Roasted Garlic Jelly for Foodie Fun

Garlic Jelly Jar 1It’s the holidays and we are down to less than one week until Christmas Day. Yikes! If you are anything like me, you probably either a) have not started on your gift list (not me this year, yay!) or b) are stressing over those last few gifts…you know, for the folks that have all they [think] they want sans the winning multi-million dollar lottery ticket.  My office buddy and I are kind of in that last boat together  this year.  What to get for those last few names still on our lists while simultaneously trying to overcome the dread of having to brave the frantic shopping town centers.  Enter the realm of Do It Yourself (DIY)! Now don’t panic if you are thinking about how empty the craft store shelves are by now, because you likely won’t need anything too seasonal for this idea…because you’ll be doing most of your shopping at the grocery store!

A fun, food themed gift basket or goodie bag is always a hit with my circle of friends. You may recall the Vanilla Salt I shared with you two years ago. That yearGarlic Jelly Cheese Bread 2 I also made Thai-Chili Sugar, and Mulling Spice packets. Last year I made the delicious Roasted Garlic Jelly I am sharing with you today. This year…well I can’t quite tell you the exact details since some of the receivers are reading this…but it involves some fun baskets. For example one friend, who recently moved her family in with her new honey’s family, is going to get a package of family friendly fun things they can make with the kiddos. Another is getting complimentary recipes and pre-made mixes to go with items I bought her off of her Christmas wish list. My dad is getting a basket of NCIS DVDs tucked alongside jars of homemade pop-corn seasoning, cute popcorn themed bowls, and popcorn kernels.

Feeling less panicked now?

So back to this Roasted Garlic Jelly.

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray 2Almost everyone makes this face when I say “garlic jelly”.  I think Emilie is the only one that didn’t raise an eyebrow.  Yes, yes, it sounds weird, but trust me this stuff is quite delicious. Have you ever had a clove of roasted garlic? Don’t you remember how it’s pungent flavor mellowed out and took on some caramelized sweetness?  I think you see where I am going with this now. Roasted garlic jelly is different, but it’s still a sweet jelly with just the faintest bit of tang (that would be the vinegar) and aroma of delicious, roasted garlic. This juxtaposition is precisely what will make this such a fun gift for your friends and family.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Roasted Garlic Jelly

Fills 6-8, 4 ounce jelly jars. Recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Ingredients:

  • 3  heads garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces pouches liquid pectin (typically two packages)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Slice off the tops of  the garlic heads to expose the cloves. Place each head on a small square of aluminum foil.Garlic Jelly Expose Cloves
  3. Over each head, pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar, approximately a tablespoon each per garlic head.Garlic Jelly balsamic
  4. Wrap the foil squares loosely around the garlic heads and roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Let garlic heads sit until  cool enough to handle. Unwrap from foil and  squeeze each head to push out the softened cloves  into a medium saucepan. Discard skins.
    Garlic Jelly roasted garlic heads     Garlic Jelly roasted garlic cloves
  6. In a the same pan, add the wine, water, white balsamic vinegar and peppercorns to the roasted garlic.  Over medium heat (gentle now!) bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to boil gently for 5 minutes.Garlic Jelly Making Garlic Juice
  7. Cover sauce pan and remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes.
  8. Line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a large,  dampened coffee filter.  Place strainer over a deep bowl.
    Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 1            Garlic Jelly Strain Garlic Juice 2
  9. Pour garlic mixture through the lined strainer into the bowl.  Let drip, undisturbed, for about 30 minutes.  You should end up with about 1 2/3 cups garlic juice. If you end up with less, add up to 1/4 cup dry wine or water.
  10. As garlic “juice” is draining,  prepare canner, jars, and lids by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and boiling your jars and lids for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, but keep jars in hot water until ready to jar for up to an hour. Any longer and you will need to re-sterilize.Green Tomato Preserves Sanitzing Jars
  11. Transfer garlic juice to a large saucepan and stir in lemon juice and sugar.Garlic Jelly adding sugar
  12. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil.
  13. Stir in pectin and return to a boil. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then remove from heat and quickly skim off foam.
    Garlic Jelly adding liquid pectin    Garlic Jelly skimming
  14. Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. (This jelly sets quickly!)
  15. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
  16. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.Garlic Jelly hot water bath
  17. Once processed, remove from  canner.  As they cool, you’ll hear the lids “pop” as the jars seal.  To test whether the jar has sealed, press your finger against the middle of the lid.  If it springs up, it has not sealed.
  18.  Allow the jars to cool before storing.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve as a cheese and fruit tray condiment
  • Use as a savory/sweet glaze on pork or chicken
  • Stir a tablespoon or two into risotto
  • Spread on toast (with bacon!)

Garlic Jelly Cheese Tray

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Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting – The Best Way to That Tangy Cream Cheese Flavor

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 1

‘Tis the season for cream cheese frosting!  No, scratch that. Cream cheese frosting is in season all year ’round. However, once we begin donning our sweaters and coats as the holiday season goes into full swing, so too begins the season of never ending, delicious baked goods fresh from our piping hot ovens that we devour without abandon until the dawn of New Year’s Day. Who hasn’t salivated over a cream cheese stuffed pumpkin muffin or a wonderfully spicy slice of gingerbread loaf topped with cream cheese frosting? Not to mention perennial favorites also slathered in tangy cream cheese deliciousness, such as Red Velvet, Carrot, and (one of my favorites) Hummingbird cake. Yes, let the baking bonanza begin!

