May has five Mondays this year, which means - themed Secret Recipe Club post! Falling on Memorial Day, the theme for this reveal is Picnic/BBQ and my assigned blog was A Day in the Life on the Farm. Wendy and her husband are former police officers who moved out to the country and became farmers. They treat their animals humanely, are part of an organic CSA, trade with other farmers, and live sustainably as much as possible - I am so jealous! I dream of being a radical homemaker, but don't have the commitment. I was on a specific mission this month, but I look forward to perusing the blog more thoroughly.
I actually made three recipes from Wendy's blog this weekend, in order to have a full meal for the holiday. She had tons of recipes that are appropriate for the challenge, and I chose BBQ Beef Sandwiches, BLT Pasta Salad, and Black Forest Trifle. Each of these was easy to make with the help of store-bought ingredients, so that I didn't have to spend a full day in the kitchen. And each of them was a big hit!
Today is Secret Recipe Club reveal day! I was assigned Searching for Spice, written by Corina - a mother of two (I love the nicknames she gives her kids: Little Miss Spice and Master Spice). She loves international cuisine, making food from India, Mexico, North Africa, Thailand, and China. She prefers to stick to recipes that aren't terribly time consuming - like this Italian Chicken and Lemon dish, this Lamb Meatball dish, and this Chicken Pie. But sometimes, she will go for a more complicated recipe, too - like this Chicken Biryani and this Cassoulet with Confit Duck.
I ended up choosing this Korean Bulgogi recipe, because I just recently discovered Korean BBQ, and it is awesome! Bulgogi is definitely my favorite thing to order, so I loved that Corina had a recipe I could try. She served it with rice and lettuce to make wraps, I decided (inspired by my Spam dish) to make it a rice bowl, topped with a fried egg. It turned out great!
You guys, I have been in such a writing funk since I have gotten back from vacation. I don't know what is going on! But I do want to tell you about the restaurants we visited while we were in San Francisco, and I will try to post more frequently from now on. Kailey, my sister-in-law (who we were visiting), is a chef in SF (here; that's her at 0:35 and 1:35), so we let her take us on a culinary tour of her favorite spots. But I determined on our first day that I was just going to enjoy the vacation and not worry about taking photos. So I don't have any food photos to show you, sorry!
Before we get to food, I should mention that we stayed at the Hotel Drisco and really enjoyed it. We had a corner room on the top floor and the views were amazing - we could see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the city. All the windows really helped because, like many older buildings in the city, Drisco has no air conditioning. Opening all the windows made for a lovely cross-breeze, though it was too noisy to leave them open at night. The hotel includes a continental breakfast, and I am not talking about just cereal and muffins. They have all kinds of pastries with homemade jams, spreads, and toppings. Also fresh juices, cereal, yogurt, bagels, fruit salad, hot oatmeal, smoothies, salami and cheese, hard boiled eggs, and antipasto style veggies. In addition to various coffee blends, they will also make espresso drinks to order. It is a very nice perk. They also have a wine tasting every evening with cheese and salami, coffee all day, free wifi, free bikes, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
San Antonio has become a really hip place since I moved away, and that is due in large part to the Pearl Brewery area. The original brewery was opened in 1881 and ran until 1985 when Pabst Blue Ribbon took over, and then shut down in 2001. The land was purchased and slowly developed into a shopping area, which is now booming. With a weekly farmers market, boutique shops, new apartments, and amazing restaurants - this is now the place to be. It reminds me a lot of Mosaic District, actually. They even built a new section of Riverwalk nearby!
Anyway, when I came to visit - all the places my family wanted to take me to ended up being at Pearl, so I have lots of reviews for you!
The night I flew in, my family took me to Cured, located in the historic administration building of the brewery. As you can guess from the name, cured meats are a large focus of the menu, but they also have cooked main dishes under the categories vegetable, seafood, fowl, pork, beef, and goat or lamb. My dad ordered a selection of cured meats for us, and they were delish - especially the country style pate and lamb/citrus terrine. I also had the pork cheeks poutine, which was AWESOME. The pickled cauliflower they put in there is totally unexpected and is what makes the dish, I think. For dessert I had a beet twinkie with meyer lemon curd - yum. The drink menu includes cane sugar sodas from much-beloved Dublin, TX; craft cocktails; and a killer beer list. My brother is going to have to get on here and tell me what local beer I had, because it was fantastic.
The next night, we went to The Granary - a modern BBQ joint located in the original brewmaster's house. I have never seen a concept like this before - super modern, artistic BBQ - very cool. Apparently my father comes here for lunch at least once a week, because the waiter greeted him by his nickname and knew his favorite dishes. We thought that was pretty funny.
We had two different events planned in two different states in the weeks before Christmas: a weekend-long birthday party in the Outer Banks and a family get-together in Nashville, TN. We decided it would be fun to connect the events via a long roadtrip, stopping at the Biltmore Estate in NC before continuing on to TN. Biltmore is HUGE. The house is the largest privately owned house in the US, and the grounds cover 8000 acres. It takes 30 minutes to get from the Inn on the property to the house.
We stayed for two nights at the Inn, which is a really nice hotel and spa. They were all decked out for Christmas, and had a gingerbread house replica of the Inn. There are multiple restaurants on the Estate - we ate at the Inn Dining Room the first night, and like it so much we decided to eat there the second night too!
The Dining Room is seasonal, farm-sourced fine dining. I really liked their small plates and respectful treatment of produce. The amuse bouche was a different cream based vegetable veluote both nights and they were both outstanding. I could have eaten a bowl of that for dinner and been happy.
My favorite dish was the fried brussels sprouts with a farm egg, frisee, and bacon. This is seriously the BEST brussels sprouts dish I have ever had. It was eye-rolling good. I ordered it both nights and asked for the recipe, which they gave me! I'll post it at the bottom.
Another standout was the roasted corn and lobster soup with piquillo peppers. This has been added to my list of favorite lobster dishes, and is in the top 3 lobster bisques for sure.
The pork belly with apple tart and goat cheese ravioli appetizers were also very good and I would highly recommend them. The gnocchi with brie, figs, and bacon was not enjoyable, though. The brie overpowered everything else and the bacon was way too salty. It sounded great on paper, but didn't work.
The artisan meat and cheese platter was very satisfying, with lots of variety and good portions. I didn't order any entrees, and Jasper ordered specials both nights. He really enjoyed the seafood special the first night, but did not like the steak special the second night.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad here and I would recommend trying it out if you are ever in the area.