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Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

winter-squash-stuffed-shells

I am a huge fan of all things winter squash (as you’ve probably figured out), making this recipe, a winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto, one of my absolute favorite December lunches.  This has everything I most love about the fall and winter: the slightly sweet squash, salty cheese, pasta, and pesto made with kale, spinach and walnuts.  Since there is a small chance that there might be a little bit of snow in this part of the PNW tomorrow, this comfort food just seems perfect.

I used a combination of red kuri (my favorite) and the rest of the pumpkin puree I’d frozen earlier in the fall.  Fortunately, I still have one more pie pumpkin in the garage – I figure we still have a few more months of cold weather and might need to make some more pumpkin bread.  I also used a bit of the sage that is still growing out in the herb bed.

The pesto consists of both kale and spinach – really, you could use just about any combination of greens.  I also used walnuts, because it’s what I had on hand.  Pesto can be made out of any combination of herb or green, nuts, garlic, and Parmesan or other hard cheese.  I love to try out different combinations.  I also have started hand chopping my pesto – I think it helps the herbs or greens retain their integrity and not get mushy like they might in a food processor.  The taste is a lot closer to pesto I had in Rome many years ago, so I enjoy it for the nostalgic value, as well.

All together, the winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto takes about forty minutes to make, and most of that time is hands off while it bakes.  It’s well worth the time.  It also makes a great freezer meal – making it very appealing for lunch.  Since it’s vegetarian, it would also make a great main dish for the holiday festivities for vegetarian friends and family.

winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

Ingredients

    For the shells:
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or similar winter squash puree
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 + 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 box of large pasta shells
  • For the pesto
  • 1 cup tightly packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water in a medium saucepan to a boil. Add the shells and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente.
  3. In the meantime, combine the squash puree, the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, the sage, and the pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Drain the shells in a colander and rinse under cold water. When the shells are cool enough to handle, stuff each with about 2 tablespoons of the squash and cheese mixture. Place the shells in a single layer in a 9 X 13 baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese gets lightly browned on top.
  5. While the shells are baking, prepare the pesto. Put the greens, the walnuts, the garlic, and the parmesan in the middle of a cutting board and gently chop until the ingredients are finely diced and combined. Put the pesto in a small bowl and add the olive oil, gently combining.
  6. Serve the stuffed shells with the pesto and enjoy!
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This post has been linked to Tinned Tomatoes: Meatless Monday.  Check out her great posts!

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish is a spicy sweet recipe that can do dual duty as a relish for a turkey sandwich or can dress up a cheese and crackers as a holiday appetizer.  This is my homage to my dual roots: the poblano representing the Southwest where I lived for years and the cranberries my adopted PNW home.

I never gave much thought to where cranberries came from before I moved to Oregon, when I first saw a cranberry bog along the coast.  It turns out that  seven percent of the cranberries produced in the US come from Oregon from the southern coastal region.  I bought my first Oregon cranberries seven years ago from a local farm – the first time I’ve ever bought unpackaged cranberries by the pound.  This resulted in bags of frozen cranberries and lots of cranberry related preserves.

I found cranberries from Oregon this year at New Seasons, which is a PNW natural foods chain.   Rather than going crazy and buying more cranberries than I can possibly use in a season, I bought just enough for cranberry sauce and cranberry poblano pepper relish, with a little to set aside in the freezer for baking later in December.

If you are looking for a last minute Thanksgiving recipe to use up excess cranberries, this cranberry poblano pepper relish is perfect and pairs very well with leftover turkey on a sandwich.  It is also worth pinning for use in December for an easy appetizer when paired with cream cheese or brie and crackers.

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

cranberry-relish

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 poblano pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
4 teaspoons brown sugar

Chop the cranberries and poblano pepper finely.  (Alternatively, process both in a food processor to chop finely).  Add the lime, cumin, coriander and brown sugar and combine.  Enjoy!

