Market Fresh

This weekend my roommate and I were excited to sign up for this new little venture they are trying out in our neighborhood. Basically it was a guided tour through the farmers market with a local chef who then cooks a full meal prepared with foods purchased at the market! We both frequent the farmers market for fresh local produce (and let’s be honest, usually fresh tacos too)…I love walking from my house, getting some coffee and then sampling the fresh stuff and taking in the sights and smells on Sunday mornings.

We showed up and met the chef – Jeff Rossman from Terra, a restaurant down the street. He was super friendly and ended the day by saying “please email me questions or come talk to me when you come in and eat” – which I thought was cool. He like to create meals that feature both fresh and local produce and taught us a lot about what questions to ask and encouraged us to talk to the farmers more and really learn about what makes them all different. It was great too because I get my CSA box every other week and sometimes wonder what to do with everything – but he pointed out great ways to use all kinds of vegetables and even their leaves that most people probably throw away. He also showed us the difference in foods that taste great and are good for you but wouldn’t make the supermarket shelves because they don’t look good enough. It was very educational and I feel like I learned a lot! Michael Pollan would be proud.

As for the meal, everything he prepared for us was delicious – he made a stuffed kumquat appetizer (with herbs and goat cheese), a fresh salad and basil vinaigrette and angel hair pasta with veggies, olive oil and some aged cheese shredded on top. Everything he bought from the pasta to the ingredients for the dressing were all from the market, so that was neat…and everything was SO delicious and fresh. Overall a great experience! I am interested to see what chefs they utilize in the future and will definitely have to go back for more meal prep and tastings!

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Chocolate Peppermint Snaps

These are by FAR my favorite Christmas cookies. I have to have them every year…it is just one of those items where as soon as I take a bite, I feel like it’s Christmas. We made them for years growing up, and I continue to make them each year. They always get great reviews – with bits of candy cane they offer the perfect holiday taste!

Ingredients

  • 1 6 oz package semi sweet choc chips
  • 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 Tblsp shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. crushed peppermint candy
  • 1/3 sugar to roll in

Directions

1. Melt the chocolate chips in double broiler; remove from heat and set aside.

2. Cream shortening, gradually add 3/4 cups sugar beating until light and fluffy. Then beat in melted chocolate.

3. Add egg, corn syrup and flavoring. Beat well.

4. Combine flour, soda and salt…pour dry ingredients into chocolate mixture. Stir in peppermint candy.

5. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

I always say the key to baking is undercooking things just a little bit…it depends on your oven but I think around 10-11 minutes is good. I like them so they stay a bit chewy. Also, as I have mentioned before…cooling cookies on a paper bag is also a life changing secret. Try it and you won’t go back!

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Holiday Comfort Foods

I want to apologize, because there are a lot of things I would like to post on here but life gets so crazy and the time gets away from me! Although really, who am I kidding…I’m sure my five or six loyal readers aren’t exactly chomping at the bit for my new blog posts or recipes to try. Either way, I wish I was more consistent with the posts! Maybe in the new year…possible resolution for 2010 perhaps?

Moving on…I wanted to do a Thanksgiving follow-up, but now it is practically Christmas! Here are some of the dishes from our Thanksgiving meal that were my favorites, just for the record. They could also work for a Christmas dinner or really any holiday meal.

Best Thanksgiving Stuffing

I got this recipe last year from a friend and just had to have it! Growing up I wasn’t the biggest fan of stuffing/dressing at Thanksgiving, but this one wins my vote! It is not overly strong, and I think the biscuits add a good consistency and flavor instead of just using bread crumbs. It is very moist and ours was actually a tad undercooked, but still delicious…and great leftover!

Ingredients

  • 6 cups biscuit crumbs
  • 4 cups cornbread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp minced parsley
  • 1/2 tsp sweet marjoram
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less to taste, depending on how salty your broth is)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup minced celery
  • 3/4 to 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 1/2 cups liquid  (about 1/2 chicken broth, 1/2 hot water)
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Directions

1. In a very large bowl, lightly toss to combine first 6 ingredients (breadcrumbs + seasonings). Saute celery and onion in the butter.

2. Spoon out celery and onions over breadcrumb mixture, then pour in the hot liquid. (Don’t mix yet). Let stand for 1 hour.

3. Add beaten eggs and baking powder, and blend with either your hands or a slender fork.  (A spoon will mash the dressing and cause it to be heavy.  I kind of “tossed” it lightly with my hands and that seemed to work well.)

4. Turn dressing into a 9×13 greased casserole.

5. Bake covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for 20 minutes @ 350 degrees.

Creamy Mac N’ Cheese

My friend Nikki shared her macaroni & cheese recipe with us, and I really liked it! She used penne, but you could really do any pasta of your choice – I think it would be fun to experiment with different kinds or even a combination. We didn’t do any kind of topping but I think I would recommend using breadcrumbs or crushed ritz crackers or something on top to keep the creamy goodness underneath from drying out on top. I like the way the cheese is all melted together beforehand, and it is a great smooth taste!

Ingredients

  • 1  pound  uncooked pasta
  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 3  tablespoons  flour
  • 1  cup  milk
  • 1  (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 2  cups  (8 oz.) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1  package cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground red pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 cups breadcrumbs (depending on size of dish)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pasta and transfer to a large bowl.

2. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and evaporated milk; cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in Gouda, cream cheese, salt, and 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper until smooth. Remove from heat.

3. Combine pasta and cheese mixture, and pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Stir together bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. melted butter, and remaining 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper; sprinkle over pasta mixture.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Sweet Potato Cups

I found these online and thought they were the perfect solution to having a smaller number of people this year at Thanksgiving. I copied the idea but used my mom’s sweet potato recipe because it is to die for! So smooth and creamy and the perfect combination of seasonings! In my opinion, the secret is whipping them for a long time (I hate when sweet potato casserole is still partially stringy). You can adjust the recipe for the number of cups. I made six with the recipe below (this picture is before they were cooked, minus the topping).

Ingredients

  • 3 c. peeled, cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. half and half or whole milk
  • three large oranges

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425º. Place sweet potatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender. Let stand 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350º.

2. Meanwhile, cut oranges in half crosswise. Scoop out pulp using a spoon, leaving peel intact.

3. Peel sweet potatoes, and place potato pulp in a large bowl. Add all ingredients except for cream and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add cream and mix well.

4. Spoon about 1/2 cup mixture into each empty orange cup and place orange cups in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

4. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and top with marshmallows or nut mixture, pressing lightly to adhere. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until marshmallows are melted and golden brown.

Note: Orange cups and sweet potatoes can be made 1 day ahead. Chill scooped orange cups and baked sweet potatoes in separate zip-top plastic bags until ready to assemble.

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Endive Blue Cheese Salad

My roommate Stacy discovered this recipe online and we made it for Thanksgiving…it was a big hit with us both. I love blue cheese, and the combination of flavors with the crunchy endive is delicious. It is extremely quick and easy too! We used a certain block of creamy blue cheese from Whole Foods called “Mt. Reyes” and it was in my opinion the reason that this was so good. You could probably use crumbled blue cheese but I think the creamier version kept this from being too strong.

  • 2 bunches Belgian endive leaves, separated and rinsed
  • 1 cup candied pecans (optional)
  • 1/4 c. blue cheese crumbled (Mt. Reyes)
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper

Arrange leaves on platter and top with candied pecans and blue cheese. In a small bowl or jar, combine vinegar, oil and mustard. Whisk or shake to combine well, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle mixture over endive leave and serve.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I am spending the weekend in San Diego and will be cooking a large traditional Thanksgiving feast with my roommate and good friend. You can’t cut corners when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, so even though there are only three of us, we are making a full spread! Our menu consists of appetizers and mimosas to enjoy while we cook, followed by turkey, dressing, brie mashed potatoes, sweet potato cups, butternut squash pie, green bean casserole, baked mac n’ cheese, molasses baked beans, apple cranberry crisp and three pies – pumpkin, pumpkin pecan and apple. Wow, that is a lot! I can’t wait. I will be back in a few days to post some of the recipes I find worth sharing…but in the meantime, have a happy and relaxing Thanksgiving!

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First CSA Arrival!

Yesterday was an exciting day…the first day I received my CSA box full of fresh organic locally grown fruits and vegetables! I have been wanting to join one for awhile now, but mostly because of my laziness and not spending the time to actually set it up, AND wrongly thinking it would be really expensive, I kept putting it off and am just now getting around to officially signing up. For those of you who are not familiar, ‘CSA’ stands for ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ and basically allows you to support local farmers and in return receive a small portion of their crop! I chose Be Wise Ranch here in San Diego and here is their explanation of how it works…

In a CSA, a community is created between a local farmer and consumers. The consumers purchase a “share” of the upcoming harvest produced on the farm. The cost of a share is based on the true costs of production. By purchasing a share, the consumers obtain farm-fresh, organic produce on a weekly basis while helping to keep a local family farm economically and environmentally viable.

Sounds pretty great, right? It’s like someone going to the farmers market for you and bringing you a box of whatever looks good and is in season. Not bad! My friend and I are splitting the cost and splitting the goods – basically we will get a “large box” every other week for $15 each! Truly it is an amazing deal…I had to snap a picture with my phone of all the stuff we received because I was so excited – three different kinds of lettuce, broccoli, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, slicing AND grape tomatoes, beets, carrots, zucchini, persimmons, limes and apples. Whew! I am really looking forward to this new supplement to my grocery/farmers market shopping. And just in time for Thanksgiving…

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Southern Cranberry Apple Crisp

This has been a staple at my family’s thanksgivings for years! Only in recent years did I fully embrace it and now I have to admit it is quite delicious and very simple to make. If you are looking to bring something to Thanksgiving that doesn’t take a lot of work but gets rave reviews, I highly recommend this dish! I have never been one for the “traditional” (and awful looking) congealed cranberry sauce…but I know some version of cranberries are a traditional Thanksgiving dinner side dish, so this is the perfect alternative. It is sweet and almost could pass for dessert, but is a great compliment to turkey and the other Thanksgiving items too – so really it could be served with dinner (my preference) OR after. I have even served it at breakfast and that works too. So if you have leftovers, heat some up with a cup of coffee and enjoy it the next morning!

Southern Apple Cranberry Crisp

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 cups chopped apples
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. plain flour
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 stick melted butter

Directions:

1. Mix together apples, cranberries and sugar.

2. In another bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, flour, pecans and melted butter
3. Top apple/cranberry mixture with the granola topping and bake at 350 for 1 hour until granola mixture turns crispy and golden brown on top.

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