15 New Year’s Resolutions for Foodies

It almost goes without saying that most of us begin a new year with the resolve to lose weight and/or eat better. And we share this sentiment, too. But what about taking time to actually think about and enjoy our food? What does that even mean?

Over the past week, Tony, Gio and I have been talking about what we’d like to explore in the world of food for the new year, and we came up with a list of our top 15 food resolutions for 2015. Some are personal cooking goals, but most of them are just fun ways to expand our culinary horizons.

1. Try a new cheese each month

We could have stuck with our original idea of trying a new cheese every week, but what would happen if we missed a week? Our intention is to make these resolutions as reasonable, and achievable, as possible and we think we can manage at least one new cheese every month in 2015.

Fortunately, the new and improved Luna neighborhood café on south University Drive in Fargo has a fabulous cheese counter, and Peter Kelly, formerly of The Green Market, is the man behind it. Ryan Nitschke, the executive chef of the soon-to-be full-service restaurant also knows his way around the cheese counter, and we can’t wait to taste their recommendations for 2015. The fact that Luna is located just one block from our house makes this resolution almost too easy to achieve. :)

2. Eat together as a family more often

Tony, Sarah and Giovanni, in the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

When I was growing up, my family had dinner together every single night and as I’ve grown older I’ve come to cherish that experience. But with our restaurant schedule, dining together just isn’t a regular possibility for our family and it’s easy to skimp out on preparing a proper home-cooked meal on our days off.

But our 10-year-old son, Gio, loves it when we sit down to enjoy a meal together at home, and we always feel closer as a family when we do. Once a week is a must for this one.

3. Use the good stuff

We have beautiful china that we rarely use, and our goal is to bring it out not just for special occasions, but anytime we dine together as a family. Even if we’re just serving pizza.

4. Try different oils

Extra virgin olive oil and canola oil are the staples in our house, but the world of oil is vast and we’d like to know it better. Tochi Products in north Fargo has a terrific assortment of oils to try, including grape seed, almond, sunflower, sesame and even white truffle oil.

5. Sharpen knives regularly

Sharpening Angle Guide

Photo by Simon A. Eugster (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You would think that professionals in the food industry would have the sharpest knives on the block, but the knives in our drawer at home could not be duller. Creative Kitchenat West Acres offers knife sharpening services for a nominal fee, and even hosts free events several times throughout the year. This is the year we’re going to get our knives sharpened, at least once. :)

6. Add more fish to our diet

Fish is so good for us, but is often left out of our regular diets – even though we’ve featured some great fish and seafood recipes here on the blog, including Poached Salmon in Leek Cream Sauce, Shrimp alla Carbonara, Parmesan & Pepper Walleye, Fish Cakes, Seafood Linguini and the famous Sarello’s Red Curry Scallops.

We need to take advantage of all the healthy benefits fish bring to our diets, and thankfully our local supermarkets and restaurants have an abundance of great seafood options to keep this challenge interesting and delicious.

7. Try new foods

This could be as simple as sweet pickles or those cute little red peppadew peppers in the olive bar, as interesting as using exotic spices like saffron or turmeric, or as complex as mastering boeuf bourgignon or foie gras, but the goal is to have fun tasting and making new foods.

8. Seek out new food experiences

In 2014 we were blessed to participate in several new food adventures, including our “Italy on the Prairie” dinner last summer at the Coteau des Prairies Lodge in southern North Dakota, the inaugural “Banquet in a Field” farm-to-table event in rural Cass County (ND), and

Tony even traveled to Santa Rosa, CA to enjoy a lark as a contestant on Food Network’s hit show, Guy’s Grocery Games!

These were amazingly fun events and we enthusiastically say “More, please!” For a simpler quest, you could step outside your comfort zone and try a new restaurant, take a cooking class, check out a health food store, visit a bakery, order something different at your favorite restaurant, or visit a town for its famed local specialty.

9. Master Biscuits and Gravy

Gfp-biscuits-and-gravy

Photo by Yinan Chen (www.goodfreephotos.com (gallery, image) via Wikimedia Commons

Just because we love this classic southern specialty. I’ve made southern biscuits before, but am now in search of the perfect sausage gravy.

10. Bake once a week

Baking is like therapy for me, and I’m seeking some peace and calm in 2015. Baking once a week may be just what I need. I have some staples that I turn to when I just need to bake, like buttermilk brownies, angel food cake, Clipper Chippers (aka, the world’s best chocolate chip cookie) and almond friands, but I’m hoping to add some new items to my repertoire in 2015 and look forward to this challenge.

