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Archive for the category “Hotel Kitchen”

Smoked Salmon Spread Crudite

sss crudite celery smallsss crudite tomato smallsss crudite cheese small

With the holiday season upon us, I find there are three versions of being a guest. The first is the kind where you just show up with a host(ess) gift and enjoy the evening, offering to help, but getting the expected, “oh no, I got it, you just relax”. Sometimes I just relax, and other times I relax by helping. The second is when you are expected to arrive with a side dish or appetizer. There is always the wondering about who can and cannot eat the ingredients you use, much less whether or not it will come out right. You cannot even taste the results of say, a pie, because the pretty presentation would be ruined! Yes, you might have made two, but what if you didn’t? How dare you even think of cutting into the puffy, browned top of sweet potato casserole or lattice topped cherry pie! I have been pretty lucky in the past, but I have also been known to accidentally mix up salt and sugar – yowza! The third version is the grand American tradition of potluck. If it is laid back and you can bring anything, go crazy! Make what you want, cut it into portions and taste a bit to make sure it is perfect; bring it hot, bring it cold, whatever! I like all three versions because they all involve two things I love – cooking and enjoying the company of people I care about. This year has been busy with our family being in limbo, then moving, then having complications with moving, then a new job. Through it all we had a wonderful little girl who hung in there with us through all the changes. For all these reasons we are keeping our holidays simple this year, focusing on enjoying the company of our little family and of our new friends. We are planning cooking marathons, as usual, for the holidays, but they will be a little smaller, including simple appetizers. This simple recipe for crudité can be adjusted to accommodate all types of diets and give variety to a meal, either before or during – even make them a meal on their own. They can fit any version of being a guest, or as a host(ess). Change up the vegetables and cheeses – pretty much anything you can cut in half and fill or top (carrots, cucumbers, olives, pickles). Of course, crisped bread or crackers would work too! I hope you enjoy the holidays and spend more time with your loved ones than you do in the stores, because when it is all said and done, the people are what give you purpose.

Smoked Salmon Spread Crudité

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
4 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped (and a bit more for optional garnish)
2 celery stalks
5 large cherry tomatoes
5 – 10 slices sharp white cheddar cheese

Whisk together cream cheese and sour cream. Add salmon and garlic, folding it into the cheese mixture until well combined. Chill for about an hour. While it chills prepare the serving bases. Clean celery stalks, peel off tough strings and cut into 1 – 2 inch sticks. Clean tomatoes and slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and meat and pat dry. Slice cheese into 1 – 2 inch squares, making them thick enough to pick up and take a few bites out of, but thin enough not to over cheese the bites – a bit thicker than sandwich slices. Spread the spread (heh) on all the bases, taking time to form it to compliment the shape of the base – round like a tomato, within the crevice of the celery, and a bit random to soften the edges of the cheese slices. Top with dill if you please. Serve immediately or chill until time to serve/leave for the party.

Pancakes a la Coconut Flour

coconut flour pancakes

On weekend mornings we sometimes go to a restaurant for brunch. More often then not we end up making complicated orders to cut out starches and wheat, or rely solely on the a la carte menu to fit our diet. Inevitably the ordering process is interrupted while the server makes a trip back to the kitchen to confirm whether or not we can substitute a salad or vegetables for the hash browns and toast. Skimming through the majority of the menu items, most of which involve cakes, toasts, waffles and syrups, reminds me of Sunday mornings growing up. After returning home from church we would all change into our sweats and dad would set up the production line – he would make dozens of waffles, which we would eat on for a month out of the freezer, and enjoy hot, fresh ones immediately. Other days he would make pancakes, with a resulting mound of leftovers reaching a foot high or more. Those extras went into the freezer, too. There was always a bag of one or the other that could be pulled from and popped in the microwave for a quick meal anytime. I have avoided making waffles or pancakes since our shift to wheat free eating because of the obvious barriers of wheat and syrup. After pondering for a while and looking into a bunch of recipes, I think I came up with one that will fill in the sentimental weekend brunch gap. Thank you Carol over at Ditch the Wheat for the trial and error and the resulting great recipe (even though I did tweak it a bit). The cakes turned out great – when Big D and I bit into them we looked at each other, our eyes got wide and we shared our amazement at how similar they were to the pancakes of our childhood! Topped with some Kerry Gold Irish Butter and some Da Vinci sugar free syrup, they were extremely satisfying. Making them also brought back some fond memories of my dad, who passed away about two years ago and always spent happy times in the kitchen. We are definitely making these again, if for no other reason than because I promised Little B we would do so, after seeing her face was so sad when she learned they were all gone. Gotta stock up that freezer! And next weekend I am gonna show her how to eat them with my mom’s wonderful southern contribution slathered on top – peanut butter!

