Monday, March 10, 2014

Gatherings Magazine Spring Issue is HERE! Artists + Artisans


In a world that often cries, "Me, me!  Look at MEEEEEEE!", my childhood friend, Heather Thompson, editor-in-chief of Gatherings Magazine, sings a refreshingly different chorus.  Despite her own incredible talents as an artist and designer, Heather works tirelessly to highlight the creative accomplishments and endeavors of others.  She is the artists' champion.  Their ambassador.  

Today, the Spring 2014 issue of Gatherings Magazine has been released.  Artists + Artisans is a strong continuation of Heather's desire to be the voice for creative talents around the world.  

In Heather's words, "Gatherings is an independent, home-grown magazine with a mission to provide beautiful inspiration for everyday living and encourage creative spirits."

Here is a preview of Heather's hard work to do just that...


You can view the digital version of this magazine for $4.95.  A print version is available for $14.95.  A one-year subscription is available for $60.  Please visit the online shop for purchases.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chicken Marbella


 

 

The winter wind is singing her mournful music down my chimney.  I hear it often, usually after the children have been tucked in bed and the house is finally still, quiet.   This is when I write. 

She is courteous enough to hush her howling now and then, allowing me to hear the satisfying "pop" of the large piece of oak as it burns in the fireplace, the creak of the floor as my husband comes near to kiss my cheek and rub my shoulders, the whirr of the ceiling fan as it distributes the fire's warm air. 

My soul inhales this bouquet of night sounds; this soft contrast to a day filled with little boy noises.

I want to nestle down in the pleasant peacefulness and stay here for a while, savoring the gentle hush.  Much like I savored the flavors of our supper tonight.  Even while the boys' eyes bugged incredulously at the stewed plums and olives on their plates.

Chicken Marbella: my favorite winter dish.  Chicken marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, prunes, olives, capers, bay leaves, and oregano; baked after being sprinkled with brown sugar and drizzled with white wine.

A redolent bouquet of winter flavors.

(Here's the printable recipe.)

Chicken Marbella
Serves 4

4 leg quarters, with skin (about 3.5 pounds total)*
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a generous sprinkling of pepper---about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives (pimento-stuffed is fine...)
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice (optional)
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine
Small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped for garnish

In a large bowl or 13" x 9" baking dish, combine chicken, garlic, oregano, pepper and salt, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers, and bay leaves.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate, refrigerated, overnight.  Turn chicken once if not completely submerged.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large baking dish.  Spoon the marinade over any exposed chicken.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar and then pour the wine around the chicken.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with the pan juices.  Test the chicken to ensure doneness by pricking meat at the thickest point.   Juices should run clear-yellowish, not pink. 

Transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers, if using, to a platter.  Moisten meat with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with the fresh parsley.  Pass the remaining juices in a sauceboat, if desired.

*This dish can also be made with 4 large chicken breasts, which, while they are less flavorful, are much easier (and neater) to eat than the leg quarters.  Cover the baking dish with foil for the first 30 minutes and baste very frequently, as the chicken breasts will dry out much more quickly than the leg quarters with skin.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Creme Brulee for your Sweetie

{I'm reposting this story, recipe and crappy photography from my first year of blogging...waaaaay back in 2011.   The story still makes me simultaneously grin and wince; the recipe still makes me want to run to the kitchen and start fixin' it.  Enjoy!}

------------------------------------------

On February 14, 2006, when I was 5 months pregnant with our first child, my husband surprised me by taking me to a very nice restaurant.  Though I was thrilled to be going somewhere so tasty and fancy, I was a little worried about what I was going to wear.

(Nothing "nice" fit anymore, and I didn't want to run out and buy a gussied-up maternity outfit.)

After freaking out for approximately 10 minutes, I s-q-u-e-e-z-e-d myself into a non-maternity black dress.

But my legs were so pasty white, the mere thought of them being seen in public sent me running to my hosiery drawer. 

I pulled out a black pair of pantyhose.

But do you think they were going to comfortably fit over my pregnant belly?

Not a chance.

What's a girl to do?

Thigh-highs!

