Small Business Saturday - November 30th, 2013

Are you one of those crazy Black Friday shoppers?  Do you get up early, or not go to bed at all, so you can push your way through a crowd at your favorite big box store for that amazing deal?  And this year it seems the "Black Friday" craziness is being spoiled by places being open Thanksgiving Day!

I’m not a Black Friday shopper.  I hate crowds, really hate crowds.  I hate them so much that this time of year my Christmas shopping is done and I’ve stocked up on all those staples like paper towels and laundry soap so I don’t have to brave Target any more than necessary until the insanity is over.   If I do have to go, I go late in the evening when the crazies are home going over all of the amazing deals they found that day.  Usually I spend the Friday after Thanksgiving making Christmas cookies.  This year I’ll be painting our office!

I am a Small Business Saturday shopper.  I love this idea.  For years Dave and I have tried to shop smarter for both food and goods meaning both better for us and for our local economy.  There are some things that you just have to go to a “big box” store or Amazon for, but where we can we shop local and independent.

I’ve already started planning my Small Business Saturday trip and I encourage you to find your local gems and give them a visit on Saturday.  We'll be sticking around St. Paul.  Here are some of our planned stops.

Normally our Saturday mornings would start with the St. Paul Farmer’s Market but they are closed for the holiday on the 20th so we’ll probably start on Grand Avenue at Golden Fig Fine Foods. 

Golden Fig is my back up source for Otis Family Farms eggs and Snappy Dog Salsa when I can’t make it to Farmer’s Market.  They also carry Fischer Family Farms pork.  If you haven’t had some of their smoked pork chops you have to try them.   Another staple we purchase at the Fig is their salted caramel sauce.  Oh my delicious!  I will be drizzling some of this on the chocolate bread pudding I’m making for Thanksgiving dessert.  Other favorites include the cayenne short bread cookies, and anything from their bakery selection (the vanilla brioche is TO.DIE.FOR!).  They have cheeses, pastas, sauces, gifts, coffee, the list goes on and on.  You have to stop in if you’re in the neighborhood!

Right next door to the Golden Fig is a new place called Fox Glove.  Dave and I stopped in there for the first time just last week and were pleasantly surprised at the unique things in the store.  I purchased these beautiful porcelain replica of a Mason jar.  We also found some cool paper straws and an a wick that Dave felt was befitting his etched Woodford Reserve bottle!  We replaced a couch pillow with one from Fox Glove that has a removable, and washable, cover too.   There were so many cool, eclectic things in the store from a refurbished antique stereo cabinet made into a bar, to beautiful paper gift tags you have to stop in and at least take a look!

From Grand Avenue we’ll probably head to the Olive Grove Olive Oil Company in Mendota Heights.  If you know me you know this is another of my very favorite places to shop.  In addition to a huge variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, you will find delicious pastas imported from Italy, spice blends to add to your oils for delicious dipping, great gift baskets and even skin care products made with olive oils.  I’ll probably be replacing all the Mushroom and Sage olive oil I used for Thanksgiving dinner and probably pick up some pasta too.  Oh and farro!  The Olive Grove is my source for farro too!

We’ll probably be getting hungry about now so it’s dangerous to make our next stop Cosetta’s but that’s where we’re going!  When you walk in the first thing you smell is the fresh baked bread.  They’ve made it so you can watch it being baked.  How can you not buy a loaf?  I could spend all day in the Market just looking at the cheeses.  They have the best fresh cheese anywhere, never mind the deli meats.  And if you’re feeling lazy, pick dinner out of the case and bring it home!

Ok, now we’ll be hungry and where else would we go than Ward 6?  Love beer?  You’ll love Ward 6!  Love great food?  You’ll love Ward 6.  They’ve been open about a year now and Dave and I got there at least once a week.  We’ve been there for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and it doesn’t matter what day of the week or time of day the service and food are outstanding!  They make me nervous when they change the menu then I fall in love with the new items.  My current favorite is the pork dinner, roasted Fischer Farms pork tenderloin with bacon blue cheese Brussels sprouts!  Oh my!  Did I mention they have pie?

A shop local day would not be complete without a stop at PJ Murphy’s Bakery.  Don’t blink or you might miss this little gem of a bakery in St. Paul.  They have the best soft hamburger and hot dog buns!  They have great sweet treats too!

Sunrise Creative Gourmet is at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market every weekend, even in the winter!  They recently (like last weekend) opened up a store front.  Dave and I will be visiting on the 30th!  Not only will they be selling their great pastas, we’re partial to the Butternut Squash Lasagnetta, they’ll also be selling things from other great local companies like Snappy Dog Salsa!  We may have to try their Parmesan sage sauce!  Looking for a unique Christmas gift?  They have gift packs!

That's the plan, we'll see if we make it to any additional places.  If you have any ideas for us we'd love to hear them!  Please do a little local, independant shopping this season.


It starts with the menu....

