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Most Sweet Finishes

Way back when, I was feeling rather gutsy and decided to take myself and the tastebuds of those I love on a plunge into the Granny Smith and McIntosh jungle. After picking the perfect bundle of blushed McIntosh apples and vibrantly tasty Granny Smiths, I came home to make a festive dessert for the holiday season. Quite the adventurous challenge it was.

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I boiled the succulent apple slices and simultaneously [and patiently] created a pastry crust. The crust was flaky and savory in all the right places; the utmost delicious cradle for the juicy slices of apple and its jam-like delectable essence. We ate them in celebration of family and the joy that fills the air of each holiday season.

I will say this - it’s my particular preference to find an apple pie recipe that isn’t too heavy and overbearing to eat. Relish the savory taste of the apple varieties without feeling overwhelmed by a viscous, heavy filling. The crust I used was nothing short of delectable; a perfect combination of butter and flake. If you choose to pair your pie with vanilla ice cream [which is always encouraged] savor the harmonic balance of the buttery, pastry crust to each apple slice’s core. 

For reference, the recipe I used can be found here

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Smothered in Butternut

There is just something so soothingly comforting about a home cooked meal. Maybe its the aroma that really puts you in just the coziest of moods; you know those moods where you can’t help but put on that big comfy sweater packed in your closet or make yourself a cup of homemade hot chocolate the moment you walk in the door. 

I was in hot pursuit to make something that wholesomely embraced my aim for comfort. The produce at the market this weekend included brightly colored butternut squash for baking, fluffed Italian bread for dunking in freshly peeled and grated garlic and melted butter. I paired the utmost sweet butternut squashed cubes with a quinoa pasta -  it’s simple - pasta evokes some serious carb indulgence from within.

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I topped my 1/2 lb of butternut squash cubes with:

Cook this delightful and sweet dish in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes [covered] Continue baking for 5 - 10 additional minutes [uncovered] and serve hot.

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I love butternut squash paired alongside the spices which inevitably resulted in an amber sweetness. Each swallow felt warm as the flavors danced in harmony, offering me a familiar fall and wintery taste. I could easily see this delightful dish paring beautifully with a roasted pork or chicken dish or maybe even something vegetarian topped with flecks of a smooth and soft cheese.

[Full of stuffing]

I think I’ve finally found the reason why Thanksgiving is my all-around favorite holiday. Besides being cozy which signals the emergence of comfy sweater weather, good smells, family, vibrant colors.. (you get the picture) I think the main reason for my affinity is compacted into one highly-esteemed-adjective- savory. I invite you to consider.

There is something about Thanksgiving that prompts the possibility of flavor. Balanced spices and texture are at the forefront of any dish; carefully applied which results in an overall Thanksgiving experience. Let’s get to my particular favorite.. stuffing.

Now.. there are family traditions, and there are family TRADITIONS. For my family-clan it is the stuffing- suffice it to say this dish is one of the main reasons that many of of family attend our holiday feast. We savor each love filled bite of turkey- all in anticipation for the earthy, flavor-filled, ‘comfort’ scented dish to fit snugly amidst our color-filled platters.

Ingredients:

Combine bread crumbs, thyme and sage in a bowl and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add diced onion and celery - sautee until soft ( about 2-3 minutes) over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add broth and orange juice. Add bread crumb and mix until even. 

Spoon the stuffing mixture into a greased baking dish and cover. Bake for 30 minutes and serve warm. 

[GINGER COOKIES]

Yesterday was the happiest of afternoons spent making bites of heaven, more formally known as ginger cookies. My cooking bug was inspired by the chilly weather and colorful, blanketed leafy yards. As I prepare for the holiday season, I wanted to make my first ever ginger delight that would comfortably adorn a holiday feast (not to mention, could also become the perfect roof and walls to a small eatable cottage made of gingerbread)

The recipe I used was the following. To reference for my fellow pilgrims on thy blog:

  1. 2 1/4 c of all-purpose flour
  2. 2 tsp ground ginger
  3. 1 tsp baking soda
  4. 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  6. 1/4 tsp salt
  7. 3/4 tsp of nutmeg
  8. 3/4 c margarine, softened
  9. 1 c white sugar
  10. 1 egg
  11. 1 tbs water
  12. 1/4 c molasses
  13. 2 tbs white sugar

Admittedly, I was super excited to use molasses. As an inexperienced amateur chef, I love learning about new ways to use food and spices! Here we go - to make: preheat the oven to 350. Sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. (set aside) Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and stir in water and molasses. Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. to bake: shape the dough into 1 inch cookie balls (or use a cookie cutter at your discretion). Coat in white sugar, place onto a cookie tray and slightly flatten. Bake between 8 and 10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Allow to cool.

I promise, these cookies are just delicious. There is nothing like being kissed by an earthy balanced aftertaste that will leave you wanting more.  What is it about ginger and cinnamon complementing one another, that kicks off the holiday season perfectly? As luck would have it, I was able to share these cookies with friends. I was thankful that I had the chance to share the afternoon with wonderful company accompanied by ginger cookies.

