Friday Five: #foodpornfriday 2.0

Hello! It is time for another #foodpornfriday. Right now I am mostly likely in a Thanksgiving-induced state of bliss. So I want to share some of my bliss with you through delicious food pictures.

Disclaimer: All of these recipes are from Cooking Light. They all look totally amazing, right? I was reading the most recent issue the other night and found myself pinning so many recipes. Delicious looking food made lighter? I’m game. I’ve made a few Cooking Light recipes before and they have all turned out great. Hopefully I’ll be making these sooner rather than later.

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Chickpea and Sausage Minestrone. It has been so cold and dreary here the past few days all I want to make is soup. This looks so good and so hearty. Get in my belly.

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Couscous with Winter Vegetables. I would eat this as a main but you could definitely serve this as a side. I might try this out with farro instead of couscous because  I am a wild and crazy kid.

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Garlicky Turnip Fries. I think I’d try this out with parsnips instead of a turnips (I mean, a root vegetable is a root vegetable, am I right?). I tried to make parsnip fries once and they were OK. I think if I used my fancy new mandolin to cut the fries, I’d have much better luck.

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Smashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese. I feel like this really doesn’t need much of an explanation. GOAT CHEESE PEOPLE.

oh-vanilla-bean-baked-custard-lVanilla Bean Baked Custard. I had to include a dessert in this post. And I just love vanilla anything. This uses my trusty vanilla bean paste I mentioned a week or so ago. Must try this one out soon.

Giving thanks

I think everyone knows my feelings about Thanksgiving. I just love it. And tomorrow at this time, I will be surrounded by my entire family, enjoying everything the holiday has to offer.

It has been an exciting year for both Eric and myself. We moved. We both got new jobs. We traveled a lot. I started this blog. I have a lot for which to be thankful.

I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who have read this blog over the past few months. I don’t do it to gain tons and tons of readers. I do it because I love food and I love writing about food and if someone out there finds ones of my recipes, makes it and likes it, then my job here is done.

So THANK you Kitchen Casual readers. I hope all of you and your families have an excellent Thanksgiving.

Baked brie with cranberries

This isn’t so much as a recipe as a public service announcement.

We were at Trader Joe’s over the weekend and they were stocked with all sorts of holiday goodies. I love their peppermint stuff as much as I love their pumpkin stuff. Trader Joe’s FTW. They had a ton of Thanksgiving-themed samples, from turkey and stuffing to pie and cider. The one thing I bought was this cranberry orange relish.

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Pilgrim Joe’s — how cute is that? This stuff is killer. Tangy and sweet. Reminds me of everything that is delicious about the holidays. They were demoing it mixed with Greek yogurt, but my mind went to where it normally goes — cheese.

Hmmm, I thought, this would be delicious as a cheese topping. What cheese shall I use? Oh I know — brie.

Brie is a cheese with such a delicate flavor, I knew the tang of the cranberry would pair nicely with it. Warm and delicious baked brie on a chilly fall or winter night? Sign me up.

photoSome friends came over to watch football on Saturday night so I whipped this up. I only used part of the brie mostly because I didn’t want to mess up and entire wheel of brie. That’d be tragic. But it was a success and I highly suggest you run to TJ’s to get this relish before it goes away.

Baked Brie with Cranberries

Brie (either a whole or partial, depending on how much you want)
Cranberry Orange Relish

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2) Place the brie on an oven safe dish. Use a knife to cut off the top rind of the brie. Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes.

3) After 8 minutes, remove brie and top with the cranberry relish. Add however much you want. I probably covered the top with about 1/4 inch of the relish. Return to oven and bake for another 6 minutes.

4) Remove from the oven and serve with crackers or a baguette.

Friday Five: Thanksgiving Edition

Let’s have a moment for the awesomeness that is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Back when I worked at a newspaper, I only got off one holiday this time of year — Thanksgiving or Christmas. I always chose Thanksgiving. And I always came home. Because my mom’s Thanksgiving is the best Thanksgiving in the universe (yes, I am biased).

Thanksgiving in my family is a multiple day event that starts Wednesday night and goes all the way through Friday. I love everything about it, but there are certain things that are my favorites. And that is what I am going to be talking about today. These are my favorite things about this epically, awesome holiday.

1) Waking up that morning and smelling the turkey in the oven. Back when we lived in DC, we’d get in to Atlanta Wednesday night and I’d wake up in my parents’ house the next morning to the delicious smell of turkey roasting in the oven (minus one year my brother accidentally turned off the oven. He is never going to live that down). This year since we live in Atlanta, I’ll get my first whiff of this delicious smell when we arrive at my parents house Thanksgiving morning. 

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2) Game time. The actual meal. We eat pretty early in the afternoon (so everyone can get in a nice nap while watching football). And sitting down at that Thanksgiving table is awesome. Obviously the turkey is important, but I like to load up on my mom’s delicious stuffing and sweet potato casserole (this stuff is like crack and it is amazing). And of course I eat a few Pillsbury crescent rolls.

