Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday!

Boy am I glad that the weekend is almost here. We have friends coming into town who will be staying with us for the week, so tonight we'll be cleaning, baking "Welcome To Town Apple Jalapeno Cheddar Scones", and stashing clutter into closets and drawers.  For their arrival tomorrow night, we're making a big simmering pot of Carne Guisada. It's a TexMex staple, beef stewed with spices and chiles, with a generous handful of cilantro thrown in at the end for good measure. Serve it along with warm flour tortillas and cold beer, and you have yourself quite a feast. It's also the perfect lead-in to an evening of college football.

(photo from the fabulous Homesick Texan)

Speaking of food, we roasted brussels sprouts last night to go along with baked pork chops and apples. The pork chops took a little longer than expected, so the brussels sprouts were ready early. Instead of fretting and letting them sit around and get cold, we let the chops continue to cook, grabbed a plate and two forks, and dug in. They were gone in no time.

When did brussels sprouts become so delicious? Just trim the stems and discard the outer leaves, half them, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then roast in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes. You'll never look at brussels sprouts the same again, I promise.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kitchen Projects

I have some kitchen projects I want to take on during the cooler portion of the year. No, not fix-it projects -- cooking projects! You know, the type -- the ones where you spend a drizzly Saturday puttering around your kitchen all day.

We are about to have 150 bottles of homebrew at our disposal thanks to the Herculean efforts of my Brewmaster in Residence (my husband).  Friends that you never knew you had tend to come out of the woodwork when they hear about a beer stock of such epic proportions, but it's still a lot of beer for two people to have stashed away in their basement. I hope to use a couple bottles to try my hand at this Cheddar Ale Soup recipe. Beer, cheese, and bacon? Twist my arm.

Not only do we have a lot of beer, but we still have a counter full of apples from our recent apple picking adventure that need to be put to good use.  Being the southern girl that I am, I'm really itching to delve into canning. This  Apple Butter sounds like a perfect way to kill two birds with one stone.

 (photo from The Kitchenette)

Y'all, Joy the Baker is a woman after my own heart.  She just gets me (case in point: this sandwich). Though I'm still intimidated by recipes that require the use of those small and unassuming, seemingly innocent, packets of yeast, Joy's recipe for Spicy Garlic Bread  is irresistible. It's just the kick in the pants that I need to conquer my fear and to finally try my hand at Dutch Oven bread.

(photo from Joy the Baker)

Speaking of yeast, how amazing do these Homemade Pretzels with Jalapeno Cheese Sauce look? Rolling and knotting pretzel dough, watching some football while they bake, and then digging in, hovered over a bowl of that cheese sauce, would make for such a fun afternoon in the kitchen with your significant other or some friends.

(photo from Homemade by Holman)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seriously Good Suppers: Apple & Rosemary Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Meals in our house are going to be quite apple-centric for the next week or so (see previous post).  I have a few favorites up my sleeve, but last night, I tried a new recipe for pork tenderloin stuffed with our freshly picked apples, onion, and rosemary. It's finally cool enough to use the oven again, so I'm back to roasting anything I can get my hands on. Served along with some buttered carrots and a simple green salad, we really loved this recipe. The tender pork paired so well with the mildly tart apple and the sweet onion.  And the rosemary? Well, it's hard to go wrong with a little rosemary. Now it's one apple down, about 20 more to go!

  • Apple & Rosemary Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
  • (based on original recipe from Cooking Light)
  • Serves 3-4

  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 Tb + 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium McIntosh apple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tb apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • Directions
  • Preheat oven to 425°  
  • To butterfly the tenderloin,  first slice pork lengthwise with a sharp paring knife, cutting down to, but not through, the other side. Spread the halves, laying pork flat. Slice lengthwise down the center of each half, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Open pork, laying flat. (It should be rectangular at this point)  
  • Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the meat, and use the flat side of a meat tenderizer (or a rolling pin) to pound to an even thickness.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, apple, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the vinegar and rosemary, cook for 1 minute. 
  • Place apple mixture in a small bowl and wipe out the pan.
  • Spread the apple and onion mixture evenly over the butterflied pork.  Roll up like a jelly-roll.  Tie every few inches with kitchen twine (or be a rebel like me and use regular ol' twine, as shown in the picture, because you keep forgetting to buy kitchen twine. It works too.)
  • Return pan to medium-high heat. Add about 1 Tb of oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When hot, place the pork in the pan, seam side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  
  • Place the skillet in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 145°.  
  • Remove pork from the pan; let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  • (Note: Don't be too hard on yourself if yours kind of falls apart when you slice it instead of  resulting in perfect little pork pinwheels. The gorgeous photo from Cooking Light is on the right. My sad looking version is on the left, like I had to tell you which one was which. Regardless of how it looks once you slice it, it tastes delicious!)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Apples, Apples Everywhere

Fall in New England means that it's time to go apple picking! This year we drove up to Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, NH and had the best time. As we drove north out of the Boston area, the greenery lining the highway was dotted with golden and rust leaves ablaze in the early afternoon sun. 

