Monday, November 21


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for several reasons, the least of which being that it's a holiday geared around food and family and it celebrates the "attitude of gratitude" mentality. 

I also like that unlike Christmas, it has a late start time :)  Growing up my younger brother was ALWAYS awake and ready to open presents at 5:30 AM.  His internal clock for opening presents mirrors that of Foster's for dinner being served precisely at 5:00:01 PM thankyouverymuch.


Even as he got older, sleeping in meant that he wouldn't come storming into my room until 7 AM.  Most people eat a bit later in the day on Thanksgiving so you can take your time... sleep in a bit, grab some coffee, and then get the bird in the oven.  [says the girl who has only cooked a turkey once in her life, and even then, got booted from the project around lunchtime]

Preparing the turkey the one year I was allowed to touch it.  And contrary to this photo, I am not suffering from a teenage pregnancy nor the freshman 15. Just a really bad camera angle.

I haven't had time to make much of a Thanksgiving fuss on the blog because I have literally been traveling and working my butt off since Halloween with just a few stops at home to do laundry and repack the suitcase.  I certainly can't complain because part of it was for vacation and I got to see friends and family along the way.  But despite my efforts to write and preload some posts, the blog still ended up abandoned and without the pomp and circumstance that a holiday which is focused on food, like Thanksgiving, deserves. 

The few times I have been home and around to cook I've whipped up delectable dishes like hot dogs and mac n' cheese or turkey tacos.  Although delightful, not exactly blog material... :) 

For me this year, Thanksgiving will be about the same things that I've always loved... food, family and grateful introspection.  But it will also be about setting the reset button.  Ok, or continuing the reset I started in Iceland.  Hey, work hard, play hard! 

I've found that knowing when to step back and walk away from things like email, a to-do list and fretting over Christmas shopping is empowering.  Learning how to indulge in a long walk chasing squirrels at the park or lingering over brunch with friends or spending the day with a good book pays dividends. And it refreshes me to be much more effective when I eventually do tackle whatever it is I've got on my plate.

So this Thanksgiving I'm going to forgo the normal guilt trip that I'd give my type-A self and leave the to-do lists where they lay.  I'm going to pick up with that reset button where I left off in Iceland and let life pay out some of those natural dividends you get from food prepared with love, time with friends and a little bit of R&R. 

I'll be back and recharged to tackle work, life, and my folder full of new recipes when the real world starts again on Monday the 28th.  I hope everyone finds time to do the same and that hitting the reset button is as good for you as I know it's going to be for me.

Be thankful.

The Eater

Sunday, November 20

Pumpkin Cake

I promised you pumpkin.  Now I shall give you pumpkin.  In the form of a delicious, moist and flavorful cake with sweet cream cheese frosting.  If you were undecided on what to serve for dessert at Thanksgiving, I highly recommend you give this a try.  It's a nice alternative for people who like pumpkin, but not the texture of pumpkin pie.

The Royfriend's sister gets all the credit for this recipe.  A few years back I celebrated my birthday with an all day football and beer extravaganza that started at the VT bar in Chicago, progressed onto my favorite Cubs haunt and then wound thru Lincoln Park.  It was a great day with lots of friends and a Hokie win to boot!  Christine surprised me by bringing this cake to the bar. 

First of all... homemade cake at my favorite bar that typically just serves beer and hot dogs?  Yes please!!  Add in pumpkin and cream cheese?  We were all smitten.  The good folks at Murphy's Bleachers handed us a way-too-big knife along with some plates and let us have our cake and eat it too.


The cake was immediately elevated to rockstar status and has been making appearances at Roy's family gatherings and holidays ever since.  Including Thanksgiving and my birthday earlier this fall, although thankfully, Christine made it a single layer cake due to the unusual parade of baked goods that had been through my house.


Unfortunately I don't have any pictures that portray how mouthwatering this cake is because I ran out of time to make it myself this fall.  I'll try to snap some when Christine makes it this week for Thanksgiving.  But take my word for it, this is worth your time! 

