spectacular cranberries

my favorite, and my dad’s favorite, cranberries over plain yogurt and bananas

my dad made cranberries for thanks giving this year, and boy, were they something special. i don’t normally think  that cranberries are something to brag about, just a repeat condiment at the holiday table. i can’t believe i doubted my dad in this manner! i couldn’t stop pawing at these little jewels. i took home a half-gallon or so, and it took all of 3 days for me to polish them off. i had eaten them every single day until the jar was sadly empty. they are warmly spiced with freshly ground cloves and cinnamon, and sweetened with honey. there is some surprise flavor combination lurking in there, but i just can’t put my finger on it. i just know it draws me in to more. they are pleasantly tart, but sweet enough to eat as a light dessert. i have been enjoying them on chicken, in salads, on sandwiches with gluten-free bread, stirred into plain yogurt, and eaten straight out of the jar.

cranberries over pork tenderloin salad

do yourself a favor and make these cranberries for your holiday dinners, or even just to have sitting around to use up throughout the week. they are a healthy way to feel like you are indulging, and a welcome leftover to have in the house afterward!

this is a really big recipe, so if you are not making these for a party, i recommend cutting the recipe in half, or making the large batch and keeping a reserve in the freezer.

note, too, that juniper just LOVED these cranberries. i don’t let her eat sugar, but this was special. plus, it was brown sugar, so it has some antioxidants in it!

in my dad’s own words, here is the magic recipe!

large recipe:
3- 12 oz. bags of cranberries
3- 8 oz. cups of orange juice (any kind)
1- 8 oz. cup of packed unrefined brown sugar
1- tbsp. ground cloves
1- tbsp. ground cinnamon
Add cranberries and orange juice together and bring to a simmer.
Add remaining ingredients.
Simmer and stir occasionally until berries have all popped open.
Cool in refrigerator overnight or longer.  
Will keep in refrigerator 3 weeks.

*personal favorite: serve on top of whole-bean vanilla ice cream!
**other personal favorite: serve with yogurt!

my dad has always been a great cook. he can find a few random things lying around and turn it into a treat.

i learned to make frozen grapes from dad.

i learned to make rhubarb crumble from dad.

i learned how you can grill anything. ANYTHING.

i learned that, “hey, no time to bake the french fries? BROIL them!” actually works in a pinch.

i learned how amazing peanut butter and honey are when swirled around on a warm piece of toast.

i learned what a joy a cup of hot coffee, tanned with a splash of cream, can really be on a sunday morning, spread out with the news paper.

so the message is, people, listen to your dad. he’s got all kinds of tricks up his sleeve.

broiled cod and cauliflower rice with romesco and black olive sauces

its friday, fishes!

i am catholic, so i observe the absence of eating land animals on fridays. for me, this a welcome change from our normal menu. fish is such a light, delicious ingredient to cook with, so i like to keep it really simple. -minimal seasoning for the fish, but i go nuts with sauces to have with the fish. the sauces keep in the refrigerator for several weeks, so if you make a batch you can spread it out and use the sauces up here and there to spice things up for a kabillion different meals.

this is last week’s meal, broiled lemon cod with romesco, black olive sauce, and basil cauliflower rice.  i added some carmelized onions that we had leftover from another meal to use them up. these 2 sauces were a beautiful way to accompany light flavors of cod and cauliflower. i have been really loving cauliflower rice lately. i find that i may prefer it to grain rice, as it has lots of flavor and reheats flawlessly.

this was a super delicious & easy meal to prepare. obviously, this would be a really quick dinner to make if you are on your own for a friday and need something to put on a “table for one”, like i will tomorrow night!

don’t skip making the sauces. they are so simple to make and will last for several meals.

this recipe makes enough rice for 4 servings, and lots of sauces. make the sauces first to give them time to develop their respective flavors. then make the cauliflower, then the fish.

for romesco:

1 cup almonds

1 cup roasted red peppers

1 roasted ancho chile

1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp salt

3 or 4 raw cloves of garlic

zest of a lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

method: in food processor, puree all ingredients until they form a sauce. let stand at room temp for a bit. serve with anything that you want to taste delicious.

for black olive sauce:

1/2 cup pitted black olives

1 tbsp capers

1/2 cup good quality olive oil

half clove garlic

method: combine all ingredients in food processor or mini food processor. let set for a little bit at room temp before serving.

