Tuesday, December 30, 2014

no place like home for the holidays

How is that Christmas comes and goes so fast? We had a great time in Pennsylvania, celebrating with family and friends, eating and drinking too much and just enjoying the comforts of home. This is the first year we have been home for Christmas since we got married! A few holiday treats to share...
sour cherries (either fresh or canned - cans are roughly 14.5 ounces)
Maraschino liquor
You will need about 1 cup of liquor for a pint (or can of cherries). If using canned cherries (which I did), rinse in a colander. Bring liquor to a boil, add cherries, remove from heat and allow to cool. The cherries are much tastier than the jarred variety at the grocery store. Keep cherries in the refrigerator and enjoy for the next few months on your sundaes or in your favorite cocktail. 
Speaking of cocktails - try your cherry in an apple & bourbon cocktail.
1-2 shots of bourbon
apple cider
Stir together with ice and garnish with lemon peel and a cherry.

Before we left for the holiday, I had a luncheon with some of my Nashville girlfriends. We had Ina's butternut squash soup and some delicious almond chicken salad. This recipe looks a bit festive with the red grapes, and it is delicious in a sandwich or atop fresh greens.
4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
extra S&P for seasoning chicken
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
1 cup red grapes, halved
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup honey
1 and 1/3 cup Hellman's Olive Oil Mayonnaise
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with S&P. Assemble on a baking dish and bake for about 45-55 minutes until cooked. While chicken cools, mix together mayo, honey, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Remove chicken skin and shred chicken into a large mixing bowl. Add celery, nuts and mayo mixture - stirring to incorporate. Add in grapes and mix gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes at least 6 servings.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

a snowed in Thanksgiving

A belated Thanksgiving post!
We headed to meet family in Asheville, North Carolina for Thanksgiving this year - where winter had arrived already. We stayed in a fantastic cabin in the Smokey Mountains at Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, about 30 minutes north of Asheville. 

On Friday, we enjoyed downtown Asheville - so many good spots to eat and drink!
Vance, Grandma-ma Helen & Kayla at Salsa's for lunch.
Peter with him pom-pom-pom for lunch.

Vance & his memorial.
Enjoyed exploring a few great breweries including Lexington Avenue Brewery, Wicked Weed and Asheville Brewing Company. We also toured the Biltmore and had a great brunch at Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village. 
Of course, we also visited French Broad Chocolates
The weather actually ended up keeping us in our cabin on Thanksgiving day so we dined on pasta bar with a few sauces I had frozen in the fall. It was no turkey dinner but still hit the spot. Getting up the mountain - in the snow - and darkness - and ice - and wind - was on the stressful side, but it made me realize that the most important thing is just being together. Doesn't really matter what you eat or where - just spending Thanksgiving with family was great. But...I am craving a nice holiday turkey dinner and can't wait until Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

thankful for maple & apple & more

It was a great Thanksgiving - more on that soon. Here is how I started the long weekend...
maple applejack cocktail
1 ounce good maple syrup
3 ounces Applejack
squeeze of lemon wedge
2-3 dashes Agnostura bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a well-chilled martini glass and garnish with lemon peel. 
This cocktail isn't overly sweet because of the citrus and bitters. A bit of orange, in place of lemon, would be delicious also.
Hope Thanksgiving 2014 was great!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

a new duo

Cumin carrot and basil asparagus soup - nothing beats a warm bowl of soup on a rainy Sunday. Enjoy each soup solo or let them share the bowl for a delicious duo.
cumin carrot soup
1 pound carrots, peeled and quartered
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup white wine
3 &1 /2 cups chicken stock
generous amount of salt and pepper
basil asparagus soup
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 cup white wine
3  & 1/2 cups chicken stock
generous amount of salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the carrot, onion, EVOO and salt and pepper. Roast on a pan in the oven. Do the same with the asparagus, onion, EVOO and salt and pepper on another pan. Test after 30 minutes (toss occasionally) - the asparagus will be done but carrots will likely need another 15 minutes. To prepare each soup, add the roasted vegetable mixture to a stock pot with remaining ingredients - bring to a light simmer and then remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend the soups until smooth.
Assemble in a bowl so it looks pretty and enjoy! 
The weather turned quite chilly last week which has me thinking of the holidays. For the Nashville locals - you may wish to check a new spot in Cool Springs (especially when you are taking a break from Christmas shopping!) called Salad Works. The store on Frazier Drive opened last week and they were kind of enough to treat me to a salad. I opted for a build your own salad with a delicious avocado vinaigrette, but then spied a great looking steak salad. Something to try next time!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

