BACON, KALE, & APPLE SANDWICHES W/ CIDER MUSTARD

25th October 2014

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Blame it on the years of being a vegetarian or maybe on my reluctance to fry a batch of bacon on a day that isn’t Sunday, but I’ve really underestimated the significance of a simple bacon sandwich. With just a few other basic ingredients – most often lettuce and tomato – a humble little bacon sandwich can turn the whole day around. Sometimes you need to turn your day around. Add some kale – my go-to cureall for whatever ails you – and a few slices of seasonal apples and you can, just maybe, turn your whole life around.

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Things keep moving faster and faster these days and when looking at the big picture ahead we can often lose sight of the little details in front of us. I know the big picture is important, but I’m so in love with those little, simple, details. The simplicity of a single, beautifully written word, the hidden treasures you find in the rough, the curious friends you meet by chance, the way the laces look tied up in your new rain boots, and the silly joy in painting something gold. All these little, simple things, might not seem to go together, but in the end they somehow work to make the day a little bit better. That’s how I feel about this sandwich. A simple, no frills sandwich made of good little things.

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While I’m keen to style this sandwich with an acronym, BKA just doesn’t sound that swell. Instead of the traditional lettuce and tomato, this sandwich substitutes kale (much better for you anyways) and apples (seasonal!). In lieu of mayo, an apple cider mustard melds everything together. The bread – as always – should be toasted.

Bacon, Kale, & Apple Sandwiches

whole wheat bread, toasted
bacon, cooked until crispy
kale, washed and patted dry
sweet apples, thinly sliced
apple cider mustard (see recipe below)

Like any sandwich this can be built any which way you want, but essentially it goes: bread, a slather of mustard, a layer of kale, handful of bacon slices, a layer of apples, more cider mustard, bread. Slice in half and eat.

Apple Cider Mustard
makes about a half cup

3 tablespoons mustard seeds (a mix of yellow and brown)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider or apple juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small Mason jar and shake to combine. Let the mixture sit overnight in the refrigerator. Pour the contents into a food processor or blender and puree until desired consistency is achieved. I like to blend the mixture for just a few seconds (about 10 or 15) so that most of the mustard seeds remain whole. Alternatively, you can leave the entire mixture whole and rustic.

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Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses bacon, y’all.

ROASTED ROSEMARY CARROTS & CONCORD GRAPES

20th October 2014

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There were several things I expected to love about New England – the obvious contenders being pumpkins, cider, and all things fall – but never did I ever think that I would fall head over heels for grapes. Yes, grapes. But not just any grapes, Concord grapes. Rustic, dusty, dark little grapes that smell, well, like the epitome of grape. I brought them home from the farm stand and tucked them into the fridge as I pondered their fate. Every time I opened the fridge door an overwhelming – read: pleasant – waft of realistic grape jolly rancher filled the room. It. Was. Perfect.

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Concord grapes were first developed in the mid 1800s in Concord, Massachusetts by a man named Ephraim Wales Bull. A few years later, the grape was used by a Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch (yes, that Welch) to create the first Concord grape juice. Since then the grape has been a fixture in non-alcoholic communion wines and lunch room peanut butter and jelly sandwiches throughout the nation.

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Sadly, these grapes don’t taste all that great as a plain old snack. The Concord grape is known as a “slip-skin” which means that the skin – which contains most of the intense grape flavor – easily pops off the pulpy centers. So Waldorf Salads, frozen for snacks, and other raw recipes don’t really mesh with these odd grapes. Thankfully, these olfactory wonders work well under a little heat.

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I’m not entirely sure how I got there, but I think this is roughly what was going through my head at the time:

grapes…roasted grapes…roasted grapes are like freshly made flavorful raisins…raisins are my favorite part of Southern shredded carrot salad…but carrots can be roasted too…what if I roast them together…and throw some rosemary on there too?…then the whole house will smell like grape jelly…

And here we are.

So it might seem weird – roasted carrot and grapes – but trust me, it’s worth the odd looks around the house. The grapes burst a bit and create their own little jelly in the bottom of the pan which coats some of the carrots, staining them a lovely shade of purple. Sweet enough for the veg-averse, but not so sweet you feel like you’re eating a PBJ (with carrots).

Roasted Rosemary Carrots & Concord Grapes
serves 2 to 4

5-6 small to medium sized carrots, split in half lengthwise
1 medium bunch concord grapes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Set the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small roasting pan, arrange the carrots, grapes, and rosemary, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until the carrots are just fork-tender. Some of the grapes will explode and create the best tasting glaze for the carrots. Serve warm as a side or on top of warmed bread, over couscous or quinoa, or over roasted chicken.

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RECIPE REPOST: HOMEMADE HONEY APPLESAUCE

14th October 2014

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In one of his last manuscripts, aptly entitled Wild Fruits, Henry David Thoreau thought it “remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.” With this notion in mind, I feel like we ought to eat more apples. Since eating them as-is can sometimes be a bit boring after a while, a simple applesauce sweetened with honey is the next best thing. Plus it goes well with my morning yogurt.

Thank you Best Friends for Frosting for featuring another one of my creations!

Find the full recipe and many more lovely things here.

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS TERRACOTTA CACTUS POTS

10th October 2014

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Occasionally I step out of the kitchen, but mostly it’s just into the study to work on food-related research. I read all the popular (and even the unpopular) food magazines, news sites, and such and keep current with most of my favorite food blogs. When I’m not testing a recipe, I’m in the library looking up facts for my latest food encyclopedia entry or in the grocery store sourcing ingredients for another article. I love food, but a girl’s got to have some other hobbies.