The very first frosting I ever made from scratch was cream cheese frosting. Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 5 You’ve heard me tell you before how, growing up, food came out of a box, can, or jar.  Imagine my surprise as I watched a bar of softened cream cheese and a bag of powdered sugar whip up into a creamy, rich frosting for our (box mix) Christmas gingerbread loaf.  My sister and I were totally fascinated.  Now that I think about it, that was probably that point when I was bitten by the cooking bug.  No longer would frozen chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes from a box…or a tub of frosting…suffice.

Since that long ago Christmas, I’ve come to desire more than just the taste of sugar.  I think that just happens as you grow older (For example, I can’t bare the Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 6sweetness of milk chocolate anymore. It literally hurts my teeth lol). You may have noticed from some of my cupcake posts that I shy away from American style buttercream, which is based on powdered sugar for structure.  Instead, I often go for Italian or Swiss style buttercream, which utilize meringued egg whites and less sugar.  Oh, the lovely layers of flavor! That’s why when I came across cooked cream cheese frosting in my research for a cupcake inspired by an experience at my grandmother’s grave site (not as morbid as it sounds, I promise) I had to share it with you all.

If you are a cream cheese frosting fan, I promise you will adore the frosting you get out of this technique.  It preserves so much more of that distinctive tangy flavor, plus that luscious creaminess.  Excited yet? I hope so!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 4

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_sugar and flour
  2. Whisk milk into the flour mixture.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_adding milk
  3. Place saucepan over medium heat. Continue to whisk flour mixture to create a smooth paste.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste
  4. Bring flour mixture to a gentle simmer. Continue stirring.  Allow to cook until a thick, sticky pudding like consistency is met. Do not leave the stove during this time; the sugar will quickly burn. (Lesson learned: a little caramelization is salvageable).Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste simmering
  5. Scrape flour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste into mixer
  6. Whip on high for about 10 minutes or until the cooked flour mixture has cooled. (Warning: if the flour mixture is too warm, the final frosting may turn out too soft to hold its shape. Read about the Battle of Buttercream Hill here.)
  7. Lower mixer speed to medium high and add vanilla extract.
  8. Add butter, whipping until incorporated.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_add butter
  9. Whip in the softened cream cheese one bar at a time.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_adding creamed cheese
  10. Return mixer speed to high and whip frosting until thick and fluffy.  If frosting is too soft, add the optional 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to give the frosting more structure.
    Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_whipped frosting Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_powdered sugar for structure
  11. Chill before use for easier work-ability. The frosting will keep its shape at room temperature, but its definitely more messy to work with!Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 2 Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 3

 

Creamy Garlic Jalapeño Sauce

Nothing causes me more dread than going to the DMV in a new state to change my car registration and driver’s license. I’ve only done it 3 times, but I hate it so much I once waited until my previous registration had expired and I got a ticket before finally making the trip. I’d rather go to the dentist than the DMV any day of the week. Here in Texas though, that feeling of dread only doubled because instead of going to the DMV, you have to go to the County Tax Assessors and the Department of Public Safety. Who created this ridiculous process of needing to visit 2 agencies to finalize residnecy, made all the more difficult when neither is open on the after 5pm or on the weekend?! How does the state expect a new resident, who probably has no vacation time yet, to get your car registered within 30 days when they can only go during work hours! Clearly, this was not a task I was looking forward to completing.

Lucky for me, my new company’s leave policies are pretty generous, and I was able to use a vacation day within a month of starting. So I took Friday off, woke up at 6, and was in line at the County Tax Assessor’s  office 10 minutes before it opened – sans coffee or breakfast. Despite the byzantine process required for residency, I was in and out of both offices by 8:30, under an hour. I was amazed at the speed and efficiency of the individuals who helped me. Pleasantly surprised, I decided to celebrate my success, and fill my growling tummy, with breakfast tacos – like the real Austinite I had just become.

I stopped at Taco Deli on the way home and ordered the Otto and the Jess Special tacos. While waiting, I collected several salsas from the bar, including something they called Doña sauce, a bright green creamy sauce. Back at home, I liberally spread the jalepeño-based sauce on my taco, took a bite, and added more sauce. This stuff was amazing, addictive even, and I knew I needed to put it on everything in site. I only had a small container full, and needed to figure out how to get more. Raiding Taco Deli seemed ill advised, so I clearly needed to recreate it at home.

The sauce is a deceptively simple combination of  jalepeños and garlic, oil, and salt and pepper. Similar recipes boiled the peppers and left the garlic raw, but I was nervous about the over powering flavor of raw garlic, so I decided to roast the them together and pureed them until smooth- although next time I might try smoking them with mesquite wood for a deeper flavor. It’s an easy, straight-forward recipe that leaves plenty of room for additional creativity for those so inclined.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - cream sauce on tacos one

Creamy Garlic Jalapeño Sauce

1 pound jalapeños
2 heads of garlic
⅓ cup virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

1)     Place a large cast iron pan or griddle in the oven and pre-heat to 325ºF. While the oven pre-heats, separate the garlic, leaving the thin papery cover on the cloves. You’ll need about 12 large and x-large cloves of garlic. Any cloves that are too small will burn and be unusable.

