Saturday, November 28, 2015

Smoked Trout Spread

Someone at my house came home from a guy's weekend with 20 trout not that long ago.
Yep, 20.
He caught 3-4 himself, but many of the other guys caught them but didn't want them.
So, that guy knew what to do.  Bring them home to me.
I love trout, but it IS hard to eat 20 of them.
So, we lightly smoked a bunch of them after a very short brining, and then threw them on the smoker.  We happily ate one each while it was hot and fresh and chilled the rest.
I knew that they were perfect for smoked fish to serve cold, chowder or a trout spread.  

We served this on Thanksgiving and the kids nummied this right up and said how much they wished there was more.

My advice?  When you, or your significant other goes fishing, bring the trout home.  Brine it. Smoke it. Make some Trout spread, some smoked trout chowder and enjoy it!

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 boneless smoked trout, (about 8 ounces), reserve about 1/3 cup in chunks
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
Tbsp minced green onions
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1-2 Tbsp capers
1/2 lemon, juiced

Serve with toasts, crackers, or celery.
Reserve a little of the fish and green onions for a garnish (as pictured).

Discard the head, and skin and flake the trout fillets, picking out any bones if you see any. Puree the cream cheese, sour cream, onion, mustard, capers, lemon juice and horseradish in a mini food processor. Add the fish and pulse to a make a semi- smooth dip. Transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate about 1 hour. It will not be totally firm, but nice and spreadable.

Note: 8 oz of smoked trout took about 3 small trout.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Apple Parsnip Soup

I can't say this was my favorite soup. 
And you know I love soup. Love.

Everywhere I have been looking lately, I see soups with root veggies and apples.  
However, I am not sure I am a huge fan.

It's not often that I cannot salvage something and make it something yummy.  
I mean, there's always something you do to save it.  
More stock, a bit of acid (like lemon or vinegar) more salt & pepper.
But this one, this one was just too sweet for me.  My hubby refused to eat it.  
Parsnips, apples and apple cider are all sweet- combined in soup it is just too much.
Though, I did eat it, and kept thinking how I might change it if I was going to make it again.
I've made some notes below.

A couple of things I can say about this soup is that I do think that kids would really love it.  
Warm, sweet with a hint of spice.  I think they would like it.
It could also be a good with a salty, grilled ham and cheese sandwich. 

Serves about 8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated  
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped  (Suggest reducing to one cup instead...)
4 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
3 cups parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 cup apple cider (suggest omit this and replacing with more stock)

Saute onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes over medium heat in a dutch oven or 6 qt soup pot.  
Stir in the curry powder and fresh (or dried) ginger.
Add stock and the chopped apples and parsnips.
Cook covered, 30 minutes
Blend until smooth with a stick blender, or in batches in your regular blender.

Serve with sour cream or cream fraiche, and a sprinkling of chives or green onions.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Smoked Turkey

I feel a little bad sharing this recipe for three reasons.

For one,
I did not write it (except this intro), my hubby did after I implored him to document what he did last year.  My reasoning for posting this is completely selfish... I want to be able to refer to it again, and again.  

For two,
Unless you have a smoker, you probably can't make it.

For three,
Even if you do have a smoker, if your turkey isn't fresh, or already thawed, you can't make it. As of today's date, there just isn't enough time.

Just know one thing, this was the best turkey we ever ate. We are looking forward to recreating it for our annual feast in a couple days.

1 (20-23lb). Butterball self-basting turkey, fresh or thawed

2 gallons cold water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp course ground black pepper
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce  
    Brine the turkey refrigerated for 48 hours. 
    Pat turkey dry, air dry in refrigerator overnight. We didn't use a rub on the turkey. The brine and smoke flavor were enough.

    We have a Traeger, which is an electric, auger feed pellet smoker. 
    Clean smoker and place two drip pans under the grid, raised on foil runners to keep them from scorching.  Add a cup of water to each pan.  Use these drippings for the gravy. (Piper's note- don't use only the drippings for gravy, just add 1 cup to 4 cups of broth, it can be stronger than you are used to)
    Smoke at 225F for about 2 hours. We used Hickory, the hickory smoke flavor wasn't too strong. This year, we're going to try mesquite chips.
    Turn the Smoker up to 350F and bake until probe thermometer in the breast reads 160F. This takes less time than you think, generally a couple of hours. The thigh should read 170F. Remove the bird and let it rest for 1 hour covered with a foil tent,
    Total cooking time from start to finish is 4-5 hours. I put the turkey in at 8:15 and it was done before 1pm.  Next year we'll start at 10am and wrap up at 3pm. Then we'll be ready to eat at 4pm.
    Meat was moist and flavorful, perfectly seasoned, and tender.

