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Month: January 2016

Sonoran Hot Dog

Sonoran Hot Dog

I confess – I love competition-based cooking shows.  I’ve been a fan of Top Chef since around season three and love, love, love the Great British Baking Show.  A few weeks ago, we discovered that Netflix had several seasons of the Great Food Truck Race, so we serial watched our way through.  The episodes and seasons blur a bit, but somewhere in there, one of the cooking challenges was for the teams to make and sell a Sonoran Hot Dog.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but Clay was familiar with the concept.  All I knew was it involved a bacon wrapped hot dog and chili peppers.  I liked the concept, but have been too busy fantasizing about how to make a chicken tikka masala deep dish pizza to think much about this particular recipe.

However, as we wandered around our quirky grocery store today, Clay discovered these:


We stocked up on some bacon, got a few Anaheim peppers, and committed to making bacon-wrapped bratwurst for dinner.

The bacon wrapping was accomplished by wrapping around the bacon and skewering it to keep it in place.


Given that it is January and raining and cold, we cooked these in our cast iron skillet.  I would imagine that they would be wonderful grilled, as well.


Sonoran Hot Dog
Serves 4

4 hot dogs, bratwurst or sausage
4 strips of bacon
4 hot dog buns or hoagie rolls
1/2 onion
2 Anaheim peppers

Pickle relish
Dijon mustard
Cheese or cheese sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  When oven is at temperature, put the Anaheim chilies on a baking sheet and put them in the oven to roast.  This takes around 20 minutes – turn halfway through.  When the peppers are nicely charred on both sides, take them out, let them cool, and then peel.  Set aside.

Caramelize the onions in a cast iron skillet oiled with a bit of olive oil.  Set aside.

Wrap the hot dogs with the bacon.  Use a skewer to anchor the bacon at one end of the hot dog and again toward the end of the hot dog.  In a well oiled cast iron skillet, cook the hot dogs for about 30 minutes, until the bacon is crisp.  Turn periodically so that the bacon crisps on all sides.

When the bacon is crisp, assemble the hotdogs by laying half an Anaheim chili on the base of the hot dog bun, then the hot dog, then the relish, mustard and cheese or cheese sauce.



Black Bean, Chicken, and Rice Burritos

Black Bean, Chicken, and Rice Burritos

One of the advantages of having a bit of time off work is that I am more motivated to stock up on freezer dinner meals. Going into the past two weeks, we had four nights worth of basic beans, four nights worth of three bean chili, two nights worth of lasagna, and one night worth of chicken for chicken and rice burritos. Eleven glorious nights of walking in the door and throwing something in the oven and then wandering off to do something else more interesting than cooking.

Really – who am I kidding? I love to cook! For each of the nights we had something easy and frozen, we still ended up doing something a little extra for each of the staples we’d frozen. Three bean chili goes with baked potatoes, for example. Lasagna is great with a robust salad. And the chicken? Amazingly good with black beans, rice, and guacamole.chickenandblackbeansguac

So if you happen to have some leftover chicken, here’s a great recipe to use it up, along with my favorite guacamole hack.


Black Bean, Chicken, and Rice Burritos

Makes Six Burritos

1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Chicken and Black Beans
2 cups diced chicken
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large, ripe avocado
¼ cup store-bought salsa
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt

To serve
1 ½ cups grated cheese
6 flour tortillas

Start by preparing the rice. Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil and add in the uncooked rice, lime juice, garlic powder, olive oil, and salt. Lower the heat to low and cover, cooking the rice for 20 minutes without stirring.

Meanwhile, prepare the guacamole. Cut the avocado open and scoop out the avocado into a small bowl. Mash with a fork. Add the salsa, garlic powder, and salt and combine. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick pan. Combine the chicken, black beans, lime juice, cumin, coriander, and cilantro in the pan and stir until heated.

To assemble the burritos, heat the tortillas for a few minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. They should be warm and pliable, not crisp. On each tortilla, spread 1/6th of the rice, 1/6th of the chicken mixture, 1/6th of the guacamole, and about ¼ cup of shredded cheese. Fold the end of the tortilla up and then roll up each side of the tortilla.

Spinach Salad with Candied Hazelnuts

Spinach Salad with Candied Hazelnuts

One of my favorite things on restaurant salads is candied nuts.  I love the combination of sweet and nutty, particularly when paired with pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries.  I had only one day of little lunches this week, so made just one salad with the last of the spinach in the fridge, some of the candied hazelnuts from my pumpkin pudding recipe, and frozen pomegranate seeds.  Fortunately, I also had a lemon, as I really liked the tangy combination of citrus vinaigrette with the sweet of the hazelnuts.  This is the first time I’ve ever made candied hazelnuts, and I think it is a keeper of a recipe.