This year will be the first Thanksgiving in many, many years that my husband and I aren't traveling for Thanksgiving.  We had been either driving to Green Bay and preparing Thanksgiving for my family or heading to the wine country of California.

This year Dave has to work the Friday after so we won't be going anywhere, and you know what, I'm OK with that.  This year has been incredibly busy and stressful at work and just being at home, just the two of us, sounds really good to me.  I can make what I want.  Dave and I don't like stuffing or pumpkin pie so they are off the menu!

I've been thinking about the menu for weeks now and I think I've got it down to what we are going to have.  I'm so excited!  It starts with the menu!

We're probably going to have a little breakfast, most likely our favorite homemade English muffin topped with fresh tomato, Spicy Wholly Guacamole and an egg, scrambled for Dave and poached for me.  We may even have a side of either Otis Family Farm or Fischer Family Farm bacon, whichever I have on hand.

Early in the afternoon I'll start cooking and we'll have an appetizer of Artichoke Crab Dip and bread.  We love this recipe (see below, I can't for the life of me remember where I got it, and I've modified it to add blue cheese!).  I could eat it with a spoon, forget the bread!

Our soup course is going to be French Onion Soup.  I'm going to make a Williams-Sonoma version that sounds delicious.  Here's a link:  French Onion Soup

For our salad we are going to make a recipe from which they say is their most requested salad recipe.  It is a Gorgonzola, apple, cherry, pecan and bacon salad (yes there are greens in there too) with a sweet balsamic dressing.  It sounds delicious!  Here's a link if you want to check it out:  Most Requested Salad Recipe

I have two sides planned to go with our roasted Otis Family Farm turkey breast (I'm not doing a whole turkey, it's just two of us!).  The first is Alex Guarnaschelli's Mashed Potatoes Chantilly.  I've made these before and they are to.die.for and I'm not even a big mashed potato fan.  Here's a link to the recipe:  Mashed Potatoes "Chantilly" and here's a link to my blog the first time I made them.   Dinner by Alex Guarnaschelli

The second side is going to be a recipe I just recently found, well really Dave found in the newspaper, roasted squash with pancetta and Brussels sprouts.  We really liked this version of some of our favorite roasted veggies.  Here's a link to the recipe:  Roasted Squash with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts  And here's a link to my blog about them:  Roasted Squash with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce right?  There will be no can-shaped blob of cranberry on the table.  I found a recipe for what I think is the best cranberry sauce years ago so that's what I'll be making.  It's a Cook's Illustrated recipe so I can't put a link here, you have to be a subscriber to see it but it's a simple recipe of cranberries, sugar and water.  Not too tart, not too sweet and no citrus!  I really don't care for orange in my cranberry sauce.

There will also be no crescent rolls on the table this year.  Crescent rolls are fine, they're easy but we decided we wanted popovers instead!  So I'll be making Gruyere-chive popovers too!  Here a link to the recipe from the Just a Taste website:  Gruyere-Chive Popovers

And for dessert?  I mentioned we don't like pumpkin pie so we're having chocolate bread pudding!  I've made this recipe before and it's simple and delicious.  This time though I'm going to make it special for the holiday!  I have some Espresso Balsamic from my friends at the Olive Grove Olive Oil company.  I'm going to reduce that down with a little sugar and drizzle that over the bread pudding!  But wait!  I'm not done yet!  I also have some salted caramel sauce from my friends at the Golden Fig.  I'm going to drizzle some of that on top too!  Doesn't that sound amazing?!  Here's a link to my blog post: A Week with Curtis Stone - Friday

After all of that I'm sure Dave and I will be nearly comatose in front of the fire, probably watching one our favorite Thanksgiving movies, either Home for the Holidays or A Christmas Story.

Watch this space... you know I won't be able to not share pictures of our meal!

Now it's time to bundle up and head to Farmer's Market to buy the best ingredients I can for our Thanksgiving meal!

Artichoke Crab Dip Recipe
1 cup crab meat -- lump or white; not artificial; 2 six ounce cans

cup Parmesan cheese -- recommend:  shredded rather than grated

1 cup mayonnaise

ounces artichoke hearts

8 ounces water chestnuts, canned -- chopped

4 ounces sour cream

2 cans  refrigerated bread dough -- 11 oz. cans; recommend:  Pillsbury Crusty French Loaf

Mix all ingredients together and place in a shallow dish or pie plate.Bake at 400 degrees until cheese bubbles. Serve hot.

Bake the refrigerated bread dough in a bread tube at 375 for 50-60minutes.  Slice and serve with dip.  If you don't want to make the bread, sliced baguette or crackers work just fine!

I like to add a couple of tablespoons of blue cheese too!

Gruyere-Rosemary Beer Bread

I haven't made beer bread in ages.  I used to make it all the time.  I'd dice it up and serve it with spinach dip as an appetizer.  Then I found appetizers I liked better and beer bread went by the wayside.

