An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Pumpkin Biscuits

The eve of 2013 has arrived. It is a passageway from one year of experiences to a road of possibility. A clean slate to start eating better, being nicer, or taking a new vacation. Every year around Christmas when I am home in Ohio, my family and I fill our wine glasses, pull out our pens, and gather around the dining room table to write our resolutions for the upcoming year. Since 1999, we have carefully placed our resolutions into individual envelopes that are collected into one large envelope, that is ceremoniously tucked into a hidden venue until the next year. Then after Christmas, we contribute new plans and goals to the growing stack of papers. It is always interesting to review goals of years past. There are always a few that get rewritten and added to the next year. And there are ones that get crossed off...those are the most satisfying.

One of my resolutions this year is to be open to seeing life with a new perspective. You never know who you may meet that will change your life or what corner you may turn that will lead to a new path. This pumpkin for example was left over from Thanksgiving and needed to be either be roasted or composted. I chose the former, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was brimming with seeds that got tossed into oil and roasted, and meat that was cooked, pureed, and refrigerated until inspiration hit. I was at the gym and as usual, day dreaming of what to have for breakfast the next day. There is a bakery near my house that serves sweet potato biscuits with egg and cheese. These breakfast sandwiches have been creeping into my mind for weeks. But when I have a day off, I often like staying home to drink coffee and make a fancy meal. So why not use the pureed pumpkin to create a similar meal?

So let's allow the pumpkin biscuits to symbolize change: transforming an ordinary pumpkin into a colorful breakfast biscuit. Go the extra step to make a small difference. Eggs and Cheddar cheese have never looked so cheery.

Pumpkin Biscuits
Makes 10 to 12 small biscuits
Inspired by an recipe

This was originally a sweet potato biscuit recipe that pumpkin was swapped into. Feel free to use sweet potato instead. I simply had a spare pumpkin that needed to be roasted and found its way into the biscuit dough.

1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 to 2 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Using your hands, mix butter into dry ingredients until butter is fully incorporated. Stir in milk until dough is sticky and well mixed. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
Transfer dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, about 1 minute. Roll dough using a floured rolling pin into a 1/2-inch rectangle; cut into about 2-inch squares. Place biscuits onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet and biscuits in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Remove from freezer and bake until biscuits have risen and are lightly browned, 15 to 18 minutes.


Spicy Date Compote

It is recipe swap time of month again and Christianna of Burwell General Store has given us a festive recipe this month: fruit cake. It is the long-standing traditional gift we have been joking about as the unfriendliest item on the holiday table. I never really understood why fruit cake has gotten such a bad rap over the years. In theory, it isn't so bad. A cake made with dried fruit and nuts could be good if it didn't involve those creepy, artificially-colored candied fruit pieces that dot the dry cake.

Thanks to my coworker and friend A, inspiration hit. She had been raving about a fig compote she had in New York about a month ago. We were simply standing on both sides of our cubicles one day last week when she announced she would be featuring the compote at Friday happy hour. A light bulb suddenly appeared above my head. I could evolve her recipe for the recipe swap and bring it to H and J's latke party on Sunday.

So yesterday morning my house was filled with aromas of simmering red wine. The compote is a perfect blend of sweet and spicy, especially when served atop a cracker with cheese, and even better, thinly sliced coppa. So this holiday season, as your are slaving over the Christmas cookie baking, pop these ingredients on the stove, for a quick and easy appetizer for your holiday parties, or just an everyday snack spread.

Spicy Date Compote
Makes about 3/4 cup

Any variety of dried fruit can but used in this recipe. A's orginal recipe used dried figs. Serve alongside crackers and cheese for a nice appetizer.

1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup freshly chopped dates
Salt to taste

Mix wine, honey, sugar, and red pepper flakes in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until honey and sugar have dissolved, 5 minutes. Add cranberries and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add dates and salt; simmer until mixture is thickened and dates are just starting to dissolve, 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and cool in the refrigerator until serving time.


Bacon and Cauliflower Pasta

Sometimes on a Friday night you need a bowl of comfort food and a glass of wine. After a discussion with a coworker about macaroni and cheese with bacon and apples, I decided to evolve that idea into a decadent bowl of pasta featuring cauliflower, bacon, Parmesan cheese, and pasta. That combination really can't go wrong, having a perfect balance of salty, earthy, and Italian goodness.

Speaking of balance, I have recently had a few light bulb-over-the-head moments on the yoga mat. Everything on the yoga mat is a metaphor for life. I do yoga of the hot version which takes me to a whole other level of exhaustion...the good kind of exhaustion where all the little hang-ups I carry around during the day somehow don't seem so important anymore. It is as though you come to realize what is actually important.

Last night the instructor said, 'If you can reach back and touch your heels in camel pose, then you must'. This is such good advice for life as well. It allows for no excuses. I often feel like this about walking home from work. Sometimes I really don't feel like walking home, but I physically can, so I must. Now I will just have to remember this for all aspects of my life!

