Friday, October 19, 2018

The Pumpkins are Coming! Tablescape

I always enjoy setting my first colorful table of autumn, because it is really the creation of so many people, and brings back such memories.


 If you find neutrals more pleasing than a lot of color, you will want to see this "Whispers of Fall" Tablescape.



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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Better Than Starbucks Pumpkin Scones


Like everyone else, when fall comes (And, boy, is it here! We had frost this morning!), I pretty much embrace pumpkin spice everything. In fact, this has become such a big thing around here that, the last time I went shopping, I noticed my local market had an entire end-cap full of nothing other than pumpkin spice items, from baking chips, to cereals, to marshmallows, to sweetened condensed milk (and just between you and me, that kind of makes my stomach turn).

Recently I saw a recipe for a copycat of Starbucks' Pumpkin Scones. Ever since buying a frother (
this one), I no longer go to Starbucks, because I’ve found that I can make my own delicious coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas at home, much better, and much cheaper, not to mention that I can drink them while wearing my PJs. I thought the perfect accompaniment to this morning’s latte was a pumpkin scone, so I made some.
Better Than Starbucks Pumpkin Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glazes

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat; set aside

In the work-bowl of a food processor place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Pulse to blend. And cold butter, and process until it resembles coarse meal.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin purée, milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour mixture over dry ingredients, and process until a soft dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough 3 to 4 times until it comes together. Roll dough into a 10” x 7” rectangle, about 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then cut into two even pieces crosswise, making four rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two triangles, yielding eight triangles. Place scones onto prepared baking sheet, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the glazes, combine confectioners’ sugar and milk. Whisk until smooth. Poor HALF of the glaze into a shallow bowl. When scones are done, cool for 10 minutes, then dip, face down, into the glaze, placing them onto a rack to continue to cool. To the remaining glaze, add the spices, and whisk to combine. After the first glaze is set, drizzle the spice glaze on top of it. (I used an
icing bottle for this). Allow glazes to set before serving.



If you prefer muffins to scones, you will love these Pumpkin Crumb Muffins.



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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Drink the Wine!

The other day, when I made French Onion Soup, I was downstairs in the belly of the beast rummaging around (as I often do), looking for a bottle of port to add to the soup. While I was down there, I came across my husband’s wine rack, with all of his special bottles of wine on it. Some of them dated back to 1995, the year that we were married. He would buy these special (read: expensive) bottles of wine that he’d planned to uncork on a “special occasion.” He’s gone now, and apparently no occasion ever seemed quite special enough for him to drink this wine. I looked at those bottles, grabbed a bottle of French Bordeaux from 2007, and carried it upstairs. I relaxed that evening with a British mystery, some crackers and tomato basil cheese, and a glass of this wine. I don’t think my husband ever quite realized that just waking up in the morning is a special occasion.

Celebrate every day, people. Drink the wine!



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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Korean Home Cooking & Butchu Oi Muchim (Marinated Cucumbers)


Inasmuch is I do a lot of ethnic cooking, and have over 100 jars and bottles of spices with which to make all of these exotic dishes, I have absolutely no experience with Korean cooking. Other than kimchi, I couldn’t name a Korean dish. That’s why a new book called Classic and Modern Recipes Korean Home Cooking by Sohui Kim with Rachel Wharton, a new publication by Abrams books proved of great interest. Kim, a native of Korea, began her culinary adventures as a small child in her grandmother’s kitchen, nightly plating the banchan (side dishes) for the family’s evening dinner. Her interest and participation in her family’s meals blossomed with age, and she eventually found herself as a classic chef, owning her own Brooklyn restaurant called Good Fork.
From now until the end of next summer, I will be representing Abrams as a member of the Abrams Dinner Party. As a part of this membership, I will be reviewing some of their latest cookbooks, providing you with not only my opinion about these books, but recipes as well. This book is the first one that I chose to review, and the recipe that I found quite appealing, not to mention sinfully easy, was this one for Butchu Oi Muchim (Marinated Cucumbers).

This is a beautiful and informative book. You need no knowledge of Korean food whatsoever to be able to cook from it; in fact, you will find yourself learning a great deal in the process. There are colorful charts and photographs featuring all of the Korean ingredients that you will need for cooking along with thorough explanations of each, from fresh vegetables, to noodles, to herbs and spices, syrups, vinegars, oils and sauces, and equipment needed. 
In addition you will find many tutorials guiding you through not only the process of making the recipes, but tips on various techniques such as how to cut a vegetable into julienne, how to cut scallions into strips, how to cook rice, soak seaweed, and cut egg ribbons. From what I’ve seen, this appears to be the definitive book on Korean cooking, suitable equally for the novice and experienced cook.
 