We were meeting fellow Texans, good friends who have recently joined us up here in Yankee territory. We were early (as usual), so we took a slight detour into bustling downtown Contoocook.  The Everday Cafe looked inviting, so we popped in for a mug of hot tea and sat out front enjoying the breezy, gorgeous fall day. A stone's throw down the street was one of New England's covered bridges, spanning the Contoocook River

We then headed toward Gould Hill Farm. With the White Mountains in the distance, a weathered barn, and their sprawling slightly overgrown orchards, we had truly escaped into the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire, in the best possible way. Just plenty of other people had escaped there with us. This place was busy!

The doughy smell of apple cider donuts sizzling in the fryer greeted us as we stepped into the Orchard Store. We meandered our way through the families in line for ice cream and fresh donuts, piles of unusual apples available for sample and purchase, and shelves of local honeys, jams, pumpkin butters, and syrup

We couldn't resist buying half a dozen donuts. We took our little white paper bag outside, and we each pulled out a piping hot donut, freshly dusted with sugar and cinnamon.  It's best to eat them quickly to avoid burnt fingertips!  So crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside. Not too sweet. They were perfect. 

We hiked up a hill to the orchard and picked a peck of McIntosh, Macouns, and Cortlands.  After our bags (and our stomachs) were full, we found a spot with a prime mountain vista to plop down with a tupperware full of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and a Long Trail beer for each of us. Now that we're back in Medford with a counter full of apples, it's time to get cooking!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Seriously Good Suppers: Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad

My husband and I have been trying to eat a little lighter over the last few months which has led to including more hearty salads in our supper repertoire. This salad brought a little bit of summer to our plates, even on a chilly September evening. The spicy shrimp, the sweet tomatoes, the bite of the arugula, the creamy avocado, and bright citrus dressing complement each other so well and were so flavorful that we didn't feel like we were watching our calories or our waist lines at all.

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad
(based on original recipe from Serious Eats)
Serves 2

7 Tb olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
2 Tb lemon juice, about 1 lemon
1 bag of pre-washed baby arugula
1/2 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tsp lime juice, about one lime

In a mixing bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cayenne, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

While the shrimp marinates, whisk together the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons olive oil for the dressing. Set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (any skillet will work, really) over high heat until shimmering. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer, until just cooked through. Transfer to a bowl, and toss with the lime juice.

In a large bowl, combine the arugula, shallot, avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro. Add dressing (be careful not to overdress -- I didn't use all of mine. I put the leftover in a jar in the fridge to use later), and toss to combine. Serve topped with shrimp.

P.S. I think this would also be really good sprinkled with some toasted slivered almonds or pecans.

Davis Square

Alright, I'm going to say it. I like Davis Square (in Somerville, MA). It took me a while to get there, but it has happened.

First it was Diesel Cafe. I started going here with a friend to get hot apple cider (usually served in a pint glass, strangely enough) and lunch. The cider is so good that I almost cry when the warmer months come around and it disappears off the menu (this from a girl whose favorite season is summer). The food is light and fresh. The staff is almost weird enough to make me feel like I'm back in Austin. The coffee is good and full of caffeine (and they sell bags of  Intelligentsia). Their pots of Rooibos tea are perfect to share with a friend (or to hoard all for yourself). 

Next we happened upon the Somverville Theater during a special showing of James Bond movies on the original 35 mm film. How cool is that? I seriously can't find anything bad to say about a theater where you can buy beer AND ice cream to enjoy during the show!  And while we're talking about something non-food related, I also really love this quirky little shop, Davis Squared

(photo from Bosston Style blog)

When we finally ventured into Dave's Fresh Pasta it was all over. There is no easier dinner than a dozen of their fresh raviolis with one of their homemade sauces (and maybe a loaf of their super buttery garlic bread). The Arugula Almond Pesto with cheese ravioli is the stuff dreams are made of, but you can't go wrong with any choice here. And I could poke around in their grocery section for hours!

If you're a beer geek like us, look no further than the extensive tap and bottle list at Five Horses. For something a little nicer, sister restaurants The Painted Burro and  Posto are also pretty darn good, serving up highfalutin' Mexican food and wood-fired pizzas and pasta, respectively. Also, don't miss the housemade chili oil at Posto. *swoon* Once we entered the impossibly cool speakeasy atmosphere of Saloon and cuddled up in a corner booth with craft cocktails (the Pimm's Up is where it's at), I thought for sure we had finally found the last hidden gem in Davis Square.

There's still more though! Just last night, I went out to dinner with some awesome ladies, and we decided to try Flatbread, attached to Sacco's Bowl Haven. (We didn't get to bowl, but I think some candlepin bowling and a big cheesy pizza to share would make for a pretty fantastic date night) We tried four pizzas: the Kalua Pork, the Homemade Sausage, the Jimmy's Free-Range Chicken, and the Homemade Pepperoni and Mushroom.

My go to pizza topping combo is pepperoni and mushroom, so I was shocked when I actually didn't care for their homemade nitrate-free pepperoni. Maybe I like the nitrates?  Either way, my favorite was actually the Kalua Pork. Holy crap was it good. Big chunks of slow roasted pork shoulder with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and mozzarella made for one seriously delicious pizza. We practically licked the pie pan clean on that one.