A week or so ago I got my daily email from Kitchen Daily and one of the recipes was for Gruyere-Rosemary Beer Bread.  I pinned it.  Yesterday I made it.  I don't think beer bread will fall by the wayside for a while!

Here is a link to the recipe:
Gruyere-Rosemary Beer Bread

This was a snap to make.  I've been doing yeast breads for so long now it was nice not to have to wait for the dough to rise twice before I could put it in the oven.  The ingredients are easy, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, beer, Gruyere cheese, rosemary and butter.

The dry ingredients are mixed, to this the beer is added.  I don't drink beer but lucky for me my husband does.  He was out mowing the lawn for the last time this year when I was making this bread so I just took a beer from behind the bar.  I had no idea what it would taste like.

The cheese and rosemary are folded in, the dough is placed in a prepared pan, butter is poured on top and it's time to go in the oven.

Oh the smells in the kitchen while this was baking!  First you smell the alcohol in the beer cooking off so the kitchen smelled like a brewery.  Next was the aroma of the baking cheese.  You know that smell when you make a grilled cheese sandwich and a little of the cheese melts on the pan?  I love that smell.  Well, that's what the kitchen smelled like next.

It makes a beautiful loaf!

And flavor, oh my the flavor!  What hits my palate first is salt.  The cheese and butter give the bread a nice salty start.  Then you taste the cheese, that delicious salty, earthy cheese.  And finally, the yeasty beer flavor fills your mouth.  This bread is delicious!  I can't wait to try it with some tomato or cheese soup!  According to the blog it makes some pretty delicious croutons as well!

The one downer, the price of the cheese!  I got the Gruyere on sale for $19.99 a pound.  Yes, that was the sale price!  So it's a pretty spendy loaf of bread.  I may try it with some good Swiss cheese next time.


Roasted Squash with Pancetta & Brussels Sprouts

On Sunday mornings my husband likes to read the paper front-to-back.  A few Sunday's ago he came across a recipe he thought we'd like, Roasted Squash with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts.

Here is a link to the recipe:
Roasted Squash with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts

If you follow this blog you know we eat a lot of roasted vegetables, especially brussels sprouts.  We just love them.  We also roast squash all fall and winter so we pretty much knew we were going to love this recipe.

I didn't have pancetta and didn't want to buy just 2 ounces, some good smoked bacon from our friends at Otis Family Farm would work just fine!  So bacon was substituted for the pancetta.  

The bacon is roasted with the squash in a little oil.  Once that's been in the oven the Brussels sprouts and garlic are added.  This recipe called for slicing the Brussels sprouts thin and mixing them with some slivered garlic and a little more oil.

Once everything is roasted it is tossed together and served.  We had it as a side with some pork tenderloin (coated in Penzey's Galena Street Rub and grilled) and pumpkin gnocchi!

We loved this variation of a dish we make all the time.  I have to say I really liked the sliced Brussels sprouts!  You can keep them a little more aldente than halved or whole sprouts and the slivered garlic was perfect!  There were no bites where your palate was overwhelmed with garlic flavor.  In fact, each bite had some crunch from the Brussels sprouts, smokey flavor from the bacon and sweet roasted squash.  Another winner.  This would be a great side for your Thanksgiving dinner!

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I'm back!  I can't believe it's been a month since my last entry.  Work has just been insanely busy (including a week of working from 1:00AM to at least 2:00PM every day) and it has really been interfering in my real life.  There is no real end in sight to the crazy at work, but I am going to try very hard to get enough sleep so that I can get back to what I love to do, cook, bake and tell you all about it!

A couple of weeks ago I pinned a recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi.  Of course this time of year there are a million recipes out there using pumpkin.  Thanks to Chef Janiak from Seghesio, I learned that gnocchi is really not that hard to make.  This recipe called for browned butter, walnuts and parsley.  I love browned butter and I immediately decided I would substitute fresh sage for the parsley!

Here is a link to the recipe:
Pumpkin Gnocchi

All of the ingredients (there are four of them, flour, pumpkin, nutmeg and and egg) are mixed in a bowl to form a soft dough.

The dough is rolled out and cut into about 1" pillows.  A while ago (like many months), I found a gnocchi board and just had to buy it.  I finally had an opportunity to use it!  With the gnocchi board I made these pretty gnocchi!

The cooking couldn't have been easier, boil until they float then saute them in the butter with walnuts and sage.  I love the smell of sage!

I served these as a side with some pork tenderloin and another new dish I tried, Roasted Squash with Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts.

How were they?  Flavor-wise they were amazing!  To be honest I couldn't taste much pumpkin.  But there was a perfect balance of nutmeg, toasty browned butter and sage.  The nuts gave the dish a nice crunchy texture.  My gnocchi turned out a bit more dense than I like so maybe next time I'll cut back on the flour a little.  But I will make these again.  I had a delicious, uncommon side dish in less than 30 minutes!

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