SF & Napa 2014

Vance and I took a few days in California at the end of October. A much needed escape together, as November is already blur of work travel, events and conferences for us both. Is it Christmas yet?
We visited family and friends in San Fran, but also fit in an overnight in Napa, where we had fabulous food and wine (as to be expected!). We started our trip with a great dinner at A16 with friends, Jordan and RJ, then headed up to Napa the next day.
Delicious burgers at Gott's Roadside - Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.
Cocktails at Angele.
An amazing dinner at Ad Hoc - thank you to my friend, Liz, who suggested this great spot!
Ad Hoc is Thomas Keller's "test" kitchen of sorts. Keller opened the French Laundry (a supposedly amazing restaurant with a very high price tag) years ago and wanted a different space to test out new dishes. This spot was absolutely fantastic - a must if you are looking for a nice dinner in Napa.
We did a very nice tour of a wine cave - Del Dotto.
Couldn't be happier.
Mo/Fo Cab.
Tasty lunch at Mustards Grill before heading back to San Fran.

We toured Alcatraz in San Fran and went to the San Francisco Symphony with my aunt and uncle on Saturday night.
I got out.
Alcatraz Gardens
Great lunch spot.
It was such a nice trip - just a few more weeks of work until we can relax again over the holidays!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

walnut * pepper * paprika

Tasty walnut & roasted red pepper relish to try on tofu, pork, or chicken.
¼ cup walnuts
2 red bell peppers (about 1 lb.)
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon hot cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
S&P to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Place walnuts in a small bag and crush a bit with a mallet (I prefer this method over chopping on a cutting board). Toast walnut pieces on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darker, 8–10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Heat broiler. Broil bell peppers on a broile rproof rimmed baking sheet, turning occasionally, until softened and skins are blackened in spots, 20–25 minutes. Transfer bell peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam 15 minutes. Peel peppers, seed, and chop. Toss bell peppers, garlic, mint, oil, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, vinegar, and walnuts in a small bowl; season with S&P.
We had our relish atop dry fried tofu and a quinoa, black bean & spinach salad. Very fall, very yum.

Monday, October 20, 2014

nothing bundt cake

the kind folks at Nothing Bundt Cakes offered me a free cake! This eclectic storefront offers a big variety in - you guessed it...bundt cakes. From pecan praline to white chocolate raspberry (and of course reliable classics like vanilla and lemon), these cakes are as delectable as they are pretty!
The timing was perfect as we enjoyed some chocolate chip bundt for Vance's birthday.
My Aunt Middy used to make a delicious chocolate cake with vanilla frosting - and this bundt took me back to those days. Paired with a cup of coffee or a cold glass of milk, the chocolate chip bundt cake with vanilla frosting is a decadent and delicious treat. This spot is now on my short list of favorites for fun desserts!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

you are special today

Growing up, when it was your birthday or something special happened like you got an award  in school you were given the red plate at dinner. This Clark family tradition is one of my favorite, and it's something that lives on in the Clarbaugh household. 
Vance is very special today (well, it was yesterday, but I think he is special everyday) – 34 years of being special. To celebrate I made a sage spiced pumpkin hummus and a fall dinner including Ina's slow roasted beef.
Sage Spiced Pumpkin Hummus
1/2 can packed pumpkin
1 can chick peas
1/4 cup water
2 tables chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cloves minced garlic
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup tahini
2/3 tables EVOO
Mix all ingredients (except the olive oil) in food processor until incorporated. Drizzle in the olive oil until desired consistency – nice and smooth. Serve with pita chips, crudités, apple slices or whatever other vehicle you use to get hummus to your mouth.
Along with the hummus, Vance tried a sampling of pumpkin beers (not all of them - but a couple!)
Sam Adam Harvest Pumpkin Ale was my personal fav.
Speaking of beer, Courtney, Jill and I were enjoying a fall pint at the Taproom this week, and it was mentioned how brussel sprouts are one of those foods you grow to enjoy as you become an adult. For me, other foods in this category include meatloaf, cauliflower and fish (outside of fried flounder).
Vance (who perhaps has always had a little adult streak in him) has loved brussels since he was a wee Albaugh. Along with tenderloin and mashed potatoes, I made shredded brussel sprouts with pancetta for his birthday dinner.
1.5 pounds brussel sprouts
4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
S&P to taste
Cut off the hard end and peel away top layer of sprouts. Rinse and dry well. Pulse the brussel sprouts in the food processor until they are all shredded. You might have to do this in two batches. In a large sauté pan, lightly brown the pancetta - remove to a paper towel. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pancetta fat and then add the garlic. Saute until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the shredded brussel sprouts to the pan and mix well. After about 5 minutes, add the balsamic vinegar - cook for another 10 minutes until brussel sprouts are tender (add the pancetta back in during the last few minutes). Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.
Lastly, we enjoyed two great desserts (little much? agreed.) One, I will post on later this week, but the other was a delicious apple pie from The Loving Pie Co. in Berry Hill. Nothing says fall like apple pie!