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I like to bike, but that’s not really photogenic. I love to read the most embarrassing young adult fiction novels, but there’s no way I’m showing you the titles. I’m a novice knitter, can sew decently enough, and have a few rainy day sketch books. I learned to tie flies for fly fishing at a very young age and have made some fairly impressive spun deer-hair streamers, but I’ll only ever post about those in the context of pan-fried fish. That leaves gardening. And I’m proud to say I do a decent job considering what I have to work with and with the fact that it snows a good two-thirds of the year up here in New England. So with winter coming, I looked inside for a plant-based project and found myself thinking of Texas and that of course led to cactus.

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With Halloween right around the corner – the be-all-end-all of holidays in my family home – and Dia de los Muertos shortly after, cactus blossoms quickly morphed into sombreros and little terracotta pots into sugar skulls. The result: DIY Dia de los Muertos Cactus Pots. Alternatively, you could call these Terracotta Jack-o-Cactus.

Lo que sea.

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The instructions are frighteningly (get it) simple and you can either draw your designs free-hand or find some inspirational drawings on Pinterest to trace. You can find the teensy terracotta pots at most nurseries, but if you have trouble finding them there look at larger craft stores.

DIY Dia de los Muertos Terracotta Cactus Pots

teensy terracotta pots
black craft paint
fine paint brushes
pencil/eraser
cactus pequeños
soil/gravel/decorative rocks

1. Using a damp paper towel, wipe the terracotta pot to remove any dust. Draw your face design in pencil.

2. With a very fine paint brush, paint over the pencil lines. Set aside and let dry. When the paint is completely dry, use a soft eraser to remove any lingering pencil.

3. Carefully remove the cactus from the plastic container (consider using canvas work gloves if the spikes are large). Using kitchen shears, cut off any large spikes.

4. Place a few pieces of gravel or decorative rocks at the bottom of the terracotta pot. Add a small amount of dirt and then place the cactus in the center. Fill around the cactus with more dirt as necessary and finish with a thick layer of gravel or rocks at the top. Place in a dry area and enjoy.

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There you go, DIY Dia de los Muertos Terracotta Cactus. And when your New England plant nursery is low on cactus, sometimes a particularly spiky succulent looks just as spooky. Just remember to water your succulent every once and a while. The cactus don’t need it. Magic!

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SUGAR, SPICE, & MAPLE ICED PUMPKIN CINNAMON ROLLS

7th October 2014

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Rain and gloom and foggy afternoons that pair perfectly with a cup of tea and a stack of food magazines. These are a few of my favorite New England things. Add to this list a bevy of other little details – like fresh off-the-vine pumpkins, chaider, historical sites, and small seaside towns that look just like something out of an Melville novel – and I could go on ad nauseam. I’m starting to think I was meant to live here all along, but then I remember, breakfast tacos.

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Despite the rainy weather, this past week was filled with several exciting adventures and a few good recipes. The husband turned 26 and while I couldn’t give him Paris I did make him an impressive birthday cake. A triple layer chocolate coffeehouse porter cake filled with pumpkin spiced buttercream and topped with a chile spiced pepita praline. It was supposed to be a fancy window-pane brittle, but I boiled the sugar a tad too long and it became a pillowy, crumbly praline instead. Oh well, today’s mistake is tomorrow’s unscheduled blog post.

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Over the weekend we ventured down to Fall River, Massachusetts to explore restored WWII-era naval ships in Battleship Cove. We even got to sneak inside an old submarine and found the teeniest of galley kitchens. The larger ships had mess halls, captain’s dining quarters, bakeries, and the biggest boasted a separate Gedunk, also known as a soda fountain, to keep up with the soda jerk craze that swept the nation during the 1930s and 1940s. We left the museum feeling simultaneously patriotic and hungry for malts.

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More rain came and so back inside we went. And that’s when these maple iced pumpkin cinnamon rolls happened. Unlike many of the other recipes and foods claiming to be pumpkin-spiced something or other, these rolls actually contain real pumpkin (and spice of course) which practically makes them a vegetable. And while I don’t normally abide canned pumpkin – it’s really a point of pride in my family – I couldn’t resist the nifty packaging on this New England brand of packed pumpkin.

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Maple Iced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
makes about 9 large rolls

FOR THE DOUGH:
3 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 package yeast
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted

FOR THE FILLING:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pumpkin

FOR THE GLAZE:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons maple syrup

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, heat milk until it reaches about 115 degrees. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of sugar.

3. To the bottom of the bowl of your stand mixer, add the yeast and top with the heated milk. Let it sit for about five minutes until the mixture begins to bubble and froth (this lets you know that the yeast is working).

4. With the mixer on low and fitted with a whisk attachment, add the flour in several stages, then the egg and the butter, mixing until fully combined. At this point, you can switch the whisk attachment for a dough hook and continue to mix until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the bowl or remove the dough and knead by hand for a couple of minutes. Form the dough into a smooth ball, place in a greased bowl, and cover with a tea towel. Let it sit for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

5. In a small bowl, combine the sugars and spices. Set the oven to 375 degrees and line a 9 by 11 inch pan with parchment paper.

6. When the dough is ready, punch down the center and transfer to a smooth, floured surface. Roll out into a large rectangle (about 11 by 14 inches).

7. Using a small spatula, thinly spread a layer of pumpkin over the dough, leaving about a 1-inch border all the way around. Evenly sprinkle the spice and sugar mixture. Carefully roll the dough into a log, starting with one of the short ends of the rectangle. Using a sharp knife or a piece of unflavored dental floss, cut the log into nine even pieces. Arrange the rolls in the pan with the edges touching. Let the pan sit in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until the rolls rise again.

8. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges of the rolls are golden. Drizzle with maple frosting and serve warm with a cup of hot tea or coffee.

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Happy fall, y’all.