Technically it's a "from scratch" cake but it's about as easy as making things from scratch gets.  No mixer or beating of eggs and butter is required.  The actual cake appears dense but is very moist and lighter than you'd imagine.  It's similar to carrot cake in that the pumpkin flavoring is present, but not overpowering.  You'll see that the recipe includes decorating the frosted cake with pecans but that's optional.  I also have it on good authority that this makes a delicious start to your day as a cousin of the breakfast bread ;)



2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin puree or cooked mashed pumpkin
Cream Cheese frosting (see below)
Pecans (optional)

Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl; stir into oil mixture, beating well. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch round layer cake pans. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes. Turn out onto racks to cool. Frost pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Frosting:  Combine 1/4 cup butter, 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature, 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl; beat well until smooth. Makes enough for 2-layer pumpkin cake.

Monday, November 14

Hæ vinátta!

That's Icelandic for "hi friends".  Surprise!  I was in Iceland last week.

Live like a Viking!

And then I landed and had to go into 3 days of business meetings a mere 8 hours later.  So work plus exhaustion from the action-packed trip equals a neglected blog.  I've got a couple more work-related things happening this week so it will likely be this weekend before I get a new recipe posted (spoiler alert - I'm thinking pumpkin spice cake). 

To tide you over... I bring you a recap of the best meal I have ever eaten.  In my life. 

Roy and I happened on this place, the Seafood Cellar (or Sjávarkjallarinn, as the locals call it), after a recommendation from our hotel in Rekyjavik, Iceland.  The guy said it was his personal favorite and that you could order things by the plate, like a normal restaurant, or go with a multiple-course tasting menu if you felt like being adventurous and checking "best meal ever" off your bucket list. 

What can I say, we were in vaca mode and interested in trying as many Icelandic things as possible.  So we selected a five course tasting menu and then added the paired wines cause what the hell, you only live once. 



Of my life.

(No offense Mom, your home cooked meals are easily the runners up in this battle).

It was a 4 hour experience that Roy and I will never, ever forget.  We spent our time enjoying the wine and each plate as it came to the table.  Then we discussed our faves and reranked the courses as we progressed through the evening.  And since I don't have a new recipe to post here, I'm including photos and descriptions of the dishes. 

If you've got an adventurous spirit, I HIGHLY recommend trying these things if they ever come your way.  The only thing I didn't love was the goose breast and gizzard.  But everything else, including the lamb heart, was divine. 

Taste from the chef
Marinated shrimp with a lemon, thyme and parsnip puree


Frozen monkfish, celery and barley
Very thin slices of monkfish, barley salad with feta from Eglisstadir and pickled celeriac, barley mayonnaise and herb vinaigrette with vinegar pearls. 
Wine: Montes, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile


Cheeks of halibut, angelica and potatoes
New Icelandic potatoes and lightly salted cheeks of halibut with leek, angelica and brown butter
Wine: Blanc de Pacs, Pares Balta, Penedes, Spain


Wild Goose, red cabbage and huckleberries
Goose breast and gizzard, fried apple puree, huckleberry jam and sautéed red cabbage with juniper fused goose sauce
Wine: Monte Garbi Ripasso, Tenuta Sant’ Antonio, Veneto, Italy


Blue ling (north Atlantic fish) and mussel sauce
Slow cooked blue ling, salsify, Brussels sprouts, shrimps, small potatoes and creamy mussel sauce from our friend Simon at Breidafjordur Mussels
Wine: Adobe, Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile


Lamb from Oxnadalur and larch mushrooms
Fillet, shank and heart of lamb, potato puree, larch mushroom, kale and carrots with lingon berries and mushrooms glaze
Wine: Piccini Sasso al Poggio, Tuscany, Italy

Roy is thoughtfully pointing out the lamb heart for you

Spruce and Birch flavored ice cream
Palate cleanser


Black Currants from Skorradalur and toast
Toast parfait, black currant sorbet – and jelly, with brown sugar meringue, honey roasted muesli and crème fraiche
Wine: Morande, Late Harvest, Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile


Cheers to new things and a beautiful country!


