Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Goat Cheese Cake with Apricot and Pistachio

Cheese plate season is upon us. You know the drill... cheddar cubes, summer sausage and a red grape or two. I love a cheese plate, but it gets old after awhile. So I like to mix it up with an unexpected item or two. For a recent trip to the Missouri wineries, I made this delicious Goat Cheese Cake.

Flecked with tart goat cheese, sweet pistachios and sticky apricots, it's a lovely complement to cheese and salami. I'm calling it cake here, but it's not really a dessert thang. More of a savory cake... very European. Look how fancy you are. You're still fancy if you eat the leftovers slathered in butter for breakfast the next day too.

And since the holidays are upon us, I think this is rather fun and delicious take on "fruit cake" as a gift for family and co-workers.  It's a quick mix too, so easy to multiply or make the day of.

Goat Cheese Cake with Apricot and Pistachio
1 cup flour
5-6oz goat cheese, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, toss together flour, goat cheese, apricots, pistachios and baking powder. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the eggs until they are pale. Whisk in olive oil, milk, yogurt and salt. Fold flour mixture into the eggs -- only mix until just combined.

Pour into batter into pan and tap a few times to remove air bubbles. Bake for 30-45 minutes. Poke the center with a toothpick and if it comes out clean the cake is done. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Annnnnnnnnnnnnddddd then I turned 30. Truth be told, I'm feeling weird about it. There is no reasonable explanation and maybe it makes me vapid, but fuck it, I'm allowed to feel weird about it. When the hell did I get this old?

In what is surely a deeply-psychologically rooted slip, I inadvertently invited someone to my 21st birthday party the other day. Embarrassing, but I think telling of any feelings of weirdness. My 20s were amazing and I'm a little sad they will be over.

Living in the light of incredible blessings, I had so much fun, made amazing friends, laughed, cried, freaked out, traveled, hustled to launch my career and met and fell in love with the greatest guy in the world in my 20s. Of course I'm sad it's over. 

What's more, I don't really know how to be a woman in her 30s. Aren't we supposed to be more self-assured, better-dressed and more-established? I'm not sure I'm any of those things yet.

Here's the thing, I need to remind myself that I was just as freaked out at 21. Different challenges, but fear of the unknown is the same. So instead of wallowing in a pit of epic 20s-ending sadness, I'm going to put on a fabulous outfit (new DVF... #treatyoself), sit down to a stellar meal with my favorite guy, pour myself a quality drink and look forward, not back. Take that weird feelings!

The truth is, I know more goodness is to come. More clarity.  Less bullshit. A stronger foundation. Fewer worries about the opinions of others. Maybe a little less heavy-drinking on a Tuesday, but surely goodness. 

And as for my 21st birthday compared to 30th... let's just hope I don't barf in anyone's hair this time. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Favorites and My Tips

Last year was the first time I hosted Thanksgiving. I'd been doing the cooking for years, but always in someone else's home. And what a pleasure it was to have both sides of my family under one roof. To have so many people I love at one table and to serve them a delicious meal was truly my greatest pleasure.

As you no doubt have seen on endless hours of food TV programming and magazine cover after cover... cooking for Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Don't let the hype scare you. Sure, a delicious meal is where it's at, but it's most important to make the most of the precious time with your friends and family. Here are my tips to get the best of both worlds.

Make Your Favorites, But Make Them Well
This day only comes once a year and special foods have a way of making their way into our hearts. Don't fight it for the sake of culinary trend. Enjoy making timeless family favorites, but be sure to take a moment to savor the memory and prepare them well.

My old school favorites? Try my Healthier Green Bean Casserole and a Morgan-family favorite steeped in tradition, Spiced Peaches.

Try One New Thing
You never know when you're going to find a new family favorite and that's why I try one new thing each year. Be it a side dish or dessert, there is always something new to discover. My "new" brussels sprouts from a few years back are now being requested by my sister-in-law and 1st grade nephew. Growing up I had the canned cranberry stuff, but then discovered the amazingness that is Cranberry Salsa when I spent the holiday with my in-laws.

All proof that just a touch of new is a good thing.

Let People Help You
Easier said, than done... I know. We get all this crazy Pinterest shit in our minds and think we need to do it all (and perfectly). The truth is, your guests want to help, so welcome it! My best tip is to be specific with your guests. Rather than say "bring a side" ask them to bring "those delicious sweet potatoes with the pecans you make." This helps you as a hostess better plan and prepare.