If you read this blog with any frequency, you know that I embarked on a deck garden this year, and one of the things that I grew with great success, was cucumbers. I grew two different varieties, pickling cucumbers, and English cucumbers, both of which worked well in this recipe. Korean cooking has many unique, new-to-me ingredients, that are, perhaps, equally foreign to you. Don’t let this slow you down, or stunt your curiosity because there are American substitutions. 
 
In this recipe, one of the ingredients is called gochugaru. My guess is that quite a few of you don’t have this ingredient in your cupboard. This can be substituted with plain old American chili powder. I’m guessing you’ve never experienced the combination of garlic chives, cucumbers, and chili powder. Neither had I, but it’s refreshing, spicy, and delicious. It’s also stupidly easy to put together, can be made ahead, and keeps up to three days in the fridge. If you’re looking for a new salad to serve your guests, one that they haven’t had dozens of times before, this one is it.
Expand your mind, satisfy your curiosity, and improve and educate your pallet by picking up a copy of Korean Home Cooking. You can find one by clicking
here.


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Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Abram Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Jalapeño Popper Hasselback Chicken

Years ago Jim used to make hassleback potatoes. He would make perfect slices, 1/8" apart, and it was tedious work. Then, separating each one of those finely executed slices, to fill with Parmesan cheese wasn’t any easier. Honestly, it took him half of the day, but it was well worth it! Those potatoes were wonderful, and always got rave reviews from our guests.

Fast-forward a half dozen years or so when I spotted this recipe for hassleback chicken, and a jalapeño popper version no less; I had to give it a try. It is incredible, and very easy to do. Now, the suggested width of slices into the chicken breast is a quarter of an inch. That would have meant a couple of slices of bacon, and a couple of slices of cheese, per serving. Considering the topping, I figured that was just way too calorie-laden for me. So I took the easy way out, and made my slices about a half of an inch apart, used one piece of bacon, broken into thirds, and one slice of sharp cheddar per chicken breast. I was not unhappy.
 Like so many things that I make here on the blog, this is easy to do, and can be made one day prior to baking and serving. Your chicken can be sliced and stuffed the day ahead; your topping can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator as well.
Jalapeño Popper Hasselback Chicken 
Slightly adapted from Twisted Food

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup Melissa’s Pickled Jalapeños, chopped
2 cups mixed mozzarella & cheddar
1 T. salt
1 T. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 chicken breasts
Sliced cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook bacon until crisp, drain, and cut each piece unto thirds; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, Jalapeños, two cheeses, salt, pepper, and cream; set aside.

Cut parallel slices down the length of each chicken breast, place them in a greased casserole dish, and insert alternate slices of cheese and bacon into each.

Season lightly with freshly ground, cracked pepper and a dusting of salt, and spoon over dollops of the cheesy popper mixture. Bake for around 40 - 50 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken has cooked through.


Another easy and impressive dish is this Spinach Artichoke Chicken for Two.



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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Touring the Hutch

Some time ago I mentioned buying a wall unit in which to store all of my dishes for my dining area. I promised a blog post, but had great difficulty photographing it because it is in a very bright room, with a large bay and other windows, and I would always get reflections when I used the same camera that I use for taking pictures of food. Enter the iPhone (I finally caved and got one), and its magnificent camera! I must say, I am duly impressed with how well that thing takes pictures. It didn’t seem to mind the low light, so I was able to take photos from various angles, sans reflections, so here goes. 
I had never particularly been happy with this wall behind the table in the dining area upstairs. I knew I wanted something large, that could hold all sorts of dinnerware (you have to know it doesn’t hold everything), and could be attractive yet functional.
Source: Pinterest
One evening I was watching an episode of “Elementary!” and saw Mycroft preparing food in his kitchen. Behind him was a giant, black wall unit that held all of his dishes. I knew at that moment that was exactly what I wanted. The fates were with me because two days later I got a Pottery Barn catalog in the mail, and there was this wall unit.

I ordered it immediately, as apparently did everyone else, because it took over three months to finally arrive. When it did, I was absolutely exuberant! I don’t think I was ever as excited about a piece of furniture as I was this one.

Initially, it was a bit daunting. This thing is big! It is comprised of a base, a hutch, and two towers. Together, it is 10 feet wide. Fortunately I had the wall for it.

In decorating the top of it, something I needed to do because of my vaulted ceiling, I looted the area above the cabinets in the kitchen, ending up having to redo those.
I am happy with the outcome, and particularly pleased with the “Main Street" sign because St. Charles is known for its lovely, historic Main Street.
It makes me happy to see so many dishes in one place. I love being able to set a beautiful table whether for 10, or just one. I enjoy changing it up for the season, and am in the process of changing from neutral fall colors, to vibrant October colors.
I will continue to share as the seasons change, but here is what it looks like at the moment.




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