Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful in so many ways, and hungry!

It's Thanksgiving.  It's cold and foggy outside, and warm and quiet inside. I just finished writing my Thanksgiving menu. I know, I know-last minute.  I ended up taking a stroll through Pike Place Market yesterday which helped shape my menu.

Before I get to posting that, I want to take a few minutes to say how grateful I am, to my friends, my family, my blog readers, to my coworkers, and my community. Each one has shaped me into who I am and I am so, so lucky for all that I have. So, thank you, to each of you for the love, support and encouragement.

I am also grateful for a loving partner and a beautiful and healthy daughter. Watching her learn and grow has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring; may we all look upon the world in as much wonder each day.

On that note, I'll leave you with my menu, enjoy!
  • Wild mushroom and Organic Root Vegetable Stuffing (with chanterelles and black trumpeter mushrooms)
  • A locally grown turkey, with sage, lemon and thyme
  • Garlic thyme gravy, with a touch of lemon
  • Sautéed broccolini with black trumpeter mushrooms and prosciutto
  • Green beans with garlic and prosciutto
  • Mashed potatoes with garlic and goat cheese
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, cinnamon and calvados
  • Pumpkin cheesecake
  • The wildcard-celeriac soup, or mashed in with the potatoes...I'll decide this one on the fly!
  • Sparkling cider and wine for mom and I, and a dark beer for Nick
All my best and love, this wonderful holiday season!

Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful, has fallen asleep in life. 
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oh Lucky Day!

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day and after being out of commission last year, we were all ready to do some celebrating-albeit less than in past years.
My tradition is to get together with friends, make corned beef and cabbage, have guinness and eventually get talked into an Irish Car Bomb drink. If you've never had one, it's a pint of Guinness with a shot of Irish cream mixed with whiskey which is dropped into the glass and slammed down. If you don't do it quickly, you end up with a curdled mess in your mouth. Inevitably we all dribble this concoction on ourselves too. I've never been skilled at slamming drinks, so I end up chewing the last  part of my drink.
So when I saw a recipe for a Jell-O Shot version, I thought, 'Hey, I can do that'. I get to revisit my college years, and escape the gross curdled mess from not being a skilled beer-slammer.  Win and win, plus my friends get to escape dribbling dark beer on themselves. Since I would have Guinness on hand, I also decided to make Guinness cupcakes-who doesn't like a little dessert after all the delicious corned beef?

Irish Car Bomb Jell-O Shot
Makes 6 medium shots

1.5 packets of plain gelatin powder
1/2 tspn of sugar-I used dark brown sugar, packed
1 tspn of dark cocoa powder-get the good stuff here
1 cup Guinness
1/4 cup of Irish cream
1/4 cup Irish Whiskey-I prefer Jameson or Bushmills
pam or a little olive oil

First, prep your shot glasses.  I didn't do this, nor did I use silicone molds, so my shots required a little work to remove.  To do this, wipe a little pam or olive oil on the inside of your shot glasses. You don't want a lot, just enough to make a slight sheen. Or, you can go smart, and get the traditional plastic Jell-O shot cups, or the bendy silicone molds. Your call.
Add the Guinness to a small sauce pan and heat up on low-medium heat, and add 1 packet of gelatin, stirring for one minute. Add in your sugar and cocoa powder until everything has dissolved. I put this into a measuring glass with a pouring lip, so I didn't make a big mess. Pour mixture to about half way up the shot glass. Put this in the fridge to set up, waiting about 20-30 minutes before starting the next layer.  Rinse your sauce pan and measuring cup with hot water now, so you can reuse it and the gelatin doesn't set.
After waiting, and hopefully enjoying some Guinness, start layer number 2! Warm up the Irish cream, add your 1/2 packet of gelatin and stir. Once the gelatin is incorporated, add your whiskey and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.  Pour this mixture over the Guinness layer of your shot glasses 1/4 the height of the first layer. The effect will be that the shot looks like a tiny glass of Guinness. Added bonus? You won't dribble on yourself.   If for any reason your shot doesn't want to release, grab a toothpick and run it along the side of the glass.

