I’m only here for the snacks

Party snacks by candlelight

Party snacks by candlelight – is there anything better?

There’s a song my husband plays sometimes that echos the refrain “There will be snacks.” Sometimes we sing it to each other even when the music isn’t playing.

And while the song seems to be about the end of days, mentioning survival kits and crumbled financial institutions, it still seems to imply that even the apocalypse can be made better by snacks.

Which is an idea I can totally get behind.

There’s just something about snacks that make me happy. Perhaps because making them (and eating them) suggests that friends, laughter, a nice glass of wine and plenty of fun are in my near future. Or maybe it reminds me of sitting exhausted on my couch, after the last guest has gone home, and being left alone to finish off the last odds and ends from the plates.

Whatever the reason, out of all the meals or menus I plan or partake in, it’s always the snacks that I love the most.

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Things that are too delicious to be allowed in my house…

Sweet & Salty Caramel Corn, otherwise known as evil incarnate

Sweet & Salty Caramel Corn, otherwise known as evil incarnate

I have pretty decent willpower when it comes to food — with a few notable exceptions. At the top of that list resides the Jalapeño Cheeto (not to be confused with Flaming Hot Cheetos whose only redeeming quality is this excellent video). I don’t know what magic took place to make Jalapeno Cheetos even more delicious than the original flavor, but it worked. These things are the straight-up definition of addictive and I am absolutely powerless against them.

My initial encounter was a few years ago when my husband left a small bag open on the kitchen counter before he left for work. I came home early and poured out a few nibbles before folding up the bag and putting it away. Those few bites was all it took. I kept creeping back into the kitchen and sneaking handfuls until the bag was (shamefully) empty.

When my husband came home, I told him he was forbidden from bringing them into our house ever again. While he hasn’t completely complied with that request, they are thankfully a rare indulgence.

I mention this story because I have recently discovered  — thanks yet again to my husband, bearer of evil temptations — something just as hauntingly addictive as those spicy, cheesy morsels.

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Cooking like Keller, Part IV: Apple Fritters & Calvados Ice Cream

Apple Fritters with Calvados Ice Cream & Cajeta

Apple Fritters with Calvados Ice Cream & Cajeta

The fourth (& final) installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

If you’re wondering, my god, is she still posting about Thanksgiving when Christmas is only a few days away, the answer is (sadly) yes. Trust me, I know — I can’t believe it took me so long to plow through one meal! I’d be embarrassed but this is a crazy time of year and I’ve had a lot to deal with over the past 2 weeks so I’m keeping my head held high as we approach the finish line.

After eating oysters and caviar, scallops with endive, and seared quail in pomegranate, I wanted the final course in our Thomas Keller-inspired Thanksgiving feast to be just as impressive. After searching through several of his cookbooks I decided on hot apple fritters (from Ad Hoc) with Calvados ice cream (Bouchon).

This dessert would have been the perfect finale to our four-course dinner…if my husband and I had had the motivation. After cooking and eating three courses already, our ambition started to slip. We managed to make the Calvados ice cream but when it came time to set up a pot for deep frying, I admit I bailed out first.

“Maybe we should just eat the ice cream and call it a night,” I suggested.

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Cooking like Keller, Part One: Oysters & Pearls

Thomas Keller's Oysters and Pearls, French Laundry Cookbook

A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving, Course 1: Oysters and Pearls, French Laundry Cookbook

The first installment of “A Very Thomas Keller Thanksgiving”

My husband and I like to make lists.

But instead of “things to do” or “places to go,” most of our lists revolve around food that we’ve already eaten. One list is the fullest we’ve ever been. For me, hands down, the winner is after our meal at the (now defunct) Incanto in San Francisco. I was so stuffed I almost cried when the kitchen sent us a complimentary dessert and champagne at the end of the meal. It felt more like a punishment than a gift.

We also talk about the longest meals we’ve had (the Herb Farm is definitely up there – so much food!) and, of course, the best things we have eaten. This list is constantly changing but for both of us the ultimate winner is the same — the Oysters & Pearls from our dinner at the French Laundry back in 2011.

This is one of Chef Thomas Keller’s most iconic dishes. The base is a custard made with small pearl tapioca, cream and oyster trimmings. The mixture is baked in individual ramekins and then topped with a gently poached fresh oyster, a silky butter sauce, a scoopful of caviar and a dusting of chives.

It’s perfection.

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A is for Autumn, Autumn is for Apple Cider Cream Pie

Apple Cider Cream Pie w. Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Apple Cider Cream Pie w. Cinnamon Whipped Cream

When autumn rolls around, some people (the internet would have you believe only 20-year-old white girls) look forward to pumpkin-flavored everything. While I love their salty, crunchy seeds, pumpkins — even baked into a pie — don’t do much for me.

Instead I am all about apple cider. I love it in any form, freshly pressed, warm and spiced, made into caramels or mixed with booze. When the leaves start to turn, you can bet my fridge is full of cider — it’s as much of a guarantee as death and taxes.

And while I tend to mostly enjoy it straight up and ice cold, I’m more than willing to experiment with it. So when my co-workers decided to have a staff pumpkin carving party yesterday, I had the perfect sweet treat in mind to contribute, this apple cider cream pie.

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Squash Agrodolce: Delicata done different

Delicata Squash Agrodolce

Delicata squash in agrodolce sauce, pepitas, pearl onions and sultanas.

Being married to a chef has its ups and downs. The upside is pretty obvious — he makes amazing, creative and delicious food. But considering I rarely see him (this would be the downside), I’m certainly not dining on homemade, perfectly plated 10-course meals all week long.

In fact, most nights I do all of the cooking, leaving him a plate of food for when he gets home around midnight. Even on the days when he’s off work — in the industry this is almost always Sundays and Mondays for chefs — he is often too exhausted to cook (yet another reason I’m endlessly grateful for the kick ass taco cart right by our house).

However, over the past few weeks he has been wooing me with fantastic Monday night meals. One of my recent favorites included a plate full of tender delicata squash in agrodolce sauce (an Italian version of sweet and sour made with sugar and vinegar), beets with pickled peppers and ricotta salata and hand torn pasta in a Parmesan brodo. Yeah. It’s serious.

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The original dish — I subbed pearl onions for his cipollino. These are certainly more of a “statement” onion…

A simple dinner for two...

A simple dinner for two…

While everything was incredible, my favorite dish of the evening was the delicata. The tang from the agrodolce wonderfully balanced the sweetness of the squash, and the sultanas and pepitas added a bit of autumn swagger. It was also a pleasant change to the overly sweet squash recipes that are ubiquitous this time of year.

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