Thanksgiving Meat & Cheese Board + Cranberry Mostarda

I know we covered Thanksgiving Appetizers here, but I’d like to elaborate a bit more on the Meat & Cheese Board element.

Cheese Board A Meat & Cheese Board is a simple way to serve a variety of crowd-pleasing flavors with minimal effort.  For a smaller dinner party (6-10 guests), start with 2 cheeses, 1 meat  and 3 types of crackers or bread.  For a larger party (20 – 25 guests) up the amounts to 5 cheeses, 2 meats and 4 types of crackers or bread.  Each meat, cheese, cracker and bread should vary in flavor to give your guests plenty of tasting options.  To up the ante, serve something homemade that will complement the Meat & Cheese Board.  This could be homemade pickles, chutney, dip, spread, aioli, or compound butter (to name just a few).  Here’s what I have going on in the picture above:

Cheese: Kerrygold Dubliner, Kerrygold Sharp Cheddar with Irish Whiskey
Meat: Proscuitto
Crackers and Bread:  Trader Joe’s Rosemary Raisin Crisps (best crackers EVER), Trader Joe’s Rosemary Crackers, Sliced Baguette
Homemade:  Cranberry Mostarda

When preparing an appetizer spread for a smaller party, I like to serve high impact cheeses.  The Kerrygold Dubliner and Sharp Cheddar both have big, bold flavor that can easily be enjoyed as is or on a cracker topped with mostarda.  For a large party, I like to layer in some lower impact (but still delicious) cheeses, including brie and goat cheese.  Another nice touch is to serve 1 cheese that’s a personal favorite.  When my guests come over for a dinner party, they can always expect to see Manchego on the table.  I just love it!

For meat, Proscuitto, salami, mortadella, sopressata or hard chorizo are all good options.  Don’t go overboard with the meats though.  With too many options, guests might fill up before dinner!  For crackers and bread, I always hit up my local Trader Joe’s.  They have a wide variety of basic and unique crackers, plus they are continuously releasing new seasonal flavors.  Trader Joe’s also sells several types of baguette perfect for slicing and serving.  The two crackers I selected above are flavored with rosemary, a flavor I associate with the Holidays.

Finally, let’s talk about this Cranberry Mostarda.  Sweet and sour, a mostarda is an Italian condiment made with fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup.  Here, fresh cranberries are cooked in a bold mixture of white wine, white wine vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cinnamon, ginger and clove until tender and collapsed.  The sauce is finished with kosher salt and a bright hit of fresh orange zest.  This seasonal sauce pairs well with most cheeses, and could event be used as cranberry sauce for dinner!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Charred Onion and Bacon Dip [Giveaway]

Remember when I told you how much I enjoy Game Day grub?  Well here’s another recipe I love to eat while pretending to watch the game: Charred Onion and Bacon Dip.  Also, I’m giving away a $100 gift card!

Bacon Onion Dip Thick slices of sweet red onion are cooked in bacon fat AND butter until melting and blackened around the edges.  Honey, garlic and white wine are added to boost sweet and savory flavors.  After a quick chop, this charred onion flavor bomb is mixed into a rich blend of cream cheese and sour cream.  The dip is finished with chopped bacon, chives, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and lemon juice.  Pair this big, bold dip with some all-star accompaniments: crisp potato chips, sweet carrot sticks and fresh sliced celery.  I’ve served my Charred Onion and Bacon Dip at a number of parties, and it’s always a friend favorite!

This onion dip is another recipe I put together in partnership with Jimbo’s… Naturally! at Westfield Horton Plaza.  Almost all ingredients used in this recipe were organic, and I’ll have to tell you, I’m really learning to love organic products.  I can truly taste a difference between organic and regular.  Especially with produce!  Check out some of my other Jimbo’s… Naturally! recipes:

In addition to this tasty onion dip recipe, you’ll also find information below on a $100 Jimbo’s… Naturally! Gift Card giveaway!!  You’ll definitely want to continue reading…

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Raspberry Apricot Jam

Raspberry Apricot Jam Several weeks ago, I found myself with an abundance of both raspberries and apricots.  Worried that the fruit would spoil before I had a chance to eat it all, I decided to make this Raspberry Apricot Jam.  Using my recipe for Apricot Elderflower Jam as a template, I simmered fresh raspberries and apricots in a bath of dry, aromatic white wine.  Sugar was added, then the entire mixture was cooked until thick and … jammy.  Final additions of lemon juice and St. Germain were added to balance sweetness, and add depth of flavor.