I love cupcakes and I love beer. I hate precise measurements, which is pretty much baking defined; but this recipe is pretty hard to foul up and combines cupcakes AND beer. If I could add bacon, it may even be more perfect.
Guinness Cupcakes with Irish Cream Frosting
Makes 12
1 cup Guinness
hearty splash of Irish cream
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 stick of butter
3/4 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tspn salt
1 egg
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 cupcake tin and liners for as many cupcakes as you need. 

You rinsed out that sauce pan after running your finger along the side to taste the Irish cream gelatin, right? Go ahead and grab that, and add your Guinness, turning the stove up to medium. Add your butter, your cocoa powder and your splash of Irish cream (a splash is just a couple of tablespoons at most). Let this warm up and stir. Of note, you should slowly add the cocoa powder versus plopping it all in, so it can dissolve and not get gloopy.  As this heats, mix up your dry ingredients in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a mixer stand and set aside.  Once your Guinness mixture is all dissolved and looking like deep, dark, chocolaty heaven, pour this into your flour mixture. You can let it cool, but I didn't, and the world didn't end.
Take that traditional baking!
Stir it all around until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add your egg and your sour cream and mix until it's incorporated too.
Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Irish Cream Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese-softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Irish cream-this is more than you may need
A note. I don't like sickeningly sweet frosting, so there's not a ton of sugar in here. Taste as you go, and add more sugar as you go.  In the bowl of a mixer, combine your sugar and your cream cheese and blend until all is incorporated, slowly add your Irish cream until you have consistency that you want. Finish up by slathering your delicious cupcakes with the yummy goop. 

That's it, two delicious treats for St Patrick's Day. What's your go to dish for St Pat's?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Beery Review

One of the things I missed during pregnancy was Beer Friday. Every Friday, a group of us would hit a local brewery and have drinks, hit the local pub and grab dinner. It was the social time that I missed, and I won't lie; after a long week, a beer (or a few) was a welcomed treat.  The picture above is from a trip to Glacier National Park, where I happily lounged in my hammock with one of my favorite beers, Baron Brewing's Uber-Weisse. Shortly after Jen and I got pregnant, the brewery went out of business. That was our Friday staple. Coincidence?  Who knows.

I worried that once I had Tiny Beast I wouldn't be able to hit any fun places for a Friday treat. Babies and bars don't mix so well. Luckily, most brewery taprooms ARE kid friendly and are much more quiet, and well, less full of drunk, touchy, and germy people.

Without further adieu, I offer a column for all of us who want to get out and have a night out with an adult beverage, but who have their kids in tow. As I hit new breweries, I'll add them to the blog as Beer Friday, and write my reviews. If there's anything that would be helpful to read about, leave a comment and I'll add that in for future additions. If there's a place that you know of in Washington or else where, please add that as well! I'm sure I should put in a disclaimer that you should never drink and drive and that you should keep your imbibing to a level that doesn't impair your ability to care for your kid. I'll assume you are a savvy adult and have mastered common sense, but just in case...please see my prior sentence.

The rundown so far:
Big Al's Brewing-White Center (Seattle).
I love this place. It's no Baron, but it's close. The bartender noted that he hadn't seen me in ages and was super excited to hear about Tiny Beast. They also have a board for "Beer it Forward", so you can buy someone a beer who isn't there with you. It's nice as its mostly the same folks each time, so you know what you're getting into. There's two stories, and kids are welcome upstairs. There are couches and a big screen, darts, board games and an Atari. AN ATARI!  If that doesn't sell it right there, I don't know what does!  The beers are solid, and they rotate guest taps. They play soccer, but that's about as sporty as this place gets.  right now, I am loving their Blonde.
Parking? Plentiful, but street
Noise level? Upstairs isn't bad and you can carry on a conversation without raising your voice
Beers on a scale of 1-10? 8. Nick says 7. I say he's silly.
Food? None, but they do have a Soup thing on Sundays and you are welcome to bring your own food-there's great Soul Food, pho and a BBQ joint close by. Oh, and Full Tilt Ice cream. So good.
Playtime? Fellow parents bring their kids, too.

