Hello Dear Readers! Wow these past few weeks have been crazy and crazy fun! Last weekend I catered the biggest event of my career, a 150-person after-wedding party at Neon’s Unplugged in downtown Cincinnati, for my very dear friend Carmen and her now-husband Ben. I love these two so much, it was awesome to be able to feed them and their families the day after their big day! (more…)
My Biggest Event Yet + Watermelon, Tomato, and Feta Salad September 7, 2012
Grill It! Bell Pepper and Quinoa Salad July 10, 2012
Things are (sort of) back to normal around here now that we’ve made it through the holiday and four surprise birthday parties in one week! Yes, you read that correctly: four. surprise. parties. How we managed for them all to actually be surprises is beyond me, but the important thing is that everyone is happy and feels well-celebrated.
This, my friends, is what summer is all about: enjoying (or avoiding) the summer sun together, eating and drinking until our hearts are content, and spending time with the ones we love. Since we returned from our honeymoon, I’ve actually had more time to do just that, and it makes me so happy that life is finally coming to a more relaxed juncture, one where I can actually enjoy my day, rather than just rush through it to make it to the next one because I have so many things that need to be done. (more…)
Classics, Updated: Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole March 27, 2012
In a house with four children (me + my triplet brother and sisters), my mom was always looking for new ways to 1) feed her children to satiety quickly (we all tend to get VERY grumpy when we need to eat. My sister Paige calls it hangry. Hungry + Angry = Hangry.), and 2) get us all the nutrients we needed to get through our mad rush of daily activities, from swimming to baseball to student council.
As a classic Southern woman in the vein of Paula Deen—minus the Southern drawl—my mom often turned to hearty one-pot casseroles to feed our family of 6. To this day, I still wax nostalgic about my mom’s casseroles, in particular her Broccoli-Cheese Casserole and her Chicken Tetrazzini, which I already updated here. So when I saw a post on Broccoli-Quinoa Casserole on my gal Jessica’s blog, Dishin’ About Nutrition, I knew I had to make my own version!
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has gotten very popular in the past few years, and Doug and I have most definitely jumped on the bandwagon. Quinoa looks like a grain, but it’s actually an ancient tiny seed that the Incas used to eat as a primary form of nutrition. Quinoa, unlike wheat or rice, is a COMPLETE protein, which means not only does it have a lot of protein, but it’s also a balanced source of essential amino acids. And, it’s gluten free! You cook quinoa in the exact same way as rice (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa), except you give it a little rinse first.
Quinoa tastes like a nuttier, more delicious version of rice, at least in my opinion. I like to buy it in bulk bags at Sam’s Club or Costco, but you can most definitely find it in well-stocked supermarkets and specialty markets. I like to substitute it for rice in many recipes, this one included. As a nutritional powerhouse, quinoa supplies many of our needed vitamins and minerals, so it’s great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. (more…)
Super Natural: Wild Rice Casserole February 28, 2012
Although it may seem like all I eat is king cake, citrus pie, and bourbon-pecan bread pudding, I definitely take care to eat lots of foods that are good for me too—often much to Doug’s chagrin. (While he’ll eat vegetables, he’s very much a meat and potatoes man.)
I recently picked up Heidi Swanson’s new cookbook, Super Natural Everyday, and it’s chock full of fabulous vegetarian and whole-grain recipes that are simple enough for everyday. In the past few days alone I’ve made several of her healthful recipes, including her whole-wheat yogurt biscuits (spiced up with cheddar cheese and jalapeno, and doused with goetta gravy for Sunday brunch), Weeknight Curry (a Thai red coconut curry loaded with vegetables and tofu, perfect for my vegetarian personal chef client), and this beautiful Wild Rice Casserole.
Grill It! Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Stacks September 5, 2011
I didn’t really spend much time at my third-floor apartment this summer. And with Doug’s grill out of commission, I’d been dying to put my grilling skills to good use. Just as I started to think my grilling know-how was getting rusty, I landed at my parents’ house in Kentucky and saw a gleaming new grill staring back at me.
Why had my parents gotten a new grill, you ask? No, it wasn’t because the old one had gotten rusty. Or because my dad felt the need to upgrade to the newest model. Nope, the reason we got a new grill is:
My mom blew up the old one!
Mom, being the great woman that she is, offered to make my friend Rae and I dinner a few months back. She put her beautifully butterflied chicken on the grill, set a brick on it, and closed the lid—completely forgetting to the the dials down from smoking hot to medium low. The long-term smoldering heat of the 500-degree grill blackened the chicken and melted the grill grates, ruining the grill altogether.
Of course, Mom being Mom, she still served us the chicken, suggesting that we just remove the skin before eating. You gotta love her
Well, this isn’t a post about burnt chicken, but it is a post about the brand-spanking new grill that came out of that culinary meltdown. I went nuts cooking everything I possibly could on during my weekend home a few weeks ago: lemon-scented salmon with basil-walnut pesto; peppers, onions and sausages for Italian dogs; corn on the cob; and last, but not least, these Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella stacks.
