Balanced Palate

I have a new blog!

Enjoy 🙂

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In Transition

Hello! I am sorry for the LONG delay. This blog is in transition and I will be starting again soon…in a new location. More details… SOON!

Thank you for reading! Good tastes to come!

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FoodBuzz 24×24: Coffee Roasting and a Mediterranean Dairy Breakfast

This post and this meal are dedicated to my dad, who has for as long as I can remember had a passion for cooking, and has in so many ways inspired my passion as well…And also, to coffee. Because my dad and I both love good coffee!For this month’s FoodBuzz 24×24 challenge I came up with the idea to roast my own coffee, grind it, and make the (fingers crossed!) **best** cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Since I’d be home in Chicago for the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it’d be only appropriate to share this experience with my dad.

We both did some reading on roasting coffee- and my dad went during the week to a local coffee roaster to pick up some green coffee beans- raw, unroasted.

After talking about some different rules/techniques/methods we had both come across, we decided a deep sided cast iron skillet would be best, over high heat, stirring and shaking the whole time, uncovered.So, we turned on the exhaust fan, opened the windows, and got started.We took turns shaking and stirring the beans, constantly, for about 20 minutes. We heard crackling and saw a lot of steam. The beans’ color changed quickly!To see if they were done, my friend suggested that we keep a roasted bean close by for comparison. And right before it looks like that, removed from heat, pour into a colander, and agitate/shake outside to cool quickly, allowing any flakes to fly away.
While we’d get the rest of the breakfast ready, we let the beans sit by the windowsill, to cool further. As they sat, their stereotypical coffee smell came out stronger and stronger!Next up, my dad juiced a bunch of oranges for orange juice.And me? The night before I had taken some yogurt and strained it through a cheesecloth to make “greek” yogurt. I like that thick, rich texture, but— Greek yogurt is so much more expensive, and this looked easy enough!It worked so well- check out all that moisture that came out!Mmm thick, tangy yogurt. The perfect blank canvas to so many topping options…Like, this pomegranate. My mom had never taken apart one of these, so I taught her how.Cut it, break it open…And stick it in a bowl of water. break apart those beautiful, ruby red gems. They will sink, and the pomegranate skins/peels will float. See?Next up for this Mediterranean Dairy Breakfast: Homemade lavash crackers. The recipe was Alton Brown’s. It was an egg, water, butter mixture, combined with flour, salt, and sugar…Kneaded then set in a bowl to rest for 1/2 hour…After that, it was rolled out… then brushed with egg wash then sprinkled with sesame and poppy seeds- salt and pepper (we did butter at first, but the seeds didn’t stick!)I really liked the flavor of this- but the crunchiness needed work. By the third flatbread, we had it right.
And finally, we made espresso with our very freshly roasted beans!It was so strong, so flavorful- noticeably fresher. I was SO proud of us! We did it so well on our first attempt!Here’s what the progression looks like: raw beans to roasted beans to grounds!And breakfast was served.A cheese platter with pears, fig spread, pistachios, pomegranates, yogurt, gorgonzola cheese,  and some honey.My plate was that bowl of yogurt with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and honey. Then some lavash with gorgonzola and fig spread, then one with yogurt, honey, and pear.
It was such a fun breakfast, and I love that FoodBuzz inspires these challenging meals. Roasting my own coffee beans can now be checked off of my culinary bucket list.

And thanks, mom and dad, for sharing this meal with me 🙂

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Mountains and Oceans

I am home in Chicago, but if I were back in San Diego right now I’d like to have me a Saturday like last, when Matt was visiting. Yep, hiking would be pretty amazing today.

The best part about San Diego is the easy access to both the ocean and the mountains. Hikes are always a good morning activity…

And nothing like a sunset to lay the day’s events to rest…Thanks for visiting Matt! Sorry this post was so delayed…

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Congratulations, Gingerbread and Biscotti!

Did you hear the news? Gingerbread and Biscotti got MARRIED! And… wait wait— it gets juicier… They had a baby together!

And it’s about time!

Gingerbread biscotti. All the best features of both of them came out in their little bundle of joy. The crunchiness of biscotti, the warmth of gingerbread. He loves to be dunked in coffee, and he is perfect to bring to holiday dinners! What a delight!

And what’s more, he’s chalk full of apricots and almonds…yea, he’s a little nutty- and fruity too. He’s very well rounded!

I brought these home for my family, all the way from San Diego to Chicago. I figured they’d hold up well in transit- and they’re a little something different than the typical pie scene.

I used THIS RECIPE. And I fully suggest this to anyone who thinks this sounds good. Biscotti are so easy- but they do take a while. They are baked twice (that’s what biscotti means!)- so, just prepare for that…

Anyway, congratulations, Gingerbread and Biscotti. And thank you for your wonderful gift to this world!

