As a kid, one of my favorite books was “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” For some reason I didn’t own a copy but a friend of mine did, and every time I would visit her house I would spend a good portion of time pouring over the pages. The illustrations were the best part — the one image I remember most vividly was where people dining in a roofless restaurant ran around catching hot dogs as they “rained” down from the sky.
Another part that has been stuck in my head since childhood was the rolling in of a split pea fog. I don’t recall ever eating split pea soup until much later in life — maybe even after high school or college — but I was always curious about it after reading that book. When I did finally try it (hesitantly I might add because the color is not so visually appealing) I was surprised at how tasty it was. Those little chunks of smokey salty ham with creamy pureed peas made for a wholly satisfying bowl of soup.
Ever since that initial tasting, I occasionally get a craving for split pea soup and it seems like I cook up a pot each winter around this time. It could be because post-Christmas is the only time I happen to have a ham bone laying around, or it could just be the fact that it is usually freezing cold outside and I get an urge for something warming.
Both of those things were true last weekend. Thankfully there is still no snow here in Portland, but the viciously cold wind is making my bike commute pure torture. Getting to sit down to a piping hot bowl of this goodness for lunch almost makes up for it. At the very least, its warmth helps thaw me out — from my head to my toes.
A bone from a Nueskes spiral-sliced ham made this broth fantastically smokey
Even though it’s December, it’s still been fairly temperate in Portland. There was one day when I woke up to see a light dusting of snow, but for the most part it’s been a mellow winter. Which is pretty perfect as far as I’m concerned. As someone who bikes to work year-round, I am loving that when I go outside it still looks like autumn.
And while I haven’t been feeling the intense desire to hibernate, I still have had the usual cold-weather culinary urges — stews, soups and crockpots, oh my! I’m sure you all know the feeling, these are the things that get us through until spring. It seems so comforting to have a pot on the stove filled with chili or split pea soup.
So when I picked up a small chuck roast at the store, my first thought was beef stew. I usually make a pretty traditional version — mire poix, tomatoes and lots of woody herbs. However, I was feeling a little frisky and decided to try something different. Which is where this recipe for stout-braised beef comes in.
Now first let me assure you that I know cooking with alcohol is nothing innovative. I’ve been a dedicated believer in the power of beef and beer for quite some time. Perhaps it was the horseradish garnish that made this recipe so intriguing.
Which leads me on a slight tangent…As a kid, I thought horseradish sauce was the most disgusting thing ever. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the taste — I never got that far — it must have simply been the name. But my stepdad (a longtime horseradish lover) swore that some day I would discover its amazing and spicy deliciousness on my own. And, crazily enough, I did. I’m not certain of when it happened, but if you give me roast beef, my first instinct is to look for the “horsey sauce,” the hotter, the better.
I love marshmallows. Not so much on their own but I grew up eating a lot of s’mores and drinking a ton of hot cocoa, so every winter I start to crave their sticky, sugary sweetness. As an adult, I really appreciate a toasty mug of hot chocolate, spiked generously with Rumple Minze, topped with melty marshmallows. Last year, when this blog was just a baby, I decided to try making my own marshmallows with (shockingly) great success.
I was so impressed with myself that this year I thought I’d take it one step further.
Inspiration hit when I discovered these giant two-pound marshmallows online. (As an aside: I love Plush Puffs, their flavors are fun and — big bonus! — they actually taste good too. Not at all rubbery, just soft squishy marshmallow goodness.) Then, on the same site, I saw another item the company offers — mug toppers. They are slices of marshmallow that perfectly fit a cup of cocoa. Seriously brilliant!
Ginger three ways: freshly minced, crystallized and ground.
I love ginger in all forms but it seems to really taste best when mixed with butter and sugar. Well, to be fair, most things seem to taste best that way.
These ginger cookies were made because it was a Saturday and I had just bought some crystallized ginger. Yes, it really was that simple. I had been craving ginger and spice since I read this delicious blog post by Dinners for Winners and finally I had all the ingredients needed to make some yummy ginger treats of my own.
Or at least I thought I had all the ingredients. *Sigh*
It always seems to happen that I’m missing something. In this case it was a few things — though nothing important enough to prevent me from baking. I settled on a basic recipe, one I’ve used before and enjoyed, these Triple Ginger Cookies from Bon Appetite. They are from the Dec. 2009 issue, which by the way, had a pretty incredible pictorial spread of holiday cookies. There were cardamom crescent cookies and peppermint bark squares all very whimsically placed in a winter wonderland. I kept that issue around for much longer than necessary. It was just so fun.