French Fridays with Dorie – Gougeres

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Celery Root Puree was the recipe this week but ummmmmmmm no. Just no. I can’t. So I made some cheesy bread poufs instead. These were the first recipe the Doristas made when this whole FFWD business began and I gotta say I was really sorry to have missed them. I do actually plan on making all the (appealing) recipes I’ve missed at some point but I was particularly looking forward to these. Bread + cheese = 100% a good idea. I made these super-easy little cocktail nibbles for our Festivus celebration but then I decided we had enough food probably so I froze them before I baked them.

In case you’re like “What’s Festivus?” here’s a little overview:

We had a Festivus shindig with our neighbors, complete with the traditional Festivus pole (made by Tristan)

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That’s our neighbor Jason wrapping himself around the Festivus pole while enjoying a turkey leg. Yeah, we had a good time. The gougeres were overkill that night so I made them last night to go with Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese which you should all try even if you hate buffalo wings like I do. It’s pretty flippin’ great. Having the gougeres ready to go in the freezer was so nice and easy. I just baked them for a few minutes longer and they puffed up all brown and beautiful and cheesy-like.

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I used the same “stinky” Gruyere in these that I made the crackers with last week and it was equally delicious. Stinky cheeses are the best cheeses after all. There are still some left in the freezer that I plan on making sometime during my dad’s upcoming visit. We’re also going to make the Finnish Pulla together and I was thinking of making him a Pizza Rustica too. Lots of good cooking coming up in the next few days! We’re also going to see either Les Miserables or The Hobbit or both. Good stuff.

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Found a link to the recipe online if you want to give them a try (and I just know you do).

Merry Christmas Food Fiends! Last Minute Gift Ideas for Cool People

So it’s December 22nd and you still haven’t finished shopping yet? What’s wrong with you? Did you think the world was going to end and you wouldn’t have to do it? Well guess what cuckoo nutball, it didn’t and people are expecting presents from you. Have no fear, I’m here to help. As long as you’re buying for someone cool that is. If you’re buying for someone who cares nothing for food and wine and cooking and baking then I think they probably don’t deserve anything. Just kidding (but actually no, I’m pretty serious). I thought I would just throw some ideas out there in case you’re feeling burnt out, tired, and just overall sick of the holidays to the point that your brain is mushy and gross. I’m almost there, but since I work in retail even a zombie-me knows the coolest kitchen do-dads that everyone must have.

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1. Microplane Zester – around $16.95

I use this bad boy all the time. Zesting lemons, limes, or oranges, grating garlic, ginger, nutmeg, chocolate, or cheese? Yeah this one piece can do all that. It’s pretty awesome. Don’t argue. Word to the wise, save the little case that slides on it otherwise you or your loved on will cut your fingers up something fierce on this when it’s just sitting innocently in the drawer minding it’s own business.

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2. Chef’n Citrus Juicer – around $20

Weird that my first two items have to do with citrus but what can you do. My love affair with this thing started at the beginning of this year and Chef’n Citrus Juicer, I just can’t quit you. Look at how it has completely eviscerated those lemons in the picture. It’s amazing and really easy to use and everyone should have one.

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3. Wusthof Classic 7″ Santoku – $99

If given the opportunity I could talk about knives for an entire afternoon. Actually probably longer than that. Having a good knife is so important and can make or break your cooking experience. There is nothing like having a really good knife to use and honestly you don’t need a whole set. You really only need a few and this is the most important one. You can do any kind of prep work with it, it holds a sharp edge for a long time, and it has a lifetime guarantee. You will never need to buy another chef knife. Totally worth the cost and one of my favorite items to gift.

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4. All-Clad MC2 5qt Saute Pan – around $255

This is the pan I use the most in the kitchen. It works for everything and it is just the best. The finish really doesn’t matter, this is just the one I have and love. If you want to get someone something truly nice that they will use over and over, this is it. Plus it’s an American-made product so that’s kind of nice.

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5. Epicurean Cutting Board – anywhere from $20-$100 depending on size

These are my very favorite cutting boards. They’re knife-friendly (meaning they don’t dull your knives on contact like glass or ceramic cutting surfaces), naturally anti-microbial since they’re made of a wood composite, and made pretty locally over in Minnesota out of skate-ramp remnants. Tres cool, no? Cook’s Illustrated gave them a poor review a few years ago that I’m still upset over. I can categorically say that they were wrong and that these are the best. Got it? THE BEST!

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6. Kitchenaid Artisan 5qt Stand Mixer – $349.99

This little beauty is one of my favorite gifts ever from my husband and I truly think everyone who loves to cook or bake needs one. It’s another American-made item which I guess is sort of turning into a theme on this list. Huh, normally I get really annoyed when people make a big deal about that but it turns out some of my favorite things are made right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. And before you get all mad at me, just know that some really nice things are made in China. They just are. The thing that bugs me is when people just turn their noses up at everything that’s made there. If we had to fill the store with only American-made products it wouldn’t be very full and everything would be pretty expensive. Thems the breaks kids. Okay tirade over.