 

 

Mini Pumpkin Pies Four Ways

Mini Pumpkin Pies Four Ways

Like many American families, my family had distinct Thanksgiving traditions and rituals, particularly around food.  This mini pumpkin pies blend new traditions and old, giving a nod to healthier eating with small portion sizes, along with sharing two traditional pumpkin pie recipes from my maternal and paternal grandmothers.

As a child, I had a weird relationship with pumpkin pie.  I can remember being as young as three or four and absolutely hating pumpkin pie – I don’t know if it was the texture or the taste that was the problem, but I was not having it.  Somewhere around the age of five, though, my maternal grandmother decided to tell me that pumpkin pie was really chocolate pie.  I could buy it – the color was right, and that year, I ate pumpkin pie.  I don’t know exactly when they told me the truth, but I do know that by the time I was older, pumpkin pie was one of my favorite holiday treats.

I was very close to my maternal grandparents and less so with my paternal grandparents.  My grandma on my mom’s side was the primary Thanksgiving chef, though it was my grandfather’s responsibility to mash the potatoes and my mother usually made a pumpkin praline pie each year to contribute to the feast.  My grandma made the most perfect pie crust and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized her secret was adding in just a bit of apple vinegar to help the crust puff.  Her pumpkin pie had more sugar in it – I’ve cut the sugar down quite a bit, as too sweet is not to my taste.

The pumpkin praline pie was my paternal grandmother’s recipe.  It’s not a recipe I’ve seen widely reproduced, so I’m not sure if she got it from her mother or from a cookbook or a friend.  I do know that it is a rich, beautiful recipe that blends brown sugar, pecans, and butter in a layer under the pumpkin, giving the pumpkin a hint of nuttiness.  My paternal grandmother would make the recipe with either walnuts or pecans.  The variation with walnuts was born of thrift – pecans could be too expensive for the era in which this pie was conceived.

This year, I decided to create a homage to both grandmothers and to both my younger and older selves by making mini pumpkin pies with four variations: a pumpkin pie using my maternal grandmother’s recipe, a praline pumpkin pie using my paternal grandmother’s recipe, a chocolate pumpkin pie (for my five year old self), and an eggnog pumpkin pie to celebrate changing tastes and the fact I’m old enough to buy and add booze to my pie.   Note that if you choose to make all four variations, you’ll end up with a lot of mini pumpkin pies – each variation makes approximately 36 pies.  You can, however, take the basic pumpkin pie recipe and make three of the four variations from the one pie recipe: the basic pumpkin pie, the praline pumpkin pie, and the chocolate pumpkin pie.  Simply split the basic pumpkin pie mix into three bowls, leaving one without add-ins, adding the praline mixture to the base of one, and adding the cocoa powder and crème de cacao to the third.   The really good news about the mini pumpkin pies is that they freeze beautifully and can be made in advance of Thanksgiving.  Simply let them sit in the fridge for a few hours before dinner and they will be ready in time for dessert.

pumpkin-pie-shells

pumpkin-and-eggnog-pies-prebake

Mini Pumpkin Pies Four Ways

Basic Pumpkin and Pumpkin Praline

Mini Pumpkin Pies
Makes 36

Perfect Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups salted butter (if using unsalted, add ½ teaspoon salt to the dough)
1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup cold water

Mix the flour and the salt (if needed).  Cut the butter into chunks and add to the flour.  Using a fork, a pastry cutter, or your hands, mix the butter into the flour so that there are pea size chunks of butter throughout.  Don’t over mix.  Add the apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of water at a time until the dough starts to stick together.  Use a spoon or your hands to mix the dough until it sticks together and is manageable.  Put the dough in the fridge for two hours.

Basic Pumpkin Pie
½ can of evaporated milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until they are combined.

