Spicy whole grain brown mustard

It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that I made my own mustard.

I cannot believe how incredibly easy it was to make my own mustard. It is as easy as throw things in a jar, let sit for a day or two, and blend. That’s it.

Spicy whole grain brown mustard

Add this to the long list of things that is ridiculously easy to make. Although I need to try making another batch with yellow mustard seeds. Perhaps they will be a little less spicy.

When I first made this batch of mustard it was tongue numbing spicy. Seriously. Tasting it so I could adjust the seasoning was painful. I had to enlist Nathan’s help with the tasting.  After two tastes he surrendered and abandoned the kitchen. However, given a few days to mellow it was incredible. Still spicy and tangy but in a really really good way.

Spicy whole grain brown mustard

I can’t wait to put it on straight off the grill sausages. Yum.

Homemade mustard I feel would also make a really lovely gift. Especially tucked into a gift basked full of other lovely homemade treats. Or just take some as a hostess gift to the next cookout you are invited to.

Spicy whole grain brown mustard

Spicy Whole Grain Brown Mustard (makes about a pint)
Adapted from Two Tarts

6-oz. stout beer of your choice
3/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbs kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1⁄8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄8 tsp. ground allspice

Combine ingredients in a glass mason jar. Cover with a lid and let sit at room temperature for 1–2 days till the mustard seeds have absorbed most of the liquid. Transfer the mixture to another container and blend with your immersion blender. Alternatively you could use your  food processor and process. Process till most of the seeds are ground and the mixture has thickened. It takes about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a clean jar and cover. Refrigerate and use immediately (if you are brave). Keeps for up to 6 months.

Spicy whole grain brown mustard

(So last week when we had our fun morning of shooting recipes we made sandwiches with this mustard and some incredible rye caraway scone. That recipe is coming next week but here is a teaser. Yeah. Betcha you can’t wait huh?)

Spicy whole grain brown mustard on rye caraway scones


On Delivering Dinner

Hopefully we have been friends for a bit. If not no worries. I’m always happy to make new friends.

If we have been friends for a awhile one thing you will know about me is my reaction to pretty much any major life event is to throw food at it. Not literally but figuratively. You moved? Had a death in your family? New baby? Generally speaking an awful week? Birthday? Anniversary? I’m there with food in hand.

On delivering dinner

Over the years I feel I have become a bit of an expert on what to take to people. There are a few things I try to take into consideration:

1. I never make anything for a someone I wouldn’t feed my family. Good food but also good for you (well besides the cookies maybe). This means whole grains, locally sourced meats, as much organic produce as I can afford, little or no refined oils

2. Aim to include veggies. So often I feel when people drop off dinner the dishes are rich and calorie laden. I always pick main dishes that are chocked full of veggies.

3. Include something for breakfast. Ages ago I read a post about delivering dinner to a new mom and it suggested to take breakfast foods along with the dinner. I tend to make something like muffins or scones for an easy next day breakfast.

4. If you can just bring along some plain fresh fruit- apples, watermelon, grapes, strawberries. you know- whatever is in season. When we are in the midst of a life changing event I don’t think we tend to eat well. Wash and cut up the fruit for easy, mindless snacking.

5. Always ALWAYS ask about allergies, aversions, preferences before deciding on your menu. I don’t like blue cheese but you wouldn’t know that unless you asked. Or know me well.

6. Don’t break the bank. The reason I have such a deep repertoire of recipes is I cook and deliver based on what is in season, on sale, or on hand. Most meals I deliver cost me less than $10 to make. The entire meal- fruit, breakfast, and entree.

7. Only deliver on dishes and in tupperware you don’t want or need back. The last thing these people need is to keep track of your stuff. Make sure they know they don’t need to wash or return anything.

Do you ever make and deliver food to friends and family? This little blog has a long list of recipes that are perfect for delivery. Here is a list of my favorites:


Black bean and spinach enchiladas

Black bean and spinach enchiladas– Healthy and hearty. I actually delivered this to a new mama yesterday.

lighter tuna noodle casserole

Tuna noodle casserole– First reference #5 above. Not everyone loves tuna casserole BUT if they do this lighter version is packed full of veggies and is sure to please!

chicken or turkey biscuit pot pie

Chicken or turkey biscuit pot pie– A twist on pot pie that is a bit quicker to prepare. Still a showstopper and again loaded with veg.