    I sure do love you =)
    (He wrote that, but I thought you'd like to hear someone to say it to you today... be sure to pass it on to your friends and family). - Piper

    Sunday, November 22, 2015

    Quick Cranberry Tangerine Sauce

    I cannot stand the store bought canned jellied cranberry sauce.
    I hate it.  But, I buy it for those others, who think it's the tradition they can't live without.
    I make this recipe for me.
    It's my tradition, I can't live without it.
    I don't care that some people tease me about "carrots" in the cranberry sauce (... it's tangerines, of course). It gives it tang and flavor, and my favorite color, orange!

    This recipe differs from my Mom's version, which I love and grew up with.  I cook mine for a short amount of time, about 5 minutes to melt the sugar, soften the berries, burn off some of the alcohol and meld the flavors.  My Mom always used some fortified wine, like MD 20/20. You know MD stands for "Mad Dog", right?  LOL, that always intrigued me as a kid.
    My recipe calls for Cherry Maraschino liqueur, but you could easily use another spirit like Port, Chambord (raspberry liqueur) or even MD 20/20. 
    This is a great keeper, so if you don't use all of it for Thanksgiving, you can use it through December and the Christmas holidays.  I've used leftovers with my Greek yogurt, and must say, I love it like that.

    3 small thin skinned seedless tangerines, or clementines
    1 pkg fresh cranberries
    2/3 cup of sugar
    2 Tbsp of maraschino liqueur, or some other booze (Or, omit this entirely, if you prefer)

    Cut the tangerines into 8 pieces each, add to a food processor.  Yes, the peel and all.

    Add the cranberries and the sugar and pulse until they are roughly chopped.  You can do chunky, or a fine mince, or somewhere in between like mine.

    Add the mixture, plus the booze, to a medium saucepan, and cook over medium high heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool and refrigerate until ready for the big day.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

    Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Bacon Dip

    Today is my 5th anniversary of writing this blog and my 643rd posting!

    I had no idea I would be doing this for that long.  I thought I might run out of ideas... the funny thing is that I have over 250 recipes in "draft" mode, sitting there waiting for me to either make them, finish them or just there to inspire me to make something "some day".

    Most of my ideas start there, including this recipe.  When I opened my draft for Caramelized onion, cheese and bacon dip, it was totally blank.  Hahaha, I guess my inspiration for this only went as far as the name.  So, I started my creation, and here it is.

    This is very rich, but sweet and cheesy, perfect on a cracker or toast.  I must say it would be a good side dish with a steak.  I actually threw some of the leftovers into a quiche the next morning too, completely yummy. 

    As you can see from the photo below, I added to my recipe as I went along as my idea was not fully formed when I took the picture.  I didn't add any salt or pepper as I figured it might be salty from the cheese, bacon and caramelized onions.

    (not pictured, cream cheese and Dijon mustard)
    Makes an 8x8 pan

    2 1/2 large onions, sliced thin

    1/2 lb bacon, sliced into small pieces
    2 cups grated Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese
    4 oz. cream cheese
    1 Tbsp dijon mustard, or 1 tsp dry mustard powder

    Preheat oven to 375.

    Slice up your bacon into pieces like below.  Over a medium high heat, cook the bacon until starting to brown and the fat renders out of it.  You don't want the bacon hard in this dish, but you do need to fully cook it in order to get most of the fat out of it.

    Slice up the onions, I cut them in half and then slices as I didn't want the pieces to be too long.

    Bacon cooking...

    After removing the cooked bacon to another dish to drain, I add the onions to the same fan with a very small amount of residual bacon grease.  Now caramelizing onions takes a while...  cook over medium, or even medium low heat, stirring often, until they start to brown and get very soft.  It will probably take about 30 minutes.

    When the onions are ready, add the bacon to the mixture, plus the cream cheese cut into a few chunks for easy mixing.  Add half the grated cheese and the dijon mustard, mix well and add to a baking dish. Top with the remaining grated cheese.
    I used an oval dish, but a 8x8 would work, or even two small baking dishes.

    Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, until all bubbly and hot.  Serve at once with crackers, small toast like brushetta, or even chips.

    My niece ready to dig in! I sure liked her hand model with blue nail polish as an accent.

    Thursday, November 12, 2015

    Leavenworth's Blue Spirit Distillery Tasting Room

    If you are a quirky Bavarian village fan, I think you will like Leavenworth, Washington. 

    Hey, I need to tell you the state, because, of course, the other famous Leavenworth is in Kansas and houses a US federal government penitentiary.

    Our Leavenworth is situated in the Cascade mountains, and resemble a bit of the Bavarian Alps, maybe a wee bit smaller... okay?  Beautifully quaint German architecture, darling hotels with great amenities, Oompa bands, beer gardens and fun.  Fun.

    Leavenworth has always been my happy place.  But, lately, it has become more so... better shops, better restaurants, wine tasting rooms from great wineries and now.... (drum roll) a local distillery tasting room!

    $10 tasting fee for your choice of three items, about 1/2 oz of each.  $5 is refunded towards a purchase. I choose Cherry whisky, Espresso vodka and the rum.

    My first sip?  OMG.... it was Cherry whisky. 
    First thing I said after OMG... "I'm buying that".
    I said it two more times and bought all three of the items I tasted.

    Someone else (my significant other) choose one 1 1/2 oz single taste of their expensive whisky.  He said yum and plonked down the cash for a very expensive, very small bottle. That said volumes to me.

    Later, your "tasting" server brings you teeny, tiny little glasses of mixers to try with your booze sampling.  It was SO good "neat" that I really hesitated to mix them...
    I tried a Cherry Whisky Sour (YUM!)
    Espresso vodka with a squeeze of orange (So happening again...)
    Rum with hot buttered rum mix (good, but I will stick with my own mix and a cheaper rum). This Blue Spirit Rum is TOO GOOD to mix in my humble opinion.

    The cold distilling machines.  A very cool (hahaha...) method of extracting the flavors without boiling the flavors out of it.  These babies cost a lot, and only three distilleries in the nation are currently using this process.

    Racks of newly bottled spirits in crazy good flavors.  Cucumber vodka, grapefruit vodka, "Ghost" gin and too many others to count.

    Jeff, the owner, and the mad scientist inspiration.  He used to be an architect in Bellevue, but now is a passionate distiller, who was so engaging and interested in telling us all about how he got started and the challenges of Federal regulations, coupled with our own Washington state laws.  Impressive knowledge that he was so willing to share.

    Distilling machines.  Working twelve hours a day.

    This was the grapefruit vodka going when we were there.  Lots of orange pulpy mixture below, coming out very clear flavored vodka above.  The smell was heavenly.  I need to try this one next.
    Setting the ambiance in the showroom, beautiful shiny copper old still, but not used for distilling.

    Fall displays within the tasting room.

    Do you want to go?  Check it out here.

    Leavenworth's Blue Spirit Distillery Tasting Room.

    Check out the gift sets and buy something cool and local for a Christmas present.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    Spinach Chickpea Soup

    We absolutely adored this soup- bright and interesting flavors, easy to make and very satisfying for a meatless dinner.  Flavors are kind of Spanish, maybe North African.  Just yummy to us. 

    However, maybe this one isn't for everyone, in reading the online reviews I was shocked to see that not everyone did.  People said rude things, but I just cannot relate.  Haters of spinach?  Not sure what their problem was.
    I mean... ask yourself the following:
    - Do you like spinach?
    - Do you like chickpeas (or garbanzos, ceci beans)?
    - Do you like curry?
    If you answered yes, then try this soup.

    My recommendation is to make the curry, lime and oil "drizzle" to serve on the top of the soup. We thought it was really the thing to do.  I may use this drizzle stuff for other things, it was that good.

    This recipe hails from Sunset Feb 2015. I will make it again and again.

    Serves about 4

    3 Tbsp olive oil
    3/4 cup diced onion, or shallots
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
    1 tsp curry powder
    2 cans (15 oz. each) chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
    5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken)
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    6 cups packed spinach leaves, stems removed

    Curry Drizzle
    1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
    1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
    1 Tbsp Olive oil

    Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a medium pot over medium heat and add shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder and ginger and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute more.

    Add chickpeas, broth, and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until flavors are well blended and chickpeas are very soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add spinach and cook just until softened and bright green, about 2 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

    Whirl half of soup at a time in a blender, starting on low speed, until very smooth. Ladle into bowls. Just before serving, stir lime juice, curry powder and olive oil together and drizzle over soup.