June Update

Hey everyone! I know it’s been 3 months since my last post, but I had a good excuse… I married the love of my life in May! The professional photos from our wedding photographer, Brittany Todd, are not ready yet; but, she gave us glimpse with a preview and we’re so excited to see the rest.

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The wedding was on Saturday, May 20th at Summerset Winery in Indianola. I still can’t believe I’m talking about it in the past tense! We got in engaged in November, 2015 and had spent 1.5 years planning for an event that only lasted several hours– so I still have a whiplash!  We couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day: the sun came out, the vineyard was gorgeous, and we were surrounded by the love of family and friends while we read our own vows.

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Since this is a food blog, I did want to mention the celebratory beverages we had that night as well as dessert. We selected from Summerset the Vidal Blanc (crisp,dry white), Frontenac (peppery, table-red), Swenson Red (fruity, light, blush), and the Festiva (sparkling white) as wine options. And of course these craft-beer heads had to have some Exile– the Hannah and Ruthie– as the beer options. Cupcake Addict did our dessert and we had a marble cake atop a cupcake tower with chocolate volcano, raspberry almond, and lemon blueberry cupcakes.

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Now that things have settled down, I’m excited to get back to blogging and I have a BUNCH of ideas of things I want to discuss and recipes to try. Summer officially began last Wednesday so I’ll be experimenting with ice cream flavors and venturing to new breweries. The husband and I went to the Iowa Craft Beer Festival the other weekend and found new taprooms we want to visit– you can definitely expect a post in the future covering this event.

I was also thinking about posting some photos from the honeymoon if you all are interested. Being that the husband and I are alike the honeymoon was definitely food-centric. We were in Italy– how could we not eat well? So let me know!

Food blogs I love

What attracts me to another food blog is a combination of original content and vibrant photography. When people talk about a blog having a “voice” these bloggers definitely have their niche defined. Also, I’m drawn to the creativity of the dishes and flavor combinations. You can only read the same tired old recipe (especially if it was trendy once: hello buffalo cauliflower bites–or cauliflower anything!), so it’s refreshing when you see something unexpected like buttered popcorn marshmallow s’mores.

Without further ado- and not in any particular order- my favorite food blogs:

  • How Sweet It Is by Jessica Merchant- I follow her on instagram and get so so so excited when I see the beautiful and decadent food she makes. The pictures have this “just whipped up” messy look that can be over the top just like the food it’s featuring. I remember seeing the photos for the chocolate milk iced mochas and I about died.
  • Sprouted Kitchen by Sara (content) and Hugh (photography) Forte- Whenever I want just a good simple meal I always check this blog for ideas. Please don’t confuse simple with boring or bland because that’s not the case here. The recipes are simple because she uses good ingredients so the flavor isn’t masked and doesn’t over work the food into some frankenstein creation. She knows how to highlight an ingredient’s flavor so all that extra stuff isn’t needed.  Bonus: all recipes on this blog are vegetarian or vegan.

Notice anything else these blogs have in common? They’re all by people who have not been professionally trained in culinary school or photography! They were driven by passion (and persistence!) to become unique content developers, expert food stylists, and amazing photographers. This is so inspiring to me and is what I aspire to achieve with Curious Cookery.

How about you? What blogs do you follow? What about them inspires you?

Book Review: Taste

When I first started this blog I said I wanted to have/do all things food related, but then it turned out to be mostly my recipes. So to stay true to my promise I’m going to start a book review segment. If you have any recommendations on what food/culinary/cooking books to read nonfiction or fiction let me know!

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Taste by Barb Stuckey is a book for anyone interested in how his or her senses contribute to how we perceive food. The first part goes through each of our five senses: taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing, and how they contribute to our experience during a meal.

Something that is apparent, but not truly noticed, is how a meal is a complete sensory experience where if one of our senses are off it can ruin the meal. Think about the sight or presentation of a dish. Food is generally not appetizing when it’s monotone, or an unpleasing color like gray, or if it’s shapeless.  In regards to touch, the graininess of an apple, toughness of a steak, or on the other end -creaminess of a creme brûlée all affect whether we like a food or not.