While in warrior 2 pose, another instructor said 'You need a solid base in order to stretch upwards and grow'. What a true statement about life and about getting yourself taller in the actual pose. I have recently been taking more conditioning-type classes at the gym and have been doing more yoga, and am finding that the more I do, the more I can feel my muscles engaging in different ways. When the teachers say to evenly balance both legs in warrior 2, I know what they mean. So nice when things suddenly click. It is the little things in life that make the difference.

So let balance be a theme in the back of our minds today. Sometimes, after a great workout and a long work day, you need a bowl of pasta with bacon sprinkled into it...and a glass of wine.

Bacon and Cauliflower Pasta
Makes 2 servings

2 slices bacon
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon to the hot skillet. Cook until bacon is cooked through and crispy, 6 to 7 minutes per side. Remove bacon from skillet with tongs and drain on a paper towel-lined plate to cool; crumble and set aside.

Drop onion and cauliflower into the bacon grease in the skillet; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and cauliflower is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes, adding water to skillet if needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil; drop pasta into the boiling water. Boil until pasta is cooked through but tender to the bite, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss pasta with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle cauliflower mixture with Parmesan cheese and crumbled bacon; toss until cheese is melted. Spoon cauliflower-bacon mixture over pasta.


Carrot Pie with Coconut Glaze

It is the first Monday of the month which means recipe swap time again! Christianna of Burwell General Store has given us a Thanksgiving-themed recipe this month: carrot pie. Upon reading it, I was very intrigued, having never heard of such a recipe...

But as it turns out, this is a fairly popular dessert. Spending a great deal of time looking at recipes at work, I realized that carrot pie is baked quite often. You can see from the above recipe that it is basically like a pumpkin pie but carrots are substituted. My interest was peaked, so I stayed pretty on par with the theme. I upped the ante by using coconut milk and ground ginger and decreased the amount of egg.

Keeping in line with my Honesty 2012 policy, I do have a truth to unveil, dear reader. I made my own pie crust, but wasn't happy with the result, so I will not be sharing that component of the pie with you. Almost all the recipes I found for homemade pie crust used either a whole stick of butter or a cup of shortening and I just couldn't bring myself to use an entire stick of butter. So I used half a stick of butter and the result was sub-optimal. Let this be a lesson learned. If you are going to make a pie crust, just use the whole stick of butter...better to be very pleased with the result, than feel deflated when serving it to your friends at Sunday brunch.

I give the pie filling a B+. If served a slice at Thanksgiving, I would definitely assume it was pumpkin pie, with maybe a hint of coconut. The glaze is by far the best part. As T and M said at brunch today, it reminded them of sweetened condensed milk. It looks like, smells like, and tastes like sweetened condensed milk, but with a whole lot less sugar.

This month's recipe swap definitely kept in line with trying new recipes and new perspectives. I would have never concocted a pie consisting of pureed carrots, which turned out to be an inspiration to make use of regular ingredients in a new way. I also gained a new respect for the lighting in my apartment. By pulling every single one of my blinds up 100%, I was able to get an incredible amount of light in the front room today...even with the time change and all. So that was also a nice discovery. As always, thank you Christianna for this month's inspiration!

Carrot Pie with Coconut Glaze
Makes one 9-inch pie

Pies such as carrot or pumpkin are easy vehicles for creativity. Any variety of milk, whether it is cow's milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk will work. You can add more eggs or more cinnamon. You sprinkle in some nutmeg or cloves for added spice. The options are endless...

2 cups baby carrots
1 cup light coconut milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch salt
1 pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

1 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring carrots to a boil in a pot of water over medium heat; cook until carrots are tender enough to cut with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.

Add 1 cup coconut milk, egg, maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and salt to the carrots in the food processor. Blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice if necessary.

Press pie crust into a 9-inch pie pan; pour carrot filling into crust. Bake pie in the preheated oven until edges are lightly browned and middle of pie is set, about 50 minutes.

While pie is baking, place 1 cup coconut milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrup-like consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve pie slices with a drizzle of coconut glaze.


Butternut Squash Dip

Fall has officially arrived when my counters are filled with pears and pumpkins, hooks are covered in coats, rain boots have a slot next to the dresser, and the warmly spiced smell of change is in the air. We have now celebrated my brother's, my mom's, and my birthday this month. October has always encompassed change, parties, favorite foods, and the milestone of a new age to embrace.

This is one of the bigger birthday years for me. So far in my timeline, 20 felt like a huge jump. Going from teenage status, to an age that began with twenty just sounded incredibly old to me...back then. Although I have generally been someone to celebrate a new age. My parents have always made birthdays a fun celebration in our family, which in turn, has always made it feel like an exciting time. I generally see it as an opportunity to make changes in my life. This is year no different in that regard, but I have a significantly new perspective. I gather it is a result of so much change in the past year. I have completely repaved the yellow brick road.

