Recipe Roundup :: Meal inspiration

Before I get into the recipes in today's roundup, I wanted to share where I go for my meal inspiration. While I have a bookcase overflowing with cookbooks and numerous links and magazines I love to peruse, Bon Appétit continues to be my favored resource. It's even surpassed at this point my admiration for the shuttered Gourmet, which seamlessly wove together my love of food and travel. Bon Appétit, even with it's drool-worthy photography, sense of adventure and sophistication, is still approachable. The staff is dedicated to making even the most complex recipes, easy for cooks of any experience level to follow and recreate. And the editors share a joie de vivre that comes through in the magazine's voice. I anxiously await the arrival of each month's issue in my mailbox and then proceed to sit on my patio armed with sticky notes and a cup of coffee. I obsess over Andrew Knowlton's instagram feed, subscribe to daily Bon Appétit recipe blasts, peruse the same issues again on my iPad delighting in the interactivity and reread the annual Travel Issue and Best New Restaurants list at least a few times.

I keep just one cookbook on my kitchen counter. While the others sit on a bookshelf in my living room, this one has stains from over-zealous mixing. The red-plaid Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook was a gift from my mom, and it's where I learned the pancake recipe I now know by heart and refer to when I forget cooking times or temperatures for meat and vegetables. My other favorite anthologies are Gourmet Today, Bon Appétit Desserts and The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. The rest of my cookbooks tend to be a single-subject, whether its brunch, mac & cheese, Irish pub cooking or one of my favorites foods, the potato.

Often I turn online for inspiration. Sometimes I search with a specific idea of a dish I'd like to make, other times it's about perusing through email blasts and blogs until a recipe catches my eye. My favorite websites right now are Food 52 and the new New York Times Cooking site. Food 52 is an online cooking community, where readers can share recipes, ask questions and find columns and blogs on specific food-related topics. The New York Times Cooking site is a home for the New York Times' library of over 10,000 recipes. It's a beauty and the recipes are searchable by ingredient, skill level, meal and more. I really enjoy Editor Sam Sifton's weekly newsletter where he shares his tips and ideas for what to cook.

Recipe Roundup
Click on names to link to the original recipe

Spaghetti with strawberry tomato sauce
This recipe is from Bon Appétit's pick for Best New Restaurant 2014. I was in D.C. in May (expect a post soon about my food finds) and regret not making it to Rose's Luxury. So now it's at the top of my list for my next visit. In the meantime, I am looking forward to this spicy-sweet take on traditional spaghetti.

Roasted apple butter
I won't let a season stop me from eating apples, but nothing feels more autumn to me than apple pie and apple butter. For a while my mom kept sending me jars of apple butter from trips to different farms in California. But now I've found a surprisingly easy recipe to make my own. It's perfect timing too, I'm running low!

Company eggs
Eggs are one of my favorite things to cook with, a necessity in baking and perfect for any meal from a simple fried egg for breakfast to a complex quiche for dinner. These company eggs sound like the sort of thing I'll want to eat all day.

Whole roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese
Remember my new found appreciation for cauliflower, well now I found a delightfully decadent recipe to try. This recipe features three kinds of goat cheese, white wine and roasted cauliflower. I can't wait to share how this one turns out.

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.

Five years ago today ...

Juniper & Ivy, Richard Blais' restaurant in San Diego.
My birthday dinner and one of my favorite meals this year,
plus I had the opportunity to meet Chef Blais.

I launched Chasing Crumbs five years ago today. What started as an outlet for my writing has become so much more than I imagined. It's a challenge to myself to break out of the routine and try new things when I enter the kitchen. It's inspiration when I travel to explore each city's unique culinary offerings. It's a testament to my goal of sharing my love of food with others. On my blog's fifth anniversary, I wanted to take a moment to reflect and share with you the story behind Chasing Crumbs.

When I turned 11 my grandmother taught me how to cook, and since then it has always been a passion of mine. Cooking is my favorite escape, an adventure into a world of savory and sweet treats. It's so easy to get lost in the the aromas of freshly baked cookies, cinnamon apples simmering on the stove or a bourbon bread pudding bubbling in the oven. Certain flavors have the power to transport you to another time and place -- freshly grilled corn and roasted peaches remind me of summer, prime rib invites memories of holiday dinners and seafood will always remind me of home. 

But beyond all else, what I love about food is that it brings people together. Growing up, the dinner table was where we shared stories about school and work. On holidays my family would take turns in the kitchen preparing parts of the meal. And today, I often host friends for brunch or invite them to try new restaurants with me. And the rare opportunities I've had to chat with a chef about my meal, those are moments I treasure as I hope to glean insights that I can ultimately incorporate into my own amateur adventures in the kitchen.  

Whether it's trying new foods, restaurants or recipes, I long to explore more of what the culinary world has to offer. And I will continue to use this blog to share my experiences with you. Cheers!