11. Make time to eat with friends

2010-07-20 Black windup alarm clock face

Food is a wonderful way to connect with others, but we rarely entertain in our home and often turn down dinner invitations, using our busy schedule as an excuse. It’s time for us to make more time to enjoy breaking bread with others.

12. Master a Roast Chicken

Roasted chicken with vegetables

Photo by Phoebe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gio was looking through a recent issue of Saveur magazine earlier this month and was practically salivating as he showed me a picture of a gorgeous roast chicken. This comfort food definitely needs to be added to our repertoire.

13. Use location for inspiration

Last summer we were challenged to create almost a dozen different appetizers, each one inspired by a North Dakota crop, for the inaugural Banquet in a Field event. We are grateful to live in an area that is abundant with agriculture, which should give us plenty of inspiration for 2015.

14. Drink better coffee

I’ve always wanted to try making coffee from a French press – this may be the year.

15. Use our cookbooks

We have a huge collection of cookbooks but tend to gravitate toward just a few favorites. We’re going to prepare a new recipe each month in 2015, using a different, and previously unused, cookbook each time.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress throughout the year and hope you’ve enjoyed our list. Tony, Gio and I wish you a very happy, and delicious, new year!Happy New Year 2015

Today’s Holiday Recipe: Sicilian Christmas Salad with Blood Oranges & Fennel

Today’s featured holiday recipe is our Sicilian Christmas Salad, featuring blood and navel oranges, fresh fennel, mint, red onions, green olives and extra-virgin olive oil. If the lighter pink cara cara oranges are also available, we’ll layer them in, too.

This is a salad that can be enjoyed throughout the blood orange season, but is especially festive at the holidays. We have served this salad on our Christmas Eve buffet for the past ten years, and it is always a hit. Enjoy!

Sicilian Christmas Salad Recipe

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 large oranges, peels removed and sliced into rounds
If available, use half Blood oranges, half Navel – Cara Cara oranges may also be used
1 bulb of fennel, cut julienne style
1 medium red onion, cut into thin slices
1 cup green Italian or Greek olives, pitted if available
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (use best quality you can find)
2-3 small bunches fresh mint, cut Chiffonade style
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Cut the top and bottom off of each orange, then stand the orange up on a cutting board. Use a serrated or very sharp knife to remove the peel by gently cutting down the length of the orange, making sure to follow the curve of the orange. Leave no white pulp on the fruit.

Once the peel and pulp have been removed, lay the orange lengthwise on the cutting board, and cut into round slices, about ¼-inch thick.

To prepare the fennel, cut the stalk off and use only the bulb. Cut off the base of the bulb and peel the outer layers. Cut the fennel bulb lengthwise into ¼ inch strips.

On a serving plate or individual plates, begin by layering the orange rounds, alternating between the red and orange slices, then evenly distribute the fennel, red onion, and mint. Randomly place the green olives around the salad for added color. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the entire salad. Serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tip: You can prepare the orange rounds a day in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Today’s Holiday Recipe: Norwegian Krumkake

The holidays are a wonderful time to reconnect with our ancestral heritage, and for Gio and me that means making some of our favorite Norwegian specialties. In addition to the Norwegian meatballs and gravlax that we serve at our Christmas Eve feast, we love to make Norwegian krumkake to feature on our sweets table.

My mother made krumkake every Christmas with a traditional stove-top iron, but I just couldn’t get the feel for it so I broke down and purchased an electric iron last year. I’m so glad I did, because we love it. It’s safe to use with kids, and nearly every krumkake cookie comes out perfectly made. I’ve included the details for our electric iron below, in case you’re interested in finding one of your own. Enjoy!

Sarah’s Norwegian Krumkake

 Ingredients:
3 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom and/or vanilla
½ cup melted butter (one stick, unsalted)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted flour
¼ cup heavy cream (optional to adjust level of thickness)

Directions: Beat eggs until thick (about 2 to 3 minutes with an electric mixer). Add sugar gradually. Add flour and melted butter alternately, ending with flour. Add cardamom and vanilla and mix to combine.

Put one teaspoon of batter on hot krumkake iron; when edges are slightly browned, remove with table knife and shape over a wooden cone or spoon handle. If the batter gets too thick, a little cream may be added to thin it.

Tips:

  • Cardamom is a common ingredient in Scandinavian baking, but this distinctive spice is quite expensive and unfortunately has no substitute. We have made this recipe with and without it (but always with vanilla), and found both versions delicious.
  • For added flavor, add a ½ teaspoon of almond extract.
  • Krumkake can be served plain, but is also good filled with fresh berries and whipped cream, or dipped in chocolate. Gio loves to spread a little Nutella inside before eating.
  • Adjust the amount of batter used to control the size of the krumkake cones. When served by itself, we prefer larger cookies, but if setting out on a platter among other goodies, we recommend making small cookies.
  • The electric iron we use is called the Krumkake Express 839, made by Chef’s Choice. If you have never used a stove top iron before, this is the way to go – see this post for more details: KRUMKAKE.

