Saturday, July 31, 2010

Better with Biscuits Indeed

If you follow me on twitter you may have caught wind that my oven is broken. It broke on the kind of terrible day that ends all other terrible days. Let me briefly explain the epic awfulness of that day. As I pulled into my driveway after running numerous errands in 80+ degree heat (hot here in the Northwest), my car window broke as I innocently attempted to roll it up. *Pop* it went, like a gunshot. Then slowly fell all the way down into the crevice of the door, all the while making awful shattering/grinding glass noises, until it could be seen no more. Bad news, I knew it. Frustrated, I gathered my groceries and approached the front door. *Beep*beep*beep*beep* - an incessant alarm was pouring out from behind the door. 'What's going on? Is the house on fire??!?' my brain wondered. Quickly, (and perhaps stupidly if indeed the house was aflame) I jammed my key into the lock, swung the door open, and rushed into the kitchen. There sat the oven, beeping as if it were screaming. A noise so loud it was inescapable anywhere else in the house. I set down my bags and attempted to quiet the thing by pressing every button, only to find the buttons were completely unresponsive. So, there I stood. Frustrated by the expensive electronic world that seemed to crumbling around me, and started crying. Lightly at first, soon followed by a babbling bawl. I felt trapped. Trapped with a newly broken car. Trapped in a house that was not quiet. Head pounding, tears rolling away.

I struggled to pull it together. After a good cry I picked up the phone and called our old roomie, who coincidentally enough lives right down the street and works at a store in town that restores and sells used appliances. I knew he would be the only one that could help my ears and my sanity at that moment. He was on the doorstep in a matter of minutes. Despite his appliance skills he was unable to figure out what was going on. Like myself, he became increasingly irritated by the loud blaring beeping and decided to trip the oven breaker. That is how it's remained. For about a week now. Luckily it's summer, meaning I've got my gas stove top, and the barbecue. So we're still able to cook. We will make do for another couple of weeks until we find an oven replacement. 

I wasn't sure that in the heat of summer I would miss baking much. But oh have I ever. First, I was bitten by the brownie bug, then the biscuit bug. I shook the brownie bug (for now), but, after finding an incredible jar full of honeycomb and tupelo honey I knew it would be nearly impossible for me to shake the biscuit bug because I absolutely adore warm biscuits, soft butter, and a good golden honey. And if there were ever a baked good that begs to be eaten in the summer, it's a good biscuit. 

Despite my love for biscuits I hope you can believe what I'm about to confess to you, I've never baked a batch. Correction, I've never baked a savory biscuit. I suppose my shortcake ingredient list is nearly identical, except for the addition of extra sugar and a bit of vanilla.

I don't know what initially inspired my biscuit craving. But I knew where to turn in order to visually stimulate my hunger for biscuits, Homesick Texan, a blog I enjoy reading and feeds my comfort food weakness. Her biscuits look absolutely perfect, don't they? Buttery, flakey, and warm (doesn't that picture look warm to you?) Once I read her post I knew I had to figure out a way to make my own batch. So, I mixed, kneaded, thwacked, rolled, folded, and cut. Then I set out, tray of biscuits in hand, to find an oven. Which I did, down the street at the boyfriends mothers house. Not the greatest of ovens, but it did the trick. And while I don't think my biscuits baked up looking as irresistibly edible as miss Homesick Texan's, they quelled my craving (and, as promised in the original recipe, were gone in a matter of hours). 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Salad Series : Strawberry & Spinach

The concept of spinach and strawberry in salad form is likely no stranger to many (if not all) of you. In fact, I feel a little guilty for even posting it considering how it's entirely unoriginal. Perhaps it even borders on the boring side of things? So, for my ease of mind I must make you understand why I'm posting this recipe: 

One, surely there must be a few of you out there who have a.) never heard of such a thing or b.) as of this moment have yet to make or taste a strawberry spinach salad. 

Two, I love it. I love the textures. I love the flavors. I love how it pairs well with a variety of proteins from fish to pork. I love the dressing so much I could pour it in a mug and drink it. And, I love the simplicity. That's a whole lotta love!

I adore the fresh, earthy spinach. Topping a large pile of greens with berries bursting of juice and sweet natural sugars like shuksan strawberries is just genius in my book. The two flavors and textures play so well off of one another. Crunchy spinach leaves, soft flesh-like berries. Pan toasted sliced almonds and tangy sesame seed studded vinaigrette are the crowning jewels. 

All the ingredients are fairly straightforward and simple right? You've got a heavy dose of spinach, plenty of strawberries quartered, then a light dusting of toasted almonds. So, how about we get to that vinaigrette I can't get enough of? I can't exactly explain to you why, but this v is something special. Sure, it's got your usual v suspects, a bit of oil and vinegar, but added to that is one sweet shallot finely minced, paprika, a pinch of cayenne, a shake of worcestershire, a bit of white sugar, plus a healthy dose of poppy and sesame seeds. The paprika and cayenne give this dressing a smoky kick. The worcestershire is a flavor that's hard to describe, meaty isn't exactly it, but boy does it give this dressing a lift. The sugar balances out the vinegar as well as the worcestershire, while the shallot helps to keep it all in balance being a mix of pungent with sweet. The seeds add to the mix, every now and again you'll get a burst of poppy or sesame flavor, but if you don't have either in the pantry, don't worry, it won't make or break this vinaigrette. Despite perhaps bordering on boring, or unoriginal, it's surely one of my favorite summer go-to salads. The produce is at it's peak and can be purchased directly from the farm, while the rest is likely already stocked up in your pantry or refrigerator. Simple, outstanding, and healthy. My kind of greens!