Sunday, November 6

Potato, Leek and Feta Tart

Bear with me as I'm going to wax poetic about the farmers market one more time this season.  Another reason I love shopping there is because I'm surrounded by experts.  Experts who can tell me what to look for in the produce (ie: this should be firm/soft or XYZ color when ripe) and how to store and cook it.  It's rare to even find a produce guy at my grocery store, much less a selection of 5 people all willing and ready to help me.

Back in early October I got to chatting with a gentleman from Lange Farms about a potato, leek and feta tart.  We talked about the wonderous invention that is premade pie shell crust and he promised to bring the recipe for me next week.  I figured I'd offer this heirloom tomato tart recipe in return.

But then life happened and I missed that week's market and then completely forgot about the tart until last Tuesday, the final day of the 2011 market season.  Unfortunately I had to go into the office early that morning so I sent Roy to handle things.  He found Gerry, passed along my tomato tart recipe and email address and by Wednesday morning I had the potato, leek and feta tart recipe in my inbox. 

I tried this out on Friday night with some salmon and loved it!  The tart is full of flavor but each bite is a little different depending on whether you get more cheese or crust or leek or dill.  The feta and dill keep it fresh and the cheese melted but wasn't so gooey it was impossible to eat.


I was dealing with a smaller pan so my potatoes didn't get mixed in very well (side note: slice your potatoes with a mandolin, SO MUCH EASIER!).  I laid a few on top and tried to stuff the others under the mixture around the edges which ended up working, but put a few holes in the crust.  Next time I will probably make a layer of the potatoes on the bottom of the tart and then integrate the reamining potatoes into the mixture and put it on top.  I'm also toying with the idea of making a cheddar/gratin-y version. 


Thanks to Gerry at Lange Farms for sharing!


Potato, Leek and Feta Tart

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks cut and cleaned white and light green parts; cut into half-moons
2 small zucchini cut into half-moons
Kosher salt and black pepper
½ cup crumbled feta (about 2 oz.)
2 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 Red Bliss potatoes (8 oz.) thinly sliced
1 store-bought 9 inch piecrust

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, zucchini, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until just tender; 4 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the Feta and dill.  Add the potatoes and toss to combine.

On a piece of parchment paper, roll the piecrust to a 12 inch diameter.  Slide the paper onto a baking sheet.  Spoon the potato mixture onto the piecrust, leave a 2 inch border.  Fold the edge on the piecrust over the edge of the potato mixture. 

Bake tart until the piecrust is golden brown and the potatoes are tender; 50 – 60 minutes.  You can cover with foil if the crust gets too dark.

Wednesday, November 2

Lakedale Granola

In 2008 Roy and I took our first official vacation - aka our first trip together that wasn't to a football game or wedding.  We'd only been dating for 4 years at this point, no big deal.  It was a quick trip to Seattle.  We spent a day driving around a Mt. Rainier that was so socked in with fog we never actually saw the mountain and then spent the majority of our time in the San Juan Islands with a quick stop at the Space Needle and Pike Place Market before heading to the airport.


The highlight was the time we spent on San Juan Island.  In contrast to our experience at Mt. Rainier, the sun came out and the weather was perfect for exploring the town, eating lunch on a rooftop patio with a beer, and wine tasting ($1 a pour on the honor system, amazing!). 

Per some recommendations from a coworker, we stayed at the Lakedale Resort, situated a few miles from town on three lakes.  It was incredible!  A beautiful and welcoming log cabin building puts you instantly at ease, inviting you to sit down and relax like its your own living room and deck.  The staff showed off a well stocked pantry for late night snacking (again, honor system).  The rooms were gorgeous, each with their own fireplace and a view of the lake.  They even offered something called glamping (glamorous camping).  It was amazingly peaceful and relaxing. 


Getting to the point of this post (sorry about all the reminiscing, can you tell I need a vacation??), breakfast the next morning was somewhat magical.  I'm sure part of it was eating outside on a chilly fall morning right next to a lake, which is a pretty good departure from my normal routine.  But I'm convinced that another part of it was this granola. 


