“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child
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.
Now 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.
(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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.