But helping doesn't just go for guests. Get your family involved. My husband rocks and fries our turkey every year. I only cede control because fried turkey is the best damn thing in the world. But in all honesty, it's a HUGE weight off of my cooking shoulders. Also in our family that means wearing ridiculous headlamps. #MorePeanutOil

Get Organized Now
Plan your list and get ahead now. My handy timeline is helpful, but take the time to think through your own. The day before is the best time to get your prep work out of the way and get those pies made. Best part? AMC marathons Gone with the Wind. Watch all seventeen hours and taste your masterpiece as you go. As God as my witness, you'll never go hungry or lose your Thanksgiving mind again.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Eggplant Pomegranate Dip

I get really excited when I'm describing my food to people. And maybe that's weird. I'm enthusiastic enough, in fact, that a newbie at the office called me out on the excited tone in my description of leftovers at lunch. And if you know me well, you know there's nothing I love more than someone asking me what I'm cooking.

But these waxing descriptions aren't about bragging for me, it's about taking time to celebrate things that are beautiful and good. The ho-hum of everyday is filled with so many functional conversations, so there is something refreshing about pontificating for a moment on the humble paper plate filled with my own personal expression of passion, color and outrageous flavor.

I think that's just it... it's personal for me. Ask me about what I'm cooking and it's probably a good window into my life on any given day. Perhaps I reveal too much, but you can rest assured, if I'm cooking, I'm happy and maybe that's why I get so geeked about leftovers. Now,  if I'm eating my 4th day in a row of Jimmy John's delivery with a Diet Coke... steer clear.

But let's focus on what's good in the world and that's good leftovers. This recipe I picked up from Plenty, by Yottam Ottolenghi, was one of the better bits of leftovers I've had in awhile. Enjoy as a dip or in a salad. The tart pop of pomegranate is restaurant-caliber flavor and worthy of tracking down pomegranate molasses for.

Eggplant Pomegranate Dip
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic glove, minced
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup seedless cucumber, chopped (optional, but good if you want to make more substantial)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional, but good if you want to make more substantial)
Pomegranate seeds
Olive oil

Heat oven broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and pierce the eggplants all over with a fork. Broil eggplants, turn occasionally for 1 hour. They should be burnt and black on the outside.

Cool eggplants until you can handle them, then slice in half and scoop out the flesh. Roughly chop and place in colander for 30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine drained eggplant with tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in cucumber and tomato, if you choose.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with flatbread or crackers and enjoy.

Recipe inspired by Yottam Ottolenghi's PLENTY -- a simply fantastic cookbook. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tamarind Roasted Vegetables

What's the point if you never try anything new? Seriously, if variety is truly the spice of life, why do we relegate ourselves to eating the same things and cooking with the same ingredients? I suppose it's habit and comfort with the familiar, but if you can't break out of your box on the plate, where can you? Honestly the worst that could happen would be that you don't like it. There... I've convinced you, so let's try something new.

I'm a roasted vegetable lover and it's becoming the time of year when I'll roast off all kinds of veggie goodies on a Sunday to include in salads throughout the week. Knowing I'm a veggie lover, my Stepmother passed along a recipe from her neighbor for a new twist on roasted veg punched up with tamarind paste.

Tamarind paste was certainly not an ingredient I was familiar with, but now I'm obsessed. It has a distinct tang that really brightens up the natural flavors of vegetable. I combined with another new ingredient in my repetoire -- coconut oil -- for a flavor-packed approach. The results are a Indian-tinged melange that is a great side or salad topper. For other recipes, I've been throwing a bit of it into stir frys... yum.

It's a simple prep... just chopping and tossing around with clean hands. Then into a very hot oven to develop some flavor. 

Move it around a few times during the roast and scrape the bottom good stuff. That's how you get that gorgeous color.

Tamarind Roasted Vegetables
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 lb brussel sprouts, halved
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
One inch piece ginger, grated
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon curry
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil or Silpat. Toss peppers, onion, spouts and chickpeas with garlic, cilantro, ginger, coriander, curry, salt, pepper, tamarind paste, coconut oil and brown sugar. Arrange in one layer and place in the oven. 

Roast for 30-40 minutes, until color starts to develop on sprouts, but they are still somewhat firm. Toss twice during roasting. Cool for a few minutes before serving warm. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baked Potato Scones

Can carbs inspire carbs? The answer is definitively yes! I was looking for a way to work through my chive plant in the back garden. Naturally I thought of cheesey baked potatoes, loaded with sour cream and those tiny green flecks. But ya know, I'm not quite that cold yet (rest assured... it'll happen). Then I thought, self... what if you turned all that baked potato goodness into a carb that is socially acceptable to eat at both breakfast and dinner? That's it...scones!