Baked penne bolognese

Baked penne with bolognese– This dish packs a veggie punch without you realizing it. Plus there isn’t anything out there as hearty or heartwarming as homemade pasta sauce.

Baked mac and cheese

Baked mac and cheese– This recipe offers two ways to make it- both with veggies! And who doesn’t love homemade mac and cheese? Fascists that’s who.

Easy to reheat dinner:

Easy veggie curry

Easy veggie curry– Perfect vegan or vegetarian dish. Make brown rice for an extra hearty fiber punch.

Lentils, sausage and swiss chard

Lentils, sausage and swiss chard– Yes this sounds a bit unusual but make it and I promise the recipient will be impressed. This basic dish has so much flavor.


Broccoli cheese soup

Broccoli cheese soup– Loads of veggies in this lighter version of an all around classic. Be sure to include bread for dipping!

Beef barley stew

Beef barley stew– Veggies, meat, barley. Yum. Stick to your ribs soul food.

Saffron chicken veggie soup

Saffron chicken veggie soup– Did you know saffron is a mood booster? Ideal dish if someone if having a particularly hard time.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup– One of our standby faves for weeknight dinner. Simple mild soup made with nourishing chicken or veggie broth. A must make for anyone recovering from illness.

Sweet potato quinoa chili

Sweet potato quinoa chili– Another great recipe for the vegetarian or vegan. Be sure to make cornbread (suggested recipe below).


Banana bread

Banana bread– Does this really need an explanation? A classic favorite.

Cranberry orange muffins

Cranberry orange muffins– Perfect around the holiday season or if you have frozen cranberries lurking in your freezer.

Homemade granola

Homemade granola version one or version two– Cereal lovingly made by someone else is always a welcome treat.


Blueberry muffins– I make this recipe so often I have it memorized. First time I made them was to deliver to a friend at the hospital right after she had her baby.

Sides (to go with soups or casseroles!):

Brown butter rosemary cornbread

Brown butter rosemary cornbread– I think this would go great with the sweet potato quinoa chili. Just sayin.

Artisan bread

Artisan bread– This bread is no effort at all on your part and is a stunner. Sure beats spending $5 on a loaf at the store.

Cheddar scallion drop biscuits

Cheddar scallion drop biscuits– Ridiculously cheesy and flavorful biscuits. Goes great with the saffron veggies soup.


I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration. What are your favorite recipes to deliver?



Ciabatta Bread

I have debated sharing this or not.

I should preface this by saying I am NOT a bread baker. That has strictly been Nathan’s realm. I tackled and love the easy artisan bread that requires no kneeding or really any skill. And some hamburger buns. But that’s IT.

Ciabatta bread- so cheap to make at home!

Somehow last weekend I got a wild hair and decided that making ciabatta sounded like fun. Well, it was fun but it was ALOT of work. I didn’t notice that much because it was lots of little short steps sprinkled throughout the day but by the time it was done I felt like I had been working on it for four years.

It was incredibly delicious. I found some short cuts, made a couple of “no way am I going through all that” modifications, and they still turned out lovely. Not the big huge holes in the dough I was hoping for but they were tender, a bit chewy, and certainly nice and crispy.

Ciabatta bread- so cheap to make at home!

Instead of making loaves I made mine in to little buns which we used for hamburgers that night. My brother-in-law didn’t realize I had made the bread and, when I informed him that I had in fact slaved away all day, he said he has just assumed it came from the store.

Win. Honestly.

So here you go. Tread with caution as this is a monster. Leave me comments if it is completely screwy should you attempt it.

Ciabatta bread- so cheap to make at home!

Ciabatta Bread (makes 12 rolls or 2 large loaves)
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Day 1- Make poolish

2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (11.25 oz)
1 1/2 cups room temp water
1/4 tsp instant yeast

Stir together all the ingredients in a bowl till well mixed. The dough should be soft and sticky like thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 3-4 hours till bubbly and foamy. Refrigerate up to three days.

Day 2- Make the bread

1 poolish (see above)
3 cups unbleached bread flour (13.5 oz)
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup water

Remove the poolish from the fridge 1 hour before making the bread.

Stir together the flour salt and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of water. Mix on low speed till the ingredients make a sticky ball. Add water as necessary. You want the dough to clear the sides of the bowl but not necessarily the bottom. Mix with the paddle attachment till well mixed then switch to the dough hook for 5-7 minutes of kneading. The dough should still be soft and sticky.

