February 25, 2013

Maple and balsamic fig jam

After Christmas I found packs of dried figs that were marked down the only 99 cents! This was a deal I couldn't pass up (especially because I paid 3.99 for the same pack before Christmas) and I bought quite a few. We love to eat dried fruits just as they are, but I decided I wanted to use one of the containers to make a quick jam. This isn't a jam recipe to can - it makes a small and pretty quick batch of delicious jam that's perfect for a weekend breakfast, brunch, or even a cheese plate for a dinner party. This jam is sweet and has a bit of tang from the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. It also has just a faint touch of cinnamon and great texture from the seeds. I used Turkish figs and I feel that they are already pretty sweet, so I only needed 1/4 cup maple syrup. If you want a sweeter jam, add a bit of sugar or brown sugar to taste.

I served this jam with a loaf of sourdough bread and goat cheese. The goat cheese balanced out the sweetness of the jam and made a lovely breakfast with a cup of coffee. I enjoy goat cheese with a lot of dried fruits, so it's a natural pairing for me. I think that I may use some of this jam as the base of a salad dressing whisked together with some more balsamic, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. I think it would also make a lovely glaze for chicken. This recipe will yield about 1-1/4 cups of jam, so if you don't use it all for breakfast, just throw it in the refrigerator and try it one of these other ways later in the week.

February 19, 2013

Pork chop and sauerkraut casserole

As I said at the end of last year, German food is one of my new endeavors. My husband and I both have German heritage and grew up eating a few traditional dishes, but not that much. So after eating at a couple German restaurants, I decided that I wanted to learn more dishes from that heritage that we share. This recipe is inspired by one from The German Cookbook which I received for Christmas this past year. It's a really simple dish. It's full of simple ingredients that are quite delicious after cooking together. Sauerkraut is something that I've started fermenting in small batches myself, but I also buy this kind and we love it. If you use sauerkraut made with vinegar though, I would drain it so it doesn't overpower the rest of the ingredients. I used two pork chops because I was feeding two people, but you can definitely fit in four and maybe add another apple and potato to serve four people. Sausages could be substituted for the chops as well. We enjoyed this dish a lot and I liked that it was a one-pot meal. It's a great dish for a cool autumn or winter evening with a nice German beer.

February 15, 2013

Carrot-ginger soup

Things have been quiet here on my blog recently.... That's because I was on vacation for a while. A completely unplugged vacation. I don't have a smartphone and didn't take the laptop - and, honestly, it was wonderful. It was wonderful to get away from the constant "chatter" of the online world. I slept a lot. I sat in the sun. I read an entire book. We looked at a lot of birds. And, my favorite part, we visited manatees. Those gray shadows are manatees that we visited in Central Florida at a state park where the manatees over-winter. They were so beautiful.

February 5, 2013

Chicken taco soup

This soup is something I make pretty frequently, but I never posted it until now... Mostly because I don't really measure when I'm making it and rarely make it the same way twice. It's a very forgiving soup that is terrific for using up leftovers. This time, I decided to actually measure and take note when I was cooking it so that I could share it. However, feel free to modify it to use what you have on hand. For example, I like to make this with leftover chicken, but I think that turkey, beef, or even an extra can of beans would work (You can also cook the chicken thighs in the soup, remove them from the pot, shred the meat, and return it to the soup if you don't have leftover chicken). Speaking of beans, this time I used black beans, but I have made this with pinto and red beans in the past. No frozen corn? No problem. No chipotle in adobo? Just use a jalapeno and some extra smoked paprika. No tomatoes? How about some salsa instead? Feel free to toss in other vegetables as well. If I had some scallions, they'd probably be in this soup. If I had some black olives that needed using up - yep, they'd be sitting on top of this bowl. It's such a great way to use up odds and ends (like corn chip crumbs that are rapidly going stale).

All that being said, here is my basic recipe that I use as a guide for my chicken taco soup. This soup is delicious and full of spice and heat which is why all the toppings are perfect - they add cooling, creamy, salty crunch, and sour - giving you a balanced dish. This recipe will make about four to six servings of soup.