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Month: November 2016

Apple Cider Sangria

Apple Cider Sangria

I decided I needed to get on the apple cider train earlier rather than later this year.  I’ve been very intrigued with the idea of making sangria with something other than wine – like hard cider.  We also had a bag of apples that needed to get used up and I just didn’t have time this week to be creative.  Apple cider sangria was clearly the answer.

I’m also moderately obsessed with Wild Turkey’s American Honey Whiskey.  I’m not sure how I ended up with this in the liquor cabinet but I’m thinking it was because I needed it for a recipe for barbecue sauce this summer and all the other whiskeys were more expensive than I was willing to pay.  Or I hadn’t had coffee yet, started making crockpot barbecued ribs and realized I didn’t have any whiskey and this is what I ended up grabbing at the liquor store.  If the latter is the case, the moral of that story is either to always check your recipe before you do your week’s shopping or never buy booze first thing in the morning.  Whatever the story is, I really like this whiskey – it’s sweet, making it completely unnecessary to add a sweetener to any drink it’s used in.  It also has that smokey whiskey bite that I’m a fan of.

Back to the sangria – I used a hard cider that had a hint of ginger in it, which was a nice touch for this apple cider sangria.  Serve this with a hearty stew or a dish with wild mushrooms and watch the leaves fall.




Apple Cider Sangria

Serves 4

1 bottle hard cider
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup honey whiskey or similar
2 apples, sliced into 8 slices each

Combine all the ingredients in a carafe or pitcher.  Refrigerate for at least two hours to let the flavor fully develop.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Date Bread

Pumpkin Date Bread

The October/November pick for the Cook the Books Club was Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.


I had very mixed feelings about this book.  It was well written enough for me to stay engaged and read it to the end, largely because I connected to the main character, Lorca, though throughout the book, I really, really found myself disliking her mother and her absolutely blase disregard for her daughter’s desperate need for her love.  Full disclosure here – in another not too long ago life, I worked very closely with populations of both adults and young adults who were highly at-risk and often engaged in very risky behaviors, of which self-mutilation was often the least of it.  I think that’s why I struggled with this book so much – I know that it takes a lot of perseverance for someone to save themselves and few get so lucky to find a Victoria, the other main character and a former restaurant owner, to help them.

Ok – now that that’s out there…the book was a feast of good food.  After all, the entire focus is on how food can bring those who are desperately lonely together, and that particular theme resonates for me.  I left the book with the feeling that food could transform Lorca’s life and make her into a resilient adult and that made me happy.  It also made me happy to go flipping back through the book when I was done and think about what inspired me.  I finally landed on a variation of date bread, because of this line of Victoria’s: “‘Date bread,’ I said. ‘From my country.’ Oldest trick in the book: bake something to make guests feel at home.”  It is November, after all, and I’ve been in a baking mood.  My pumpkin date bread relies on the flavors of the season with a good dose of pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree.  The dates give it an extra punch of sweetness.  It’s dense and chewy and goes really well with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

This is also pretty easy to put together and makes a generous two loafs – perfect for having a loaf to eat now and one to freeze for later.  Last, but not least, this is a low-fat pumpkin date bread, which gets much of its moist texture from unsweetened apple sauce and Greek yogurt.




Pumpkin Date Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15 ounce can)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients, from the flour through the white sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Combine the wet ingredients, from the pumpkin puree through the eggs in a small bowl and mix to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing just enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients.  Add the dates.

Divide the batter between two bread pans that have either been buttered or that are lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.



Many thanks to Cook the Books Club – I’ve had so much fun developing recipes based on the last two challenges.  I’m looking forward to more reading and cooking in the future!


I’ve also linked up with this month’s tea time treat challenge, which is all about comfort food (and what’s more comforting that fresh bread?).  Check out the wonderful hosts of Tea Time Treats:  Lavender and Lovage, Travels for Taste and Jo’s Kitchen. Lavender and Lovage is hosting this month, so be sure to check out all the recipes for Tea Time Treats here.

