Friday Faves

The snow in Atlanta has made this week simultaneously feel extremely long and also extremely short. I felt like I blinked and suddenly it was Friday. Which is a good thing. And yet also a bad thing. But anyways, here’s what I’ve been loving this week — very briefly.

egg

 

Why hello, soft boiled goodness. I’ve always wanted to try soft boiled eggs and it’s kinda crazy I just started cooking them. My ideal egg is one with a runny middle and a cooked white so this is pretty much perfect. I’m still ironing out all the kinks in how I make them, but this is what works for me: add a tablespoon of white vinegar to a pot of water and bring to a boil, add egg, boil for 4 minutes and 30 seconds (precision is key), dunk in an ice bath for a minute, peel, eat. I’ve mostly been eating them on toast, but I’d like to try them on other things like veggies, polenta or even some quinoa. It should also be noted that I tried poaching an egg in the microwave with some success. It sounds weird, but it works.

Do any of you watch “Top Chef?” Without fail, I will watch every season of the original show (now really big on “Top Chef: Masters, however). Well any of my fellow “Top Chef” watchers might appreciate this.

After the episode this week, I noted that Hugh Acheson hadn’t really been on much this season. Maybe this is me, and maybe I am biased since he is an Georgia-based chef, but I felt a serious lack of Hugh. So I tweeted about it. And Hugh Acheson favorited the tweet.

hugh

Needless to say, I was geeking out. This is one of the many reasons I love Twitter. Luckily, it looks like Hugh will be on the season finale next week so the Hugh drought will be over.

The beauty of fauxmade

First of all, let me say greetings from snowy Atlanta. As some of you might have seen, we got about 2 inches of snow yesterday and it turned in to a total nightmare. Luckily, I work from home and Eric made it home before the roads got super bad, so we weren’t stranded in our cars. But I know plenty of people who were. Fingers crossed things thaw out soon.

Now on to the post. I have written before about my love of semi-homemade baked goods, and sometimes, you need to extend that practice to other aspects of cooking. I like to call this fauxmade (did I make that up? Probably not, but it sounds good). To me fauxmade is when you take some precooked ingredients or other shortcuts to make something that tastes like you slaved over a hot stove all day. Only part of the effort but still a delicious result.

soup

This was a pot of chicken and rice soup I made a few weeks ago. Instead of making my own stock with chicken and bones, I used bouillon and the juices and meat from a rotisserie chicken. That combination made for a rich, delicious soup  that both Eric and I slurped down. We preferred it to a chicken and rice soup I tried before that cooked all day in the crock pot. The above soup came together in about an hour.

Rotisserie chickens really are a fauxmade chef’s best friend. I have used them before to make soups, salads, tacos or quesadillas — even a stuffing for homemade/fauxmade ravioli. A $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco will feed Eric and I for at least two dinners, maybe even more.

I was inspired to write this post yesterday after I took a can of Manischewitz matzo ball soup and doctored it up to make it taste a bit more like the soup my mother-in-law makes.

51dAEkz9UiL._SY300_I put it in a pot with a little bouillon and water, added some carrots and parsley. It was quite tasty.

What are some of your favorite fauxmade cooking tricks?

National flags made of food

My friends know me well. They will often send me links and articles pertaining to food. My friend Lauren send me an email this morning containing this article and I just had to write about it.

A local advertising agency in Australia designed a bunch of international flags made up of some of the foods each country is known for. It is to promote the Sydney International Food Festival. As a graphic designer AND a foodie, I found these to be awesome.

Here are a few of my favorites:

italy

Italy, made of basic, pasta and tomatoes.

greece

Greece, olives and feta.

france

France, blue cheese, brie and grapes. 

Aren’t these awesome? You can see a pattern in the ones I have gravitated to — cheese and carbs, my two loves.  Some of the other ones they posted are super intricate and awesome. Check the rest out here.