Butternut squash dip can be a metaphor. Normally I would have pureed roasted butternut squash into a soup with the pears sitting near the window sill, which I did do a few weeks ago. But there are so many new flavors and dimensions to experiment with. So why not give it a try? A new recipe may sprout from this experience, or a new recipe never to be made again may also happen. Either way, a culinary adventure awaits when we open our eyes to the endless possibilities that are at our finger tips. So try something new today or this week. Whether it is putting sweet potato in your smoothie, admitting and embracing the fact that you like a certain R&B song, or booking that trip you daydream about. Regardless of the outcome, you have grown and expanded your horizons into becoming an even better form of yourself. Motto for the day: Just go with it...the future awaits.

Butternut Squash Dip
Makes 2 to 3 cups

This dip was concocted through major trial and error. I wanted it to be a somewhat sweet dip, that vegetables, pita chips, or fruit could be dipped. But I also wanted the squash-like flavor to be mellowed. I suspect the honey and tahini were major players in rounding out the earthiness. Pumpkin or any other squash puree can be substituted for the butternut squash.

2 cups butternut squash puree*
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pinches cayenne pepper, or more to taste
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Stir squash puree, yogurt, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cayenne together in a medium bowl. Place honey, tahini, and butter in a small bowl. Heat honey mixture in microwave until butter is melted and mixture is easily stirred. Stir honey mixture into squash mixture until fully incorporated. Serve chilled or warm.

*Directions for roasting butternut squash:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and pulp attached. Seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds if desired. Place squash halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Brush the squash flesh with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven until a knife is easily inserted into the center of the squash, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool. Remove skin from squash. Place squash in a food processor and blend until completely smooth.


Warm Potato and Apple Salad

It is Recipe Swap time of month again where Christianna of Burwell General Store gives us a recipe from a vintage cookbook to alter and create into our own. This month is Russian Salad, which worked out quite nicely because I happen to have some leeks in the refrigerator. While the original recipe did sound delightful (minus the herrings), my mind went immediately to potato leek soup. So potato salad and warm soup synergized, creating warm potato salad.

Potato salad was always a food item I took two steps away from at picnics and potlucks...until I discovered the vinegar-based versions. So Russian Salad was just the inspiration needed to hop on board the fall foods and use an apple in the potato salad, which actually adds a nice crunch. You bite into the salad not knowing if it is an apple or a potato.

We have been having the most amazing fall in Seattle. It is pretty uncommon to have consistently sunny days in the 70s in October, so my brain hasn't been thinking about autumn foods. All the magazines and department store windows are on schedule with the season, but our open-toed shoes and short-sleeved dresses are speaking another language. So the potato and apple salad was the gateway to also roasting my first butternut squash of the season today for a curried squash and pear soup.

Fall is always the time of year of new beginnings. School goes back in session, summer activities end and we start having more of a regular schedule, my mom, brother, and I all celebrate our birthdays, and Halloween is the start of the holiday season. I usually take this time of year to check on my New Year's resolutions, seeing if I have overlooked any one in particular. I reflect on the past year, and make goals and plans for the approaching new age. This week has now become listing making week and going through clothes, papers, etc. to get rid and start anew. The seasonal clean-up has begun. So thank you Christianna and Russian potato salad for getting me into the season of new!

Warm Potato and Apple Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings

You can also go more along the lines of the Russian Salad and add hard-boiled eggs and chicken for a heartier salad. Or serve it alongside roasted chicken and a spinach salad.

4 red potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 apple, cubed
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Fill a large pot of water with salted water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until tender enough to break with fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are boiling, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; saute leek until fragrant and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir apple, garlic, and additional 1 tablespoon olive oil into leek. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until apples are slightly tender, 5 to 10 more minutes.

Whisk vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl; stream 3 tablespoon olive oil in while constantly whisking until fully incorporated. Stir in parsley.

Toss potatoes, leek-apple mixture, and dressing together in a large bowl. Serve warm or chilled.


Recipe for Living

This month marks the two year anniversary of An Open Cookbook, and handfuls of new life lessons. Many components of my life have changed and evolved in the past year. A new job, a completely redecorated apartment, a new wardrobe, many new people, and a new perspective on life have been a few of those changes. Another change you may have noticed is fewer blog entries each month, although I get just as antsy to write. My new life lends itself to a variety of activities. When I do have the chance to sit down and enter a post, you can be guaranteed it is from the heart. With that said, here are the main lessons learned this past year...

Recipe for Living

Do a normal activity in a subtly different way every day, whether it is holding your coffee cup in the opposite hand or taking a slightly different route to work. These small changes lead to bigger ones.

If you break into a cold sweat at the thought of doing something, like whitewater rafting or having lunch with a stranger, do it anyway. You will undeniably grow from the experience.

Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.  - Class of '99; Wear Sunscreen Song

No one cares if you are sitting at the bar by yourself at a restaurant. What really matters is that you are there.

Upgrading your life can mean buying an expensive wallet or a new piece of furniture. Or it can mean becoming friends with a person that intimidates you. Whatever moves you forward in life, go with it.

Action expresses priorities. -Ghandi

Pushing yourself on the yoga mat, in the weight room, or at the stove prepares you for life's challenges. Sweat everyday for practice.