broiled cod with cauliflower rice

2 fillets of fresh cod

1 lemon

black pepper

salt

few leaves fresh basil

good tasting olive oil

1 head cauliflower, cleaned and cut into large trees

method:

for cauliflower rice, shred cauliflower in food processor. add chopped basil, salt, juice from half a lemon, and whatever dry spices you wish, such as dried garlic or onion.

in deep skillet, warm up a little olive oil over low-medium heat. add cauliflower rice to skillet once it is warm and cook, covered, until tender. mine took roughly 10 minutes. be sure to stir pretty constantly so it doesn’t burn.

for the cod: an hour before broiling, juice your lemon over the fish and sprinkle black pepper over it. do not salt until just before putting fish into broiler or the fish will get rubbery. let fish marinate for an hour.

preheat broiler. place fish on broiler pan, well oiled, and cover fish in olive oil and dusting of salt. broil for 5 minutes or so, just until edges get slightly brown. serve over cauliflower rice. with romesco and black olive sauce.

dark days

i am giving up chocolate until april 24, which is easter sunday. i am catholic, and i don’t always take this tradition too seriously. -oh, and i tend to find it cliche when people say “i am giving up chocolate for lent”… you know why i judged it as cliche? because i never wanted to try giving it up myself, and was jealous of those who could do it.

like, seriously jealous.

i friggin love chocolate.

so i decided that this year would be the year. i can do this. -i should do it. i really don’t need to be going through a bag of chocolate chips a week. i buy them for baking, then knock ’em down by the handful for dessert every night. i want to see if i can do this.

god, chocolate is so good though. i have been on a major affair with a certain 70% bar that is 6$ a bar. i have also tooled around with lavender studded bars, and salted caramel bars… i feel very strongly about dark chocolates. but you wanna know a stupid secret?? it is reese’s peanut butter egg season, and i go crazy for those things. -wait, when i say i go crazy, that means i eat like 1 a week. and that is the most candy i dapple in all year. reese’s easter egg season. not too bad, right? so all year, i look forward to my 7 week candy “binge”, -my 7 eggs. yeah, they make me feel nauseous because candy makes me sick. but i really like ’em. you only live once.

i have locked myself out of the eggs until easter sunday. and if i don’t get one perfect reese’s egg in my basked this year, i am going to write a really nasty letter to the easter bunny.

you hear me, bunny? i want a basket with an egg. i am not fooling around. this is serious.

salted cashew caramel corn

 

i made a few batches of this caramel corn to take to my coworkers as valentines last week. now, it is no secret that i tend away from corn and many other grains, but hey, life is short.

on that note, this stuff was awesome. it was crack-a-licious. i got a text late in the evening the day i gave it out declaring that i “rocked the corn”. -can i be honest here for a second? i know i rocked the corn. brian and i stole small pinches of it every time we walked past the counter. -a 2’x5′ counter-top loaded 2 inches thick with cooling caramel corn is no easy thing to pass by. oh, and the killer part is, it tastes best cool, so keep your mitts off of the hot stuff. just hold out for a bit. you’ll just burn your tongue, anyway.

this was pretty easy and fun to make. i had brian help me by popping the corn (he is really good at popcorn, it is his favorite snack), and helping me stir the caramel onto the popped corn. the steps may appear to be fairly labor intensive, but it just requires a little focus. -and keep your eye on the caramel, it burns quickly.

i found the recipe here, on satisfied, and modified it, omitting corn syrup and using honey instead. -see? it is healthy now. also, i drizzled melted dark chocolate over the cooled caramel corn to further any pleasurable value to it. anyhow, the version on chef louise mellor’s blog looks much more attractive, but hey, it’s her recipe. she’s better at it. thanks again for the recipe, and for helping me satisfy the sweet-tooth of 12 coworkers in a dental office!

the recipe calls for 4 quarts of popcorn, but since  we were using kernels and popping it ourselves (rather than buying pre-popped), we winged it. i have no idea how much we actually used. i tried to keep it close to 15 cups, but i dunno. coulda been less. wing it.

this recipe will make enough to gift to about 6 people, in gallon sized bags. if you wish to increase it, i recommend doing separate batches given the large volume of popcorn, also because caramel can be tricky to work with in large batches.