Friday, October 10, 2014

it's roasting time

We have had a few cooler days here in Nashville (of course we still are in the 80's here and again), but cooler weather does call for a menu change. Time to get to roastin'!
roasted acorn squash with brown sugar butter
1 acorn squash (halved or quartered with seeds scooped out)
1-2 teaspoons EVOO
1 tablespoon butter, room temp
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Takes acorn squash halves or quarters and assemble on a cookie sheet. Brush all exposed squash flesh with oil, equally split the butter and rub over flesh. Spring brown sugar on each piece and generously salt and pepper. Ensure squash balance flesh-side up. Add a little bit of water to the pan (less than 1/4 cup) and place in oven on middle rack. Roast for an hour - pricking the squash to see if the flesh is soft. It may take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Cornish game hens stuffed with wild rice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley, plus sprigs for garnish
1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces, broken
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons dried currants
4 dried apricots, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Cornish hens, patted dry
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Saute the onions and celery until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme and cook for 1 minute more. In a mixing bowl combine the onion mixture with the rice, parsley, nuts and dried fruits and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place 1/2 cup of the rice into the cavity of each hen. Tie the legs of each bird together with kitchen twine. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the remaining butter with the vinegar. Brush the birds all over with the butter mixture and season with salt and pepper. Put the hens on a rack in a large roasting pan, breast-side up. Roast the hens until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170 degrees F., about 80 minutes. Set the birds aside at room temperature, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes before carving.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

well if this is 30...

I'll take it. I am 30 years old. I actually feel older on this birthday. I also feel happy, loved, appreciated, strong and a bit wiser than I was on my last birthday. For example - it is 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I am up, on my second cup of coffee (instead of feeling the pain from too much wine last night). I do believe birthdays are about doing what you want - which is exactly what I did this weekend. Starting with a new recipe (to come later this week) and an old favorite - turkey pumpkin chili. Nothing says "you're 30" like a bowl of chili and a beer. Vance and I had a full day of eating yesterday at the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival and a great dinner at Husk.
Delicious samplings of cheese, meats, beer and wine - Broadbent Rose Vinho Verde just became a new favorite. Vinho Verde - Portuguese for cheap & cheerful, like me!
I mean come on...a cheese festival with this guy? I couldn't be any luckier.
In addition to a delicious soft peach & jalapeño cheese and garlic cheese curds, we also picked up some delicious made in Nashville goodies. Soberdough (all you need is one bottle of beer like a delicious Yazoo brew added to the mix), Nashville Jam Co. Sweet Onion & Garlic, Eli Mason Mint Julep simple syrup, Hog Heaven White BBQ sauce, Provence Bakery Cheddar Chive Sconces & Tru Bee local honey.
We had some of these goodies already, but I wanted to give a nod to a number of our local favorites.
Before heading off to dinner last night, I mixed up a new cocktail.
A favorite of Hemingway, the Josie Russell cocktail.
1 shot light rum
juice from about a 1/4 of a lime
1/2 teaspoon sugar
hard apple cider
In a shaker, combine rum, lime juice and sugar with ice. Pour into a glass and top with hard apple cider, garnish with an apple slice.
On to a new decade.