Sprinkle the counter generously with flour and scrape out the sticky dough onto it. Pat the dough into a rectangle. Let it rest for two minutes. Gently stretch both sides of the rectangle out till the dough is double the size. Fold the dough over itself in thirds, like a letter, returning it to the original rectangular shape. Mist with spray oil, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the counter for 30 minutes. Repeat stretch and fold, re mist, sprinkle, and cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It will swell but not necessarily double in size.

Find a tea towel and mist with oil then sprinkle liberally with flour and rub it in (this is called setting up a couche). Gently remove the plastic wrap and cup the dough with a pastry cutter into either two loaves or smaller rolls. Be careful to not degass it by handling it too much. Gently lift each piece, lay on the floured cloth, then bunch the cloth between the rolls to create little walls. Cover with a towel. Proof for 45-60 minutes.

Ciabatta bread- so cheap to make at home!

Meanwhile place your pizza stone in the oven on the bottom rack and a heavy duty baking pan on the top rack. Preheat oven to 500 F or as hot as your oven will go. Gently transfer the dough to the pizza stone (I did this by hand but you can use a well floured pizza peel) either six rolls at a time or one loaf at a time. Before shutting the oven door carefully (don’t get water on your oven door or stone as they might crack) pour 2-3 cups of water in the baking pan. Shut the door quickly. Bake for 10-15 minutes or to an internal temp of 205 F. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 45 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy. Cause that was a ton of work.

Ciabatta bread- so cheap to make at home!

Homemade flour tortillas

I grew up with homemade tortillas. Flour tortillas are hard to come by in Spain so my mom always made them for us. Having been raised on such tasty and fresh tortillas I have always been sorrily disappointed in the store bought ones.

However we have been rather unsuccessful in replicating them. I say we because Nathan has been working on these with me. Actually to be fair he tried three or four recipes, none of which came out quite right, and then I took a stab at a recipe, applied all the things we learned NOT to do, and had them come out perfect on the first try.

Homemade flour tortillas- finally a list of what to do to make them turn out right!

I tease him about it every time we make them. “How is it that you tried so many times and failed and I try once and they are perfect?” I say as I duck and run for cover.

So I won’t bore you with what not to do but here are the things I think you MUST do for them to come out right:

Kneed, kneed, kneed. I throw everything in my stand mixer and kneed it for a 6-8 minutes. You have to give the gluten time to form.

Let them rest. This recipe says to let them rest for 20 minutes. They must rest for at least the full 20 minutes. If you can give them more time awesome.

Roll them out as thin as you can get them. It takes time yes but you want almost paper thin tortillas.

Use a hot hot hot cooking surface. I have used both the pizza stone in a 450 degree oven and a rip roaring hot DRY griddle. Both work beautifully but they key here it HOT. You want to cook these babies in about a minute.

Under cook ever so slightly. Crispy charred tortillas are tasty but the ones that seem a tad underdone at first will finish cooking as they cook and be perfectly soft and chewy.

Homemade flour tortillas- finally a list of what to do to make them turn out right!

This recipe makes 8-12 tortillas depending on how big you want them. One happy thing I learned is that you can simply pop any unrolled dough balls into a ziplock and store in the fridge. I have kept them in the fridge for up to 5 days. No mixing, kneeding and resting required! Just pull out of the fridge, roll, cook, and devour.


(Wednesday I will be sharing with you the delicious enchiladas I made with this batch of tortillas)

Homemade flour tortillas- finally a list of what to do to make them turn out right!

Homemade Flour Tortillas (makes 8-12)
From the Joy of Cooking

2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lard
3/4 cup warm water

Combine all ingredients in a the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and kneed for 6-8 minutes. Divide the dough equally into 8-12 pieces and roll them into balls (a scale is very handy here). Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Roll our each ball of dough into a 6- to 8-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Slide the tortillas into the skillet one by one, cooking until brown spots appear, about 30 seconds on the first side, 15 seconds once flipped. Alternatively place a pizza/bread stone in your oven and preheat to 450 F. Place a tortilla on the stone and cook on just one side for aprox 45 sec-1 min. Cover the cooked tortillas to keep warm while you cook the rest. Serve warm.

Homemade flour tortillas- finally a list of what to do to make them turn out right!

