Happy St. Andrew’s Day! November 30th is a national holiday in Scotland, St. Andrew’s Day. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle haggis so we went for a traditional Fruit and Nut Bread instead.
Servings: 2 mini loaves or 1 regular loaf
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (like apricots or apples)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two 5.5″ x 3″ mini-bread loaf pans.
- In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add in pecans, raisins, dried fruit, and chocolate chips.
- In another bowl whisk together egg, oil, and buttermilk.
- Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
- Pour batter into bread pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.
*Tweaked from a recipe for Fruit & Nut Bread from Seamus McInnes
Maybe it’s the dip in temperatures but this year we decided on a Caribbean theme for Thanksgiving. Each year we try a new spin on Thanksgiving, last year it was all Mexican fare but today it was plantain time!
Here’s what we had on the menu…
Grilled turkey breast marinated with jerk seasoning.
Ropa vieja, a Cuban style shredded beef dish
Mofongo, a traditional Caribbean dish made with fried plantains, bacon, and heaps of garlic
Jerk-spiked rice with anise, cinnamon, cumin, and red beans
Dinner rolls with pineapple juice in the mix
And yes, I’m headed to the gym tomorrow.
Yeah, it’s time to talk dirt. I know what you’re thinking–why would I want to eat dirt? It’s not just regular dirt–or the dirt you make with ground up OREO cookie crumbs. This dirt adds undertones of umami to the freshest of salads.
On a recent trip to Kansas City I had dinner with friends at Affare, a Modern German restaurant that offers amazing seasonal salads as part of the menu. Here are a couple descriptions to give you an idea of what they serve:
Red beet salad and buttermilk two ways, artisan leaves, flower petals, goat cheese, spiced pecan nuts
Lamb’s Lettuce, truffled potato confit, smoked elk-brat on cranberry-mustard aioli, crispy sauerkraut
Creative, cool. Of course I had to try some of Affare’s ideas at home. So the night I was there a salad with edible dirt was on the list. I grilled the server on how to prepare the dirt–yeah, she probably doesn’t get that question very often, “So what’s in the dirt?” While I wouldn’t put edible dirt on the salad plate every day it was a fun, easy addition on a night where we wanted to make things a little fancy.
Making edible dirt is easy (surprised? I mean, it’s dirt)
Here’s what to do:
In a food processor pulse together:
1/4 cup dried mushrooms (any variety, I used porcini)
2-3 oz. dark chocolate (baking chocolate you don’t want it sweet)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. paprika (smoked preferred)
Process until the mixture resembles dirt–this will be loud! Adjust the seasoning–the flavor should have an earthy zing. Tip: If you want the dirt darker add a bit of dark cocoa (I used black onyx powder).
Putting the salad together:
- Place a row of artisan lettuce in the middle of the plate
- Top with grated carrots or radish (I used watermelon radish)
- Sprinkle with a strong cheese like feta, bleu, or gorgonzola
- Squeeze fresh lemon over the salad, drizzle with olive oil
- Add a teaspoon or two of edible dirt on the edges of the plate
Pumpkin loves garbanzo beans–the proof is in the hummus. Add pureed pumpkin into your hummus for a subtle, earthy underlying flavor.
The basic recipe is fast and easy to put together:
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans
4 tbsp. tahini
4 tbsp. pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Drain beans (reserving liquid) and place them into a food processor along with the pumpkin.
- With the blade running add in the olive oil and half of the reserved bean liquid.
- Remove the top of the food processor, scrap down the sides and add salt and tahini.
- Adjust the texture and flavor of the hummus using seasoning and more pumpkin, bean liquid, and/or spices.
For pumpkin pie hummus:
Add 1/2-1 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) and more pureed pumpkin
For Lebanese pumpkin hummus:
Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, and the juice from one lemon
I used to skip recipes that included alcohol. See Mr. Squid and I are non-drinkers. But I’ve learned that ingredients I have on hand are often good substitutions (as far as this teetotaler is concerned). Now, I’m not planning on trying to substitute the booze in vodka sauce–but recipes that include 1 cup of white wine or a smattering of red can easily have stand-ins.
As a base I use either chicken, vegetable, or beef broth. At my local grocers you can find Minor’s bases in the refrigerated section. They’re a little on the pricey side but one tub lasts forever. You can also use chicken broth from a carton. I tweak the flavor of the broth depending on what kind of wine the recipe calls for.