Every component of these yummy stacks is done on the grill, and then they’re assembled grill-side for easy entertaining. (more…)
The past couple of weeks have been a little rough. Or a lot, depending on how you look at it. I’m preparing to leave my beloved Chicago and start a new life with Doug in Cincinnati, and what I thought was going to be an easy task turned out to be very a difficult one—apparently it’s really hard to find a suitable place to rent in Cincinnati! And when we finally found two that we wanted, one seller decided to pull his place off the market altogether because he was freaked out about having to move out by October 1st (yeah, what?), and the other one gave the place he told us we could have to someone who offered a $1,000 pet deposit. Well, the saying is true: Money talks. Doug and I were both pretty heartbroken, as the historic home of our (well, mine) dreams in the Mansion Hill/Newport district fell through our fingers. *Sigh*
With Doug in Chicago and the rest of my family in Michigan, I poured my sorrows into jams and jellies and wedding planning at my parent’s home in Kentucky. I ordered in pizza and canned jam until midnight, trying to boil away my frustration. If there’s one good thing that came out of it, it’s that I’ve definitely taken a big step forward toward becoming a jelly-making master.
Over the weekend I made six batches of jam, and I made two more the weekend before, so I’m getting close to having 50 jars in 5 flavors: Blackberry Jelly, Blueberry-Citrus Jam, Peach Jam, Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade, and Black Raspberry Pluot Jelly (made from a Black Raspberry Pluot, not black raspberries and pluots). My wedding favor stock is piling up!
(Yes, I’m that crazy girl who’s making and canning her wedding favors.)
The point of all this is: when the going gets tough, we often turn to food to make us feel better. And since food isn’t as great for our waistlines as it is for our souls (I’ve been trying to keep this in mind with wedding coming up—10 lb to go!), it’s always nice to have a healthy comfort food to turn to in our time of need.
With fall—my favorite season—just around the corner, I’ve been dying to start making soups again, and this Fennel and Zucchini Soup with Warm Tomato Relish fit the bill perfectly for late summer produce. A snap to make, this unique vegetable soup ends up being creamy without the use of any cream whatsoever. The fennel, onions and zucchini melt into each other when they’re pureed, the anise flavor of the fennel mellowing and the onions adding sweetness. The tomatoes and fresh fennel fronds are not only vibrant and colorful, they also give the soup—and your palate—a nice tart zing. (more…)
Your Next Theme Party: Food on a Stick July 15, 2011
I jumped up and down when I opened my mailbox and saw a review copy of Matt Armendariz’s On a Stick! Everybody, absolutely everybody, loves food on a stick, and this is one area where I don’t differ from the crowd.
I had high hopes for Mr. Armendariz’s book, and in the end it did not disappoint. What better way to test recipes then by hosting a Food on a Stick Party? Doug and myself (actually my friend Rae cooked with me instead of Doug—go figure) and two other couples prepared three of recipes from the book for a total of 9 recipes, which I thought was a pretty good test run of any cookbook.
We went straight to the kitchen on Day 4 of my Mexican Master Class because star chef Rick Bayless was going to be lecturing to us later in the day. It was somewhat of a crazy day for me because I had accidentally drank a half a pot of espresso thinking it was coffee, and needless to say I was ALL over the place. It was lots of fun though because my partner Angela and I got to work with the adobo-spiced masa I had made the day before.
We pressed the delicate dough into tortillas, sprinkled one side with cheese and folded them in half to make little half moons. Although they look like empanadas, these are special enchiladas, enchiladas positana, that are deep-fried after they’re formed. YUM! (more…)
Cast-Iron Skillet Potato Cake May 27, 2011
I have to tell ya: I haven’t had much time to cook these past two weeks. Last weekend Doug and I went to Northern Kentucky so he could interview for a transfer to his company’s Cincinnati office for when we move back to the area this fall, and so I could start looking for wedding dresses with my mom and sisters, and we could start discussing the details of our wedding plans.
It was a jam-packed weekend, as it always is, but Doug got the job, I got a dress (YAY!) and we decided on a wedding date (more on that later). The excitement barely died down before Doug sprained his ankle playing basketball this week, and I’ve had to nurse him back to health.
Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to a relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I’m excited to dive into some-yet-to-be-conquered recipes, and I think some homemade pasta might just be in order for my friend Lucas’s birthday. But until I have those things to show you, I thought I’d go back to a yummy comfort dish I made this past Easter—Alex Guarnaschelli’s Cast-Iron Skillet Potato Cake.
When life is stressful, I often turn to comfort food, as so many Americans do. For instance, last night I made bacon-wrapped meatloaf for Doug and I, and it was just the sort of dinner we needed because I was trying to unwind from a long week at school and Doug was still stuck with his bruised ankle in the air and a pack of frozen peas on it to reduce the swelling. This Potato Cake would be a great accompaniment to meatloaf, or steaks or pork chops—any of those homey foods that beg for great side dishes.
Reasons to Celebrate + An Asparagus Gratin April 24, 2011
It’s been one of those absolutely insane weeks—and it’s only the first of many busy weeks in a row for me. For instance, Doug was a perfect gentleman and asked me to marry him last weekend (April 15th to be exact) and what’s ensued has been a whirlwind of celebrations and subsequent hangovers. What can I say? I can’t say no to champagne!