Granola Clusters

Since becoming a stay at home mama I have slowly been making many of our family’s every day items. Bread is the most recent adventure. I also make my own ricotta, cheeze-its, tamales, ice cream, graham crackers, and granola. I have tackled and perfected homemade tortillas this past week and will be sharing that with you soon.

Granola clusters

I used to think homemade meant cheap and not as good as store bought. Over the past few months I have discovered this is most certainly not the case. I can control what is in my food (meaning no artificial crap) and it is always so much better than anything I can get in the store. This was true for the granola I made but I wanted more. Finally I stumbled on a wonderful granola CLUSTER recipe. The same control over whats in my granola but now with the delicious clusters like the granola from the store.

Granola clusters

We made this for the first time weeks ago and were unimpressed. I don’t throw out food so it went in to a tupperware and in to the pantry. Something magical happened- it got so much better after a couple of days. And when sprinkled over yogurt and peaches I had to pace myself before I inhaled the whole bowl.

This is now my official go to granola recipe. Little loves it too. We go through a batch once every two weeks. Absurd pace I know but it is such a great “I need a quick sweets fix.” A handful of granola is infinitely better for you than a handful of chocolate chips I am sure.

Granola clusters

Granola Clusters (makes about 7 cups)
Adapted from An Oregon Cottage (yes I get alot of my recipes from her lately. What can I say? She’s good.)

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbs vanilla
1/2 cup coconut oil
5 c. rolled oats (not quick)
1 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. flax meal
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with silicone or parchment. Place the first four ingredients in a glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute- just long enough to melt the coconut oil. Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl, pour the oil/honey/syrup mixture over it and mix everything really well. Press the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet, using the back of the spoon, or a spatula. The harder you press the tighter your finished clusters will be.  Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for about 35 minutes and do not stir.  Remove to a cooling rack for 1 hour before breaking the granola into chunks.

Granola clusters

The Very Best Pizza Dough

This post is another (yey!) guest post. Today’s recipe and detailed tutorial is from my amazing brother-in-law Ryan Rojas. The same one who got us in the gingerbread house fiasco. He has been making our pizza dough for months and has absolutely perfected the homemade pizza. Enjoy.

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!
There are few things I love more than a good pizza, and the key to a great pizza is its base: the crust.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

I started making my own pizza dough a while back in order to carry on a long standing tradition for us.  Tuesday night was always Pizza & Beer night, but when our favorite bartender at our local pizza place moved away, we decided to carry on the tradition at home.  We started with pre-made store bought doughs, but at $4 a pop, I thought “I can do that!”  And so can you… its as easy as, well, pie.

A quick warning, however: once you make your own pizza dough, you will never be able to go back to store bought dough.  It just won’t have the same amount of flavor.  So if you’re ready to commit to making the best tasting pizza crust you’ve ever had, here you go…

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

The very best pizza dough (makes two 8-10 inch pizza crusts)
Pizza Stone
Pizza Peel
Kitchen Aide Mixer with Dough Hook (sure you can do it by hand, but it will take forever)
Mixing Bowl for resting (2 for dividing the dough)
Candy Thermometer (if you are using Active Dry Yeast)
1 cup glass measuring cup
Cornmeal (for dusting the peel)

2 ½ cups flour
½ tbsp kosher salt
⅝ tsp Active Dry Yeast (or ½ tsp instant or 1 tsp fresh)
⅞ cup cold water
¼ cup semolina flour (optional: this makes for a crispier crust which holds up better to wet toppings)

First we start with the yeast:
I use Active Dry Yeast.  Apparently, instant yeast is the best for this, but I’ve only managed to find it in the little packets… and once you’re hooked on this dough, that is simply just not good enough.  I buy a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Active Dry Yeast (in the refrigerator section) and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Active Dry Yeast is basically sleeping yeast, so it needs to be woken up to work.  To do this, add the yeast to a small amount of 110 degree water in the glass measuring cup.  This is where the thermometer comes in… make sure the water is 110 degrees… too cold and it will stay dormant, too hot and its toast.

While the yeast is waking up, add the flour and salt to the mixer.  Once the yeast is awake, add enough cold water to make ⅞ cup.  Pour the yeast/water mixture into the mixer and turn it on medium low (about 3 on a regular kitchenaide, 2 on the professional model).  Let it mix for 4 minutes.  Then let it rest for 5 minutes.  And I’ll tell you why in the next paragraph, which you’ll enjoy if you’re a nerdy type like me.  If not, feel free to skip the next paragraph, but I can’t promise I won’t mock you for skipping it… just warning you.