Pancakes a la Coconut Flour

2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
Sprinkle of ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
1 tsp powdered stevita (or 1 Tbsp Stevia in the Raw)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
Additional coconut oil or butter for cooking

Cream together the coconut oil and cinnamon. Add the eggs one at a time. Add coconut milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add coconut flour and stevita. Mix until smooth. Lastly add cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Do not over mix the batter. Over mixing will result in the baking agents (cream of tartar & baking soda) not working. Use a ladle and pour small amount of batter into a crepe pan or large frying pan with butter or coconut oil on medium heat. Flip once the bottom is light brown and edges are set enough to flip without losing shape. The pancakes will not bubble as much as “regular” pancakes. Serve immediately with a drizzle of syrup. One batch makes about 8 pancakes, so double and triple as needed to feed your clan.

Chorizo Burgers

chorizo burgers
We eat a lot of burgers. A lot. They are our go to meal when we can’t think of anything else, or are running late, or are bored, or end up at a quick serve restaurant. The quick serve restaurant is always  a challenge. You cannot imagine the number of blank looks I get when ordering and tell them I don’t want buns. “No, I do not want buns.” “No, no buns.” “You can use salad containers and just put the condiments, meat and cheese in it. It will work fine. I promise you.” “Do I need to go in the back and talk the food prep team on how to do it?” “No, I don’t want the combo/meal. Just the burgers. I know the meal is a better deal compared to buying separately the fries and burger and drink, but I don’t want the fries. And don’t forget, I don’t want the bun either.” What usually happens is Little B and Big D will go find the perfect table and I do the ordering. Not because Big D can’t order. He is extremely articulate. The advantage to to me ordering is my patience – I soooo beat him in that arena when it comes to dealing with ordering food and other people are involved. In contrast, he is most awesome in the patience arena when dealing with me. I tend to be passive aggressive and get stuff pent up until the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and not everyone can deal with it, but he is a magician with me. Okay, on with the dish. Since we avoid traditional buns, and I rarely make low carb buns, the variety in our burger-ness relies on combining meats and the toppings. I was longing for a Tex-Mex feast, but our current situation does not allow for expansive storing of leftovers, which rules out some more bulk preparations of the guacamole, salsa and chile con queso I usually prepare. I did mini versions of the sides, so we ate most of them and storage was not an issue (phew). Also, with my previous exploration into creative meats in burgers, I wanted to do something a little different. Here are my results, which gave me the Tex Mex element, while also giving variety to our burgers with a spicy flair. It may be hard to find good jalapenos in Alaska, but when I do, they are pretty potent. Between the pepper and the ancho chile the burgers definitely left a slow burn in my mouth, and on my lips, and under my fingernails felt the heat to. I was also reminded of those little webbed parts between my fingers that have dry skin but I don’t realize it until I chop up a jalapeno. Ouch but yum!

Chorizo Burgers

2 pounds ground beef
1 pound chorizo sausage
2 eggs
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp ancho chile powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin

1 batch chile con queso (melt processed cheese block with a can of tomatoes and chiles, add some chopped fresh tomatoes and jalapenos if you like)
1 batch salsa
1 batch guacamole

Prepare all condiments in advance. I did 1/3 batches and they were enough for these burgers, but do full batches if you have the fridge space – they are great the day after! For the burgers combine the eggs, cilantro, garlic, chile powder, salt and cumin. Whisk together until eggs are scrambled. In a large bowl smush together beef and sausage until there are no recognizable chunks of sausage. Add egg mixture and smush some more until eggs, herbs and spices are well combined. Form meat mixture into six or eight large patties. In a large frying pan over medium high heat sear one side of the burgers, about five minutes. Flip burgers and sear other side. Reduce heat by half, cover burgers and cook until done, about eight minutes. When done cooking immediately place a burger on a serving plate and top with queso and guacamole. Sprinkle with salsa and serve. If you have leftover burgers I recommend storing them separate from the condiments.

