Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Glaze

Are you starting to get worried about us?  It took me a while to realize that if I was reading what’s going on in my kitchen, I’d be worried, too.  Because, seriously, we’re not exactly coming off as health nuts.  There’s a lot of talk about pulled pork, and dip, and cookies… and cake.  Oh, the cake.  But I promise you that we do indeed eat salad sometimes.  Most of the time, actually.  But so often, a salad that I throw together for dinner really isn’t worth mentioning.  There’s no recipe to post, and pictures of romaine lettuce can get pretty tedious.  These salads might not make it to the blog, but they’re around, I promise.
 
Well a couple of night ago I went a little crazy.  I decided that not only would I make a nice little salad to have with dinner, but I would make something different.  That means no romaine or iceberg, no tomatoes, no cucumbers.  I had earmarked this recipe as one to try, and it seemed like the perfect thing.  No matter that watermelon isn’t exactly in season yet.  No matter that I had to harvest almost my entire arugula plant in the garden to make two teeny salads.  It just seemed right.
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Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

True Story: I make these crackers. Friends come over for drinks and apps. They see these crackers sitting on a plate on the corner and immediately exclaim, “Oh my gosh, are those Ina’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers?!” Wow. I had no idea when I made these that their reputation preceded them. Of course, it might say more about the kind of crowd I run with more than anything else, but obviously, I hadn’t done my homework on these bad boys. They had just looked good while I was paging through the cookbook, and they looked easy and I had everything to make them, so I figured… Why not?

But now I suppose that these crackers are somewhat famous. So I  guess they need no introduction. Which is good, because I’m at a loss for words today. I’m still thinking about that beer-braised pork.  All I can tell you is that they are, indeed, very tasty. If you’re looking for a true cracker, something to spread paté on, or top with cheese, these might not be ideal. Their texture is closer to a shortbread cookie rather than a cracker. They’re really best, in my opinion, on their own, with a little cocktail or a glass of wine. So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Parmesan and Thyme Crackers. [Read more...]

Beer-Braised BBQ Pork

I made this barbecued pork on Sunday, and I have spent the past two days trying to think of how I can possibly tell you how delicious it is.  Truth is, I can’t.  My writing skills are failing me, and every time I try to speak a single descriptive word about this pork, I start salivating and drool starts to come out of my mouth.  It is just that good.  But for you all, I will try.
 
The funny part is, the fact that I made this at all happened sort of by accident.  I was at the store, and there was this pork on sale, and it looked like a pork roast and it was a good deal, so… I bought it.  And then I came home and read the label and it said, “Pork butt roast.”  And to be honest, I giggled a little bit.  I guess I’m not as mature as I’d like to think I am sometimes.  So basically I had no idea how to prepare a butt roast (hehe).  Google to the rescue.  I found out from my search that a pork butt roast is actually a piece of meat taken from the shoulder, and that it is the perfect candidate for slow-cooking in liquid, or braising.  This recipe caught my eye, and the rest is history. 

Strawberry Cake

Honestly, sometimes I can’t just let well enough alone.  I see a recipe, and something about it strikes my fancy.  Then, I proceed to make it, changing whatever it was that originally grabbed my attention.  I end up with something completely different, and kind of, well… disappointed.  But what do I expect?  I’m like that reviewer on epicurious.com that everyone hates…you know the one- “Well I loved this recipe for scrambled eggs with herbs, but I didn’t have any eggs so I used bread and I didn’t have any herbs so I used jam, and I threw some peanut butter on there, too, for a little extra flavor.  It tasted almost like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Five stars!”  Yeesh.  I might do this, but I’ve always prided myself on not writing stupid reviews like that.  Oh wait… that is about to happen.

I kind of fell in love a little bit with this cake when I saw it on the Saveur website.  So unnaturally bright pink!  But when I scanned down the list of ingredients, it looked a little weird and it called for Strawberry extract, which is even weirder.  Not that I’m one to turn up my nose at processed ingredients, but strawberry extract?  Doesn’t sound particularly yummy.  (Please note that I have absolutely no problem pouring huge amounts of food coloring in batter, just extract. I never said I was rational.) But this picture of this insanely pink cake kept coming into my life, or at least across my computer screen, and so I bit the bullet and decided to give it a try.  There has to be something delicious and unexpected about it, because it’s in Saveur, right? [Read more...]

