Sunday, September 23, 2012

Welcome to Fall

I am feeling especially wonderful about the change of seasons. Blame it on all the changes that have taken place in my life as of late, but I am loving this fall thus far! Gone are the days of dreading the start of the cold weather and getting back into a routine.

What else am I loving about the returning of fall? Excellent question! 
1. It is now socially acceptable to flavor everything with pumpkin, like I do the rest of the year.
2. I can layer! My favorite piece of clothing is the cardigan (more evidence to prove that I am really a grandma at heart) and I have an extensive collection.
3. I can open up the windows at night and snuggle under the covers.
4. Quick bread is now my breakfast of choice, accompanied by a cup of tea and eaten on the porch (when I have time.)
5. Orchards will be in full bloom and brimming with fresh crispy apples.
6. I can throw fall themed house warming parties, like the one I have planned for next weekend!
7. The holiday season is right around the corner, which I am also incredibly excited for this year.

I could go on and on, but the overarching idea is that I am loving fall this year. What better way to celebrate the coming of fall but with a feast to celebrate?!

Here is what was on the menu:

Roasted Beet and Granny Apple Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Italian Pot Roast served over Creamy Parmesan Polenta

And for dessert, Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Vanilla Buttermilk Sauce

Sound scrumptious right?! Oh, trust me. It was. I am so completely thrilled to have leftovers in my refrigerator right now for later on this week... or later on tonight. The beets on the salad was my absolute favorite element of the meal though. Admittedly, this was the first time I had ever worked with beets personally, but I found some really gorgeous ones at the grocery this week and I couldn't resist. A low and slow roast in the oven with a sprinkling of salt and olive oil and I was in beet heaven.

Roasted Beet and Granny Smith Apple Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

assorted salad greens (spinach, frisse, ridiccio, rocket, etc.)
sliced Granny Smith apples
diced roasted beets (recipe to follow)
toasted chopped pecans
crumbled feta cheese
maple balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
salt and pepper

Dress you salad greens as desired, and season with salt and pepper to taste (yes, this is how you do it.) Arrange the rest of the ingredients on top of your greens and toss lightly.

Roasted Beets

2-4 beets, of assorted colors and varieties
olive oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets and then pat dry with a paper towel. make a pocket for the beets with aluminum foil, leaving a window in the top to season. Pour enough oil into the pocket to come up the side of the beets one third of the way. Sprinkle generously with salt. Close the foil pocket to fully encompass the beets and roast until tender, about one hour, depending on how large your beets are. Remove beets and allow to cool to room temperature. Peel and reserve the roasting oil.

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

oil from roasting the beets (about 3/4 of a cup)
maple balsamic vinegar*
salt and pepper

Whisk vinegar into the oil to create a temporary emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste and dress greens immediately.
* feel free to substitute maple syrup and balsamic vinegar for the maple flavored balsamic vinegar. Just warm the syrup in the microwave first, to help the emulsion process.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My First Sunday Supper Party

It's official - I have hosted my first dinner party!

I'm not sure I can really call it a dinner party, as it was just my parents and I, but there was dinner. And laughing. And fun. So what the hey.

Yesterday marked the two week anniversary of me being in my new home, and home it is certainly becoming. I know I have been gone from the interwebs for quite some time now, but I really did start all over this past month. I have a new home, a new hometown, a new job, and have started new classes at a new college. I even cut all my hair off not to long ago too, so a new hair style to boot! (Check out this blog if you missed all my updates.) I seems like the only thing that hasn't changed is my love of all things food - cooking it, eating it, reading about it, shopping for it, and planning for it.

Speaking of reading, I have read a lot about gnocchi recently. Talk about a hot topic food right now. This can probably be explained by the movement to return to the basic, classic comfort foods in times of change and the unknown. Regardless of the reason, I decided to give it a whirl (and the fact that I went all helter skelter on a five pound bag of potatoes whilst practicing my knife cuts and I needed a way to use them all up may have had something to do with it as well.)

Battonet cuts: 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 inches, exactly

So I dutifully mashed, mixed, and measured as prayed that my gnocchi would at least resemble their pillowy, soft, luscious cousins being produced by little Italian grandmothers everywhere. No manner of praying seemed to help me out though, as I watched in vain as my first, farce batch of gnocchi broke up in their boiling cooking cauldron. I mixed some more, measured some more, boiled some more, and finally, after attempted number three and being threatened with the frightening sight of an almost-empty flour canister, made something that at least could be traced back to the gnocchi family tree and ended up tasting quite yummy after being sauteed with shallot, garlic, parsley, and chive.