Machine House Brewing-Georgetown (Seattle)
This is a new brewery and the third in Georgetown and that shows in the set up. It's not super obvious where it is, so it can be hard to find. What does that mean for you? It's not cram packed full of hipsters prefunking prior to hitting another bar. The vibe is mellow, and it's in an old Machine house along Airport Way. The beer list is still small, there were 4 beers available when we went, but they were good. I had the Machine House Mild-an English Dark Mild. It was what I would want to drink in the summer, when it was too hot for a Guinness. Yep, a light bodied dark beer. Nick had the Bitter, a smooth beer that wasn't overwhelmingly hoppy. We're heading back there Friday with Friends and will try something else!  They also had a gingered version of their Gold. It reminded me of my days drinking with the guys from Trade Route Brewing, before they moved south and changed and then were bought out.  Nostalgia aside...this wasn't my favorite beer. If the ginger was toned down, I'd like it more. Of note-this place is COLD. Seriously. Its in an old machine house, with high ceilings, and big windows. Bring a coat, and bundle up the tots. I wore gloves.
Parking: Lot and Street (yay!), but it is Georgetown so keep that in mind for Friday & Saturday nights
Noise Level? We went on a Sunday afternoon, so it was pretty quiet. I'll update after going Friday night.
Beers on a scale of 1-10? Nick says 8, I say 7
Food? Nope, but they have peanuts and outside food is ok, which is great, since Stellar Pizza is just down the street
Playtime? We saw one other couple there with a toddler. There's a wooden train set toy and plenty of seating

Urban Family Brewing-Ballard (Seattle)
I bought a Living Social deal for them, which prompted me to check them out. They have a few beers of their own and choose really awesome guest taps. I had a Maritime Navigator Dunkle that I loved, and Nick had an End of Reason from Gigantic Brewing-also super delish. We got there about 7 pm, and they were already out of their own beers (after opening at 5), which was a bummer, but they did have a little of their Pils on reserve. Since we came out and had Tiny Beast in tow, they comped us a beer for free (yay!). The customer service was awesome. The gal had us try quite a few samples after asking us what we were into, she was fast and super attentive.  The food was really good too. Nick had the Smokehouse burger with chili and I had the Bacon & Blue with a salad. They have a couple appetizers, and a vegetarian option. One thing to note, this place makes their burgers right, pinkish red in the middle. Yum!
Parking? Ugh. It's Ballard. Street parking that takes a while to find.
Noise Level? This place is pretty packed and there's music and a lot of people talking. Keep that in mind if your kiddo is overwhelmed easily.
Food? Yes!  YAY!  Burgers run about $11, with a side.
Playtime? We saw one other baby there
Beers on a scale of 1-10? Guest taps, 9. Their beer, the pils was a 6. Not sure about the others.

Well, there's the start folks. Next on tap (ha, get it?) will be Two Beers (where all the Baron patrons seemed to have gone off to) and Schooner Exact, a tap room I haven't been for over a year.

What family friendly tap rooms do you like?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Little Southern Love

Eep! It's been a while since I have posted. I have been cooking, but the culinary experiments aren't making it to the blog. I really need to start writing things down as I go.  Fat Tuesday came and went, and to celebrate I made Gumbo!  One of the things I miss most about living near the Gulf of Mexico is the delicious seafood-fish, crab, you name it.  The seafood in the Northwest is amazing, don't get me wrong, but there's something about the warm water that produces a different taste.

I love gumbo. It's hearty, spicy, and you can throw it together with whatever you have on hand. You don't need much; just some good stock, veggies and protein. The only thing you can't skimp on is a good roux.

Let's start with thickeners.
My main go-to is roux, which is equal parts fat and flour. It's cooked to varying colors which give it, and your dish, different tastes. The longer you cook it, the darker it is and the better (smokier/nuttier) the flavor. For gumbo, I like to cook my roux until it is a rich medium to dark medium golden color. I try to have some blonde (light) roux in the fridge to help speed up cooking sauces and soups. Some recipes will have you add your ingredients to the roux and then add the stock, and then the protein in stages. This is entirely up to you. Just remember to thoroughly cook your roux to avoid the flour taste. File' is also a traditional thickener I like to have on hand, since darker roux tends to not thicken as well as a lighter roux-you can add this at the end, or to individual bowls. Lastly, okra is used as a thickener, as it breaks down, it releases it's ooey-gooey goodness, and acts as a thickener. There's probably real science behind this, but I prefer to just keep my understanding at this: it is delicious and thickens up what I want to eat. I don't always use okra since here in the Northwest, it's not always readily available and when it is available it can be pricey.