Davis Square, I'm glad we're friends.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Care for a Cup of Tea?

Lately, I have started drinking hot tea more frequently. What's not to like about it? You start to relax when you first breathe in its aroma, each sip warms you up from the inside out, the feel of the warm mug in your hands is so comforting, and it enables you to put your cute mugs to good use! Even Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory knows that there are few things as comforting as a nice hot beverage.

My essentials for a good cup of tea:

A Tea Mug Cozy -  Is there a cuter way to keep your tea warm and to protect your hands from a mug that's too hot? If there is, I haven't found it.

My Mug Cozy from Knit Storm (Etsy)

I also like the cozies from Little Buttons and Bows (also Etsy) and got the Aqua Mint one for my mom. She loves it!

Cute Mugs - I love these mugs (ok, most mugs) from Anthropologie. I have the blue and orange one at the top of the picture, and it's my favorite mug to drink tea out of.  

Another tip to build up your mug collection is to see if you have a potter nearby that makes beautiful one of a kind pieces. If you are in the Boston area, check out Earl Howard in Medford!

A Good Tea Kettle - My personal favorite is this little cherry red number by Le Creuset. My husband surprised me with this one as a Christmas gift, and I absolutely love it. It's just the right size, works well, and looks so pretty that I leave it on my stove at all times.  She even has a name -- Agnes!

 Your Favorite Tea - One of my favorites right now is the Rooibos loose leaf tea from MEM Tea in nearby town Watertown, MA. Their Moroccan Mint is also wonderful. Whatever your favorite, stock up as the cooler months approach!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crafts for the Kitchen

I love craft projects. Yet, every summer I lose interest.  I start thinking about traveling, being outdoors, grilling with a cold beer, picnics, gardening, having friends over for cookouts -- basically anything not involving sitting on a couch beside my sewing bag.

However, each fall I begin to get this itch. You know the one, right? It's an itch to create something. An itch to hunker down with a project and labor over it until I have something lovely to show for it.

As fall begins to creep up on us with its gentle sunshine, crisp mornings and chilly evenings, and chameleon leaves, let's grab a cup of hot tea and peruse some projects we would like to tackle. What better place to start than projects for the kitchen?

Cocktail Napkins - How perfect are these for a dinner party? Or a bridal or baby shower? Or a garden party? Or brunch with the girls? Depending on what fabric you choose, the possibilities could be endless.

Window Treatments - I think this is the most fun idea. You could even make a couple different treatments and switch them out during the year.

Family Recipe Tea Towels - I was recently given an old tin full of handwritten recipes that belonged to my husband's grandmother. It's absolutely priceless.  Many of the recipe cards are tattered and beginning to fade, but you can still read her handwriting (including one for how to boil spaghetti). When I saw these kitchen towels made from family recipe cards, I knew I had to try it with some of Nana's recipes. Wouldn't that be such a special gift for the other women in the family?

Embroidered Mason Jar Lids - As a Texan girl, I love making homemade salsas. Roasted tomatillo is my favorite, but I also love to make habanero hot sauce, salsa with raw or roasted tomatoes, and even restaurant-style salsa with canned tomatoes. When my husband and I can resist eating a whole batch ourselves, jars of homemade salsa make great gifts for my New England friends, and how much cuter would one of those jars be with these adorable embroidered lids? I have to try this.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Family, Football, and Flying

Our weekend began with visitors from Texas.  The house was clean and well stocked with wine, whiskey, and baked goods (including these tasty Bacon Cheddar Scones) to welcome my in-laws from Austin to Boston. After they headed back home, we wrapped up the weekend with a flight to Sanford, Maine for breakfast, saying goodbye to my car which died this past week, and by starting a batch of homebrewed beer.

Highlights of the weekend:

Wood-fired pizzas at Posto in Davis Square

Drinks and desserts at Saloon, also in Davis Square. My favorite drink of the evening was hands down the Pimm's Up.

Sampling a long flight of beers at Portsmouth Brewery in Porstmouth, NH.  I really enjoyed their Cream Ale, their Oatmeal Stout, and their Saison, which was on cask.  Also, Portsmouth Brewery's gigantic pastrami sandwich, stuffed with house-cured pastrami, a ridiculous amount of sauerkraut  and melty swiss cheese on marbled rye.
Touring New England's branch of the Red Hook brewery. More beer samples? Twist my arm.

College football and the Longhorns victory over Ole Miss. Hook 'em!

Watching the sun rise over the ocean as we took off for our flight up to Sanford. Even better than your husband taking you on a flight somewhere? Chicken fried steak and eggs for breakfast!
Starting a batch of Pecan Porter homebrew with my husband. We spent a perfect fall afternoon out in our backyard sipping Slumbrew's Porter Square Porter while the brew kettle simmered.
I always have trouble with the transition from summer to fall, as it means both saying goodbye to my favorite season and knowing that the dreaded New England winter is right around the corner. Days like today seem to make that transition a lot easier. Soaking up the afternoon sun while a crisp fall breeze makes the leaves, edges tinged in yellow, start to dance can't be all bad.