Split your dough into 36 small balls of roughly the same size. Flatten each out and either roll or stretch until they are large enough to fill a mini-cupcake/muffin pan cup.  Flute the dough around the top of the cup.  Pour the pumpkin pie mix into each cup, filling to the top.   Note: if you have only one mini-cupcake pan, put 12 of the dough balls into the fridge, along with the remaining pie mix and bake in two separate batches.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the pie mix is set (or a knife inserted into a mini-pie comes out clean).  Let cool completely.  If not eating right away, either freeze or store in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

Variations

Pumpkin Praline Pie
Basic Pumpkin pie mix from above
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the brown sugar, pecans, and butter in small bowl.  The mix should form a crumb.  Fill the muffin pans with dough as above.  Place a scant teaspoon of this mixture at the base of each dough cup.  Fill each cup with the basic pumpkin pie mix and bake as directed above.

Pumpkin Chocolate Pie
Basic Pumpkin pie ingredients from above
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon crème de cacao

Add the cocoa powder and crème de cacao to the basic pumpkin pie mix.  Fill the muffin pans with dough as above and fill each with the pumpkin chocolate pie mix.   Bake as directed above.

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie
¾ cup eggnog
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon rum
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Fill the muffin pans with dough as above and fill each with the eggnog pumpkin pie mix.  Bake as directed above.

Note – if you don’t want to make mini-pies, each recipe and variation above will make one pie.  If you are making one full-size pie, reduce the dough ingredients to 2 cups flour, 1 cup salted butter, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup cold water.   Baking time will be 50 minutes for a full sized pie at 350 degrees or until set.

This post is linked to the Saucy Saturday #71 Linky Party.  For more wonderful holiday recipes, check out the hosts’ sites:

Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef, Mid-Life Croissant and The Flavor Bender

Mulling Spices Blend

Mulling Spices Blend

mulled-wine-spices-1

Mulling Spices make a great homemade holiday gift and this Mulling Spices Blend is particularly festive.  Mulling spices can be used for both mulling wine as well as apple cider.  I’m a fan of mulled wine using a bold wine, like a zinfandel or a grenache.  You can also mull white wine.

My special blend has a very fruit-forward flavor, achieved by including dried hibiscus flowers and dried orange rind.  I also added in juniper berries, leftover from the last time I made my own pickling spices.  Cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and star anise round out the mix.

mulling-spices-with-wine

mug-and-mulled-wine

Mulling Spices Blend
3 tablespoons juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers
2 tablespoons dried orange peel
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
5 whole star anise pods, broken into smaller pieces

Combine all the ingredients and keep in an airtight jar.  Use 1 tablespoon per glass of mulled wine or cider.

To mull wine or cider, place the mulling spice blend in a tea infuser.  Place the tea infuser in a small saucepan with wine or cider.  Bring just to a simmer and then remove from the heat.  Remove the tea infuser.  Serve in mugs with cinnamon sticks for garnish.  Enjoy!

Eggnog Ricotta Pancakes

Eggnog Ricotta Pancakes

The holidays are coming, and I’m eager for time to deck out the house with holiday cheer.  I’m also excited about spending lots of time in the kitchen cooking.  So, I bought some eggnog this past weekend, as I was hoping to get a jump on baking for Thanksgiving.  (I promise there is a good Thanksgiving dessert recipe coming soon to the blog that makes use of eggnog).  The weekend got away from me though, so I decided to use some of the eggnog to make pancakes instead.  (Full confession – I ran out of milk and eggnog happened to be handy).

I’m really glad we were out of milk, since eggnog pancakes might just be the best thing ever.  I took one bite of these and started dancing around the kitchen in joy – they are really just that good!  Serve these with a drizzle of maple syrup and a cup of good coffee.  You won’t be sorry.

eggnog-pancakes-with-syrup

eggnog-pancakes-with-bacon-and-eggs

Eggnog Ricotta Pancakes
Makes 12 small pancakes

3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup eggnog
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup ricotta cheese

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the eggnog, the egg, the vanilla, and the ricotta cheese.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine.  If the batter is too thick to easily pour, add 1/4 cup water to the mix.

Heat a cast iron skillet or a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Spray with olive or canola oil.  Use a quarter cup measure to ladle out the batter onto the hot skillet.  When the batter becomes bubbly on top, flip.  (If you are using a cast iron skillet, you may need to re-oil the skillet between flips).  Cook until both sides are golden.  Enjoy!

