Monday, December 30, 2013

Sweet Sesame Green Beans

Perfect Pairing:  New Year’s Resolution Diet


I hope you all had a great holiday season!  Mine was wonderful. It was filled with loved ones, relaxing days, and cute kids.  Having kids around totally changes Christmas.  I love it.  

Some favorite moments from my Christmas.


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The Easy Bake Oven was a big hit with everyone.  I even considered posting about a homemade cake kit I made with my niece!



We also had a good time playing with my niece’s American Girl dolls.  I even pulled mine out of storage so we could have a tea party!


Remember when playing in the cold and snow was fun?




As with most holidays at our house, there was a lot of really great food.  Now that it is back to reality it is time to focus on fitness and clean, healthy eating.  The last two years I kicked off the season with a couple of light recipes.  Last year it was Chicken Vegetable Barley Soup.


Two years ago it was Berries n’ Cream


This year I am sharing a quick Sweet Sesame Green Bean recipe.  


Green beans are brushed with a mixture of olive oil, sesame oil, and a little brown sugar and then roasted until al dente.  They are great right out of the oven or chilled as a snack.


I am excited about a new year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fruit Slush

Perfect Pairing:  Shallow dish


I don’t think my family has had a Christmas breakfast without fruit slush.  It is a staple.   It is great because you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the freezer until you are ready to serve breakfast or brunch.  The kids always go crazy over it, and why wouldn’t they?  It has crushed pineapple (sweet), maraschino cherries (sweet and really red), orange juice (kids love juice), and bananas (enter the only real fruit).  Don’t get me wrong, adults love it too.

When my brother was little he had a bit of an allergy to red food dye.  Nothing critical would happen, but he would get extremely hyper and the edges of his ears would get bright red.  My mom said she could always tell when he had Hawaiian Punch or even Cheetos at a friend’s house.  Maraschino cherries are like the holy grail of red food dye.  They practically hurt your eyes they are so bright.  I remember being at my aunt and uncle’s wedding and my brother kept sneaking up to the bar to get bowls of the neon fruit.  Bouncing off the walls. 

This recipe makes a big batch and uses an entire jar of cherries, including the juice, which makes it a pretty pink color.  I love pink.

I recommend using a shallow bowl or dish, like a 9x13 pan when you make this.  If you pour it into a big bowl the fruit will fall to the bottom and it takes longer to defrost and serve. 

Merry Christmas!  I hope your holiday is filled with loved ones and precious moments together.

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Chicken Vegetable Barley Soup (perfect for those New Year resolutions)

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Sweet Potato Strudel with Brown Butter

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sgroppino Cocktail and a Pinterest Update

Perfect Pairing:  Holiday party     


I really love entertaining in my home around the holidays.  I figure if I am going to decorate my place I want to have someone else there to enjoy it with me.

Last week I had some of my favorite girls over for a holiday get together.  I tried a few new appetizers (stay tuned), and kept some of my old favorites on the menu like everyone’s favorite ham and cheese sliders, roasted vegetable dip, and green herb dip


I wanted a unique cocktail to round out the menu.  Last year I made a St. Germain Champagne cocktail, which I loved, but wanted something new.  I knew exactly what to do after seeing Giada make this Sgroppino cocktail on the Food Network.  It is a combination of prosecco, a dash of chilled vodka, and a scoop of lemon sorbet.  Giada added fresh mint, but I did not use it in my version.  It was delicious and refreshing. It would be great at any holiday party.

I don’t know why I waited so long, but I finally joined the ranks of Pinterest users.  I suffer from board envy because mine look pretty bare so far.  I’m excited to fill them up with great recipes and ideas.  

I also created a Perfecting the Pairing Pinterest page.  There is a board for each recipe category and links to every recipe on the site.  I know I love having the visual, so hopefully you will find this helpful as well. 

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Also, I changed a few things on my site to make it more pin-friendly.  Now there is a “Pin it” button next to each picture, and a link to Perfecting the Pairing’s boards on the right side.

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  German Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Chili Spiced Soup with Stoplight Peppers and Avocado Relish

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Kale Salad with Spiced Sweet Potatoes, Crispy Kale and Sweet Sesame Dressing

Perfect Pairing:  Winter salad craving


This is my new favorite winter salad.  It was inspired by a salad I had at a great restaurant here in Chicago called Trenchermen.  I was determined to recreate the salad at home so I looked up the description on the website.  The description of their version says it includes vegetable escabeche, bagna cauda, avocado, pumpkin seed, and manchego.  Hmmm vegetable escabeche and bagna cauda?  I decided to ignore that part because I had no clue how to make those things. 

My version actually ended up being quite different.  I pretty much only kept the pumpkin seeds and one other very cool idea I got from them.  They topped the fresh kale salad with pieces of crispy fried kale.  It added great texture and a nutty flavor.  Instead of frying the kale I used my standard kale chip recipe.  My version features baked sweet potato spiced with pumpkin pie spice and a dash of cayenne, pepitos, freshly grated parmesan, and an awesome sweet sesame dressing.