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3) After everyone gets in their afternoon nap and football watching, we usually eat pie before we kick off an evening of games (we’re a big games-playing family). We usually have three pies — pumpkin, pecan and apple. Pumpkin and pecan are by far my favorites. This year, Eric is making his addictive peanut butter pie to add to the mix and I am handling baking the pecan pie. Never made a pecan pie so I’m slightly nervous. I’ll share the results here.

4) After a few hours of game playing, it’s time for turkey sandwiches (we take eating very seriously). The sandwiches we like to make are super simple — white bread, turkey, iceberg lettuce and some mayo. So simple, so delicious. I could go for one right now.

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5) On the day after Thanksgiving, my mom makes turkey soup. She uses the turkey bones to make her own stock, chocks it full of leftover turkey, carrots and usually star-shaped pasta. We eat it for dinner with lots of crackers, salt and pepper. It is so simple and so delicious and definitely a highlight for me.

What are you favorite parts about Thanksgiving?

The pantry’s most valuable players

I try to keep our fridge and pantry as well stocked as possible. I have found over my years of cooking that there are some items that are harder to keep fresh than others and some that will just last until I need to use them.

I have found a few pantry standouts that I always have on hand that just make cooking easier for me. They are simple ways to add flavor or to cut down on prep time.
pantry items glass jars
Bouillon: I am a big fan of bouillon.  I very rarely keep chicken stock around because I don’t go through it quick enough without it going bad. Pop a bouillon cube in some boiling water — boom. Chicken stock. I find I don’t notice a difference either between bouillon and stock. I sometimes find it a tad salty, and then I’ll just dilute it with some water. But I probably reach for bouillon a few times a week.
Flavored olive oil: I love me some flavored olive oil. My friend and I bought a Living Social deal for one of those fancy olive oil shops back when I lived in DC (for those who are curious, it was Olio in Old Town Alexandria). Going around and tasting all the different varieties was so much fun for a foodie like me. I left with two in particular that have been staples of mine ever since — Sundried Tomato Parmesan Garlic Olive Oil and White Truffle Garlic Olive Oil. I use these for a simple pasta sauce or on veggies before roasting. The little bottles I got have lasted me a long time, but when they eventually run out, I think I might try to infuse some of my own.
Spices: Some herbs are just better fresh — basil, cilantro, sage. But I find that sometimes dried herbs are just as good if not better, and they are a lot easier to keep and store. One of my favorites is ground ginger. I love fresh ginger, but I have never used up a whole little root, despite how many recipes I’ve made. A little spring of ground ginger in a stir fry or some quinoa can really give a dish some zip. I’m also a big fan of high quality chili powder — it makes a huge difference when cooking tacos or chili. Another one of my favorites is vanilla bean paste. I love vanilla bean in many things. It adds depth of flavor to plain chocolate chip cookies, pound cake or even waffles. Vanilla beans themselves can be quite expensive, but vanilla bean paste is just as good, if not better. I highly recommend picking up a jar.
Pre-chopped garlic: As an Italian, I feel like it is sacrilege to say that garlic chopped and stored in oil is a pantry favorite. But I just cannot help it. It is so convenient. I use it more in everyday recipes — if I was making something for a special occasion I would bust out the fresh stuff.
Let me know in the comments what are your MVPs of the pantry. 

Quinoa with ginger and soy

We got back from Miami and ate nothing but carbs for the rest of the week. Seriously. Dinner went pasta, pizza, pasta then pizza. Sunday night rolled around and I figured we should detox a little bit with something healthy so I whipped up some grilled salmon, broccoli and a new quinoa concoction.

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I used one of my easy marinades on the salmon and just steamed the broccoli. The quinoa has a bit of an Asian-flare, seasoned with gingers and soy and topped with scallions. It was a great compliment to the salmon. So happy Monday. Everyone go eat some quinoa.

Quinoa with ginger and soy

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp ginger (I used powdered, but you could use fresh)
1 clove garlic
Soy sauce to taste
Scallions, as garnish

1) Heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add quinoa and toast for a few minutes. Mix in the chicken broth and ginger and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until all the liquid has absorbed, about 30 minutes.
2) Fluff quinoa with a fork. Add soy sauce. I found about three or four dashes to be enough. Just add until you get the flavor you like. But be careful — too much soy will make it quite salty.
3) Stir in scallions and serve. This is also good leftover, reheated or chilled.

Friday Five: #foodpornfriday

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you blink and it’s Friday? And you know don’t where all the time went? Well that was me this week. Between our mini vacation and three packed days of work upon our return, Friday sort of snuck up on my. But I am going to make it up to you by sharing some pictures of amazing food porn. You’re welcome. I’m thinking about instituting #foodpornfriday, in the same vein as #throwbackthursday. Let me know your thoughts. UPDATE: It appears #foodpornfriday is already a thing. Drat. Oh well. I’ll gladly hop on the bandwagon.

dessert-cranberry-cobbler-018-med109000_vertCranberry cobbler. This would make a great Thanksgiving dessert (if you wanted to break from traditional pies). Recipe here from my go to girl, Martha Stewart.