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones

Cacio e Pepe scones are my contribution to Food’n Flix this month.  Food’n Flix is a fun blogging opportunity to watch the same movie as other amazing food bloggers and be inspired.  This month’s movie, Burnt, was hosted by Caroline Makes. Burnt is an absolutely quintessential cooking movie about a burned out chef who makes a major come back and finds love and inspiration along the way.

The first time I watched Burnt was on an airplane on my I-Pad on the way to Indianapolis a few weeks ago.  I thought that creating food inspired from this movie would be easy – it’s a movie about a chef and about food, after all, so how hard could it be?  After watching the movie through the first time, I realized it was going to be more challenging than I’d originally thought.  There are so many fast paced camera shots of all the food that the main character Adam, played by Bradley Cooper, plates, serves, and eats that I couldn’t quite figure out what was actually being cooked.  Then I was distracted by the plot line and found myself more engaged with the drama between the characters than the food.  So I watched the movie a second time this past week while I was in Chicago, pen and notebook in hand.  It provided a great distraction from all the real-world drama that was going on with the US election.  So much beautiful food: seared shrimp, bouillabaisse, summer vegetables on ricotta cheese, turbot, beets, oysters, omelettes, mushrooms, beef, lamb.  But my favorite food moment in the film is at the very start when Adam suggests adding chopped sage to a luscious looking bowl of cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta).  I got to thinking about the combination of cheese and black pepper and then even more about food and how it can bring such comfort – whether one is taking care of a chef who has gone on a binge by cooking a simple omelette or if one is just trying to recover from the election hangover.   I love cheese and black pepper and I love scones, so decided to see what would happen if I combined these elements.

I have to say that I’m very pleased with how these scones turned out.  I even went digging through the pantry to find a jar of tomato jam I made last year to see how it would taste on a scone (it’s delicious).  These are so creamy they are nearly biscuit like, so I’m pretty sure we are going to make some sausage gravy next weekend and warm up a few scones in lieu of biscuits.   I also think these would be great with a glass of a robust red wine as a holiday appetizer.

cacio-e-pepe-scone

multiple-scones

Cacio e Pepe Scones
Makes 12 scones

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano or similar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper.  Cut the butter into slices.  Add the butter into the dry mixture and either use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter until it forms pea size chunks.  Add the cheese and mix it in.  Add the heavy cream and egg gently incorporating until all the flour/butter mixture is wet and sticks together in a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and form into a circle.  Cut the dough into twelve pieces that radiate out from the middle of the circle.  Gently separate each piece – you want just a bit of space between each scone so that they can rise.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown.  Enjoy!

Spooky Halloween Onigiri

Spooky Halloween Onigiri

Halloween is almost here!  This year, I’m feeling particularly inspired – I think it started with our neighbors decorating their yard with tombstones and skeletons, and I realized I’ve been sad that I haven’t done anything Halloween-y for the past two years (lots of reasons – but mostly around a work life that just ate all my enthusiasm).  It helped, too, that the movie for Food ‘n Flix for October was Beetlejuice hosted by Deb at Kahakai KitchenBeetlejuice is one of my favorite Halloween movies.  First, it’s a Tim Burton film and I love the Burton universe with its over-the-top weird. Second, it’s not a scary, slasher film – I’m not a fan of those.  I also discovered, as I was writing this post, that there is another Burton related challenge this month (Fandom Foodies) hosted on Witchy Kitchen.  It’s #Burtoween!

So in honor of all things beautiful and strange and Burton-esque, I made Spooky Halloween Onigiri for my Beetlejuice inspired post.  I love onigiri – they are such a simple lunch snack to make, consisting of sushi rice, filling and nori.  I did a Fubonn run after work on Friday (Fubonn is the spectacular Asian grocery store on 82nd and Division in SE Portland) and bought umeboshi, which are very tart, salty and sweet plums that are used as a filling for onigiri.  I used both umeboshi and tomolives (pickled green tomatoes – more about these later this week) as my fillings.  The Spooky Halloween Onigiri get their shape from some Wilton Halloween molds from Amazon.  These onigiri make such a good lunch.  They are perfect as part of a bento box and would be great served with some roasted squash or a small salad.  Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, they survive fairly well for a day or two in the refrigerator, though if you are planning to store, I recommend keeping the nori separate until you are about to eat (it can get soggy).

