Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pretzel Turtles

I made these to send to our families in their Christmas packages, but we have been sneaking them all week because they are so good. You can't go wrong with chocolate, caramel, pecans and salty pretzels.

Every year for Christmas for as long as I can remember, we give my dad a box of turtles, and I think it is one of his favorite gifts. Last year I sent our families all homemade gifts, and I didn't want to leave out the turtles for my dad so I found this recipe. These turtles are incredibly easy to make, which isn't usually a criteria I consider when planning my cooking adventures, but at this time of year with all the hubbub of the holidays, a quick recipe is really appreciated.

Pretzel Turtles

35 mini pretzels
35 individually wrapped caramel candies
35 whole pecan halves
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through, until they're lightly toasted. Remove them after they're toasted and put them on a plate to cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the pretzels neatly on the pan, then top each pretzel with an unwrapped caramel. Place the pan into the oven for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the caramels are softened but definitely not melting. Remove the pan from the oven. Gently press a pecan half onto each caramel, just enough for the caramel to fill the pretzel. Set them aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Spoon small dollops (1 1/2 teaspoons or so) of chocolate over each pretzel. Allow them to cool completely before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Campari Love, Love


Campari love, everybody tells me so
Campari love, no, no, no! (Yes, yes, yes!)
(sung to the tune of Can't Buy Me Love by The Beatles)

Andrew sang this to me the other day at the liquor store when I bought a bottle of Campari. Moments like that always make me so thankful that we found each other!

Andrew is out of town this weekend, and I made myself a pamplemousse as an apéritif last night before eating the shrimp scampi pasta I have whenever he is out of town. Isn't it stunning? 

I've been trying to expand my palette for bitterness lately, and although a Negroni is a little much for me at this point, this cocktail is a good one to ease into liking Campari. Actually, it requires very, very little easing in because it is delicious. The Campari amplifies the flavor of the grapefruit, and it is as good as it is gorgeous. 

From Orangette

1/2 ounce Campari
2 ounces fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, strained
2 ounces dry white wine

Fill a shaker with ice, Campari, grapefruit juice, and wine. Shake and pour into a glass. 

Makes 1 drink.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving Scenes 2014

In typical fashion, I have zero photos of any people, some photos of the food and about a hundred photos of the cat, Madame. I can't resist an animal photo shoot!

We went to Albuquerque to have dinner at a friend's house. We drank sazeracs, and he made us catfish courtbouillon with fried shrimp, green beans, biscuits and a variety of pies.

For appetizers, I made olive oil crackers, beet dip, goat cheese with roasted garlic, kale pesto with pepitas and roasted butternut squash.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Lemon Scones

I have been looking forward to baking with fresh cranberries since last Thanksgiving, and these scones were at the top of my list. The recipe is for biscuits, but these are really more of a scone. I love the tartness of the cranberries and the subtle freshness from the lemon. The original recipe calls for meyer lemon, but my grocery store didn't have them so I just used a regular lemon.

Cranberry Lemon Scones
Slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 beaten egg for brushing the tops of the scones before baking
Turbinado or granulated sugar for sprinkling on top before baking

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pinch of ginger, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter (using your fingers or a pastry cutter) until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Work the butter into the dry ingredients until some of the butter flakes are the size of peas and some are the size of oat flakes.

In another bowl, combine egg and milk and beat lightly with a fork. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough. Fold in the cranberries and zest.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 10 times. Roll or pat out into a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds using a round cutter or cut into 2×2-inch squares. Reshape and roll dough to create more scones with excess scraps.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sunday Supper: Early Winter 2014


Menu planning is one of my favorite ways to pass my free time. We are spending Thanksgiving at a friend's house this year, and I am in serious Thanksgiving-menu-planning withdrawal. I've fed my addiction through planning other menus, including a hypothetical Thanksgiving dinner with slow roasted duck. That menu is a doozy, and I plan to save it for a special occasion dinner this winter. I've also been working on dinner party menus and our New Year's Eve party menu. We are doing Spanish tapas this year! All this planning can only satisfy me so much so this weekend, I put one of my menus into action and made a delicious Sunday supper.

We had a rack of ribs in the freezer that Andrew has asked to eat every weekend for at least two months so I started there. Since this menu involves grilling the ribs outside, this isn't the perfect main dish for this time of year, but I didn't want them to sit in the freezer all winter. We usually make these ribs in the summer after a long bike ride or hike, but trust me, they are tasty any time of year. The basting sauce has bourbon and apple cider so it feels fall-y at least. The ribs do require some planning ahead. I like to remove the membrane and apply the seasoning rub the night before. Check out this handy tutorial for removing the membrane - all you need is a butter knife and a paper towel and it is very quick and easy.

Brussels sprouts on the stalk are too hard to resist this time of year. I halved and roasted them. Simple and perfect. I also made a cauliflower gratin. When I was studying abroad, my host mother would make cauliflower gratiné often in the winter, and it is one of my great regrets that I never got her recipe. This one is spot on. Creamy, cheesy cauliflower gratin on a chilly night? There's not much better!

For dessert, I made an apple galette. I made apple tarts in culinary class, but they were too sweet. I actually printed out this recipe and replaced the one from our book in my standard prep manual in case I had to make it again in class. The dough is a dream - elastic and forgiving, easy to roll out thinly and light and flaky once baked. I used less than half of the sugar that the recipe called for, and to me, it was perfect. We served the galette with vanilla ice cream.

And because it is the end of November, we drank Beaujolais Nouveau, mostly for nostalgic reasons. It was actually pretty good this year, which is a big compliment, in my opinion.


Early Winter Sunday Supper

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Ribs

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower Gratiné

Apple Galette


Recipes are after the jump.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day Trip from Santa Fe: Pecos National Historic Park

This time of year is always hard - shorter days, no daylight after work to do anything fun outside, chilly weekend days and snowy mountain trails. Until ski season starts, I find it harder to be active and feel good, but this year we have been trying to take advantage of free weekend days to do some day trips that we've been wanting to try. I love visiting Pecos, about 30 minutes from Santa Fe, in the summer for fishing and hiking, but I had never taken the time to visit the ruins of the Pueblo and Spanish Mission until recently.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Welcome to Winter

Chilly nights, crackling fires, cozy blankets, and lots of cuddling. Welcome to winter.

During the rest of the year, Elsa likes to spend her evenings hanging out in other rooms in the house. She's like a moody teenager keeping to herself no matter how much I encourage her to come spend some family time with us. She especially likes sleeping on the bed in the spare room her bedroom. But now that it is so cold in the house, and the best place to be is on the couch in front of the fire, she spends her evenings with us again. It is wonderful!
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