While my friends from out of town were visiting, we took them on a small “tourist tour” of Seattle, and that of course included a stop at Pike Place Market. While there, trying not to spend all my money since I didn’t have a lot after a week of vacation, I discovered one of the booths has recently started selling Spenger products. They had samples of the vinegars and I immediately fell in love with the blackberry balsamic. If you pay attention to my blog, you’ll know, I love balsamic in all its forms — and I could have happily brought home the vintage, the raspberry, and the fig as well — the blackberry is exquisite. It’s this perfect blend of sweet and tang, that lends itself perfectly to anything from salmon to pancakes (both of which I’ve done this week). I highly recommend this particular flavour, if you like a balsamic you can experiment with in sweet and savory without having to do much to it. This morning, I made a Dutch Baby for breakfast, and topped it with some of the balsamic, slightly reduced, with some frozen strawberries tossed in as it heated, and mashed to mingle the flavours. It was heavenly.
I like to cook ahead where I can, when I know there’ll be a lot of oven usage in a single day. So since tomorrow will be busy enough with making dinner, even just for two (E decided she wanted ham for dinner, I don’t do ham as previously discussed), it’s still a production. Mainly because I’m cooking and I like it that way!
So I did finally decide on dessert. I made a caramel-filled chocolate tart, only sadly I’m currently without a tart pan, so it ended in up a nice
pie cake pan.
More pictures and recipe after the cut…
Not baking yet, just plotting.
I have a friend coming to visit from Boston in a couple of weeks. It’s a trip out, for her birthday, she and another friend are flying west, we’re going up to Canada to meet a couple of other friends, and hang out for a few days. Since it’s her birthday, I offered to make a cake or something, and asked what she wanted.
Her initial question was “can you make cheesecake?” I laughed. My mother is a cheesecake goddess, and I learned well.
My friend wasn’t much help in figuring out what KIND of cheesecake to make though, so I prodded her best friend, the one who is coming out to visit as well, and was told “her favourite thing is pumpkin cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.”
Mm, okay, I’ve never actually had Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. It’s against my religion to eat non-homemade cheesecake. So I went, and I looked, and… it looks uninspiring.
But I love pumpkin, so I’m just debating what to do with it. K doesn’t like ginger, so that kills my gingersnap crust idea, but I’m thinking half graham crackers, half pecans will work. Pumpkin cheesecake with a hint of bourbon, and swirled caramel on top. Or layered, plain cheesecake and pumpkin, with a thin layer of plain on top… I don’t know! There are a number of combinations floating around in my head and I haven’t settled on one yet.
I need to soon though, they’ll be here Jan 7, and her birthday is the 8th, but we’re heading straight up north after we pick them up from the airport on the 7th, so I have to do this by the 6th.
And I still haven’t decided on Christmas desset yet.
So, my roommates usually go “home” for Christmas (home being about 15 minutes away). I’ve joined them a couple of times, and found that it was not my cup of tea. I don’t do the religious side of Christmas, and I felt sort of an outsider. Except when I had to step in and save dinner for them last year, because their mom, who is not exactly skilled in the kitchen, bought an uncooked ham and thought for some reason it was cooked (!!) until she opened it up. Me to the rescue, a bunch of random cobbled-together ingredients later, their ham was in the oven and Christmas dinner was saved.
Except for the part where, I don’t eat ham, and everything else that was going into dinner was laden with fat and sugar and pre-packaged frightening ingredients. As I’ve also been actively losing weight for the past couple of years, this wasn’t my idea of an acceptable meal, and I begged out of it, coming home and preparing a much smaller, healthier feast for myself.
This year is different, however, because while the girls are going to their parents in the morning, they’ll both be home for dinner, since they have to work the next day and can’t/don’t want to stay late over there. Add in that one of them was very recently diagnosed with hypertension, and simply can’t eat her mother’s cooking… well, you get the idea.
So I’m gearing up to make a Christmas dinner that will fill all the various voids, be healthy, as low-sodium as humanly possible (so no brined turkey, sadly! I was going to use my mother’s oh-so-yummy brining technique from Thanksgiving too… *sigh*), and still tasty.
I’ve played with this amazing balsamic reduction lately that I may end up doing as a glaze on the turkey. It’s sort of a by-taste thing, but the gist of it:
1 cup good balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey, or maple syrup
1-2 tsp (to taste) ground ginger
(normally a pinch of salt, I’ll be leaving that out this time)
optional: a pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
Combine in a pot over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, turn heat down, let simmer and reduce. You’ll end up a with a nice, thick glaze that’s sweet and spicy and tastes amazing on poultry. Adjust all ingredient amounts depending on the size of the meat you’ll be covering.
(I also do a marinade of the above ingredients and some olive oil and whatever herbs are handy, obviously not reduced, that tastes divine on steak.)
I think I’ll end up grilling some sweet potatoes, and I’ll make a small pot of mashed potatoes for the roommate who isn’t on the low-sodium diet, since they are her favourite thing in the entire world. My secret to mashed potatoes is two-fold: First, the water I cook the potatoes in is half-water, half-chicken stock. And when I go to mash them, I melt the butter and combine it with heavy cream in a small saucepan, with pepper and any other seasonings I may be using that day, before pouring it onto the potatoes. They are, according to E, who is a mashed potato junkie, the best things ever.
I may make another pot of my cranberry-ginger chutney as well (recipe to follow later when I can find it again), because J absolutely loved it, and so did I.
Lots of veggies, cauliflower, broccoli — although I can’t eat it! *weeps* I’m actually allergic to broccoli, can you believe it?? And I LOVE it! — edamame… I think I’ll borrow my mother’s salad from Thanksgiving; spinach, fresh pomegranate seeds, goat cheese and red onion with a light vinaigrette of some form.
Dessert eludes me, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. I always do. There have been requests for pecan pie, and for my chocolate cookie/whipped cream/cherry concoction, but I don’t know. I’m feeling like I want to try something totally new this year. Something lighter than pecan pie, for sure, and not frozen like the layered cookie extravaganza.
Stay tuned, as I figure that one out, for more recipes, and for pictures!
We all have to start somewhere, right? So I’m joining the ranks of the food bloggers, how many of us are there now? Too many to keep proper track of, I’m sure. I hope I’ll find a niche and a home here. What better to start with but my recipe for a good blog:
Take one unpaid unprofessional chef.
Add a heaping cup of writing talent.
A pinch of sense of humour.
1 rounded tablespoon of snark.
2 teaspoons creativity.
Mix well. Set aside to
fester mingle the flavours. Bake in the sunshine until it looks done; beware, poking may result in being bitten. Sprinkle with some sweetness, and sit back to enjoy with your favourite cup of tea or adult beverage, depending on the time of day. Best enjoyed with a dose of understanding and a lack of ego. When in doubt, get your hands dirty, and play!