Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Cider Sangria

We just returned from Crested Butte, Colorado. Land of wonder. Land of the largest aspen tree stand in the United States. Land of endless miles of quiet hiking trails through stunning wilderness. And let us not forget the tamales and tacos at Teocalli because they are darn good. Every time we leave Crested Butte, I become a little more committed to staying. We were one rationality away from going back to Boulder, picking up the dog, packing up, and turning back around to stay in the Butte for good. The rationality? Maybe Blake should finish school first. Maybe. But tomorrow's blog post may be titled "When Blake quit law school and we move to the Butte."

In Crested Butte, we celebrated 1 year of marriage. If you had told me seven years ago when I met Blake, a wild, moderately charming freshmen in college, that he would be my husband, I would have smiled. Because while he was only moderately charming, he was endlessly interesting. Even as a wild freshman, he wanted to learn everything and explore it all. I wanted to explore it all with him and now I get to everyday. That's worth celebrating and celebrate we did.

On of my commitments in our marriage is to continue to keep it exciting, keep celebrating. Coming back from Crested Butte and back to the grind is always hard so to ease the pain I made apple cider sangria. Why do we need a special occasion to enjoy a celebratory drink? I sure don't. Sangria on a Monday makes for a good Monday. No reason we can't have a little fun and keep the celebration going. This is the perfect fall drink. Pears and apples soaked in apple cider, white wine, and brandy transforms sangria from summer to fall. Make some and enjoy the fun.

Apple Cider Sangria
Adapted from How Sweet It Is

2 apples, chopped
2 pears, chopped
1 bottle of white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc would work well)
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup club soda

Mix together apples, pears, wine, apple cider, and brandy in a pitcher. Let sit for a least 1 hour and up to 6 hours. Right before drinking add the club soda and mix.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Maple Cornmeal Waffles with Maple Blackberry Syrup

This week is for celebrations. Blake turns 27 and we are celebrating one year of marriage. This is big stuff. I mean Blake is old! Oh and our first year of marriage is a pretty a wonderful thing. We started birthday week with these waffles and an afternoon apple pie snack. The day of Blake's birthday we ate our way across town stopping in each of our favorite restaurants for different courses. Stop 1 whiskey and wings. Stop 2 entrees and dessert. Tomorrow we head to the mountains to surround ourselves with fall color, fishing, food, and beer. All the makings of an excellent celebration. 

But let's take it back to where it all started, maple cornmeal waffles. These waffles have excellent texture with the cornmeal and a lovely maple syrup sweetness. Top them with blackberries and more maple syrup and you have yourself the perfect fall breakfast. Do yourself a favor and take a leisurely Sunday morning and enjoy these with a cup of tea. 

Maple Cornmeal Waffles and Maple Blackberry Syrup
Makes 4-6 waffles, waffles adapted from Girl Versus Dough

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter 
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 egg

Maple blackberry syrup
10 ounces frozen blackberries (1 bag)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat your waffle iron to medium high or 250 degrees. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. 

In another bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, maple syrup, and the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined. 

Pour 1/3 a cup onto the waffle iron and cook until golden brown. 

To make the syrup combine the blackberries, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Let simmer, stirring occasionally until the blackberries release their juices and the berries begin to soften, about 7-8 minutes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Creamy Goat Cheese, Sausage, and Broccolini Pasta

Date night happens once a week in our house. A date could be a cheese and wine picnic, casual burgers and a beer out, or the occasional all out four course beer paired dinner at one of our favorite haunts. Yes, date night always involves food. Sometime it involves a film about outdoor adventures, a beer festival, or a game of air hockey but always food, food, glorious food.

A recent date night took place at an Italian restaurant, where I enjoyed the dish that inspired this pasta. Who's to say we can't take date night home? We can. Light the candles and pull out the good wine. You too can make some pretty delicious food right in your home. Replicating this wonderful pasta dish was my way of bringing date night to our house.

 Pasta is the most satisfying food on this planet in my opinion. This pasta is creamy and delicious without feeling overly heavy. Italian sausage gives it a little spice and the tomatoes and white wine give it a nice brightness. The whole dish will take you 30 minutes start to finish.