It's easily the most flavorful, delicious granola I've ever had.  It's a mix of Special K cereal, rolled oats and a ton of nuts and dried fruit.  All capped off with a mixture of brown sugar, butter and honey (just think about how good THAT will make your house smell, spoiler alert = it's amazing).  The shredded coconut seems like an odd ingredient but gives it a nice sweetness.  I absolutely love eating this over sliced bananas with milk like cereal.  But this is so good you can eat it plain too, or over yogurt if that's your thing. 

What you see below is the hotel's original economy size recipe.  I cut it in half the first time I made it but since then I've been making full sized batches twice a year and polishing them off each time (this only takes about 15 minutes to make, plus an hour or so to let everything dry once you pour the mixture over the dried ingredients).  I usually give a big freezer-sized bag to my Dad when I see him around the holidays and it takes me about 6 weeks to get through the rest of it with Roy nibbling on it as well (although he doesn't eat it every day like I do).  Store it in an airtight container and it will easily last for 2-3 months.

All the dry ingredients, minus the dried fruit

Making the "glue" that holds it all together - brown sugar, honey, butter and corn syrup

Dry ingredients looking golden with the addition of the liquid mixture

Dried ingredients are completely cooled, adding in the dried fruit

If you're concerned at all about how much it's going to cost you to buy the laundry list of ingredients or you're freaking out about something that includes so much protein by way of the nuts plus a bottle of honey and half a stick of butter... remember how many servings its stretched across.  And think about how much you pay for a box of cereal and how fast you go through it.  Basically I'm saying that for me it's been easy to rationalize.  The ingredients cost me about $43.  This time around I used blueberry infused Crasins because they were half the price of dried blueberries.  Feel free to switch it up with the dried fruit and use your favorites!

Homemade granola tricks of the trade

If you do decide to make the economy size version of this, I highly recommend you pick up a Rubbermaid container for the mixing.  Large pasta pots just don't give you enough space to get in there and get everything coated and mixed.  I mix mine in the large container you see in the photos and then store the granola in smaller, more reasonably sized containers.  And when I don't need it for granola, the bin stores kebab skewers and grill tools in the closet.  ("Duh alert": obviously you should clean the container before and after you make granola)

I love this recipe and hope you guys fall in love with it too.  For me, it evokes wonderful memories of vacation and how peaceful and relaxed it all was.  It's the perfect way to start my morning.



Lakedale Granola
15 minutes hands on time
1-2 hours to let the mixture dry and set on the dried ingredients
Serves A LOT
6 oz Brown Sugar
12 oz Honey
1 cup Corn Syrup
4 oz Unsalted Butter

1 LB Special "K" Cereal
8 oz (1 cup) Rolled Oats
1 LB + 4 oz Shredded Coconut
12 oz Sliced Almonds – toasted
4 oz Pecans
4 oz Macadamia Nuts
4 oz Cashews

4 oz Currants
8 oz Dried Cranberries
8 oz Dried blueberries or apples
8 oz Golden Raisins

Place sliced almonds on an ungreased baking sheet in a single layer and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 mins, stirring occasionally.

In a large container - combine all the dry ingredients except the dried fruit (Special K, rolled oats, shredded coconut, toasted sliced almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts and cashews).

Bring to a boil the first four ingredients, making sure that the sugar crystals are dissolved.  Pour over all the dry ingredients (except the dried fruit).  When cooled completely, mix in the dried fruit.

Ingredients for a Half Batch
3 oz Brown Sugar
6 oz Honey
1/2 cup Corn Syrup
2 oz Unsalted Butter

1/2 LB Special "K" Cereal
4 oz (1/2 cup) Rolled Oats
10 oz Shredded Coconut
16 oz Sliced Almonds – toasted
2 oz Pecans
2 oz Macadamia Nuts
2 oz Cashews

2 oz Currants
4 oz Dried Cranberries
4 oz Dried blueberries or apples
4 oz Golden Raisins

Follow the same steps as above.