What else makes this dish so good?  The Holy Trinity of cooking-onions, celery and bell pepper, diced up rough. This meal is rustic, so remember that when you're prepping your ingredients. Sure you can make everything uniform, but when you're hungry and chilly and just want a hot steaming bowl of yummy, anything that gets you there quicker is good.

Lets jump to the ingredients
1 lb chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 lb sausage-I like andouille, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 lb medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined. I like to remove the tail, too.
Crab meat-Optional, if using get the real stuff!
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
5-6 stalks celery, diced (your bell pepper and celery amounts should match, but be slightly less than your onion amount)
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 lb okra sliced into small bite sized pieces (optional)
1 tin or 2 cups diced tomatoes
2 Tbspn Olive Oil, butter or bacon fat
4-6 cups Chicken or fish stock, whichever you have on hand
yummy white wine to deglaze the pot-about 1/2 cup
1/4 tsp salt or more to taste
1/2 tsp pepper or more to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne or more/less to taste
1/4 tsp thyme (use 1/8 tsp if using ground. If using leaves, rub it in your hands before throwing in, or chop if using fresh)
1-2 bay leaves
2 hearty splashes of Worcester sauce
Cooked rice for the gumbo to go on-I have also used cous cous and quinoa.
Hot sauce

3 ounces fat-I use bacon fat, since I generally have that on hand
3 ounces flour.
There's a great tutorial located here that walks you through how to do it step by step. The run down is pretty easy- melt your fat over low heat, slowly add your flour while whisking to avoid clumps. Cook until you get the color you want. The idea is to keep it moving, it will eventually clump up, and you can smoosh it and flip it and smoosh it again as you go. Once it is a very light golden color, you're done, or you can keep cooking it for more flavor.

The how:
In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat up 2 Tbspn of olive oil , bacon fat or butter (your choice), until shimmering (use medium heat), add your chicken in small batches and brown, replacing with the next batch until all browned. You don't need to cook it through. Add your sausage and sear as well and remove.
You should have delicious brown nibbly bits on the bottom of the pan, to which you will add your wine. Scrape all of that delicious stuff off of the bottom, and add your onions, and cook about 1-2 minutes or until they start to soften up a bit. Add the Worcestershire sauce, and your seasonings and stir, adding in the stock, your chicken and sausage. Go ahead and cover the pot and cook the stock/meat/veggie combination for approximately 10-15 minutes, until the flavors start to come together.  While you're cooking this up, now is a good time to start your roux-when the roux is done, cover and leave to be added later.

After 10-15 minutes, taste for seasonings, adding anything that you would like more of. At this time, you should add the tomatoes and okra (if using). You will also add your roux at this time. To do this, grab your roux and place in a small dish. Take 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid from your gumbo and add this slowly to the roux, and stir until it is the consistency of a thick paste. Add this mixture and any of the left over cooking mixture to the pot. Why this extra step? You ensure your roux fully dissolves and no one ends up with a taste of plain roux instead of a delicious shrimp.

Now, check the level of the fluid.  Everything should be covered, but not "swimming" in the liquid.  If you need, add more liquid to cover the ingredients, and put the lid back on. If there is too much liquid, put the lid back on but not all the way on, to let steam out.  Cook for another 10 minutes or until the okra is starting to break down and your gumbo starts to thicken up-you know you're close when you can coat a spoon with the delicious broth.

Lastly, add your shrimp and cook for 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through.  In a deep bowl, add your cooked rice and top with gumbo and enjoy with some tobasco, or your favorite hot sauce!

Depending on how big of a serving you eat, this should serve 4-6.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Keeping things spicy

Nick and I love spicy food and we love complex flavors.  Tonight's meal combines multiple flavors, building one upon another, with slight heat coming from multiple ingredients, leaving you with a warm, smokey, hearty meal that leaves you satisfied, and with just enough burn to leave you wanting more.  The nice thing is that from start to finish, you have a yummy meal in less than 45 minutes. The leftovers are equally amazing, too!

