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Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops (Thit Heo Nuong Xa) with Cold Rice Noodles

These Vietnamese pork chops are marinated in a perfectly balance of lemongrass, ginger and sugar, grilled to perfection, and served with cold rice noodles and pickled sides.

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How to put together a perfect charcuterie board

We put the must in mustard, the cute in charcuterie, and the jam in …er … jam, with this spectacular picnic spread. Ham! Cheese! Pâté! Salami! Pickles! Our festive charcuterie board is topped off with fresh, tangy home-made Maple Mustard and sweet Red Onion Jam.

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Homemade Maple Mustard

If you like mustard, you seriously have to try making your own. It’s so much better than the jarred kind and it couldn’t be easier. Our Homemade Maple Mustard is a little sweet, a little spicy and tastes incredibly fresh.

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Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

This dish is basically autumn in a pot. It’s orange, it’s delicious, it’s healthy, and you can serve it for Thanksgiving or as a side for any meal.

Now that I live in the boonies and have to drive to the grocery store like a normal, I have a bad habit of buying way too many vegetables at once. I have such optimism in the produce aisle, thinking of all the tasty things I’ll make, but time gets away from me and eventually, with great shame in my heart, I end up with a bin full of bendable carrots and fuzzy broccoli rabe.

But I never, ever regret buying too much winter squash (like acorn, delicata, kabocha and butternut). Those things last for-fricking-ever. I mean, I don’t just adore them because of shelf-life. That would be silly. “Hey, you lazy bastards. Wanna make something that won’t rot?” Damn, I should have gone into advertising. I think I have a knack.

Anyway, I’ve had this butternut squash sitting on my counter for at least 3 weeks (lie, 5 weeks) and look; still perfect! Butternut squash is packed with fiber, vitamins A and C so it’s a great, healthy alternative to mashed potatoes and look at that color. It’s like being punched in the face by fall!

We had it with Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic. It’s a great combination.

Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic

Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic

Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and GarlicIf you’re looking for a quick, inexpensive weeknight dinner, boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a great option. All they need is a few minutes in a marinade, 25 minutes or so in the oven (even quicker on a grill or grill pan) and they’re ready to go. Unlike chicken breasts, which dry out if you stare at them too long, thighs are extremely forgiving. They’re actually hard to overcook.

I like baking them with this lemony, garlicky marinade (recipe below), but you could easily switch the flavors around. I sometimes use soy, honey and ginger. Sometimes sage, rosemary and mustard. The process is the same. Really, by the time you’ve made a salad and opened a bottle of wine, they’re pretty much done.

IMG_3112 - Version 2If you do have a little extra time, they’re perfect with Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone.

Butterscotch Pudding: A Love Story

Butterscotch Pudding: A Love Story

Butterscotch Pudding

Butterscotch Pudding

This post is kind of dedicated to two people, and the first one is me.

At the age of, oh, about 12, I don’t think there was a single thing in the world – except perhaps, mashed potatoes – that I loved with all my heart more than butterscotch flavored Angel Delight. Pudding, to you.

(Notes – 1: Yes, we’re really big on singing made-up words like “De-smoothest” in British commercials. 2: Apparently, we like throwing maraschino cherries on top of everything, for no damn reason that I can think of. And 3: strawberry pudding is pretty foul. Other than that, 4: you get the idea.)

On as many separate occasions as I could get away with, I would steal down to the kitchen while my parents were elsewhere, mix up a bowl of Angel Delight – butterscotch only – and take it up to my room, wait for it to set, and have myself a little butterscotch pudding party for one. I’d hide the bowl under my bed behind a stash of Doctor Who books, and pig out for as long as I remembered the bowl was still there. (Sometimes I would forget. Sorry, Mum.)

The second person I want to dedicate this to is Fringe scientist Walter Bishop, because … because if you don’t love Walter Bishop loving pudding, you have a dead black heart and you probably work in politics.

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I don’t know what Angel Delight did to corner the market in gelatinous butterscotch-flavored dessert, but I never found a packaged version that stood up to their original recipe. We returned from England last spring with three butterscotch pudding packets, now just a delicious memory. So I decided to make some from scratch.

This recipe from the Pizzeria Locale in Denver, described by Melissa Clark at the Times – didn’t seem too tricky – the only cautious stage is cooking the sugar to the correct temperature. She recommends a candy thermometer – I haven’t had luck with the kind that clip to the side of the pan, they tend to slip around, and with a relatively small amount of caramel, the base of the thermometer isn’t guaranteed to sit comfortably in the mix. So I prefer to use our Thermapen (made in England, don’t you know), which has a really fast digital readout with great accuracy. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it powers down after a couple of minutes unless you deactivate it by closing and re-opening it, so if you’re focused on caramelizing sugar, it can be a pain to have to wake up the thermometer at a crucial moment.

That’s all the nerdy gadgetry for this recipe; everything else is quite standard.

Crispy Shrimp Cakes – Thai Style

Crispy Shrimp Cakes – Thai Style

Crispy Shrimp Cakes - Thai StyleWe made these again and finally took pictures so I’m re-posting. I also changed the recipe a little, adding a bit of cornstarch to the batter and reducing the panko. 

I used to make a similar kind of cake with salmon which was delicious but a little trickier to make since salmon doesn’t stick together as readily and can overcook very easily. Once I tried it with shrimp, I haven’t gone back to the salmon ones (I love salmon, but tend to like it seared with crispy skin).

These cakes have a lot of cilantro in them so if you don’t like that flavor you could add a bit of parsley and/or basil instead or just leave it out. Matt loves how green they are. They’re really tasty served on rice or rice noodles with this Vietnamese style Dipping Sauce. Sometimes I’ll serve them on slider buns with some Asian Spicy Mayo. I always, always serve them with a Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad on the side. So perfect together. I want them again right now!

Note: If you like them extra-crispy, dredge them in a little panko or cornstarch before frying. It gives them a crunchier crust but masks the shrimp flavor a little.

Ingredients for Crispy Shrimp Cakes

Divided shrimp for crispy shrimp cakes

Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad

Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad

Pickled Cucumber and Avocado SaladI’ve already admitted that I’ve become obsessed with cucumbers since discovering my dog loves them so much. I love them in cocktails, dipped in Feta-Yogurt Sauce, even just plain. But lightly pickled with rice vinegar and sesame oil is my all time favorite.

This is an incredibly quick and easy side dish with Thai Shrimp Cakes. It’s also great with seared salmon or any other fish. It takes seconds to make. It’s also vegan and gluten-free, to boot!

Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad

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