Kitchen Resolutions

I swear I won’t start every post with an apology but I totally forgot to write and schedule a Friday Five post before we went to DC last week. I have an alarm set on my phone to remind me and it went off Friday morning and I was rushing out and I was like darn. Oh well. Holidays happen.

We have one more holiday in 2013 and as you can tell by the title of this post, I’m going to be talking about New Year’s resolutions — kitchen style. I occasionally make non-food related resolutions (always trying to work out more or save more or shop less etc etc) but for the purposes of this blog, I figure I would share some of the cooking related thing I hope to do in the new year.

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1) I really want to learn the proper way to sharpen knives. Santa was good to me and I did get some nice fancy new knives for Christmas, but I need to learn how to take care of them better. There is nothing worse than a dull knife — well at least when cooking. I am thinking about investing in one of those knife sharpening stones, watching some YouTube videos and becoming a knife genius. If you have seen those knife stones at any place like Home Goods, let me know.

2) Cooking new things is something I do regardless of if I am making a conscious effort or not. This year I baked bread from scratch and tried my hand at cooking farro. I think in 2014 I want to try a souffle. Oh and a standing rib roast (aka prime rib). I guess I just need an occasion when I can do both. Dinner party anyone?

3) I love spices. They are such a great way to flavor dishes without adding a lot of butter and oil. I find that I reach for the same spices over and over again. Garlic. Oregano. Thyme. They are my fail safes. I want to branch out and try some new flavors. I plan on spending a lot of time in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods.

4) 2013 was the year I learned how to grill. What new cooking technique will I learn in 2014? I definitely want to perfect homemade pasta. I have my eye on a pasta press. Maybe I will try to do more from scratch baking. Who knows? The best part about cooking is that the possibilities are endless.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and delicious 2014!

Happy Christmas!

220555_10101805808996140_294304036_oThis was our holiday card from last year. Telly stood still for about 3 seconds and I snapped this pic. And then she started chewing on them. Such is life.

Hope your Christmas is filled with family, friends, love, good food and tons of cheer.

 

Salad with turkey and cranberries

Shortly after Thanksgiving, I was still craving Thanksgiving food. I just felt as though I had not consumed enough turkey. I knew that Christmas was a short time away and that Eric’s dad would have turkey on Christmas, but I needed a hit of tryptophan STAT.

I was wandering around Target one day — as one is wont to do — and found the wheels spinning in my head as I browsed the grocery aisles. I left with everything to make a salad that tasted just like the holidays — and it was delicious. I’ve eaten in for quite a few lunches as of late, and I have yet to tire of it.

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It is a way to enjoy the flavors of the holidays without all the guilt — and whenever you want. So enjoy!

Salad with turkey and cranberries

Lettuce (I used my beloved herb lettuce mix)
Turkey (You could use deli turkey. I used the carving board kind. Or use leftovers.)
Cheese of your choice (I used mozzarella, but goat cheese would have been tasty.)
Dried cranberries
Fried onions (the type you top a green bean casserole with)
Salad dressing of your choice (I used an oil and vinegar combo)

Combine all the ingredients and eat immediately. It is really that simple.

 

Friday Five: Christmas Traditions

So yeah. I’ve been a very bad blogger this week. I apologize. I’ve had a lot going on, and when I sat down to write, I had zero ideas. We haven’t been cooking that much. We’ve been eating out a lot and going to holiday parties so the kitchen has been slightly neglected. But once the holidays pass, don’t worry — the fire will be lit again.

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But since we are on the topic of the holidays, I am going to devote this week’s Friday Five to Christmas traditions. I grew up eating specific food around the holidays, and now Eric and I have started some of our own holiday traditions. And yes — they mostly center around food. Would you expect any less?

1) Once Eric and I moved in together, we started the tradition of cracking open the first eggnog of the season on the day we put up the Christmas tree. Eric loves eggnog way more than I do (unless it is part of a latte. Then it is all mine), but having a little bit while we sit and look at our decorated house is something I will always cherish.

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2) Peppermint baked goods are ubiquitous this year and with good reason. This year, we started the new tradition of baking something up the day we put up the decorations. I made a chocolate peppermint bundt cake and it was bananas. I’m already dreaming of the peppermint brownies I plan on making next Christmas.