This sweet sesame dressing has become my new “go-to”.  It kind of tastes like the dressing used on the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad.  I used to LOVE that salad.  Applebee’s was like THE place to go in high school and college. 

I hope you love this salad as much as I do!  It is the perfect fit when you have a salad craving in the winter.  I am not even going to get into the health benefits. Kale!  Sweet potatoes!  Mayonnaise?  Just make it!

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Flatbreads with Thyme, Honey, and Sea Salt

Click Read More for the recipe...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Perfect Pairing:  Quick dinner


I am back to reality after an absolutely wonderful Thanksgiving vacation in San Francisco.  It was great to spend time with family and my ridiculously adorable niece.  I can't even stand the cuteness

We had a delicious Thanksgiving meal filled with our family favorites.  While that was great, one of the best meals we had in California was fresh cod and Dungeness crab my brother caught while deep sea fishing.  We enjoyed the meal standing up over paper bags for easy cleanup.  Amazing.

Are you tired of pumpkin recipes yet?  I hope not, here comes another one.

A few of the ingredients in this soup might sound like an odd grouping, pumpkin, peanut butter, mango nectar.  Trust me, it works.  This soup is so incredibly simple.  I decided to make this at 1 PM one day.  I purchased the groceries, made the soup, took pictures, and was eating by 2 PM.

Thai Pumpkin Soup is really light and would be great paired with a grilled sandwich or salad.  It is pretty low in calories and fat and has healthy fiber from the pumpkin.  Good stuff.

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Basil Slice and Bake Crackers

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Sweet and Spicy Spinach

Click "Read More" for the recipe...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pumpkin Roll

Perfect Pairing:  Wax paper tracing method


So far I have shared my favorite sausage and dried cherry stuffing and sweet potato casserole recipes, as well as a simple rotisserie turkey breast and homemade cranberry sauce.  What’s missing from this Thanksgiving lineup?  Dessert! 

Of course you have to have pumpkin and pecan pie on the dessert table.  I went for most of my life thinking I didn’t like pecan pie.  I was wrong, I love it.  If you want to try something a little different this year try out this delicious pumpkin roll.  Basically it is a pumpkin cake wrapped around cream cheese frosting.  Pretty awesome.

My mom and I talked about wanting to try making a pumpkin roll for a long time.  She had a recipe from a friend that is dated 1991.  It only took us 20+ years to try it out.

This dessert was really easy to make but looks fancy!  You just need to follow some simple prep instructions.  First, you grease the baking dish and then line the bottom of it with wax paper and grease that as well.  The easiest way to cut the wax paper to size is to place the bottom of the pan over the paper and trace with a pencil and then cut it out.  Perfect fit!  After the pumpkin cake bakes you flip it onto a sugared tea towel while it is still hot.



Then you roll up the cake in the towel and allow to cool.  This ensures that the cake will keep its shape and not tear when you roll it around the frosting.



Once the cake has cooled you unroll it, remove the towel, spread on the cream cheese frosting, and roll it back up and chill until ready to serve.


Well that officially completes my Thanksgiving 2013 recipe roundup!  It would bring me great joy to know someone added one of these dishes to their dinner table.  Have a blessed holiday!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole

Perfect Pairing:  Shallow dish


The final Thanksgiving side dish I am going to share is Sweet Potato Casserole.  Honestly, this could pass as dessert.  I know a lot of people put marshmallows on their sweet potatoes, but in my family we top them with streusel.

This is my grandma Rosie’s recipe.  She loves anything sweet, so these are right up her alley.  True story, I have seen Grandma put Equal on her spaghetti.  While I am not going to try that anytime soon, the sweetness of this side dish is just perfect. 

I like to make this recipe in a shallow dish so there is more surface area for the streusel.  That way everyone gets a little bit of the crunchy topping. 


I have one more Thanksgiving recipe to share before the holiday.  It is a dessert of course!   I won’t be sticking with tradition on this one.

Click "Read More" for the recipe... 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Citrus and Sherry Cranberry Sauce

Perfect Pairing:  Citrus and Herbs de Provence Rotisserie Turkey Breast


No surprise that I am following up the turkey recipe with a cranberry sauce!  Homemade cranberry sauce is so easy there is really no excuse to buy the canned stuff.


Fresh cranberries are combined with orange zest and juice, sugar, a cinnamon stick, and some sherry.  You can probably skip the sherry if you don’t want to invest in a bottle.  I use the cheap cooking sherry which is great in soups or for deglazing pans, so I like to have it on hand.


This cranberry sauce is perfect served alongside of the Citrus and Herbs de Provence Turkey Breast.  The citrus in the sauce and the zest in the turkey rub are great together.  Don't get me wrong, this cranberry sauce would be fabulous with any turkey!  

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Pumpkin Pecan Shortbread

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Manchego Cheese with Brown Butter Honey Sauce

Click "Read More" for the recipe...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Citrus and Herbs de Provence Rotisserie Turkey Breast

Perfect Pairing:  The leftover sandwich


I started the Thanksgiving recipes last week with stuffing (because it is my favorite thing ever, ever) but we can't forget about the turkey. 