Brussel Sprouts in Cream

creamy brussel sprouts

Could I ignore it? Just walk by as if it was not there? Pretend it would not be loads of fun to explore? No, I was not strong enough. It drew me towards it like no other stalk. I became a stalker. A stalker of of brussel sprout stalks. I thought maybe I should deny myself yet another green vegetable, but why?! I seem to be on quite the green vegetable streak these days – asparagus then artichokes, and now brussel sprouts! Big D has been doing a lot of meat and soup cooking, so I enjoy the yummy stuff when I get home and fill in the vegetable part of meals where I can. Brussel sprouts are a relative of green cabbage – high in fiber, good for you and the sprouts grow on stalks! I usually see them in the store in bags, but this week they arrived on the stalk. How fun! Little B was so excited about this strange thing when I got home she could not stand to wait until they were cooked. Whenever I can I try to show Little B where food comes from – whether it is pulling wild garlic, to showing her vanilla comes from orchids, her breakfast sausage comes from pigs, or the plants that are the source of her popcorn. I showed her the stalks and explained what the sprouts were. Little B immediately wanted one raw. Um, okay. I gave it to her, she took a big bit and LOVED IT! Chewed it up like Halloween candy!

brussel sprout stalk

brussel sprout tastingI had to promise to cook them up as soon as possible because she would not leave me alone about them. This could get interesting. Sometimes I have to coax Little B into helping with cooking projects and other times I can’t keep her from being overly underfoot (in a good way). This was definitely an underfoot project. She helped me cut them off the stalk and cook them up.  I had a plan and she had a different one, but we figured out how to combine them, and an ordinary weekday evening turned into a stalker party! We came up with two dishes in the end – one that she liked and one that I wanted. The cool thing was the two dishes took the same route to a point, then easily diverged to make everybody happy. Besides raw she tasted them sauteed in the butter, then with her added veggie and cheese, and also after adding the cream to the butter saute. Apparently she prefers them raw, but I think the creamy sauce balanced out the natural bitterness of the sprouts. I am very happy to learn of Little B’s continued interest in green vegetables – from when she started gnawing on frozen broccoli during her teething period as a baby, to snacking on green beans to the brussel sprouts of today. What has your kid eaten and liked that surprised you?

Brussel Sprouts in Cream Sauce

I large stalk brussel sprouts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt

Cut sprouts off of the stalk, leaving enough stem on each to hold the sprouts together. Melt butter over medium heat in large saute pan you can cover later. Add garlic and cook until you can smell the garlic aroma. Add sprouts and toss to coat them with butter. Sprinkle with salt. Cover and let cook until sprouts are softened, about ten minutes. Lower the temperature to simmer and add the cream. Gently stir – enough to blend the cream into the sauce, but gently enough to prevent the sprouts from falling apart. Simmer covered for a few more minutes until the sauces is hot, bubbly and begins to brown, about four or five minutes. Serve immediately.

Little B’s version – after sprouts are cooked and softened in the butter, transfer a serving to an oven or microwave-safe bowl. Add some grape tomatoes and black olives cut in half. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Microwave for about one minute, or bake in oven at 300 degrees for about five minutes until cheese is melted.


Lemon Infused Artichokes

lemon infused artichokes

I found some beautiful artichokes at the store and whisked them home. Instead of preparing them in the more nostalgic way I have in the past, I wanted to try something a little different. To get more of the lemon and garlic flavor deeper into the artichoke I thought cutting them in half and baking would be useful, so chop chop! I did not want them to dry out, so I surrounded them with moisture and covered it all up. Since they are already divided into individual servings it is easy to rely on them for an appetizer course of a dinner party, or have them cooked and ready for whenever you can get the family sat down at the dinner table. The fun thing about making these for a dinner party is watching the guests try to be dainty and tidy while eating them. Although some (like fancy schmancy restaurants) discard every bit of the artichoke except the heart (which can be cut into about four dainty bites) many like pulling off meat from the leaves of the vegetable with their teeth. We fall in the category of pulling off meat from leaves, so it can get a bit messy. That’s okay – either way, conversations can get started over the nuances of artichoke consumption. Have fun with them and don’t forget the dipping sauce!

