Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Broiled Rosemary Salmon & Roasted Winter Vegetables

I'm going crazy over a couple of things.
First, (and don't poke fun) is The Eagles - Please Come Home For Christmas playing on my speakers right now. SO GOOD! There are just a few Christmas tunes that really get me in the spirit, ya know? Like this one, and pretty much any redition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Especially Kenny G's.
The Eagles and Kenny G. Who AM I?

The second thing I'm crazy for right now are these two recipes I'm posting. YUM. YUM. YUM. in all caps doesn't do it enough justice.
The simplicity. The flavors. The fresh herbs. The health.
The FLAVORS. The FRESH HERBS. They are there. And they are speaking volumes to me.
Let them speak volumes to you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Okay..where did November go?
Does anyone know?

The end of November and rapid coming of December means Eric and I go into over drive to get things done before our trip, and before we move out in 20 days. (But let's be honest, I'm SUPER planner, so we are WAY ahead of schedule. And that's the way it should be.)
This morning was filled with walking around Ballard running errands, which included paying our LAST rent for this apartment.
Leaving this apartment will be bittersweet. But mostly sweet.
We've thought about leaving this apartment for a loong time now.. with it's microscopic kitchen with absolutely NO counter space and had a VERY infuriating ant INVASION, a bathroom that literally just consists of a toilet, standing sink and shower, a bedroom that now has water stains all over the walls and a ceiling that looks like it might come crashing in at any given moment. Why would we want to leave?
Oh did I mention the mold problem? Funny story. We love mold..
Our first few months of living here, we couldn't afford a bed, so we slept on an air mattress. One day I lifted up the blankets and sheets to find our air mattress was completely covered in black mold. Yes, that was our life and a fun day.
But I must say, our apartment has come a long way since then. We've managed and definitely made it bearable. And if anything, we've come away with lots of funny, great stories to look back on from our very first place together. You live and you learn, right?
In between our day of trying to cross things off our never ending pre-travel list, we walked down to Ballard's adorable old theater and saw The Muppets. As big Jason Segel fans, it was a must-see. It was SUPER cute and had lots of funny parts - even for adults.
Before the movie, I whipped me and Eric up a Mediterranean orzo salad.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Southwest-Style Stuffed Peppers

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I certainly did.
And guess what? This year, I didn't even have to unbutton my pants or roll around on the floor in pain from eating too much!
That's right, self control people. I gots it.
But after a week of rich food and dessert, I am now in health(ier) food mode. Eric and I are feeling the aftermath.
So THIS week we're going to bring in lots of veggies and fruit. Mostly vegetarian meals, but some seafood, too.
I know I've already posted a stuffed pepper recipe, but recently I've been brainstorming ways I can change up the flavors and make it vegetarian.
Keeping the flavorful spanish rice as the base, I thought about adding beans, corn, jalapenos and cilantro to make it Southwest/Tex-Mex style. It turned out as wonderful as I imagined! And I can't wait to use the leftover stuffing for another meal later this week!

Laura's Southwest-Style Stuffed Peppers
Serves about 4

4 Red Bell Peppers, tops removed and seeded
1 box Near East Spanish Rice
1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 jalapeno, minced (or green chiles for a milder flavor - or both!)
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can organic chili or pinto beans, drained
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet yellow corn (do not used canned)
2-3 tbsp cilantro
Salt, pepper, chili powder/cayenne/red pepper flakes (whatever you're into) to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare spanish rice as directed.
Boil prepared peppers in large pot on rapid boil for 10-15 minutes, or until soft.
In a large skillet add olive oil over medium heat.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Raw Salted "Caramel" Apple Dip

We've been indulging a lot in this here Ballard apartment lately.
It's not my fault I love butter and cream cheese and dessert and carbs. It's not.
Hey, at least when we do indulge, it's almost always home cooking done without the use of processed foods and unnatural ingredients.
This week, I've decided to try to prepare some healthier dinner/snacks/desserts for me and Eric. Last night, I started with that amazing pasta dish I posted and today I tried something entirely new for me.
The lovely Sarah from My New Roots, posts endless unique and healthy recipes for diets of all kinds, including vegan, gluten-free, and raw food. Seeing as it's fall and Washington is currently experiencing an apple explosion, it only seemed fitting that I recreate her Raw Salted Caramel Apple Dip.
I love caramel and caramel apples, especially this time of year. Unfortunately, caramel doesn't love me back. Or my belly and thighs, for that matter. Rude.
BUT Sarah's caramel isn't really caramel at all. It's made with dates and almond butter, which are two things that tend to be much nicer to your belly, butt and thighs.
If you have a deep and true hankering for caramel, then maybe this isn't for you. But if you're looking for a dip that deliciously mimicks the flavor then this is perfect for you and for apples and bananas and probably carrots and celery, too! Give it a try, it's really great!