Why we let it rest: We let the dough rest to allow time for the gluten to form.  Gluten is what gives the dough its elasticity, so without it the dough won’t stretch and won’t form the right texture.  By letting the dough rest, the flour and water start to form the gluten chains, which we’ll be helping to develop by kneading the dough.

Now kick the mixer on to medium (about 4-5, still a 2 on the professional) and let the mixer do the kneading for you!  After 3-4 minutes I start checking the dough to see if the gluten is ready.  We do this with the “windowpane” test.  Turn off the mixer and pull off a small piece of dough.  Start gently stretching the dough piece into a flat disk, slowly turning it as you stretch. The dough is done when you can stretch it so that a thin translucent ‘windowpane’ forms in the center without the dough tearing.  If the dough tears, toss it back in the mixer for a couple more minutes and repeat the test.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial- what they mean when they say windowpane

Once the dough is finished kneading, remove it from the mixer and form it into a ball shape.  I do this while holding it in my hands, but you can set it down on a lightly floured counter and fold over each corner to make a ball.  Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl (I use olive oil), then cover with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes.  Then put the dough in the refrigerator overnight.

Why do we put it in the refrigerator overnight?  Glad you asked!  (Ok, if you didn’t ask, skip to the next paragraph… but again, mockery might ensue!)

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

Why we refrigerate overnight: The yeast fermentation is what turns the blah tasting flour into the yummy tasting pizza crust.  The trick to the best tasting crust is to let the yeast work at the dough slowly.  By refrigerating the dough, it slows down those eager yeasties, and the result will be a very complex flavored crust that is worth the wait!

Remove the dough from the refrigerator in the morning and divide in half.  Reform each half into a ball and place each in its own oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Return the doughs to the refrigerator.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 hours prior to use.  Let it sit on the counter and warm up to room temperature, which will allow the dough to be more pliable.

Place the pizza stones in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 500.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

Lightly dust the pizza peel with cornmeal.  And now for the fun part… tossing the dough!  I learned my technique from 8 time world pizza-tossing champion Tony Gemignani.  Ok, I learned it from watching his instructional video, which can be found here and here.

If tossing the pizza is too intimidating for you right now, or your ceiling is just to low, you can also form the pizza by using the pull and rotate method.  Once you have your dough formed into a disk pick it up by the edge grasping it with both hands next to each other, then gently stregth the dough by pulling your hands apart a few inches, then rotate the dough and repeat.  Keep pulling and rotating until you get the pizza to the size that fits your peel.

Place the formed crust on the peel and move it around to make sure it won’t stick to the peel.  You can continue to stretch the dough on the peel, if necessary… just make sure it slides freely on the peel before you add the toppings.

Top as desired… (One of our favorites is mozzarella and prosciutto then sprinkled with fresh arugula the second it comes out of the oven)

The perfect pizza dough tutorial- topped simply with mozarella, prosciutto and arugula.

Use the peel to gently slide the pizza onto the stone.  A few gentle shakes might be required to help the pizza slide off the peel, but don’t over do it, or you will have a misshapen pizza… or worse!

The perfect pizza dough tutorial

Bake at 500 for 12 minutes, then check for doneness.  The crust should be crisp but not burnt.

The perfect pizza dough tutorial


Well we can now add tamales to the list of things that most people buy but I can now make. I am ridiculously proud. I would have never undertaken this on my own, I even highly doubt it would have ever occurred to me to try and makes them, but a wonderful fellow mama and friend got a craving and a crazy plan.

Homemade tamales- easier than you thought!

I am not one to turn down the chance to learn to make something new and a few weeks ago when I was asked if I wanted to make tamales I quickly replied yes! Despite the busyness of this time of year two lovely mamas got together and made a huge batch of these bad boys. Sharing the workload made it incredibly easy. I made the chicken filling, one of them made the pork filling, and another bought the lard and corn husks. Then we spent a child free afternoon (!) in the kitchen enjoying each others company and a delicious bottle of wine. It was some of the most fun I have had in a long time.