Lemon Infused Artichokes

4 medium artichokes
1 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup salted butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a five quart pot add the water and about 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. Cut the stems off the artichokes then cut them in half. Drizzle the halves with oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with garlic powder and salt. Arrange halves loosely in the pot. Cover and place in oven. Cook for about 45 minutes until tender. If the heart, above the stem, is not tender, then cook them for 10 – 15 minutes longer. While the artichokes bake prepare the butter – in a small sauce pan over low heat add the butter, garlic powder and lemon juice. When butter melts stir, cover and let simmer for about one minute, then turn off heat. Add salt as desired and stir. Serve as a dipping sauce with the artichokes. When you serve the artichokes make sure to remove the hairy choke portions of the vegetable, right above the heart, and discard. Spooning it out should be easy, since it is exposed when the artichokes are cut in half. In the picture above you can see the dark line where the choke ends and the heart begins, right above the stem. If you want more about the basics of eating artichokes check out the step by step guide here.

Asparagus Saute


I just adore brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Such adoration inspired this side dish. Big D cooked an absolutely lovely lamb roast for dinner. I can’t get him to guest post his cooking, so you will have to check out his other types of most awesome writing here. The roast sat and simmered all day, so when I walked through the door I was surrounded by lemony, oregano-y, minty bliss. To balance the strong, Greek flavors of the roast I came up with this bright, sharp side dish. We found a huge collection of asparagus at the store – it was a nice medium size with moist tips that begged to be prepared and enjoyed. We also had a collection of small tomatoes – some red, some orange, some green and some purple. I cut up a few and threw them in. They wilted and balanced the enjoyable bitterness of the asparagus. The meal tasted wonderful on a chilly, wet Juneau evening. We have many more such evenings to come, and I will definitely be making this quick side dish again. It is too early in the season, but I will say it anyway – what a colorful combination of green and red! Looking forward to the fun of the upcoming holiday season!

Asparagus Saute

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches asparagus
2 cups small tomatoes
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Arrange the asparagus so the thick ends are lined up together. Slice off the last one to two inches of the the thick ends of the asparagus and discard. Cut the remaining asparagus stalks into bite-sized pieces, about one inch each. Slice tomatoes in half or thirds, making sure they are bite-sized. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add asparagus and stir until slightly softened, about five minutes. Add tomatoes and stir for one more minute. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Stir so as to spread out the spices. Turn down heat, cover and simmer, cooking for about five more minutes, until the asparagus is softened as desired. Turn off heat and leave covered until time to serve. Serve immediately.

Ghoulish Meatballs

ghoulish meatballs

In honor of Halloween I made some quite delicious, ghoulish meatballs! They are massive and arrogant and a little scary. I maxed out my hands trying to form them into balls, but it worked! I have made meatballs before, but they were little and gooey and cheesy. All of those things I consider good, but a huge, ghoulish meatball is awesome! I originally planned on baking the balls, but we are still lacking in the shallow baking pan department as part of our reliance on a hotel room kitchenette. The stove top worked pretty well, allowing for browning on all sides, so all was good good good! The stove top was busy though, with making the sauce and onions and meatballs! It came together in low carb loveliness and is a new comfort food for me. The sweet of the sauteed onions balanced out the bite of the meatballs and tartness of the tomatoes. Today was a crazy busy day with much good news (we officially found a place to live in our new town), much fun, and a humongous amount of candy for Little B. Usually off limits, we let her eat and eat and eat candy with sugar all over and in it. Her glazed eyes and erratic, hyper behavior reminds us why we avoid it the rest of the year. I am writing a last line before bed, and look forward to Samhain tomorrow, the beginning our spiritual new year. Sweet, ghoulish dreams everyone!