I can completely see dancing sushi rice in the Burton universe, as well as onigiri decorated as spooks, bats, and Jack-O-Lanterns.  Nori is a perfect decorating tool for these onigiri.  I also realized belatedly that onigiri could so easily be decorated as Jack Skelington – I can just see it and probably ought to go make it.  I love having fancy onigiri in my lunchbox – it makes me smile in the middle of the day.

halloween-molds

These are the molds I used for the onigiri.

halloween-onigiri

onigiri-with-bat

That bottom thing is a bat – probably not the best mold for this purpose

Spooky Halloween Onigiri
Serves 2

3/4 cup sushi rice (be sure to use sushi rice – any other rice will not stick together as well)
1 cup water
1 sheet nori
Filling – umeboshi, tomolives, smoked fish, olives, etc. (the best fillings for onigiri are salty or tart – or both)

Combine the sushi rice and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.

Cut the nori into various shapes to decorate the onigiri.  If you are using molds, the nori can be used to make eyes, mouths, etc. or can be used in one long strip to ring the onigiri.  Set the nori aside.

When the rice is slightly cool (but still warm to the touch), moisten your hands to keep the rice from sticking to them and shape the rice into the desired shape.  Create an indent in the middle of the rice and fill with your chosen fillings.  Cover the fillings with more rice or shape the rice around the filling.  Decorate with nori and enjoy!

Food 'n Flix Club Logo

 

 

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti

I’m so delighted that fall is here!  I couldn’t resist baking a batch of pumpkin pie spice biscotti this weekend, just to celebrate the start of October.  These cookies make the entire house smell like the holidays – the pumpkin pie spice is so fragrant.  I’m pretty generous with ginger in my spice blend and it comes through in a nice subtle way in these cookies. 

I’ve been thinking some about the pumpkin pie spice craze – I’ll admit that as soon as it started raining, I was in line at Starbucks for my first Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte for the year, which really, honestly, tastes nothing like pumpkin or spice.  I’ve since been sampling similar lattes at other coffee shops and have found a few favorites to get me through the season.  I’ve also thought a lot about pumpkin pie spice – I don’t know when it became de rigueur to DIY pumpkin pie spice.  I remember buying the premixed spice and having it around as a staple in the spice pantry.  It’s so simple to mix up the spices yourself though, so I’m happy about this particular cooking trend. 

And since this post is all about starting fall off with pumpkin, I recently read an interesting article that most canned pumpkin isn’t actually pumpkin at all, but is generally a blend of other winter squashes, like butternut squash because other winter squashes are less stringy than pumpkin and make a smoother puree.  This was a bit of a revelation for me: I’ve been making my own pumpkin puree for years now and every time I open up a roasted pie pumpkin, I’ve thought – this thing looks more like an orange spaghetti squash than pumpkin puree, so what am I doing wrong?  Then I put the thought aside, mash it up some, and throw it in the freezer to be used in things like these pumpkin pie spice biscotti or pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.   The stringiness isn’t noticeable when it’s cooked into a baked good or even when it’s blended into a smoothie, so I’ll keep on making my pumpkin puree with pumpkin. 

The bottom line here is that pumpkin and spice is a winning combination.  Enjoy these pumpkin pie spice biscotti with a cup of coffee (or a pumpkin spice latte) or a cup of tea and sit back and watch the leaves fall.

pumpkin-pie-spice-biscotti-2

Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti
Makes 2 dozen

½ cup pumpkin puree (recipe for DIY pumpkin puree here)
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see below to make your own)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
To dip or drizzle:
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix.  In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine until all the dry ingredients are mixed in. 