Our sense of taste is obviously is a huge factor to food- which we will discuss more in depth later- and second to our sense of taste is our sense of smell. Usually when people are asked if they had to give up a sense what most choose is smell. But what people don’t realize is that without smell you wouldn’t be able to recognize most of the food you love.  If you were having soup you could feel it’s creamy, see it’s red, taste it’s salty, but wouldn’t know it was tomato soup unless your sense of smell is working. Smell is actually what determines a food’s flavor. To be clear, this isn’t smelling through your nose, but through the back of your throat called retro-nasal olfaction.

The second part of the book went through the different perceptions of taste which are salt,  sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Salt is pretty straight forward and exactly what you would think, same with sweet. Sour is where things get interesting. First to distinguish sour from  bitter think sharp/pungent vs. unpleasant. Sour is also synonymous with acidic and the reason your mouth waters with sour food is that it has a higher acidity level than saliva so in order to balance the acidity level you need more saliva, hence mouthwatering!

Umami is a fairly new recognized sense. Barb talks about how it was acknowledged before as something separate, but there wasn’t a name. It’s described as being savory, meaty, and brothy. It’s what rounds out a dish.

What I loved about this book is it wasn’t afraid to get into the science of things, but explained the concepts in laymen terms so it was easily accessible to someone without a culinary/flavorist/chemistry background. Learning about how different tastes interact with each other and how to really differentiate between them really helped my understanding of how to combine ingredients for the best flavors.

Overall I would recommend this book, especially if you’re an aspiring foodie without a culinary background. Next on the docket: The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli.

 

2016 Year in Review

Though 2016 has been a disaster in many ways at least we ate well! This year my fiancé and I each had a list of restaurants and breweries to visit and really tried to push ourselves to try new things. Also, it was great to see how much Des Moines (and Iowa) in general has to offer. This post is a round up of all the great foodie experiences we’ve had this year.

Restaurants

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We went for Valentine’s day and I still cannot get that sumac pork out of my head. I am going to try and recreate it so look for that in 2017!

Eatery A
I definitely underestimated this restaurant by only visiting on happy hour and ordering pizza. Don’t get me wrong the pizza is good, but they have so many more great dishes other than pizza. One night in October my fiancé and I went there for dinner with his family and we sampled so many dishes all of them good and unique. Fried gnocchi was a favorite, eggnog creme brûlée, and two dishes which were so good that we tried recreating- curried sweet potato soup, and mushrooms over polenta. Next time you visit I challenge you to order something other than the pizza.

Taste Place
If you’re a regular follower on the blog you’ll recognize this name as one of the places on my “Restaurants to go list.” We went on our 4 year anniversary and were not disappointed. I really wanted to try this place for the hot pot- a dish where you get a pot of hot stock and cook your food in the boiling stock. We had a spicy one with beef, wood ear mushrooms, rice noodles, and cabbage. The stock was so spicy that after our first bite we both started coughing and the regulars were laughing at us. The meal was a great experience though and I can’t wait to get back and try more dishes.

3B Grill
My good friend (and bridesmaid) introduced me to Bosnian gyros- they’re very similar to Greek gyros except the bread is thin and buttery. The place where I originally had one had closed and so we had gone on a quest for a replacement. 3B Grill is a small unassuming restaurant on Merle Hay. I had gotten one to go and the portion was huge and the bread so so so so good.

And for a restaurant outside of Iowa…

Byblos
The Turkish dumplings were silky and creamy and though I had never had the dish before it had a comforting effect which reminded me of home even though we were in Toronto!

Honorable Mentions

Krunkwich–  99 tot’s are tator tots (an Iowa staple) with a Korean twist.

Scenic Route–  turmeric latte was subtle with a hint of spice.

Beers
The fiancé and I are huge craft beer fans so much so we even went on a craft beer crawl earlier this year! Also, we each wrote down all of the beers we have ever had and we were both in the 200s! A lot of those are thanks to the many flights we’ve had from Iowa breweries.