Creamy goat cheese, sausage, and broccolini pasta
Serves 4

3/4 pound penne, cook according to pasta directions
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch of broccolini (about 3/4 pound), cut each individual floret leaving about 1/2" of the stem
1/2 cup white wine
3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
2.5 ounces goat cheese (half a round log)
1 pound pre-cooked spicy italian sausage, slice into 1/2" rounds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil for the pasta and add the salt. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook until the onions start to caramelize slightly, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccolini and cook another 5-7 minutes. Pour in the white wine and increase heat to bring wine to a gentle simmer. Cook until the wine has reduced by about half. Add the tomatoes, goat cheese, and sausage. Cook until the tomatoes become slightly wrinkled, 2-3 minutes. Add the oregano, salt, pepper, and pasta. Stir until the pasta has warmed and serve.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Oatmeal Applesauce Snack Cake

If we call something a snack cake, that means we can eat it whenever we darn well please, right? Cakes make the best snacks. Brownies, cookies, and ice cream also make for excellent snacks, in the world in which I want to live, where I can eat all the dessert all the time. Alas, we all know that snack brownie may be a stretch on a day to day basis, but snack cake can be a reality. We will make it a reality.

Actually who made this snack cake a reality is my favorite food blogger, Jessica Merchant, of How Sweet It Is. I highly recommend you check out all the glorious things she does with food on her blog. I also highly recommend you go out and buy her recently released cookbook, Seriously Delish, which is where I found this recipe. Also, included in the book are breakfast cookies. Another way we can all justify eating dessert at what might otherwise be considered an inappropriate time. Oh and did I mention the book also includes recipes for a bacon blue burger with jalapeno jam and chicken pitas with jalapeno whipped feta. You will have a lot fun cooking from this book.

This oatmeal applesauce snack cake in my mind can definitely be justified as a snack or breakfast. In fact, I think it makes for great workout fuel. Peanut butter, applesauce, and whole wheat flour give you a little protein and some healthyish carbohydrates. The whole batch only has 2 tablespoons of butter and it isn't overly sweet. Even better it's a dessert you can feel good about. Your only real problem will be finding the will not to eat the whole cake in a day.

Oatmeal Applesauce Snack Cake
Adapted slightly from Seriously Delish, makes 9 squares

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 2% milk
3/4 cup cinnamon applesauce

1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into eighths
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Spray an 8" by 8" baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat sugar and peanut butter together for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low. Add milk and continue to mix until a dough forms. Press the dough into the baking dish. Spread the applesauce over the top. The original recipe calls for apple butter, which would also be delicious but it more expensive and harder to come by then applesauce. Either applesauce or apple butter will be delicious.

To make the crumble combine oats, brown sugar, and flour. Whisk to combine. Add butter and vanilla extract. Use your fingers to crumble the butter into the mixture. Sprinkle crumble over the top of the applesauce.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan to cool completely.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jalapeno Pretzel Dogs with Beer Cheese Sauce

Football is upon us and once again everything is right in the world. Sundays have returned to their former glory. They now consist of morning hikes and afternoons filled with Peyton Manning. The Broncos make my heart aflutter.

Every Sunday (or Monday) we honor each glorious game with darn good football eats because the second best part about football is the eating. We started off the season with bang, jalapeno pretzel dogs with beer cheese sauce. I loved these. The dough is warm and chewy and the perfect blanket for the hot dog. And beer cheese dip...need I say more?

Once again, I urge you to not be intimidated by the homemade pretzel dough. You can do it. I promise. I will show you how. You will be so impressed by yourself when they come out of the oven that you will walk around the house and declare over and over again to your significant other and the dog, pretty much anyone who listen, "These hot dogs are a win. How impressive looking. How utterly delicious. Do you see how good these came out?" Or at least that's what I did. Make them and you too can indulge in shameless self promotion. They are that good.

Jalapeno pretzel dogs with beer cheese sauce
Serves 4, slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats

3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp salt
4 hot dogs
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, whisked
Coarse salt for sprinkling on top

Mix together warm water, yeast, and honey. Let sit for 5-7 minutes until frothy. This is the most important step in making sure your dough will rise. If the yeast is bubbly and frothy, that means it's active. Also, make sure your water is not scalding hot, as that could kill your yeast.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, olive oil, flour, jalapenos, and salt. Knead on low 4-5 minutes until dough comes together. *This can also be done by hand. Combine ingredients with a wooden spoon and knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. It will be a stickier dough. In a large, well oiled bowl, let dough rise in warm spot until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the baking soda to the water. Oil a baking sheet.