Raw Salted Caramel Apple Dip
(Adapted from My New Roots)

2 cups pitted Medjool dates
¼ cup raw almond butter
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
soaking water as needed

1. Soak dates for at least 4 hours in water.
2. Drain dates, reserving the soak water.
3. Add dates to a food processor along with all other ingredients, except for soaking water. Blend on high until dates are smooth. Add soaking water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached (for a sauce to pour or drizzle, add more water).
4. Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to a week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spinach Linguine with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

You guys, this pasta is so light, healthy and flavorful, it features so many of my favorite ingredients, AND it's vegetarian!
I'm in love. Eric's in love.
We're all in love.

Today was the perfect fall day. No rain, but blustery so the beautifully colored leaves were blowing off the trees and around the streets. Eric and I were bundled up with hats and scarves and coffees, and spent the day wandering around Ballard and Fremont's Sunday markets and boutiques/shops on each main strip.
This fresh pasta dish was a great way to end a lovely day of walking and shopping. So easy and definitely delicious!

Spinach Linguine with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(Inspired by Whole Food Market Recipes, Serves 2-4)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (12 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and halved
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 8oz. package dried spinach linguine, cooked until tender, drained (1/4 cup pasta water reserved)
1/2-3/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to directions.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add artichokes, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add wine and simmer until just thickened. Stir in reserved 1/4 cup pasta water, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme then add cooked pasta, salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer pasta to bowls, garnish with cheese and serve.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

French Onion Soup

Soup season is officially here! Well, for me, soup season is every season, but I do love associating it with the coolers temperatures of fall and winter. (And next week, Seattle has SNOW in its forecast!) So how amazing does it sound snuggling up inside with a bowl of hot soup and a blanket on the couch? Pretty darn good.
I love soup so much. No seriously, so much.
Can I make a weird confession?
In high school, I went through a (probably unhealthy) soup obsession. In the morning before school, I would skip breakfast and go straight to lunch when I woke up. Yes, soup for breakfast. At 6:30AM. So what?
Okay, I know, that's a little really strange, but that tells you my love for soup is real.

When I was living in Spain, I was in soup heaven. My host mother was not only an amazing cook, but she loved to make soups/stews that were to die for! Amongst all of the students studying abroad, a popular topic of conversation seemed to be what everyone's host families cooked for them. I remember when Eric and I were getting to know each other one night we were talking about the food we had been eating, and I told him how over the moon I was that my host mom made us spectacular soups, almost every day. And I'll never forget this, he told me, "I don't really like soup."
My heart sank. I died a little right then, and as I was reassessing our relationship I knew I had two choices.
1. I could end it right then and there.
2. I could eventually try to teach him how to love and appreciate soup.
All things considered, I opted for number two and since that day I've made it a mission to get Eric to LOVE soup. Yes, even the "brothy" kind (as he puts it).
So far, my track record has been exceptional. We can't think of a soup I've made that he didn't enjoy. Chilis, lentil soups, tortilla soup, baked potato soup, etc..he's liked them all!
When I was flipping through my new Mastering the Art of French Cooking book and I saw Julia Child's french onion soup recipe, I knew I had to make it, but wondered how Eric would feel about a soup, that was brothy, and had (essentially) one ingredient.
Folks, he felt pretty darn great about it. He loved it, in fact, and ate every last drop in his bowl. Let's take this time to give it up for me.
I'm really liking where this is going...MORE SOUP coming up!

Soupe à l’Oignon, or French Onion Soup
(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

5 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon table salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts (8 cups) beef or other brown stock (Porcini or mushroom stock are a robust vegetarian substitution)
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional, but I used Courvoisier)

1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 to 2 cups (to taste) grated Swiss or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

*The onions for an onion soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor which characterizes the perfect brew.*

Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a 4- to 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over moderately low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to real low and let them slowly steep for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat to moderate and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. DON'T cheat on this step; this is what builds that deep rich flavor base that will carry the rest of the soup.

After the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine in full, then stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings if needed. Stir in the cognac or brandy.
Set aside, uncovered until needed. Then reheat to the simmer.

For garnish:
Preheat oven to 325. Arrange six ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Bring the soup back to a boil and divide among six bowls. To each bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon grated raw onion and a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine. Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup bowls, attempting to cover it. Mound grated cheese on top of it; how much you use will be up to you. Bake soups on tray for 20 minutes, then preheat broiler. Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly. Grab pot holders, and serve immediately.