Spinach Salad with Candied Hazelnuts

Lemony Vinaigrette
(Lightly dresses three individual salads.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small jar, cover tightly with a lid, and shake vigorously.

Spinach Salad with Candied Hazelnuts
(For three salads)
Several handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
12 – 15 Candied Hazelnuts
Lemony Vinaigrette

Combine all ingredients and plate.

Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Hazelnuts

Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Hazelnuts

This week was all about two things: quick snacks and comforting food.  I still have a box of hazelnuts from the fall and, unfortunately, three bags of frozen pumpkin puree leftover from the holidays.  This is often my problem with stocking up so efficiently on fall produce – by January, I’m ready for asparagus, arugula, and peas.  But those are months away still, and there’s a ready supply of pumpkin in the freezer.

In some ways, I still feel this is a recipe better suited for November.  On the other hand, on a rainy day, there was something very comforting about a pumpkin spice pudding with lovely caramelized hazelnuts on top.


Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Hazelnuts

Serves 4

Candied Hazelnuts
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup hazelnuts

Combine all ingredients in a non-stick pan. On medium heat, stir and keep stirring for 7 to 10 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the sugar and butter starts to look a bit pasty – it’s ok. The hazelnuts will get dark and look caramelized. Take them off the heat and let them cool. (I left them in the non-stick pan to cool and didn’t have too much trouble getting them out. The pan definitely needed to soak for a night to get the sugar off, but all and all, these weren’t nearly as messy to make as I thought they might be.)

Pumpkin Pudding
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ¾ cups milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ cup pumpkin puree

Combine the maple syrup and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Combine the egg and milk in a small bowl and whisk to break up the egg. Put the saucepan over a burner set at medium heat and slowly add in the milk and egg. Stir with a whisk and continue to stir as the mixture comes to a boil. Cook for a minute, then turn the heat down and cook for another minute. The mixture will thicken noticeably. Stirring is essential to keep out large lumps. Once the mixture is done, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and puree.  Refrigerate for three or four hours before serving.

Serve with five or six candied hazelnuts.

Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup

Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup

I have an unusual week coming up this week at work.  I’m going out to lunch on Monday, which is really rare these days, and then have a full day in the office on Tuesday and then will be out the rest of the week.  I really only need lunch for one day, so I’m going to break into my stash of already frozen lunches I prepped over the break.

One of my absolute favorite foods is tomato soup.  I have super fond memories of growing up in Colorado and eating Campbell’s tomato soup in the winter.  I also recall adding celery to canned tomato soup and canned potato soup both.  This soup is a definite riff on that memory, but with by far better ingredients.  I had some roasted garlic that needed to be used up, along with the many cans of diced tomatoes I put up in the summer.  The combination of tomato, garlic, and celery tastes like sunshine to me.

This soup freezes beautifully and heats up quickly in the microwave.  I’ll serve it to myself with a spinach salad and some candied hazelnuts, I think.


Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup

Serves 2 (in bowls – could serve 4 as cups of soup on the side of a robust salad or a sandwich)

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 head of roasted garlic
2 cans of diced tomatoes (or 1 28 ounce can)
1 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of pepper
¼ cup heavy cream

Sauté the chopped celery for a few minutes in the olive oil. Add the roasted garlic and push it around so that it starts to form a paste. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes to let the flavors develop. At this point, you can cool the soup down and blend in a blender or pull the soup off the heat and use an immersion blender to break up the tomatoes and celery. I don’t mind a few chunks of celery in my soup, so left it a little chunky. Add the heavy cream. At this point, the soup can either be reheated by simmering gently for a few minutes or portioned out and frozen.

Citrus Whiskey Sour

Citrus Whiskey Sour

I have to confess – it’s the 9th of January, I’ve been back to work for a week, and I still had Meyer lemons lurking on the counter top from the holiday.  I bet you thought I was going to confess to still having holiday decorations up?  Yeah – that, too.  Both the Meyer lemon situation and the holiday decoration situation have been resolved.  In order to reward myself for wrapping up all the ornaments and getting the tree down, I made this beauty of a cocktail.

I had a blood orange still from last week’s salad, so with the blood orange, the Meyer lemon, some good whiskey and a little maple syrup, this Whiskey sour was born.


Citrus Whiskey Sour

Serves 1

Juice from 1 blood orange
Juice from 1 Meyer lemon
2 ounces whiskey
1 ounce maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a glass and stir.  Add ice. Enjoy!

Biscotti Granola

Biscotti Granola

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I spent a lot of time cooking over the break.  One of the first recipes I cooked was a dried cranberry, pistachio, and white chocolate biscotti, which was really good served with coffee each morning.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought that the flavors would be lovely in granola – thus, biscotti granola.  I was multi-tasking as I made this, so wish I’d caught the granola when it was still a little warmer to incorporate the white chocolate so that it had some of the melty quality that the white chocolate on the biscotti cookie had.  Oh well – it’s still a good pick-me-up with my coffee at work in the mornings.