Green Herb Dip

Summer is almost here. I can officially wear flip-flops without my toes turning to ice, and I barely need a jacket to sit outside in the evening. The trees and flowers are green and gorgeous and hopeful, and I swear the smell of cut grass through my car window almost brought tears of joy to my eyes yesterday. Summer. It’s not just the weather that gets me excited about summer every year, but the change in the pace of life that comes with it. Whereas in the winter, when the sun goes down around 4, I can barely stay up until 9 pm, in the summer, I never want to go to sleep- I just want to sit outside and soak in all of the warm breezes and late-evening neighborhood sounds. We’re not quite there yet; it’s still raining pretty much every other day around here, and there has been some sad back-sliding in the sunshine department… but we’re so close. [Read more...]

Finocchio al Forno (Fennel Baked in Cream)

I feel it’s only fair after subjecting you all to Brussels sprouts, and urging you to give them another try, that I give something a second try, too.  The tough part about that is… there are so few foods that I don’t like.  I will eat pretty much anything.  Not eggs shells or raw potatoes like someone we know, but….

The reason I’m so big on giving not-so-favored foods a second shot is because in the past, when I’ve done it, I’ve always been rewarded.  Over the years, our tastes change, and if we don’t keep trying something, how will we know that we still don’t like it?  I know this all sounds very reasonable, but I can acknowledge that some foods are just… not for me.  And I’m sad to say that fennel has always been that food for me. [Read more...]

Black Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

 

I’m a huge sucker for those food combinations that are opposites, but go together so perfectly that you wonder why they’re opposites in the first place.  You know… sweet and salty, crispy and chewy. So it’s no surprise that when I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs a while back, I had to have it.  And I proceeded to save it on my computer,gaze at the pictures longingly once in a while, and justify in my head why today just isn’t the day for it.

Finally, finally, finally, the day had come.  I had things to do around the house all day, which as we all know, is the perfect kind of day for making yeast dough.  Now, before you say you don’t do things like that, hear me out.  It’s really not so bad as people make it out to be.  And the results are so delicious and worth it.  Ok, here is how I see it: there are things that take a little more effort in cooking that are worth it and then there are some things that aren’t worth it.  The worth it things, for me, include: using real chocolate in brownies, organic cage-free eggs, and homemade yeast dough.  The not-worth-it things:  expensive pepper, bottled water, table-tempering chocolate. [Read more...]

Simmered Brussels Sprouts… don’t stop reading!

I’m pretty sure I’ve probably already lost half of you somewhere between Brussels and sprouts.  But for those of you that have gotten this far, hang in there with me!  I know that Brussels sprouts aren’t exactly the prom queen of the vegetable world, and that there are a lot of people out there who would rather eat nothing than eat a Brussels sprout.

But let me just throw something out there… these little guys can be delicious.  And not even in the sense of “anything you fry up with onions and bacon will be delicious”.  There is another way to deal with these buggers. [Read more...]

Madeira Cake

So, when I instituted Monday Cake Day, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that sometimes, I wouldn’t want to come home on a Monday and make a cake.  I mean, yes, baking a cake can be an incredibly cathartic experience, and eating a cake can be a ridiculously delicious experience, but… sometimes a Monday is a Monday is a Monday.  A Monday where it takes all you’ve got just to get some form of dinner on the table, whatever that might be.

Wait, now, just wait.  You didn’t think I was going to back out, did you?  No way!  If I say Monday is going to be Cake Day around here, you can safely bet that there will be cake in the house.  It might not be a fancy cake, or an ooey-gooey-caramelly cake, but there will be cake.  I turned to this Madeira Cake because I remember it as being so exceptionally simple that the outstanding finished product was surprising.  Perfect for this lazy girl, right? [Read more...]

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

 

It’s a rainy Sunday, and I planned on spending the day cleaning the house, doing laundry, and doing a little baking.  To me, there is nothing better than a whole day with nothing to do except look through your cookbooks and then bake a few things before starting on one of those dinner favorites that you don’t usually have time for.

Of course, it complicates matters when the cold and rain conspire to keep you inside.  It makes for good baking weather, but not such great grocery shopping weather.  The idea of bundling up, pulling out an umbrella and then standing all damp and cranky in a check-out line with a bunch of other damp and cranky people is completely unattractive to me.  So I began rummaging through my pantry and fridge, trying to find inspiration for my baking project for the afternoon.  Wow, pretty well stocked.  I was just starting to get impressed with myself for having such a wide range of ingredients when I got this niggling little feeling about my eggs.  I made eggs for breakfast yesterday… how many had I used? Uh oh.  I wouldn’t have left one egg in the carton, would I?  Oh, but I did.  I saw my dreams of baking all afternoon dashed.  [Read more...]