The tamales we made that day were delicious. However, since none of us had made tamales before, the recipe needed some tweaking to be perfect. Apparently I cannot leave a recipe alone if I can think I KNOW how to improve it. I lasted all of 48 hours before I whipped up a second batch of tamales in my kitchen while Little was napping. I had leftover filling from the first attempt so all I had to do was make the masa, assemble the tamales, and steam them. Easy peasy. And guess what? I was right- I knew how to fix the recipe. The second batch was perfect. You can’t even tell they were made by a gringa.

Homemade tamales- easier than you thought!

I learned many things in the process of making these two batches of tamales.

  1. You should make your own tamales. They are really easy. Time consuming but easy. A wonderful opportunity to drink some wine, chat, and make tasty food.
  2. Your masa needs to be the texture of thick peanut butter. We learned this wonderful description after the fact. The first batch was dry. The second batch was perfect.
  3. You should have about as much masa in your tamale as you should have filling. Your layer of masa should be as thin as you can get it. Keeping your hands wet make spreading the sticky masa much easier. Have a bowl of water next to you and dipping your hands in it frequently.
  4. This recipe calls for 4-6 serrano chiles. Serrano chiles are HOT. However your filling needs to have a fair bit of spice because the masa doesn’t have a ton of flavor. If it is so spicy it makes your eyes water (like it did to me) that’s ok. It WILL mellow and it will taste amazing later.
  5. Tamales take FOREVER to steam (1 hr 15 to 1 hr 45 depending on the size and moisture content of your tamales). This is a great time to sip aforementioned wine or clean up the kitchen.

I hope you make your own tamales. I plan on keeping this recipe handy and I’m sure I will be making them many more times in the not to distant future.

Homemade tamales- easier than you thought!

Green Chile Chicken Tamales (makes 24)

1 package (8 ounces) dried corn husks soaked in hot water for several hours before assembly
1 lb. (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chiles, to taste (roughly 4 to 6 serranos or 2 to 3 jalapeños), stemmed and roughly chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1½ Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
3 to 3½ cups chicken broth
4 cups (about 1 pound) coarsely shredded cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted, or rotisserie chicken
2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
10 oz. (1¼ cups) rich-tasting pork lard (or vegetable shortening if you wish), slightly softened but not at all runny
1½ tsp. baking powder
2 lb. (4 cups) fresh coarse-ground corn masa for tamales

First make the filling: On a baking sheet, roast the tomatillos about 4 inches below a very hot broiler until soft (they’ll blacken in spots), about 5 minutes; flip them over and roast the other side. Cool, then transfer to a food processor or blender along with all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the chiles and garlic and process to a smooth purée. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the purée all at once and stir until noticeably thicker and darker, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the broth and simmer over medium heat until thick enough to coat a spoon quite heavily, about 10 minutes. Taste and season generously with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. Stir in the chicken and cilantro; cool completely.

Second prepare the batter: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard with 2 teaspoons salt and the baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute. Continue beating as you add the masa in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the remaining broth. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a ½-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats, you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light). Beat in enough of the remaining ½ cup broth to give the mixture the consistency of thick peanut butter; it should hold its shape in a spoon. Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think it needs some.

Homemade tamales- easier than you thought!

Third assembly and steaming: One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out one of your chosen corn husks with the tapering end toward you. Spread about 2 tbs of the batter into about a 4-inch square on the top 2/3 of your husk leaving a border on all sides. Spoon about 1½ tablespoons of the filling down the center of the batter. Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together (this will cause the batter to surround the filling). Roll the tamale together as best you can, wrapping the husk around the masa and filling. Finally, fold up the empty 1½-inch section of the husk (to form a tightly closed “bottom,” leaving the top open). Stand the tamales on their folded bottoms in the prepared steamer (you can use a vegetable steamer and steam in batches or use a large kettle style steamer). When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of more leftover corn husks. Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1¼ hours. Watch carefully to make sure that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary.The tamales are done when the husks peel away from the masa easily. Let the tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best-textured tamales, let them cool completely, then steam again for about 15 minutes to heat them through. Alternatively, microwave them for 45 seconds to a minute before eating. They will be steaming hot so be careful and enjoy!

Homemade tamales- easier than you thought!

Ps. I know the pictures show the pork filling too. I didn’t make that filling so I don’t have the recipe. Sorry for taunting you.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

My favorite part of cooking seasonally is the ability to enjoy foods that aren’t available year around. Peaches in August, strawberries in June, peak of the season citrus in December, and here in Oregon rainy Octobers mean chanterelles.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Have you had chanterelles before? They are a lovely orange mushroom that grows in the wet warmish fall months. I found a local picker who brought them right to my house. Talk about field to table. We had actually discussed about doing our own picking this year but we didn’t know where to go and heard pickers are possessive of their hunting grounds. Best not to tussle with them.