Everyone comes into our lives for a reason. Just go with it.

Our flaws make us human, and much more interesting.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. -e.e. cummings

Do something creative everyday.

Sometimes the road we are on looks different than we had envisioned. Keep going.

Order the special from time to time. You can always go back for the regular menu.

Forget about the word 'should' isn't productive or genuine. Your heart knows best. Follow it.

Honesty will set you free.

If you get strongly defensive about something, you may have something to learn from the experience.

Take a few seconds before speaking during an important conversation. They can be more valuable than gold.

Sometimes getting to the next flight of stairs means letting go of the railing.

Fill your house and your life with people and things that inspire you and make you happy.

Take a sip of bourbon sometime. It burns going down, but your wisdom becomes greater.

Keep a list of goals in your wallet. Work toward them. Reach them. Make new goals.

Get the dark chocolate with hazelnuts and savor every bite. Just don't eat the whole bar in one sitting.


Bourbon and Maple-Glazed Bacon Cake

 It is recipe swap time again. Christianna of Burwell General Store located a new vintage cookbook called 'Nebraska Pionner Cookbook', featuring this month's recipe 'Pork Fruit Cake'. You read that correctly. If you need visual affirmation, please see below for details of handling the one pound pork.

But actually let's backtrack a second. One of my New Year's resolutions for the past few years has been to begin liking bourbon. This ongoing desire has been on of those nagging things in the back of the brain. I have consciously made myself like a lot of food items in the past few years. I used to have an aversion to eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives. It was so strong, that one might think I was a Mediterranean omelet in my past life. To top it all off, my aversion to seafood is even stronger. So much so, that I am quite sure I was a mermaid or pirate in my past life. That one is still going strong.

But over the past few years, I grabbed the fork, and started slowly but surely, exposing myself the above-mentioned items. And to my pleasant surprise, have come to love them. I now always have olives and eggs in my refrigerator. Tomatoes and mushrooms make a lesser appearance, but appearance nonetheless.

So recently, I drove myself to the grocery store and bought a bottle of bourbon. Maybe if I keep it in my house, I can try a sip here and there and learn to like it. The idea of sipping on a warm shot of bourbon is quite nice. And my bourbon-loving friend J came over last night, and helped me through the exercise.

So naturally, as I was coming up with an alternative recipe to the pork fruit cake, I thought, why not toss a little bourbon into the cake batter? It goes well with maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. I have recently learned of candied bacon, so this seemed like a natural addition to the recipe. Everyone in Seattle seems to have bacon admiration, so why not join my neighbors and cook it into a dish that doesn't normally have bacon. T and M came over for brunch this morning after the hardest yoga class I have ever experienced...108 sun salutes. So we came home, ate quiche, bacon cake, peach bread, berries, and champagne..and life was good.

The best part of post-party remnants, is the evidence of a fun time.

Bourbon and Maple-Glazed Bacon Cake
8 to 12 servings

4 thick slices bacon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons molasses
2 eggs
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven for 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or generously butter.

Pan-fry bacon slices in a skillet over medium heat until almost done, about 6 minutes per side. Pour in maple syrup and sprinkle with black pepper. Cook, stirring and flipping occasionally, until bacon begins to crisp and maple syrup and bacon drippings start bubbling, about 5 more minutes. Remove bacon from pan; let cool on a plate until crisp. Crumble bacon when cooled.

Whisk maple syrup, molasses, eggs, bourbon, cinnamon, vanilla, cream of tartar, baking soda together in a bowl until evenly combined. Stir in flour; mix until smooth. Fold 3/4 of the crumbled bacon into the batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the sides and the center bounces back if you press it, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle cake with brown sugar and remaining 1/4 bacon crumbles. Bake until brown sugar starts to bubble and bacon crisps, about 5 more minutes.

Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a cooling rack.


Chicken and Artichoke Marinara

My coworkers and I had a stint of Friday lunches at a little Italian restaurant. They make fresh pasta daily, and post the menu just before opening at 11am. Naturally, our stomachs began rumbling at approximately 10:55am. On one such day, they tempted us with a 9-layer lasagna oozing with Bechamel, sun-dried tomato pesto, and Bolognese sauce spread onto the layers, respectively. If that wasn't enough to give someone vertigo, they strategically inserted hard-boiled eggs into the mix. Yes. The richness continues.

Almost in unison, we peeled ourselves off the floor, gathered our wallets, and run-walked down the street. We were slowly cranked on an invisible pasta wheel to our epic fate.

We arrived promptly at 11:30 with our forks held high. Our steaming plates of freshly cut 9-layer lasagna arrived just as punctually. There are a few times in life where I consciously eat slowly, savoring every bite. This was one of those experiences. Conversation stopped and small noises escaped our lips. We were shaking our head no, meaning yes. I saved almost all of my hard-boiled eggs for the last five bites. By the time I had eaten the majority of the dish, defeat started creeping in...but I pushed through. Napkin thrown into the cleaned bowl.