2)     Toss the garlic cloves and jalapeños with a drizzle of olive oil and put in the oven on the pre-heated cast iron. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until the garlic and jalapeños are soft. Stir at ⅓ and ⅔ of the way through.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - place the peppers & garlic in a pan

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - stir half way through roasting

3)     Once the garlic and jalapeños have finished roasting, place them into plastic container or plastic bag and seal tightly. Let sit for 15-20 minutes, until everything is cool enough to handle.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - finished roasting

4)     Carefully remove the skin from the jalapeños. Slice the skinless jalapeño open and scrape out the seeds. Toss the seeded and skinned jalapeños into a blender or food processor with the peeled roasted garlic cloves.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - puree garlic and peppers

5)     Turn on the blender on puree and slowly drizzle the oil into the blender, add about a 1½ teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper and blend for an addition 30 seconds.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - season with salt and pepper

6)      Once the sauce is complete, you can store it in the fridge in a squeeze bottle for months – if you don’t finish it first. It is wonderful on fried avocados, baked salmon, nachos, and – of course – tacos, like Ruth’s shrimp tacos. Shake vigorously between uses, as minor separation may occur.

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - store in a squeeze bottle in the fridge

Jalepeno Cream Sauce - cream sauce on tacos 2

Let’s Get Crafty: Wine Cork Christmas Wreath

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, and while many people are out battling each other over the latest and greatest children’s toy, I am decorating for Christmas. Growing up, the third Friday in November was always about setting up the Christmas tree, decking the mantel with garland and stockings, and hanging Christmas lights along the roof.  The third Friday of November was the start of Christmas season.

Wine Cork Wreath - finished up close

This year, I’m really excited to hang my first Christmas wreath on the front door. I know, how is it possible I’ve never had a Christmas Wreath?! As someone who loves adding meaningful personal details when decorating, I’ve always shied away from store bought wreathes so I’ve never had one for our front door. This year, though, as I was unpacking all of our moving boxes, I realized I had a lot of wine corks, and what better way to create a personalized wreath than to use wine corks from all the bottles of wine I’ve shared with friends and family.

Wine Cork Wreath - finished full doorAfter a little research, and dozens of wine cork wreath tutorials, I finally settled on a DIY tutorial from Save-on-Crafts as my base inspiration.  By adding some Christmas-like berries and a greenery center piece, I was able to take the simple wreath to the next level.

This is a simple, inexpensive craft that cost me about $15 in supplies – not including all the wine I had to drink. If you want to make your own wreath this year, but are short on corks, make friends with your local bartenders and ask them to hold corks for you and ask wineries or grocery store tasting booths (like at Trader Joe’s) if they have any they can save for you.

How To Make Your Own Wine Cork Christmas Wreath

Materials
12-inch straw wreath form
floral wire or string
approximately 200 wine corks*
5-6 sprigs of faux berries
greenery and decorations for center piece
hot glue gun
high-temp glue sticks, at least 8

First, sort through your corks and set aside any that have special meaning for you. For example, I made sure to set aside at least one cork from each Virginia and Texas winery I’ve visited as well as any corks I found particularly pretty or touching. These will be the top level of your wreath and the corks people will see when they look at the cork. Any corks you have lots of or aren’t inspiring can form the bottom, hidden layer.

Next, tie a string or floral wire to the wreath for hanging the finished
product. I tied two peices of floral wire around the wreath, about 2 inches apart, and then connected them with a third wire, which would support the wreath.

Wine Cork Wreath - attach the wire

 

Start by gluing the corks along the inside of the wreath form in a straight line. You will almost certainly come to a point near the end where the corks will not line up as you’d likeand you will have repress the OCD and just make it work. I happened to have a few abnormally short corks and I squeezed one of those into that space, you could also trim another cork smaller, or just lay them out slightly askew. 

Wine Cork Wreath - starting the 1st layer

Remember to leave the back of the wreath empty so that it will lie flat against the wall or door.

Wine Cork Wreath - wonky corks

Continue with the first layer of corks, lining them up flat against the wreath until it is mostly covered. You want to line these up as closely as possible to minimize areas of visible straw.

Wine Cork Wreath - completed first layer

Begin layering the second level of corks, arranging to cover gaps in the first layer of corks. This is where you get to start being artistic with your arrangement.

Wine Cork Wreath - starting the 2ndlater

While creating the second layer of corks, you should start arranging small bunches of berries throughout the layer. I used inexpensive styrofoam berry picks from Michael’s Christmas collection, but the exact type of berries used is totally up to you and what you feel most comfortable using.

Wine Cork Wreath - 2nd layer 60%

At this point you are going to start wanting to think about what and where you want the wreath’s center piece. I decided to place mine slightly above center on the right side of the wreath.

I began by arranging the main piece of the greenery – a Christmas pick with a red bird I bought at Michael’s Craft – and attaching it with floral wire and a little hot glue. I then cut small branches from basic greenery picks and used those to fill in the center piece.

Wine Cork Christmas Wreath - centerpiece up close

 

Once the center piece was arranged the way I wanted, I finished attached the last of my wine corks and berries. I let it sit for a few days and then double checked my corks to make sure they were all secure. Then it is ready to hang on your front door or anywhere else you might like to put it!

Preparing Pomegranates – A Little Patience Is All You Need

Pomegranate Prep_fresh fruit arils 1Emilie and I met during our last year of college.  She an International Affairs major and I a Political Science/Sociology major, our paths crossed in Comparative Government of Western Europe. Our professor’s trick at remembering all our names was to “attach” us to our favorite fruit.  After about half a class’ worth of apples, peaches, strawberries, grapes, and bananas he got to the nearly six foot red-head.  I remember her smiling mischievously before announcing, “Pomegranate.” It wasn’t necessarily her favorite fruit that was memorable, but our professor’s reaction. He was completely taken back by surprise and the whole class erupted in laughter.  Now that’s how you get people to remember you, right? Yup, that was a pretty fun semester.  I’m pretty sure Emilie was our professor’s favorite student lol.