salted cashew caramel corn

4 qts of popped corn

1 cup roasted, salted peanut halves

1 cup roasted, salted cashews

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

1 stick of buttah

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

method:

pop your corn. SORT THROUGH FOR UNPOPPED KERNELS! we don’t want any broken teeth here. spread it and your nuts onto a few lightly greased roasting pan or deep cookie sheet and place in the oven at 250f while you prep the caramel. you want the popcorn and the nuts to get a little hot here so the caramel doesn’t melt the kernels.

in a large, heavy bottom pot, melt the butter over medium. once the butter is melted, add the sugar and honey. stir well. bring to a very gentle boil and set a timer for 5 minutes. allow to bubble and gently boil without touching it for that 5 minutes.

turn off the heat and stir in baking powder, salt, and vanilla. don’t do too much stirring here, the more you stir the more it cools. just mix in the goods and get out. it will turn the lighter brown color that we all know as caramel.

now move fast.

pull your popcorn out of the oven, and pour caramel over it as you have your baking partner fold and stir quickly, coating all of the popcorn.

this stuff will stiffen, becoming hard to work with, so coating quickly is key.

once everything is pretty much coated, stick it into the oven for 60 minutes. you will want to stir this every 20 minutes so the caramel doesn’t burn in the oven, and also to better coat the mixture.

after baking, dump out and spread onto a clean counter-top to cool. i sprinkled salt over the still warm popcorn just for kicks. let it cool for an hour or so, at least, before breaking into chunks and packaging.

to drizzle with chocolate:

combine 1 cup chocolate chips with 2 tbsp honey in a small saucepan over low heat, just until melted. stir stir stir. place into a pastry bag with a tiny tube attachment or ziplock with the corner cut. drizzle melted chocolate onto cool caramel corn. wait 2 hours or so to let it set before breaking up into chunks and packaging.

PB&J thumb prints

 

let’s face it. i could eat peanut butter all the time. i’m becoming a little embarrassed about the amount of blog entries that contain peanut butter as a food topic. the stuff is delicious. and full of protein and healthy fat. so i eated some peanut butter cookies for lunch today, that is why i published this under the “lunches” category in case you are wondering.

i won’t stop writing about peanut butter until i am good and ready. there is plenty of peanut butter baking and cooking out there to discover, so i am not ready to give it up yet.

and i will eat it every day.

my friends were over a few weeks ago for board game night and saw me open the pantry door. “!!!JEEZ!!!”, one friend said, “is that your Y2K cupboard?” -my excuse for having 7, yes SEVEN, jars of peanut butter in my pantry were because my brother in law works for smuckers and it was my duty, as a consumer, to support his product. it was a lie. i just like to collect the stuff.

what my friends don’t know is that there were 2 more jars in the refrigerator.

given my heavy volume of this delicious stuff, i decided to make peanut butter and jelly thumb print cookies for my friends for valentine’s day.

these cookies are remarkably easy to make and crazy tasty. they are not as heavy as i was assuming they would be. they are crumbly, still soft, and any jam would be delicious here. i think melty chocolate would also be great. these turned out quite large, like pb&j biscuits, but only because i pressed them into a medium sized heart shaped cookie cutter. you could do smaller or keep them round if you don’t want to fool with shaping them, but i found it quite easy to do this. i used my pinkie finger to form the heart shape in the center, but i have chubby thumbs.

the total lack of complicated ingredients is genius, and i barely made a mess in the kitchen. barely. ok there is peanut butter smeared all over the counter, but only because i am clumsy. i bet this recipe has been all over the online world of food and back, and i suppose i am slow on trying it. oh well. i had other stuff goin on. i wish i were hip to these a year ago. these are the coolest cookies!

 

ready to bake

ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

some jam

method: preheat oven to 350f. lightly grease a baking sheet.

stir your peanut butter with one of these gadgets. *omg greg, this thing is amazing*

combine sugar and peanut butter in mixer for a few minutes. now throw in the baking soda, salt, and the egg (not the shell! duh!) and continue to blend for a few more minutes. the dough will be crumbly. you may refrigerate it for ease of rolling, but i didn’t.

roll a tbsp of dough between your palms to form a ball. now press ball into cookie cutter on sheet, or keep it round. use fingers to press a heart shape in center of cookie. remove mold. continue until you run out of space. pipe jam into center of cookie. now bake for 13 minutes. cool on sheet of a few minutes before transferring to rack.

i packed these up in some boxes for my friendies.

valentines