We crawled up the stairs and slowly made our way to the couch displays in the back of a furniture store. The three of us aligned ourselves on the white leather couch and took a ten minute nap before rolling back to the office. The walk helped, but about two hours later, A looked over to find my head on the keyboard. Food coma won.

Chicken and Artichoke Marinara
2 to 4 servings

This recipe is a concoction of stocked ingredients I used for girls' dinner party the night before a vacation. As you can see, I lean toward Italian-style ingredients and wanted to recreate the lasagna coma, without the pasta. Serve over fresh pasta for a full meal or alongside bread, cheese, and pate.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 chicken breasts, cut into large pieces
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped green olives
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over low heat; saute red onion until browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir chicken stock, tomato sauce, water, thyme, oregano, tomato paste into onion and garlic; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.

Coat chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle and press with flour until fully coated. Heat butter in a separate skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken in the melted butter until no longer pink in the center, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Add cooked chicken, olives, and eggs to the simmering marinara. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes to combine flavors.


Lemon Tahini Spread

It is Recipe Swap time again. Christianna of Burwell General Store has paged through her vintage cookbook and arrived at a lovely lemon sponge cake recipe for us. We have taken a few months off from the swap and are back and ready for action. The second I saw 'lemon' in the title I was happy. We have been having warm summer weather in Seattle for the past week and anything lemon sounded refreshing.

I spent this whole weekend doing as many outdoor activities as possible, like walking to brunch to meet the girls, going hiking at Discovery Park with M, driving with windows down to Alki beach, climbing aboard T's boat all day yesterday, and taking a swim in Lake Washington. I couldn't ask for a better weekend. When I got home from the boat yesterday, it was still pretty toasty outside and inside the apartment. So I leaned toward creating a recipe that didn't involve turning on the oven.

One of my coworkers recently recommended the cookbook 'Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume' to me because I tend toward Mediterranean-inspired cooking. After paging through her copy, I immediately ordered one for myself. All the pictures are vibrantly inspiring, so I sat with a cup of coffee yesterday morning looking for a lemon-based recipe.

Tahini is one of those ingredients I always forget about, but love when I have it. It feels like a big commitment to buy a whole jar of it. But now with my newly remodeled apartment, a stack of new cookbooks, and a nice summer breeze wafting through the apartment, I am encouraged to discover new ways to incorporate it into my cooking. Which also means more dinner parties to be added to the calendar. Thanks Christianna for giving us a nice lemony platform to start our week!

Lemon Tahini Spread
Makes about 1/3 cup
Inspired by Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume

Serve alongside pita bread or whole wheat tortillas, cucumber slices, and olives for a rich and creamy addition to the appetizer plate. Sprinkle with fresh herbs for a nice color and flavor.

3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 pinch black sesame and white seeds

Place all the ingredients except the sesame seeds in a small food processor; blend until smooth. Garnish with sesame seeds.


Chocolate Oatmeal

What could be a better way to start the day than with a nice bowl of chocolate-infused oatmeal and peanut butter? Well atop a new kitchen table of course. Pictured above is a small slice of my new kitchen table. Beside it needing chairs, my apartment remodel is nearly complete.

Upgrade 2012 has been going along quite smoothly. I have upgraded my couch, buffet, kitchen table, and wardrobe. Getting rid of large pieces of furniture is quite liberating. I have never sold furniture while still living in the same apartment. When S and A and I moved from our little Smurf house in Colorado, we had a huge yard sale with such items as couches, sombreros, handmade dresses, thrift store dishes, and silver spray-painted tables. It was time to say goodbye to college living, and hello to a new chapter.

M and T and I then lived together in two different houses here in Seattle, where we had huge yards sales at the transition. Our first sale was at our Northgate cottage. This was one of those never ending houses. Room after room of fun. We had one ridiculously large room, called 'The Party Room', that we painted Hulk green. The Party Room hosted a pool table that converted into a ping pong table, along with dozens of dance parties to Ja Rule. We ended up selling the table at our yard sale for more than we bought it for...quite the business women.

Then we moved into another house that we lived in for about a year. This house's specialty was a giant kitchen, unruly rhubarb in the back yard, and a host of many roommates coming and going from the extra bedroom. By the end of our stint, we had a storage unit full of unclaimed items and a yard sale to match. It was one of those sales that lasted Friday through Sunday. Every evening we would put a pile of stuff on the corner of the street, and by morning it would be gone. Brilliant way to get rid of stuff.

Then I moved to my current apartment and have at least one yard sale a year...except this year. I tried my hand at Craigslist for the bigger items, which proved to be quite nice. I have met so many different people in the process and have felt really good about all the new homes my furniture has been adopted into.

So in the spirit of upgrading and making space for newness, I tried this recipe for chocolate oatmeal. It was a morning I didn't have much in the refrigerator, and I had just read a similar recipe on Allrecipes. No time like the present to add a little chocolate to breakfast.

Chocolate Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving
Inspired by

Unsweetened cocoa powder adds a low calorie richness to oatmeal. Stir in your favorite sweetener and peanut butter for a hearty start to your day.

