Ambitious and Delicious Dinner

January 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Those are just a couple of the adjectives that would aptly describe my birthday dinner, oh just a week or so ago. This post, and the next few, will focus on just how filing (in a literal sense) my birthday was. Opting to stay in instead of go out on the 18th, I decided my mom and I would attempt some dishes that we never had before. She kept apologizing that I was making my own birthday meal; I kept reiterating how it was actually fun for me since I like to cook. A gift all around, plus, she paid for all the groceries.

I veered away from my usual fancy dinner = steak mindset and found an appropriately festive-sounding salmon dish. Wild Salmon, Orzo and Arugula Pesto en Papillote.  Even the name itself sounds just a tad exotic and unfamiliar, just a little bit past the everyday meat-and-three route. It was just what I was looking for. Our salmon might not have been wild, but I’m just thankful that the Publix 12 miles from my house has it. Mention arugula to me and you’ve got my attention. Papillote? Don’t mind if I do after I look up what that means.

I took the helm on the main dish while my mom whipped up our supporting role: Savory Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes. It had me at shallots and rosemary, Gruyere and brown sugar bacon. My mom and I flitted around the stove for the better part of 2 hours, slicing, whirring, dicing, hollowing out hot sweet potatoes, whipping, slicing lemons paper (or at least cardstock) thin, layering, en papillote-ing, and, finally, plating. birthdaydinner2013

The sweet potatoes will challenge all you thought you knew about baking them and topping them with only brown sugar and marshmallows or maple syrup and cinnamon. Salmon, arugula, and orzo will be the new Three’s Company of your dreams. What I’m trying to say is, this dinner rivaled the best fine dining birthday dinners I’ve had. Perfect menu choices and a perfectly fine evening of putting it all together made for a very memorable celebration.

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January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

…Tulips! They’re my favorite flower, and I don’t know why, but this year I was truly surprised to receive them, though my mom has typically sent me flowers on my birthday. My mom makes me feel so special. Image

I’ll share a picture of something made with chocolate soon.

Snow Day

January 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Usually, the word snow is whispered by Southern meteorologists, hinted at in passing as part of a cold weather event, a “wintry mix,” if you will. Sometimes the fluffy whiteness does descend on us here, not usually in any real measurable amount. I always think that those transplanted here from say Wisconsin or Idaho or South Dakota laugh at our responses to the little snow we occasionally get: the schools letting out, the runs on the grocery stores, work being canceled, bridges being closed. I have to say I get excited by the prospect of snow, probably since it’s such an uncommon occurrence. Today, the weathermen called for snow, and we actually saw some fall for a few hours. I’m going to claim it as an early birthday present. bitofsnow

As the bookmobile would not be making its run today, I was free to spend my time in the kitchen, making soup and experimenting with a cheese cracker recipe that I planned to make for my dad for Christmas. It’s only January!

These crackers turned out to have great flavor and combination of chewy and crunchy, but for some reason, my dough wouldn’t roll out. Instead of flat crackers, I tried rolling them into small balls and, just for fun, into sticks. They may not look like it, but they taste remarkable, pleasingly cheesy and salty with a bit of a bite from my secret ingredient.cheeseycrackers

I have Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker to thank for the inspiration and starting point for this attempt. I combined and tweaked their two recipes into something that is, well, almost gone as I type. I took 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and grated it into a bowl. Then I grated 8 oz. of Boar’s Head Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese right over that pile of butter. Then, in went 1 cup of all purpose flour, a half a teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of black pepper and the same amount of onion powder. Using my pastry blender, I combined it all until the butter and cheese started to stick to the flour when I squeezed it. Then, I added my stroke-of-genius ingredient: juice from a jar of jalapeno peppers, 2-3 Tablespoons, until the dough really started to come together. (In hindsight, I could have added more, both for the flavor and the binding help.)  Once all the ingredients were blended together, I dumped the mess out onto my plastic wrap and formed it into a ball before putting it in the fridge for an hour or two. After trying to roll it out without success, I created the shapes you see above and put them into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. I checked for browning on the bottom of a few before pulling the tray out of the oven and letting the cheesy snacks cool on a rack. Below you’ll find proof of my inability to get this dough to roll, but it also proves that flavorful food isn’t always the prettiest. IMG_3231

It may also just be coincidence, but it wasn’t long after I pulled these golden, crunchy crackers from the oven that the sun came out for the first time in probably two weeks. aftersnow

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