Try everything

My motto when it comes to food is "try everything at least once." While that philosophy definitely has the potential to lead you astray and it is easy to let preconceived notions about a particular food or flavor influence us, more often than not I am pleasantly surprised by own tastebuds. This motto is the reason I've come to love oysters on the half shell, quinoa and chai tea, just to name a few favorites. One of the many reasons I enjoy dining out is that it's a welcome opportunity to try something new. Chefs are constantly experimenting, so even if I get a favorite dish like salmon or pasta, many times it is paired with something I would not have imagined. Sometimes it's a a new flavor for me, like the first time I tried grits or pâté. And sometimes it's a new use for a tried-and-true standby, have you ever tried zuchinni chips? If I had enough, I'd never stop eating them.

At least once. Everything is worth revisiting. Our tastes evolve over time, and recently I have discovered a newfound affinity for many foods I abhorred as a child. Brussel sprouts are perfect roasted with bacon and shallots. My friend Leigh Anne led me to an appreciation of all things pumpkin and squash. I am still a hold out on pie, as I will always prefer apple, pecan or really any other option before pumpkin pie. But I have tried and enjoyed pumpkin bread (which makes a mean french toast), roasted butternut squash and white chocolate pumpkin truffles. That last one is a real surprise, as I'm usually not one for white chocolate either. My most recent and exciting discovery was cauliflower. It was always the vegetable sitting there on the veggie platters, and I never touched it. I always thought it had no flavor, probably because I so often tried it raw. But I have come to learn that cauliflower is quite versatile when cooked, absorbing the flavors around it. It makes a great loaded au gratin replacing potatoes and just last week I tried a delicious recipe for buffalo cauliflower bites.

Recipe roundup. This probably will come as no surprise to those of you who have read my blog from the beginning or follow me on twitter. I own at least a few dozen cookbooks, subscribe to two magazines devoted entirely to food and countless others that boast substantial cooking sections and dozens of blogs and email blasts with daily recipes, restaurant lists and more. I am constantly tabbing my magazines and cookbooks with sticky notes and printing out recipes from the web that I want to try. The ever-growing stack is a mental cue to try something new rather than rely on making the same old thing week in and week out.

So with that in mind, I am going to start regularly including this feature, highlighting recipes I found and loved, or ones I am anxious to try. (Click on the names to link to the original recipe.)

Cheesy buffalo cauliflower wings (left) and Canal House peach jam

Cheesy buffalo cauliflower wings
The aforementioned cauliflower bites. After trying an au gratin a coworker brought in for a potluck, I did a search for more cauliflower recipes to test out and found these on the blog Jessica in the Kitchen. It's funny how your mind plays tricks on you based on your memories of certain flavors. If someone else had made this recipe, I don't know that I would have known I wasn't eating chicken.

Canal House peach jam
I don't think I will ever run out of uses for peaches. And this is one of my favorite new recipes for using them up before they turn bad. My favorite Bon Appétit got the seasonal-cooking superstars from Canal House to share this gem. And I love that it keeps to just the essentials, peaches, sugar and lemon juice.  I cut the recipe down based on what I had left, but if you don't you'll have plenty to share with friends as hostess gifts or "just-because" treats.

Proscuitto pesto pizza twists
From the blog A Zesty Bite, I found this recipe when I was looking for ideas for a cocktail party with some of my colleagues. I adjusted it slightly, using crescent dough instead of pizza dough. Besides the simplicity of preparation, it was a great finger food which is always a plus when you're entertaining.

Cinnamon polenta pancakes
Pancakes are one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. I know my favorite recipe by heart, and I can whip it up just as quickly as scrambled eggs or oatmeal. This was a great find for a heartier twist on traditional buttermilk pancakes.

Sour chocolate cake
This is first up on my to try list. I was sold when I read chocolate cake. A new twist with some tang from vinegar and it has cinnamon. Though I may lose the crumby texture, I'll probably try substituting butter as I am not huge on using shortening in my recipes. I may just whip this up for dessert tonight.