**Sorry, I don't have a picture of my delicous french onion soup. I realized it's very hard to make this soup look pretty. But I'm sure you can imagine the beautiful caramelized onions, the toasted french bread with ooey gooey cheese melted all over the top and when you take a bite a long string of cheese attaches itself to your chin and you struggle to get it off, but you actually just don't really mind so you go on eating. Got it in your head now? Good.

Also, here's what a traditional lunch looked like at my house in Spain. Oh yeah you know, only 8 plates of food and a loaf of french bread for two people, no big deal. We got this. Every day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chicken and Mushroom Marsala

When I'm not thinking about becoming a successful pastry chef and opening up an ADORABLE bakery, I think about opening up a cute, homey little cafe/diner where I would serve delicious comfort food all day every day. People would leave with full bellies and smiles on their faces as they've been flooded with nostalgia of their childhoods. (I said I like to dream BIG, remember?)
Seriously though, nobody can resist comfort food. I know this for a fact.
I'd like to see you try to say no to a steaming hot plate of homemade mac n cheese in your face, or chicken pot pie, or green bean casserole. Don't kid yourself, you can't do it.
If, someday, this diner of mine springs up, I know what my first menu item would be. Chicken and mushroom marsala and homemade garlic mashed potatoes. And maybe I would throw a veggie in that mix too, just for good measure. (We had it with steamed asparagus)
This dish is classic, it's comforting, and its insanely delicious. The flavors that are achieved in just a short 20-30 minutes are to die for. This is a meal that is meant to be savored.

Chicken and Mushroom Marsala
(Inspired/Adapted from recipes from Epicurious & Emeril)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in halves and pounded thin
1/4 cup flour
About teaspoon each of:
salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, dried thyme, dried oregano, and cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3/4 pound white button mushrooms, sliced thin
3/4 cup Marsala
1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
cornstarch for thickening
minced fresh parsley for garnish

On a plate combine the flour and seasonings and stir to combine thoroughly. Quickly dredge the chicken breast halves in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking to remove any excess flour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and cook the chicken breasts until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter to the pan and add the mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are golden brown around the edges and have given off their liquid. Add the Marsala wine and bring to a boil, scraping to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has reduced by half, add the chicken stock and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly. If sauce does not thicken to likening, add a cornstarch/chicken stock mixture to increase thickness.
Lower the heat to medium and return the chicken breasts to the pan and continue to cook until they are cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, add salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin-Orange Cheesecake

After spending the first few hours of my Saturday morning reading alone on the couch(not complaining), I got a call from my mom wondering what I was up to. After quickly realizing I didn't want to spend the day couped up alone in my apartment, my mom and I decided to use the weekend to cook and bake together (pretty much my favorite kind of weekend). Thirty minutes later, I was off to Arlington.
A few weeks ago, my dad found a cheesecake recipe in the new Sunset magazine. Once he read the words 'salted caramel' he HAD to have it, and has been desperate for my mom and I to make it ever since. I'm pretty sure I saw drool on the pages when he handed us the recipe. (It happens to the best of us).
When we got home from the grocery store, after getting everything we needed for the weekend, I suggested that we have a glass of wine while we bake. My mom simply replied, "Well, YEAH. You think Julia never drank wine while SHE baked? Come on! You've heard her voice in some of those videos!"
..insert mine and mom's imitations of Julia's voice here...
Alright, so I've come to a few conclusions. Either Julia never really drank while she baked OR she holds a glass of wine much better than we I do.
We had a few mishaps. No big deal.
So I may have forgot to set the cream cheese and eggs at room temperature before we got everything started. That's okay. We just put everything on pause for thirty minutes or so and drank more wine.
So I almost forgot to add the pumpkin to our pumpkin cheesecake. Meh. I caught it just in time! (Mom told me no more wine til' dinner.)
So my mom wrapped the baking pan in foil far before she was supposed to. Didn't matter!
Because our cheesecake turned out beautiful and perfect and beautiful!
Tis' the season! The decadent holiday baking has commenced!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Taqueria Mexicana

I've never been more serious in my life. If you don't already live in Seattle, you need to move here NOW so you can take a cooking class at the Pantry at Delancey and learn how to cook a meal like the one I just made tonight. This place is that amazing. The food is that good.