Anyway, the reason I bring up the luscious pomegranate is that the fruit is in Pomegranate Prep_fresh fruit 2season.  Harvested between September and November, you’re likely to find pomegranates in grocery stores through January.  Yay! I mean, I love pomegranate juice, but the tasty, juicy arils that burst in your mouth with just the slightest crunch  are a delicious and rare treat.  That is why when I saw a huge bin of the beautiful fruits in the produce section I looked past the sticker shock (2 for $5…not too horribly bad) and I went for it.

Pomegranate Prep_arilsSo before we go any further, first thing’s first. How do you select a good fruit? Do you look for bruising and vivid color like apples and pears? How about a gentle squeeze like peaches? Or maybe smell like pineapple and mangoes? Nah, and especially don’t be fooled by a pomegranate’s color. Pick the fruit up. The heavier the fruit, the more juice it will contain. I’d say select a pomegranate that is heavy for its size, but I think they all feel heavy for their size lol.

And it’s no wonder. Pomegranates are very generous (They better be after thePomegranate Prep_fresh fruit arils mason jar work it takes to prepare them!)! I can’t believe how many arils I harvested from one single fruit. I was absolutely tickled pink to eat these beautiful, ruby red,  juicy jewels by the spoon full.

Now it’s your turn!

 How to Prepare a Pomegranate

  1. Fill a large bowl about halfway with water.  You will be submerging the pomegranate in the water, so be sure there is room so that the water doesn’t spill too horribly bad.Pomegranate Prep_Water Bowl
  2. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the top off of the pomegranate.  You’re aiming for about half an  inch below the crown.Pomegranate Prep_slice off top
  3. Locate the sections of the pomegranate, which are divided by a white membrane.  Score the pomegranate skin along each section using the membranes as a guide.Pomegranate Prep_score skin
  4. Submerge the pomegranate in the bowl of water. With both hands, carefully pull the pomegranate apart, breaking it into smaller sections.Pomegranate Prep_seperate sections
  5. Keeping the pomegranate section under water, use your fingers to loosen the arils, which will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Pieces of loosened membrane will float to the top. Scoop any floating membrane out of the bowl with a spoon or your hands.Pomegranate Prep_seperate arils with fingers
  6. Pour the remaining contents of the bowl through a strainer, or use a wire spider or mesh scoop to separate the loosened arils from the water.Pomegranate Prep_scoop

Arils may be eaten as is or used in a myriad of delicious recipes.  I will be serving mine at Thanksgiving as the finishing touch to my dish of pan roasted butterkin squash, wilted spinach, and blue cheese crumbles.

Storage: Pomegranates keep for a very long time.  They’ll keep about a month on your kitchen counter and two months in the fridge.  The arils will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge if properly stored in an airtight container. 

Pomegranate Prep_fresh fruit 3

 

Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandma

Grilled Salmon Cakes 1Just a smidgen over a week ago our neighborhoods were haunted by the cutest little gremlins in search of a sugar rush.  Like many of the major holiday’s in western society, Halloween is grounded in Christian tradition (sans Sexy Pizza Slice of course) and is the vigil to All Souls Day, a feast day of the Catholic church dedicated to the souls of those who have gone before us.  I’ll be the first to admit that my catechism is horrible and that my faith’s dogma often rubs me the wrong way, but All Souls Day is a feast I find comforting and beautiful. In my parish, the church hangs a ceiling to floor scroll on which the names of those who died in the past 12 months are listed.  Although not on the list, my paternal grandmother, a stalwart Baptist (over 200 years of ministers in her family!) who left us on 27 February, was in my prayers as the mass was celebrated.

Salmon Cakes internmentAs I said, my grandmother died in February.  However, we were unable to bury her until the end of May.  I’ll spare you the family drama that ensued, but on that lovely spring weekend my parents and I loaded up for the eight hour drive to the family cemetery in south eastern Kentucky where my father’s maternal ancestors have been placed to rest for the past 200+  years (My grandmother’s line has several original families that migrated from Virginia and North Carolina to settle Kentucky. One was even BFFs with Daniel Boone. Crazy!)

I don’t think its a surprise that my dad and his middle sister reminisced over theirSalmon Cakes reminiscing favorite dishes their mom used to make them.  My youngest cousin (a vegetarian) and I cringed at some of them…I mean I love bacon, but my arteries (and hips) can only take some much bacon grease lol.   Apparently Grandma cooked everything in the stuff.  However, this is one dish that I swear causes everyone a foodgasm: Grandma’s salmon cakes.

Grilled Salmon Cakes 2Ever since I was little, these salmon cakes always came up when we talked about Grandma, especially during holiday meals since, as a Marine family, we were always far away from either of my parents’ families.    I think I was 10 years old the first time I had these. We were in between over-seas tours, where you have to return state-side even if just for a little bit, and we spent it in Indianapolis with my dad’s family.  Canned pink salmon (my dad actually pronounces the “l”, arg!) patted together in mayonnaise to form the cakes, fried in bacon grease, and served over buttermilk biscuits and smothered in a bacon grease based gravy…and of course crumbled bacon. Oh dear me, they are sooooo soooo good.

GMP_Grandma w Dale Sherry Dixie 1But like I said, I can only take so much bacon grease…and my parents’, with their blood pressure and cholesterol issues…yeah, no, no, no!

That’s how I came up with this salmon cake recipe.  Loaded with smokey, grilled flavor and topped with a creamy, but light coleslaw (I prefer Greek yogurt, but since I made these for my dad, I used an olive oil based mayo)…it is satisfying enough for even my very picky, picky dad (and mom) in between treat times where I’ll cave and give them the bacon grease…not too often now…they have grandchildren to watch grow up!