Tea Time Treats
Super Quick Hummus Red Pepper Wrap

Super Quick Hummus Red Pepper Wrap

Some weeks (and some weekends) are just busier than others.  When you need a very quick, very healthy lunch that can be prepared in about 5 minutes (give or take a minute or two), look no further than this super quick hummus red pepper wrap.  This versatile wrap can be adjusted to taste – you can change out the cheese (feta would be great) or add Kalamata olives.  You might use baby kale instead of baby spinach.  You can also use various types of hummus – whatever suites your tastes and desires.

I made this in anticipation of yet another busy, crazy travel week.  I have one day in the office and then am off again.  I needed something I could throw together quickly on Sunday between doing laundry and packing for my trip.  This wrap is very satisfying and will be perfect with a spinach and persimmon salad (no recipe there – I threw together a sliced persimmon, spinach and a little balsamic vinegar and called it a salad).  No matter how busy tomorrow morning is, I’ll be looking forward to my lunch.

Super Quick Hummus Red Pepper Wrap

Super Quick Hummus Red Pepper Wrap
Serves 4

4 flour tortillas
4 slices of roasted red pepper (either from a jar or roast your own – see below)
8 tablespoons of pre-made hummus
1/2 a log of goat cheese – about 4 ounces
Baby spinach – a handful per wrap

Spread about two tablespoons hummus on each flour tortilla.  Split the goat cheese between the tortillas.  Layer the roasted red pepper on top and then add a handful of baby spinach.  Fold up an end of a tortilla and then roll.  Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and toss in your lunch bag or box for a healthy, tasty lunch.


Roasting Red Peppers
2 red bell peppers
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut each red bell pepper in half.  Place the peppers cut side down on a baking sheet or cake pan.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and roast for 30 – 40 minutes or until the peppers are charred on top.  Let cool and peel.


Grapefruit Negroni

Grapefruit Negroni

I get inspired quite a bit from eating and drinking while I’m traveling.  Case in point – I had a really good Negroni when I was stopped over at the Minneapolis airport last month.  It was a super booze-forward drink: I could definitely taste the gin and had to take it very, very slow so as not to be tipsy on my flight.  That said, I love the super bitter tones of any drink that has a bitter liqueur in it and Campari is definitely bitter.

I’ve been thinking about that Negroni quite a bit and wondering if I could make a variation with what I have in the liquor cabinet – namely a bottle of Aperol that I used this summer to make Aperol Spritzes but that has been lingering on the shelf ever since.  I did a bit of research and found out that it’s not that unusual to substitute Aperol for the Campari in a Negroni so thought I’d give it a try.  While I was at it, I also had a grapefruit on hand and since grapefruits are bitter, I thought, why not?

My experiment in mixology paid off – this is a fruity, slightly sweet, slightly bitter drink.  It’s simple and straightforward and would probably have had even better grapefruit tones if Clay hadn’t tried to help by juicing the grapefruit and then dropping the cocktail shaker on the floor (yep – it already had the gin, vermouth and Aperol in it.  I don’t recommend this step – it leaves the floor a really sticky mess).  Fortunately, the grapefruit was only juiced half-way and there was enough to start over and make this cocktail.  This is a great watch a classic movie and snuggle under the blankets kind of drink.  Happy Friday Happy Hour!


Grapefruit Negroni
Serves 1

1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Aperol
Juice from ½ a grapefruit

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake.  Serve in a martini glass.  Enjoy!

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries are one of my new fall obsessions.  I’m always trying new ways of using up the winter squash that I so diligently buy too much of and have to figure out how to use up before spring shows up again.  Coupling that with a desire to eat healthier, I thought using at least one of the winter squash I’ve gotten stashed in the garage as a side dish to my lunches this week would be a good idea.  I started out thinking I’d use the red Kuri squash, but honestly, I’m currently hoarding that one for the perfect recipe and squash fries just aren’t it, so I used the last of my honey nut squashes instead.  The advantage of using something like a honey nut or butternut squash for this is that they are pretty easy to peel and slice and you won’t be in danger of a major knife accident.

