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brie with toasted nuts and balsamic honey glaze

November 7th, 2011 | 3 Comments »


That’s a pretty way to end a long day, isn’t it?

I gave in yesterday to some unhealthy eating, including things fried, and eating meat. While the meat isn’t exactly unhealthy, it did it’s usual number on me with stomach upset and I found once again that after a few bites of it, I wasn’t enjoying it. Still, I ate what was remaining on my plate to be polite because my staff bought me that lunch, and they were thrilled to share with me.

Then for dinner, I was unmotivated, not to mention alone, as Mike and Griffin were at their Sunday night youth group gathering and dinner ideas just slipped in and out of my mind as the dark afternoon gathered in the quiet house. I was feeling off from the afternoon fare, and a few perusals of the refrigerator didn’t reveal anything exciting. Except a small wheel of Brie.

Soon enough, this delightfully warm and enchanting snack lay on the table in front of me. A variety of nuts, chopped and toasted, were spread over the top of the heated cheese, then drizzled with a fragrant balsamic-honey glaze. A sturdy knife, some multi-grain crackers and Etta James crooning over iTunes radio to me, and an unsettled day, busy with work and people, gave way to a calmer and more focused evening.

This creation would make a delicious and unique appetizer for a holiday party. It’s so simple to make too; I used pistachios, almonds and pecans for my nut topping. You could use whatever nuts appeal to you. My wheel of Brie was fairly small, and I used a cup of assorted nuts. I chopped them coarsely, and toasted them in a pan until golden and fragrant. Just before I removed them, I made space in the center and dropped in about a half tablespoon of butter. When it melted and the foam disappeared, I stirred it into the nuts, then scraped them in to a bowl.

Placing the same pan back on the burner, I poured about a half cup of balsamic vinegar in the pan and warmed it to steaming. The Brie was in a 375° oven on a small stoneware pan while I worked on the topping. When the balsamic was warm, I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of honey in to the pan and just let it melt and mix with the vinegar until the Brie was warmed through. Removing the Brie from the oven, I topped it with the nuts, then poured the warmed glaze over it, scraping the pan with a rubber spatula. The Brie wheel was in the oven for maybe 10 minutes, but I could have gone longer as the rind seemed a bit thick and the cheese was still firm in some spots. Time will depend on how warm and melty you want your cheese, and the thickness of the rind.


What’s on YOUR plate this month?



pushing through

April 25th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

Last Spring at this time, our perennial garden was full of glorious color. The tulips were opened….

The Creeping Phlox was a lovely carpet of purple…….


There were Johnny Jump Ups leaping up all around the garden beds.

And I had managed to keep the Prairie Smoke from being devoured by hungry critters.

Which, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do this year. Somebunny devoured all the pink buds and leafy greens on these native plants. Ah well…..

We’re a lot further behind this year on the revival of the earth, it’s flowers and new grass. It’s almost May and the Star Magnolia bush, my harbinger of Spring, has yet to open even one of it’s gorgeous and fragrant flowers, although with current warm temps and sun, it’s reaching it’s fat buds to the sky and starting to come alive. This is possibly the latest in the year that it’s started it’s bloom, according to the garden journal I’ve kept since 2006. I love recording the rhythm of the seasons, the sightings of birds in the yard, when the migrations start and the seasonal visitors like Hummingbirds and Orioles return, the first (and last) snowfall, the last ice-out on the area lakes, the foxes, possums and creatures that roam the night time. It’s a wonderful way to keep track of the ebb and flow of the life outside our windows.

And everyone is impatient for Spring, for warm weather, for shedding the pants, shoes and sleeves to bare their skin to the sun. For me, more this year than any I’ve been really, really eager to see the bounty of the season begin. I’m craving all forms of green; vegetables, tender baby lettuces, spring spinach, asparagus….. you name it. It’s like I can hear my body complaining loudly about the lack of chlorophyll. Even my Teen said that he was craving a salad. So when Mike pulled some items together for dinner recently, he brought home a large amount of lettuces from the store. Since Farmers Market time is still a few weeks away, these greens will have to do. We washed them, and consumed large bowls of salad with our burgers and roasted potatoes. It was the first real meal I’d eaten all week due to my sickness. And it tasted glorious.

Just prior to getting ill, I came across kale at the grocers for $.99 a bunch. I haven’t been that adventurous with kale much, although for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I bought a large, deeply green bunch and it promptly languished in my crisper drawer due to the toxic onslaught I endured. A small handful went into a smoothie I tried to drink, the rest just sat. And kale doesn’t mind sitting too much, as it’s quite hearty. When I finally pulled it out, it looked no worse for the week it spent in my fridge, and it happily blended with scrambled eggs to make an awesome breakfast sandwich, then later, with quinoa and toasted pecans for this nutritiously rich and flavorful salad.

