Is there anything better than a big pot of comforting beef stew in the Winter? Maybe if you add a lot of veggies, Middle Eastern spices, and some apricots for sweetness. Yum, yum, yum. At least I thought so - my husband wasn't really sold on the whole sweet things in a stew concept, and he doesn't like all those vegetables getting in the way of his meat. But whatever, I thought it was awesome. If you are not limiting carbs, you could serve this over some couscous and let it soak up all the juices.
Start by cooking some red onion and browning some beef chuck that has been seasoned with cumin, ginger, and cinnamon. I feel like red onions only work well in specific places, and this is one of them. Cooking them enough that they start to caramelize and release some sweetness is the way to go, here. Remove the meat to a plate temporarily and deglaze the pot with some red wine to scrape up all those browned spices and good bits that are stuck to the bottom.
Add in some sweet potato, apricots, and a can of whole tomatoes in their juices; then add enough water to cover and let simmer for a few hours. Your house is going to smell AWESOME. For reals.
After it is done simmering and the meat and potatoes are all soft and luscious - throw in some chickpeas and spinach. Oh my gosh. There is so much going on here! The apricots absorb the liquid and plump up, and the sweetness from them and the sweet potatoes contrasts the warm spices. I love all the different colors and textures, too. Let's get cooking, peeps!
In addition to our awesome holiday meal (read more here), we also ate out a lot while we were in Bend, OR last week.
We ordered breakfast from room service at our hotel, The Oxford, a few times and it was really good. The french toast with berry compote, in particular, was awesome. Right next door to the hotel is a brand new doughnut place (as in they opened their doors for the first time the Saturday after Thanksgiving) called Luvs Doughnuts. They make small batches and sell the day-old doughnuts for 50 cents! I had a glazed-yeast raised and Jasper had a chocolate-dipped blueberry cake doughnut - they were pretty good! I also enjoyed my chai latte from there - nice strong flavor.
We also ate at a local breakfast/brunch institution - Chow, which is open every day from 7-2. They focus on local vendors and sustainability and accommodate pretty much any diet. They are happy to make up a unique dish just for you if nothing on the menu suits you. They also have some killer guava mimosas (or man-mosas if you want a bigger drink). This is the only restaurant I thought to take pictures at, so enjoy!
Bagel with cream cheese, pickled veg (celery, carrots, green beans), salmon, and sprouts.
Chow has a number of signature egg dishes. This one is the blackstone - with poached eggs, cornmeal crusted tomatoes, spinach, bacon, and bearnaise over polenta. Super yummy.
This was the omelette of the day with house potatoes. They make their own hot sauces here, and from what I heard the Carrot-Habanero was amazingly hot and tasty.
We alternate our Thanksgivings each year between our families in Texas and Oregon. This year was an Oregon year! (Read here for our last visit.) My in-laws live in beautiful Bend, OR - which is such a nice town. Check out the gorgeous mountain view from our hotel room! We stay at the Oxford hotel when we visit, and I definitely recommend it.
We had quite the spread, as usual. We were so excited to see each other that we spent all of Wednesday talking and didn't get any prep work done! So we didn't end up eating Thanksgiving dinner until actual dinner time, which was fine by us!
Here's Mom carving up that beautiful turkey! They made sure to get one that was humanely raised.
I'd like to give a special shout-out to this gorgeous salad made by my Chef sister-in-law. It was in keeping with her gluten- and dairy-free lifestyle and it was AWESOME. It had two kinds of raw kale (massaged to remove bitterness), roasted beets, fennel, toasted walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. I need to get the recipe from her for the yummy cashew dressing.
What was your favorite dish this year? Leave a link or recipe in the comments!
I feel like I constantly need some form of cheesy winter squash pasta on hand at all times. It's kind of a problem. I saw a recipe for shells with pumpkin and ricotta that sounded good, but the comments all said it came out dry and bland. So instead of using that recipe, I decided to make a pumpkin version of my Spring Shells and Cheese.
So instead of ricotta, I made a bechamel with sage, pumpkin, Gruyere, and Parmesan. Then I added in some sauteed spinach and shallots, for health and color.
Because adding spinach totally makes up for all the cheese and pasta, right? I mean, I did use whole wheat shells...
Anyway, I added in some pecans for crunch. Nuts are healthy, too, right?
I don't really know what to say about this place. The reviews were all great, and my husband really like it, but I wasn't impressed.
We tried plenty of sushi, as you can see, and I thought it was just average (especially for the price). Taro and Kushi are way better in my opinion.
I was more impressed with this creamy lobster and scallop dish, but not enough to make me come back.
There was nothing really wrong with any of it, but it didn't stand up to my expectations. My husband might disagree, but I found it to be overpriced for average sushi. The pear martini, however, was delicious.
I've written about my favorite lasagna recipe before, but it was years ago and I think it needs to be revisited - especially now that my neighbors confirm it is the best lasagna they have ever had.
The cast of characters is pretty simple, but I think what makes this lasagna stand out is the use of veal and white wine. It's a bit different from the standard, but that's what makes it special.
I really like for my veg to be finely diced for this ragu, so that there aren't any big chunks. But I did not make those perfect cuts on my own - I use a veggie chopper. It's fast and it makes everything uniform.
The other thing that makes this ragu great is that it is simmered for up to 5 hours. That low and slow cooking brings out all the flavor. I highly recommend using San Marzano tomatoes in this, they are just the best.
Americans might be used to the type of lasagna with ricotta and mozzarella, which is fine but not very authentic. This version has a creamy bechamel (aka my favorite food) and tons of Parmesan, and it is just so dreamy.