That's right.  Out came the scissors, snip-snip-snip, and voila!  I made myself a homemade pair of thigh-high pantyhose.

They fit perfectly!

Feeling so pretty (and quite clever), I sashayed to my husband's arms.

We drove to the restaurant.

From where we parked, we had to walk about a half-block to get to the restaurant.

Here's the only problem with homemade thigh-highs: they stay up just fine while you're sitting down, but with each step you take, they roll down. 

Quickly.

Without much warning.

So I am walking along, and the next thing I know, my pantyhose are rolling up like window shades in a swift descent to my ankles.  

I grab both now-knee highs and try to continue my walk with dignity.

But my dress also stopped a little above my knee.  Precisely where the pantyhose were perched, visible to the nations.

I managed to quickly yank them back up to my thighs, but the sheer force of my death-like grip caused giant runners to start. 

It took approximately 47 years for us to walk past gads of people and finally be seated at our table.

My husband and I were laughing so hard, we caused a little scene.

I discreetly removed the hose and put them in my purse.

And then we had one of the greatest dinners of our lives and topped it off with creme brulee.

Hence the story and the recipe!

Happy Valentine's Day, friends!

Now go kiss your sweetie!

(And make this dessert...)


Ingredients:  Heavy cream, 4 eggs (yolks only), vanilla bean, sugar, salt.

Vanilla Beans
(If you don't have any beans, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.)

Add the beans to the heavy cream and sugar mixture
that you are gently heating.

These are 5-ounce ramekins.
I got them here.
Place them in a baking dish or baking sheet with sides.

Whisk together the egg yolks, a pinch of salt, and half of the sugar.

Cut open the softened bean pod and scrape out the seeds.

Give the hot cream/sugar/vanilla bean mixture a good whisk.

Use a ladle to pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the egg yolks
(so they won't curdle).
This is called "tempering."

Then add the rest.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins.

Fill the baking dish with hot water almost halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
(BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU PUT IT IN THE OVEN.)

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 300 degrees.

Let them cool for a few minutes at room temperature,
then transfer to fridge.

When you're ready to caramelize the tops,
sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar.

I love my kitchen torch, so I used it here.

But you can also broil them at 500 degrees for about 4-5 minutes
(keeping an eye on them of course!)



If the caramelized topping was ice and the custard were water,
this is an iced-over pond I'd volunteer to fall into.

Creme Brulee
Serves 4

4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
pinch of salt (less than 1/8 teaspoon)

Prepare oven and baking dishes: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place four 5-ounce baking dishes in a large roasting pan or baking sheet with rim.

Gently heat cream: In a medium saucepan, combine cream and half the sugar (doesn't have to be perfect...just dump out half of the 1/3 cup of sugar into the cream).  Toss the vanilla bean into the cream. Heat over medium just until mixture starts to bubble around the edge of the pan, 7 to 8 minutes (do not let boil).

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with remaining sugar (the remaining half of the 1/3 cup) and the salt.

Remove vanilla bean:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bean from the cream.  After it's cooled just a bit, use a sharp knife to split the bean and scrape as many of the tiny beans back into the cream mixture.

Temper eggs: Use ladle to pour a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, then whisk to combine. (This is called tempering and prevents the eggs from curdling.) Add two more ladles of cream mixture, one at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture.

Bake: Divide custard evenly among baking dishes. Place pan in oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake until custards are just set (they should tremble slightly in center when shaken), 30 to 40 minutes.

Chill: Remove pan from oven. Use tongs to carefully remove dishes from hot-water bath and place on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or up to 3 days) before serving. The custard will finish setting in the refrigerator. If you like, transfer the custards to the freezer 15 minutes before serving to ensure they stay cold after being bruleed (this is especially important if using the broiler).

Caramelize tops and serve: Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon granulated sugar over each custard. Working with one at a time, pass the flame of the torch in a circular motion 1 to 2 inches above the surface of each custard until the sugar bubbles, turns amber, and forms a smooth surface. Serve immediately.