With finally climbing out of the ick and funk that settled on me last week, I really was feeling the need for some healthy options to start restoring my immune system and begin cleansing my body of the after-affects of a sinus/respiratory infection, especially the medications I took. What a perfect recipe for that, and so simple too. Cook quinoa, saute your kale with shallot and garlic, and toss it all together with a little salt and pepper. Add in toasted pecans, or pine nuts or almonds and get out your fork. There just doesn’t need to be anything more complicated than that.


Add in the weathered redwood stairs to our patio, and a cat languishing on the sunlit bricks, it made the small bowl I consumed taste a little bit like Spring. It was just what I was craving, for both body and mind.


Quinoa with Kale and Toasted Pecans

1 c. quinoa, rinsed and shaken well
4 c. loosely packed kale, chopped
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. pecans, or nut of choice, lightly toasted

Start by cooking your quinoa. It can sit in the pan for quite some time after it’s done. Heat 1-3/4 c. water or broth of choice on the stove. Add half a teaspoon of sea salt and a thin drizzle of olive oil. When the water boils rapidly, add the rinsed quinoa, stir quickly and reduce the heat, allowing the quinoa to simmer gently. Cover the pan and let cook for 15 minutes, or until the water is mostly absorbed. Keep covered and remove from heat. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes.

In a large deep skillet (with a cover), saute the shallot and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add in the kale and toss to coat. Stir and toss the kale until it’s a deep emerald green and starting to look a bit shiny. Add a half cup water to the pan, cover it and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Steam the kale, stirring occasionally, until it’s slightly wilted but still has some toothy bite, maybe 10 minutes or so.

Add the quinoa to the skillet with the kale and toss until uniform. Taste and season with more sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add in the toasted nuts and combine. Can be eaten warm, room temperature or chilled. Reheat gently in the microwave.


winter fruit compote

November 7th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

My apologies for starting this post out using the word ‘Winter’ in the title. Those of us in the northern climes are still experiencing a gorgeous Fall- and the sunshine that we’ve had through the early part of November is dazzling. And so unexpected. November around here is equated with a dense gray expanse of sky that rarely seems to break. It’s a gloomy month, usually, and for the sun and blue sky to be greeting us each morning is a gift. A true weather gift. One that I am savoring with all my might.

But then I go and say ‘Winter’.

But bear with me friends, as you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Even with the still mild days of November to wrap around us, my mind is gearing up for cold. It’s inevitable, and I think people are taking bets around here on when the first real snowfall will drop from that leaden sky that we know so well. The first snow that sticks, snarls traffic, makes people grumble inside…. we know how it is around here. We may have resided here all our lives but there comes that first coating of white and it’s like folks have wiped any memory of it clear from their heads.

Like who could forget something like this?

Sorry, there I went and did it again.

But the thing is, it’s coming and when it does, and we wake on those chilly Winter mornings craving all forms of comfort food to fill our Minnesota bellies with warmth, what you should be making is this simple and delicious compote. It tops so many winter breakfast foods like it was meant to be, like the way Winter will eventually lead us to Spring. A spoonful in your Oatmeal is heavenly; a spread across your pancakes, waffles or french toast is worthy of your best food-lovin’ eye roll and exclamations of ‘Oh dear! This is good!’. It’s endlessly versatile and needs no special ingredients. And if you make it in your flannel jammies, with thick slippers on your feet while the furnace hums it’s way to warming your home, it might just make those Winter mornings a bit more pleasant.

And as Minnesota goes, in the wintertime, we need as much of that as we can get.

Winter Fruit Compote
by Kate

1 medium tart apple, washed, cored and diced fine
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. currants
1 T. butter
1/2 c. pure maple syrup

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple. Saute for a few minutes until the apple is soft, then stir in the pecans and cook, stirring regularly, until the nuts are slightly toasted and fragrant. Pour in the maple syrup and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally until the maple syrup has been absorbed. Stir in the currants and heat through. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles. Will keep refrigerated for several days. If you can resist. Reheat in the microwave if desired. This tastes amazing if sprinkled with a light dusting of sea salt prior to serving. Something about that salty sweet crunch…..

Winter pears, like Anjou or Red or even the Bosc would make a good substitute for the apple in this. Change up the nuts, use raisins instead of currants, or add other dried fruit. Toss in some shredded coconut if it’s your thing. Or even chop up an orange, mix it with dried cranberries and chopped pistachios and a dash of cardamom for an exotic option. The possibilities are endless, people. Endless.

pumpcakes and compote

February 11th, 2010 | 10 Comments »

When making something like Pumpkin Pancakes, after a long day in which I awoke at 5:15am and couldn’t get back to sleep, and a rough but magical, much needed visit to the chiropractor that left me limp and relieved, trying to explain these pancakes to a teenager with a selective hearing problem might result in necessary culinary shorthand. Like saying ‘Pumpcakes’. It felt a little like baby talk, but it made The Teen smile and giggle just a little and when you’re the mother of a big boy on the verge of 16, making him giggle, regardless of how it’s extracted, is pretty heart-warming. Especially when he sort of coos “Aww. That’s kinda cute.” Shhh. You didn’t hear that from me, ok?

And also, on the tail end of a two-day snowfall that blanketed us with about 10 more inches that had to be put somewhere- like on top of and over the 4-foot plus piles around our slowly disappearing house- these Pumpcakes were awfully darn heart-warming all on their own.

Anyone want to take bets on whether this pile will still exist in July?

Pumpkin pancakes have never crossed our griddle, although I’ve seen them all over the ‘net; perfect dark rusty rounds of batter, thick and substantial. I always thought they looked pretty good. I love pumpkin bread, and muffins and scones and just about any baked good made better with the flesh of a gourd, but pancakes? It was time for me to explore. Plus, I was thoroughly out of inspiration for anything else and the little hand on the clock was rapidly approaching the 5:00 hour. I punted, did a quick Google and came up with this recipe.  Now, does it say something that this was the only recipe out of the first dozen or so that Google spit out to me that did NOT contain a base of Bisquick? Gah. I hope not. Scratch pancakes are pretty basic, requiring little else but flour, leavening, a bit of sugar and salt, liquid and egg. I had this recipe completed and sitting on the counter in about 5 minutes. It required only for me to climb on a chair to dig the container of baking soda out from where it had been pushed to the back of a top shelf.

The compote was total cowboy cooking. There was a leftover apple that I didn’t have room for after lunch and I quickly chopped it up, sauteing it in a small pat of butter before adding chopped pecans, a handful of currants and some leftover maple syrup blended with butter that we’d drizzled over roasted squash earlier in the week. It simmered while the pumpcakes cooked and in a few twists of a spatual, a hearty and aromatic dinner was on our plates. We could sit down with a sigh, the opalescent glow of fresh snow all around us and imbibe in these richly scented cakes with a sweet and crunchy topping and be warmed from both the food and the company. I do love days like that.

Now here’s my take on these Pumpcakes. They were good. No, scratch that; they were great. Really flavorful and hearty and thick. Lumberjack fare, if you know what I mean. Maybe it was the recipe but they took a rather long time to cook, and even when some of them were so robustly bronzed that I thought they’d be tough as shoe leather, they still seemed to me to be a little moist inside. Griffin even brought his to me and said “Are these done?” poking a fork suspiciously at the interior. I was expecting, like any pancake, that it would be fluffy, but given the added pumpkin, it would stand to reason that they’d be more dense. They tasted fine. Just plan on allowing them extra time on the griddle. The batter that resulted from this recipe was very thick. That should have been a clue to me. After a long day and with the added relief from my aches and pains, I can’t always sufficiently tie two strands of obvious together. On a side note, for some added nutrition I used WW flour in place of AP in the recipe, added 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed and a 1/2 cup of cornmeal, and subbed unsweetened applesauce for the oil.

And that compote? Now that was a winner. I wish I had made more to have on hand for oatmeal, or to spread on toasted bread. It was stellar, a perfect winter treat and way open to personal experimentation.

Apple, Pecan and Currant Compote
by Kate

1 medium tart apple, washed, cored and diced fine (I used one called ‘Jazz’- it was tart, but subtly sweet too)
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. currants
1 T. butter
1/2 c. pure maple syrup

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple. Saute for a few minutes until the apple is soft, then stir in the pecans and cook, stirring regularly, until the nuts are slightly toasted and fragrant. Pour in the maple syrup and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally until the maple syrup has been absorbed. Stir in the currants and heat through. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles. Will keep refrigerated for several days. If you can resist. Reheat in the microwave if desired. This tastes amazing if sprinkled with a light dusting of sea salt prior to serving. Something about that salty sweet crunch…..

I love the idea of pears, almonds and figs for another version of this.