Biscotti Granola

Biscotti Granola

Serves 8

4 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 cup whole pistachios
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Mix the oats, quinoa, honey, coconut oil, and pistachios in a large bowl.  Spread the oat mixture on  a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Bake the granola for ten minutes, then stir.  Bake for another ten minutes, and stir again.  Bake for a final ten minutes and then take the granola out of the oven to cool.  If you would prefer your chocolate a bit melted, incorporate the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries while the granola is still warm.  Otherwise, wait until it is cooled and stir in the dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.  Granola stores for several weeks in an airtight container.

Blood Orange, Beet, and Spinach Salad

Blood Orange, Beet, and Spinach Salad

I think T.S. Eliot had it all wrong: April isn’t the cruelest month – January is.  Here in my part of the PNW, we alternate between frigid temperatures, freezing fog, rain and a few sunny days that tempt me into believing that spring is just around that corner – yes, that one – there.  It doesn’t help that the daffodils are already poking out of the ground, though it will take them months to actually make it all the way to blooming.  It also doesn’t help that the days are getting longer by micro-minutes.  I’m tempted to believe that asparagus is going to be at the farmer’s market any day now, and then reminded via cooking logs from previous years that we still have months to go.

I’ve exhausted my hoarded winter squash, though I do still have a box of hazelnuts to shell, as well as many, many jars of preserves to work my way through.  Still, I’m craving fresh spring greens in a desperate way.  So, I’ll give in for the next few months and buy baby romaine mix and spinach from the store and vary the salads for my lunch from week to week, doing my best to take advantage of what’s seasonal.

Fortunately, our crazy little grocery store, Sherm’s Thunderbird, has a ready stock of citrus (yes, I’m obsessed).  They also sell organic beets that have been sheared of their beet greens.  I’ve only learned to love beets since I’ve been living in Oregon.  We reached detente six years ago when I kept getting beets in our CSA basket and Clayton absolutely refused to touch them.  I decided I needed to refine my palette and figure out how to eat them without gagging.  This led to beets in chocolate cake, beet gnocchi, and roasted beets in salt.  It helped that I also learned that beets come in varieties other than just red, including golden beets and Chiogga beets, which look like a veggie straight from the land of Dr. Seuss.

So this week, I stocked up on blood oranges, golden beets, and spinach.  This led to a salad that, if you make nothing else from my blog, you have to make, immediately.  This is a combination of green, tart and sweet that I cannot resist. In fact, I took the photo profiled here and had to then stand in the middle of the kitchen eating the salad and making happy eating noises.  This tastes like sunshine and the promise that the sun will set later than 4 p.m. and summer will eventually return to us.


Blood Orange, Beet, and Spinach Salad

Serves 2, but can easily be adapted for more servings

2 large handfuls of baby spinach
1 golden beet
1 blood orange
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
Blood orange vinaigrette (recipe below)

Wash and peel the golden beet.  Using a vegetable peeler, knife, or mandolin, shave the golden beet thinly.  Peel the blood orange and segment.  Cut each segment into small pieces (about an inch wide).  Assemble the salad by layering spinach, blood orange pieces and golden beet pieces.  Top with blood orange vinaigrette and a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
Juice from one blood orange (about 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
A pinch salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper

Combine all ingredients in a half-pint jar.  Cover with a tightly screwed-on lid and give a vigorous shake or two.

This Week’s Lunch

This Week’s Lunch

I’m headed back to work tomorrow.  I’m dragging my feet more than a little bit – but at least I know I have a good lunch ready to go.   Here’s a quick look at the week ahead.   First Week1

From the purple yam gnocchi working clockwise: purple yam gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce; panna cotta with Meyer lemon jam; blood orange, beet and spinach salad; Greek yogurt with a bit of strawberry jam; biscotti granola; and marbled tea eggs.  I eat my breakfast at my desk, so the yogurt and eggs are breakfast.  The panna cotta is a lovely mid-afternoon, coffee break snack.

I’ll be posting recipes for the salad and the biscotti granola this week.  The panna cotta recipe can be found here.  I made half the recipe and skipped making the marmalade, opting to use my own Meyer lemon jam.  My experience with panna cotta is that it lasts in the fridge several days, so I have enough to make it through Wednesday.  After that, my afternoon snack will be  butternut squash chocolate chip muffins that have been lurking in the freezer since mid-December.

Marbled eggs

The marbled tea eggs are one of my absolute favorite recipes for the New Year.  A recipe link can be found here.  I adapted this one a bit as well, substituting about a teaspoon of fennel seed and a teaspoon of whole cloves for the Chinese five spice blend.