Or, if using the broiler:  make sure the top rack of the oven is as close to the oven heating element as possible.  Heat broiler to 500 degrees.  Place the ramekins on the top shelf and broil for 4-5 minutes (this time may vary depending on your oven!  You need to be standing right there so you can check to make sure they are not burning!).  You may have to rotate the dishes to get even caramelizing.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Double Chocolate Pudding

What a WINTER this has been!  

Our backyard has a decent slope to it; on snow days we have quite the kid-crowd.  A smattering of sleds are visible from my living room windows.  I enjoy watching the bright colors of all the children's coats and gloves soar down the hill in glee. They don't notice that it's 10 degrees. 

I love to welcome them back inside with something warm and comforting to eat (or drink).  Usually it's this cookie recipe (because it's so fast and easy), but today I decided to go with a 7-ingredient chocolate pudding.  It waaaaaay easier than the cookies (less than 12 minutes from beginning to in-your-mouth if you want to eat it warm).  And the TASTE.  I just can't get over the chocolatey creaminess!  

I literally finished arranging this vignette as I heard the back door open, took a few shots, and grinned as they rounded the corner to the kitchen exclaiming, "CHOCOLATE PUDDING!!!  THANK YOU!!!  WE'RE SO COLD AND HUNGRY!!"

Self high-five!  A Mom Success.

  (Real life shot.  Forget the cute vintage styling!  Gimme some puddin'!)

Double Chocolate Pudding
Serves 6

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cream (I used 1.75 cups whole milk + 0.25 cup Half-and-Half...it worked great)
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (substitute chocolate chips)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients into a medium saucepan (you can skip this step if you want; it's just that unsifted cocoa powder makes me crazy.)  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the cream (or milk/half-and-half mixture) until smooth; then add the remaining one cup of cream (or milk mixture).  Place the pan over medium heat and cook (whisking constantly...don't let it scorch!) until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil (about 5 minutes).  Continue to whisk and boil for 1 minute.

Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Add in the chopped chocolate and the vanilla.  Let stand for about 5 minutes until the chocolate is melted. Then stir gently until the pudding is smooth.  (Don't stir too much or the pudding will begin to thin out.)

Divide pudding into 6 small bowls or cups.  Let cool for about 20 minutes to serve warm and soft (I couldn't wait that long!), or refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.

Recipe from:  Short and Sweet:  Sophisticated Desserts in 30 Minutes or Less

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chocolate Mug Cake

Ever have a craving for a few bites of something chocolatey-cakey but don't necessarily want make an ENTIRE cake?  

Me, too!

Ever been a total snob about something (that you've never even tried) and then felt like a jerk when you finally tried it (and actually liked it)?

Me, too!

I freely admit I'm a recovering snob about this make-a-little-cake-in-the-microwave recipe.  My fear was that the cake would be so gummy and chewy that you could dump it out of the cup, dribble it out the door, and shoot a basket with it in the driveway.  And I will tell you...if you don't eat the cake pretty soon after it's done, it will get that way.  But YUM!!  I was blown away by how good and non-rubbery it was upon it's exit from the microwave! 


I threw a few chocolate chips on top as soon as the cake was done; they melted deliciously and provided more moisture to each bite.

It's Secret Recipe Club time again!  This month my assigned blog was My Hobbie Lobbie written by Trisha from Sydney, Australia.  Trisha loves to craft AND cook; she says she has a fondness for collecting both recipes and crochet patterns. :)  She has a LOT of recipes on her site!  Click on over and check out her blog. 

The only thing I altered about this recipe was that I swapped out the vegetable oil for coconut oil.  Also, I sifted the dry ingredients together because unsifted cocoa powder gives me a nervous twitch.  :) 

(Printable Recipe)

Two-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
Yield:  1 large mug or 2 small mugs 

3 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt

Whisk together the oil, milk, egg, and vanilla extract in a small bowl or directly into the microwave-safe mug you'll be using.

If desired, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and the salt into another small bowl; mix well and then add those ingredients to the oil and milk mixture.    (If you want to add the dry ingredients directly to the mug, go right ahead...but it may be a bit lumpy.)  Using a small whisk or a fork, mix the dry and wet ingredients together well.  Divide between two small microwave-safe mugs or use one larger one.

