Chestnut Crepe & Chocolate Torte

Chestnut Crepe & Chocolate TorteEven though she’s nearly a decade younger than me, my lil’ sister and I have got plenty in common.

We both love country music, monster truck rallies, the latest i-gadgets, foreign cars, and manicured nails.

Wait a minute!   What?!

Fine, I lied.  Those are all hers.  What we do have in common is dessert.

My sister has been a dessert aficionado since, well, forever.  I don’t know when or where she had her first creme brûlée, but she must have been pretty young.  She fell for it and fell hard.  She fell so hard that I gave her a set of ramekins and a blow-torch before her age was even in double digits.  A few years later, she got way into crepes, so I gave her a crepe pan and a jar of Nutella and sent her on her way.  Last year, her dessert passions collided in what could only be called a stroke of genius and she brought me her latest creation- a crepe cake, layered with vanilla pastry creame, with a brûléed, caramelized sugar crust.  Magic.

As I was rooting around my cupboard last week, I discovered a chestnut crepe recipe on the side of a bag of chestnut flour.  Lightbulb moment.  A nutty take on Laura’s crepe cake.  With chocolate.

[Read more…]

Zuppa di Pesce (Italian Fish & Seafood Stew)

Zuppa di Pesce- Italian Fish & Seafood StewRemember, way back in September, when I first introduced myself?  I showed you a picture where I’m digging into an obscenely large bowl of zuppa di pesce and told you how much I like to eat.

Sarah Digging in to Zuppa di Pesce

If you’ve been around long enough to remember that, maybe you’ve also noticed that some woman named Pam comments on darned near every recipe I post.  Who is this woman?  Why is she StrawberryPlum #1 fan?  Is this Sarah character really popular enough to have some crazy stalker?

No, she’s my mother, of course, and a very special lady whose birthday happened to be this last weekend.

There’s something else you should know about my mom.  She looks at least as giddy as I looked in that picture when faced with a giant bowl of cioppino, bouillabaisse, fish stew, or zuppa di pesce.  Whatever you call it, if it involves some combination of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and fish she is totally into it.  In other words, deciding what to make for her birthday dinner is kind of a no-brainer.

[Read more…]

Crispy Braised Chicken with Grapes & Pearl Onions

Crispy Braised Chicken with Grapes & Pearl Onions

Sometimes I feel like such a cliché.

What am I talking about?  Well, I’m about to go off on a rant about the weather.  Typical Minnesotan.

I’m freezing.  The temperature has been below zero all week.  Below ZERO.  As in zero degrees would be an improvement.  It’s cold and I can’t do anything productive because the thought of getting up from under an afghan is too much to handle.  I want to sit around, drinking tea or red wine, and eat.  Eat warm, nourishing food.  Comforting food like braised chicken. Mashed potatoes?  Obviously.

Okay, I can get out from under the afghan as long as it’s for a good cause and it involves turning on the oven.  And I’d say this is a pretty good cause: chicken thighs with crispy skin, braised with pearl onions, rosemary, and red grapes.  For good measure, we’ll serve it up on a mound of garlic-y mashed potatoes with a smattering of roasted Brussels sprouts and plenty of pan juices.  I’m feeling warmer and more good-natured just thinking about it.

Crispy Braised Chicken with Grapes & Pearl Onions [Read more…]

Date, Coconut & Pecan Quinoa Muffins

Date, Coconut & Pecan Quinoa Muffins

Now let’s get one thing straight; when it comes to muffins, I hardly discriminate.  I like ’em all, from dense and cakey to light and delicate, most every muffin has its time and place in my world.  But, if you’re going to press me for my favorite weekday version, it is, without a doubt, the humble quinoa muffin.

Why, you ask.  Why some dowdy quinoa muffin when I could be biting into a fluffy blueberry-buttermilk beauty?  It’s like choosing some mousey brunette over a blonde bombshell pageant queen.

Because quinoa muffins have got substance, integrity, loyalty.  They’ll coax you out of bed with the promise of deep, nutty-grainy deliciousness and fuel you all through the first half of the day.  They’re not going to merely flirt with you in the morning only to flake out on you halfway to lunch.

If you’ve been coming around here since the beginning, you probably already know about my affection for quinoa muffins.  I’ve been known to hide squash and apples in them.  This time around, I’m thinking quinoa muffin meets granola with big chunks of dates, copious coconut curls, and plenty of pecans.

Coconut, Date & Pecan Quinoa Muffins [Read more…]

Oyster Mushroom & Potato Salade Lyonnaise

Salade Lyonnaise with Oyster Mushrooms & Potatoes

So far, 2013 is going pretty well for me.  We’re only 2 weeks in and I’ve already accomplished several of my goals for the year:

I have a clean, organized office.

I’ve been doing more than sit in the sauna when I go to the gym.

I’ve actually been keeping up on laundry and making the bed.

I’ve been baking bread.

I finally learned how to poach an egg.

Yes!  Now I can make a real salade Lyonnaise instead of copping out and insisting that “it tastes better with a fried egg, anyway”.

[Read more…]