2013 Weekends – Week 47

We had a busy weekend full of fun activities like Say Yes to the Dress marathons, bitter cold football games, brunch with girlfriends and hours of productivity in the warm kitchen. Most of the food I made was on the less photogenic side, but the taste made up for any lack of beauty. Onward!

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Friday night: leftover lentil soup topped with Greek yogurt and hot sauce plus the last of our egg bagels from the freezer

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Saturday brunch: spinach, harissa and cheese omelet with a tangerine. Sautéing spinach in harissa until it wilts is the best idea I’ve had in a while.

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Really, really cold Badger-Gopher game that was fun despite the lack of sensation in my toes

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Huevos rancheros at The Lowry

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Afternoon bagel baking

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Matt recently requested meatloaf, so I figured I might as well go all out and serve it with sour cream mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. ‘Merica!

(I used the Meatier Meatloaf recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, and while the addition of gelatin weirded me out a bit, the meatloaf was really good. If you don’t subscribe to their website, the recipe appears to be reproduced here.)

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I veered from my usual chunky, rustic mashed potatoes and put my ricer to use for this batch. Riced and mixed with butter, milk and sour cream until smooth and creamy might be my new favorite way to eat a potato.

2013 Weekends – Week 39

Our weekend started with dinner and a movie (Prisoners, which was both creepier than and better than the last movie we went to, The Conjuring). I went to brunch with a girlfriend on Saturday and then took advantage of the cold, rainy weather and spent a large part of the afternoon sitting on the couch. Once I got moving again to make dinner, I’d pretty much lost interest in pulling out my nice camera to take photos, so I made the executive decision to have an iPhone photo-only weekend post. Not that I put a ton of effort into my photos in the first place, but it was still nice to take a little break.

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I was so excited to find kiwi berries at our co-op! Does a more adorable fruit exist?

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Apple, sunbutter, tea and clearing our queue of RHOOC episodes

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A slight exaggeration, but go Hawks!

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Tomato sauce + freshly painted nails

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Meatballs! I followed my standby meatball recipe and used half beef and half turkey with a grated zucchini thrown in for good measure.

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Hot Toddy + slippers weather

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Meatballs simmering in sauce

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Sweet potato fries

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Giardiniera, provolone and banana peppers for meatball subs and a creamy pesto dipping sauce for the fries (leftover pesto + greek yogurt + a little mayo + lemon juice)

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Meatball sub + sweet potato fries

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Farmers’ market purchases: rainbow carrots, eggplants and eggs

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Sunday brunch: bagel with goat cheese and homegrown tomatoes, fried egg, kiwi berries and tea

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I’ve had the itch to can tomatoes since I went crazy buying tomato plants in the spring, but with a late start to the summer and generally weird weather since then, our plants haven’t been producing at a rate outpacing our ability to eat them fresh. My backup plan was to buy tomatoes in bulk at the farmers’ market for canning, and for $9 I got about 13 lbs. (a peck?) of Roma tomatoes.

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I’ve only canned food once before, and I was overambitious and in way over my head (I’m pretty sure there are still a few unopened, four-year-old quarts of sweet pickles sitting in my parents’ basement from that little project). I really wanted to keep it simple this time, which is not something that runs in my blood. I somehow mustered up some restraint and bought the $9 container of tomatoes instead of the $13 container that looked to be a better deal, and it was the perfect amount for a simple, afternoon project to ease myself back into the world of preserving food. From the time I started washing the equipment to the time I put the last jar in the pot to boil, it took maybe two hours.

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My canning cookbook is nowhere to be found, so I used Food in Jars as my primary reference.

Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes

New to Canning?

There are a million dos and don’ts related to canning, and with good reason, and I found both of these posts easy to follow without being super rigid. Most canning guides have me convinced that I’m going to kill myself and others if I don’t do everything perfectly, and that’s no good for someone like me who is terrible at following recipes.

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I ended up with five quarts and one pint of canned tomatoes. I threw out three moldy tomatoes and have a handful left, so I probably could have made it an even six quarts. Either way, it’s far cheaper than buying them at the store…unless we get botulism.