On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to about an 8" by 12" rectangle. Cut the dough into 4 strips lengthwise. Take each strip and wrap it around the hot dog starting at the top. Pinch ends down so the dough stays together.

Drop the wrapped hot dogs into the boiling water for 30-40 seconds. Remove dogs and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until dough is a dark golden brown. While dogs are baking, prepare you beer cheese sauce. The recipe is below.

Beer cheese sauce
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
8 ounces light beer
12 ounces white cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon dijon

Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, until it starts to turn golden. Pour in the beer and whisk frequently until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheese and dijon and continue to whisk until combined. Serve with your delicious hot dogs.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Loaded Vegetable and Sausage Tomato Soup

We are going to play a game today. You are going to like it. I promise. It's a daring adventure. It could have great rewards or dire consequences. It's called everything ends up in soup. My step-dad invented it and if you go up against him, I promise you will lose every time. He is a risk taker and risk pays off greatly in everything goes in soup.

The concept of the game is simple. The rules are few. Look in your pantry and refrigerator. Is anything about to expire? What do you need to use up? Put it in the soup. For a variation, have each family member pick an ingredient at the store and throw it all in the soup. Are you excited now? You should be.

Really everything ends up in soup stems from my step-dad's larger cooking philosophy. Once you understand the basics of making a dish, you can take that dish and turn it into a cooking adventure. So today we will talk some soup basics. In my pantry and fridge, I had tons of vegetables from the garden, namely tomatoes, I had chicken stock, I had parmesan, and I bought sausage because it sounded yummy. Any chunky soup can built from this basic outline: cook your vegetables until softened, add your broth like items (stock, tomatoes, milk etc.), season, and cook until warmed. What elevates the flavor of this soup is the red wine deglaze and addition of balsamic vinegar. You can take this recipe and play your own version of everything goes in soup. Want chicken instead of sausage? Great. Want to add potatoes and creamy goat cheese? Go for it! In everything ends up in soup, right and wrong don't exist.

Load Vegetable and Sausage Tomato Soup 
Serves 6

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups fresh tomatoes (about 8 medium tomatoes), chopped (or large can of diced tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoons italian seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
2 cups chicken stock
4 cooked andouille sausages, sliced into 1/2" rounds
4 cups braising greens (kale, collards, chard etc.), rough chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Parmesan to serve

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and stir continuously for 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions and pepper soften, 5-7 minutes. Add zucchini and cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 Pour in red wine and let cook down until reduced by about half. Add tomatoes and let cook down slightly, 3-4 minutes. Add seasoning: garlic salt, italian seasoning, pepper, and paprika. Stir until combined. Add stock and stir occasionally until soup is simmering.

Finally, add in your sausage and braising greens and stir until the greens are wilted, 2-3 minutes. At the very end, add in your balsamic vinegar. At this point taste your soup to see if it needs additional seasonings. Add to your liking. Remove from heat and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan on top.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lemon Sugar Cookies

September is the most glorious month. Hands down my favorite. September is a little bit summer and a little bit fall. It's shorts and a sweater. It's a ninety degree day followed by a seventy degree day. It's the month the trees change in a firework display of orange, gold, and red. It's the month my husband was born and the month we were married. What more could one want from a month? Nothing, absolutely nothing. 

In terms of food, September is lemon sugar cookies followed by hearty soup. Since today is pretty darn hot, we are going with lemon cookies. Believe me apples and pumpkin will have their time but we will save them for a cool September day. Sugar cookies are lovely on their own. A simple pleasure. Adding a little lemon contributes a nice citrus zest that plays well with these sweet chewy delights. 

Lemon Sugar Cookies
Make 12 cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup for rolling 
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1 lemon, zest and juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or coat with nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in small bowl.

With a hand mixer on medium, cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar together, until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, lemon juice, and zest and beat on medium speed until combined.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold together with a spatula. Place 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough in the sugar until the outside is coated. Place on baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown.