Wintery Kale Salad

The holidays were a bit hectic for us this year. We meant to post this salad pre-Christmas (doesn't it look Christmas-y?) but somehow that never happened. Now it's almost the second week of January and I'm just now finding time to sit down and write up a post. How does the time slip by so fast!?

For Christmas, Noah and I flew down to Bishop, California where my brother and his fiancee (!) recently moved and my parents joined us from Vermont. Fun things we did there: a sunset hike to the Druid Stones, a soak in a natural hot spring with nothing but the mountains and big sky surrounding us, scrambling around the ButtermilksStar Wars up in Mammoth, a walk around Mono Lake, and many, many moments playing with the cats. There were also some good laughs during Cards Against Humanity and lots of wine and good food. And Noah got to go snowboarding. Fun times. 

After Bishop (and a terrible pair of flights) we arrived back in Seattle for a night before heading out for second Christmas at Noah's parents place in Sequim. Noah treated us to his awesome homemade sourdough pizza and I succeeded in making some delicious sourdough cinnamon rolls which I will most definitely be making again. There was also a road trip to Port Townshend, cider tasting at Finn River, lots of puzzle time, and pre-bed soaks in the hot tub under the stars.

Overall it was a great few weeks, but I'm definitely glad to be home :)

// Wintery Kale Salad // serves 4-6
This winter salad would be a great addition to a Christmas dinner or for a New Year's celebration. Pomegranates are in season during the winter months and they're one of my favorite fruits. A bit of a pain to get all the seeds out, but definitely worth the effort. If pomegranates don't work for you, then mandarin oranges would be really tasty or even sliced up persimmons. 

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 cup water or broth
2 bunches lacinato kale, washed, dried, and de-stemmed
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
4-8 oz goat cheese
salt to taste

1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper)

2. Add quinoa and water/broth to a small sauce pot. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes

3. Tear the kale into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add a splash of the dressing and massage the kale with your hands until its starts to turn deep green and becomes tender

4. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and add to the kale. Add rest of dressing and mix well. Season with salt as needed

4. At this point you can either add the pomegranate seeds and almonds to the bowl or you can dish up the kale into bowls/plates and sprinkle the seeds and almonds on top. Top with crumbled goat cheese

Salmon Cakes with Creme Fraiche Tartar Sauce

We've been meaning to post this recipe for over a week now, but it's been super busy around here. I've been busy with my new job and Noah has been busy with work. In between we've put up a Christmas tree, decorated our front porch with lights, crafted some Christmas presents, and attended a Christmas party where we chatted for 4 hours with the hosts about our upcoming trip to Spain. We would have gone to a holiday cookie party too, but Noah decided to go snowboarding instead. Still kind of bitter about that.... Especially since we just got our stand mixer delivered to our door! Don't worry, cookies are still happening. 

The first batch of these salmon cakes happened a long time ago. Like beginning-of-my-first-recipe-log-book-that-is-now-full long time ago. But they were so good that I actually remembered to make them again for a photo shoot. We have a (dwindling) supply of fresh-frozen salmon thanks to Noah's dad who is a fisherman up in Alaska, but unfortunately some of our filets  got freezer burn in our chest freezer, so I decided to turn them into salmon cakes. It was an excellent idea! They they are so good! I'm about 75% confident that canned salmon would work well here too if you can't get your hands on fresh or frozen salmon. 

// Salmon Cakes with Dill Creme Fraiche // makes 6-8 cakes
As I mentioned above, you could probably get away with using canned salmon in this recipe. 1 1/2 lbs of fresh salmon is 24 ounces of canned.  Given the option, though, I always go with the freshest possible. These make a great small meal or are perfect as an appetizer. 

1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen (thawed) salmon, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup panko + more for crusting (about 1 cup)
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan or sheep's milk cheese
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper

5 oz creme fraiche or 1/2 cup plain yogurt (not greek)
1/2 cup seeded cucumber, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)

~4 tablespoons oil for frying (I use sunflower or safflower)

1. In a large bowl combine the salmon through black pepper (using 1 cup of panko). Mix well

2. Place about 1 cup of panko on a large plate. Form the salmon mixture into 6-8 patties, depending on what size you want them. One at a time crust the salmon cakes on both sides with the panko and place on a clean plate. 

3. Gently heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot add 3-4 patties and cook for 4-6 minutes or until the undersides are golden. Flip and cook another 4-6 minutes. Remove from pan and place patties on a paper towel-covered plate. Add another 2 tablespoons of oil to pan and repeat with remaining salmon cakes.

4. To make the tarter sauce, combine the creme fraiche or yogurt, cucumber, dill, red onion, and salt in pepper in a small bowl. Mix well and add more seasonings if needed.

5. Serve salmon cakes hot with a small spoonful of tater sauce.  

Brussels Sprouts, Millet, & Bacon Stuffed Acorn Squash

Happy almost Thanksgiving! We finally have plans. We’ll be having a few friends over for friends-giving and this will be the first year I’ll be cooking a turkey in 15 years. The one other time I cooked a turkey was when I was an exchange student in New Zealand and my friend - another American exchange student - and I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for her host family. I was even a vegetarian then… not sure why I was in charge of the turkey… Anyway, I’m not too worried. I’ll brine it, stuff it (wild rice, butternut squash, and chestnut stuffing), tie it up, and stick it in the oven for a couple of hours. Right? Any suggestions?

While these stuffed acorns squashes are not on the Thanksgiving menu, there were delicious and very fall-esque. We made them during our Sequim trip in between the hand pies and pumpkin spice ice cream (still to come!). I love Brussels sprouts. Together with the nutty millet, sweet cranberries, and salty bacon they were so yummy stuffed inside a squash. These would make an excellent side dish for Thanksgiving or you could even turn them vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using veggie broth instead.

// Brussels Sprouts, Millet, & Bacon Stuffed Acorn Squash // Serves 4 or 8
Noah and I each ate a whole half squash when we made these (I often forget to eat when I'm cooking away in the kitchen), but you could cut each half in half to serve 8. As I mentioned above, this recipe is easily made vegetarian by omitting the bacon (or adding fake bacon) and using veggie broth in lieu of the chicken stock. You'll probably have to adjust the seasonings though. 

2 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup millet
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 lb brussels sprouts
1/2 cup red onion, diced
5 pieces of bacon
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese + more for top
Salt and pepper

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of salt
pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and inner membranes. Drizzle each squash half with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Place halves, hollow side down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and let cool. 

2. While the squash is cooking, start on the filling. Place millet and chicken stock in a medium sauce and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool. 

3. Cut brussels sprouts into quarters. Gently heat butter in large skillet over medium-low heat, then add onion. Cook onion until soft, about 7-8 minutes. Add brussels sprouts. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until brussels sprouts are still firm, but not crunchy. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. In same skillet, cook bacon until crispy, about 7 minutes then place on a paper towel to soak up extra fat. When cool bacon is cool, roughly chop into small pieces

4.  Add the bacon, walnuts, cranberries, millet, and 1/4 cup cheese to the brussels sprouts. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. 

5. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice, thyme, and salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the millet mixture and stir until well combined.

6. Spoon the millet filling into the acorn squashes, pressing firmly with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle more cheese on top and bake squash for another 15 minutes. 

Sweet Potato + Chicken Hand Pies

My mini-vacation is over. I started a new job this week and I love it. The people, the work, the company - all amazing. I've only had three (long) days of training, but I'm already excited about diving in and learning and more. The company is Omada Health and it's based out of San Francisco. Omada is a startup healthcare-tech business who's mission is to help people lower their risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes through technology and digital health coaching. I will be one of their Health Coaches in Seattle and my job is to provide support, motivation, and education for our participants. From what I have seen, I think it will be a very rewarding and engaging experience. I can't wait to get started!    

Of course, I'll still have plenty of time to cook, especially since I will be working from home. My breaks from the computer will probably be spent washing dishes, stirring a pot, or rotating something in the oven. I still have so many recipes that I want to try and others that I need to perfect. This recipe was one that I made out in Sequim. The crust is buttery, flaky, and crisp and the filling is a perfect combination of sweet and savory. I absolutely love sweet potatoes. We usually make them into sweet potato fries on burger nights, but this may be a new favorite... I highly recommend you eat at least one hand pie straight from the oven (maybe let it cool a bit) because that's when they are the best.   

// Sweet Potato + Chicken Hand Pies // makes about 18-24
The number of hand pies this recipe makes really depends on how big you make the circles. I used a 3 1/2 inch cutter for mine, but you can use larger or smaller (I wouldn't go too small, though because then they'd be a pain to seal). This may also mean that you might end up with extra dough. If that's the case, you can freeze it for another time, use it as a crust for a mini-quiche, or bake it with some toppings for a rustic galette.   

For the filling:
1 lb sweet potatoes or yams
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb chicken breast
1 tablespoon butter
1 large leek, ends trimmed and cut into small slices (I cut mine in half lengthwise twice)
Salt and pepper

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
10 tablespoons butter, preferably frozen
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sour cream
7-8 tablespoons ice water, more if needed

2 eggs, beaten
Brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Wrap sweet potatoes together in tin foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and let cool

2. In an oven-safe frying pan or skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Place chicken breast in the pan and generously sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for about 7-8 minutes or until the underside is golden, but not crispy. Flip and cook for another 7-8 minutes. When both sides are golden, cover and place skillet in oven for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160°.

3. For the leeks, heat the butter in another skillet (or you can use the chicken pan if it's out of the oven already. No need to wash it). Add the leeks with a little bit of salt and pepper and cook until leeks are very soft and a bit caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. 

4. Remove the sweet potatoes from their skins and add to the bowl. Shred the chicken with two forks and add to the bowl. Mix the sweet potato mixture well and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. 

5. To make the crust, combine the flours, thyme, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Either grate the butter into the flour mixture, taking care to keep it as cold as possible, or cut the butter into large chunks and work it into the flour with your fingers or pastry cutter. The butter should end up being about "pea" size. At this point I usually put it back in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes to make sure the butter stays cold, but that's up to you.

6. Mix together the sour cream with 7 tablespoons of ice water. Slowly dribble the ice water mixture into the flour and stir with a fork until the dough looks ragged, but feels like it will come together. If it seems too dry, add a bit more ice water. Gently knead the dough until it forms a cohesive mass, folding it over on itself a couple of times to get layers of butter that later mean a nice flaky pastry. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes

7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough into 3 portions and roll out one portion on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick (keep remaining dough in fridge). Cut out circles and wrap unused dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge. Transfer circles to a baking sheet and brush tops with egg. Add the sweet potato filling, the amount will depend on how big your circles are, but it'll probably be 1-3 big tablespoons. Fold one side of the circle over the filling to meet the other edge of the circle. Seal with the prongs of a fork. Place in fridge if there's room - this helps prevent a tough pastry. Continue rolling out dough and making the hand pies until you run out of filling. 

8. When all the hand pies are made, brush tops with egg and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 350° for 25-27 minutes. 

Japanese-Inspired Burger with Miso Mustard and Quick Pickles

Confession: I was a vegetarian for 15 years and now I eat meat. Not a lot of meat and only good quality stuff, but burgers are now one of my most favorite foods. Whenever Noah and I are at a loss for what to make for dinner (it doesn't happen often), the answer is usually burgers with homemade sweet potato fries. If we're not feeling like a heavy meal we'll wrap the burger in steamed chard leaves or raw cabbage cups instead of a bun. There's something about a thick, juicy burger that is so good and satisfying! 

This burger was inspired by one of my best-loved cuisines: Japanese. The burger itself is full of Japanese flavors like soy sauce and green onion and I came up with a miso-mustard spread that is sweet and salty and delicious. The quick pickles give it a crunch and the shiso-agrula salad with a honey vinaigrette adds a tang with a one-of-a-kind shiso kick. If you've never tried shiso, I would high recommend it. It's a flavor that's hard to describe and pretty much unique to Japanese cuisine. It's also really easy to grow if you're looking to add to your houseplant collection...       

Japan is super high on our list of places we really want to go, mostly because of the food, but also because it looks like a magical place, especially outside of the big cites. I've been drooling over these pictures (here and here too) by Beth Kirby over at Local Milk of her experience traveling around Japan for 3 months. Her writing is beautiful and engaging the images emanate a feeling of old tradition mixed with modern world conveniences. I can't wait until it's our turn to get lost in the old winding streets of Japanese mountain towns. 

// Japanese-Inspired Burger with Miso Mustard and Quick Pickles //  makes 6 burgers
The miso-mustard, vinaigrette, and quick pickles can be made in advance if you're short on time. But make sure to leave the vinaigrette off the salad until the last minute or else it'll turn into a big soggy mess. We used the leftover miso-mustard, mixed with a little bit of water, drizzled over an Asian rice bowl and it was delicious. 

1/4 cup yellow miso
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds

1/3 pound daikon radish, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
8-10 small red radishes, leaves and roots removed
1 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup green onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste

2 cups packed arugula
2 tablespoons shiso, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon chopped green onion

Vegetable oil for brushing grill
6 burger buns
Prepared wasabi
1-2 avocados, sliced

1. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat or prepare hot coals in a charcoal grill.  

2. To make the mustard, whisk together the miso, mustard, rice vinegar, mirin, and sugar in a small bowl. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds for 4 minutes, watching carefully and stirring often so they don’t burn. Remove sesame seeds from heat, let cool slightly, the add to miso mustard. Stir well, loosely cover, and set aside. 

3. To make the pickles, slice the daikon radish, carrot, and red radishes into very thin coins with a sharp knife or a mandolin. Place vegetables in a medium bowl or mason jar along with the whole peppercorns. In a small sauce pan, combine the rice vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Gently heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables and let sit until burgers are ready. 

4. To make the burger patties, combine the beef, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, green onion, and wasabi in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. Form into 6 equal weight patties and set on a plate. 

5. For the shiso-arugula greens, combine the shiso and arugula in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, ginger, and green onion in a small bowl. Set aside. 

6. Brush the grill rack with a small amount of vegetable oil. Place the burger patties on a hot part of the grill and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Move the patties to a lower-heat area of the grill. For medium-rare burgers cook for another 2-3 minutes. For medium burgers cook for another 3-4 minutes. For well-done burgers cook for another 5-6 minutes. When burgers are done, remove from heat and place in a warm area. 

7. Cut the burger buns in half and place cut side down on the grill. Grill buns for 1-2 minutes.

8. To assemble burgers, spread 2-3 teaspoons of miso-mustard on one burger half. Spread a small amount of wasabi on the second half. For each burger place a patty on the bottom bun and top with 4-5 slices of pickles and several avocado slices. Toss the shiso-arugula greens with the vinaigrette and place 1/4 cup of greens over the avocado. Add top bun and serve immediately. 

Roasted Garlic + Chanterelle Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Roasted Garlic and Chanterelle Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese. I'll let that sink in for a minute.  

Ok, ready? This is everything a mac and cheese should be: cheesy, comforting, delicious, filling... It's definitely not your fluorescent Kraft macaroni and cheese, but it fills the need for a heartening winter meal when it's cold and raining outside and all you really want is a big bowl of cheesy noodles. We've all had those moments. Foodie that I am, though, I couldn't resist adding some grown-up flavors like earthy chanterelle mushrooms and creamy roasted garlic. Two fall flavors that I love. I also chose three different types of cheese because no one is ever satisfied with a mac and cheese that has only one cheese. Right? The cheddar adds a sharp zing while the sweet comte balances it out. The parmesan is there because pasta dishes always need parmesan.    

Let's talk about chanterelles for a minute. Chanterelles are delicious, especially sautéed in butter. They're super high in ergocalciferol (plant form of vitamin D) and they're even the Oregon State Mushroom because of their abundance in the Pacific Northwest. I've always secretly wanted to be one of those mushroom hunters who goes off into the woods and collects edible mushrooms to sell at the farmers market. I took a mycology class during my undergrad at St. Lawerence and another weekend course at Bastyr, but I'm far from being a mushroom expert. The only mushroom I'm 100% sure of identifying correctly by myself in the woods is the big, orange, fleshly, shelf-like fungus called chicken-of-the-woods. It really does taste like chicken. Noah and I have an ongoing competition (with a indeterminate prize) for whoever finds the best chicken-of-the-woods. So far I'm in the lead with the discovery of a decaying specimen found attached to a dead log on a beach somewhere along the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula. Maybe we'll have better luck next year... As for chantarelles, I'm sure I've seen them popping up out of the earth during hikes and walks through the woods, but when I think about sauteing them in butter and eating them I can't help but wonder if they're actually chanterelles. So I leave them where they are and buy mine from the mushroom hunters at the farmers market.     

// Roasted Garlic + Chanterelle Mushroom Mac and Cheese // serves 6-8
There's not much to say about this mac and cheese other than I hope you make it! It's really that good. If you're not into chanterelles you could substitute another mushroom or veggie like asparagus or snap peas, but I really wouldn't recommend it until you try this version. 

1 large head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

1 lb pasta such as elbow macaroni, farfalle, or cavatappi 

1 lb chanterelle mushrooms, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (whole or skim)
7 oz cheddar, grated
8 oz comte or mild gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz parmesan, grated, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Large pinch of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

8 oz sourdough bread, ripped into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic head so the cloves are showing. Drizzle garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic in tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool

2. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (not quite done). Drain and set aside.

3. In another large pot, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the chanterelles and salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and have released their juices. Spoon mushrooms and juice into a bowl and set aside.

4. In same pot, melt 5 tablespoons butter. Once butter is melted, slowly whisk in the flour until a thick roux has formed. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until roux is golden brown. Slowly pour in milk and whisk until well combined. 

5. Once milk is warm, add grated cheddar, comte, and 1/3 of the grated parmesan. Set remaining parmesan aside. Add the thyme, nutmeg, and salt to the pot. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

6. Place the bread in the bowl a food processor fitted with s-blade. Pulse until bread resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the remaining parmesan, olive oil, salt, garlic, and thyme. Pulse a few more times to combine.

7. Butter a deep 9x9” baking pan. Squeeze the garlic out of its husk into a small bowl and mash with a fork or back of a spoon until cloves are broken up. Add the pasta, garlic, and mushrooms to the cheese sauce and mix until well combined. Pour macaroni and cheese into prepared baking dish then top with breadcrumb mixture. 

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes then low broil for 5 minutes or until top has turned crispy and golden brown.  

Cuban Chili with Black Beans, Plantains, and Shredded Chicken

It's official, fall is here. The leaves are turning yellow, red, gold, and brown, and there's a chill in the air when I wake up in the morning. The rain has arrived too, but I don't mind. I love the feeling of coziness it brings and the steady drizzle calms my overactive mind. I understand the draw to live in places like Hawaii or Florida or Southern California, but the constant sun and heat makes me crazy. When I lived in Maui briefly, I rode my bike to the beach during thunderstorms to watch the clouds and rain roll over the ocean. I like change and I like seasons. Fall just happens to be my favorite. I start to crave comfort foods like hot soup and cheesy pasta and I also tend to amp up my coffee intake, for better or worse. There's nothing better than sitting down on the couch in the still-dark morning with a hot cup of coffee, wrapped up in blankets, catching up on emails or planning recipes for the week. But this post isn't about coffee, it's about belly-warming chili.      