Friday Faves

Hello all! How are you liking my new blog design? Have to say I’m mildly obsessed. I keep looking at it and petting my computer screen — kidding of course. That is definitely one of my faves this week. I’ve loved playing around in WordPress. It makes me feel a lot more tech savvy than I really am.

So I’ve been obsessed with fruit lately. Kinda weird, I suppose, but there are worse things you could be obsessed with. I bought a big bag of pears at Trader Joe’s for three bucks last week and have been working my through them. But my favorite snack is a golden delicious apple with my homemade peanut butter dip. Now apples are delicious on their own, but paired with this dip, they are out of this world. I’ve been eating this for dessert all week (while Eric has been finishing off the berry pie we made over the weekend). It’s simple — mixed 2 tablespoons of Cool Whip and 1 teaspoon peanut butter together. Boom. Done. Enjoy the deliciousness. You can add more peanut butter if you like, but I find this ratio has a nice, subtle peanut butter flavor. I think peanut butter is one of the world’s most perfect foods.

As I wrote about a few months back, I love cookbooks. I would buy a ton more cookbooks if I had endless space (one day I will have a library in my house). So to keep my purchasing in check, I get cookbooks at the library. The libraries in Atlanta have pretty much any book you’d ever want. I then scan the recipes I want to keep using the Genius Scan app on my phone. I now am armed with a whole new arsenal of recipes I can’t wait to try, so thank you public library.

My obsession with The Kitchn continues. I find myself reading every single post everyday. That’s how you know you’d got my attention. My favorite article this week was The Best Cheeses For Tacos. I am now convinced I need to make these:

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Those are mini tacos — WITH A SHELL MADE FROM CHEESE. Here’s the recipe for those who are as interested as I am.  Now this is all I want to eat. Sounds like a potential Super Bowl party recipe to me.

Recap — and a recipe

I love when weekends revolved around food. Cooking and eating are two of my favorite activities, so needless to say when weekend events are food-centric, I’m a happy camper.

First up was a dinner party with some friends I’ve known for years. One thing I love about living in Atlanta again is getting to see people I went to high school with. It is always so much fun to reminisce and catch up, but also to talk about their lives now and what the future holds. We decided instead of the host making most of the food, everyone should bring a few dishes to share, sort of tapas style. We had quite the spread — and everything was delicious.

photo 1Now for descriptions, starting at the top and moving clockwise. Laura made this delicious pasta dish with pumpkin. You wouldn’t necessarily think of pumpkin as a pasta sauce as opposed to a pasta filling, but it was so good. And those brussels sprouts? I could have eaten the whole platter full. Elizabeth made these delicious dips — one with bacon and one with pineapple. The pineapple one was my favorite. She also made these cucumber cups filled with hummus and topped with tomatoes and cheese. I love tomatoes and cucumbers — and cheese of course — so these were little scrumptious bites.

As for what Eric and I brought, we made a berry slab pie with chocolate (if you haven’t ever heard of a slab pie, try it out. This was the recipe we used) and roast beef sliders with a variety of toppings. I just cooked the beef in the crock pot and then shredded it up, served it alongside pieces of French bread and three toppings — horseradish cream, caramelized onions and arugula pesto.

Let’s talk about this arugula pesto. I am now obsessed with arugula pesto. I used the leftovers as a spread of a turkey sandwich and I can only imagine how delicious it would be on pasta. And it couldn’t be simpler to make. The recipe is below.

Arugula Pesto
(This makes about 3/4 cup pesto)

3 cups of arugula
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or more to get the consistency you want)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until blended. Continue to season with salt and pepper until you get the taste you desire. Use for a topping on sandwiches, salads, pastas, meats — the possibilities are endless. This kept in the fridge for about two days, and can easily be frozen for future use.

That was Saturday night. Sunday consistent of lunch and a lazy afternoon of football watching at my parents’ house, and then most importantly — a “Sherlock” watching party at our place Sunday night.