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Thanksgiving…A Homage to my Grandma Sis

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just the mere thought of Thanksgiving makes me feel all warm and cozy. Even though it hasn’t been this way in years, I think I will always have images of my Grandma’s house when I was little, and that festive atmosphere that surrounded it when I think of this holiday.

My Grandma Sis was one of those women that always wanted everyone around her to be having a good time. She would put herself on the spot, dance around, and sing just to make everyone laugh. She was great at giving orders- to me and all of my cousins. We all had a job. Setting the table, filling the bread basket, carving the bird (that was my dad’s job). But her? She was in charge of the cooking. Like, 90% of it. And she did a damn good job.

My grandma made some really special dishes, both for Thanksgiving and not, that will forever hold a special place in my heart, and in my belly. Her dishes were…authentic, comforting, so satisfying…they must have been made with so much love. She made things like spinach patties, stuffed artichokes, corn bread, stuffing, and biscuits. All the buttery, delicious carbs… Even the vegetables turned out this way! Hey, I wouldn’t change a thing.

She also opened a can of cranberry jelly on Thanksgiving- that log thing? Yep, she loved that.

I remember arriving at her house on Thanksgiving, before 3 pm, and immediately starting to count down the minutes until we’d eat. Sure, I helped get it all ready…a bit. But then, my cousins and I would sit down at the kids’ table, and we would actually fake eat until we got the go to real eat. We visualized, if you will, the entire meal, throwing in a prank or two at my littlest (now biggest and tallest!) cousin while we were at it. We’d use our fork and knives, and cut the air, and describe to each other how delicious the turkey was, and the mashed potatoes. I hated stuffing at that time, and gravy. Both the real and the fake. I must have been crazy.

I remember loading up my plate (for real this time) and my grandma telling me my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I may have been little, but I could eat. I’d finish my plate AND get seconds… (thirds?)… And then my cousins and I would go run around- oh to be a little kid again- to burn off all those calories immediately after consuming.

Dessert was not as memorable- because I am 99% sure there must have been pie- but all I remember are those dry, bland shortcakes that I’d load up with strawberries and douse in whipped cream. So gourmet, right?. At the time, I craved those strawberry short cakes- they were delicious! Now, I think I’d pass- except for a bite to cherish the memory- that would make it worth it.

Thanksgiving night always ended with saying goodbye to our parents and setting up blankets on my grandma’s “frontroom” floor. Me, my sister, my cousins, and I. We’d pop in a tape- Alice in Wonderland, the Pincushion Man, or Mary had a Little Lamb- flip the TV to channel 3- and we all watched until we drifted asleep.

In the morning, we’d get ready to go by my aunt to decorate her Christmas tree. Moving onto the next Holiday already.

These are just memories now, because little is this way anymore. Except for family and togetherness. And the massive amounts of good food. But my grandma set a tone that can never be replicated. And that’s okay. We have a new thing going, and I can say that I am happy to have had those memories, those tastes, those images… And how lucky am I to associate Thanksgiving to such a special person.

Anyway, happy, happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I hope you take time to appreciate all you have today.

My mom sent me this picture- it’s not of my grandma, but it’s of me, my sister, and my cousins… getting ready to feast on Thanksgiving a long time back…

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Sunday was Friendsgiving. Even in between, it’s a week of eating, no doubt. And of love. And of games.

Mostly, it’s a week of celebrating those we are most thankful for in our lives- be it friends, family, coworkers…chickens…and even cats…sometimes…

But this post isn’t about cats, or chickens, or even coworkers… it’s about friends. Friends that more often than not feel like family.

I am thankful for my friends. Because my friends care about each other, and we make each other laugh. And we build chicken coops and we go on fun hikes and they teach me to rock climb. And we carve pumpkins and volunteer on farms and gather honey. But mostly, we cook together. And every time, we create delicious feasts… This Friendsgiving was no exception.

You know a true friend when they will help you core onions, even if it means tears, and burning, stinging eyes.
And friends are always good for hugs!And when a Thanksgiving meal must come together in little time, in a tiny space, you will end up making new friends.

Here’s some pictures from the evening…

Fresh ground spices mulled into Chai Tea!Sitting around a fire, playing games, drinking hot chai tea. Mmm…Soon it was time to massage the turkey with butter, and stuff it with citrus.
How the vegetarian of the group got involved so intimately with the turkey is beyond me.Yes, I did make a giblet gravy with the turkey innards. That happened.

Hat swap.And…the moment of truth…
The TURKEY!Carving was a joint effort.And the meal was served.

Quinoa and butternut squash stuffed onions, cranberry sauce, turkey…Turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, browned butter mashed potatoes…And all the way to the right…stuffing. Ahh stuffing. Sourdough mushroom stuffing how I love you so!
And without hesitation, we dug in…
And after the onset of the food coma set in, the guitar came out…Followed too closely by dessert…Berry cobbler, apple pie, and vanilla ice cream…And the sluggishness ensued… There was not a lack of hugs…
Just the way it should be…Happy Friendsgiving 2011! Cheers!

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