Hungry for Hygge

Posted on: Tuesday, November 15, 2016

After an emotional, politically-charged week, I drove down to Pomfret for a restful, rejuvenating retreat. As Kara, Patrick, Ryan, Shiloh and I lounged in the living room, we started reminiscing about happier times like traveling through Europe - most notably to Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Danish are some of the happiest people in the world. They are seen as incredibly supportive, generous and kind-hearted. It's only suitable that they have a word in their vocabulary, hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) that encapsulates the feeling of cozy, relaxed comfort and well-being. The Danish consciously create hygge in their homes, social situations and everyday life. They prioritize positivity and taking care of yourself and those around you.
While simple in nature, I think we could all benefit from adding a little hygge to our lives. Whether it be with lighting - candles, a warm, pleasing glow; interior design - painted walls, pleasing images, plush throws and pillows; clothing - cozy sweaters and slippers; music - soothing and meditative tunes; or my personal favorite, cuisine. For me, the sharing of homemade dishes and drinks with friends and loved ones provides the highest level of comfort and ease.
Kara and I have many recipes that create a soothing sense of familiarity. Most notable is a Meat Pie recipe we brought home years ago after a visit to Old Sturbridge Village. The rich and savory pie is an aromatic blend of gravy, ground pork, beef potatoes, onions, carrots, and spices all enveloped in a buttery pie crust. We make it every year, and this past weekend was an opportune time.
Cozy Meat Pie

Beef Gravy
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
2 c beef stock
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t garlic powder
salt and pepper throughout

Pie Filling
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 c diced carrot
1 c diced Russet potatoes
1 c diced carrots
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground clove
1 c breadcrumbs
1 recipe pie dough for a 9-inch double crusted pie
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper throughout

To prepare the Beef Gravy, in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add 3 T butter. Once melted, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Stir until a brown roux has formed, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in the beef broth, and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the Worcestershire, and garlic powder, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue to cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out 1 piece of dough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out the other piece of dough and set in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and carrots and blanch until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add the pork, meat and onions and saute until the meat has browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the cinnamon, clove, salt, pepper and prepared Beef Gravy. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the drained potatoes, carrots, and bread crumbs to the pan. Stir to combine and then pour the filling into the prepared pie crust, leveling the filling at the top. Cover the filling with the reserved pie crust, pinching the edges of the bottom and top layers together. Trim off any excess dough with a knife. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg, and make a few slits with a fork or knife to allow the steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.

This rich and delicious pie is perfect for winter and holiday entertaining - enjoy it alongside a simple kale salad. It can be prepared a day or two ahead of time too!

Root Veggie Chips

Posted on: Wednesday, October 19, 2016

At a recent October gathering in the countryside, I decided to serve an array of fall-centric bites. The mild weather allowed for guests of all ages to relax on the deck and take in the foliage. Along with some local cider and brews, I arranged an assortment of plates including a pecan and maple topped baked brie with sliced apples, sweet potato and kale flatbread, and of course, a pumpkin-shaped pimento cheese mold.
To add to the vibrant setting, I baked some autumnal-toned root vegetables. Using my mandolin, I sliced an array of potatoes and beets, sprinkled them with sea salt, a drizzle of EVOO, and baked them until crispy. The raw slices transformed into these wonderfully sweet, ruffled chips. 

For a necessary dipping sauce, I decided to whip up a nostalgic blue cheese dressing. Growing up, I always topped salads with blue cheese dressing while Marni covered hers in French. While we fortunately outgrew this phase, I still enjoy blue cheese as a tangy dipping sauce with sweet and salty bites. The light and colorful chips alongside the rich dip were a big hit - best enjoyed warm from the oven!
Baked Root Veggie Chips with Blue Cheese Dip

Blue Cheese Dip
1 c Greek yogurt
1/4 c crumbled blue cheese
2 T chopped chives
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Root Veggie Chips
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and halved crosswise
2 russet potatoes
2 red beets, peeled
Sea salt
Cooking spray

In a small bowl, stir together the Blue Cheese Dip ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the veggies 1/8-inch thick. Arrange the sliced veggies on a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the veggies set for 10 minutes and then flip over, blotting with the paper towel to dry out.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. Spray cooking spray over the top. If you have leftover slices, set them aside until the chips are cooked and repeat the process.

Bake until the veggie slices are crisp, about 25-30 minutes, turning about halfway through. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the chips rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the chips to a bowl and toss with salt. Continue to bake the remaining steps following the step above. Serve with the Blue Cheese Dip. Makes 5-6 cup of chips.

Whether it be a gathering around the fire, or during a football game, these chips are an easy snack, best enjoyed warm and crispy out of the oven. I look forward to incorporating parsnips, rutabaga or another root veggie into the mix next party!

Taste of the Fenway

Posted on: Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On September 28th, I ventured over to Fenway before a Sox game to take part in The Taste of The Fenway. Between the hours of five and seven, Van Ness Street was converted into a booming food festival with a live stage featuring Berklee College of Music tunes, and numerous Fenway eateries and local drink vendors showcasing some of their best bites. The resident restaurant line-up included Saloniki Greek, Sweet Cheeks, Tiger Mama, Citizen, Hojoko, El Pelon, and many more. I bopped around from vendor to vendor with a glass of wine, beer or coffee sample in hand. Although the day was windy, the incredible array of yummy bites set the pleasant mood.

Below are a few of my favorite tastes from the event:

Saloniki Greek’s Mini Honey Garlic Pork Shoulder Gyros
Sweet Cheek’s Mini BBQ Brisket Filled Biscuits
El Pelon Taqueria's Mini Chicken Chimichangas with homemade Tortilla Chips
The event was hosted by the Fenway CDC and developer Samuels & Associates. I can’t wait to skip over the bridge to Fenway again soon! It is such a flourishing neighborhood for food and of course sports fans.

Cranberry Sea

Posted on: Monday, October 10, 2016

Yesterday with the wrath of a rainy fall storm upon us, we rendezvoused in Acushnet for an eye-opening cranberry bog experience. Growing up in Massachusetts, a visit to a cranberry bog had basically been a bucket list item for the two of us. With our layers on and rain jackets zipped tight, we were ready for the tour!
We arrived at Stone Bridge Farm, a 25-year old family-owned and operated cranberry farm before noon. We ducked for cover in the adorable Cranberry Cottage filled with fresh cranberries, local artisan products, farm aprons and collectibles. Owner, Scott Harding warmly greeted us and provided a brief history on the cranberry growing process.
Scott’s friendly and sweet wife, Joanne led us to the flooded cranberry bog on their property. We pulled up chest waders over our clothes and scooted in, making sure not to slip on the bobbing cranberry sea.
Photo courtesy of Joanne Harding
It was such a unique feeling and surreal experience to push through the floating cranberries and vines with the rain pouring down on us. As we scooped a handful in our hands, we were in awe of the stunning mix of red, pink and white pearls.
We left the farm soaking wet but so giddy to be able to check this experience off of our bucket-list item. Time to brainstorm some cranberry recipes for fall!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Fluffernutter Bars

Posted on: Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Last Saturday, Union Square celebrated the 99-year old invention of Marshmallow Fluff with its annual What the Fluff? Festival, a day filled with creative culinary twists on the sugary spread along with music and quirky games. On a sugar high from the fun, I decided to incorporate the local favorite into my own confection.
Fluffernutter sandwiches were a go-to snack growing up. Our mom would slather creamy peanut butter and Fluff onto soft slices of bread for Kara, James and me on our way to whatever practice for whatever sport we were playing at the time. It was nearly impossible to enjoy the snack without getting the sticky marshmallow spread all over our mouths and fingers.
For a sweet treat, I decided to spread these nostalgic layers in between chocolate chip cookie dough with a dusting of graham cracker crumbs on top. When baked, the layers transformed into a gooey, salty, sweet, medley. You got everything covered in this bars.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Fluffernutter Bars

Cookie Dough (Twin Tastes recipe HERE - or your favorite store bought brand)
17.5 oz Dark Chocolate Bars (I used 5, 3.5 oz. Ritters bars)
1 1/2 c Marshmallow Fluff
3/4 c Graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 c Creamy, sweetened peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural with Honey Creamy)
Flaked sea salt, for sprinkling
9 x 9 baking pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Press half of the cookie dough batter into the bottom of the 9x9 baking pan. Place the remaining cookie dough in the fridge to firm. Next, press the dark chocolate bars into the dough, covering the entire surface. 

Next is the stickiest part: Do the best you can to cover the chocolate with an even layer of Fluff. I found the Fluff started to stick to everything (including my fingers!) so I sprayed a spatula with cooking spray to spread out dollops of Fluff. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs generously over the peanut butter. With a spreading knife, spread the peanut butter evenly over the chocolate.

Take the chilled cookie dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a floured surface, as close to a 9x9 square shape as you can (doesn’t have to be perfect!). Place the large section of the dough to place over the Fluff as gently as you can. If it breaks, no worries at all. These step can be in multiple cookie dough pieces. Pat the dough into place, sprinkle the surface with flaked sea salt, and you’re ready to go!

Bake for 25-27 minutes until the top is golden brown. There will be bubbles of Fluff popping through the dough while cooking which is totally fine. Allow the bars to cool for at least two hours on a wire rack. If you are tight on time, I recommend placing the pan in the refrigerator for at least an hour. If the bars aren’t completely cooled, you will be left with a mess! Cut into squares and enjoy! Makes 16-20 bars (depending how big you want them).

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