Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Pictures

A few pictures from Christmas.  A great time was had by all, and Santa gave me some cool stuff! :)

Christmas Cat - the present were in her way, as this is "her" tree!

Christmas Buck!

I made beef & black bean enchiladas for dinner one night - good stuff

Grandma & Granddaughter at Christmas

Grandpa & Granddaughter

Hanging out with my niece & nephew at Christmas

Out favorite Christmas ornament

Charlie Brown pillowcases, handmade by Mom!

The most incredible comforter for my bed, quilted by Mom!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks.  I was unbelievably busy at work, and then I was out of town to visit my family for Christmas.

Just a quick post to say I hope you all had a safe, fun, and memorable holiday season, and I wish you nothing but the best in the New Year.  I will have some more posts in the coming days.

Here are a few images from my Christmas Day run this morning.  It was -2 F with a wind chill of -12, and I did a little over 7 miles.  The frost buildup was impressive. :)

Frosty Christmas Day runner

My facemask froze to my Buff. :)  Welcome to winter running!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cookbook Challenge #30: Around My French Table

We are up to our 30th Cookbook Challenge!  This time we head overseas to France to cook from the pages of Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.

French food at home
Who doesn't love Dorie Greenspan?  A well-known and highly respected cookbook author who splits her time between New York, Connecticut, and Paris, she has 10 cookbooks to her name, include some award winners.  She has developed quite an online following thanks to a project called "Tuesday's With Dorie," an Internet baking club that baked their way through her 2006 book, Baking from My Home to Yours.  The same thing is happening with French Fridays with Dorie; a number of intrepid home cooks are cooking their way through Around My French Table.

This book, published in 2010, is filled with over 300 of Dorie's French recipes.  It is a sizable and impressive book, with lots of great photography and tasty looking dishes.  I love her style of writing as well.  Her recipes have a sort of a casualness to them, reading as if she is standing in your kitchen giving you step-by-step instructions.  There are also several sidebar discussions and tips on variations and helpful shortcuts to the recipes.

Since we were under the first official Winter Storm Warning of the season (and it snowed over a foot on this day!), I figured nothing would taste better than a little comfort food.  So I chose to make Dorie's "Go-To Beef Daube."

What is a "daube?"  It's a classic Provençal French stew made with beef, wine, and other veggies, and cooked in a daubière (a deep, lidded casserole).  This particular recipe isn't a traditional daube, and Dorie admits as much in the book, but she says she is sticking with the name because it allows her to play around with the recipe.

It is a pretty short list of ingredients - beef chuck, bacon, carrots, parsnips, onions, shallots, garlic, a bouquet garni, Cognac (or brandy), and red wine.  Aside from the parsnips, this looks almost like a beef Bourguignon.

Right before I covered the daube and put it in the oven
After braising in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, the beef is incredibly tender, and the onions and shallots melt right in, giving body to the dark, rich sauce of wine and brandy.  Soft carrots and parsnips, and a little bit of smokiness from the bacon round out this wonderful stew.  I served it over some pasta, because I usually like some form of noodles with my stew, but Dorie also recommended mashed potatoes or pureed celery root.  A perfect dish to eat while watching it snow!

Dorie Greenspan's "Go-To" Beef Daube
Beautiful, rustic comfort food, and absolutely delicious.  The leftovers made for some fantastic lunches at work this week, too.     

Around My French Table is a delightful book, and there are a number of other recipes I would like to try.  I really enjoyed Dorie's style of writing, the recipes are easy to follow and don't require a lot of fuss, and I think this would make a nice addition to any cookbook collection.  It certainly has me wanting to put more French food on my table! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Because of last year's unusually mild winter, it has been a couple of years since I ran during a Winter Storm Warning.  But I put on the trail shoes and changed that in a big hurry this morning!  There was a good 5 inches of snow on the trails at the time, and it has been snowing steadily ever since.

The snow is certainly very pretty, and we are going to get a whole bunch of it!  Depending on who you listen to, we are expecting anywhere between 9 and 15 inches by the time all is said and done.  I believe we got 22 inches all of last winter.

An impressive storm.  I think I will stay inside, watch football, and cook!  Here are a few images from today's run:

Running in a winter wonderland!
Trail at Fish Lake Park

Another view of the trails and the trees at the park

Trail intersection - there is a road here somewhere!

The view from the deck

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chipotle-Dried Serrano Salsa

My local grocery store carries these wonderful dried chilies from Mariposa Farms in Iowa, and I had some fun making salsa with their products this past weekend.

The fantastic dried serrano chilies from Mariposa Farms
Some time ago, I was extolling the virtues of dried serrano chilies.  I recently made an adaptation of the "Fiery Chipotle Salsa" recipe in Reed Hearon's excellent book, Salsa.