The main dish is based loosely on Mario Batali's "Calamari alla Lucia". Since I add a little more punch and extra ingredients to make it more hearty, I renamed it "Calamari alla Diabla".  Since I render some fat from the sausage, I also make up a quick appetizer of clams to nibble on while the rest of the food cooks away.

Note, this is broken down with the clams first, even though you are rendering the fact from your sausage first.

Spicy clams with garlic, onion and white wine
1 lb clams of your choice, preferably locally sourced, soaked and cleaned.
The fat from 1/2-1 lb of chorizo that you have cooked partly, this should yield a little less than a quarter cup of smoky delicious fat.  Set the chorizo aside, you'll be using it in the main dish (see directions).
3 cloves of garlic rough chopped
1/2 of an onion, diced
1/2 c white wine
Generous pinch of red pepper flake
1.5 tspn fresh ground pepper (or to taste)

Start by searing the chorizo, letting the casing crack open and the fat to render out. You don't want to cook the sausage completely, just cook out some of the fat.  Once you have about 1/4 cup of fat, remove the sausage and set aside, you'll use this in the main dish.

Add your garlic and onion, sauteing 1-2 minutes.  Next, add your hot pepper flakes, stirring. Once your onions are cooked through and the garlic is starting to turn golden, add your white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any delicious nibbly bits that may have stuck to your pan. Continue to cook this mixture for another minute, adding your pepper, and let it boil.  You want the mixture to slightly reduce, but for all of the flavors to combine (about another minute).

Reduce your heat, so the mixture is a slight rolling boil. Add your clams.  Cook until all of the little guys have opened up, as if to say, I am all yours!!!!  Throw out any that do not open.

Remove the clams and reduce the delicious broth, setting this aside as well, once it is reduced by half. You'll be using this in the main dish, too!

I like to start with this dish, so I have something to nibble on while I cook the rest of my dinner!

Next up is your main course!

Calamari alla Diabla

1/2 lb calamari tubes and legs
1/2 lb calamari steaks
1/2-1 lb spanish chorizo, slightly dried, not the super squishy stuff. I say 1/2-1 lb as some people love more sausage than others. (see below for directions on this, if you do not make the clam dish ahead of time).

The rest:
2 cups tomato sauce, I always can my own, so I use 1 pint jar worth
1 lime (if you like lemon more, please use that!)
1/4 c olive oil (leave out of you use the fat from the chorizo)
red pepper flakes-at least a few good pinches
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/2 c white wine
The reserved broth from above (this isn't essential to the dish, it's just really good)
A fistful of parsley, chopped
1/4 c red wine or white balsamic vinegar. (I have used both, but prefer the red wine vinegar.)
1 tsp ground pepper
1 small bay leaf
28 ounces of butter beans, either canned, or dried beans that you have soaked until tender
Crusty bread, to soak up the delicious broth
Parmesan, freshly grated over the top (as much as you'd like)
****Note, I don't add salt, as the sausage and Parmesan add enough salt. Do taste along the way and adjust to your liking!****

If you do not precook your chorizo for the earlier dish, start by searing the chorizo, letting the casing crack open and the fat to render out. You don't want to cook the sausage completely, just cook out some of the fat.  Once it is above 1/2 done and seared well, remove from the heat and set aside. You can use the fat from this, or instead use the 1/4 olive oil.

Saute the garlic and red pepper in the fat, until the garlic starts to brown. Add your sauce, wine, bay leaf and half of the vinegar, bringing it all to a simmer.

Meanwhile, chop your chorizo up into good sized bites, cut up your steaks into chunks, and slice your tubed and legs up as well. The idea is that it should be rustic, and that you can get a good bite with chorizo, bean and calamari all on one fork scoop.

Add the calamari to the sauce, adding your remaining vinegar and lime or lemon, as well as your clam broth (if using) and cook at a simmer until the calamari is starting to get tender.  Once it is, add your chorizo and cook until the calamari is tender and the chorizo is starting to fall apart. Add your beans, and cook until warmed through, top with the parsley and stir. It should look a bit like this, a delicious hot mess:

Add to a deep bowl, and sprinkle generously with Parmesan, adding a slice or two of crusty bread and enjoy. Beetlejuice picture posing completely optional :)