I really went all out for this batch and made my own lasagna noodles for the first time. It is certainly not necessary to do that, but I do think it took it up one final step to perfection. I did have several issues while doing this, though. The learning curve is pretty steep. Don't try to be clever when you roll out your own pasta and leave the sheets really long - trust me, it makes them almost impossible to cook. Now I know why the store-bought ones are short. I'm also going to edit the pasta dough recipe in the original post because it was awful and really soft and hard to work with.
Anyway, go make the best lasagna of your life. You will thank me. Recipe here.
My friend Melissa (you know her by now as Smells Like Brownies) threw a Curious George themed birthday party for her 1 year old. She wanted to have some kind of banana snack at the party (cuz duh - monkeys) but really hates bananas, even the smell of them. So I volunteered to make something for her. These banana pops could not be easier, and they ended up being a huge success!
Start by cutting bananas (however many you want to use) in half and carefully insert popsicle sticks. Pop them into the freezer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make your chocolate dip. Place chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl - you can use either milk or dark, I prefer dark. 8 oz of chocolate will cover 2 bananas (4 halves). Next, mix in some oil or butter - this makes sure the chocolate melts evenly and that it is shiny. I used coconut oil for the health factor and because it tastes great with chocolate. The ratio is 1 tbsp oil to 8 oz chocolate. Stir to coat the chips evenly with oil, then microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chocolate is just melted. Do not overcook it - once you burn chocolate, you can't take it back.
While the chocolate is still warm, take the partially frozen bananas and dip them into the chocolate to coat. You may need to use a rubber spatula to ensure that the entire banana is coated. Allow any excess to drip off. Working quickly (the chocolate will harden quickly on the frozen banana), sprinkle with or roll in whatever toppings you want to use. I used sprinkles, walnuts, and toasted coconut. Return the bananas to the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Allow to soften for about 5 minutes at room temp, or longer in the fridge, before you serve them so that they won't be rock hard. The banana inside should be the consistency of ice cream.
I used a 32 oz bag of chocolate chips to make 16 banana pops (from 8 bananas). These are super fun to make - I bet kids would love to get involved. And there is not a lot of sugar, depending on what kind kind of chocolate and toppings you use, making it a healthy snack/dessert. So go bananas!
Earlier this year I wrote about a restaurant called Sea Pearl, mostly in regards to their brunch. That review was pretty positive. I've been back a few more times for lunch with more mediocre results.
This lobster roll was pretty decent, but not my favorite in the area. It's very herby, which isn't bad - I just don't prefer it personally. I would say that Coastal Flats has better. Also, though the garlic rosemary fries were good, I wasn't a fan of the boring side salad that came with.
This burger was pretty good with the caramelized and pickled onions. But the foie gras was unnecessary. I can't believe I'm saying that because it was the main reason I ordered the burger, but it just felt like it didn't belong (unlike the stellar version at Mockingbird Bistro in Houston, TX).
Lastly, the Hudson Valley roll was a huge flop. Seared foie gras, raw tuna, and green apple with a balsamic plum wine reduction. This just didn't work, and the foie had a weird bitter taste. I noticed it on the burger, too, so however they are cooking their foie here is no good.
I think I'm going to be sticking to brunch for awhile.
I'm not really sure how to do food styling for mac and cheese - as you can tell from this photo. Oh - a chunk or orange stuff, yum. Well don't let my bad photography fool you - this mac and cheese is the bomb. It's the ultimate comfort food, and I should know.
You see, I lost my cat last month to illness. Other pet owners out there might understand this - he and his (adopted) brother were my first pets as an adult. That is a whole different situation from childhood pets, or even pets you get later as a family. I literally think of my boys as my children, so this was extremely difficult for me. It was also very sudden. Animals, as you may know, hide their sickness so that they won't be perceived as weak. Which means that by the time they start acting sick, it is often too late. In our case, we took him in the same day he was acting weird and found out that night that there was nothing we could do. He was gone the next day.
The grief affected me like the flu - I had fever, chills, and nausea. The only thing I could stand to eat was macaroni and cheese, and after a couple of days of my husband making me the boxed stuff, I finally started cooking again. I made this butternut squash mac and cheese and lived off it for a week. It was definitely very comforting.
It's ooey gooey with both cheddar and Gruyere, with a bit of caramelized onion, pops of salty bacon, and sweet butternut squash - partially mashed so that there is sweetness throughout, but also some chunks here and there. I even splurged and used regular, white pasta so that I could get my favorite shape - gemelli.
The top is sprinkled with more cheese and buttery breadcrumbs. Perfection. This is possibly the most delicious food ever. So whether you are sad or you just like macaroni and cheese, go dive face first into a bowl of this stuff. You won't regret it.
Hand pies are so much fun. You just pick up your own personal mini-pie and munch away. No sharing! And when those flaky pies are filled with cinnamon spiced apples and gooey salted caramel, you won't want to share.
Putting these together is pretty easy - divide up your apple mixture among the circles of dough, top with a few bits of caramel candy, sprinkle with sea salt, place another round of dough on top.
Crimp the edges with a fork to seal, but the dough is going to puff up like puff pastry so it doesn't have to be perfect. Egg wash and coarse sugar make the crust a beautiful golden brown.
The one issue with these is that you do have to eat them warm or the caramel will re-solidify. If you don't eat them all immediately (which, good luck with that) you will need to reheat them before serving. There is also quite a bit of dough in proportion to filling. If that is not your style, make sure to roll it out extra thin.