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A successful dinner party

Hello all.

Not too many interesting things have been going on around here lately. We’ve been busy finishing up the very last of our Christmas shopping and just enjoying some time off of work together. Jeff is cashing in his remaining vacation time so he doesn’t go back to work until January!

We did manage to squeeze in one more social event before the holiday. This past weekend we had our friends John and Emily over for a little dinner party. I love to cook fancy elaborate food but rarely have an occasion to, so it was nice to be able to cook something special for a change.

On the menu:

  • Roasted lamb leg with rosemary and whole garlic
  • Buttermilk mashed potatoes
  • Miso shiitake gravy
  • Honey soy glazed carrots
  • Apple butter cake with cinnamon cider buttercream

Yeah, it was as good as it sounds.

The lamb roast is a Jamie Oliver recipe that I’ve made several times before, and it’s been a hit every time.

Finished lamb roast

I used an entire head of garlic and a ton of rosemary. I’ll share the recipe tomorrow!

I used some of the pan drippings and a few of those cloves of garlic to make the most amazing shiitake mushroom gravy ever.

Miso shiitake gravy

Again, I’ll give you this recipe soon because it’s just insane, and you don’t need to use lamb drippings either when butter will work just fine.

The honey soy glazed carrots were soft and and lightly salty-sweet.

Honey soy roasted carrots

This recipe is super easy. Just 2 lbs. of carrots with a generous swish of soy sauce and a squirt or two of honey. They bake at 400 degrees for an hour covered in aluminum foil to hold in the moisture and keep the honey from burning.

And here’s a plate of everything…

My plate of lamb roast

I ended up pureeing the miso shiitake gravy for a better consistency. It was so good paired with the creamy potatoes and fragrant roasted lamb. I ate a few of those roasted garlic cloves by themselves too. I could seriously make a meal out of just roasted garlic and a good loaf of bread.

Dinner was served with a glass of Cardhu 12 year, a sweet and honey-like Scotch that suited the flavors of the dinner perfectly. Never mind that it’s in a Jack glass. I can’t even drink that stuff anymore, too sweet!

Cardhu in a Jack glass

And the jewel of the evening…cake!

Apple cake frosting

Apple cake edge

I have so many cake recipes bookmarked and I never have an occasion to make one. I modified this recipe to create this apple butter cake with cinnamon cider frosting. It had a damp banana bread texture and the frosting was smooth and not-too-sweet.

I’ll share my changes to the original recipe with you soon!

Slice of apple cake

I know for a fact that John and Emily loved the food, and I really enjoyed getting to make it for them. We were all feeling sleepy afterwards from stuffing ourselves and having a few too many whiskeys.

I had so much fun preparing this meal that I’m already scheming for future dinner parties. Recipes to come……!

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Apple butter oat bars

As promised, I present to you the recipe for these amazing little apple butter oat bars I made in my frazzled cooking bender yesterday.

Apple butter oat bars

It sounds like I’m not the only one around here that is craving the flavors of fall already. I’m desperately longing for pumpkin butter, warm applesauce, baked apples, kabocha squash, hot cider, and all the other delicious foods we only get to eat around the winter holidays.

I made these same bars last week in another cooking frenzy but with strawberry jam and almonds instead. They were definitely yummy, but I’m just so over all the bouncy summer berries and very ready to break into the firmer fall fruits. Biting into one of these made me feel like I was wearing a fuzzy sweater and snowed in on the couch with a big warm blanket and a cup of hot tea.

Apple butter oat bars stack

Apple butter oat bars

This quick and simple dessert or snack is not too sweet and features the warm flavors of cinnamon and apples.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter (room temp.)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup apple butter

Cooking Directions

  1. Cream together butter and sugars in a mixer.
  2. Add egg and mix to combine.
  3. Whisk together flours, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a separate mixing bowl.
  4. Add dry mix to wet in three parts, mixing gently between each addition.
  5. Fold in oats by hand and divide mixture into two equal parts
  6. Press half the dough into a buttered and floured 9x9 baking pan and top with the apple butter.
  7. Pinch off small pieces of the remaining dough and dot all over the top making sure to get all the way around the edges.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.
  9. Let cool in pan, turn out onto a cutting surface, and cut into bars.

These aren’t too heavy on the butter and sugar either. It wouldn’t be naughty for you to pop one or two for breakfast, with a rich cup of coffee or herbal tea. Just enough sweetness for a morning pastry.

Apple butter oat bars

I intended on sending half of these to work with Jeff to keep me from eating all of them, but I don’t think I can part with them!

What foods do you most closely associate with fall?

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Craving baked apples

Well, I did manage to use up the last 5 apples that were still chilling out in my crisper drawer. Nothing as fancy as the cinnamon apple cake squares I made the other day, but still a yummy use for apples.

I cut the rest of them up and baked them with ground cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg, and a little sprinkle of sugar. I’ve been using them over the weekend to top my breakfasts with.

Shown here: Apple crumble flavored Voskos yogurt topped with baked apples and toasted buckwheat crunchees.

Apple yogurt and baked apples

I’ve eaten something appley like this every day for a week now and I’m still not tiring of it!

Here’s how easy it is to make baked apples:

Easy baked apples

A simple method for baking apples to use on top of oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream, anything!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • Any number of apples you need to use up
  • as much cinnamon as desired
  • pinch of clove, ground ginger, and nutmeg
  • sprinkle of sugar
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Cooking Directions

  1. Peel, core, and dice apples.
  2. Add to a baking dish where they will be piled upon each other (to encourage steaming)
  3. Add spices to taste and squeeze over lemon juice. Sprinkle on sugar.
  4. Mix with a spoon and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout.

Washed down with Jeff and I’s twin teas…

Twin teas

And another example of using up what’s in the crisper…pizza! I had 2 lonely button mushrooms and a tomato that was getting squishy and needed to be used up. So, mushroom and fresh tomato pizza!

Pizza with fresh tomatoes

I always by whole wheat pizza dough from our local farmer’s market and roll it out myself. The first time I bought it I was a little bit intimidated, but now I make pizza like an old pro!

My favorite trick to getting it tasting like a brick oven pizza is to use a pizza stone and put it under the broiler. The edges get that slight charred flavor and the cheese goes all brown and bubbly.

Also this past weekend…a double rainbow!

Double rainbow Decatur

Decatur experienced a light sunshower on Saturday that produced a vibrant rainbow arching completely across the sky. And if you looked closely you could see another fainter rainbow gleaming above it. Everyone in town just stopped in their tracks to gape at it and snap photos.

We saw it on the way to Leon’s for dinner with some friends. Leon’s has recently changed their menu a bit and several of the things that Jeff and I order regularly are gone. :(┬áIt was ok though, we got to try some new and interesting things because of it.

Here, the lamb rillettes we all shared as an appetizer…

Leon's lamb rilletteLamb rillette on bread

It was so good slathered on fresh bread studded with the tiny grains of mustard and a glazing of orange marmalade on top. Lamby!

I got a really cool new cocktail called The Wasp. It’s rye whiskey and peach honey and some other stuff I don’t remember, but man it was delicious!

The wasp cocktail at Leon'sSquare cube of ice

I ordered the new side wedge salad with crispy bacon, hard boiled egg, radish slices, and creamy caper dressing. Pretty good, a nice take on the classic.

Leon's wedge salad

And the zucchini casserole with onion jam and salted lemony arugula. I get one of these almost every time we go because it’s just so good.

Leon's zucchini casserole

It wasn’t quite enough food so I ate about half of Jeff’s fries with garlic aioli. :)

Do you have a dish at a local restaurant you order every single time?