Of all of the Sherlock Holmes adaptations, the BBC one is my hands down favorite. Something about the chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is just so irresistible. We had two other couples over, I knew from the get go that I wanted to bake somethings special. Keeping with the British theme, I went with a shortbread recipes. And to make the cookies even more appropriate, I bought cookie cutters in the shapes of Holmes and Watson.

photo 2

How freaking cool is that? Best $10 I ever spent. Unfortunately, I think the recipe was too buttery for cutout cookies to work — and my oven jumped from 350 to 400 with no warning — so the cookies didn’t hold their shape. But Eric saved the day with a genius idea.

photo 3

Not what I had exactly planned, but still awesome — and delicious. They sort of look like “Sherlock” coins. Our friends ate them up and they were the perfect compliment to “The Empty Hearse.”

Friday Faves

Surprise, surprise — guess who is sick again? Well, I guess technically it is the same illness I had back at the start of the year, it’s just migrated from my sinuses to my lungs. Oh happy day. But all is well. I’m on a zpac (which is apparently a miracle based on what people have told me) so I should be back in fighting shape any day now.

But this illness has kept me from doing a lot of cooking. I am pretty much eating soup for every meal, but I’ve had some really delicious soups. And when you are eating as much soup as I am, variety is key. I’ve had chicken noodle, carrot and ginger, tomato, black bean, egg drop. Eric brought me home some egg drop soup from a local Chinese place last night and it was like a healing elixir.

Soup_Egg_Drop

 

This isn’t the exact soup I had (thanks for the stand in, Google images) but I feel as if it accurately conveys the golden, salty deliciousness that is egg drop soup. It should also come as no surprise that I’m guzzling tea by the gallon. My favorites have been Vanilla Bean Tea from the Mighty Leaf and White Peach and Ginger Tea from Trader Joe’s.

Prior to my all soup diet, I was obsessed with eating salads, mainly because I was obsessed with making my own salad dressings. Sunday night I made a kale salad with a homemade caesar vinaigrette (I combined white wine vinegar, garlic olive oil, a little dijon mustard, a pinch of parmesan cheese and a little salt and pepper)  and it was excellent. I think I’m going to do a post next week on all the salad dressings I’ve created lately.

I’ve been really loving food blogs lately. That’s really not a new thing, but there are a few specific ones that I can’t get enough of. The Kitchn is an awesome site filled with fun articles, recipes and tips. The chicken and rice soup I made last week was inspired by a post I saw on there. I’ve also really loved Pinch of Yum. They post so many interesting and creative recipes that I cannot wait to try. Go ahead and add them to your blog roll — just trust me.

Wedding Registry Tips

Registering is one of the best parts about having a wedding. Yeah it can be a little weird to straight up ask people for things, but it’s tradition. Plus it’s fun to run around a store and scan a bunch of stuff. Like a Christmas list on steroids.

We didn’t really go in to registering with a game plan. There were some things we needed, some things we wanted and some things that were just unnecessary. But you get caught up in the scanning and you don’t really think about it. Now a few years removed from our wedding, I can look back at the things that were good ideas and some of the things that we could have skipped. Most of the things we asked for and received were kitchen related, so that’s what I’ll be touching on here, not so much general housewares. But one word of advice on that — ask for a nice pair of sheets. It’s like sleeping on a cloud.

DO: Register for a nice set of pans. A nice, high quality set of pots and pans will last you for years. Be sure the set your are looking at has everything you need. Stock pot, sauce pants, skillets. Feel free to supplement with a cast iron pan or a Dutch oven. We registered for the Cusinart set below — and I recommend it.

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DON’T: Register for expensive bakeware. We got a few, semi-expensive cookie sheets. I’ve already had to replace them. Even if you use a Silpat or parchment paper, those puppies will never be pristine again once you start using them. You can find a nice enough cookie sheet or cupcake pan at Target or Home Goods that will get the job done.

DO: Register for high price appliances. This is the time in your life to ask for a KitchenAid Stand Mixer if you’ve always wanted one. Had your eye on a wine fridge? Put it on there. A Vitamix? Take the plunge. You’d be surprised at just how generous people are when it comes to weddings.