Here are a few substitutes I use:
White wine = Chicken broth + a little white grape juice + a splash of white balsamic vinegar
Red wine = Chicken or beef broth + a little red grape juice + a splash of regular balsamic vinegar
Fruit wines = Chicken or vegetable broth + apple or orange juice (maybe a bit of both) + white grape juice + fruit vinegars like raspberry
Your turn: Do you have any clever substitutions when recipes call for wine and you either don’t want to use it or don’t have it on hand?
Empire. McIntosh. Ginger Gold. Honey Crisp. There are literally thousands of different kinds of apples to try. Around 7,500.
When I was a kid I thought apples came in just two varieties–cardboard-like Red Delicious and too-tart Granny Smith. Today I look forward to trying a new-to-me apple variety each year (or more!). Last year my kids and I discovered Pink Lady apples. And this year my oldest is a fan of Jonagold apples (not to be confused with Jonamac) while my youngest can’t get enough of Honey Crisps.
Looking to spark an interest in trying new things in a stubborn picky eater? Grab an apple. Grab several. Let him know that you want to figure out what kind of apple is his favorite. Let him go crazy–make up a chart on paper to record his reactions to each new variety he samples. At our local grocery store, Miles Farmers Market, you can mix and match different apples all in one bag. I let my kids choose a few to compare at home.
Head to the orchard. We found at our local orchard–Patterson Fruit Farm–that they had samples available of at least a dozen different apples. They had signs, too, that described the characteristics for each. The woman working at Patterson’s asked each of my kids what she liked in an apple. Did she like it crisp or soft? Sweet or tart? Or does she prefer a mixture of all four characteristics? The woman encouraged my daughters to take samples of each type of apple available until she found her perfect apple.
Your turn–what’s your favorite apple?
Warning: Almond Joy Bars are surprisingly easy to make. And they only have four ingredients. I know, you’ve already started singing the Almond Joy jingle in anticipation of making a batch at home.
Here’s what you need:
• Shredded coconut (sweetened, unsweetened, your choice)
• Sweetened, condensed milk
• Chocolate bark (I mix in half chocolate bark half dark chocolate chips)
• Almonds (or if you don’t feel like a nut, go sans almonds)
- Get your hands dirty by mixing together 4 cups shredded coconut with about 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk. You want a consistency so that it’s easy to form the batter into a ball. Add more coconut or milk to get your consistency just right.
- Working with about 1 tablespoon of batter at a time form balls into Almond Joy bar shapes and place them on waxed paper fitted in a cookie sheet. With 4 cups I was able to make about 20-24 bars (my kids kept “testing” the coconut mixture to make sure it was right so I suspect we could have made a few more bars).
- Place the bar molds into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
- Melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate in a microwave-safe dish on half power for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the chocolate!
- One at a time roll the coconut bars into the melted chocolate then place back on the waxed paper. Top each bar with an almond. Note: I found that topping the dipped chocolate bar with an almond was a lot easier than putting it onto the coconut, then dipping (the coconut would crack or the almond would fall off into the chocolate–or both). If you want your Almond Joy bars to look more like the real thing then dip the bars into chocolate a second time.
Going for a gross-out dinner this Halloween! Break out the meatball mix, then.
This recipe didn’t start out as a Halloween meal. See, I had this great idea a few years ago that we’d study a different animal for two weeks at a time. To finish off our studies we’d have a meal where we focused on whatever animal the kids chose and we’d talk about what we learned. Well, the first animal my kids chose was a snake. I can’t remember what the kids learned about snakes–nope, what I remember is that my husband had this great idea to fashion meatball mix into rodents for our big meal. Now, we make these meatball rats to top spaghetti for Halloween each year.
You can too.
Here’s how it works:
- Use your favorite meatball recipe (I like The Pioneer Woman‘s)
- Shape the meatball mix into rodent shapes–rounded back side and a more pointed front
- BAKE the meatballs with pieces of olives for eyes and pieces of ham as the tails
- Serve the rodents over spaghetti topped with pasta sauce
I only wish I’d thought of this one first!
When I was served this impressive dark chocolate and vanilla mousse cake at a recent reception at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, my thought was simply, “Oh yeah, I can do this at home!” (The design, that is.)
Here’s how you can too:
- Plain plate–the bigger the better!
- Place a fork and/or spoon in the middle of the plate.
- Find a sieve with the finest mesh possible.
- Add powdered cocoa to the middle of the sieve. Gently tap the side of the sieve to create a pattern on the plate.
- Take off the fork and/or spoon.
- Place your brownie on the plate.
This is a perfect kid assignment–prepping the plates for the brownies.