I was recently invited to a non-traditional Passover Seder with some friends down in Rock Hill. As it always is with this group, I enjoyed a meal that surpassed my expectations and delighted me on so many levels. From a beautiful table to warm company and a sincere rich goodness imparted to me through story and fellowship, I left inspired and thankful.
The dinner was actually held the Wednesday before Passover since the host and his wife are expecting a baby any day now. The meal was equal parts ceremony and celebration. We went around the table telling the story of Exodus, reading passages aloud, singularly and in unison, recalling the story of liberation and hope. The table was filled collectively, too, with contributions from the group.
Poco, the eldest woman at the table, brought a gorgeous chicken from her farm, roasted to perfection. Lamb was served, too, along with chicken gravy, lamb jus and cumberland sauce straight from the Joy of Cooking. I brought my new party trick, roasted butternut squash with tahini and za'atar spice
and the host, Stephen supplied the charoset, a traditional Passover dish made with apples, figs, wine and local honey. Of course, we munched on bitter herbs, salt soaked parsley and matzo during the Seder ceremony.
For dessert, we had coconut macaroons studded with chocolate chips. They were some of the best macaroons that I've had. Something about the texture made them extra special. They were crackly on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. We were told to only have two and I, of course, snagged a third. Don't tell anyone.
The evening was special as I am told every Wednesday is for them. We shared a meaningful evening of feast and faith. I never tire of being welcomed into a home and given a place at the table.
To learn more about our celebration, visit WFAEats where I share an interactive experience of the evening with audio and video that explores the tenets of the Passover Seder.
I'm not sure how it happened, but I seem to have booked myself quite a December. I don't even know how it's December right now.
I totally missed my window to make a cute and crafty advent calendar before the first of the month and now the perfectionist in me won't let me do it. It just isn't right unless I can count aaallll the days. That's neither here nor there. The point is, it's time to bake like the apocalypse is coming.
I spent the better part of my Thanksgiving weekend falling in love with The Smitten Kitchen cookbook
, ceaselessly flipping through its pages, devouring its contents. It should be no surprise that my holiday party attendance is categorized not by what pair of shoes I"ll be wearing but by dessert, what kind I'll make for whom. This is what keeps me up at night.
This past Sunday was a women's brunch so I chose apple cake, the perfect warm accompaniment to a good cup of coffee. If you've had quiche first, you can call it dessert. If you haven't, well, then it's breakfast. See? One cake fits all.
This is Deb Perelman's Mom's Apple Cake. Not mine. It's filled with heaps of apples that have been well coated in cinnamon and sugar. When it comes out of the oven, there is a wonderful outer crust that gives just so when dipped in coffee and then its insides are soft and perfectly moist. The cinnamon-sugared apples caramelize into that gooey cinna-bun like consistency where you keep chasing one bite after the other in hopes of meeting that perfect cinnamon-y pocket of flavor once more. And then, its gone.
I took it a step further, of course, because I have no concept of moderation. I added what just may be the best artisan caramel to date. Her name is Carmelita
and she is a goat's milk caramel that hails from Looking Glass Creamery
in Asheville, North Carolina. Carmelita will haunt your dreams and then she will steal your heart. She did mine.
I have plans for more holiday recipe testing, but this apple cake may have to go right back into the queue. It made happy faces.
Get the recipe here
straight from the Smitten Kitchen blog or grab a copy of Deb Perelman's outstanding book here
. You won't be sorry. What's on your holiday baking list? Tell me all about it.
Photo courtesy of Caveman Cafeteria
I fell in love with a couple of food trucks in Denver. On our first night in the Mile High City, we met up with our lovely friends Stacey and Justin who let us crash at their place and happily indulged my need to hunt down a very specific food truck. I caught wind of the Caveman Cafeteria
while still in North Carolina via my Twitter feed. You know, doing all of my nerdy, foodie research that I do prior to landing in any city. What's cool about The Caveman Cafeteria is that they are a paleo food truck! They serve up a host of delicious proteins and tasty vegetables for those following a diet free of grains, processed sugar and legumes.
The Caveman Cafeteria is the brain child of Will White, an Army veteran, stand-up comedian and all-around nice guy. He joined forces with his best friend and chef, David Kenney earlier this yeart to start the Caveman Cafeteria. He even took a picture of us the night we ate there.