This year I will be with a large group for Thanksgiving, so we will likely have multiple turkeys going.  Probably one on the Weber grill and one in the smoker.  Since my “pre-Thanksgiving” meal was a smaller group I decided to try making a turkey breast instead of the whole bird.  

I prepared the turkey using a dry brine.  The dry rub had the zest of an orange and lemon, brown sugar, garlic, salt, and herbs de Provence.  The dry brine is rubbed all over the turkey and under the skin, then you let it rest in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.  The prep time was minimal.  It was so easy!

I have to give credit to my dad for the actual cooking.  He is the grill master.  He got a rotisserie attachment for his grill a few years ago and uses it all the time.  If you don’t have a rotisserie you can follow traditional roasting instructions like these.


This turkey was so juicy and flavorful.  I really think it would be great any time of the year, not just Thanksgiving.

Everyone looks forward to the Thanksgiving leftovers, especially the turkey sandwich.  Try making one with grainy bread, turkey, cranberry sauce and a good smear of pumpkin cream cheese.  It doesn’t suck.

Next up is a homemade cranberry sauce!

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Butternut Squash and Chickpea Tahini Salad

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Oven Roasted Mushroom Tapas with Goat Cheese

Click "Read More" for the recipe...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sausage and Dried Cherry Stuffing

Perfect Pairing:  Thanksgiving


Everyone knows that Thanksgiving is the ultimate food holiday.  I hate to sound biased, but my family does it right.  There are a few recipes that HAVE to be on our Thanksgiving table. 

I felt like I was cheating my readers by having two Thanksgivings pass on the blog without sharing these family recipes.  The problem is we usually only make them at Thanksgiving, so it is too late to share them and there is never any time to take pictures.  

I decided this year to have an early Thanksgiving meal, so I could share these recipes in time for the holiday.  So over the next couple of weeks it is going to be Thanksgiving central on Perfecting the Pairing.  I hope you try these out and love them as much as we do.

First up is my favorite, Sausage and Dried Cherry Stuffing.  OH my goodness.  This is just the best thing ever.  My mom started making this a few years ago and it is now a staple.  I don’t even know how to tell you how great it is.  I love the addition of sausage and tart dried cherries. 


Poor Riley just couldn’t understand why this fabulous smelling goodness was in front of him and he could not touch it.   


This is the only stuffing recipe you will ever need.  Promise.

Stay tuned for other Thanksgiving favorites!

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Apple Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Prosciutto Wrapped Breadsticks

Click "Read more" for the recipe....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Grandma Rosie’s Applesauce

Perfect Pairing:  Apple peeler


I have mentioned before that I am a straight up snob when it comes to a few food items like potato salad, apple pie, and applesauce.  It is safe to say growing up I never had store-bought applesauce because we always had Grandma Rosie’s Applesauce in the freezer.  Now I can’t eat the store-bought stuff.  It just doesn’t compare.  The only reason I would ever buy it is to use in a baking recipe.  I’m an applesauce snob and I own it.

My family has been making this recipe for years, definitely longer than I have been alive.  I have memories of both of my grandmas peeling apples in our kitchen making giant batches of applesauce to stock the freezers for the year.  Nowadays my mom makes it each fall.  Her grandchildren LOVE it.  I think one of my nephew’s first words was abblesauce.  It was so flipping cute.  We would make him say it over and over.

What makes this recipe so special is the addition of red hot candies and a touch of vanilla.  The red hots turn it a fabulous pink color and add a touch of cinnamon flavor. 

My mom has applesauce making down to a science.  Usually we use apples that have been picked at a local orchard or in our backyards.  My grandma Rosie picked the apples that were used in this batch of applesauce.  How cute is she?

Since the apples came from a backyard they are not exactly beautiful or clean.  We soak them in the sink with a little bit of vinegar.  



We usually use yellow/golden delicious or johnalicious.  You want to use the baking variety apples rather than the tasty eating varieties like honeycrisp or fuji.


Next up is peeling the apples.  Of course you can use a hand peeler, but if you can get your hands on an apple peeler, you are golden.  This makes the process go really fast.  


My mom got her peeler from Pampered Chef, but I know they are available at Williams Sonoma and similar cooking stores.  They are pretty cheap, usually around $30.  Totally worth it if you are going to make homemade applesauce a tradition.  We also have marathon apple pie baking days.  I think the record was about 20 pies.  It definitely comes in handy!


It can get a little sticky and messy, so mom discovered latex gloves are a welcome addition.


Once the apples are peeled, bad parts removed, cored, and quartered they go into a big pot with a heavy bottom with a small amount of water.  If you use a thin aluminum pot they can scorch easily.  


The apples are cooked down until they are soft, then you add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and red hots.


Once it cools you can transfer it to freezer containers and store in the freezer for up to a year, maybe more, probably more. 


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