Scones are the triangular cousin of biscuits. Equally butter-y and flakey, but with an inexplicable fancy flair. And let me tell you... homemade and warm are the only way to enjoy them. Walk away from that dried out hockey puck in the Starbuck's pastry case.

As a lover of cheese, I actually prefer a savory scone to a sweet one and man, oh, man do these deliver. With a food processor the dough is a breeze, after just a bit in the oven you'll have warm savory, potato-y goodness.

Enjoy with dinner and put a fried egg on it for breakfast. I die. So good.

Baked Potato Scones
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut in cubes
1 egg beaten
3 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
salt, pepper and paprika, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment or silpat. 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in bowl of food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse 10-15 times until butter is cut into peas size pieces. Dump flour and butter into a large bowl. 

In a separate bowl, combine egg, water and sour cream. Add liquids to the butter mixture and mix with a fork. Add chives and cheeses and knead dough together on a floured board. The dough will be dry and shaggy, but will come together in a few kneads. Stop kneading as soon as it is combined. Form into a 1-1 1/2 inch thick disc. Cut into 8 triangles and carefully place on baking sheet. 

Brush with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle on kosher salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden and fluffy. Serve warm and enjoy. 

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Simple Secrets: Basil Pesto

I had a lot of basil. Like a lot. I found a sunny spot in the backyard and all summer long enjoyed the bounty of a big ass basil plants. Those delicious leaves were called upon for every caprese and batch of scrambled eggs (and even a few cocktails), but the season is drawing to a close. Rather than let all that bright green die back, I wanted to capture the flavor in pesto.

I have to brag for a moment here. As someone who once killed a drug store bamboo... and a houseplant... and numerous orchids... and a few lavender plants... I'm incredibly impressed that I kept this basil alive. I should really give the credit to the Husband who does the watering, but let me feel a bit of horticultural pride.

Pesto couldn't be easier and is oh-so versatile. In one week alone we enjoyed it upon grilled flank steak, mixed with angel hair pasta and cut with lemon juice as salad dressing. If can freeze it too and enjoy a bit of summer in the inevitable depths of winter. Simply mix with olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays.

Basil Pesto
1/2 cup pine nuts
4oz parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup olive oil

Combine pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add basil and lemon juice and process until chopped. Turn on the processor and stream in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Roasted Tomato Tart

The book club ladies were coming and I was craving a late-summer treat. If you haven't noticed from my keyword sidebar tool, I'm addicted to tomatoes. This time of year, I literally eat them almost every day and I'm trying to get every last sweet bite in before fall arrives. And goodness, with a monster basil plant in the backyard -- you heard me right, I didn't kill it yet -- my tomatoes have had the perfect compliment all summer.

Okay, okay... you get it... I love tomatoes. But I love this tart too. It's a show-stopper. Bright and beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes roasted until they just burst with juice. Needless to say, it was completely gone by time the book conversation ended and the wine glasses were emptied.

With a puff pastry shell, it's a pretty quick turn dish. You could easily repurpose the filling to suit what's in season too.

Book clubs and tomato tarts. Pretty much the best.

Roasted Tomato Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
Flour -- for sprinkling
1 small log goat cheese, softened
2 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Chopped basil, for garnish

Allow puff pastry to thaw according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Flour your surface and rolling pin and then roll out puff pastry large enough to fit a 10-inch tart pan. Carefully lay into tart pan. Use a paring knife to lightly score the pastry along the bottom rim, where the bottom meets the sides. Prick the bottom of the pastry surface all over with a fork.

Bake puff pastry for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool and remove carefully from tart plan. If preparing a day ahead, store in an airtight container.

Preheat broiler on the low setting.

On the day of serving, melt butter and sugar together in a pan over medium heat until caramelized. Add tomatoes to pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat tomatoes in caramel mixture. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While tomatoes cook, spread softened goat cheese in the bottom of the tart shell. Broil on low for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melty. Use a slotted spoon to carefully arrange tomatoes on top of goat cheese. Drizzle remaining sauce over tart and garnish with basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Weeknight Idea: Nectarine Shrimp Tacos

Okay okay... I know your Facebook feed is full of first day of school pictures and you're dreaming of a new Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, but Fall's not here yet. Especially in the produce aisle. So put off that damn Pumpkin Spice Latte for a few more weeks and enjoy the freshness while you still can.