Chanterelles have a very rich, deep, meaty flavor. I have used them in risotto, stroganoff, and quiche so far this year. Oh and lets not forget just pan frying them for scrambled eggs. Seriously- go get your hands on some of these.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Last year my husbands favorite food cart created this gravy to serve to their clientele. Nathan begged for the recipe and, with a rough idea of what to do, he recreated it last year for Thanksgiving. Now it is a staple. I used to be a “my gravy must be smooth” girl but this tasty chunky gravy has won me over.

If you are lucky enough to score some of these tasties please whip up a batch of this gravy and smother the nearest batch of mashed potatoes in it. You wont regret it.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Chanterelle mushroom gravy (makes about 3 1/2 cups)

3/4-1 lb chanterelle mushrooms coarsely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary picked and chopped
2 finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are going vegan)
3 tbs cup olive oil
salt pepper

Place a large saute pan over medium high heat and add 2 tbs olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering saute the shallots for 2 min. Add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms till they release their liquid and it has all evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tbs olive oil and rosemary. Season well with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a separate container whisk the flour with 1/2 cup of chicken stock till smooth. Once you have seasoned the mushroom saute add the flour/stock mixture to the pan and stir well. Add the rest of the stock and cook till thick, about 10 minutes. Serve.

Chanterelle mushroom gravy

Pumpkin Creme Candies

This post is guest authored by my dear friend Brooke Jackson. I love her and her little family to pieces. She is truly a kindred spirit. When she made these a few weeks ago and tempted me with a photo on facebook I begged her to share them with you. Here you go!

Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate

My college experience was far from normal in many ways. Chief among them was my part-time job: Chocolatier.

I worked for a very small, local candy company that made all of its chocolate treats by hand. The owner was also the baker; he cooked the caramels, seafoam, truffles, crème centers, and more. There were two old ladies who lovingly dipped these candies into giant vats of melted chocolate. The ceiling-high shelves in our production room were filled with candy molds of various sizes and styles, from cute bunnies to dancing ladies to toy trains. Can you imagine biting into a piece of solid chocolate shaped like a wrench, or receiving an edible chocolate running shoe filled with candies? The possibilities were endless.

So when I stumbled on a recipe for pumpkin spice “truffles” last month, the nostalgic delight of long afternoons spent stuffing my face with chocolate (like a little girl) immediately surfaced. It’s been more than five years since I dipped my final candy and said good-bye to the store, but the daily need for chocolate hasn’t left me.

Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate
The ingredient list is brief and the directions are pretty easy, but don’t be fooled! These pumpkin spice crèmes will surprise and delight you. They’ll be a party favorite; a delight at office. People will want the recipe. And you? You’ll get requests for another batch. Nom on.

Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate (makes aprox 30 candies)

1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 5 oz)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup pumpkin puree

¾ cup finely ground gingersnaps
¾ cup ground graham crackers
2 Tb powdered sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground orange peel

For rolling the crèmes: Additional powdered sugar
For dipping: 1lb chopped white chocolate (or white candy melts)
For garnish: Additional gingersnap crumbs

Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate
Use a food processor, blender, or plastic bag and rolling pin to create the ground gingersnaps and ground graham crackers.

To make the crème filling, use a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water to melt the white chocolate until smooth. (You can use the microwave, but be very careful! White chocolate burns easily and does not taste good when burned.)

Let the chocolate cool slightly. Add the cream cheese and mix until well blended, then mix in the pumpkin puree. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (gingersnaps, graham crackers, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel). Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator until it has thickened up enough to scoop and roll into balls (at least 1 hour).

Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top of the mixture. Dust powdered sugar on your hands and scooping tool of choice (spoon, ice cream scoop, spring-loaded scoop, etc.). Scoop the filling mixture and roll into 1-inch diameter balls. Place each ball onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Add powdered sugar as needed to help with the stickiness.

Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate

Place the baking sheet in the freezer and let chill until firm, about 2 hours.

When you are ready to dip the truffles, melt until smooth one pound of white chocolate or candy melts in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly.