Let me just say that this jam ROCKS.  I just love it when all of the flavors snap into balance, causing what I like to call a “Wow” moment.  If you’ve never made jam at home, I’d highly recommend it.  The process is fairly simple, and the finished product is incredibly gratifying.  I like to save a jar of jam for myself, then give the rest away as gifts!  Your friends and family will seriously love you.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Chicken Stock Recipe

Celery, Carrots, Dried Shiitakes, Onion and Garlic

Today I’m going to share illustrated step-by-step instructions on how to make the most amazing chicken stock you’ll ever have.  I decided to go into great detail with this recipe because it really is a game-changer.  I made the transition from canned stock to homemade last year and I’ll never turn back.  Use stock as a flavorful base to soups, sauces, risottos and grains (just to name a few).  If you start with a super tasty stock, your end result is almost guaranteed to be delicious.

A few notes about this recipe:  The amount of steps may seem a bit daunting, but really, the process breaks down into four easy techniques – prep, caramelize, simmer, strain.  Simply spend a few hours (mainly unattended) on a Sunday afternoon making this recipe and you’ll have flavorful stock at your fingertips for a month.  I should also mention that I don’t add salt to my stock.  I prefer to salt whatever the stock is going into.  Continue reading for a comprehensive guide to my homemade chicken stock.

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Bolognese Sauce

Pappardelle in Bolognese Sauce

Up until this year, my method for making Bolognese Sauce called for adding cooked, seasoned beef to my Homemade Tomato Sauce, simmering for a bit, then finishing with fresh herbs.  It wasn’t until I saw this video that I realized I wasn’t really making Bolognese Sauce at all!  After experimenting a bit with Mario’s recipe, I found a method that I really love.  This slow cooked Bolognese Sauce pairs a number of classic aromatics with ground beef, pork and bacon.  The mixture is then simmered in tomato paste, whole milk and wine.  Thick, rich and luscious, the finished sauce has the most amazing depth of flavor.  The recipe below definitely takes some time to make.  But I urge you to give it a try.  You won’t be sorry.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Roasted Pineapple Tamales with Riesling Poached Raisins

Roasted Pineapple Tamales with Riesling Poached Raisins

Around this time four years ago, my roommate brought home a plastic bag brimming with husk-wrapped tamales prepared earlier that day by his family.  I remember being overly excited because I had never had tamales before.  I eagerly unwrapped my first tamal unaware of what I was going to find inside.  Nestled inside the corn husk was the most amazing shredded pork encased in tender corn masa.  After one bite, I was addicted.  The next tamal was a sweet variation filled with strawberry preserves.  So. Yum.  Since that evening, I have been wanting to make tamales of my own.  I’m not sure why I waited so long.  I guess I was thinking I would have to intern with a Mexican grandmother for several months before I could even tackle the process.  I found out this past weekend that no internship was needed.

These sweet tamales are stuffed with chunks of vanilla roasted pineapple and golden raisins poached in riesling and honey.  The batter is made with corn masa, butter (lots of butter) and vanilla infused pineapple juice.  The resulting sweet tamal is nothing short of pure heaven.

The tamal-making process outlined below is quite lengthy; however, it can easily be broken up.  You can make the filling and batter a day in advance.  Also, this is a fun group recipe. Invite friends or family over and give everyone a different task.  A fun and delicious time is almost guaranteed.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Peach Ginger Sangria [Video]

Peach Ginger Sangria

I am excited today to share my first Kitchen Konfidence video with all of you!  I had mentioned back in July that I wanted to experiment with making cooking videos this year.  After many weeks of preparing and practicing, I finally finished my first movie!  I’ll have to admit, staging, shooting and editing a video with just one person is not an easy task.  I encountered many bumps along the road, but overall, the experience was entertaining, educational and enjoyable.  The video is far from perfect, but after watching it, you will have all of the skills and knowledge needed to make the most fabulous Peach Ginger Sangria.  Flavored with aromatic ginger simple syrup, this wine punch is crisp, refreshing and oh so easy to prepare.  I hope you enjoy :)!  Please be sure to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below.  Any feedback is much appreciated!  Continue reading for the video.

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Barley Mushroom Risotto

Barley Mushroom Risotto Sweet Paul recently released his latest edition of Sweet Paul Magazine: Fabulous Fall.  Filled with gorgeous photography, mouth-watering recipes and helpful design tips, Sweet Paul Magazine is a valuable resource and truly an inspiration.  To celebrate, I whipped up two recipes from the magazine that I will be posting throughout the week.  This Barley Mushroom Risotto is an adaption of Sweet Paul’s Mushroom Risotto.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Champagne Grape Granita

Champagne Grape Granita It seems like Summer has finally arrived in San Diego with temperatures rising into the low 80’s.  Over the weekend,  I was enjoying the mid day heat in my backyard (in the company of several darting humming birds) when I started to crave something cold and refreshing.  This Champagne Grape Granita immediately came to mind being that the frosty dessert is almost effortless and doesn’t requiring any heating.  Freshly pressed champagne grape juice is paired with crisp white wine, lemon juice and sugar to create a cool summer treat.

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