These are some of my favorites in no particular order

Kalona– Start Up Stout
Lion Bridge– Workman’s Comp
Confluence– Blue Corn Lager
Exile– Beatnik Sour
Fox– Fox Tail (Irish red)
Twisted Vine– Madison County Saison
And for one non-Iowa brew
Oskar Blues– Death by Coconut

As I reflect over 2016 and re-read the highlights all I can think is how great of a year it’s been in terms of food and eating! It’s going to be a hard (and fun) challenge to top these experiences in 2017. Happy new year and here’s to trying!

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Arizona Mini-Vacation

My fiancé’s parents pack up and spend half of the year in Phoenix as soon as the weather in Iowa gets cool. Though this year’s weather was warm until Thanksgiving they didn’t take any chances and headed down in October. Since they’re gone for so long we like to go down and visit them- – the warm weather helps too.

We headed down on Thursday and stayed until Sunday. Day 1 we hiked up the hieroglyphics trail on Superstition Mountain. The trail was about 4 miles and had amazing views of the desert landscape and the cacti.

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As you could imagine that evening we had built up a big appetite which could only be satisfied by a visit to Persian Room in Scottsdale. We had an appetizer of kaske badamjaan- fried then pureed eggplant topped with sautéed garlic and whey. For the main dish I shared chicken filet, koobedieh (ground beef with onion), and zeresk polo which is  some white rice mixed with saffron rice and barberries. The entire meal was so delicious and definitely a highlight of the weekend.

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Following dinner we made a stop at the next door market, Caspian, where we got bamieh for dessert. Bamieh is fried dough drenched in rosewater honey.

Day 2 we went to The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I love love love the desert terrain and the colors of the southwest. We walked through cactus gardens, an edible garden, and saw structures and tools of the native apache tribes from the region.

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Later that evening we visited two breweries. First up was Four Peaks Brewing Company near ASU. The brewery is housed in an old creamery and had all of the staples you would expect. The Odelay, a Mexican chocolate brown ale, was my favorite one. For dinner we moved on to Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company and had another round of flights with dinner. There were a lot of very adventurous flavors from oyster mushroom to pecan pie. My favorite of that bunch was the Recolte de Chute- a butternut squash saison.

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Sunday we headed back home. It never seems like we spend enough time down there, but it is always nice to get to visit family even if it’s only for a few days. And as I write this it’s snowing, I have a cup of coffee in one hand, my pug in my lap, and despite the cold weather I couldn’t be happier.

Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwich

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I hope this blog post doesn’t come too late in the season so that now you’re burned out on pumpkin- if that’s even possible. I remember first having pumpkin ice cream when I was in junior high and haven’t had anything as good since- until now.

This is a very classic take- true to pumpkin as we know it flavor. When people think of pumpkin flavor it’s not the pumpkin itself which people love, it’s the spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. But unlike a Starbucks latte this ice cream actually has pumpkin in it.

This is a quick abbreviated version- meaning the cookies are store bought.

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice*
  • 1 package of molasses cookies

Directions:

Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Put the mixture into the ice cream maker and process according to the directions.

Place the cookies in the fridge for 10-15 minutes so they don’t fall apart when you add the ice cream.

Once the ice cream is ready put into freezer for 10 minutes to firm up so you can scoop nice rounds for the cookies.

Afterwards place a big scoop in the center of the molasses cookie and slowly press down with the other cookie.

Recipe makes about a pint.

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And of course it’s just as good on it’s own!

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*If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice you can use the following

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Curried Chickpea Salad

Chickpeas are a great substitute for meat and if you follow any vegan or vegetarian blogs you’ll see how popular and versatile they are. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times and can’t think of where it came from. I think I heard about it from an old Oprah magazine or something talking about how it was a popular dish in the ’70s or ’80s.

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I’m always looking for something on the lighter side but will fill you up. This dish checks those marks and more since the prep is easy and you’ll probably have most of the ingredients on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of reduced sodium chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup mayo
  • 1 medium green granny smith apple diced
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup green onions
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30mins.  Serve sandwich style on pita bread or whole grain. Or, as a low carb option with leaves of romaine.

Enjoy!

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