Snapper in Ginger-Citrus Broth with Asian Vegetables

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Lately it seems like everything I’be been eating is so heavy: cheese here, cookies there, puff pastry galore … and don’t even get me started on the fried stuff. I may have to start a second blog called “Fatty McFatterson Fried Things” to document those. ;) After all of those heavy, greasy (and oh so tasty) meals, this snapper was like a breath of fresh air. The flavors were so bright and even though there was something that seemed almost summery about this dish, it didn’t seem out of season at all. There’s something inherently comforting about ginger and noodles that makes this dish perfect for the chilly weather.

I have to confess – I used frozen vegetables in this. I don’t know why, and I really don’t have a good excuse for it. Rookie mistake. The mix I used contained green beans, carrots, peppers, bean sprouts, and onions. While none of these vegetables are necessarily in season right now, they are widely available, and I’m sure they would have tasted a lot better than this mix which just had NO FLAVOR. Apparently eating fresh vegetables has me spoiled, but I also think I finally figured out why I hated vegetables a a kid. These didn’t taste bad, but they were boring and you really couldn’t distinguish one from the other, flavor-wise. In a pinch, I guess there’s ok but this would be so much better with fresh vegetables. As it is, it took me about 15 minutes to make this dish. Peeling a few carrots and blanching some beans would have added an extra 5 minutes or so? Totally worth it.

But its ok, because this dish isn’t about the vegetables. It’s all about the broth. Which makes sense, since I actually built this from the broth up. I really felt like a warm, gingery broth and I had some ponzu left from making Brussels sprouts so I set off from there. Fish seemed like a good idea, and vegetables. Up until the last minute I was planning to make rice but then I switched to noodles which was an awesome idea because is there anything better than slurping up delicious broth-y noodles? But yea, the broth… on their own each component of this dish tasted ok, but when the broth was added the flavors all popped and the dish really came together. I’ll be honest – snapper isn’t my favorite. I think it has a tendency to taste really strong and fishy. But in that broth? Perfection. [....]

Crispy Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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(Before I start talking about these cookies, I’ll let you know that there’s a great giveaway at the end of this post. Including FREE CHEESE!)

Ok, now that that’s out of the way…..

I’m not going to go on and on about how these are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. I promise. Everyone thinks they’re recipe is the best and, honestly, few stand up to the one that printed on the back of the bag of chocolate chips. But sometimes you’re looking for something different. Something… crispier! Soft, gooey cookies have their place but sometimes I just want a little bit of crunch. They’re great for dunking in eggnog (I don’t like dunking soft cookies – they get too soggy) and they keep really well. They best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever? I’ll leave that up for debate. But let’s just say if I was Santa, whatever kid left me a plate of these would be written on the “nice” list in permanent marker. [....]

Fried Olives + An Instant Party

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Remo the pits from some good-quality olives, such as castelveltrano. Stuff each olive with a small piece of asiago cheese. Toss in some flour to lightly coat.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep pot. When the oil is heated, fry the oil in batches for about 45 seconds or until batter has crisped and turned golden. Remove from oil and cool on paper towels.

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Next up is a crostini bar with two types of tapenade and some seasoned artichoke hearts. These are all super simple to make, and taste much more complex than they are. The first is artichoke and green olive tapenade. Basically just throw some artichoke hearts and some garlic-stuffed olives in the food processor along with some parsley and a few olives. Pulse a few times to chop it all up, then drizzle in some olive oil and process until it comes together. I have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the garlic olives on their own – they were just too strong! – but mixed up in the tapenade, they were fabulous.

These tapenades were both amazing. We couldn’t decide which we liked better!

I also need to take a minute to gush about these blue cheese stuffed olives. I. LOVE. THESE! And I’m super bummed because they won’t be available on the East Coast until next summer (hint, hint West Coast friends… send me some more!). The first time I had blue cheese stuffed olives was a few years ago in a martini at the Cheesecake Factory. I’ve always wanted to have them at home, but have never been able to find good ones. I was getting really tired of spending money on jars that were too salty, or had nasty cheese that was too hard, not blue enough, or just tasted downright funky. But these are pretty much perfection. The olives taste fresh and not too briney, and the cheese is soft and sharp like blue cheese should be. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

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Cauliflower and Chard Gratin

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Well, well, what do we have here? That’s right – a meal centered around vegetables! I feel like its been a while, but its just so hard for me to get inspired by veggies this time of year. This dish makes the best of what’s in season with cauliflower and chard. Yes, cauliflower. I know what you’re thinking, but trust me – that cauliflower is getting mixed with cheese and cream sauce. Because cheese and cream sauce can make just about anything taste good.

I’ll admit, I was a littler nervous about how this was going to come out: I figured it would either be totally gross or totally awesome. It was way better than I ever imagined it could be! We both loved it, and I happily gobbled it down while already looking forward to the leftovers. The cauliflower was tender without being mushy, and the chard was slightly bitter in a way that cut through the creamy sauce very nicely (it reminded me of the Brussels sprouts in this dish). If you must, think of this as a grown-up version of macaroni and cheese with cauliflower standing in for the pasta. You wont be disappointed. This is definitely a dish that I’ll be making again and again all winter.[....]

Guinness and Beef Pot Pie

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Shepherd’s Pie. Soup, Lasagna, Soup, Stew, Soup, Soup, Soup. That’s been what dinner here has looked like the past few weeks. The colder weather just has me craving comfort foods, most of which are pretty boring and not worth posting about. But this pot pie is another story. For some reason puff pastry comes in packages of two so I had some left after making that baked brie. I’m not normally a pot pie fan, but I remembered seeing a recipe for beef and guinness baked under puff pastry when I was looking at Jamie Oliver’s web site not to long ago, and I liked the general idea. I’m sure his recipe is good, but it looked kind of boring to me so I took mine up a few notches by playing around with the cooking technique and adding lots of vegetables and more seasonings. The result is a stew of tender beef and potatoes swimming in a rich and flavorful broth that has just the slightest bit of bitterness (in a good way!) from the beer, all tucked nicely beneath a buttery crust. It was warm and comforting – exactly what I was looking for on a cold winter day. [....]

Baked Brie with Cranberries and Pears

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I can’t believe it’s December already – where has this year gone?! Thanksgiving totally snuck up on me this year, and I was scrambling at the last minute to come up with something to bring to my parents house. Since there are usually a million desserts, I didn’t want to bring anything sweet and since it takes us an hour to get there a side dish wasn’t really an option because it would get cold. Finally, I decided on cheese. We never have any appetizers, and thought it would be nice to have something to snack on before the main meal was served.

Bakes brie is one of my standard holiday recipes. It’s cheap and easy to make and it travels extremely well. And it always goes over well because who doesn’t like cheese? I’ve been loving cranberries lately – especially when they’re paired with pears – so I decided stuff my brie with a cranberry and pear chutney. I really liked the way that the tart berries played off the buttery brie. If you don’t like cranberries or can’t find fresh ones, raspberries are also fabulous in this recipe.[....]