Salmon Cakes Grilling

 

Grilled Salmon Cakes

makes 10-12 slider sized cakes

Ingredients

  • ½ pound grilled salmon
  • 1/3 cup green onion whites, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun or seafood blackening seasoning
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons or more vegetable oil as needed for frying pan

Directions

  • With a fork, flake the grilled salmon once it has cooled enough for safe handling.  Add the flaked salmon to a large mixing bowl.
    Salmon Cakes grill 1     Salmon Cakes flaking fish
  • Into the same bowl, add the onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, seasoning, egg, and parsley. Use your hands or a flat spatula to mix the ingredients together.
    Salmon Cakes everything in the bowl
  • Add panko bread crumbs to the salmon mixture and fold gently.
  • Take 1/4 – 1/3 cup of salmon mixture and shape into ball.  Carefully press ball into a flattened cake.  Repeat with remaining salmon.Salmon Cakes forming 1 Salmon Cakes forming 2
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cook salmon cakes until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.Salmon Cakes frying pan
  • Place cooked salmon cakes on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.
  • Serve on slider potato rolls with your favorite coleslaw recipe.Grilled Salmon Cakes 3

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is almost upon us, spooky, fun , awesome Halloween. When you are a kid it is second only to Christmas – your chance to be someone or something else for one night, limited only by your parents ability to say no to you. I remember the year my mom made me an amazing pink poodle skirt. I wore a white turtle neck, little white socks with lace tops, and my hair was in a curly pony tail with a pink bandanna. I was rocking it – absolutely rocking it. Add to that the pillow case filled with free candy, the chance to go out on a school night (at least every couple of years). Halloween was awesome as a kid.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Jack O' Lanterns

As an adult, though, the act of celebrating Halloween is no longer about dressing up and being someone else – not for me at least. I have no desire to be around people who dress like “sexy” pizza slices (seriously, how is that even a thing!?!?) and don’t know how to hold their drink. Now, I love Halloween because it is the night I watch Hocus Pocus and hand out treats to the new generation of super heroes, witches, ghosts, and princesses. I love seeing all of the incredibly creative costumes and excited children.

I also love decorating for Halloween, especially carving jack-o-lanterns. In addition to creating awesome displays for my front porch, a night of pumpkin carving gives me one of the best fall snacks a person can hope for – roasted pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas. Spicy, salty, or sweet – I can eat pumpkin seeds (hull and all) by the handful, so it is a good thing they are easy to make. Tom makes the best pepitas using butter, olive oil, and seasonings, so I make him do all of the work. You can follow his simple steps to make your own this Halloween.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 2

How To Roast Perfect Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe based on 1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds

1)     Clean your fresh pumpkin seeds until they are completely clean of all pumpkin guts. Place the seeds in a large bowl and cover with cool tap water and agitate the water to help clean the seeds, picking off large piece of pumpkin meat as you go. Strain using a colander and repeat at least once more.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Clean the seeds 1 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 2 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 3

2)     Once the seeds are meticulously cleaned boil the seeds in well salted water. Bring a large sauce pan of salted water to a roiling boil, add the cleaned pumpkin seeds, and cook for 2  minutes. We use approximately 1 quart of water and ½ tablespoon of salt per cup of pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - boil the seeds

3)     Drain and dry pumpkin seeds. Drain pumpkin seeds using a large colander, tossing a couple of times to shake of excess water. Spread seeds out on a clean flour sack or tea towel and pat dry.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds 2

4)    Season and oil  the pumpkin seeds. Place dried seeds in a bowl and drizzle with a mixture of 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (per 1 cup of pepitas).  Mix the seeds well with the oil, ensuring all seeds are well coated.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 1

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 2

Spread the seeds out on a rimmed cookie sheet and season as desired. We used onion and garlic powder, fresh pepper, and seasoned salt.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 2
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 1

5)    Bake at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. Stir seeds about half way through the cooking time. Seeds are done when the outer hull is crunchy and easy to bite through.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - stir the seeds

6)     Eat! Or cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. They are good right out of the tupperware, but we like to pop them in the oven for 2 minutes at 350ºF to warm them up.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 1

Chrysalis Vineyards – How We Fell in Love With Virginia Wine

Chrysalis_Entrance SignHow do I begin this post? I mean, you read the title. Lots of expectations from lots of people on this one.  So where to start…okay, how about this? Emilie and I absolutely love Chrysalis Vineyards.  Yes, yes, we love lots of Virginia wineries, but there are two that I would call our “hang out” wineries.  These two “hang-out” wineries are places we regularly visit with the intent to spend the whole day at rather than, let’s say a winery crawl or a wine bus tour. Chrysalis Vineyards is one of those two wineries.

I first came across Chrysalis in 2009 when  Emilie and our friend Yusef introduced me to Virginia wine and the great Virginia weekend pastime of winery hopping.  Every year Yusef throws a semi-annual cook-out at Chrysalis to herald in the key winery seasons: spring and fall.  When I received my invitation,Chrysalis_E and R 2009 my first reaction was, “Virginia has wineries? How could I have not known this?” I mean, everyone at Total Wine greets me by name.  Then, “Can I wear a sun-dress?” LOL!   On the day of the party, though, driving down the one lane road along side a steep drop-off I didn’t want to roll my car down set me a little on edge. However, when the vineyards opened in front of me with all the tasting tents and the picnic blankets strewn on the grassy hills, I knew it was going to be an awesome day.