 

[CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES]

Admittedly, I was inspired to make truffles by a blog I follow very closely, Cupcakes and Cashmere - I love her niche style of design and her appetite for self-expression. She is quite the example of a successful blogger to which I admire endlessly. My blog writing however, is simply powered by my love to write. Anyway, I wanted to give credit, where credit was due.

On your mark.. 

On to the truffles! The recipe for these outstanding, decadent truffles if quite easy! However, it requires a lot of patience and a skilled hand for chocolate dipping. The recipe goes as follows: 

Get set..

Easy ingredients, right? Take 1 and 1/2 c of the Ghiradelli Chocolate and melt in a double boiler (about 6 minutes) [Homemade double boiler: consists of a glass bowl placed atop barely simmering water] Mix in the 3/4 c of heavy cream and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon. Place the melted chocolate in a very cold refrigerator or freezer for 2 hours, until thick and hard. Using a 1 inch cookie scoop, scoop the ganache  and roll into 18 separate balls onto wax paper. [NOTE: if the ganache feels sticky, continue to place the bowl of chocolate back into a cold setting until firm enough to mold and wait another 30 minutes to dip]

Go..!

Take the remaining 2 cups of Ghiradelli chocolate and melt in a double boiler (about 4 minutes) and using a dipping utensil, dip the cold chocolate balls into the melted chocolate coating. Sprinkle or dip toppings to the outer-coating of chocolate.

I wish I could send a truffle to each and every one of my readers, because they were nothing short of delectable. They were the perfect texture of rich and creamy on the outside and adorned with a chocolate coated outer shell. They poetically melt in your mouth. 

[‘DEXTER’ THEMED - RED VELVET CUPCAKES]

How spookily delightful these red velvet cupcakes were! Coated with buttercream frosting, they sealed off a winning ticket for a decorating competition I was enrolled in. I find that any celebratory occasion’s pivotal crux of importance lies in the details. Several coworkers and I got together to design our ‘area’ into a scene out of the Showtime series, ‘Dexter.’ I can post pictures if you like, but I wouldn’t want to.. spook you! Anyway, I topped off our decorating party with red velvet cupcakes and adorned the tops with strawberry topping. Let’s just say.. they were killer cupcakes! Pun intended! The recipe I used to create these little monsters can be found here.

[CUCUMBER TUNA TARTARE]

First and foremost, I am a huge fan of tuna. On top of that, I enjoy tuna prepared in any fashion, raw, seared, niçoise, tartare.. you name it. I went to my nearest whole foods and ordered a quarter lb of sushi grade sashimi tuna. To accompany my tuna, I invited 1/2 teaspoon of diced green onions, 1/2 teaspoon of diced shallots, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (or to taste), and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon to join. You can serve this dish on its own. That evening I decided to pair the tuna with freshly sliced cucumber.

The best part? There’s no cooking involved. What a delish end to the day.

any time I peer into our baking cabinet, I am easily tempted by the contents within; playing neighbor to cookbooks and recipes online. once more, my cooking bug was quickly taken care of this past thursday- courtesy of some folks at work and a home made recipe for butter cookies. butter cookies are one of the more intricate kind of cookies to make. a whip of two sticks of butter, egg yolk, flour, sugar, salt and vanilla - an hour of refrigeration,  precisely 16 minutes of baking, and careful shaping is what that goes into creating these mounds of goodness. 

the tiny tidbits are the quintessential bite of a sweet dessert. as seen on pinterest, we shaped the cookies to appear as tea bags to accompany any breakfast or cchino delight. we dipped the exterior of each cookie in semi-sweet chocolate while the interior of each cookie remained chewy and filled with a buttery essence. a noteworthy, showstopper they were. 

[STRAWBERRY APPLE BLUEBERRY JAM]

berry season has made its way to the midwest. we’ve been growing strawberries in our very non-elaborate garden and much to our delight the plant has flowered and presented us with ripe little strawberries. albeit, they’re not the sweetest but terrifically flavorful. that was when my wave of creativity hit me - why not make a mid-summer strawberry jam.

with a quiet 25 minute simmer in water, sugar, apples (for pectin) and a handful of blueberries for excitement, the combination yielded a spread with a pleasant amount of depth. I paired the jam with a glorius brie and wheat crackers and even was delighted when the jam invigorated my morning cup of tea and toast. another great suggestion.

[WHEATBERRY SALAD FROM THE GARDEN]

I’ve recently been getting into healthy grains, specifically quinoa. Today I decided to go off on a limb and try wheatberries. I assuredly can claim that I love these little bursts of grain and am filled with excitement on incorporating them into as many meals as possible. My mind imagines them working quite nicely with yogurt and fruit in the morning or complementing a lunch or dinner entree. 

In my post this evening, they are the prominent star in an herby dinner, jam-packed with refreshing summer herbs and spices picked straight from our very own garden.

To make your very own wheatberry salad from the garden:

1/4 c dry wheatberries, cooked

4 - 6 small tomatoes, the variety you most enjoy, in halfs

a small handful of greens

cukes, carrots, corn, and mango

a hearty handful of fresh herbs (i used basil and oregano)

THEME BY PARTI