I heard about the Pantry at Delancey before it was even open, through Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. Her and her husband started up the beloved pizza restaurant, Delancey, here in Ballard and a few years later her husband and two friends founded the Pantry at Delancey! This place is an incredible community kitchen that offers a WIDE array of cooking classes, family style dinners, and catering. Upon entering their facility, you walk up a path surrounded by beautiful gardens growing produce they use daily. The Pantry at Delancey places a strong emphasis on where and how they get their foods, offering only the best and most trusted resources. Since opening in July, their classes and family dinners are known to sell out the same day they are posted. So far though, I have been lucky enough to attend a cooking class AND a family style dinner: Taqueria Mexicana and Down South Dinner.
This place truly has it going on. I would be in total heaven if I could learn under the two main gals that run that place...maybe someday. A girl can dream, right?

One of my best friends and myself attended the Taqueria Mexicana cooking class. Let me tell you, it EXCEEDED our expectations by a mile. We were truly blown away. In one night we learned how to make flour and corn tortillas, pork carnitas, queso fresco, tomatillo salsa, and two different versions of guacamole. Not only did we receive step-by-step and hands-on instruction, we got to FEAST on the fruits of our labor AND take home recipes for everything! On top of all the mouth-watering foods I already named, they put out corn tortilla chips, homemade cabbage slaw and radishes for our tacos, Dos Equis beer and homemade horchata for dessert! Is your jaw to the floor? It should be!
The food was mind-blowingly good, and the pork carnitas stole the show. That pork was so tender it literally melted in your mouth.
My friend and I were so unbelievably full at the end, I'm pretty sure we had to unbutton our pants on the way home. Worth it? UM YES!

Ever since that night, I have been telling everyone about the class and about how amazing the food was and I've been dying to recreate that night at home. The true test is if you can do what they taught you ALONE, in YOUR own kitchen! So yesterday I had the day off and I decided to dedicate the day to this meal.
On my menu:
Corn Tortillas
Pork Carnitas
Tomatillo Salsa
Corn Chips (not homemade)

Everything turned out perfectly. The pork was melt in your mouth, fork tender and so flavorful. The tomatillo salsa was so fresh (tomatillo salsas and chile verde are my absolute favs)! The corn tortillas were so fun to roll out and tasted authentic and homemade. And the guacamole delicious as always. This meal was SUCH a success, I'm so proud! (Recipes coming soon)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Weekend and What I'm Reading

Eric and I left Seattle late Friday night and drove down to Portland for an extended weekend trip to visit my brother and friends.
We had known since August that we would be making the trip South over Halloween weekend and thought we had pretty set plans. But last minute, our itinerary changed. We never planned on driving down Friday night. But it's a good thing we did.
You always hear stories about people being in the wrong place at the wrong time; but not as many the other way around. Last Friday night, and the weekend in general, Eric and I were in the right place, at the right time. It wasn't the weekend we had expected, but I left feeling like we made an important impact in someone's life who means the world to me, and that's all that matters.

A Portland trip would be incomplete if I didn't make it to Powell's Bookstore. In anticipation for my upcoming trip, I got a few travel books that I'm so excited about:
Travelers' Tales: Food : True Stories of Life on the Road.
"Many people will tell you that they travel, in large part, to eat, to break bread with strangers and leave the table with friends, and to discover the world through the medium of cuisine. This special edition in the Travelers' Tales series collects stories that further the proposition that humanity is revealed through cuisine just as surely as it is through any other art or social activity."
Is this book not absolutely perfect for me? I love it so far! The stories are so heartwarming and uplifting and the book is littered with amazing quotes, which I adore.
"As the belly fills, so fills the heart." One of my favs.

The other book I picked up is called The Kindness of Strangers. I always get a bit anxious about crime and danger before I travel, so I thought it would help me if I read a book like this. "A timely collection of 26 inspiring tales, The Kindness of Strangers explores the unexpected human connections that so often transfigure and transform the experience of travel, and celebrates the gift of kindess around the world."

I can only hope that throughout our travels, Eric and I make amazing connections with the people of Ecuador and Peru, and others we meet from around the world. I so hope we recieve numerous opportunities to eat and break bread with others and leave the table with friends.

P.S. Eric won the Pumpkin Carving Contest at Kiss Cafe!! The Thursday night before we left for Portland, Eric and I took pumpkins down to Kiss for their annual carving contest, dinner and beers. The place was filled to the brim with people carving - it was so festive and so much fun! Everyone kept commenting on Eric's unique pumpkin and he said he had a good feeling he might win it. Sure enough, upon returning on Monday, we found out he took it home! They spoiled him too - he won a tshirt, a sweatshirt, any beer of his choice (he picked a $16 beer...) and they are sending his personal beer glass in to get a pumpkin engraved in it. I'm so jealous.
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