Chrysalis_pavillion shot 2009You all know from our reviews that Virginia has many, many delicious wines and fabulous wineries.  So how did we make the difficult choice of actually labeling one a “favorte”?  Well, the things that keep us coming back to spend the day at Chrysalis are also the things Emilie and I feel set it apart from the other wineries. For example, they can handle pretty large groups without requiring a reservation  or ruining the experience of smaller parties (However, Chrysalis does recommend reservations for tasting groups of 10 or greater).  They are able to do this, because they Chrysalis_Tasting Tents(currently) have several tasting tents set up. Tastings take place at certain times and when you pay for your tasting you are assigned a time and a tent. At Yusef’s Herald of Spring party, we paid for and attended tastings on our own (meaning smaller groups) in between mingling and eating and drinking wine.  I’m pretty sure Emilie and I did three tastings that day…first to introduce me to all of the Chrysalis wines…second to remind me which ones I wanted to buy and take home…and third because the wine expert at our second tasting thought Emilie and I were an absolute trip and invited us to the next tasting on the house.

What’s next?  Oh, how about the gas grills!  You may have picked up on weekend picnics at wineries being a thing here in Virginia.  Not hard to imagine as many wineries offer fabulous vistas for your picnic blanket.  However, very few offer Chrysalis_vines and fieldsfood. Maybe you’ll find a baguette or crackers and sometimes wedges of cheese and some sliced charcuterie.  Even fewer actually have built in gas grills available to their guests and at no cost or reservation.  In fact, I can’t recall any other winery that even has grills. (Maybe Casanel, but I’d have to check on that).  I think you  can imagine how many more new friends you might make with juicy burgers and plump hotdogs…or how many bottles of wine strangers will offer as a trade!

There is so much more, but the last I will mention is one near and dear to true die-hard Virginia wine fans.  Chrysalis vineyards is a huge proponent of Norton grape wines; Norton being the only native American grape that can successfullyChrysalis_2003 winning Norton create a single varietal wine with vitis vinifera like characteristics (Other American grapes, like the Muscadine, make very different style wines from those made with the European varietals and their hybrids).   In my tasting notes below you’ll hear about  several Norton and Norton blended wines Chrysalis produces. Also, the next time you are in D.C., be sure to check out the Virginia/Norton/Chrysalis shout out in the Food: Transforming the American Table exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (You know you want to see Julia Child’s kitchen anyway!)

Of course you can have all this stuff going for your winery, but the most important thing is your wine. Therefore, with out further adieu,  may I present to you my tasting notes from my most recent visit to Chrysalis, which took place earlier this month during my “Herald of Virginia Wine Month” winery crawl.

White Wines

2013 Albariño Verde – I was soooo super excited to see this wine on the tasting list!  It’s one of my favorite whites. Until this year, the only other Virginia winery I had come across that had an albariño was Willowcroft (located in Leesburg), but at the time they didn’t have it available for tasting. Chrysalis did Chrysalis_Tasting Sheetnot disappoint with this Portuguese style verde.  The wine’s zesty, lemony nose and crisp acidity will remind you of a Pinot Grigio.

2012 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay – Predominately Chardonnay with 5% albariño for aromatics (albariño can have stone fruit and floral aromas similar to Viognier), this wine is a good balance between oak and fruit, just like the winery’s tasting sheet claims. With a light, peachy nose, it has nice lemon flavors and a very light oakiness.  If you are a white wine lover and the Albariño Verde was too zippy for you, the Chardonnay will probably be more your style. For an oaked white, I found it very enjoyable.

2012 Private Reserve White – Only available for sale to club members (Emilie used to be my “in”), the Private Reserve labels are small quantity, high quality blends.  I’m not sure what grapes were used for this white blend, but from the peach and apple nose, I’d guess Viognier and/or Traminette  made the cut. From the body, vanilla,  and feint citrus I’d also take a guess at Chardonnay. Of course, Chrysalis is always experimenting with the different varietals and with over 20 types grown in the vineyards, i’m sure there are one or two other grapes Chrysalis_Welcome Signplaying in this wine.

2012 Viognier – For non-club members like me, the Viognier is similar to the Private Reserve White, but with more peach. Chrysalis chose to focus on the fruit than floral nature of this varietal. Though you’ll get a little bit of pretty fruit blossoms, the Viognier has crisp acidity balanced out by a light oak. Think candied lemon rind and vanilla.

Rosé Wines

2012 Mariposa – This dry rosé style wine is a blend of four varietals, including the Norton which lends its deep fruity character to give this wine a little bit o’ something that typical rosés lack.  You’ll still get the strawberry flavors, but with deeper body and a bit of tart cherry.

Semi-sweet Wines

2013 Sarah’s Patio White – This semi-sweet white blend is made from Vidal Blanc and Traminette grapes.  You’ll smell the fruit blossoms from the Traminette and taste the juicy tropical fruits from the Vidal Blanc.  I was excited to actually taste the pineapple ( I LOVE PINEAPPLE!!!), as wines like this are more likely to lean towards the less acidic tones bananas and mangoes.

2013 Sarah’s Patio Red – Emilie and I always have this wine on hand in our wine racks.  We also always buy a bottle to enjoy on the grounds at the “Herald of Spring” and Herald of Fall” picnics our friend Yusef hosts. This wine is 100%Chrysalis_Smithsonian Exhibit 2 Norton, a grape native to North America. Unlike other American grapes, such as muscadine, niagra, and concord,  Norton grapes can produce a dry, red wine similar to vitis vinifera grapes. This Norton, however, is a semi-sweet wine, and so the winemakers pulled out the jammy, fruitiness of the Norton. It has a bold grapiness with dried cherry and raisin.  Though sweet, it is not cloyingly sweet. Served chilled, this is a summer crowd pleaser for both red and white wine drinkers.