Microwave on high power for 2 minutes.  PLEASE BE CAREFUL BECAUSE IT WILL BE VERY HOT WHEN IT'S DONE. Let it sit for a minute or two, and then eat it immediately.

Variations:
Toss a few chocolate chips in the batter (they sink to the bottom and make a delicious fudgy layer).
Toss a few chocolate chips on top of the cake when it's done; allow to melt.
Poke holes in the cake when it's done and pour some sweetened condensed milk or dulce de leche all over it.
Add freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Recipe from My Hobbie Lobbie and Completely Delicious



Friday, January 24, 2014

Red Velvet Pancakes (Colored with Beets) with Maple-Buttermilk Icing

 
My boys asked me to make "wacky" pancakes this morning.  These Red Velvet pancakes fit the bill.

The recipe calls for 2-4 teaspoons of red food coloring (depending on how red you'd like for the pancakes to be).  I didn't have nearly that amount on-hand, so I went with my favorite red food coloring alternative:  roasted, pureed beets (which I had a lot of!).
(Please see this post for easy step-by-step instructions for roasting and pureeing the beets to get them recipe-ready.  I've added them to many baked goods, and I have never been able to detect that "earthy" beet taste.)

I used 4 tablespoons of beet puree to color these pancakes so deeply. 


And then I got a strong and handsome helper to stir the batter.

I used about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake.

"One of these days", I'd like to have a griddle.  But for now, this big skillet works pretty well.  I have to use a lot of coconut oil to keep the cakes from sticking, but the oil gives the outside of each one a delicious, coconut-y crispiness that is absolutely divine. 

I overcooked a few trying to get the heat on the skillet just right, but these were far from being inedible. 

While I realize this isn't the world's most appetizing photo, can I just tell you?  The buttermilk in the batter gives these pancakes a delicious twang, and the cocoa powder lends a whisper of chocolate.  For a "wacky" pancake, these are just about as good as it gets.

The icing contains buttermilk, milk, powdered sugar and vanilla.  It's unusual yet equally fantastic (not at all in-your-face buttermilk).  

He agrees.  


Make these for your loves this Valentine's Day for a fun breakfast.

Do-ahead-tip:  I love to make a huge batch of pancakes, freeze them individually on a baking sheet, and then transfer the frozen pancakes to a freezer bag.  When I need a few for breakfast, I just pop them in the toaster oven for 4-5 minutes.  It's like a delicious, homemade version of frozen grocery store pancakes.  :)  

This recipe is Ree Drummond's (a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman) "A Year of Holidays" cookbook.  I didn't have cake flour on hand, so I used all-purpose and it seems to work fine.  I also swapped out the food coloring for the beet puree.  Other than that, this is her creation. 

Red Velvet Pancakes with Maple-Buttermilk Icing
Makes about 20 Pancakes

Pancakes:
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2-4 tablespoons pureed beets (or substitute 2-4 teaspoons red food coloring)
Cooking spray (if you have a griddle)
4-5 tablespoons coconut oil or butter (if you are using a skillet to make the pancakes)

Icing:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the pancakes:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cocoa powder.  Whisk well to combine. 

In a separate bowl, mix the milk, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and vinegar.  (Whisk it well.) Now add the beet puree (or food coloring) and stir again.

Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture; mix just until it comes together (the more you stir, the tougher the pancakes will be).  Pour in the melted butter and stir (or whisk) until it's all combined.  

Heat a griddle over medium-low heat.  Or, if you're like me and you don't have a griddle, melt about a tablespoon of coconut oil (or butter) into a large skillet.  (I use a stainless steel skillet; if you're using a non-stick skillet, you may not have to use this much oil.)   Use a 1/4 cup measuring scoop and drop them on the skillet (I fit batches of 3 pancakes onto my 10-inch skillet).  Cook SLOWLY (over medium heat) until the pancakes are done, about 2 minutes per side.  These look much better when they are a pretty pink color as opposed to scorched black.  :)  Add more oil to the skillet as needed for each batch. 

