Left: one of the many gorgeous chocolate sculptures made by the French Pasty School chefs
Top Right: my pick for the best wine at the festival
Bottom Right: chocolates from MayanaHappy Monday! Unlike some other Mondays, this truly is an exciting one for me, as I only have two days of work and then I'm off for a lovely five day stretch (if only every week could be like this!). I still have a bit of a chocolate hangover from yesterday's adventure at the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show. My friend, Barb, and I spent hours wandering around the show and stuffing ourselves with some really delicious chocolates and chocolate wines. As I mentioned on the CFG facebook page (see more photos over there!), we must have sampled at least twenty types of artisan chocolates and, between the two of us, walked away with approximately thirty more pieces and six bottles of wine. There were so many incredible chocolates, but I think my favorite was the habanero salt truffle from Four Brothers - the combination of the spicy habanero with the salt in a rich dark chocolate blew me away! The chocolates from Mayana were a very close runner up - the Mayan Spice and the Lemon Florentine chocolates were especially amazing for both their unique combinations and complex layers of flavor. As it turns out, Mayana's production site is within twenty minutes of my apartment - I think I might just have to place an order for some awesome Christmas gifts! :-)
As with many of you, I already have Thanksgiving food on the brain. I've never been in charge of a full T-giving dinner and honestly, I prefer it that way. I'm more interested in making various side dishes and desserts; honestly, I can take or leave the turkey.The recipes I'm highlighting today are three of my favorite dishes to take to dinner: Shaved Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette, Slow Cooker Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes, and Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce. I did feature the Brussels sprouts dish back shortly after I first started this blog, but I figured it was worth bringing around again, as it's a perfect way to add in some more veggies to the T-giving feast (it was huge hit with my group last year!). The maple sweet potatoes are super easy to make, as all you have to do is throw everything into your slow cooker and then walk away for seven-ish hours (the dish also reheats really well, so you can make it the day before). The cranberry pomegranate sauce is similar to a regular cranberry sauce, but it has a slightly stronger sweet/tart component - it's a perfect condiment for both savory and sweet dishes (I've tried it & loved it over turkey, pork, pancakes, and cheesecake!) or it can be eaten on its own.
As always, Mario and I will be spending the holiday with our adopted family (Barb's family & various friends), and will enjoy a day filled with awesome food, video games, and movies. I hope you all have a wonderful (and delicious) Thanksgiving... I'll see you back here next week! :-)
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette
6 ounces uncooked whole grain linguine noodles (I use Racconto whole grain)
1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced/shaved - about 8 cups
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
4 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons fresh chives
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1-2 lemons, juiced
Salt, to taste
1. Cook pasta according to directions.
2. In food processor, combine vinaigrette ingredients until smooth.
3. In skillet, sauté Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic for 12-15 minutes, until tender and caramelized. Pour in vinaigrette, toss, and take off heat.
4. Combine cooked & drained pasta with Brussels sprout-vinaigrette mixture.
5. Top with toasted walnuts, lemon juice, and salt.
Slow Cooker Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes
5 to 6 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbs apple cider
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Dash of salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-1 inch thick slices, and place into slow cooker.
2. Whisk together brown sugar, maple syrup, apple cider, salt/pepper, and pour over potatoes. Stir the pot to insure all of the potatoes are coated. As you're stirring, sprinkle the potatoes with the pecans - if you want crunchier pecans, wait until the last hour of cooking to add.
3. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours, until sweet potatoes are tender. Mash the potatoes and dot with butter (optional).
Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce
12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed if frozen)
1 cup pomegranate juice (I use POM Wonderful)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs grated orange peel
1/2-1 cup pomegranate seeds
1. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, pomegranate juice, white sugar, brown sugar, and orange peel.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst (approximately 10 minutes).
3. Remove from heat and stir in pomegranate seeds. Scrape the sauce into a bowl and let cool for 2 hours (sauce will thicken as it cools). Served chilled or at room temperature.