Photo courtesy of Caveman Cafeteria
That night, the Mister and I dined on a fresh tomato salad marinated with sea salt and wagyu beef sauteed with enoki mushrooms and the most slurptastic demi-glace which I called the "bistro juice." I wanted to take a bath in it. If you meet up with the Caveman Cafeteria, be sure to give a nod to its mascot and wonderdog, Boris who is usually chillin' like a villain on the sidewalk.
Photo courtesy of Caveman Cafeteria
The Comida Food Truck
was the main attraction at our friend's wedding, serving up some dope guacamole, handmade tortilla chips and expertly made tacos for the masses. You can't miss it either. The Comida truck is a big and bright pink.
I opted for Stella's Pork Carnitas over sweet potato mash with pineapple-habanero salsa and the Sirloin Situation over sweet potato mash with sauteed onions and crema. The Mister chose the Spicy Shrimp taco over jalapeno grits with pico de gallo and avocado. I heard it was fiery from a number of guests, some who could handle it and some who could not. Everything was made from scratch and prepared to order in the taco truck. Smack ya' mama good!
I'm a big fan of food trucks and would love to travel around enjoying all the inventive cuisine made inside these matchbox kitchens. That's a culinary feat all by itself. If you're in the Denver area, I hope you hook up with these two winners.
Did I mention I had a food truck during my wedding weekend? More on that this week!
What day is it? Can anyone fill me in? Honestly, I was a day ahead last week and now I'm a few days behind thanks to one of the greatest long weekends EVER. My bachelorette party weekend. I won't bother you with all the details. Okay, maybe I will.
But first, a few snaps from my special weekend....
Suffice it to say that I ate my way through the entire city of Atlanta with my bestie/maid of honor and a dear friend who drove all the way from Gainesville, Florida to surprise yours truly. It was everything a girls weekend should be- long talks, good food, pampering, shopping, slumber parties, couch snuggles with the best doggies alive (see Charlie and Maya above) and lengthy discussions about the meaning of life or at least, life right now.
I love my long-time girlfriends. They have seen me through the worst of times and the best of times and somehow they still love me anyway. I am so grateful to have these ladies in my life and, though, not all my girls were there, the spirit of the weekend was indicative of the love I have for all my gal pals. Okay, I had to gush for moment. Now, back to the food.
Did I mention the food
Atlanta has an incredible food scene. Each time I visit, I barely scratch the surface of all the good eats in town.
On the first night, my bestie prepared a home-cooked meal with the last of the fresh grouper filets she scored while visiting her foodie father in Sarasota. She made Grouper Granoba with a green bean and pepper saute along with her killer artichoke dip which is always a crowd-pleaser. Dessert that evening was Martha Stewart's tres leches cupcakes
topped with fresh cream and a dash of cinnamon. That became my late night snack. Every. Single. Night.
The next day, we went shopping and stopped for lunch on Buford Highway, the premiere spot for ethnic eats in Atlanta. This long stretch of road spans the globe as you drive from one end to the other with endless eateries and specialty markets. We decided on Vietnamese food and ended up at Nam Phuong
where we ate like queens for $40. My favorite was the green papaya salad with cilantro, basil, mint and fresh lime along with barbecued pork.
Later that night, we dined at a trendy new spot in Inman Park called Barcelona
. Our friend, Ben McPherson, also happens to be the Executive Chef and so the red carpet was rolled out for us in the form of endless tapas and hand-carved Jamon Iberico (pata negra
, which means "black hoof"), a famously Spanish cured ham that is salty and delicate with silky fats that melt in your mouth. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. I also must comment on the exquisite heirloom tomato and peach salad dressed in red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. It was a mouthwatering trio of tangy, acidic and sweet. After the barrage of small plates ended, we finished the experience with butterscotch flan and three spoons. Stick a fork in me.
After another night of revelry, we spent the next day in watching episodes of Being Erica
with lebanese takeout from Olive Bistro
and provisions from Whole Foods Market. Of course, on our trip to pick up takeout and snacks, we had to stop at Delia's Chicken Sausage Stand
for one of their infamous sloppy sliders with chicken sausage patties, cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos and special "comeback" sauce. Sloppy perfection.
Needless to say, I've been to the gym every day since I've been back and am fighting the urge to make a batch of tres leches cupcakes for myself and the Mister. I will leave you with a couple other favorite ATL spots that I hit up whenever I'm in town and wrap up this overdue blog post. San Francisco Coffee Company
- for my morning cup of joeRia's Bluebird
- My old faithful brekkie spotKing of Pops
- My favorite popscicle stand
Next time I'm back in the ATL, I'll be a married woman!