Red Wines

2011 Estate Bottled Norton – Now here is what sets a Norton apart from wines made from other American grapes.  If you have ever tasted a muscadine Chrysalis_Smithsonian Exhibit 1wine when visiting the South, for example, you’ll notice that they are typically sweet, but more distinctly that the wine has this musky characteristic.  The term commonly used is “foxy”. Some Nortons do maintain this “foxiness”, but Chrysalis is one of the Virginia wineries taking the lead on musk free Norton wines. Don’t believe me? Visit the Smithsonian U.S. History Museum where Chrysalis and their work with the Norton is featured in the Food: Transforming the American Table exhibit. (Horton Vineyards makes a very good Norton, too).  The 2011 Estate Bottled Norton has a complex nose of dried fruit, but tobacco and spice. It is a medium bodied wine with bright cherry, pepper, and tobacco.  I thought it had a nice, clean earthy nuance in the finish.  Of course I brought this one home with me.

2011 Rubiana – A beautiful garnet color, this wine is made from Tinta Cão, varietal from Portugal.  Though still a medium bodied wine like the Norton, the Rubiana moves more to spice than fruit.  This is a nice, smokey spicy wine with bright red cherry.  On the nose you’ll even smell chocolate! Though we didChrysalis_Behind Sarah Patio not do any food pairings, I have a feeling that a piece of dark chocolate will show you a whole new side of mellower, smooooooth Rubiana.

2010 Tannat – 80% Tannat, this wine also has a little bit of Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, and even a surprise: 4% Viognier. We getting a bit bolder as we move along. That spice and smoke we got in the Rubiana now takes center stage.  You’ll get vanilla, spice, oak, and a little bit of coffee in this wine, which ends in an earthy finish.  This wine will definitely pair well with meals, especially roasted meats and vegetables.

2012 Papillon – Mostly a blend of Bordeaux grapes, the Papillon also has a little bit of Norton to lend some of its potent fruitiness and structure. Though the nose is deep with dark fruit, underneath is another bold, spicy red wine with hints of roasted coffee and pencil shavings (i.e. oak and minerals for those that Chrysalis_growing vinesthink pencil shavings sound weird lol).

2012 Locksley Reserve Norton – Chrysalis’ flagship Norton is another dry style, “fox-free” wine.  Mostly Norton, this reserve is blended with Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo which creates quite a complex wine that packs a bold punch that reminds me of some California reds.  Firm tannins give this a clean, earthy taste that ends in a smooth caramelized vanilla finish.  If left to age, I think this wine will take on more spice and vanilla. This will likely be your  red wine lover’s favorite!

 

Post Script:

Chrysalis is opening a new and modernized tasting room in the Dec/Jan time frame.  The current tasting room I described in my post will likely only be available either by reservation or only for VIPs such as wine club members. I am not sure what the Chrysalis_New Tasting Roomowners plan to do. However, the tasting room manager shared pictures of the new facility and it is gorgeous! It has an awesome view of the mountains and lots of outdoor decks, patios, tables, and grass to enjoy the view from.  The creamery that I heard about in 2009 is finally going to open, and will be located in the basement.  Also, the new facility has BATHROOMS.  Yes, this is very important.  Most wineries do not have bathrooms and, just as Chrysalis currently does, must set up porta potties.  Bathrooms are a major plus in this girl’s book!

 
 

~Ruth

Wine Tasting in Fredericksburg

For most of my life, Fredericksburg has had only one meaning – a city in Virginia, known for its proximity to great vineyards and rich history, where I attended college, and met the best friend and blogging partner a woman could ask for. So it wasn’t surprising when, a two weekends ago, Tom surprised by telling me we were going to Fredericksburg on Saturday. Turns out that Texas has its own Fredericksburg, about an hour and a half west of Austin. 

Fredericksburg, Tx Library

The Fredericksburg, Tx library, also the former courthouse.

Fredericksburg, Tx Library plaque

We arrived in Fredericksburg early, around 11am. and found parking at the Visitor Center off of Lincoln Street, behind the National Pacific War Museum. Main Street is lined with dozens and dozens of shops including gourmet food stores, antique shops, clothing stores, and more.  It was Oktoberfest weekend, so it was pretty busy, and more than once we left a shop quickly, tired of fighting the crowd inside. Despite that, I was able to find a great necklace – very similar to something I’d been lusting after for months – at a quarter of the price!  I’m still pretty proud of that.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 2

In addition to great people watching and shopping Fredericksburg, Tx, is ideally situated for a day of wine tasting. It is surrounded by vineyards, with about half a dozen on U.S. Route 290 between Austin and Fredericksburg alone. Several of those vineyards have opened tasting rooms in store fronts on Main Street in Fredericksburg, making it even easier to experience several great Texas wineries while exploring the city. The first tasting room Tom and I stopped in was also my favorite, so much so that I went back to buy a few bottles of wine at the end of our trip.

The Grape Creek Vineyards tasting room is on the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets, and is one of 2 satellite tasting rooms the vineyard manages, in addition to their vineyard tasting room. As it was one of our first stops, we were able to beat the crowds, so it was quiet and easy to chat with Debbie, behind the tasting counter. For $12 you can select 6 of 14 wines to taste, although Debbie kindly let me taste one extra wine – making my total tasting 7 wines.

2012 Cabernet Trois: As the name hints, this medium-bodied wine combines 3 Cabernet grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Ruby Cabernet – resulting in  a rich nose of leather and cedar wood. It is a smooth wine with notes of ripe cherries and warm fall spices. I loved this wine and can’t wait to sip while sitting by the fire on a cold winters night (Austin has those? Right??Please tell me they do…).