1/2 cup oats
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons peanut butter

Stir oats, cocoa powder, and salt together in a saucepan. Add milk and vanilla extract. Heat oatmeal over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until desired consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer oatmeal to a bowl. Stir flax seeds and honey into oatmeal; top with small chunks of peanut butter.


Roasted Sesame Broccoli

Some may call me mildly crazy. Others call me nuts. And still a select few say I am downright out of my mind. The topic in reference is heat. Today is one of the hotter days for Seattle, and still I seek more heat. The vegetables in the refrigerator collaborated in my mind as I walked home from the gym tonight, mixing and matching to create a light dinner. I usually eat a light dinner on Monday nights, because I tend to indulge in richer foods on the weekends.

Let me give you a slight introduction to my heat-seeking tendencies. My yoga of choice is hot vinyasa, where in fact, I am the lunatic consistently laying my mat down closest to the heater. I am the person always ordering my water without ice at restaurants, and actually drink from the hot water spigot at work, which has raised a few eye brows. I lay in the sauna until hot as a pancake, needing to be peeled from the griddle. So it only seemed fitting to fire up the oven tonight for some crispy roasted vegetables topped with a fried egg.

You may be sitting here, or even pacing around your living room, wondering why in the world I live in a mostly chilly city? I do ask myself this same question from time to time. Although I have threatened myself to move to Sonoma or Atlanta, I am still drawn back like a snapped rubber band. I have lovely friends, the best job in the world, a perfectly located and redecorated apartment, and tons of food addition to the ability to walk almost everywhere.

So dear readers, if you are averse to roasting vegetables in the middle of July, I do understand. Not everyone wishes for unnecessary heat in the kitchen. But please give the recipe a try the next time there is a chill in the air, and your life needs a warm-up.

Roasted Sesame Broccoli
Yields 2 servings

Roasted broccoli is always a nice appetizer or side dish. Or round it out with a fried egg to make it a meal. It is almost a hands-free experience, with the oven doing most of the work.

8 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, or more to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Mix broccoli, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl. Using your hands is the most effective way to evenly distribute the oil. Pour broccoli onto baking sheet; roast in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; saute onion until a nice caramel color is reached, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt.

Remove broccoli from oven; give it a good stir. Return to oven and roast for another 10 minutes. Add caramelized onions to broccoli. Turn on broiler; broil until broccoli begins to char, 1 to 3 minutes depending on oven.

Stir sesame seeds into broccoli and onions.


A Walk Through Pike Place Market

This is a very special post for several reasons. First of all, I want to thank Jess Thomson for inspiring me to to think about my relationship with the Pike Place Market. She just recently published a cookbook called Pike Place Market Recipes that gives homage to all the wonderful aspects of the market, all the restaurants and beautiful food it has to offer, and what you can do with your loot once you get home.

The first recipe I flipped to was Marketspice Tea Cake, and I was immediately transported back to the fall of 2001. A and T and I were taking a break from studying, and having drinks downtown. I had just moved here that summer and had spent a few handful of times at the market. As we sipped gin and tonics at the Pike Place Bar and Grill, I told them of a crush I had on a guy that worked at Marketspice. I had talked to him a few times while buying teas and spices. So for the next hour, and another drink later, we concluded that I would walk across the street and ask him to join us for a drink. This seemed reasonable.

So I wrapped myself up for the ten long steps across the cobblestone, in the rain, to go see him. I casually walked in like I was shopping for tea on a Saturday evening. The place smelled of the famous orange and cinnamon-spiced tea. I took a complimentary steaming cup and sauntered up to the spice counter. It's funny, because eleven years later, I can't remember his name. Anyway, I think I asked him a detailed question about the intricacies of green tea pearls. As I calmly waited for the description, I blurted out that my friends and I were having drinks across the street if he wanted to join us. And then quickly run-walked back to the bar. Despite the awkwardness, he did show up for a drink. 

The Pike Place Market holds so many other memories, and as it maintains the cornerstone-status of downtown, it symbolizes to me how much I have changed and evolved since moving here. I was a huge 'Sleepless in Seattle' fan before moving here. Fan may not be strong enough. Fanatic is more like it. S and A and I watched it so much that we just referred to it as 'Sleepless'. So upon arriving to Seattle, I promptly sat myself down at the bar that Tom Hanks and his friend eat lunch, the Athenian. I ordered a beer and cracked open a new journal. I couldn't believe I was here. The smell of the damp old wood of the booths, the foggy view of Puget Sound, and the restaurant buzz of voices and dishes...I was in heaven and nervous at the same time. Arriving in a new city with so much possibility. Tom? Jonah? 

No matter how many times visitors have been here, I always feel the need to walk through the market at least once. My dad has a favorite little lunch spot called the Market Grill, where they make 'his salmon sandwich'. We negotiate the first day of my family's visit with, 'When do you want to get your salmon sandwich, while mom and I go eat at Serious Pie?' We have a little routine. We walk downtown and part ways at 4th and Pine. He goes to the market, and we go eat pizza. It works out so nicely. We usually meet back at the pig. Jess talks about the gold pig in her introduction. It is the greeter of the market and a perfect spot to meet. I would love to know how many people have taken a seat and a subsequent picture on that pig.