I feel like I need to be true to myself today. As a homework assignment for a blogging course I'm currently taking, I had to update my About Me
page so that people who come to visit may know me and my blog better. In there, I made a reference to bad puns, which I happen to love, and felt a need to carry on my truest nature by introducing this ongoing photo series with a lovely one I cooked up just for you.
Don't roll your eyes at me. I like puns. They're good for a giggle, even if it's just me laughing.
I began this series to chronicle my visits to the local farmer's market and my weekly hauls. It's one of my Saturday morning rituals, to go solo to market and collect the latest picks for the week. I lazily sip coffee while lingering over root vegetables and fresh herbs, striking up conversations with local farmers and dreaming up recipes for the week.
It's my chance to snag some alone time and is one of the simple pleasures I look forward to each week. I hope to continue this photo series and can't wait to watch the seasons change in my weekly shots.
If you'd like to follow along with me on Instagram, you can find me here
What are you haulin' from the local markets?
I get a little giddy this time of year when farmer's markets begin to explode with produce and sweet, delicious fruit. I'm like a kid in a candy store, grabbing armfuls of whatever looks good, hoping I don't run out of cash before I get my fill. Strawberries are returning in a big way and I received my first basket from a friend who harvested strawberries from her own garden and kindly left me a basket on my doorstep. The sincerest thank you I can give is making something special with such a lovely haul. I've never roasted strawberries before, but was inspired by my one of my favorite cookbooks
and author, Heidi Swanson, and a recipe I read last summer when I first purchased the book and began picking off the recipes one by one.
Roasted strawberries or as I like to call them, strawberries in the style of Jackson Pollock are rich and artful. The Mister thinks they resemble a murder scene. I think they are poetic. Heidi Swanson takes her strawberries and dresses them up with a little port and balsamic vinegar. I roasted my first batch and tried them with balsamic vinegar and tarragon. Then I got thinking about jam. And ginger.
After a few iterations in my kitchen on a rainy day, I settled for strawberries roasted in a ginger syrup for sweetness and spiked with fresh ginger juice for a spicy end kick. A little lemon juice adds brightness to the jammy concentration of strawberries. The syrup cooks down with the natural fruit juices and becomes an oozy puddle of flavor and stunning color. Poetic berries meet their delicious demise.
My first inclination with any concentrated berry is to put it over vanilla bean ice cream. Like so
. It's my go-to combination. Next, after dessert is breakfast. How awesome would this be over some french toast with a little powdered sugar? This may still happen. Then, of course, the jam is money over bread and cake. Take your pick. I'm working on an olive oil cake recipe, so I had a readily available vessel for my jammy jam.
Roasted Strawberry-Ginger JamMakes approximately 1 cup of jam
16 ounces strawberries, hulled
4 tablespoons ginger syrup (recipe below)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice, about 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and juiced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juiceNOTE: If you do not have a juicer to extract fresh ginger, you can opt for a microplane grate to achieve the same flavor without imparting massive chunks of ginger to the mix.
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Hull each strawberry and cut in half or smaller, depending upon the size. Set aside berries.
In a separate bowl, whisk together ginger syrup, oil and salt. Pour over berries and toss gently, then pour onto baking sheet arranged into a single layer. The original recipe called for 40 minutes of roasting time. I roasted mine for approximately 45 minutes. I watched for the juices to thicken to a syrup-like consistency and was careful not to let them burn.
Once roasted, pour warm berries into a small bowl and stir in ginger and lemon juice. This can also be the time to add fresh herbs like tarragon or basil. Berries can be eaten warm or cooled and stored in the fridge a week. Ginger Syrup
(from Bon Appetit
Magazine) Makes approximately 1/2 cup of syrup
1/3 cup raw sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup water
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow syrup to steep for 15 minutes. Strain the ginger out and discard. Use immediately or cover and chill the syrup for later use up to one week.
OMG! Is it really Thursday already? I returned Tuesday afternoon from an impromptu Easter visit with family in Knoxville and then I blinked and it was Thursday. Holy smokes! I need a time lasso.
Since time is of the essence, I thought I'd share a healthy and easy recipe that's ready in a pinch. These little egg cups are a great solution for hurried weekday breakfasts and the mix-in possibilities are endless. I like to make these ahead of time, usually at the beginning of the week, and then warm them when I'm ready to eat.
My most recent batch was filled with onions, red and green peppers and a touch of cayenne, but you can use just about anything.