3) Some people have turkey on Christmas as well as Thanksgiving. Not us. We’re Italian — we’d have lasagna. We’d usually have lasagna with ham, or as we got older, prime rib with it as well. Eric and I have spent the past few Christmases with his family (where we do have turkey, and it is delicious), but we now have lasagna on Christmas Eve. My parents are coming over for Christmas Eve dinner this year — my first Christmas in Georgia since college — and I am very much looking forward to it.

4) Growing up, Christmas breakfast always consisted of pizza frite. It’s fried pizza dough that you smush in powdered or granulated sugar. Once Eric and I started celebrating together, I changed it up to French toast. But not just any French toast — panettone French toast. Panettone is a dense egg bread, similar to challah, that is usually speckled with fruit, nuts or chocolate. It makes amazing French toast. We are flying up to DC on Christmas Day this year, but you best believe I’m making panettone French toast before we head to the airport.

5) I’m including New Years in here because it is still part of the holiday season. Last year, I decided that every New Year’s Day I was going to try out something I’ve never made before and that has always kinda freaked me out. Last year I made mussels. You always read horror stories about cooking mussels or clams at home and people getting sick. Well luckily that didn’t happen to us. And they were delicious. I haven’t decided what I am going to make this year, but I will definitely be sharing it here.

Friday Five: Peppermint Edition

Just as fall is filled with pumpkin goodies, holiday time is filled with all things peppermint. I love peppermint. Who doesn’t? So I devote this week’s Friday Five to my favorite peppermint treats.

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1) Trader Joe’s Minty Mallows: For a few years now, these have been my favorite holiday treat. As soon as they hit the shelves, I am bringing home multiple boxes. The combination of the minty marshmallow and the rich dark chocolate is addictive. They also make a good topper on a cup of hot cocoa.

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2) Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint JoJos: As with pumpkin stuff, TJ’s is the best for peppermint things. These cookies are Eric’s favorite and man, they are so, so delicious. The perfect combination of cookie and filling and chocolate and minty pieces.

3) Peppermint Hot Cocoa: I love hot cocoa during the winter, but peppermint hot chocolate around the holidays is the best. I don’t buy prepackage peppermint cocoa — I just use a candy cane as a stir in regular hot chocolate and it gives just the right amount of minty flavor. Mmmm.

4) Peppermint Bark: Chocolate with flecks of peppermint candy? Sign me up. I love the homemade version, but this year we’ve stocked up on quite a bit of the Ghirardelli kind. I prefer the milk chocolate kind while Eric is all about the dark chocolate.

5) White Christmas Tea: This is a bit more subtle peppermint than the others (and the only one without chocolate I noticed). Stash’s White Christmas Tea is a blend of peppermint, white tea and ginger and it is fabulous. It’s great after a meal or right before bed. It has really been adding to my festive holiday mood as of late.

What treats do you like having around the holidays?

The Best Christmas

Christmas peaked for me at very young age.

It was 1987. I was 2. My family still lived in Connecticut. Now I know what you’re thinking: How could you possibly remember Christmas from when you were two? Well it is simple — it was the best. (Also my parents recorded it so I watched it throughout my childhood). But truthfully, I can actually remember parts of that Christmas. And it all centers around one specific thing.

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On the right side of the tree, you’ll see a play kitchen. That was my play kitchen and it was the best toy ever. There is footage of me on that recording of me playing with this play kitchen for hours. Making my dad “eggs.” Force feeding plastic food to my then-baby brother (not really, but I tried). This was where it all started for me.

I’ve loved cooking for as long as I can remember. My mom was always making something. Whether it was dinner for the family during the week or something special like cookies on the weekend. And I always wanted to be there with her helping out. And sometimes she let me.

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Here’s my brother and I helping my mom baked some cookies. Those aprons are pretty hot, right?

Cooking and food are central in my family. Family gatherings center around eating and sitting around the table. We share stories, we poke fun, we laugh. This is where the memories are made. And I feel like my love of food and my love of cooking was sparked with that little plastic kitchen from 1987. Thanks for that, Santa.

 

 

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew

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I didn’t realized when I left DC that I was moving to Seattle.

It has been raining for what feels like a month straight here in Atlanta and it’s getting old. The only thing I want to do is sit in bed with hot chocolate, watch holidays movies and then have some sort of soup or stew for dinner.

This stew is perfect for just that. It’s easy, requires very little prep, and will definitely warm you up on a cool, rainy evening.

Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew

1 lb stew beef
2 lbs red potatoes, cut in to 1 inch pieces
1 bag baby carrots, cut in half
1 package vegetable dip mix (I used Lipton)
5 cups beef stock (or a water-bouillon mix)

1) Season the meat with salt and pepper. Brown stew meat over medium-high heat. This step isn’t necessary, but it adds a lot of flavor to the stew.

2) Layer potatoes and carrots in the crock pot. Put stew meat on top. Sprinkle with the packet of dip mix and cover all the ingredients with the stock. Cook on low heat for 8 hours or high for 6.

Tip: If you notice your stew isn’t thickening the way you want, take on tablespoon on flour and mix it with some of the broth until it forms a paste. Mix in to the stew and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so.

Friday Five: Foodie gift guide

I have finished my holiday shopping already. I was actually done before Thanksgiving. Yes, I’m kind of crazy. I just love buying gifts for people and once it becomes acceptable in my mind to start shopping, I am super productive. That being said, most of you probably haven’t done any shopping yet — so hopefully this can serve as a guide if you have any foodies in your life.

If there was one type of gift I had to get for the rest of my life, it would be food related gifts. Food is my biggest hobby and I LOVE getting gifts related to it. These are all gifts I would be thrilled to get (hint, hint).

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Bella Diamonds Slow Cooker. How freaking adorable is this crock pot? I know adorable isn’t a word one would usually use to describe a slow cooker, but it my mind it can’t hurt. Not only would one of these look good on your kitchen counter, but it has good reviews online. I would personally have a hard time choosing between the blue and the red. Decisions, decisions. You can get these at JCPenney.

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The Taste of America by Coleman Andrews. My second favorite hobby after cooking is reading, so getting a nice cookbook or coffee table book would be an excellent gift. I saw this one in Food Network magazine and added it to my Amazon wishlist. This book is filled with stories about all the food America is known for. Gotta love a little patriotism with your food trivia.

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Microplane grater. Every chef no matter how serious of a cook they are needs a microplane grater. NEEDS. We got the above one as a wedding present and it gets used on a daily basis. It is great (pun slightly intended) for grating hard cheeses like parmesan, zesting a lemon or an orange, or for sprinkling some whole nutmeg on some eggnog (my current favorite use). If I see a microplane on a wedding or gift registry, I buy it immediately for that person.

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Wine pairing or cooking class. I consider myself to be quite competent in the kitchen (or else this blog would be a gross miscalculation on my part), but I have always wanted to take a cooking class. Or a class where you can learn all about wine and food pairing. A lot of time you can even find some of these on Groupon, Living Social or Scoutmob. I know that places like Sur La Table also offer cooking classes, and I’m sure you could find something awesome where you or your gift recipient lives.

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Framed Food Print. I have a background in graphic design, so I love decorating our house with fun looking prints. There are so many adorable food-related prints out there, and I think any foodie in your life would love to find a framed print under the tree or in their stocking. Etsy is a great resource as well as sites like Society 6 or Pinterest. Sometimes even places like HomeGoods or TJ Maxx have some super cute ones as well.

Mediterranean Chicken Stew with Baked Polenta

So yeah. Monday sort of got away from me. I looked up from my computer and saw it was almost 5 pm and was like “Welp, guess that recipe post will go up tomorrow.”

But it is a good one, so I hope it is worth the wait.

I’ve waxed poetic about my crock pot before and this is the first time I have attempted at creating my own crock pot recipe. And it was pretty delicious.

I was inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Everyday Food. It is a Mediterranean Chicken Stew that I made a lot a few years back. It takes about an hour on the stove so I figured why not adapt it for a slow cooker and make everyone’s life a bit easier?

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I served it over baked polenta, but you could just as easily pair it with couscous, quinoa or nothing at all. It is a good pick as the nights get cooler.

Mediterranean Chicken Stew with Baked Polenta

For the stew
1 lb chicken breasts
1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
2 gloves chopped garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
2 zucchini, cut in to 1 inch pieces
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can artichokes, drained

For the polenta
1 cup ground cornmeal
4 cups water
2 tbls butter
salt, to taste

1) Place chicken breasts, tomatoes, garlic and oregano in crock pot. Cook on high for three hours. Remove chicken from crock pot and shred. Return to crock pot. Add zucchini, chick peas and artichokes, cook for another two to three hours on high.

2) With an hour remaining on the crock pot, combine the cornmeal and water in a casserole dish and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the butter and salt, return to oven for another 10 to 15 minutes. The polenta will not jiggle when it is fully baked.

3) Spoon the stew over a portion of baked polenta. Serve immediately.