DON’T: Register for every appliance under the sun. All of the appliances we registered for and got, we use them all. Crock Pot. Griddle. Waffle Iron. Stand mixer. Immersion blender. Are you really going to use that bread maker you have on your list? Chances are it won’t leave the cabinet you’re storing it in. If you are going to register for a lot of different appliances, don’t just register for the cheap versions. Register for a mid-range one that will last you awhile.

DO: Register for multiples. Don’t be afraid to ask for more than one of an item — and I’m not just talking about glasses or place settings. Ask for multiple cutting boards of various sizes, spatulas in varying sizes and shapes, measuring cups and spoons. You’d be surprised at how nice it is having a cutting board specifically for meat and one for veggies.

DON’T: Register for some fancy knife set. We got a pretty nice knife set for our wedding. But after using it for a few months, the knives started to dull and I could never get them as sharp as I needed them to be. Instead, ask for high quality individual knives. A ceramic chef’s knife. A nice knife with a steel blade. A pairing knife and a serrated knife.

Obviously this is all based off my personal experience and everyone is different. Think about the kind of cooking you do and your life in the kitchen and figure out what would work best for you. 

Turkey Sausage Stuffed Peppers

For the past four years, I thought Eric didn’t like stuffed peppers. Then last week, he requested them for dinner. This was my face.

But I was more than happy to oblige. I love stuffed peppers. I have a recipe I like that uses brown rice and veggies, but Eric insisted that some sort of meat needed to be involved. So I created these.

photo (1)

Stuffed peppers never photograph well. But it sure was tasty.

Now just a note, I used turkey sausage that had been precooked in my homemade pasta sauce, but you could use any meat you want. Just plain ground turkey would also be good. Just add some extra seasonings.

Turkey Sausage Stuffed Peppers

2 red bell peppers, halved and cleaned out
2 links spicy Italian turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheese for garnish, optional (I used goat cheese, Eric used parmesan)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Mix the turkey sausage, rice, tomato sauce and seasonings together in a bowl. Spoon the filling in to the pepper halves.
3) Place filled peppers in a casserole dish. Pour chicken broth in to dish. Cover tightly with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes or until pepper is tender. Top with cheese, if desired, and serve.

Friday Faves

Did you survive the polar vortex? It’s weeks like these that I’m glad I work from home — and have my own personal space heater.

I’m finally back in to my rhythm in the kitchen. That holidays were so busy I rarely had time to cook at home. But now we’ve been whipping up delicious meals all week. We have this fun little system — Eric thinks up something that sounds good, I recreate it off the cuff. We’ve done that twice this week with great success, recipes to follow.

One key to the success of those recipes is Better than Bouillon, specifically the chicken one.

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It’s a bit pricier than the powder bouillon, but it is so superior that it is worth it. This adds a richness to dishes that call for chicken stock that makes it seem as if you have been slow cooking it all day. I also have the beef variety, but I use the chicken one a few times a week.

I’ve also been using our Corningware Lite bakeware a lot lately.

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It’s similar to traditional CorningWare, but it’s much lighter and sleeker. When we got married, we (well, I) registered for a set of this as well as a set of Pyrex (which really, you don’t need both…but what did I know?). I use the CorningWare all the time. I rarely use the Pyrex. I just find the Pyrex too bulky. And it doesn’t clean up as nicely as the CorningWare. If you are getting married or in the market for some good bakeware, I’d definitely recommend the CorningWare Lite.

OK, now let’s talk about my love of freeze dried fruit.

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Weird, maybe a little, but pretty tasty and a good healthy snack. Two of these are from Trader Joe’s, one from Whole Foods. The peaches and oranges are awesome. The cranberries a little tart for me, but I think I’m going to mix them in to oatmeal with some honey to cut the tartness a little. I prefer the freeze dried fruit to traditional dried fruit because the sugar content isn’t that high. Both TJ’s and WF’s have a wide selection of freeze dried fruit, so if you are looking to dive in, check those places out.