An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


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.