Now, years later, I work downtown, and we walk through the throngs of people at lunch time to go to our favorite hidden gem of a lunch spot. I won't mention the name because it is a small place, and we don't want to lose our seats. I would have never guessed that eleven years later, I am all grown up, wearing high heels, walking through the market on a random Wednesday for lunch, and not even minding the smell of seafood. 

The recipe that follows is a cauliflower recipe my mom gave me. It too is symbolic of evolution. Until recently, I liked cauliflower, but I didn't love it. As a kid I dipped it in ranch dressing. Then maybe I would take a few chunks off a salad bar or get it on a pizza. Who knew I would be blending it to make pizza crust, or roasting it with truffle oil. Life has so much possibilities. 

Thanks Jess, for sparking all these memories. Now all you dear readers, buy her book here!

Cauliflower in Curried Cashew Sauce
Makes 2 to 4 servings
Inspired by my Mama

This recipe is wonderful as is, or you can add a little protein with eggs or chicken sausage. I caramelized some onions and stirred them in at the last minute. Whichever way you choose, your family and friends will be cauliflower-loving converts.

1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup cashew butter
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup roasted cashews

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower, olive oil, salt, and black pepper together in a large bowl. Transfer to a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Roast cauliflower in oven for 15 minutes. Stir and roast until lightly browned and partially softened, an additional 15 minutes.

Combine cashew butter, water, garlic, curry powder, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm in the microwave for about 20 seconds until able to stir easily.

Pour sauce over roasted cauliflower and stir to evenly coat. This may take about 5 minutes to evenly distribute the sauce. Return to oven and roast until cauliflower are completely softened, about 10 more minutes. Toss roasted cauliflower with fresh parsley and cashews before serving.


Roasted Garlic Fondue

Last week the girls came over to my somewhat empty apartment for a dinner party. It was great because their company, roasting garlic, caramelizing onions, and red wine certainly warmed the space. I recently sold several bookcases and my couch, in preparation for a newly transforming apartment. The fondue party just happened to be occurring on an interlude of couch ownership. So we piled around the kitchen table while cooking and discussing.

Traditionally we have associated our fondue parties with break-ups. Last year in February, when I was freshly in the hot seat, M so kindly suggested a get together at her apartment for a fondue and wine party, thus coining the code phrase 'fondue party'. It was the most soul-feeding Wednesday night a girl could ask for. From that time on, if anyone is having a particularly challenging time, we ask if they need a fondue party...

Caramelized onions and leeks in freshly stirred 'roux', water, wine, and broth

 ...until last week. We decided why not have a celebratory reason to have a fondue party. K is about to have a baby, C just bought a new house with her husband, M just finished apartment shopping, and I was about to get a new couch delivered. So many reasons to celebrate, therefore we added an amendment to the definition of fondue party:

fon due par ty: an event between friends involving melted cheese, butter, garlic, and chocolate in heated pots, surrounded by breads, vegetables, fruits, and cookies for the sole purpose of providing and environment to discuss life with the essential ingredient of wine in hand.


Roasted Garlic Fondue
Yields about 6 cups

This is actually an inspired compilation of several recipes, mostly of which were garlic soup. But it translated quite easily into a dish that fondue foods could be dipped into, in addition to the traditional Swiss cheese-style. It reheated nicely the next day as soup for lunch with a few leftover cubes of bread for dipping.

2 bulbs garlic
A few dashes olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks, thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut a cross-sectional slice off the top of each garlic bulb, so the tops of each clove are exposed. Place bulbs in a oven-safe container; drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and bake in the oven until garlic is softened and roasted, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Saute onion until lightly browned, stirring constantly, 10 to 15 minutes. Add leeks, 1 tablespoon butter, salt, and pepper. Saute over medium-low heat until leeks are softened and browned and onions are golden brown, about 15 more minutes.

Whisk flour and 1 tablespoon butter into onion and leek mixture until dissolved and a roux (a brown paste-like consistency, which will thicken the fondue). Add water, wine, chicken broth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat (pictured above).

Remove garlic cloves from the bulbs after they have roasted. Add cloves to the simmering broth. Simmer for about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Remove Dutch oven from heat and cool slightly. Scoop about half the broth mixture into a food processor; blend until smooth. Return to the Dutch oven; stir in parsley. Transfer to a fondue pot.


Cauliflower Pizza Crust

The cauliflower love continues, and in a new form. I mentioned in a previous post about a particular love affair with cauliflower and frequent roasting. So I began to research new methods of cooking this lovely cruciferous treat. You can shred it to look like rice, and make fried 'rice'. There are endless spicy Indian recipes. Potatoes can be substituted with cauliflower to make 'mashed cauliflower'. Then cauliflower pizza crust made an appearance on the screen. You simply shred, steam, and mix with a few binding agents...and a new form is born.