This chili is delicious and intensely spiced - not in a super peppery way, but in a complex mix of flavors way. I love the addition of the plantains, which add some sweetness and balance out the herb blend. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I like really bold flavors, so my recipes usually call for lots of seasoning. Feel free to use less if you'd like a tamer version. We served this chili with homemade cornbread and dollop of sour cream. And it was so, so good...  This recipe makes a big pot, so stick some in the freezer for days when you just want to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix and not think about making dinner.  

// Cuban Chili with Black Beans, Plantains, and Shredded Chicken // Serves 8-10 generously
The chilies I used in the recipe came from Oaxaca. They smell smoky and dark with a hint of spice, but not super hot like the fiery dried chilies de arbol we also brought home. They are called moras, which means blackberry in Spanish, and usually sold in the States as dried chipotle peppers. The recipe calls for 1-2 dried chili peppers, including seeds, but use your own judgement to decide how hot you want it. 

1-2 small dried chipotle peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz chicken stock, divided
3 medium plantains, peeled and diced
2 cups green bell pepper, diced
3 15 oz cans black beans, drained
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more

1. Soak the chipotle peppers in 1/4 cup hot water and set aside until needed

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large dutch oven or small stock pot. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot. Cover and let cook for 8-9 minutes until undersides of chicken are nicely browned. Flip and cook for another 8-9 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 F. Remove chicken from pot and let cool on a plate. Reduce heat. 

3. In same pot, add onions, garlic and 1/4 cup chicken stock and cook uncovered until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add plantains plus another 1/4 chicken stock. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add green bell pepper and another 1/4 cup chicken stock. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add black beans, tomatoes, remaining chicken stock, bay leaf, spices, and salt. Cover and bring to a simmer. 

4. Remove the chipotle peppers from the soaking water and add soaking water to the pot. Finely chop the peppers and add to the chili.

5. Using two forks, shred the chicken and add to chili. Stir well and let chili simmer for at least one hour.

Roasted Corn and Sausage Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

The weather is definitely changing around here. The nights are getting chilly and the days are starting to emanate that watery winter light. I know for a lot of people it's sad to say goodbye to summer, but for me it's kind of a sigh of relief. As much as I enjoy summer and the beach BBQ's it brings, I'm also a big fan of seasons. Most of all I love the transition of summer into fall when the crispness hits the air and it's time to put on another layer. Growing up this meant fall harvests from the garden, apple picking followed by warm apple pie, and the annual Harvest Market Fair with apple cider donuts and hay rides. While the seasons aren't nearly as extreme here in the Pacific Northwest as they are in Vermont, I still like to take a moment to enjoy the change in weather and celebrate with heartier meals made from late season harvests. A few weeks ago we got a couple ears of corn and a brown bag filled with Anaheim peppers from our Full Circle delivery and I immediately knew what I wanted to make. Anaheim peppers are mild chilis that are great for roasting and their firm flesh holds up well when trying to stuff them with a filling. (If you can't find Anaheims, green bell peppers will work just fine). This recipe transitions fresh summer flavors of corn and peppers to rich fall flavors of pork and spices. It's perfect for a chilly September evening or even a late summer BBQ on the beach.

  //  Roasted Corn and Sausage Stuffed Anaheim Peppers // Serves 6-8
As I mentioned above, these can be made with green bell peppers instead of Anaheims. I'd say you'd only be able to stuff about 4 bell peppers though. If you don't eat pork, you can substitute ground beef or even some crumbled tempeh to make it vegetarian. Finally, I like bold flavors and lots of spice. If you're the opposite you may want to cut down on the amount of seasoning. 