MG_9256Grilled sourdough with herbed ricotta and marinated tomatoes. From Simply Delicious.

8483208657_5fd8fdef68Skillet Baked Stuffed Rigatoni from Heather Cristo. I have been eyeing this recipe for months. I might have a date with my cast iron skillet soon.

1205_edf_quiche_vertGoat cheese quiche with a hash brown crust, again from Martha Stewart. I made this last year for Christmas brunch with my brother and his wife and it was bananas awesome. You used an entire log of goat cheese. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Needless to say I am looking for an opportunity to make it again.

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Nutella baklava from Epicurean Mom. Excuse me while I go eat a spoonful of nutella…

Roasted Tomato Soup with Kale and White Beans

OK so I lied. This post is up on Thursday as opposed to Wednesday. I was fully intending to write this when we got back on Tuesday night, but a combination of a lingering back problem and a packed day of work on Wednesday has pushed this soup post back a day. But I think it is worth the wait.

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Tomato soup is probably my favorite soup. There is nothing quite as comforting as a bowl of rich, creamy tomato soup. I had been wanting to make my own tomato soup for awhile and then one day, this recipe popped in to my head. It was super easy to make and took less than an hour. This recipe made two lunches worth of soup for me, so  double the ingredients if you are making this for a crowd.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Kale and White Beans

6 to 8 roma tomatoes, cut in half (roma tomatoes work the best for this recipe)
1 large yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 can of white beans (whichever type you prefer)
3 cups kale, washed and chopped
Salt and pepper

1) Roast the tomatoes. Preheat over to 375 degrees. Place the cut tomatoes on a baking sheet along with half of the onion, cut in to big pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, add the spices and toss until they are coated. Place in oven and roast for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops of the tomatoes look a little caramelized, but not burned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before placing them in a soup or stock pot.

2) While the tomatoes are cooling, heat up a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Saute the other half of the onion, also cut in to large pieces, until softened. Then add white beans and cook for another few minutes. At this point you can either pick out the onions and add to the roasted tomatoes and onions or leave them whole.

3) Use an immersion blender to puree the tomatoes and onions until the mixture is smooth. I left mine a little chunky as a matter of taste. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully add the roasted tomatoes and onions to a regular blender and blend until smooth. Then pour the soup in to the pot.

4) Heat the soup over medium-high heat for five minutes, or until the soup is hot enough for you. Add the white beans and kale and simmer until the kale has wilted. If after the kale is wilted you’d like a thinner soup, add some water or stock until the desired consistency is reached. You could serve immediately or let sit for up to an hour. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Greetings from South Florida

I know it is kinda late but I just wanted to pop on and say “HELLO” from South Florida. We’ve been enjoying a few days in the sun, checking out Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and eating some delicious food. I’ll be back to normal posting Wednesday (I got an awesome soup recipe for you). But for now, I leave you with this mouthwatering photo of cannoli gelato I took at a shop on Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale.

Drool
Drool

Friday Five

1) I am a chronic snacker. I feel like I purposely eat smaller meals so I won’t feel as guilty that I snack as much as I do. One of my favorite go-to nighttime snacks is microwave “baked” apples. I love me some baked apples all warm and cinnamony-y, but who wants to go to all that effort for a nighttime snack? I make them in the microwave. Slice up an apple (I find granny smiths work best), drizzle with a bit of honey, add a sprinkle of cinnamon. Microwave for 45 second to a minute until the apples are tender. Enjoy. If you are really feeling sassy, top with some whipped cream.

2) As a transplanted Southern, I love me some grits. Specifically cheese grits. I have never been able to replicate the richness of cheese grits I get at restaurants — until just this week.

Shrimp and grits
Shrimp and grits

The grits in this shrimp and grits were fantastic. Best part? I used this recipe from Cooking Light, so now I can make them all the time and not feel super guilty about it.

3) For as much as I like cooking, there are just some weeks when I don’t feel all that enthused about making dinner. That’s how I was this week. I blame daylight saving time. It’s dark at like 5:30 pm. It makes me want to sit on the couch. But luckily, I always have some sort of lazy dinner idea in my back pocket. One night we had these kale and white bean ravioli. Last night we had pumpkin pancakes for dinner. I don’t hate it.

4) I went to the allergist this week to get tested. While I found out I am allergic to cats (which is problematic seeing as we have one) I was SO thankful that I am not allergic to any food. I always feel for people who can’t have shellfish or nuts. Yes, food is so important to me that being allergic to something would be tragic.

5) Eric and I are heading to Miami this weekend for a little mini-break. Needless to say, I’ve very excited to lay out on South Beach.

travel-blog-miami-beach-950x635Of course I am also excited about eating. We made reservations for dinner at Local House for Sunday. And we’re definitely going to get some Cuban food and stone crab (hopefully from Joe’s). If you want to keep up on everything we are eating, be sure to follow me on Instagram.

Happy weekend everyone!