When fruit is this good, take it beyond breakfast and try a savory preparation. I love sweet stone fruits in cool dishes this time of year and the flavors of Mexican cuisine lend themselves really well to using fruits. I whipped up these nectarine tacos in under 20 minutes on a weeknight. Fresh, spicy, sweet and crisp.

Pumpkins and boots are coming, but live in the moment why don't you? The nectarines will thank you.

Nectarine Shrimp Tacos
1/2lb cooked shrimp (thaw the frozen stuff or use grilled, if you have it)
1 large avocado, chopped
2 ripe nectarines, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon mango chutney
2 generous pinches salt
6 corn tortillas

Toss together shrimp with avocado, nectarines, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, chutney and salt. Serve in warm tortillas and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kale and Tahini Salad

I've been hitting the kale salads hard this summer. I've done a lot of different versions here -- from massaged to citrus to anchovy -- but this tahini take may be my favorite yet. With a nutty flavor and creamy texture, it gives kale some flavorful heft without the insane calories of a cheese or mayo based dressing. 

If you're not familiar, tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is common in Middle Eastern dishes. When you put it with lemon juice it's got a depth of flavor that's sometimes hard to put your finger on, but makes you say "hmmmm."

The dressing and kale would be great on it's own, but with some spiced chickpeas, veggies, quinoa and grilled chicken this summer salad sings with flair and is a fulfilling dinner or lunch. 

Kale and Tahini Salad
1 shallot, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups kale, washed and chopped
2 red peppers, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 cup spiced chickpeas
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced

Combine shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, salt and pepper in a jar and shake. Toss together dressing with kale and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. Top with red peppers, tomato, quinoa, chickpeas and chicken. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sweet Corn Succotash

The truth is, I don't really cook that much in the summer. Okay, that's relative... I mean, I'm always cooking, but the way I do it changes big time in the warmer months. In the winter I make more composed, planned dishes, but summer is more freewheeling. If you let the produce lead you in the summer, you'll not only have delicious meals, but spare time to slip n'slide and chase the ice cream man.

This week's corn was too gorgeous to pass up, so I found it some friends for the world's freshest summer succotash.

Summer corn, tomatoes and green beans were basically born to be best summer friends. They even made friendship bracelets at camp. Shallots, basil and chives are part of the group too, but let's get real, corn, tomatoes and green beans are really the most popular ones. 

Pardon my imaginary foray into pre-teen vegetable social dynamics. The bottom line is that corn, tomatoes and green beans taste amazing in July and you should eat them all together. And you don't need to do much to have a delicious dinner. That's the beauty of summer cooking.

Sweet Corn Succotash
2 ears sweet corn
2 cups green beans, ends snapped off
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Prepare corn according to your preference -- either boiled or grilled (my preference). Once cooked, cut the kernels off the cob and place in a large bowl.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add green beans. Cook for 1-2 minutes until they turn bright green. Remove from boiling water and immediately put in an ice bath. Once completely cooled, drain and add to large bowl with corn.

Toss corn and green bean mixture with tomatoes, basil, chives, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cocktail Hour: Bourbon Slush

It's summer and the living is easy. We spent the weekend front-porching and relaxing by a river at a ranch with old friends. And after a full day sweating it out in the sun, having a refreshing slush waiting in the freezer was pretty amazing. What bourbon too? I could feel the unwinding down to my sunburnt toes.

This make ahead wonder is fabulous for a summer crowd. It's ice-y texture and sweet, tart flavor hits the spot.

Bourbon Slush
6oz frozen lemonade, thawed
12oz frozen OJ, thawed
2 cups good-quality bourbon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups brewed tea, cooled
5 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours. Remove from freezer about 10 minutes before serving and stir to "slush it up." Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to Hang a Gallery Wall

The devil is in the details. While all the big things are done in our new house, it feels like there are thousand small things -- namely about a thousand pieces of art that need to be hung. Give an art history nerd a nice camera and you get a lot of hanging to do. 

In my past few places I've had a nice gallery wall of special stuff, including our engagement photos, vintage photos of people we love, some photobooth shots and even some cute little notes from the Husband from when we were dating. I love every piece of it, but hanging it was, frankly, a bitch. 

The first time, nothing was aligned (and not in a cute way), there were holes everywhere and it was in no way was what I had in envisioned. Turns out you don't have to jack up your walls and drive yourself into a decorating fugue state. There is a better way. 

The DIY geniuses over at Young House Love have a templating technique that is just too good not to share. Here's how it works...