I have enough of the purple yam gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce for Monday and Tuesday – after that, I’ll have either butternut squash ravioli and pesto or the rest of the gnocchi with a brown butter sauce.

Happy eating this week!  Be sure to stop back in on Tuesday for the salad recipe (along with a recipe for blood orange vinaigrette, as well as on Wednesday when I post the recipe for Biscotti Granola.

Purple Yam Gnocchi

Purple Yam Gnocchi

I’m one of those fortunate people who is in a profession that allows a full two week vacation during the holidays.  I’ll admit that I took full advantage of this vacation this year and was positively, completely, and totally lazy (by my standards, at least).  I did spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen.  I think it is safe to say that my time was spent at least half in the kitchen, with the remaining time divided between sleeping in, walking the dog, and reading.

But alas, all good things have to come to an end eventually.  It’s Monday, and I’m back to work, though I’ll confess to feeling a little sluggish.  Really – 5:30 a.m. as a wake-up time?  10 a.m. seems so civilized by comparison!

I planned ahead a bit and did some strategic cooking for the week.  I knew I was going to be tired and unhappy about working again, so thought that the first week’s lunches ought to be a little indulgent.  Indulgence to me means some sort of heavenly pasta and sauce and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at home-made gnocchi.  We were at our local grocery.  I’m sure I’ll write more at some later point, but here in our part of the PNW, we have a regionally local chain called Sherm’s Thunderbird Market.  It’s a strange amalgamation of really cheap food that’s heavily processed, along with a mini-market of organic and natural foods, occasionally local produce (including chanterelle mushrooms when they are in season) and an extraordinary range of citrus fruit in the winter.  I have  a serious love-hate relationship with Sherm’s.  All of this is to say that, in addition to some really great citrus, I also ran across purple yams one day.  Purple yams and a hankering to make my own gnocchi – need I say more?

First off, purple yams, in their unprocessed state, are not photogenic.  Note below


Be warned – when scrubbed, they will go out of their way to stain everything in sight.

Gnocchi are fairly easy, so long as you keep a light touch with them.  They require some sort of root vegetable or winter squash base (potato, yam, beet, pumpkin), some flour, and egg yolks.  You can also add cheese to your gnocchi, but why complicate life?

In this case, the yams are roasted at 350 degrees for about an hour, until they are easily pierced with a knife.  Remove the flesh from the yam while it is still fairly warm and use a potato masher to mash it up.


Separate two eggs and toss the yolks onto the mash.


Gently distribute the yolks over the mashed yams.  Add the flour, about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup at a time and gently mix.  I started out with a spoon and then eventually used my hands to work in the flour.


When the flour has been incorporated and the dough feels workable (not sticky), pinch the dough into five or six small balls.  On a well-floured service, roll out each ball into a long rope.


Cut each rope into small pieces (about an inch in size).  The gnocchi can be cooked at this point or frozen for cooking later – for lunch, maybe.  I froze my gnocchi and am cooking them about two days’ worth at a time.  To freeze, line the gnocchi up on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put them in the freezer.  Once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag for longer storage.


All lined up on a cookie sheet and ready to be frozen – could there be anything cuter?

These could be served with a variety of sauces.  I’d originally tried out a few with a little olive oil, truffle oil, and salt, but wasn’t overly impressed.  Brown butter sauce was an option, but I feel a little buttered-out after the holiday.  I finally landed on Gorgonzola cream sauce, which isn’t remotely lighter than brown butter, but definitely a comforting sauce for the first day back to work.  Plus – cheese.  Who would argue with cheese, especially a stinky one?  The end result was a fluffy purple pasta with a rich, creamy sauce.   I ended up looking forward to Monday if only to dig into my lunch.


Purple Yam Gnocchi

Serves 4 – 6

2 purple yams
1 ½ cups flour
2 egg yolks

Bake the yams, uncovered, for around an hour at 350 degrees or until they are easily pierced by a knife. Let them cool just long enough that you can reasonably handle them. Scoop out the flesh of the yams and put in a bowl. Use a potato masher to mash so there are no large chunks left. Drop the egg yolks on top and gently mix, just until there are no visible streaks of egg yolk left. Begin to fold in the flour, ¼ to ½ cup at a time. The dough has enough flour in it when it is still a bit sticky, but easy to handle. Once this occurs, break off balls of the dough and, on a floured surface, roll out each ball into a long rope. Do this with each ball of dough. Cut each rope into gnocchi about an inch long. At this stage, you can either freeze the gnocchi by laying them out on a parchment covered baking sheet and freezing, then transferring the frozen gnocchi to a freezer bag or container or cook the gnocchi immediately. Either frozen or fresh, boil a pot of water for the gnocchi and then put them in gently, boiling for about three minutes or until the gnocchi all float.

Serve gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce (recipe link here), pesto, or brown butter.