Today’s Holiday Recipe: Homemade Crescent Rolls

Baking fresh bread has been one of my food resolutions for the past several years, but up until last week I was too intimidated by the process to even know where to begin. Fortunately, my mother started a tradition of making homemade crescent rolls nearly 40 years ago with a recipe that is perfect for the novice bread baker.

She found a recipe for “Rich Hot Rolls” from a Farm Journal cookbook called “Homemade Bread,” and they’ve been a perennial favorite at our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts ever since. There’s even a cinnamon roll variation. When asked why she chose these rolls, she said that she loved Farm Journal recipes and wanted one that looked easy enough to make with kids.

Over the years, my four siblings and I have all enjoyed making these rolls with my mom, and our son, Giovanni, began the tradition eight years ago when he was just two. “I love that this is my special time with Grandma,” he said.

Last week was the first time I’d helped make a batch in over 30 years, and I was delighted by the wonderful results I received from this simple recipe. With just eight basic ingredients, the only challenge in making these rolls is in finding time to do it.

The recipe begins with directions to scald ¾ cup of milk, and we found that 2 minutes in a microwave set on high worked well. Shortening is then added to the milk and stirred in with a bit of sugar and salt. The shortening will not dissolve completely, so expect it to be clumpy at this stage.

The recipe calls for 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ cups of sifted flour, but my mom recommends using just four cups in our dry climate this time of year, with another ¼ to ½ cup used to dust the work surface when kneading. We used Dakota Maid all-purpose flour which was light enough to skip the sifting altogether.

We mixed the flour in by hand using a wooden spoon, first adding 1 ½ cups and then beating in two eggs and a yeast/water mixture. We added the remaining flour in stages starting with one cup, followed by a half-cup and then the final cup.

Next, we turned the dough out onto a floured work surface and Gio kneaded it for about eight minutes until it transformed from a sticky clump into a soft and satiny ball of dough. “My favorite part is kneading the dough,” he told me, “because it feels so soft and comfy. My hands are made for forming the dough.”

The dough is then placed in a bowl, covered and left in a warm place to rise for about 1 ½ hours until doubled in size. Gio then punched his fist into the center of the dough, divided it in half and rolled out each half into (rough) circles approximately 16 inches around.

He cut each round into quarters and then cut each quarter into four triangles. We brushed each strip of dough with melted butter, and rolled them into crescent shapes, starting at the widest end, then set them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brushed the top of each roll with more melted butter and then covered them to rise for another 45 minutes before baking.  We found that a 350-degree oven provided more even baking than the recommended 375 degrees.

“I love these rolls because they are so delicious and easy to make,” my mom said. “And I have always loved making them with kids.”

Marilyn’s Crescent Rolls
(called Rich Hot Rolls in Farm Journal’s Homemade Bread Cookbook)

Ingredients:
¾ cup milk
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
4 ¼ to 4 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Directions:
- Scald milk; add shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

– Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve.

– Add 1 ½ cups flour to milk mixture; beat well by hand or electric mixer at low speed 1 minute. Beat in eggs and yeast.

– Gradually stir in enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of bowl. Turn onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth, satiny and no longer sticky, 5 to 8 minutes.

– Place in lightly greased bowl; invert to grease to top. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Punch down and turn onto board. Divide in half and shape as desired.

– Brush tops lightly with melted butter; let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

– Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes about 30 rolls, exact number depending on shape and size.

Cinnamon Roll Variation: Roll each half of divided dough into 16×8 inch rectangle. Combine 1 cup sugar, ½ cup melted butter and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Spread half of mixture on each rectangle. Roll lengthwise for jelly roll; seal edges. Cut in 1-inch slices. Place, cut side down, in 2 well-greased 9x9x2” pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in moderate oven (350-375 degrees) 20 to 25 minutes. Remove to wire racks. Makes 32 rolls. Frost as desired.

Marilyn’s Tips:

  • Four cups of flour is recommended for drier climates.
  • To scald the milk, heat in microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  • For crescent-shaped rolls, roll out each half of the divided dough into 16-inch circles, cut into quarters, and then cut each quarter into triangles. Brush each strip with melted butter and, starting at the widest end, roll upwards to make crescent.
  • Excellent for freezing up to at least 2 months.