For the icing:
I found it best to do this in my stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  But, if you don't have one you can definitely just use a whisk.   

Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the salt and melted butter and whisk on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add the buttermilk, milk, and maple syrup and whisk again until it's very smooth.  A few small, unfortunate lumps may remain.  It will still taste great.  


Friday, January 3, 2014

Bacon, Mushroom and Cheddar-Stuffed Rolls

 These rolls are just pretty.  Pretty to look at, pretty on your plate, and pretty dang good to eat.

Begin by sauteeing about 9 slices of bacon. (No lovelier words began a recipe...)

Then dice 6 mushrooms.  

Wait...what's that you say?  You'd like a mushroom-dicing lesson?!  Really?  OK! 

First lop off the stem.  Then slice through the mushroom horizontally.

Then flip it back to right-side-up.  Slice through it six or seven times vertically (with the cuts coming toward yourself).  Then rotate the mushroom and slice through it again,

Until the little darlin' is neatly and evenly diced.   (It's much like my nerdy little "how to dice an onion" tutorial.)

Six to seven mushrooms diced will yield almost 1 cup. 

Let's return to the bacon.  Blot it well with a paper towel, and chop it up. 

In the skillet in which you cooked the bacon, remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the grease (or, if that gags you out...just use a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in its place).  Throw in the mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until they get all browned and bubbly and delicious.  Transfer the sauteed mushrooms to a bowl.

Slice up a few green onions (and 5 cloves of garlic...forgot to snap that pic)...

Remove the mushroooms from the pan (but, by golly, do NOT wash it!).  If the skillet's on the dry side, toss in a tablespoon of butter.  Saute the garlic for about 1 minute over medium-high heat,

 Then toss in the green onions for about thirty seconds or so. 

 Pour the garlic and green onions in the bowl with the mushrooms,

And then add about 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, and a cup of grated cheddar cheese.

If you'd like to, by all means, use your own homemade rolls for this recipe.  I love Sister Schubert's rolls, and they work fantastic here (and saved me a whole lot of time).  I set the frozen bag on the counter when I began sauteing the bacon, and by the time I was ready to stuff them, the rolls were thawed. 

Cut an eye-shaped wedge out of the rolls.  

(But be careful not to slice through the bottom of the roll.)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, place the rolls on the sheet, 

...and stuff them.  Then sprinkle over a bit more of cheddar cheese.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the filling is hot and the cheese has melted.  Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve warm.  (They reheat very well, if you need to make them ahead of time.  Just keep the rolls well-wrapped in the fridge and cover them with foil when it's time to reheat before serving.)

Bacon, Mushroom, and Cheddar-Stuffed Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

9 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon grease)
6 mushrooms, diced (stems removed)
4 green onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dijon (I used coarse-ground)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup + 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
 12 (purchased) smooth-topped dinner rolls (do not use cloverleaf rolls)
Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish, if desired)

Saute bacon in large skillet.  When done, remove bacon and place on a plate that's been lined with paper towels.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease; discard the rest.  In the same skillet you used to saute the bacon, heat the reserved bacon grease and add the diced mushrooms.  Saute over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes until they are evenly browned.  Remove from heat.

Chop bacon and place in a medium-sized bowl.  Add cooked mushrooms to the bowl.  In the same skillet (don't wash it!; if it seems dry add another tablespoon of butter), saute the garlic for 1 minute over medium-high heat until fragrant (don't let it brown).  Add the green onions and saute them for only 30 seconds or so.  Place the garlic and green onions in the bowl.  Add mayonnaise and mustard to the bacon/green onion mixture in the bowl.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir in 1 cup of the grated cheddar cheese.  Set mixture aside.

Make an almond-shaped cut into each of the rolls, bring mindful NOT to pierce the bottom of the rolls.  Remove that cut piece from the center of the roll.  Place rolls on parchment-paper lined baking sheet.  Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the bacon/cheese mixture into each of the rolls.  Top each roll with 1/2 teaspoon of the reserved cheddar cheese.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, or until filling is hot.  Garnish each roll with the chopped fresh parsley.

Recipe inspired by Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook