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auto reply: out of office

I’m going on vacay with the fam. Vacay, as in vay-cay-tion. I love when people spell it “vaca,” by the by. If you ever took 6th grade Spanish you know that those people just said “I’m going on cow.” Which is equally as awesome, but doesn’t make as much sense.

Anyhoo, I’ll be out out of my office until the first day of the great month of February. And by my “office,” I mean my couch. And by “out,” I mean no laptop, no internet, lots of  e-books and (gasp!) magazines. You know—those old archaic forms of entertainment often composed of real, honest-to-god paper.

We’re off to visit Husband’s folks in Colorado, and although I want to bring my laptop, my carry-on is already stuffed full of my camera, video camera, diapers, four hours worth of baby snacks, toys, ibuprofen and five mini bottles of tequila to make the flight more…bearable.

There were days before Miss Lucy when we traveled lightly. We carried on a single bag between us. My purse was a small little number not stuffed with Cheerios and Pampers. We didn’t book hotel rooms in advance and took public transportation. “We flew off to Rome on a moment’s notice…”

Those days are behind us. And if you can identify that last movie quote you win a wagon wheel coffee table.

While I’m gone, I thought I would give y’all a little taste of what’s to come in the great month of February here at RDG. I’ve been saving some recipes for a, well, rainy day. And by rainy day, I mean a day when I don’t have anything else to post and haven’t cooked in a month. Which is what the situation will be when I return from vacation.

Dessert first. Let’s start with the sweet stuff:

Bakery-style chocolate chip cookies. You know, the huge kind that are gooey in the middle and crispy around the edges?

I’m a little obsessed with this type of cookie. I’ve tried dozens of recipes, this one being the winner. I’ll clue you in on what makes them huge and gooey and totally delicious. And how to make them yourself.

Sticky bun cinnamon rolls. Because sticky buns by themselves are just…boring. These take the best of both worlds and marry them together in a union of wedded sugary bliss.

Alright. On to the savory junk:

Creamy portabella pot roast. Tender roast, red wine and rich portabella mushrooms come together in this creamy one pot meal. It’ll be a wintry February treat.

Wild mushroom linguine. Can you tell that I’m a little obsessed with mushrooms at the moment? They’re an easy ingredient that adds tons of flavor. This dish uses dried porcinis and some simple stuff that you probably already have in your pantry.

It’ll knock your socks off. Or your rain boots.

Have a fantastic week, eat lots of chocolate, and stay tuned. When I return, so will the recipes. And they will be worth the wait.

-RDG

back to (community) college, and a daughter

You may have noticed that after December 25th, RDG’s photos got remarkably better.

A little sharper. A little more depth. And a heck of a lot prettier.

That’s because Santa (a.k.a. Best Husband West of the Mississippi, or East, for that matter) put the camera of my dreams under the tree. It changed my photos forever.

Problem is, the person behind the camera didn’t change one bit. A few pounds heavier from eating an entire chocolate advent calendar, maybe, but otherwise unaltered.

(Do you see the cat behind her in this one, by the way? She’s a little smitten with him. The feeling is not always mutual.)

I ripped open the package Christmas morning, tore that bee-youtiful SLR out of it’s box, and started to play around snapping photos. Trouble was, I didn’t know how to use the dang thing.

P? M? F-22? 18-55? I don’t speak this language. Auto mode still gave me better photos than I had ever taken in my life, but I felt like it was a waste of a perfectly good high-tech device to know know how to really use it. All of it.

So that’s why I decided to take a photography class. At a community college. In the evenings.

No, it’s not quite the photo education I was hoping for, but it’s cheap and starts after Lucy goes to bed.

It’s not an ideal class for RDG. The professor shows film slides from 1972, complete with haze filters, sepia tones and fisheye lenses. Not even joking.

My approach to photography is a little more…modern. Or I would like to think so.

Regardless, I’ve learned a lot. Like what aperture is. And shutter speed. And that there are a lot of people in my class who like to take pictures of their parakeets.

Not that I’m much better. I have just posted 9 pictures of my daughter. In a row. And I’m not done yet.

Shhhhh. She’s trying to concentrate.

I love that neck. And those shoulders. And that little lovebug onesie.

Alright, I just love this little gal so flippin much. All of her. Every single part.

Was it wrong to post 13 pictures of my daughter under the guise of telling you about my new photography class?

Yup.

Does it feel so right?

Yup.

TGIF!

-RDG

throwaway biscuits

No, you don’t literally throw them away. These biscuits use ingredients that are on the brink of becoming compost and turn them into delicious, savory, flaky treats.

If you are anything like me, you’re always trying to eat leftovers before they go bad. I love cooking, but I love cooking new things every night. I want variety in my life, people.

As a result, at any one time I have three or four tupperwares full of junk that I don’t quite know what to do with–leftover chicken, spinach, some crumbles of cheese that are either a) gorgonzola, or b) was once a white cheese that has decided to sprout itself some color.

So what to do with all those edibles that are not enough for another full meal, but you can’t stand to see them go to waste?

Bake ‘em up, folks.

I happened to have on hand some leftover chevre from this lovely beet salad that was becoming…questionable. Not past it’s expiration date, but getting there. I also had some cheddar sausage from an appetizer that I’ll share with you at a later date, and an apple that Lucy had dropped on the floor so many times that I could not bring myself to eat it without chopping the bruised bits off.

Speaking of apples, have you ever met someone who eats the whole thing? I mean, the core, the seeds, the stemall of it? It’s a sight to see, let me tell ya. I can’t even bring myself to bite one teeny tiny little bruise. But then again, I’m an apple snob.

So, to begin: chop up whatever you got into small pieces. I usually try to incorporate a meat, a vegetable or fruit, and some cheese. Because cheese is the best food in the entire, whole wide world.

Some combos that have worked well for me:

  • steak, gorgonzola and kale
  • pork, apples and sharp cheddar
  • chicken, broccoli and jack cheese
  • roasted potatoes, cheddar and spinach
  • bananas, walnuts and cream cheese

Use whatever you have–get crazy with it. Also preheat your oven to 425°, please.

Next, grab some Bisquick. Or whatever muffin/biscuit mix you’ve got. Dump 2 1/4 cups into a bowl.

Dump in 2/3 cup of milk…

…and stir it around until a sticky dough forms.

Dump in your meat and your veggie/fruit…

…2/3 of your cheese…

…season with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. Put some muscle into it, people.

Spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray, divide the batter into the prepared cups, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Loverly. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they’re golden brown and cooked through…

…like so. Let ‘em cool for a spell on a wire rack.

Now don’t you feel good? You’ve turned those pesky leftovers into something that smells yummy and is remarkably edible.

I believe environmentalists would call this repurposing.

See? I can be green, too.

Take that, Al Gore.

Nevermind that I ran the oven for 20 minutes, or used an aerosol can, or used entirely too much water to do the dishes with soap that is likely environmentally unfriendly.

I’m just going shut up while I’m ahead here. I conquered the leftovers, and that’s as Superwoman as I’m going to get today. So now I’m going to slather one of these little suckers with butter, sit back, and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Make these soon using up your poor, unwanted food. It will make it delicious again. Plus, they make great quick easy-to-grab snacks for the kiddos.

-RDG

Throwaway Biscuits

  • 2 1/4 cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup unwanted cheese
  • 3/4 cup unwanted meat, chopped
  • 3/4 cup unwanted vegetables or fruit, chopped
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven to 425°. Mix the Bisquick and milk together in a bowl until a sticky dough forms. Add the meat, veggie or fruit, and about 2/3 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and stir together. Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Divide batter equally between cups and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes until biscuits are golden and cooked through. Makes 12 biscuits.


feeling lucky

We watched the Golden Globes last night. Award shows are like catnip to me–the dresses, the upsets, the embarrassing drunken ramblings of celebrities who’ve had too much Moet. It’s perfection. Superfluous, irrelevant, gaudy, over-the-top perfection.

But this year, it all seemed a little lackluster. A little sad. And for good reason–every Chanel gown and Armani suit was adorned with a ribbon of support for the people of Haiti. Everyone from George Clooney to Sophia Loren seemed like they weren’t really having a good time. Their minds, like the rest of America’s, were elsewhere.

I am not a celebrity. I make no money, and use more of my own than I should, to write this blog. To all twelve of you who will read this today, I want to say thank you. You remind me everyday how lucky I am to be able to have silly hobbies, to amuse myself on a daily basis and to worry about how much garlic should go into my next meal and not about where it will come from.

I am so incredibly blessed to have a warm house with running water, a supportive husband who loves me unconditionally, and a daughter who makes me laugh and cry everyday.

If you have kids, you probably have been cringing at every televised newscast as I have. It seems like every scene is a child being pulled out of the rubble. An infant whose mom was buried. A starving band of orphans. My heart breaks and I feel like I should keep watching. Like if I can get through the newscast, I will be a better person or have proved myself strong in some twisted way. But mostly I feel helpless, sad, forlorn, and there’s nothing I can do but watch.

I know that donation ads are being thrown at you left and right. I’m not going to tell you where, when or how to donate to the cause. That’s your choice to do or not do. For Husband and I, it’s all we can do. We’ve chosen to help in the only way we know how (and, btw, if you work where he does, don’t forget to get it matched). We are not all Brangelina—able to donate millions, adopt refugee children, travel to promote non-profits. But we can do a small thing and hope that our $5 or $50 might bring a moment of solace, a drink of water, or a can of formula to someone in need.

If you’re sitting here reading this blog, you are as lucky as I am. Do what you can, when you can. Hug your kids. Kiss your spouse. Feel lucky. Because we all are, really. We’re here. Alive, safe, and blessed. Able to watch the Golden Globes and think about silly things like how drunk Julia Roberts made a total ass out of herself.

-RDG

salt roasted beets with minted clementines and chevre

Husband is out of town this weekend.

For some gals, that might mean partying it up with their girlfriends, staying out until all hours and drinking too much tequila.

For me, on the other hand, it means making beets. Lots and lots of beets.

Husband hates ‘em. Won’t touch those glorious red little root veggies with a ten-foot pole. I adore them. Can’t get enough of them. I’ll eat ‘em till my pee turns pink.

Too much information? Okay, moving on.

If you love beets as much as I do, make this lovely minted beet salad with sweet clementines and tangy chevre.

Start off with some beets. 5 or 6 medium-sized. Or less if you have no self control and don’t want your pee to turn pink.

Next, grab 4 or 5 clementines. Or satsumas. Or mandarins. Whatever your grocer has at the moment. Clementines tend to be a bit sweeter. Plus it’s fun to say.

And it’s the name of a character in one of my favorite movies of all time. You win ten points and a cupcake if you can identify it.

You’ll also need lots of salt. Kosher, please. Or rock salt, if you have that on hand.

Fresh mint. Oh, it smells so good. 3 or 4 sprigs, please, washed and dried.

Chevre. Oh, chevre. It’s like a creamier version of goat cheese. Just grab regular ol’ goat cheese if you can’t find chevre.

You’ll also need olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper for seasoning. Those ingredients are just boring to photograph. It’s like they don’t even try to be photogenic.

Begin by preheating your oven to 400°. Pour about 1/4″ of salt into the bottom of a roasting pan.

Wash and dry the beets, and then place in the roasting pan on top of the salt.

Cover with foil and roast in the oven for about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, grab a bowl and dump in two tablespoons of olive oil…

…and two tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine.

Tear up the mint leaves and add them to the oil/vinegar mixture. Tearing releases more minty flavor than chopping.

Don’t ask me why. I don’t make the rules.

Peel those loverly clementines. You should probably pop a few in your mouth, just to make sure they aren’t poisonous.

Squeeze about half of the clementines before you add them to the dressing. We want a little bit of that juice in there for flavor.

Mash the mixture up a little bit with a wisk.

Now, throw in the rest of the clementines, stir, cover and refrigerate until we’re ready to use it (or up to overnight–just depends on how long you’ve got and how minty you want the dressing to be).

How are the beets coming? Pull ‘em out of the oven, carefully pull them out of the pan and let them cool for a bit. Now stare at your roasting pan full of pink salt and wonder if there’s something cool you could do with it.

Nothing? Me neither. Moving on.

Once the beets have cooled enough to be handles, peel those suckers. If they’ve been roasted long enough, the skin should come off quite easily just by using your fingers.

Oh, and be warned: don’t set the beets on any surface that you care about. Don’t use your favorite cutting board for this task, ladies and gents. They tend to stain.

And don’t fret. Your hands will no longer be pink by tomorrow.

Hack off the roots and the tips, and slice the rest into 1/4″ rounds. I love the circular pattern inside beets. Love it.

Now here’s where you can get creative. You can either:

a) plate the beets and spoon the dressing on top.

or

b) add the beets to the dressing and stir it all around (warning: everything will turn pink).

I chose option a because it’s purdy. And don’t forget to sprinkle a little bit of the chevre on top. It adds pretty contrast and lends lots o flavor.

Let’s take a moment.

I love this salad. It’s full of rich winter flavors. Beets, although always tasty, are given a little more bite from the salt roasting. The clementines and mint are a nice refreshing contrast to the richness of the beets, and the chevre tops it all off with a tiny bit of tang.

I plated a few, and then tossed the rest in with the remaining dressing. Can you see the cheese? Nope. I can’t either. It’s because it’s pink.

I hope my husband make it home from his trip safely. The evidence looks pretty damning otherwise.

Have a safe, happy, beet-stained weekend!

-RDG

Salt Roasted Beets with Clementines and Chevre

  • 5-6 medium beets, washed and dried
  • 4-5 clementine oranges, peeled and pieces separated
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint, washed, dried and leaves removed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 oz chevre cheese (or goat cheese)
  • enough kosher salt to coat bottom 1/4″ of small roasting pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Pour 1/4″ of kosher salt into bottom of roasting pan. Arrange beets on top of salt, cover with foil, and roast for 90 minutes.

Whisk together olive oil and vinegar in bowl to combine. Tear mint leaves into small pieces and stir in. Squeeze half of the orange slices into bowl before adding, then add all of the orange slices and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove beets from salt and let cool. Peel, remove stems and tips, and slice into 1/4″ rounds. Plate beets and spoon dressing on top. Crumble chevre on top.

apple cranberry pot roast

I know what you’re thinking. A pot roast with fruit? Damn, girl. You crazy.

Why, yes. Yes I am. And you should be too. It’s the right place to be.

I make up some recipes that don’t go on this blog. They flop. They suck a big one. Husband and I eat them alone, crying on the living room floor and wondering why I bother to cook in the first place.

But that’s how one learns, little chickadees. Make a bunch of inedible stuff and you’re bound to come up with something edible once in a while.

This was one of those whiles. The flavor was incredible—moist meat that fell apart at the touch of a fork. Sauce that was tart, sweet, and tangy in all the right places. Little slices of apple, cranberry and shallot that lent texture and enriched the sauce. We loved it. We scarfed it. We licked our plates. We sat, smiling, at the dining room table. The living room floor was so lonely.

A word of warning before we begin: this is not a meat-and-potatoes type of pot roast. This is a pot roast for the sweet-and-savory minded. If you like that combo, or you’re up for trying something new, raise your hand. And grab the following ingredients:

A hunk of cow. A 3-4 pound boneless pot roast, preferably no longer mooing. Rinse and pat dry.

This recipe would also lend itself nicely to pork, so if you feel like it, grab a pork shoulder instead.

A couple of apples. I had fujis on hand, but you could use any type of apple you like. Except anything with the word “delicious” in the title. Those apples are certainly not delicious. They should be voted off the apple island.

Grab about a half a head of garlic and one large shallot.

You’ll need one cup of dry red wine. The rest of the bottle, do with what you will. But hear this: I don’t condone drinking and cooking.

Okay, I do. I really do. Those two activities were made to be performed together. Don’t fight it. Just go with it.

Rummage through your pantry and find a can of whole cranberries left over from two Thanksgivings ago. Check the date on the bottom. Not expired? Sweet.

If you would prefer a little more tart and a little less sweet, I would go the fresh cranberry route.

Find some apple cider vinegar….

…and a little veggie oil or olive oil.

Forget to take a picture of the oil, please. Don’t make me look bad.

For spice, grab one sprig of rosemary, a dollop of dijon mustard, and a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

Ready? Let’s do this dang thing.

Chop up the apple into 1/2″ pieces.

And while you’ve got the cutting board out, mince that gorgeous rosemary.

And while your chopping arm is warm, mince up that gahlic. Gaaahhhlic, I say! Gaaaaahhhhhhlllliiiicc!

Sorry. Momentary outburst.

And since you’re so good at chopping, slice up that loverly shallot. Shallots are like onion’s leaner, meaner cousin. They may be small, but they can make you tear up twice as fast and twice as much. They ain’t jokin, those mangy shallots.

Now’s the time to pile all of those ingredients in Le Crock Pot. Add the wine, cranberries, apples, shallots, garlic, dijon, salt, pepper, one tablespoon of oil, two teaspoons of vinegar, and rosemary to the pot. Give it a good stir.

Add the meat and spoon some of the sauce on top. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Halfway through cooking, flip the meat over and coat with sauce.

Oh my darling roast. You are so beautiful.

Remove the roast and put onto a plate. Cut or shred the meat into the size pieces you’d like to serve.

Meanwhile, turn the Crock on high for 5-10 minutes with the lid off. It’ll thicken the sauce a bit. Toss the meat back in and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the chunks of roast with a bit of the sauce spooned on top.

We ate ours with a spinach, butter lettuce, walnut and gorgonzola salad with garlic vinaigrette. It was a delicious combo, although I wished halfway through that I had some crusty bread to sop up the juices from the roast.

I totally loved the combination of the sweet sauce with the savory meat. The apples and cranberries were a tender topping, and the shallots gave a tiny bit of bite.

Flavorful, easy, and gorgeous winter meal. If you love sweet and savory dishes as much as I do, make this sometime soon.

Have a lovely Thursday!

-RDG

Apple Cranberry Pot Roast

  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, stem removed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium apples, cored and diced
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3-4 pound pot roast, excess fat removed and patted dry

Combine first 10 ingredients in a slow cooker and stir. Add the roast and spoon some sauce on top. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Halfway through cooking, turn meat over and coat with sauce.

Remove meat from pot and shred or cut into pieces. Turn slow cooker on high for 5-10 minutes to thicken sauce. Return meat to pot, mix with sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

tortilla soup

I’m having an affair.

With my slow cooker.

It started out as a fling. An cheese dip here. A pot of chili there. But it quickly escalated into a full-fledged relationship. We were soon making pot roasts together. Cuban pork. Dinners good enough for (gasp!) entertaining.

My husband eventually found out.

He’s okay with it.

If you too are having a relationship with a kitchen appliance, then follow my lead and make this tasty, ridiculously easy tortilla soup.

I won’t tell.

Start with some chicken. Light or dark meat–just make it about 2 pounds worth, boneless, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1″ pieces, please.

Then grab some cilantro. Washed and dried. About 1 cup with stems removed, plus a few sprigs more for garnish.

Rummage through your pantry, or Hispanic food aisle, and find one can of green chilies.

Canned green chilies are probably called blasphemy in Santa Fe. But on my turf, I call them awesome.

Also grab one can cream of mushroom soup (it’ll keep the soup a bit creamy)…

…one can of red enchilada sauce…

…and one can of whole stewed tomatoes.

Also grab one yellow (or sweet) onion…

…and half a head of garlic.

Find yourself about a cup and a half of chicken stock. I cheat and make mine from bullion cubes. Because I’m lazy.

Finally, for spice, you’ll need one bay leaf and about a teaspoon each of cumin and cayenne.

Oh, and corn. One cup (or as much as you’d like) frozen or canned or fresh or freezer-burned.

Also have some tortillas on hand for later.

Throw the chicken in your slow cooker and season well with salt and pepper.

Pour in all the canned stuff, chicken stock, and the cilantro…

…and give it a stir.

Next, chop the onion and the garlic. I never do crazy fine chopping for slow cooker meals because it’s all about the flavor that the ingredients bring to the dish—not how they’re prepared. And also because…I’m lazy. But you already knew that.

Toss in the onion, garlic and corn…

…add your spices…

…and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5.

Before serving, you’ll want to make some tortilla strips. Because, really, that’s the only reason it’s called tortilla soup, and not chicken-and-a-bunch-of-other-junk soup. Brush them lightly with oil and sprinkle on a little salt.

Toast under the broiler on a baking sheet for about 2 minutes a side, or until they’re crunchy and slightly browned.

Slice into 1/2″ strips.

By now, your soup should be looking and smelling deeelicious.

Serve topped with tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, and some fresh cilantro. You know, if you feel like it.

Husband likes his piled high with a little sharp cheddar. Okay, a lot of sharp cheddar.

Oh, this soup warms my tummy. It’s got just enough spice and a whole lotta chicken-y, corn-y, chile-y, tomato-ey goodness.

Make this sometime this week to warm up a chilly night.

Happy Tuesday!

-RDG

Tortilla Soup

  • 2 pounds chicken, boneless, chopped into 1″ pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can green chilies
  • 1 can whole stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 4 tortillas
  • sour cream and grated cheese for topping (optional)

Combine first 13 ingredients in a slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Brush tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and place on a baking sheet. Set oven to broil and place tortillas under broiler for 2 minutes per side, or until slightly brown and crunchy. Chop into 1″2 slices.

Serve soup sprinkled with tortilla strips and garnish with sour cream, cilantro, and grated cheese if desired.