chocolate freak, I had a big craving for almond cake today. Sometimes you just want that almond-y marzipan-y taste, you know? This cake was a real surprise. It’s tender and light, and moist not dry at all. No reason for why I decided to make some salted caramel sauce to add on top, I just liked the juxtaposition of flavors. And the pears, I just added on because they were about to go bad, so I thought, heck, why not? Seems like a good way to start off my 28th year of life!

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Almond Cake

Adapted from David Lebovitz, who adapted it from Chez Panisse Desserts
Makes one 9- or- 10-inch cake

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Gather:
1 1/3 cups (265g) sugar
8 ounces (225g) almond paste
3/4, plus 1/4 cup (140g total) flour
1 cup (8 ounces, 225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup blanched almonds
sugared forelle pears, for serving
salted caramel sauce, for serving

Prepare:
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Butter a 9- or 10-inch cake pan, dust with flour, and line the bottom of the pan with a round piece of parchment.

In the bowl of a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the mixture looks like sand. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, vanilla, and almond extract to the food processor bowl, and process until batter is smooth and light, about 1 minute. Add eggs one at a time, waiting 5 seconds between each addition of egg to make sure the previous is well incorporated into the batter. Add half the flour mixture to the food processor bowl, pulse once to combine. Add remaining flour and pulse once or twice until the dry ingredients are just incorporated to the wet. Bake for 65 minutes, or until the middle of the cake appears firm to the touch and the cake is golden brown all over. Run a knife around the edge of the cake, and let cake cool completely in pan before turning over and sprinkling with blanched almonds.

Serve with sugared pears and salted caramel, if desired.

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Sugared Pears

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Yields 6 pears

Gather:
1/2 cup beaten egg whites
1/4 cup sanding sugar
6 ripe forelle or seckel pears

Prepare:
Dip the pears into the beaten egg whites, then press gently into sanding sugar on all four sides. Let stand for 30 minutes to dry before eating. (Note: I used regular egg whites; use pasteurized egg white product if you are pregnant or are feeding this to young children.)

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Salted Caramel Sauce

Basic recipe adapted from many places
Yields 1/2 cup

Gather:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Prepare:
Heat the sugar in a dry skillet over medium heat until the sugar begins to caramelize, about 7 minutes. Whisk the sugar to help the sugar caramelize evenly. When the sugar is amber-colored, add the whipping cream in a slow stream, whisking to incorporate. Add salt. Continue whisking until the cream is fully incorporated and the caramel is thick.

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Ra Ra Riot / Too Dramatic - I’m all about indulgence today with my delicious cake, terrible teen movies, and indie rock boys singing falsetto.

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Spicy Beef Stir-Fry over Brown Rice

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Y’all, I have a new crush.

No, it’s not Jeremy from Vampire Diaries, although Bekah and Lula and I are all over the moon that the producers finally gave him a better haircut. (And a plot line, for pete’s sake.)

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No, my new crush is Ching-He Huang, from “Chinese Cooking Made Easyon the Cooking Channel. Have you seen her show? I’m totally in love with her. Not so much in a let’s-get-married-in-Vermont way (although she is pretty adorable), but more in a omg-your-show-is-brilliant-please-teach-me-everything-you-know way. (And maybe in a read-me-the-phone-book-in-your-spare-time way, because her accent is absurdly charming.)

Although Brad has always been a huge fan of Chinese food, I didn’t grow up with it, unless you count the occasion Chinese take-out I had over at friends’ houses. And take-out isn’t really the best place to start with Chinese, right? The fried rice and greasy noodles always made me feel nauseous, instead of hungry. So I kind of got off to a rough start.

But I caught Ching’s show on the Cooking Channel a few weeks ago and was ridiculously impressed. (Tangent – one day we need to discuss how the Cooking Channel compares to Food Network, and how MTV circa 1992 compares to MTV circa 2010, and how IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME RELATIONSHIP.)

Ching’s show focuses on using fresh ingredients to create flavorful dishes Chinese dishes. Honestly, I don’t even think of her dishes as really “Chinese” cuisine; I guess that’s because whenever I think of chinese food, I think of greasy take-out. I just think of them as tasty, yummy, simple food. This is much lighter, and much healthier food, based on fresh vegetables and fresh meat and seafood. Once I tried the Fragrant Pork dish from the series opener, both Brad and I were hooked. I made this dish for Brad to take for lunch one day, and it’s now a staple in our current repetoire.

If you’re not a “fan” of Chinese cooking, I’d have to say, give it one more chance with one of Ching’s recipes. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Check out her website and the Chinese Cooking Made Easy recipes on the Cooking Channel website for more ideas!

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Spicy Beef Stir-Fry over Brown Rice

Adapted from Chinese Cooking Made Easy
Serves 2

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It took me weeks to finally track down Shaosing rice wine (sherry will do just fine here as a substitute) but let me give you the long story short – you can find it at your local Asian grocery store. (I had to ask someone to help me, but they did have it!)

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Gather:
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound flap steak or other lean beef cut, sliced thinly into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
cooked brown rice, for serving

Prepare:
Combine the cumin, red pepper, black pepper, and salt in a medium bowl. Dredge steak strips in spice mix, covering on all sides.

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet  over medium-high heat. Add the beef strips to the hot oil, keeping the strips in one layer in the pan, and using the back of a spatula or a spoon to press each strip into the hot skillet to get a good sear. Cook beef for 1 minute, and turn to other side. Add rice wine and soy sauce. Let cook for another 30 seconds, then remove to serving dish. Garnish with cilantro and green onions, if desired, and serve with brown rice.

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Fiveng / Easythis is on repeat at my house right now! Sounds a bit like my second husband, Noah Lennox/Panda Bear

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