AHHHHHHHH Christmas

The holiday season is like a race to the finish line in this family. Here, the advent calendar serves as a countdown to sleep and a startling reminder of the diminishing number of days left to get it all done.

Wrapping paper flies and delicate bows are tied with a fury. We run through that final gift list as the stores’ doors close with a bang of finality on Christmas Eve. Ah Christmas; or more accurately – AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Christmas!!

christmas tree 2012

Do you ever feel the same?

But on that night before Christmas, as our table was set, the candles were lit and we hugged and cooked all that warms our souls, the season finally settled in. There was a comfort in the stillness that night and we were merry….

christmas candles 2012

christmas eve table 2012

beet salad

And thanks to this ginormous standing rib roast, we all fell asleep peacefully and well fed.

standing rib roast

sauce

christmas eve dinner 2012

devils food cake cookie sandwich with peppermint gelato

Until we eat with twinkling lights and merry hearts again,

a+h

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Raspberry Dream

Would you believe that our little red cabin in the woods came with an entire field of red raspberries? I mean talk about amenities – rhubarb and now this!

Of course, there was a catch. Isn’t there always? Pesky overgrown brush was blocking our access. So it was up to us to find a way to get through it. Luckily, Harrison loves a good challenge. And me? Well, I love cheering him on…while swaying in my hammock.

So last month he headed out on a mission with machete in hand. Off he went and in a mere hour, that pesky overgrown field was transformed into a national park-like raspberry oasis.

I couldn’t believe it. I offered up a standing ovation.

And wouldn’t you know it, he has had me out there picking raspberries in that field like it’s my job ever since.




We’ve been swimming in raspberries – by the handful, on oatmeal, over ice cream, in salads. It’s been a dream. Personally my favorite concoctions have been his syrups and dressings, including this base created with crystallized ginger and vanilla bean.






Ingredients:

  • (2) pints of raspberries
  • (3/4) cup of cold water
  • (1/4) to (1/2) cup of cane sugar (depending on your preferred level of sweetness)
  • (1) vanilla bean, cut in 1/2 and scored
  • (1/4) cup of crystallized ginger, rough chopped

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a rolling simmer.

2. Cut heat to low and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and then strain.

          – add a thickener to make a sauce or coulis

          – add vinegar to make a dressing

          – add pectin to make a jelly

           – or use the syrup as a cocktail base.

Here are a few other raspberry inspirations that have caught my eye:
Chocolate Raspberry Jam from Love and Olive Oil
Berries Sorbet with Lavender Cookies from Tartlette
Red Berry Popsicles from La Tartine Gourmande
Gooseberry & Raspberry Jam from Spectacularly Delicious

How about you? Do YOU happen to have any good ones to share?

Until we find freshly picked inspiration again,

A+H

Black Bean Hummus {Summer Days}

“So how exactly do you make hummus?” I casually ask as we’re driving down the road in wet swim suits. The windows are down and the warm breeze feels nice on our cool skin. We just spent the afternoon floating on tubes and showing off our swimming skills in the clear reservoir water among the green mountains. It was the perfect way to soak in yet another toasty summer day.

He starts right in like he’s been waiting on this question all day. “Well hummus is traditionally made with five base ingredients,” he says and holds up his right hand to start counting each one off with his tan fingers. “Olive oil. Chick peas. Tahini. Garlic. Lemon juice. And I like to add a little shallot or onion in mine for sharpness. Sometimes some black beans and cumin too for flavor.”

He pauses and looks off. I can see the wheels turning. Perfect. He’s already making it in his mind.

I clear my throat. He comes back to me. “That’s a really random question. Do you want some hummus or something babe?”

I slyly smile. “Why yes, a matter of fact I do. I thought you’d never ask.”

…………………………….

The perfect snack for these warm summer days… Let’s let loose on some black bean hummus, shall we?

Ingredients:

  • (1) can of chick peas, rinsed
  • (1/2) can of black beans, rinsed
  • (3) cloves of garlic
  • (2) Tablespoons of onion or shallot, rough chopped
  • (3) Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • (1) Tablespoon of ground cumin
  • (4) Tablespoons of olive oil….can add to mixture in 1 Tbsp increments
  • (1/3) cup of Tahini
  • (1) and ½ teaspoons of salt (maybe more for personal preference)
  • And a little water for smoother consistency

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, process your garlic, chopped onion/shallot.
  2. Add in our chick peas, black beans, tahini, cumin, lemon juice and salt.
  3. During the processing, occasionally add a little olive oil and a little water as you go to help create your desired consistency.
  4. Once you achieve a smooth blend, you’ll need to finish by adding a little more olive oil and salt for a final blend or to your desired taste preference.

Alternate prep: We only have a mini-processor here in our little red cabin in the woods. Ideally you want a standard sized processor to process all of these ingredients together. Instead, we processed our chick pea mixture in batches with the black beans and then combined it all in our Kitchenaid mixer for a final light blend.

Enjoy with fresh summer veggies as a dip or on a sandwich like we did, made with fresh focaccia bread from Elmore Mountain Bread.

Until we pull from random inspirations again,

A+ H

Fresh Strawberry Cobbler with Decadent Dulce de Leche Whipped Cream

The other week we were lucky enough to snag an invite from our good friend/farming sensei Sara over at Sandiwood Farm to join her on a strawberry picking field trip. So we loaded up one morning with the intern crew and headed over to “the spot”, Riverside Farm in East Hardwick, Vermont.

Riverside Farm is owned and operated by the lovely couple, Bruce and Judy Kaufman. The Kaufman’s are committed to “organic farming to cultivate a sustainable farming practice.” In their own words “one that is supportive of the earth, the people working on the farm, the people eating the food, and the community we live in. Real food for real people”. Well that sounds mighty nice and refreshing, eh?

It happened to be the first solid week of strawberry picking in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and we were in for a treat with rows and rows of plump strawberries up for grabs.

And H O L Y smokes it was a hot one too!! Judy shared that the heat actually speeds up the already short season and our timing couldn’t have been better to get in some of the best picking around. And so, after a quick tutorial on strawberry picking, we were off with buckets and Tupperware in hand (and coated in sunscreen from head to toe).

A Few Things We Learned:

1. The best time to pick strawberries is in the morning when the berries are still cool. Sunshine and heat quickly make the berries soft and then they tend to bruise easily.

2. Only solid red berries are completely ripe. Look for plump firm berries with a red tip. Unripe (white) or partially ripe berries will not ripen once picked. The ripening process actually stops once you pick them.

3. Smaller berries tend to be sweeter and more flavorful. Plus – they’re pretty freaking cute.

4. When you pick your berries, leave about ½ inch of the stem still attached.

5. It’s best to process your berries soon after picking. Berries stored more than 2 – 3 days will lose some of their fresh, bright color and tend to shrivel and deteriorate in quality.

6. You can easily freeze strawberries that you’re not planning to eat right away. Simply wash, cut off the green husks, and place them in a Ziplock bag removing as much air as possible. Perfect to have on hand for smoothies, jams, pies and cobblers… which we’ll show you  how to make! Keep on reading…

Why Pick Your Own?
Here’s an interesting tid-bit
: Did you know that commercial, store-bought strawberries continuously rank as one of the most contaminated common foods due to the use of pesticides? Even after washing store bought berries they still have significant levels of unnatural chemicals on them. YIKES! BUT not the case with organic, freshly picked strawberries like  those found at Riverside Farm. No pesticides means you can dive right in – plant to mouth. Perfect for me – professional taste tester.


And today for your strawberry indulging pleasure, we’re making you a Strawberry Cobbler topped with Decadent Dulce de Leche. Mmm…Let’s dive in, shall we?

Ingredients – for your filling

  • 2 ½ cups of sugar (taste your berries first for level of sweetness; you may want to adjust amount of sugar based on this)
  • 2 ½ cups of cold water
  •  ¼ cup of corn starch
  • 14 cups of fresh strawberries
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

1. Heat your sugar and (2) cups of water in a large pot until sugar dissolves.

2. In a separate bowl, add ½ cup of cold water to your corn starch to make a slurry. Then add to your sugar/water mixture.

3. Bring your mixture to a light boil so your corn starch activates. Then add your strawberries and lemon. Turn off heat.

Ingredients – for your topping

  • 3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
  • 6 Tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons of baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups of milk
  • 1 Tablespoon of softened butter

1. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients and sift.

2. Next mix in your softened butter. And mix until the butter becomes more like grains of rice.

3. Create a well in your mixture (similar to making biscuits except your mixture will be more like pancake batter).
 

To make your cobbler:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pour your strawberry mixture in your baking pan(s). We used (2) 9×9 pans.

3. Spoon your topping mixture evenly across the strawberry mixture.

4. Bake on 350 for 15 – 20 minutes, or until your dough is cooked all the way through.

Decadent Dulce de Leche:

1. Take one small can of sweetened condensed milk. Boil in a medium pot on medium low heat for 2 – 3 hours. (Longer the time = Richer the Color)

2. Pop open the can after a couple of hours and fold into fresh whipped cream. Then pour over your cobbler for a sinfully good treat.

Enjoy!

Until we find freshly picked inspiration again,

A + H

Rhubarb and Chipotle Pork Tacos

Whew! We’re baaaaack. It’s been a hot minute but we’re back in the home cooking saddle again. A couple of new exciting developments to share before we pull out the pots and pans….

He Graduated! “Attend culinary school” once loomed on the bucket list after years of working in the family’s catering business. Completed – check!

And look who met Chef Daniel Boulud and Chef Gavin Kaysen.

Big day. Awesome!

And we moved…to beautifully green Stowe. We’ll be here for the summer cooking goodies to share from the cutest little red cabin in the woods. Thanks to Annie and Joey for opening up their home to us for the summer. We promise to take good care of her and we’ll make sure she always smells delicious.

And finally, we’re helping out (Ok it’s mostly Harrison) on an organic produce and flower farm until September. We get to play in the dirt and bright sunshine and score some gorgeous veggies for true farm to fork meals. Another bucket list item underway… double check!

Now that you’re officially up to speed … let’s jump back into the kitchen shall we?!

Today’s recipe was inspired by the ripe rhubarb growing in our new backyard. “Hmm… what should we make” we said. Pies, tarts, jelly…nah, c’mon it’s us. Of course we’re christening the new country crib with some killer rhubarb and chipotle pork tacos. Let’s let loose. Ole!

Ingredients: 

  • (2) small stalks of rhubarb – sliced thin
  • Half can of chipotles (7 to 8 ounce can)
  • (2) Pasilla Negro Chiles (dried and reconstituted)

  • (2) small yellow onions – julienned
  • (1) bulb of garlic – peeled and mashed
  • (1) can of organic tomatoes and green chilis
  • (3) bay leaves
  • (1/3) bunch of fresh cilantro (ours freshly picked from Sandiwood Farm)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (1/2) teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • (1/2) tablepoon of dried oregano or (3) tablespoons of fresh oregano
  • (2) to (3) pounds of locally raised pork shoulder or butt – cut into chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

2. Brown off your pork in a large rondeau (or any other pot that you can transfer into the oven that allows room for the pork to be immersed in water to cook)

3. Remove your pork and set aside. Add your onion, garlic and rhubarb to your rondeau. Lightly sauté.

4. Add your remaining ingredients, including your pork, and a little water to cover your pork.

5. Cover your rondeau with foil and place in the oven for 4 – 5 hours until very tender.

6. Remove from oven and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes to rest. Then shred your pork and set aside for your tacos. (Tip: You can also sear your shredded pork in a pan with a little olive oil to crisp the outside and create a carnitas like texture…yum!)

7. Reserve your liquid with veggies and puree in a blender or food processor to make a hot salsa for your tacos.

8. Serve with tortillas, fresh salsa, chopped onion, fresh cilantro, scallion flowers and maybe a little pickled watermelon rind.

Enjoy!

Until we find fresh inspiration again,

A + H

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{Wishing all of you Dads out there a Happy Father’s Day today! To our Dads: We love you and thank you for all that you give and for your continued support as we navigate through this crazy thing called life. Today we celebrate you!}