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 large, free-range eggs
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add cayenne.
3. While the onions and peppers cook, whisk the eggs in a large bowl and set aside.
4. Once the onions and peppers are done, let cool slightly and then add to the bowl of whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Coat a muffin pan with coconut oil. Alternatively, you can use non-stick spray to coat the muffin pan. Using a ladle, pour the mixture into the muffin cups.
6. Place muffin pan in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until they puff up and turn golden brown. Use a small knife or spatula to remove the eggs from the pan and serve with your favorite condiments and a side of fresh fruit.
If I had more time, I would have made a fresh salsa verde to spoon over top or something of comparable deliciousness. This morning, I drizzled my trusty condiment, green Tabasco, over the egg cups and served them with a side of fruit. You can add herbs, cheese, meats and whatever else you like. Dill comes to mind. And bacon, mmmm bacon. I stuck to simple vegetables since I've been trying to behave myself. That whole "walking down the aisle with all your friends and family watching" is keeping me on the straight and narrow. Kind of.
Well, I hope these simple egg cups help you maximize your time on those busy mornings when everything has gone buck wild. It'll be one less thing to worry about and if you're anything like me, you need breakfast to keep you from mutating into an evil three-headed, slobbering devil woman.
P.S.- I have a few recipes in the queue that I am really excited about. I hope to get those to you soon, time willing. Happy Thursday!
Have I ever told you about my love affair with nutella?
Well, get comfortable. This may take awhile. I first discovered this sweet nectar of the goddesses while backpacking through Europe in 2003. If you don't know, Nutella and baguette are essential to traipsing through foreign countries on a budget. I blew through entire loaves, ripping and dipping to my heart's content. I felt like a Dr. Seuss book.
I ate it on a train. I ate it on a plane. I ate it with a friend. I ate it 'til no end.
All rhyming aside, it was like the best thing ever and today, I am banned from keeping it in the house. Left to my own devices, nutella finds it way on anything that looks remotely spreadable. Banana? Don't mind if I do! Strawberries? Duh! This savory cracker? Why not? Who cares!
This is the kind of reckless abandon that created the "no-nutella in the house" rule. I'm just NOT allowed. I have no self-control, therefore, absence is the best form of control I can muster. Unless, of course, I'm baking salted nutella tarts for friends.
Then it's okay because it's "not for me
". Or whatever.
I found this recipe on one of my favorite food sites, spoonforkbacon
, and for weeks, talked about making a batch. Do you ever find a recipe and then it's all you think about until you finally make them? This was me.
I'm not sure if it was the recipe or the license to buy nutella that began the obsession. Luckily, the recipe calls for the entire jar so there were no leftovers for me although I did manage to try one. The Mister had one too. He wanted more, but got his paws slapped.
These little nuggets of delight sit inside a super crumbly almond butter crust as evidenced by all the crumbs and imperfections in the pictures above. The crust literally falls apart in your mouth and then there's the nutella. And the salt. And whatever else you choose to add.
Oh, nutella. You'll always have a special place in my heart and each time I don a bikini, I'll forever remember our torrid summer love which began so long ago in Europe.
The Mister and I were recently invited over to dinner with our friends, Laura and Jake, who just so happen to be as gracious and well-versed in the kitchen as they are good-looking. Seriously, when you meet them, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the incredible duo of attractiveness. Even the Mister, after he met Jake for the first time, was all like, "Whoa, now that's a good-looking dude." I have never before and never again heard the Mister comment on any man's looks if that's any testament.
Besides good genes, Laura and Jake are wicked fit and subscribe to a Paleo lifestyle which is essentially a whole-foods based diet that includes lean meats and fish, plenty of vegetables, some fruit and good fats like nuts, avocadoes and coconut oil. It is gluten-free, dairy-free (for most)and free of legumes and grains. Some call it the caveman diet and others call it rather extreme. It's actually not so far off from the diet that the Mister and I subscribe to (although more meat than I tend to eat) and it most definitely seems to be working for our friends.
I was eager to dine in their primal kitchen.
Suffice to say, there was not an empty belly or disappointed soul to be found after dinner that night. Before dinner, we snacked on bacon wrapped dates, the perfect combination of sweet and salty. The bacon was nitrate-free, of course. For the main meal, Jake made a local, grass-fed beef brisket with an amazing dry rub of cocoa, chile, coffee and cumin along with roasted purple sweet potatoes and the rock star side and reason for this post, Brussel Sprout Slaw. That shizz was soooo good.