Ultimate Meatballs

1 pound 15 -20 % fat ground beef
3/4 pound ground hot Italian sausage
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
2 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving

1  14.5 ounce can diced Tomatos with sauce
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin rings

SAUCE: In a small sauce pan over medium heat combine tomatoes, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir. When bubbly, turn temperature down to low and simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes. ONIONS: To prepare the onions, heat a deep pan over medium high heat until hot. It should be dry. Add the onion rings and let sit for a minute without stirring until they begin to brown and sweat. Stir them every minute or two, allowing the onions to brown more. When onions are about half browned add 1/2 cup water and scrape the bottom of the Pan. Stir and continue cooking until the liquid cooks away. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Turn off the heat and cover until time to serve. MEATBALLS: In a small bowl combine the spices – oregano, basil, parsley, garlic, salt and cheese. Set aside. In a large bowl squish together the ground beef and sausage until mixed up well. Add the eggs and make sure all the meat is coated. Pour in spice mixture and knead meat until spices are well distributed. Refrigerate until sauce and onions are ready. When time to cook the meatballs remove meat mixture from refrigerator (can be prepared the day before). Heat large frying pan to medium high heat. Form meat into six huge meatballs, placing them immediately into the hot pan. When forming the balls make sure to press the meat together firmly and roll it around in your hands to make them as round as possible. As one side of each meatball browns, gently turn them to another side. Repeat this a few times so three or four sides are a bit brown. Lower heat, Cover and cook until meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Depending on your stove you may need to move them around during the cooking time to prevent the outside from overcooking. To serve, arrange a layer of onion on the plate, add a meatball or two, and top with the tomato sauce and more Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.


German Chocolate Fusion Cake

german chocolate fusion cakeI woke up this morning with a plan to fulfill a birthday request. It sounded simple – a low carb, wheat free German Chocolate Cake for dessert. Now, I could have gone to a version I made before, but there were a few barriers to doing so: 1) in our little hotel kitchenette with not much room, 2) the absence of measuring cups, a mixer, blender, food processor or more than one mixing bowl (which was actually an ice bucket absconded from the ferry we floated to Juneau on), 3) time was not in abundance. To balance all these challenges I did some digging to come up with a simple recipe that kept the ingredients list of the cake short, allowed for minimal processing, and maximized the small kitchen and involvement of Little B. The results were wonderful, if I may say so myself, and achieved the German Chocolate Cake flavors, if not necessarily in a more traditional presentation. Why do I call it a fusion cake? Because I was inspired by a energy bar recipe. I got some inspiration from the recipe found here, then leaped off into a search for my own results. Big D and I talked recently about coming up with some low carb, portable snack or energy bars. Something we could throw in a backpack to nourish us during long hikes or camping trips, beyond the old reliable of mixed nuts or peanut butter. This cake is a step in that direction – I think with a few tweaks of the cake portion of the recipe we could have some good snack bars, but that is a different story. This cake gave Big D the nutty, coconutty, chocolaty birthday dessert flavors he wanted, which was most important to me. My initial hesitation in even trying to make the cake, what with everything else going on in our lives lately (under-supplied kitchen, new town, looking for permanent housing, furlough, new job, new everything), helped me get everything back into perspective. Cooking always has and still does calm me, and stressing about giving a gift is unnecessary if you create it from the heart. Happy Birthday Big D!

German Chocolate Fusion Cake

1 cup almond flour
2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
½ cup cocoa powder
2 cups Stevia in the Raw
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup water
3 tsp vanilla

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 cup Stevia in the Raw
½ cup unsweetened coconut
½ cup pecans, finely ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all dry cake ingredients into a large bowl. Stir until well combined. Add the eggs, cream, water, and vanilla. Stir again until batter is well combined. Pour into two greased (or lined with parchment paper) 9-inch baking rounds. Bake until solid firm in the middle. It will not rise very much. Baking time will be 35 – 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Remove rounds from pans and peel off parchment paper. Make the topping while the cake bakes and cools: combine cream cheese, heavy cream, coconut oil and Stevia in the Raw in sauce pan. Heat through and stir until smooth. Set aside and let cool about five minutes. Add coconut and pecans and stir again until well combined. Let topping cool completely. Place one cake round on a serving plate. Top round with half of the topping. Place second round on top of first, then finish the cake with remaining topping, spreading it on the sides if there is enough – the layers will be thin so you may not need to put on the sides at all. Chill to let the topping set. Serve cold or remove from refrigerator about one hour before serving.

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