Spinach Strawberry Salad Vinaigrette 


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar (cider would probably be delish too)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika (I prefer Hungarian) 
a few quick dashes of cayenne (depending on your preferred level of heat)
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire
1 shallot finely minced
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds


1. In a smal bowl whisk all ingredients together. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour. 
2. Pour over your bowl of fresh greens, strawberries, and toasted almonds. 
3. Dig in and enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Snapshot Sunday : Around the Table's Venetian Festa


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Effortless : Italian BLT Cavatappi

Effortless is not defined as something that requires no effort at all, it's something that is attained with admirable ease. This pasta fits that definition flawlessly. While yes, it requires some effort on your part it's incredibly simple. Truly a superb summer pasta. A dish I prepared on a whim as a solution to a slow summer Thursday, yet one that I would be proud to serve to dinner guests out on the back deck preferably with plenty of wine and a nice sunset. It's ideal for both settings because this pasta requires few ingredients and only a little of your time. Leaving you more of your lazy day, or time with friends to be enjoyed. 

Cavatappi is one of my preferred pastas. I'm fond of it's corkscrew contours and light ridges. It's shape lends to a denser, chewier noodle that holds any sauce you give it incredibly well. I usually have a bag or two in the cupboard, which is why you see it here. In fact, the only thing I purchased to make this pasta was the tomato and the pancetta. All the other ingredients are generally in my cupboard, refrigerator or herb pots. I love dinners like that, don't you? The pancetta is fried and chopped into bits, lending a bit of crunch and a bite of salt to the cavatappi. Instead of a sauce I whisked up what I would dub a dressing, a bit of olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, white pepper, 3 cloves of purple garlic minced, plenty of green basil and italian parsley. I doused the hot pasta with the dressing, tossed in the pancetta, topped it off with fresh bits of cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of pecorino romano. Within 20 minutes we were sitting outside, enjoying the sun, each scarfing on big bowls of tangy, fresh, salty cavatappi. 

The boyfriend and I didn't set out to create an italian inspired BLT pasta when we began cooking dinner, but as we sat eating we realized that ('hey') this was a BLT in pasta form. Lots of herby greens, crispy pork, and sweet juicy tomato. If you're tastebuds are anything like mine, it really doesn't get much better than that! A glorious way to end a sunny day indeed. . .

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It All Started with Marshmallows : Vanilla Bean Chocolate Ice Cream

It all started with smitten's marshmallows. You see, I've always meant to, always wanted to, try my hand at homemade marshmallows. Every winter I dream of large hot cups of homemade cocoa, topped with large spongey squares of homemade mallows. And each summer I ponder on how lovely it would be to sit around the fire roasting marshmallows I made. 

Well, this year was it. Fourth of July rolled around, and a party was to be hosted at my house. . .

For dessert I first considered shortcakes piled high with whipped cream and cascades of fresh berries. Red white and blue. I also toyed with the idea of a lovely large white layer cake, stacked high, also filled with a variety of fresh red and blue berries. But no. This year was the year of the homemade s'more. I was partly fueled by the fact that a few months ago the daring bakers challenged us to make homemade graham crackers for our nanaimo bar crust. I ended up loving the graham crackers, which was a surprise to me because I'm an avid hater of the store bought crackers. Homemade are nothing like the dry cardboard you buy at the store. They're soft, crunchy, sweet, dark, and molasses laden. Much different, and much, much better. So whip up marshmallows, bake sheets graham crackers, and buy yourself some damn fine chocolate. Viola, a dessert that's sheer summer perfection, and delights guests to no end. 

Regardless of how irresistible gooey, sticky homemade s'mores are, they're quite rich. Two per person, max. Unless you dare go into sugar shock. 

So, July 5th rolled around and I surveyed my leftovers.

What to do? What to do?

With July 5th came the heat. Believe it or not, the first summer weather we've experienced here at the tip of the Northwest this year. 4th of July we were lucky to break 60 degrees. 5th of July rolled around and we were up to the 80's. So, what's a girl to do with all these leftover treats, stacks of marshmallows, piles of crackers. . . . and a lone jug of local Twinbrooks chocolate milk. . .  

A-ha! That's it! S'more ice cream! Genius I thought. So, I toasted up marshmallows, smashed crackers, and set to turn David Lebovits' incredible vanilla ice cream into chocolate. Sure, I could use his chocolate ice cream recipe, but, why make it that easy on myself? I wanted to experiment a little. 