The recipe came out of this book
, which also happens to be bible for many die-hard Paleo folks. It all starts with bacon which means there's really nowhere for this dish to go but up.
See that sizzle. That becomes the love nest for our brussel sprouts. The recipe calls for a half-pound of bacon, cooked and cut into small dice, then set aside.
A pound of mature brussel sprouts are shredded into slaw-like pieces, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. You can use the food processor, but I like to hand-cut mine. It's all zen and stuff.
Then, the shredded sprouts are sauteed with all the sizzly leftover bacon love until they are bright green and soft.
The sauteed slaw is then reunited with the diced bacon, chopped scallions and a tangy dijon-apple cider dressing.
If the bacon is Cher, this dressing is Sonny.
From Paleo Comfort Foods
: 1/4 cup Dijon mustard2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice1/4 cup olive oil1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper (or more to taste) Whisk all ingredients together and pour over the slaw.
The original recipe called for toasted pecans which I left out. Variations could be anything from the addition of crunchy apples to toasted walnuts and chunks of blue cheese (not Paleo). If swine isn't your thing, use your favorite oil to sautee the brussel sprouts and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
Served warm, the combination of flavors is hard to beat. See that bowl right there. I ate the whole thing after I took photos of it. It is definitely in my "I'll bring a dish" arsenal. Thanks to our friends Laura and Jake for sharing their home and their primal kitchen with us. It was inspiring and delicious!
The first time I ever heard the words vegetarian and restaurant used in the same sentence it was in reference to Moosewood Restaurant
in Ithaca, NY. At the time, I was in middle school and the concept of having a restaurant that served vegetarian fare seemed exotic and way far out. Of course, I was eating Burger King Whoppers and Lucky Charms like it was going out of style too. My tastes have drastically changed and this little restaurant has since revolutionized dining and vegetarian fare in the 20th century. "About Moosewood Restaurant: Moosewood (named after a local maple tree) was begun in September 1972 by a group of friends who enjoyed getting together to cook and eat, and who wanted to engage in a community project. The chosen site was an old brick school building which was being converted into shops offices and dwelling units. It took four months to transform a gymnasium into a ready-to-function-restaurant. After the grand opening in January 1973, more friends of the original seven people joined. Moosewood is now a collectively-owned and worker-managed business with 15 members, who participate in all aspects of running the restaurant from deciding policy to planning menus to changing lightbulbs. There is no singular owner and no "boss". Any profit that accumulates is distributed among the workers or recycled back into the restaurant.
Fast forward twenty years and Moosewood sounds like my kind of place. You could imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this cookbook while visiting the estate of a recently deceased family member. I collect cookbooks and love vintage items so this gem hit on two of my most favorite things.
The book is astounding. Not only was it published in 1977, the entire thing is illustrated and hand-lettered by founding member of the Moosewood Collective
, Mollie Katzen. The pages were well worn with time and, in some instances, stained. You can see some of that in the photos I have here.
The recipes are a collection of beloved vegetarian recipes that span the international gamut from Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Russian, Asian, German, Indian and Mexican. There are whimsical descriptions and titles such as "Celebratory Sandwich Fillings", "Cream of Summer Green" soup, "Mondo Bizarro Sauce" and family recipes like "Montana's Mom's Dynamite Cheesecake." Everything about the book shows a true love of food and genuine enthusiasm radiates from the pages.
There are wonderful tips like "A Good Method for Assembling a Green Leafy Salad" and "How to Make Real Corn Tortillas" as well as options galore. The book offers basic recipes and then provides a wealth of ingredients to add or variations of the recipe to try.
For me, the book conveys the art of cooking in a way that invites the user to play and have fun with the ingredients and each illustration reminds the reader to not take oneself so seriously. Check the Beavis and Butthead-esque illustration below.
And, cue the whimsy...
I mean, how can you NOT smile while reading a book like this!
What blows me away is how revolutionary this type of cooking used to be. It took me at least two decades to become educated about the food I eat and the whole-foods based diet that Moosewood has been pimping for 38 years. So much of their foodlove and business ideas revolve around an enlightened perspective that has yet to reach the majority of Americans.
The Moosewood people are true pioneers and this book is an indication of the genuine community that exists between people and food. Modern day concepts like Kinfolk Magazine
follow a trail blazed by this remarkable community of individuals.
Ah-mazing! I love, love, love my vintage vegetarian find. Hope you do too!