Drop one of the crèmes into the chocolate (you can do two or three at a time when you’re ready). Use a fork to gently turn the crème and coat it in chocolate. Lift the crème out of the chocolate with the tines of the fork. Scrape the bottom of the fork on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate, then gently slide the coated crème onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle immediately with additional ground gingersnaps. Note: Do not tap or aggressively shake the coated crème. This removes too much chocolate from the coating, making for a thin shell that cracks easily.

Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate

Repeat with the remaining crèmes.  Depending on the temperature of your home, you might need to transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill the candies until the coating is set. The candies should be stored in the refrigerator.

Note: Sometimes a crème center will burst through its chocolate shell. This is normal. When the cold crème is dipped in the warm chocolate, the crème expands and pushes on the shell, sometimes cracking the shell or even oozing out. To help minimize this problem, be sure to let the melted chocolate cool slightly before dipping, and do not tap or aggressively shake the crème after it is dipped in chocolate.
Pumpkin Crème Candies: A pumpkin spice crème coated in white chocolate


Apple spice cake (another birthday!)

This is the birthday that didn’t want to happen. Obstacle after obstacle got in the way. This cake barely happened. My sweet sister is a amazing and was so understanding when we had to keep postponing birthday plans.

Lets back up. For my sister’s birthday last year I was set on making her a cake and dinner. I also had a six week old baby. I was sleep deprived and neurotic. If you had asked me which way was up I am uncertain if I could have told you. For some reason I latched on to the idea of making an orange blossom cake with a cranberry filling. She didn’t care for it, although at the time you would have never known. It was a less than spectacular attempt at a birthday cake. The cake itself was odd and barely tasted of orange but was a bit soggy. The filling was too runny and the frosting left something to be desired. I have no idea what I made her for dinner. She was a saint and was appreciative just the same.

Apple spice cake

This year I was determined to make her a cake she WANTED, not one I wanted to make. After much deliberation she picked an apple spice cake recipe I found a few months back. I got the cake made in time but the night before we were supposed to have everyone over for dinner Little got sick. He has never been sick. So plans for Friday (her actual birthday!) were cancelled. Thankfully I managed to get the cake together for a family get together on Saturday and it was a huge hit! Then we were supposed to make the cancelled dinner on Sunday but  I got sick, followed not but twelve hours later by Nathan. Seriously? So plans were postponed again. We finally got to go on her birthday shopping trip on Saturday (a week late) and I made the dish she picked out for her birthday dinner last night (a week and a half late). She is a saint.

But at least there was cake on the right weekend. Even if it was a day late, in light of how late the rest of the birthday plans went, the cake was almost early to the party. And was it ever a delicious. Moist, surprisingly rich, a bit spicy. Perfect.

Apple spice cake

And the best part? When she told me she liked her cake this year she wasn’t being polite.

Apple Spice Cake (make one 2-3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake)
adapted from Epicurious

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon, apple brandy, or rum (optional)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 medium Fuji or Gala apples (13 to 14 ounces total), peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (about 6 ounces)

Apple spice cake

Preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour two or three 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Whisk first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then bourbon, if desired (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture to egg mixture in 3 additions alternately with applesauce in 2 additions, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in apples and pecans. Divide batter between cake pans; smooth tops.Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks; peel off parchment paper. Place another rack atop 1 cake and invert again so that cake is rounded side up. Repeat with second cake. Cool completely. Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap each cake in plastic and store at room temperature.Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 cup butter, room temp
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tbs milk
7 cups +/- Powdered Sugar

In a medium bowl, add cream cheese and butter, whip till light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar while mixing.  If too thick add milk one tablespoon at a time.  You are trying to achieve a medium stiff consistency. Whip for several minutes.

Assemble the cake

Place a large dollop of frosting on your plate or cake stand. Place one layer of the cake bottom side up on the frosting. Cover with about 1 cup of frosting. Place a second layer of cake on top of the frosting bottom side up. If you have a third layer simply cover the second layer with frosting and top with the last layer bottom side up. Frost cake as you wish.

Apple spice cake

A note on cake decorating- I took a fancy class recently to learn how to decorate cakes. It was a blast. I highly recommend that you take such a class if you can. However, for this cake I followed a tutorial from Sweetapolita (I have a huge blog crush on her). Her cake is MUCH prettier than mine but you can see how incredibly easy it is to decorate a cake like this.