Grape Creek Vineyard, 3

2012 Mosaic: This was the last wine I tasted, but my second favorite after the Cabernet Trois.  It is rich full-bodied Bordeaux-style wine that would pair beautifully with a steak and Gorgonzola sauce. It smelled like chocolate and cherries with a light grassy undertone and had tasting notes of dark chocolate, cloves, and ripe berries.

2013 Viognier: This was the only white wine I tried from Grape Creek Vineyard, and I’m glad I did. A 97 point Double Gold winning wine at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, this is a crisp dry wine with balanced acidity that would pair well with a light cream pasta like shrimp scampi. It has a lovely floral nose and tastes of honeyed peaches with a bright lemon finish.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 1

2012 Rendezvous: This wine, with a sweet floral nose, is a combination of Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, and white Viognier wines in the Rhone Valley style. It was a soft, dry wine with plum and cherry flavors that would pair well with a slightly acidic tomato sauce.

2012 Cabernet/Syrah: I had not originally chosen this wine as one of my six, but my tasting guide, Debbie, insisted I give it a try. Like the Viognier, the Cabernet/Syrah did very well at the San Francisco International Wine Competition where it placed best in class for Cabernet/Syrah blends and also received a double gold medal. It’s complicated wine rich with flavors of plums and pepper.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 7

2012 Petite Syrah: This wine, with its nose of blueberries and cinnamon, is a jammy rustic wine that would pair well with lamb and rosemary roasted potatoes.

2012 Bellissimo:  This blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is a Tuscan style wine with warm vanilla notes, oak, and ripe cherries.

Grape Creek Vineyard, 6

October, as we all know is Virginia Wine Month, but it is also Texas Wine Month, so if you get a chance, be sure to get out and give it a try!

 

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts

“Everything is bigger in Texas.”

Including my new digs here in Austin. For the same price I was paying for a 400 sq. ft. 1-bedroom apartment in D.C., I am now renting a 3-bedroom duplex with a backyard and a garage. We have so much space, I am going to get a craft room – and Tom agreed to it!  It is all pretty fabulous and I am in love with our new place.

Living in Texas - Living Room Living in Texas - Dining Room

Moving from a tiny galley style kitchen with maybe 2 square feet of counter space to my new spacious kitchen (with a dishwasher!) is the best part of the new house. Precious counter space that once belonged to an ever present stack of drying dishes has been given to my KitchenAide mixer. Now it is always close at hand and easy to use in a moments notice. Recipes that involve half a dozen bowls are no longer daunting because those dishes just go into the dishwasher – no more hours of cleaning. I am having a bit of trouble re-learning how to use an electric stove and I may have burned a few batches of bacon, but I’ll figure it out soon enough, I just have to keep practicing.

Living in Texas - Kitchen

After finally unpacking my cooking supplies, I decided to celebrate my new kitchen by getting my hands dirty making my first from scratch meal. No more frozen pizza for me! My first dish in the new kitchen needed to be something fun, not too difficult (I was tired after all that unpacking), and hearty (to fuel a long night of organizing my walk-in closet). By combining Hungarian noodles and cabbage with Italian pasta carbonara, I came up with this fabulous dish of noodles, shaved Brussels sprouts, bacon, and poached eggs. A rustic, satisfying pasta carbonara with veggies thrown in for good measure.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 3

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts
2-4 servings

4 cups shredded brussel sprouts (see Recipe Notes)
½ pound uncooked pasta (see Recipe Notes)
1 large shallot, minced
salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ pound of medium thickness bacon
4 eggs
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼  shredded Parmesan cheese + more for serving

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - prep the veggies

1)      Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil for the pasta. Once at a roiling boil, cook pasta according to package directions. Also place a large, wide pan or pot with about 3 inches of water on medium-low to bring it to a simmer (I like to use my large soup pot).

2)     In a large heavy bottomed skillet fry bacon to desired crispness and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Make sure you save the extra bacon grease in case you need a bit more.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - fry the bacon

3)     Add minced shallot to pan and cook for 1 minute. Add shredded brussels sprouts and toss to coat in the bacon grease. Sauté brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that they do not burn, but not so frequently that they don’t brown in places.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - saute Brussels sprouts

4)     At this point your poaching water should be simmering, add about 4 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to the water and, using your preferred method (like the one described here) poach your four eggs. I use 2 eggs per dish for the 2 servings, if you are making 4 smaller servings, you may want to poach more eggs, or just serve one egg each serving.

5)     Remove brussels sprouts from direct heat and add drained, cooked pasta, tossing to coat. Here is where you may want to dribble on a bit more bacon grease. Sprinkle with about ¼ cup of Parmesan and toss to incorporate.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 1 Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 2

6)     To serve, spoon pasta-brussels sprouts mixture on a plate, top with a few slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled, sprinkle with extra cheese, and top with your poached eggs. Ta-Da!

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 1

Recipe Notes
Shredded Brussels Sprouts sound much harder than they really are – for me the real trick is buying the largest sprouts you can find. The website Almost Practical has a great step-by-step tutorial, with pictures on how prep them. If you want a bit of guidance before you get started, check it out.

Traditional carbonara is made with spaghetti or bucattini, but with the addition of the brussels sprouts, I didn’t think these would work as well. I ended up  using campanella pasta, so that the Brussles sprout shreds could easily wrap around the pasta and be better incorporated. Really, any shorter sturdier pasta like farfella or radiatori should work here.