Category Archives: cooking

What do you do with your extra breasts?

Chicken “Tacos Mexicanos” with Pico de Gallo

Perhaps one day I will live in that mythical part of the foodie world where I buy and consume only freshly butchered free range organic meat.  Seriously, I dream about that day.  For now, as the wife of a graduate student who has left gainful employment to chase my culinary dreams, I eat whatever meat is on sale and pray that I am not giving us both cancer.  That means that there are always spare chicken breasts chasing around my refrigerator because chicken is always sold in groups of three breasts.

I ask myself, who on earth needs three chicken breasts?  People usually cook for two, or four.  I’ve never seen a recipe written that “serves three.”  Despite our general habits of consumption, where I live one can only buy chicken in quantities of three or six.  Six is occasionally a reasonable number, and happens to be the number of people I can squeeze around my table in the wintertime.  However, most of the time that leaves me dealing with extra breasts.  (And not in the sense of my polka-star father’s favorite song “They’re Always in the Way.”)

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Happy Thanskgiving

This year's pies, added after Thanksgiving.

I am so excited I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen today. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What is not to love about a day that is solely devoted to food and sharing time with the people that you love?

Thanksgiving is one of the few meals that we do completely traditionally. No fancy variations, just the same recipes that my mom made and my grandmother before her. We will be eating: Turkey, butternut squash puree, green beans with a touch of lemon juice and olive oil, stuffing, mashed potatoes, fresh and cooked cranberry sauce, and gravy. Before the meal we will have a “shrub” (whatever that is) of a small scoop of pineapple sorbet in cranberry juice. I think it’s very retro, but it is part of the tradition. When we were little kids we were served it in fancy champagne flutes, and so it has an association of grown-up elegance that makes it one of my favorite parts of the meal.

For dessert there will be home-made pumpkin, pecan, and dutch apple pies. My sister and I are getting together to make the pies in an hour. We are only allowed to make the pies if we swear to absolutely make them according to my mothers recipes. Continue reading

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Spiced Cider Glazed Nuts

Cider Glazed Nuts

I bet you can’t eat just one.

You may not know this about me, but I am a native of Cleveland, OH. This may seem like an odd thing to let you know, but it will be hard for you to understand just how good these nuts are until you know that I made them for the Ohio State v. Michigan game (Go Bucks!). I almost named them “victory nuts” in honor of the game.

This recipe has been evolving for some time, starting with a recipe for balsamic glazed walnuts that came out of Bon Appetite. The balsamic glazed nuts are very tasty, but as usual, I was looking for a little more flavor. This time of year is apple cider time, and that got me to thinking about mulled apple cider, which is where the inspiration for these came from. They are great with cocktails, or for mid-afternoon snacking. The added bonus of this recipe is that it is really easy to make and adapt to suit your particular taste.

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Sweet and Savory

Polenta with Balsamic Glazed Pears

Pan-seared Polenta with Balsamic Glazed Pears

Yesterday afternoon I was giving a friend a ride to the airport, and I offered him a few truffles. He asked me what was in them, and I listed the ingredients, which included cayenne pepper. (You, dear readers, will have to wait for Sugar High Friday on November 24th to find out all of the ingredients.)

He was extremely skeptical about pairing chocolate with cayenne pepper, but I assured him he has not lived until he tried chocolate with chilies. The heat from the cayenne opens up your taste buds and amplifies the impact of the chocolate. The lingering burn also rounds out the slightly earthy finish of the dark chocolate, which reminds you how lovely the chocolate was for several minutes after the last bit of gooey goodness has melted away. Alas, he forgot the truffles and will probably never get to try this batch, because I ate his on the way home.

After I waxed poetic about the chocolate for a few minutes, he pointed out that it was clear that I absolutely adore the combination of sweet and savory flavors. He was dead on in his assessment. The careful combination of sweet and savory is one of my very favorite things to do with food. I think it was my first experiences with Thai food that opened my eyes to the possibilities of using a balance of spicy, sweet, salty and acidic elements.

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Rosemary Parmesan Polenta

Eggs, Mushrooms, and Polenta 2

Tip: Mushrooms and onions both caramelize a lot better if they are not salted. The salt causes the vegetables to begin releasing moisture, which leads to them steaming instead of caramelizing. Wait to salt them until you’ve achieved the desired degree of caramelization . If you’ve never used caramelized mushrooms or onions in a dish, I’d recommend trying it the next time you are making a dish with mushrooms or onions. When caramelized they become nutty, slightly sweet, and their flavors become concentrated. It’s delicious.

Last night I had planned to make a ham and mushroom spoonbread with a salad for dinner. Spoonbread is a souffle that has been helped along (weighed down?) by the addition of cornmeal. But Amy, I can hear you thinking, the picture doesn’t look anything like a souffle.

Spoonbread begins with a basic polenta, which is what I was in the process of making when I glanced at the clock. 7:05. Oh My God the Carolina Game started five minutes ago!!! Last night was the first televised game of the season and the spoonbread would just have to wait. I called for my husband to turn the tv on and the volume up and as soon as the polenta was done I dumped it into a cake pan and crammed it in the fridge.

So what began as a plan for spoonbread turned into spoonbread, deconstructed. Continue reading


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