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The final product. I’m a little concerned about all of the air that’s in there, but from what I’ve read it seems like as long as the jars are sealed, discoloration is the only thing that I need to worry about. Are there any canning experts out there that can weigh in?

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Snack + sunshine + shadows

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Round two of meatball subs (I learned my lesson from the previous night where I only ate a small fraction of the bread and made open-faced sliders – genius!) + sweet potato fries + roasted purple cauliflower

2013 Weekends – Week 36

Matt’s parents were in town this weekend, and we did our best to show them a bit of the good food the Twin Cities have to offer, including that in our own kitchen. We went to Butcher & the Boar for dinner on Friday, and, as usual, it was incredible. From the turkey braunschweiger to the green chorizo to the red hot brussels sprouts to the massive, perfectly cooked pork chop, we savored every rich, meaty bite. Their whiskey sours are hard to beat, especially on a hot summer day. If only we’d saved room for their homemade s’mores…

Saturday was pretty low key aside from a round of golf for the guys and an outing to the Twins game on Saturday night. No summer weekend with visitors is complete with at least one trip to Grand Ole Creamery, and we made sure to check that off the list. Sunday revolved around watching football, all four of us trying to complete an impossible crossword and a decent amount of home cooking.

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I can’t get enough of this egg sandwich combo: bagel, fried egg, spinach, cheese and harissa. Any cheese is good – this one had smoked mozzarella, but sharp cheddar works well and is always in our fridge. Spinach allows me to think that I’m being healthy, and the same goes for avocado when we have it. The harissa takes it to another level and makes me crave it weekend after weekend.

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Goods from the St Paul Farmers’ Market: fresh dill, heirloom tomatoes, big beef tomatoes (I think), an assortment of peppers, zucchini, eggs and flowers

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The flowers keep getting better and better. I love ornamental cabbage!

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Spinach and goat cheese egg bake for Sunday brunch.

How to:

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Grate 1 lb. of potatoes, place them in a bowl and cover with water while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Sauté 10-12 oz of fresh spinach until it wilts. Once it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture and roughly chop.

Thinly slice 1 leek, rinse and sauté in a little oil until it softens.

In a large bowl, whisk 8-10 eggs with 1 cup of plain yogurt until combined. Season with 1 tsp salt and a little pepper.

Butter a 9×13 pan or its equivalent (I used a shallow 3.5-quart pan). Drain the potatoes and gently squeeze them to get rid of excess water. Line the pan with the potatoes, and top them with the spinach and leeks. Sprinkle (as generously as you choose) with crumbled goat cheese and chopped, fresh dill. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the fillings. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the center is set. If you prefer a browner top, crank the oven temperature up to 425 or so for the last several minutes.

Notes: Onion can easily be swapped for the leek, and while the herbs aren’t absolutely necessary, fresh ones add so much to the dish. This would be good with any number of cheese/herb combinations – Gruyère + parsley, feta + oregano, parmesan + basil, or all of them at once. Also, bacon. Bacon is always good.

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Egg bake, fruit and fresh biscuits that I did not screw up, much unlike my last attempt.

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While the others watched football on Sunday afternoon, I chopped vegetables for ratatouille. Everything but the onion was purchased at the farmer’s market, and everything but the eggplant was bought that morning.

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I used a recipe for Easy French Ratatouille from the Kitchn, and I specifically chose it so I could chop the vegetables instead of thinly slicing and carefully layering them. The former is my kind of busy work; the latter requires too much thought. I didn’t use the exact amounts of each vegetable called for in the recipe, but that’s the beauty of a non-layered ratatouille. Also beautiful: not slicing any fingers on a mandoline.

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Ratatouille after cooking and before stirring in fresh basil. This was so easy and such a delicious way to use a bunch of summer vegetables. The leftovers would be a great pasta sauce, especially with a blanket of grated parmesan.

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Along with the ratatouille we had rosemary roasted potatoes, chicken/ham/provolone roll ups that Matt’s dad had found a recipe for and bread. It was a great way to end the weekend.

2013 Weekends – Week 32

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Friday happy hour made possible by a bottle that’s been hanging around for an embarrassingly long time. Still tasted good, though!

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A few windy days led to top-heavy tomato plants falling over and losing green tomatoes…

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And a handful of green tomatoes led to fried green tomatoes. A creamy buttermilk dressing would have been perfect in this situation, but hot sauce was a nice stand-in accompaniment.

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BLTs on a defrosted loaf of homemade bread with a side of tomatoes

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Farmers’ market haul: fingerling potatoes, green onions, tomatillos, jalapeños, eggplants, fresh mint, cantaloupe, zucchini and eggs

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Post-market and post-run breakfast: failed-omelet-turned-scramble with tomatoes, green onion, dill and cheddar with a blueberry-peach smoothie and coffee

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I had several Anaheim chiles left from last week’s trip to the market, and a little googling led me to the conclusion that there’s not much to do with Anaheim chiles besides roasting them and turning them into something else. I opted for a salsa verde, slightly inspired by this recipe, but mostly inspired by an image in my mind.

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How to: Roast 6-8 Anaheim chiles until the skins are blackened, put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, peel off the skins and remove the stems once cooled. Take about 1.5 pounds of tomatillos, half of a white onion, a jalapeño or two and a few cloves of garlic and drizzle them all with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast at 425ish for about 30 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft. Add the chiles and the tomatillo mixture to a blender and mix, adding a little broth if you need to thin it out and make it salsa-like. Season with salt, lime juice (I used the juice of half a lime), cumin, coriander, etc. Once cool, mix in fresh, chopped cilantro.

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Because the Anaheim chiles were so mild, I thought that two jalapeños would add a nice amount of heat. The voice of reason told me to add one to the blender, taste and go from there, but I ignored that voice and threw them both in. My advice: start with one and work your way up. This was hot. Good, but very hot.

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Cucumber margarita: 1 tbsp sugar and 1 oz lime juice muddled with several thin cucumber slices plus 2 oz white tequila and a splash of St. Germain

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Stuffed jalapeños: five large jalapeños, largely cleaned of the heat sources, filled with a mixture of cream cheese, grated cheddar and mozzarella, cilantro, green onion, garlic, salt and pepper. I basically started with a few ounces of cream cheese and kept adding stuff until the cream cheese was on the verge of not being able to bind it all together anymore and it tasted good. Once the peppers were full of cheesy filling, I baked them (around 375-degrees, I think) until browned. They don’t look like much, but they were pretty amazing.

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Grilled corn: an adaptation of this recipe, with less chili and with added cilantro. Buttery, citrusy corn is my new favorite thing.

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Mexican Roadside Chicken from Mexican Everyday (recipe reproduced here). We tried this grilling technique and didn’t have the best luck with it, but we quickly regrouped and once we scraped the charred skin off the bird, we had a delicious dinner.

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His & hers breakfast sandwiches. Last week’s bagels, defrosted and toasted, with harissa, scrambled eggs, bacon and cheddar.

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A sandwich well worth the long run that preceded it

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Graham crackers for a cookie butter taste test at work

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Homemade tortillas, which saved me from a trip to the store and in turn saved me from finding five other things that I “need” instead of buying the one thing that I go for. I used this recipe and replaced 1/3 of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and used butter instead of shortening. Really good and super easy to make.

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Chicken and bean enchiladas. Shredded leftover chicken plus cooked beans from the freezer wrapped in tortillas, covered with homemade salsa verde and liberal amounts of cheese, baked at 375 until brown and bubbly.

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Enchiladas with Greek yogurt and a side of corn

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Backyard Mint (Chip) Ice Cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home for dessert. Which flavor to make next??

2013 Weekends – Week 17

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Friday lunch on the deck

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Tuna salad (tuna, a little greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, fresh dill, red onion, salt, pepper), spinach, cucumber, avocado and gardiniera in a tortilla

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Friday night tarragon cocktails

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Matt’s knife skills

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Garlic and mozzarella flatbread to use leftover pizza dough

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Spaghetti al limone, salad, flatbread

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I MADE CROISSANTS!

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They’re worthy of their own post, which is on its way.

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Back in Chemex mode

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Outdoor brunch: cheese croissant, dill scrambled eggs, strawberries, mango, coffee

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Layers and cheese

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Matt’s first successful batch of sauerkraut

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Kale, avocado, lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper

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Potato salad: boiled yellow potatoes, greek yogurt, a little mayo, mustard, celery, fresh dill, green onions, dill pickles, capers, salt and pepper

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Smoked brats that were boiled with butter/beer/onion/garlic/possibly other things, browned in a skillet, and slowly simmered for another hour or so in a fresh pot of butter/beer/onion/garlic

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An impromptu dinner party: brat and kraut in a pretzel bun, potato salad and kale salad. Not pictured: too much gin

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Sunday breakfast: part of a slightly stale (but still flaky and buttery) croissant, a wimpy (but Gruyère-filled!) omelet, fruit, tea

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Reuben-esque paninis: pretzel rolls, sliced brats, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and homemade thousand island dressing

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Panini and leftover salads

2013 Weekends – Week 12

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I attempted to make us pre-dinner Old Fashioneds on Friday night, and they went from being very whiskey-forward to syrupy sweet to slightly citrusy and barely palatable after all of my tweaking. There were good cherries in them, though, so I was going to drink mine regardless, but next time I will take Matt’s advice and stick to whiskey sours. Anyone know of a good source for cocktail recipes?

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We had chicken tacos for dinner on Thursday night, but without enough leftover chicken for two I was left supplementing with a block of tofu that was in the fridge and conveniently on the verge of expiration. I pressed the block of tofu for an hour or so and before slicing it and briefly marinating it in a mixture of lime juice, apple cider vinegar, cumin, coriander, chili powder and adobo sauce. I baked it on wire rack resting on a baking sheet at around 400 for 30 minutes – maybe more, maybe less. I kind of forgot about it (likely due to the whiskey concoction from above), but when I remembered, the tofu was nice and crispy with no mushiness. A few minutes longer and it likely would have had the texture of shoe leather, but the tofu (or whiskey) gods were looking out for me.

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Matt turns up his nose at tofu tacos, and my mom would run screaming, but I found these quite enjoyable. I will, however, eat almost anything that is covered in guacamole, hot sauce, cheese and sour cream, so you might want to take that under consideration.

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Saturday brunch // Tartine English muffin from the freezer topped with avocado, cheddar, over-easy eggs and hot sauce :: hash browns :: birthday bacon :: leftover ham from Heartland, which I ended up not eating

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Plus some orange slices and coffee. This was a serious breakfast.

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I had been looking forward to baking bread for weeks, especially after Matt gave me Flour Water Salt Yeast for my birthday, and Saturday was the day.

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What better recipe to try first than the Saturday White Bread? Look at those bubbles!

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This was really good for a bread that was mixed and baked in the same day. It lacked the complexity and slight acidity of the breads from Tartine Bread, but it’s also the most basic recipe in the book and used only commercial yeast. Without a levain starter or an overnight rise it’s hard to develop too much flavor, but the texture was just as good as a lot of Tartine loaves that I’ve made. The crust was nice and crispy while the inside was light and tender. My only complaint is that there’s a thin skin on the outside of the crust that shatters and flakes off with the slightest touch, but that could be due to me not covering it well during the final proofing. Maybe next weekend I’ll try one of the recipes that uses a levain starter for a better Tartine/FWSY comparison.

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Looking forward to a week (or two) of sandwiches…

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I redeemed my Friday cocktails with a round of refreshing Big Gingers on Saturday night. They made me excited for spring weather, although thirty and sunny feels pretty incredible these days.

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Matt made us a batch of his amazing burgers to go along with our basketball viewing/magazine reading. I prepped the toppings, most of which were chosen in a pitiful attempt to inject vegetables into our meal. It’s a good thing I eat a lot of salads throughout the week.

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My burger topped with greens, cheddar, tomato, pickles, mayo, mustard and ketchup. Knife and fork required. Mushy bottom bun not required.

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Sunday brunch // Fresh bread topped with avocado, arugula dressed in vinegar and lemon juice, shredded mozzarella and provolone, fried egg and a sprinkling of dukkah :: grapefruit :: earl grey

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Veggie stock flavorings

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Sunday Dinner // Slow-cooked barbecue beef :: coleslaw :: baked beans :: chips :: pickle

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I looked at a few baked bean recipes for inspiration/technique and then just made it up as I went. I roughly chopped and then sautéed two slices of bacon, and once they had rendered a bit of fat I added half an onion, also roughly chopped. When the onions were soft I added 3-4 cups of cooked cranberry beans that I’d defrosted from the freezer and then started adding whatever else I could think of. Ketchup was probably the ingredient that I used the most of, but there was also apple cider vinegar, molasses, maple syrup, Worcestershire, dry mustard, yellow mustard, hot sauce, salt, pepper and probably a couple of other things that I’m forgetting. I kept adding and tasting until I liked the flavor and it was a little on the soupy side, and then I put the lid on and baked it in a 300-degree oven for about an hour. I had intended on taking the lid off at the end to give it a bit of a crust, but it dried out enough in that hour that I changed my mind. Best served with salty potato chips.

Christmas 2012

I’m running a little behind with a Christmas post due to some technical difficulties, but thanks to free wireless at Target, I can squeeze in a Christmas post just hours before the new year. We spent the holidays in Milwaukee this year, but the festivities actually started on the Thursday before Christmas when Matt’s sister flew in to Minneapolis from LA. We headed straight from the airport to Everest on Grand to warm up her California blood with Nepali/Tibetan/Indian food (you can’t get more Minnesota than that, right?).  We all worked on Friday and then, rather that driving in the dark to Wisconsin in the aftermath of a blizzard, we stayed home and made pizzas.

We rolled into the Milwaukee suburbs late on Saturday afternoon and went to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant called ParkSide 23. They claim to be the only restaurant in Wisconsin with an on-site farm, but with Madison nearby, I find that hard to believe. The beet salad and the creamed corn (the recipe is online!) that we had as appetizers were the highlights for me, and Matt’s short rib and his sister’s duck entrées were both better choices than my pork chop, which was surrounded by an array of very sweet accompaniments (not bad, just too much sweet and too little savory).

After settling in and flipping through a few cooking magazines that I’d brought along, we had the menus set for the rest of our meals. On Sunday night the three of us kids joined forces to make oven-roasted tilapia with bok choy, cilantro and lime, perfect brown rice, and an arugula salad.  It was a great, relatively light meal in preparation for the feast that we had planned for the following night as well as a reminder that I need to cook more fish.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was the food highlight of the week. Matt was in charge of the beef tenderloin, and the two of us girls made a winter greens gratin, roasted brussels sprouts and mushroom risotto. I came prepared to make baguettes, but something went wrong along the way to make the dough nearly impossible to work with, and it resulted in a pancake of bread that was definitely edible but far from the crusty, airy baguettes that I was going for.

On Christmas day we headed north to Matt’s grandma’s house, and during our pre-dinner snack time I had my first taste of pickled herring. I’m not running out to buy a jar, but it wasn’t too bad doused in a blanket of hot sauce. After we’d had our fill of herring and hummus, we started in on the Old Fashioneds, I made a caeser-like kale salad to go with our Italian entrées, and we toasted a bunch of bagel pieces to stand in for the baguettes that were not to be. Weird bread is better than no bread.

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Bratwurst, sauerkraut and roasted red pepper pizza

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Eggplant, green olive and provolone pizza

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Blizzard-beaten trees between Madison and Milwaukee

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Arugula, leek, pomegranate, pistachio, and parmesan salad

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Tilapia, bok choy, scallions, cilantro, lime, soy, etc.

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The big picture

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Bread pancake

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Christmas Eve dinner. I was too anxious to eat to worry about finding good lighting.

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Wine and Trivial Pursuit by the fire. Happiness.

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Christmas breakfast.  Can you guess which plate is mine? I like a little pancake with my pomegranate.

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Christmas dinner bagels.

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We made one last stop before dropping off Matt’s sister at the airport: Brasa.  The idea of a light meal before getting on the plane home went out the window when we ordered fried yuca, creamed spinach, masa cakes and fried catfish, but at least her trip ended on a warm, comforting note.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!