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Divide it into two sections and form each into a loaf.  Flatten each loaf out a bit on top. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Remove the biscotti loafs from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a serrated edged knife to slice the loafs into ½ slices – you’ll be able to get about 12 cookies from each loaf.  Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet in a single layer.  As they will not rise anymore at this point, they don’t need space between them, so you can fit all the biscotti on one baking sheet.

Bake the sliced biscotti at 325 for 25 minutes or until they are brown and crispy looking.  I usually flip them over about half way through to ensure even baking on both sides. 

When the biscotti are baked, open the oven door and let the cookies cool in the oven for 15 minutes for a very crisp biscotti.  Pull them out of the oven and finish cooling on a cooling rack. 

When the biscotti are cooled, melt the chocolate chips (in two separate saucepans) and use them to drizzle to decorate.  You can also dip the cookies in chocolate and nuts or just in chocolate.  Let the cookies air dry and then store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
2 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix all the spices together in an airtight container. 

Picnic Potato Salad

Picnic Potato Salad

By and large I am not a huge fan of potato salad.  I have a fairly significant aversion to mayonnaise, though I will use it for tuna or chicken salad.  I used to not like hard-boiled eggs, so this may have something to do with it as well.  In recent years, I’ve started to experiment more with this type of salad, using a minimal amount of mayonnaise and skipping the eggs all together.  I went one step further with this salad and just ditched the mayonnaise, opting instead for a dressing of red wine vinegar, oil and mustard.  Even better, I threw in some nicoise salad touches: Kalamata olives, blanched snap peas, and a whole hard boiled egg in each serving.

On a side note, I recently discovered a new red wine vinegar (because generic red wine vinegar just isn’t that thrilling.)  Meet the chianti red wine vinegar of my dreams:

chianti red wine vinegar

Ok – maybe it’s not that exciting and maybe it does taste mostly like red wine vinegar, but still.

This is a great time of year for little potatoes straight out of the garden or from the farm or farmer’s market.  The snap peas could certainly be replaced with beans.  The dressing made plenty of extra, so save it for a green salad later in the week or to go with roasted chicken and focaccia.

potato salad

Picnic Potato Salad
Serves 4

10 – 12 small (fingerling size) potatoes
10 – 12 snap peas
10 – 12 Kalamata olives
4 hardboiled eggs
Chianti red wine dressing (below)

Chianti Red Wine Dressing
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chianti red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
pinch salt
a few grinds fresh pepper

For the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar.  Cover with a tight lid, shake vigorously and set aside.

For the salad: Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the snap peas and boil for one minute.  Put the snap peas in a strainer and rinse with cool water.  Set aside. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and boil until tender.  Drain, cool and cut into quarters.  Combine the potatoes, blanched snap peas and Kalamata olives.  Dress with Chianti Red Wine Dressing – all ingredients should be well coated.  Chill for at least an hour for flavors to develop.  Add the hardboiled eggs on each plate when the dish is served.

Wine-y Dark Chocolate Brownies

Wine-y Dark Chocolate Brownies

brownies1

I suspect if I have a life’s motto, it’s when life is in chaos, eat chocolate and drink wine. This recipe is the best of both worlds, as it incorporates lots of chocolate and a good, robust wine. The addition of dried Bing cherries gives the brownies a bit of chew and compliments the dark chocolate chips.

brownies2

Wine-y Dark Chocolate Brownies
Makes 40 brownies

¾ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cup flour
½ cup milk
½ cup red wine
1 cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar and cocoa powder are combined. Take the mixture off the heat and let cool for about five minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla to the melted butter/sugar/cocoa mix and stir to thoroughly incorporate the eggs. Add the milk and red wine and stir. Combine the baking powder, baking soda, and flour in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the chocolate mix, stirring after each small addition. The batter will be a bit lumpy. Add the dark chocolate chips and dried cherries and stir until these are incorporated.

Spread the brownie mixture in a well-buttered 11×7 baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.

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