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7. The Cheese Knife – $17.95

Would you believe this is our best-selling item in the entire store? It does not look worth the money, but boy-howdy it is. It can cut any kind of cheese (hard, soft, medium) without sticking and you can use it on other typically hard to cut items as well like butter, hard-boiled eggs, cheesecake, etc. They are outstanding and everyone needs one. And it is a perfect gift because everyone is always really skeptical of them but amazed once they try it. You can be all smug-like and say “I told you so.” Doesn’t that feel good?

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8. Casabella Silicone Pie Crust Shield – around $7

This little item seems silly, but is actually pretty fab. It keeps your pie crust from over-browning and since it’s made of silicone it’s pretty cool to the touch even when coming out of a screaming-hot oven. Plus it’s adjustable so you can use it on any-size pie! Perfecto!

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9. Silpat – $32.95 for the half sheet pan size

Kind of spendy but I have had mine for five years and use it multiple times a week and it’s still solid as a rock. It’s basically reusable parchment paper from France and I could use about 5 more of them. Love, love, love them and anyone who likes to bake will too.

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10. Le Creuset 5.5qt Round French Oven in Flame – $280

Did you think any gift list by me would be complete without a Le Creuset item? I didn’t think so. There are no words for how much I love my Le Creuset pieces. No words! But I will try. They are beautiful, last a lifetime, and conduct heat so evenly I could cry. Seriously. They are the best. They come in tons of fun colors and sizes but this color and size are my fave.

So there you go. These are the things I think all food-loving people should have in their lives. I could think of about a billion more but when I really sat down and thought about what I use most often and love, this is what I came up with. There is a price point for everyone and I hope this helped at least one very last-minute person find a cool gift for someone.

French Fridays with Dorie – Cheez-it-ish Crackers

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These little crackers are lucky they got made! This has been a crazy week! Not only is it the week before Christmas (and in retail that is pretty much utter pandemonium) but we are having this hella big snowstorm. I’m sure you’ve heard of it: WINTER STORM DRACO! Personally I find this name ridiculous. If we’re going to immortalize a Harry Potter villain forever as a winter storm, let’s at least make it a good one, not the worst and weakest of all the villains (though I will say he got pretty attractive as the series wore on). I’m going to refer to this as WINTER STORM VOLDEMORT from now on. Capiche?

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This is what Voldemort left me yesterday morning. Personally I think it’s beautiful and I love this snowstorm. But then again I can walk to work and I’m not traveling anywhere for the holidays. I think Voldemort is ruining things for a lot of folks this holiday season, but not this girl!

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But back to the crackers. My amazing friend Susan from The Little French Bakery organized a cookie exchange party on Wednesday night and I thought I would make these crackers as a nice little savory to bring along. I also made the perennial favorite – Peanut Butter Blossoms. Fancy they are not, but everyone on Earth loves them. If you don’t love them, don’t tell me. I don’t want this bubble popped. Because the party was scheduled right before Voldemort was due to hit, a lot of people cancelled but that just meant more cookies and onion dip for me so yippee! It was tons of fun because Susan is a great entertainer and obviously an amazing chef. I took home lots of delicious cookies and made it safely back to our little house before it really started snowing. But seriously, back to the crackers. I said that before and then I just started babbling about how much I love Susan (and I do really love her) and her amazing parties. The crackers were delish and I got to use one of my new toys in making them!

IMG_2238My mom is great at shopping on Craigslist and second-hand stores and finding amazing things and she bought me this really slightly used Cuisinart because I think I’ve mentioned about a million times on my blog that I needed one. Thanks again Mama! She also got me some really cool cake stands at her favorite second-hand place that I have yet to feature here but I surely will soon.  My favorite thing to do thus far in my Cuisinart is shred cheese. Soooooooo much easier and faster than using the ol’ box grater. I used some very pungent Gruyere and we were in business. I felt a little bad for these crackers because while they were baking at work one of our customers said “What stinks?” but as all of us in the know know, stinky cheese = delicious! And I proved that to that customer when I made her eat a cracker and she said they were good. Yeah, I did that. I made these the slice and bake way because I HATE making cutout cookies and I am lazy. It was super-easy and I would definitely make them again! Here’s a link to the recipe if you want to give them a try yourself!

I just want to say again that this card exchange has been really fun and I will definitely participate next year. This makes me happy every time I look at it:

IMG_2256I’ve received a few more since I took this (including one from Dorie!!!!!!) so they are now added to my dining room door with the rest. Happy holidays everyone! Eat lots of yummy food, hug your loved ones, and have a great time! That’s what I’ll be doing!