The salsa recipe in the book uses dried chipotle peppers exclusively.  Since dried serrano chilies also exhibit something of a smoky flavor (albeit a little less pronounced), along with the characteristic clean heat you get from fresh serranos, I decided to combine the two.  

I'm not going to lie; this brick-colored salsa is pretty hot.  But it is also deep, rich, complex, and smoky.  Lots of nice, sweet roasted onion and garlic flavors, and the sherry vinegar adds a sophisticated acidity.  I've been enjoying it simply with chips, but it also was nice to serve at the table with a plate of enchiladas for some added heat.  Really good with eggs and breakfast burritos, too.  

Chipotle-Dried Serrano Salsa
Chipotle-Dried Serrano Salsa
-adapted from Salsa

-3 dried serrano chilies
-1 dried chipotle chile
-1/2 cup hot water
-1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thickly sliced
-8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
-1/2 t. ground cumin
-1/2 t. Mexican oregano
-1 T. sherry vinegar
-1/2 t. kosher salt
-A few grinds of fresh black pepper
-1/2 cup water

Toast the chipotle and serrano chilies in a dry skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes, just to wake up the flavors.

Soak the chipotle and serrano chilies in hot water for 15 minutes.  Slit open and remove the seeds and veins.  Add the chilies to a blender, and discard the soaking water.

In a skillet over medium heat, pan-roast the onion and garlic until slightly blackened and soft.  Add the onions to the blender.  Allow the garlic to cool just enough to handle, peel the cloves, and add to the blender.

Toast the cumin and Mexican oregano in the skillet over medium heat, just for a few seconds until fragrant.  Add to the blender, along with the sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Add the water and blend until you have a slightly textured liquid.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups of potent salsa.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cookbook Challenge #29: Molto Italiano

A couple weeks off due to a hectic schedule and a holiday weekend, but the Cookbook Challenge rides again!  For this challenge, we are whipping up a little Italian by cooking from the pages of Mario Batali's Molto Italiano.

Molto Mario!
Of course, Mario Batali is one of the more easily recognizable figures in cooking today.  He brought his encyclopedic knowledge of Italian food to the Food Network (I miss his old show, "Molto Mario"), and has gone on to create a highly successful culinary empire with numerous restaurants, books, and TV appearances.

His book, Molto Italiano, features 327 "simple Italian recipes to cook at home."  It's a huge, 500+ page book with countless recipes.  Antipasto, soups, pastas, and risottos, along with many meat, fowl, fish, and vegetable dishes - there is a lot of good looking stuff here.

The recipes stay true to the title of the book.  Simple preparations, a handful of ingredients, very much classic dishes.  Many of the recipes share a little story, or tell you something about the origin of the recipe, so Batali goes out of his way to share his extensive knowledge of the cuisine as well.

The recipe I chose to make was one I have never prepared before; a simple pasta dish called Spaghetti alla Gricia (recipe is here).  This is a classic recipe from Rome, traditionally made with guanciale (cured pork jowl), onions, and Pecorino-Romano cheese.  It is somewhat related to Spaghetti all'Amatriciana, which is basically the same dish with tomato added.

Full disclosure #1: Guanciale isn't the easiest thing to track down in these parts.  Thankfully, pancetta (cured, unsmoked, air-dried pork belly) is available just about anywhere.  While different than guanciale, you can use pancetta as a substitute in this recipe, so that is what I did.    

Full disclosure #2: I mistakenly thought I had spaghetti in my pantry.  To my shock, I did not (who doesn't have spaghetti in their pantry?!?).  Oddly enough, I had bucatini, a long, hollow, spaghetti-like pasta.  The good news is that bucatini is commonly used in this dish, however.  So I swapped that out as well.

Mario Batali's Spaghetti Bucatini alla Gricia
Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best ones, and this one is outstanding.  You can make it in a snap, and no lengthy prep work is needed.  A perfect candidate for a weeknight meal.  Get the water boiling and cook the pasta while your are cooking preparing the pancetta, onions, and garlic, toss the cooked noodles in there, add the cheese and parsley (parsley is called for in the book's recipe), and you have dinner. 

And what a dinner you have!  I actually think the bucatini is a little more fun than spaghetti.  It is kind of like chewing on a small garden hose!  But this would certainly be great as intended with the spaghetti.  The pancetta is sweet, salty, and porky tasting, and the red pepper imparts some subtle heat.  Pecorino-Romano adds a nice sharpness, the parsley some freshness, and the pancetta and onions cling to the pasta nicely.  So simple, and indescribably delicious.

Molto Italiano is a great resource for some fantastic Italian dishes.  There are a lot of very attractive recipes here that should be easy to prepare, and Batali has a wealth of interesting information to share with the reader.  Molto bene!  I am happy to have this book in my collection. 


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