Pick your spot and the art you want to put up. It's good to have a mix of sizes and shapes, so that you get that collage effect, but every space is different. The good news is, you'll have a chance to feel it out before you ever start hammering, so you can be flexible. 

Use some old newspaper to trace and cut a template for each frame. Great way to recycle your old copy of a local food paper (thanks Sauce!). 

Here's where it gets brilliant, use a pencil to polk through the newspaper where the frame hangers are on each. No measuring needed and no worries if your cheap-frames have inconsistent hardware. The template is doing the work here, not you.

Once all of your templates are cut and marked, start arranging with tape on the wall. Give a few arrangements a try and add/remove items until it's just right.

Once you find the arrangement that speaks to you (I sound like Oprah and that's fine by me), simply hammer in nails where you marked for the hardware on the template. See? No measuring... I promised. 

You hammer right through the newspaper and then just tear it away. Hang your art on the perfectly placed nails and make sure nothing is tilted. Voila... gallery wall complete!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad

Vacation is coming! It's true. I'm headed to the mountains with my two life-long besties, husbands in tow. For three gals that couldn't be much more different in adult life, there is an intangible something that makes it feel like we haven't been apart a day, even when it's been a few years. Isn't that wonderful how that works in life? Those relationships are rare, so I count mine as pretty special.

And to make it all the better, we all three love to cook and eat, so you can better there is some bites (and sips) in store. The menu is filled with all kinds of grilling and cocktail goodness, but we have to have some standby sides on tap too.

One of the girls is vegetarian and loves fruit, so I was trying to come up with a few hearty salads to have on hand. I recently tried out this rice salad from Plenty and man it is good! This cookbook has gotten me so inspired to try new veggie recipes. This one from the grains chapter will be perfect as a dinnertime side and the leftovers will make for great snacking fare on the mountain.

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad
2/3 cups brown jasmine rice
1 cup black rice
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mint leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup basil leaves, roughly choppped
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 mangos, chopped
1 head green leaf lettuce

Prepare jasmine rice according to package instructions. Spread on a baking sheet to cool. Separately prepare black rice and allow to cool.

Toss cooked jasmine and black rice together with red bell pepper, basil, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno, lemon, peanuts, coconut and peanut oil. Gently fold in mangos, taking care not to overstir (they'll fall apart).

Serve over lettuce and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Yottam Ottolenghi

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad

First of all, thanks so much for all of the kind wishes on our new home. We're settling in nicely and the Type A in me can't let it rest until every little thing finds a place. We are by no means "done," but it's starting to feel like we actually live here.

On one of our many recent trips to the hardware store (seriously, I feel like we go daily), we had some priority shopping to do. A GRILL! We are now the proud owners of a genuine Weber grill and I know there is tasty stuff to come. You see, I grew up with a Weber-purist for a father, so I've been endlessly lectured on the true benefits of charcoal over gas. And there is no sense in trying to fight him on it, because your mouth is probably full.

I've never had a nice grill before, so this is seriously exciting. In Chicago we had a Craigslist gas grill, that while crappy, served us well. True story... when we bought the thing, it wouldn't fit in our car and the Husband pushed it home a mile. Have I mentioned he's the best?

But anyway, back to the grilling. We now have an awesome grill and I'm planning some awesome grilled stuff. First up? Grilled Romaine Caesar. You've surely all had a pitiful Caesar salad from you local fast-casual restaurant, but let me tell you, the real deal is so much better. And when you grill the romaine too? Yum!

I know... grilling lettuce sounds weird, but it gives this great smoky flavor and brings out the sweetness of your greens. The char gives you an extra bit of crunch too. 

Simply halve romaine hearts and pop on the grill when your chicken is almost done. I love to grill bread, instead of croutons too. Brings it all together.

Drizzle with homemade caesar dressing and enjoy immediately. I'm usually big on leftovers, but this is a recipe that is a night-of kind of thing. 

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (or just 2 if they're big)
2 hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
4 slices crusty bread

Preheat grill. Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium direct until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (about 4-6 minutes per side). 

While chicken grills prepare dressing by combining garlic, anchovy paste, egg yolk, lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan in a food processor. Buzz until combined and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 

Brush bread with a bit of dressing on each side and grill for 1-2 minutes per side. Rub romaine hearts with remaining olive oil and grill for 1 minute, cut side down. 

