Beer-Candied Pralines & Planning my Brew-Day!

Beer-Candied Pecans

Planning my birthday is seriously one of my favorite things to do. I pick a theme months in advance and then slowly dedicate myself to making invitations, buying decorations, practicing cake recipes, etc. (This kind of “birthday black hole” is why I haven’t been around much the last two weeks — too much to do!)

But there’s one thing I definitely love more than my birthday — and that is beer. Sweet, sweet beer. I often say that if given the choice between my kegerator or my wedding ring, the keg would win out. I’m (mostly) joking.

So to help celebrate my love for the hoppy, malty nectar of the gods, this year I decided my birthday party theme should be beer. And oh, trust me, this theme proved to be a contender for the best idea I’ve ever had.

But we’ll get to that in time…For now, welcome to the first in my “brew-day” series. To kick-off this series we will be making beer-candied pecans. And, yes, they are amazing.

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The Obsession Continues: Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

I have been on cider bender the past few months. Since early October my fridge has contained no less than one half-gallon of fresh apple cider, purchased anywhere from Farmer’s Markets to the grocery store. I’ve drank it straight, mulled with Applejack and used it for various cooking endeavors, like this brined pork roast.

However, the best creation I made are these apple cider caramels from an old issue of Food & Wine magazine. They tasted (depending on which friend of mine you asked) like caramel apple pops, apple fritters or candied apples. To me they were just as I imagined,  a perfect combination of the spiced cider flavor — cloves, cinnamon and tart apple — and creamy decadent caramel.

They were also luxuriously soft. While they’d hold their shape in the refrigerator, once popped in your mouth, they would melt almost instantly. They were so good I had to fight my natural instinct to hoard them and instead manged to share them with co-workers, friends and even some of my favorite customers in Seattle.

My friend Ariel loved them so much I think I have to make a batch just for her and her husband to enjoy. I gave her a few to take home and got this hilarious text message later that night: “Holy sheep shit, Batman” is what Eric said after trying a bite of one of your caramels. Now that’s a compliment, people!

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Project Fruit Tree & Adventures in an Urban Garden of Eden

Sous Vide striploin, served on a bed of fresh tomatoes, plums and garnished with puffed wild rice.

Sous Vide striploin, served on a bed of fresh tomatoes, plums and garnished with puffed wild rice.

Last weekend marked the third year that my husband, my friend DB and I cooked for a party of 40 to help benefit the Portland Fruit Tree Project. The PFTP does a series of “Orchard Banquets” every summer to raise money and for the past three years they’ve asked my husband to donate his time by heading one of the dinners.

This year, like last year, we lucked out and had the honor of cooking our dinner at Tabor Tilth, a crazy, magical dream in urban gardening. (If you want your mind blown, click this link to watch a video about the garden, hosted by the woman who owns it.)

My husband, because he is constantly ambitious with his cooking, always dreams up amazing menus for this dinner, which has become the event that DB and I look forward to helping him with the most.

And clearly other people look forward to it too. Many people from last year’s dinner attended this one and we heard from staff that our series sold out a month in advance. I guess the word has gotten out that my husband throws down when it comes to food!

Here’s some pictures from last Sunday’s soiree…It should also be mentioned that many of the produce used came from Tabor Tilth, some of which we foraged for the day of the dinner. Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked fruits and veggies!

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Messy, awesome & delicious: scenes from a crawfish boil

Portland Crawfish Boil

Crawfish Boil in St. Johns

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’re probably familiar with that bridge in the background. It’s the St Johns bridge in Portland, OR and it means I’m cooking at my friend DB’s house.

These pictures were all taken at his Fourth of July crawfish boil. Being a bit crazy, he shipped 45# of live crawfish from Louisiana. Then, worried he would run short on food, he bought an additional 10# of Oregon crawfish. I had no idea we even had local crawfish!

Each batch was cooked in a flavorful broth of seasonings, onions, garlic and lemons. Potatoes were thrown in first and then the crawfish were added. Once they were bright red and cooked through, the heat was turned off, corn and andouille sausages were added and the mixture sat for 20 minutes to allow all of the flavors to permeate.

Then the pot was dumped out on a newspaper-covered table for guests to enjoy.

And enjoy, we did. When I left, completely stuffed full of great food, he was on batch number four, with another 10-12# of live crawfish still remaining!

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One of the best ideas I’ve ever had…

Malibu Rum, Pineapple and Coconut Popsicles

Malibu Rum, Pineapple and Coconut Popsicles

A few weeks ago, while reading a blog, I came across the idea of making popsicles with coconut water for a healthy, refreshing summertime treat. And although it sounded like delicious concept, it seemed a little tame to me.

Coincidentally I had also seen something intriguing on Pinterest — pineapple chunks soaked in coconut rum, a boozy, refreshing summertime treat.

Aha, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere!

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Pythons and Shortcakes: A Very Martha Memorial Day, Part II

I wrote about the savory part of our Memorial Day meal earlier this week — now it’s time for the sweet!

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

The Best Strawberry Shortcake: fresh berries, whipped cream and strawberry ice cream all on a homemade shortcake!

I mentioned that my husband was determined to prepare the quintessential all-American BBQ for Memorial Day. This included a gigantic smoked beef brisket with all the classic side dishes. Once we had everything figured out, we came to dessert, which seemed like an easy choice. After all what’s more American than strawberry shortcake?

* Okay, okay, fine — apple pie is probably more American, but shortcake has to be right up there!

We also knew we wanted to do it all from scratch, homemade shortcakes, fresh whipped cream and local strawberries macerated in sugar. Simple stuff. But my husband was also bound and determined to take it one step further by making a batch of strawberry ice cream.

He used the recipe for “Here’s your damn strawberry ice cream” from Humphry Slocombe’s Ice Cream Cookbook, which if you haven’t bought it yet, is totally worthwhile. The recipes are great but the commentary is downright hilarious. This is the first recipe we’ve made from it and my husband said the only adaption he had to do was add more red wine vinegar because our berries were too sweet. Chalk that up to another reason to love Oregon!

Anyways, he brought home a pint of the ice cream which I immediately had to taste for…quality control purposes (yeah, we’ll call it that). Upon the first bite, I can attest it was nothing short of amazing. Super creamy and full of berry love.

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