Chicken parmesan, with homemade gnocchi and tomato sauce

All of this happened while my wonderfully understanding and gracious parents... party guests... put together my new espresso finished bar, which is adorable and now houses all of my stem and bar wear. Fabulous!

All I can say is it turned out to be a lovely evening and I can't wait to do it again. (And thank goodness my mom had the foresight to bring everything else for dinner - she knows me too well.)

A pear, apple, and cranbery crisp with vanilla bean ice cream - hello fall!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tasty Travelling

I have great news! There has been a ton of cooking as of recent, as I have officially taken on my first client as an (unofficial) personal chef and I could not be more pleased!

However, as I am still a student and working thirty hours a week, plus still becoming accustomed to being a new home owner, I have not had the foresight to take pictures of what I have been making. I know right? Perfect opportunities and no sense whatsoever to photograph any of it.  Not that I am making excuses, I am simply not help-able sometimes. This is one of those times. Fear not, I have a sticky note on my fridge right now to remind me to record my escapades in the kitchen this weekend.

I do, however, have pictures of my family's recent trip to Michigan to share with you all. So vacation vicariously to the northern trip of the mitten state and tune later on this weekend for a much more detailed synopsis of my escapades in my new (!) kitchen.

Here we go. Grab the keys. Buckle in. Head north.

We went to Michigan the week before my mom's birthday, and on our way back home we stopped at a fruit stand on the road side and picked up these Michigan cherries.

When we arrived home, I made her this birthday dessert!
Michigan cherry compote over vanilla  bean frozen yogurt, topped with toasted almonds, and garnished with crisp pastry.

Also on our way home, we stopped by the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit - which was absolutely amazingly fascinating. I think my dad loved it most of all of us though, being the gear head that he is.

A modern day slow plow on the front of a cargo train. Notice the plow's size in comparison to my six foot dad standing next to it... utterly amazing!
 We had the opportunity to find out what find of car we would be based on our personalities. I, according to this very scientific index, would be a 1956 Ford Thunderbird Convertible. I'll take on in blue please!

I don't know if any of you watch Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network with Guy Fierie, but my family and I love it, so we took in one of Guy's finds while in Michigan called the Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen. It was absolutely fabulous, and only two people manned the completely visible kitchen for what looked like 100 seats, so I was dully impressed and gitty. Check out their webpage for their menu:!/main

Dad got their sausage sampler (which I, of course, tried all three) with a warm potato salad. They make all their own sausages and thus this is what they are known for, so when you go, check out this plate.

Shelby, being the smart culinarian that she is, order a special, which was nothing more than a cracker crust pizza topped with mashed potatoes, bacon bits, cheese, and ranch dressing. Does Shelby know how to order or what?

 Charlevoix was one of the quaint yet incredibly charming lake towns we visited while up north. Known as one of the premiere yachting and sailing locations on this part of the globe, it was so neat to walk up and down the piers, talking to the boaters and gazing at their rigging and such. I, of course, acted like I knew exactly what I was doing and appreciated the what seemed like very hard work from afar with mixed consideration and appreciation.

We saw this food truck while in Charlevois, which was unfortunately closed when we came through, but I couldn't by-pass this sign without a picture.

I also had to snag a picture of this poster - all of the native flavors of Michigan. Cool, eh?

Even the rest stops in Michigan are beautiful! Seriously, I have never seen a prettier state.

Lastly, you will never guess what I got to cross off my bucket list while on this trip. Learn how to milk a cow? Nope. Keep a garden? Nope. Master driving a stick shift? Hardly. Nope, we all went ziplining! How freaking cool is that?! It was mom's idea, and this is something I have always wanted to do, so off we went to fly through the trees in the picturesque Michigan ski resort forests. Not only were the view spectacular, but the experience was something I have never felt before and will definitely be doing this again.

Afterwards, I treated myself to some victory food, as my first bucket list item had been checked off. Maybe next I will concentrate on paining a room in my house blue, or perhaps take guitar lessons. I shall keep you posted. 

Seared ahi tuna, seaweed salad, and umami dipping sauce with classic wasabi and pickled ginger accompaniments.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

We have passed the 100 posts mark!

I hate to keep dropping in so unexpectedly, just to scribble out a quick post and then dash off again, but I have exciting news! I just realized, after logging onto Blogger to write to you all, that we have passed the 100 posts mark! How exciting!? Thank you so much to all of you out there who are stick with me through this very transitional period.

I have officially started culinary school, meaning that my life has officially been taken over by onions, portioning, and French cooking terms and techniques. Yeah! Next week is egg cookery, and once we starting doing some REALLY fun things, I will take pictures and post them straight away. Pinky promise.