As my best friends and family know, pizza is my go-to food. Whenever I am visiting with S or A, my first suggestion of dining experiences is always pizza. In college when S would be out of town, for some reason, A and I always made these epic pizzas. My mom was just in town a few weeks ago, and we ate pizza at the very least once a day. There are so many varieties out there, the pizza journey is endless...thank goodness.

I grew up eating thick crust pizza. There was a place called Trotta's pizza in my home town that we used to frequent. Each slice probably weighed 1/2 pound. They were like the Cinnabon of pizza; thick doughy crust slathered in marinara and a heavy-handed portion of mozzarella and provolone. Two slices equaled nap time.

Then I moved to Colorado, where Beau Jo's pizza resides. This was my first experience of whole wheat crust. This too was a thick-crusted pizza. You walk in, and are enveloped with the warmth of the pizza oven and the happiness of everyone eating pizza. The special part about this pizza was that each table has a bottle of honey, with the suggestion to drizzle it over your crust as a sort of sweet finish to your last bite of the pizza. Brilliant.

Shredded cauliflower!

Then I moved to Seattle, where the pizza is of the thinner variety. Dozens of wood-fired pizza joints around town. Via Tribunali has the best wood-fired pizza topped with little disks of salami that pop into saucer shapes after the rendezvous with 500+ degree flames. I could go on and on and on with the love. But instead I will lead up back to the original topic of cauliflower pizza: shredded cauliflower disguised as pizza crust. Looks like my doughy adventures have a new twist.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Yields 1 medium pizza

There are several cauliflower pizza crust recipes floated around these days. This version is my third attempt, and so far the best one. Some recipes include nutritional yeast, or more cheese, different herbs, and cooking times. Let the experiments begin!

1/2 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup quattro formaggio cheese blend
Salt and pepper to taste

Place cauliflower pieces through the feeding tube of the food processor using the grating blade; pulse until all the cauliflower is shredded. (You can also grate the cauliflower using a box grater.) The cauliflower should look like a cross between white rice and shredded white cheese, as pictured above.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place shredded cauliflower in a steamer; steam until softened, about 15 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl and chill in refrigerator for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times.

Mix egg, parsley, garlic, cheese, salt, and pepper into the chilled cauliflower until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Shape the mixture into a pizza shape (square or oval) using your hands. Press down firmly so all the ingredients are holding together. Bake until slightly cooked and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with sauce, toppings, and cheese. Bake until cheese is lightly browned, about 15 more minutes.


Restaurant-Style Hash Browns

Back in the day when I worked at a neighborhood bar and grill, I was the front of the house head brunch person. Although it was somewhat painful to get up early on the weekend, the hash browns and endless coffee pulled me out of bed. I would walk up the giant incline leading to the little restaurant-in-a-house perched atop the hill. I was a dyed-black haired vegetarian back then. So hash browns with sauteed vegetables and pepper jack cheese were my weekend treat. I knew the cook well, so I got giant servings. I can't quite imagine consuming those portions now. But they sure were delicious.

My day consisting of walking in a continuous huge circle. It was always in the same direction too. It always seemed I should do a reverse loop to balance out the clock-wise path. But that would have disrupted everyone else's path too. We had a system to follow.

As I would take my hundredth lap of the day, a peripheral glimpse of the 'ladle' would occur. It would be methodically dunked into the infamous tin, filled with a butter and oil mixture and then drizzled over the griddle filled with potatoes. It was an aspect of the crispy potato request I tried to ignore. For years I have shelved that nagging reason why restaurant potatoes are so much better than home version.

So a few weeks ago I gathered the courage to use butter and oil ad libitum with my hash browns to observe the tipping point of what is necessary for restaurant-level. It proved to be quite rewarding (and filling). So next time you don't feel like waiting in the nail biting, bloodshot-eyed line at your favorite brunch spot, give the home version a whirl. You may be starting your own weekend restaurant.

Restaurant-Style Hash Browns
Yields 2 -3 servings

This is the closest I have gotten to restaurant quality hash browns. The key is to embrace the butter and oil. This is what makes the restaurant hash browns so good. Being patient is also a key factor. This is a 'weekend recipe', if you will. By that I mean it is a little heavy and only suggested to be made occasionally. Serve alongside your favorite omelet.

8 small potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or more to taste (optional)

Shred potatoes using the shredding blade in a food processor or manually with a box grater. Place shredded potatoes on top of a clean kitchen towel. Gather the towel around the potatoes so you are holding it in such a way that you can wring out the water. Continually twist the towel tightly until as much water is squeezed out as possible. When you open the towel, the potatoes should look significantly drier.

Preheat broiler of your oven.

Melt butter in a cast iron or oven-proof skillet over medium heat; add garlic and potatoes. Season with salt. Press down on potatoes with a spatula so the bottom layer browns; stir occasionally to evenly cook all the potatoes. Add olive oil to the potatoes, about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, to keep them from burning. Keep pressing and stirring for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes seem done. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven. Broil until cheese is brown and crispy.