Smoked paprika is my other new fall obsession.  I love the dark red color it lends to food and the very smoky and peppery taste.  I’ve been using it to flavor everything, from soup to baked chicken to these smoked paprika winter squash fries.  I’m eyeing several of the other squashes that are currently on the shelf to make even more of these.  They are a great accompaniment to the mini baked “fried” green cherry tomato recipe I posted earlier this week, especially if you make po boys with the tomatoes.  These would also be lovely served with a homemade ketchup, especially if you have any green tomato ketchup sitting around.

Baked Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries
1 whole winter squash, peeled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the squash into sticks or wedges.  Place in a bowl and add the smoked paprika, salt and olive oil.  Combine.  Turn out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the fries half way through.


Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

My new fall motto is when the garden leaves you with hundreds of green cherry tomatoes at the end of the season, make them into something wonderful: Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce.  Somewhere around the end of June last year, Clay and I were at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market and I was looking for one more tomato (I’d already planted three) and preferably an heirloom variety.  We found a plant that was looking a bit beat up, but it was an heirloom cherry tomato and I decided I’d chance it and see how it would do.  It was a champion grower, rapidly taking over the space vacated by the cucumber plant the dog pulled up, smothering the lemon thyme that was on the cucumber plant pot and then tangling itself up with the chard in the pot on the other side.  It developed hundreds (no exaggeration here) of cherry tomatoes and then it felt like the tomato decided to just be done.  The green tomatoes just sat there…and sat there…and sat there, staying quite green for months.  Toward the end of August, the tomato sort of woke up and a few of those green tomatoes turned a lovely bronzy shade of red.  By that time, I had been assaulted by the hundreds and hundreds of cherry tomatoes from the Sweet 100 vine and I was kind of over tomatoes.  We harvested a few more though and dutifully ate them on salads and on sandwiches.

Meanwhile, there were still many, many green cherry tomatoes on that vine.  I’d look at them and say “soon – I’ll get to you soon.”  September was a busy month and started the glut of winter squash.  October came and I cleaned out all the other tomato plants, but left the behemoth plant where it was.  Finally, yesterday, at the very end of October, I got around to harvesting both a few ripe cherry tomatoes from that plant and a whole bowl-full of green cherry tomatoes.  There are still more out there, but I think I’ve given up.  (I type that and then start fantasizing about all the other things I could do with green tomatoes, so maybe I’ll harvest the rest this weekend after all.)

From late August on, I’d been creating a recipe in my mind – mini baked “fried” green tomatoes.  My resolve to try this out was strengthened by my trips to the South this year – I had some really amazing fried green tomatoes in both New Orleans and Atlanta.  I’d originally had in mind that I would make these baked “fried” green tomatoes to go on a salad, so the remoulade was conceived more as a salad dressing than as a dipping sauce.  However, while I did create the salad, I also decided to use my leftover tomatoes for a po boy, and the remoulade was thick enough to use for the sandwich.  I could also just as easily sit and eat these as a snack and dip them in the remoulade and not feel guilty about it, as the remoulade has a base of Greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise.

baked-fried-green-tomato-salad baked-green-cherry-tomato-po-boy

On the left: mini baked “fried” green tomatoes on a salad (which was lunch on Monday)
On the right: mini baked “fried” green tomatoes on a Po Boy

If your garden is over for the season and you don’t have any late hanger-on green tomatoes, pin this recipe for next year.  It’s worth it.


Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce
Serves 4 – 8 (depending on use)

Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes
20 green cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds
½ cup flour
2 eggs
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Siracha or hot sauce
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Olive oil to grease baking sheet

Remoulade Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Siracha or hot sauce (or to taste)

For the baked “fried” tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil.

Sprinkle the salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper over the cut tomatoes.  Put the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in three separate shallow dishes.  Add Siracha or hot sauce to the eggs and beat them until they are fluffy.  Dredge tomato slices in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.  Do this with all the tomato slices (these are so small, I found it easier to do this to five or six tomato slices at a time).  Place the coated tomato slices on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the tomatoes about half-way through the baking time.

For the Remoulade
Combine all ingredients for the remoulade in a jar.  Close tightly and shake vigorously (or use a whisk and stir until all ingredients are combined).