Regardless of it being so hot that I had to use two cold bowls to churn it. Or the fact that as soon as I got it into a bowl to photograph it turned into a dark chocolatey puddle in a matter of seconds. . . it was the best chocolate ice cream I've ever tasted. Smooth. Not too rich, or dark. Creamy. Sweet. Chilled chocolate heaven in ice cream form. It was so good in fact, that I absolutely could not bring myself to add the toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, or chunks of chocolate. This ice cream needed to remain pure. I swear the ice cream spoke to me. It didn't want all that other stuff churned up with it. I did keep the vanilla bean from the original recipe, because come one, chocolate and vanilla bean, well they're just meant to be.

I must've made the right call because this batch didn't last long in our freezer. After a day, maybe two of 85+ degree weather, it was long gone.

So, here it is. The adapted vanilla into chocolate ice cream recipe, that worked out oh-so well for this girl. It all started with marshmallows, but ended up pure chocolate ice cream. And I'm ok with that.

Heavenly Vanilla Bean Chocolate Ice Cream


1 cup of incredible chocolate milk (seek out the 'good' stuff folks, no darigold here!)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar (because the chocolate milk has added sugar)
1 vanilla bean split, beans scraped into milk
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream w/ 1/2 cup of chocolate milk added (totaling 2 cups liquid) NOTE: you could use two cups of heavy cream, I was just 1/2 cup shy so I substituted with additional chocolate milk
2 Tablespoons unsweetened powdered cocoa 


1. Heat chocolate milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Place split vanilla bean and scraped beans into the saucepan. Set over low/medium heat. 
2. Whisk egg yolks in a bowl, then add a bit of the warmed chocolate milk liquid, whisking continuously. Pour the warmed yolks into the saucepan with the milk and vanilla bean. 
3. Cook mixture over low heat stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat resistant spatula, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula.
4. As mixture cooks place your heavy cream/chocolate milk/and cocoa powder into a large bowl, whisking gently to combine.
5. Strain custard into heavy cream. Rinse vanilla bean and place it back into the custard/cream mixture. Chill mixture thoroughly (I chilled mine about 7 hours). Remove vanilla bean. 
6. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Extreme Epicurean Pleasure : Pulled Pork

It simply doesn't get any better than a giant plate piled high with slow roasted pork shoulder. 

Scratch that. 

It doesn't get any better than slow roasted pork shoulder piled high on a soft egg bun, topped with rainbow slaw and plenty of homemade barbecue sauce. 

Forget that you marinate the pork for 24 hours in a simple sauce that makes it sweet, salty, and spicy. Or the fact that it then cooks in those same flavors for 6+ hours until it's so incredibly tender is falls apart at the slightest pressure of tongs, a spoon, or your fingers. Okay, don't really forget that, I was just being dramatic. Those elements are what make this dish out of this world incredible. 

I cooked down six pounds of pork shoulder for 6 people, and at the end of the night ended up with about only 1/2 cup of pork. Yes, this pork is that insanely good, tender, fatty, moist, and flavorful. It's so good in fact that grown adults loose their minds, and after already consuming a sandwich (or in some cases two) will gather around the plate of piled pork sitting on the counter and pick at it, like vultures at a carcass, until someone forces it away from them and hides it in the fridge, or until it's gone I suspect. Besides that it's loose your mind uncontrollable pork bingeing good, it's also incredibly simple. It requires few ingredients, marinating overnight, and then cooking for 5-7 hours in a slow cooker. Making it, in my humble opinion, a fantastic fourth of july entree contender. I guarantee you nobody will devour your burgers, or hot dogs like they will this pork. But, if it doesn't make it onto your 4th of July menu, I highly recommend throwing it on your summertime menu this year. If I had one day to live, this pork would be on my menu. Yes, it's that good!

Alright, alright, that's enough pork lovin'. I'll get to the recipe so you can get in the kitchen and cook up a batch of your own. But, can I just say again that this is a must make recipe? Truly perfection in pork form.

(The Best) 6 Hour Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder


6 lbs pork shoulder
3 cups low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup worchestire
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed tight
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon red chili pepper flakes (or more, the more flakes, the spicier it will be)


1. Place soy sauce, worchestire, brown sugar, garlic, and pepper flakes into a large slow cooker insert. Mix lightly.
2. Place big hunk of pork shoulder in the marinade, then throw the whole shabang in the refrigerator overnight. When you get up in the morning flip the pork over onto the other side (to ensure more even marination). The better marinated your pork, the more of that luscious crispy, caramelized exterior you'll end up with at the end of the cook off.
3. About 6 hours before you intend to serve your pork, get slow cookin'. On the high setting cook the pork for 5 hours, turning once if you like. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook 1-2 more hours until it's falling apart, to pieces, to juicy, salty, sweet, spicy pieces. . . . drool.
4. Remove from slow cooker, place on a large plate and break pork apart with tongs, a fork, etc. it won't take much effort to shred into pieces, being so juicy and tender.
5. Serve on your bust buns, topped with crunchy slaw and lots of homemade barbecue sauce alongside a large portion of sweet potato fries. Summer supper perfection right there ladies and gentlemen. 6 lbs will feed 6 hungry pork fanatics, but up to 8 (maybe even 10).

I hope you take my advice here people. This pork is simple, and oh. so. worth it!

Just look at it. . . .