2 ears of corn, shucked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds discarded and finely diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 lb ground pork
1 medium red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-8 green Anaheim peppers

Cilantro sauce:
1 clove garlic
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Queso cortijo

1. Preheat over to 400° F

2. Place corn on a baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt

3. Roast corn for 25-30 minutes, rotating several times until kernels are deep golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven to 375° F.

4. In a medium sauté pan, gently heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until onions are translucent. Add jalapeño and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, chili powder, and paprika and mix well. Add pork, red bell pepper, lime juice, and sugar. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until pork in completely done. Turn heat off and stir in 3 tablespoons bread crumbs, egg, cheddar cheese, and salt. If needed, add another tablespoon of bread crumbs so the mixture holds together.

5. Slice open the peppers from stem to tip and remove the seeds. You may need to make another perpendicular cut just below the stem so the cuts look like a capital T. (If you're using bell peppers, cut off the tops and remove seeds). Stuff the peppers with the pork filling, pressing firmly so they are well packed. Place stuffed peppers on a baking sheet. If they fall over, use tin foil in between to prop them up. Bake peppers at 375° F for 20-25 minutes. 

6. While peppers are cooking prepare the cilantro sauce. In a food processor combine the garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and sugar. Process for 2-3 minutes until well blended. Scrape sauce into a bowl and set aside.

7. When peppers are done, remove from oven. Top with cilantro sauce, queso cortijo, and avocado. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Pasta Puttanesca

It happened! We won a recipe contest! Well, sorta. We won first place in the main dish category (there were five categories), but we didn't land the big, glorious grand prize trip to Italy complete with a truffle hunt and helicopter tour of the countryside. Super sad face. But I'd probably be more disappointed about missing out on the grand prize if it wasn't our first ever recipe contest victory! Hurray for us! I honestly felt like we missed the boat on this one; while the recipe is delicious and the image is impressive, I wasn't sure it was creative or unique enough to beat out all the other great entries. But, I'm glad I was proven wrong because we now we have a KitchenAid stand mixer in "shimmering champagne gold" on the way and a years supply of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to boot. I'm already brainstorming what I can whip up in that mixer and Noah is has made a list of what kind of attachments we "need". My vote is for the grain mill so we can make our own flours (for pasta!) and maybe the meat grinder/sausage stuffer so we can experiment with homemade meaty things. Mmmmmm... I've decided that I need to figure out how to make a living as a full time recipe developer because as you may have noticed I spend the majority of the day dreaming up recipe ideas. My bookcase is 90% filled with cookbooks and bon appetit magazines and our pantry/fridge looks far more like a commercial kitchen (read: containers full of experiments and sauces) than a "normal" person's pantry/fridge. The idea of waking up in the morning and drinking a cup of coffee while planning out which recipes I want to work on that day is simply glorious... Or which recipe contests I want to enter.... Or which blog post I need to write... Someday soon I hope. Ok, enough chitchat, I'm sure you're all dying to know what the winning dish is. So, without further ado, the victorious recipe!!

//Shrimp Pasta Puttanesca// Serves 4-6
I used heirloom tomatoes here and they were so delicious - sweet, juicy, and beautifully colored. If heirlooms are not available, any firm tomato will do, really. Try to choose locally grown, though, because if they travel up from Mexico they're likely to be bland and lackluster. This would also make a great vegetarian dish minus the shrimp and bacon. Instead, try tempeh or throw in some white beans for a bit of protein. 

½ lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons chives or green onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil + 1 tablespoon for sautéing

Pasta Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium shallots or 3 small yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs tomatoes, diced
¼ cup white wine
2 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup nicoise (black) olives + 1 tablespoon olive brine
½ cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1 ½ tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme or 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 oz linguini or spaghetti noodles
1 tablespoon salt
drizzle of olive oil
1/3 pound bacon, cooked until crispy, chopped
½ cup grated parmesan

1. Place the shrimp, 2 cloves of minced garlic, lemon juice, chives, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small bowl and let marinate for 20-30 minutes

2. To make the puttanesca sauce, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and 4 cloves of minced garlic and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes

3. Add tomatoes to onions and continue to cook over low-medium heat until tomatoes start to break down and juices are released, about 5 minutes

4. Add the white wine, capers, olives, brine, artichoke hearts, fresh or dried herbs, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. Turn heat to low and simmer until sauce is reduced and thick, about 15-20 minutes (maybe more depending on how juicy your tomatoes are)

5. While the sauce is simmering, prepare the shrimp. Gently heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat, then add the shrimp and marinade. Cook for 1 minute on each side or until the shrimp are bright red and the tails have curled in. Turn off heat and add shrimp plus juices to the pasta sauce

6. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot filled with water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and drizzle of olive oil. Cook the noodles until al dente, about 7-8 minutes. Drain.

7. Serve pasta and sauce topped with chopped bacon and parmesan. Enjoy!

Waldorf Salad Baked Brie

Noah and I have been operating in a slightly crazed fashion for the past month or so, spending mornings in the kitchen trying and testing new recipes, setting up the camera for afternoon photo shoots, and manically jotting down food ideas on bits of scrap paper (the last one is primarily just me). All the while working our day jobs and attempting to maintain our somewhat desolate social lives. Why? Because we’ve discovered the frenzied world of recipe competitions. It all started one morning as I lay in bed trying to figure out how I could make money while cooking and developing recipes at home - no more clocking in and out at work, no more dealing with cranky customers, just eating ice cream at 10am (for blog research of course). I knew recipe competitions were a thing, so I googled it and came up with a great website that lists current competitions by deadline. Boom. I was hooked. That morning I even made a separate calendar on my computer just for recipe competition cutoff dates. I know. Ridiculous. And, yes I am a competitive person by nature (my brother and I used to compare our lacrosse goalie bruises to see who’s was “the best”) and yes this may become a serious addition. But for now its fun (even if we don't win every competition, sigh) plus we’re getting some great recipes and photos for Traveling Fork. It's a win-win situation! On the flip side, we’ve probably doubled our grocery bill that was already twice the normal persons budget and our fridge is literally bursting with photo shoot leftovers and experiments in the works. I will probably need to double my yoga workouts too....   

The following recipe is the upshot of our first ever entry in the recipe competition world. It was sponsored by California Walnuts in partnership with the Waldorf Astoria hotel in NYC and the challenge was to “refresh” the classic Waldorf salad. Alas, we did not win, but we got a great recipe and some beautiful pictures out of it. This would be a great dish to share at a late-summer brunch when figs are fresh in season and absolutely delicious. 

// Waldorf Salad Bake Brie // Serves 6-8
If you want something lighter, you can replace the brie with some warmed goat cheese and serve the salad and toast on the side.  But who wouldn't want brie? 

For the walnut caramel: 
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnut halves
pinch of salt

For the salad dressing:
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of anise powder 
generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped

1/2 large apple or 1 small, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 cup frisee
4-6 ripe figs, quartered
1 wheel of brie
Sliced artisan bread, toasted

1. For the walnuts, heat the sugar over medium-low heat until it starts to turn into a liquid. When the sugar is melted, quickly stir in the butter and heavy cream. the mixture will bubble a bit, but will eventually die down. Turn off heat and stir in vanilla, walnuts, and salt. Set aside. 

2. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Place the brie in a small over-safe dish such as a cast iron skillet or pie plate. Bake the brie for about 20 minutes or until very soft to the touch. Remove from oven and prepare the rest of the dish

3. To make the salad dressing, whisk together the honey, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, olive oil, anise, salt and mint

4. In a large bowl toss together the apple, celery, frisee, and salad dressing. Spoon the walnut caramel on top of the baked brie (reheat if necessary) and arrange about 1/4 of the salad over the walnuts. Top with fresh figs. Serve the remaining salad on the side (or on side plates) with toasted artisan bread.