Drizzle dressing over chicken and romaine and serve immediately with grilled bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Our First House

Today is a pretty big day. We can now count ourselves as proud homeowners! This 110 year old beauty in St. Louis' Tower Grove South neighborhood is all ours.

You hear a lot about homeownership being a milestone and I think what they say is true. It feels pretty major. This home is only possible because of years of hard work by the Husband and me. All those drudge-worthy career dues paid, years of un-airconditioned apartments sweating it out and shoe shopping trips avoided were all for this. We did it all on our own and I'm so proud of us.

While this beauty was rehabbed a few years back, she needs a serious infusion of taste and non-beige-ness (totally a word), so there's certainly more to come. One cannot live on food porn and recipes alone. Now we're off to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sweet Pea Pesto

Pesto always appears so gourmet, but it's the easiest thing this side of your food processor. When was this great rumor about pesto fanciness spread? Do you think it was some council of old timey Italians scheming to fool Popes and Doges? I'm painting a great mental visual on that one that includes elaborate headwear and painterly hand gestures.

Whoa... I just went all college art history on pesto. Let's all calm down and eat some noodles. Here's the deal... pesto is simple and people think it's fancy. No sense in telling them it's super easy, just take the credit.

This version strays from the traditional basil, subbing in springy peas, mint and arugula; all rounded out with asparagus and prosciutto. And seriously, I made this in about 15 minutes on a weeknight. Fancy weeknight win!

Sweet Pea Pesto
1 bunch asparagus, cut in 1-inch chunks
1lb angel hair pasta
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 handfuls arugula
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook for two minutes. Use a skimmer to remove asparagus to a bowl of ice water. Add pasta to remaining boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Combine peas, parmesan, mint, arugula, salt and pepper in food processor. Pulse several times and then stream in olive oil while processor runs.

Add prosciutto to a small pan over medium heat and cook until lightly crisped, about 2-3 minutes.

Toss cooked pasta with pesto sauce and asparagus. Top with prosciutto and enjoy.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cocktail Hour: Cilantro Citrus Spritzer

What the heck is a spritzer anyhow? Well, I'm now defining it as any fizzy, fresh and fancy cocktail. And yeah... it's my blog, so I'm going to write my own cocktail definitions. Or maybe I'm wayyyyy off?

Swammy? Slippy? Swanson? Spritzer?

Anywhoodle... now the it's heating up around here, I'm in the mood for something more refreshing than my red wine. Enter the summer spritzer -- cold and tart. This version I whipped up on one of our first hot evenings has the herbacious bite of cilantro with lip-puckering citrus, all rounded out with a bit of sweet and cooling coconut.

Cilantro Citrus Spritzer
Makes two generous cocktails
4 shots good-quality vodka
Juice of 1 lime, plus a few slices
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a few slices
1 handful cilantro leaves
1 can LaCroix coconut soda water (If you can't find it, sub for 1part coconut water, 1 part club soda)

Combine vodka, lime juice, lemon juice, cilantro and ice in a cocktail shaker. Give it a vigorous shake and pour into big glasses and top off with coconut water. Garnish with lemon and lime slices and enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Simple Secrets: Adobo Chicken

I'm usually one for fresh ingredients, but still certainly have a few pantry staples. One of my favorites is canned chipotle peppers. These smoked jalapenos can be found in petite cans with adobo sauce and lordy, it makes an easy marinade.

If you like spicy and smokey, you'll die for this quick sauce. A quick buzz in the food processor and you've got a delicious flavoring for grilled chicken. Chop it up and you've got saucy tacos ready for any taco Tuesday. Tacos not your jam? Try this solo or to spice up a salad.

Simply combine the canned peppers with fresh lime juice and garlic in a food processor. Buzz, brush and grill.

I usually reserve a bit of the marinade to toss with the cooked meat, especially if I'm making tacos. It gives the extra saucy punch and whew... brings delicious heat.

Layer the adobo chicken into corn tortillas and add cabbage, cilantro and avocado. This flavorful meat will give even the best taquerias a run for their money. And who knew it could be so easy?

Adobo Chicken
1 can chipotle chilis, in adobo sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves
3 chicken breasts (I prefer bone-in for grilling)

Combine chilis and sauce with lime juice and garlic in a food processor. Buzz until smooth and combined. Reserve a 1/2 cup sauce and brush the rest over chicken.

Grill chicken over medium-direct heat for 6-10 minutes or until 165 degrees internally. Remove from grill and allow to rest about 10 minutes. If preparing tacos, chop and toss with remaining sauce. This chicken is also excellent on its own or over salad. Enjoy!