Monthly Archives: January 2013

Winter Kale Salad

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Yesterday was uncharacteristically warm, topping off at over 60 degrees with tons of sunshine and practically no wind. Given that D.C. has been in the 20s and 30s since Inauguration weekend, this random burst of warmth was quite welcome. I wore a dress for the first time in ages and gave my wool coat a break as I opted for a vest.

Don’t get me wrong; I love cold weather. But cold winter days have a tendency to put me in a rut, both wardrobe-wise and foodwise. Not only do I pile on layer upon layer of sweaters and coats, but I also feel like I need hearty, filling food to cope with the season. The problem is that most comfort food consists of rich stews, roasted chickens, and lentil- or bean-filled chili or soup. Needless to say, one gets really sick of eating the “brown” food group most of the time, and yesterday’s weather was the perfect reason to break this habit.

I tried to stick to winter-friendly ingredients–things that you can find in plentitude during the cold season. The crunchy kale pairs well with the bold flavor of blood oranges and the sometimes sharp bites of fennel. Plus, combining blood orange juice with sherry vinaigrette produces a dressing with the perfect amount of tang. And–personal health plug–this salad is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Total win.

So here’s to incorporating color into your winter menu. Happy eating.

** Side note: I’ll post the promised Smitten Kitchen side dish on Friday. I just thought the weather called for a salad post!

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Roasted Chicken Thighs with Olives, Tomatoes, and Grapes

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Today’s recipe comes from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, whose cookbook may be the greatest gift of 2012 to home cooks everywhere. Deb has a fantastic blog, and when I saw that she was releasing The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I preordered copies for my sister’s and my good friend Caroline’s Christmas presents. I was lucky enough that my friend Sam (from Blogging with My Mouth Full) was generous enough to gift me the same.

My high school friends and I had a potluck this past weekend, and, as the hostess, I contributed the main dish and a side dish–both of which came from this book. I’ll post the side dish later this week, but it was the main dish that completely blew my mind. First of all, it was easy to make. Easy to assemble, easy to double for a large crowd, easy to do other things like clean your apartment while the chicken bakes. A win for any dinner party.

Second, it was flavor intense. I was both intrigued and wary when I saw that the original recipe featured a combination of grapes and olives. Salt is probably the seasoning that I struggle the most with (isn’t that pathetic?) because everything that I think is too salty, most others find to be not salty enough. What can I say? I’m broken. Leave me alone. As a result, I kind of sort of hate olives. I really want to like them. I try them whenever they are presented to me at Italian restaurants, but I pick them off pizza and never buy them myself. I was also worried that the grapes would be too sweet. Combining the two? Pure genius. The flavors balance each other so well, and the resulting sauce was too perfect for words.

I hope that you give this recipe a try. It might seem a little adventurous but the result is oh-so-worth the risk. Happy eating!

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Breakfast Quesadilla

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The tortilla is a staple of my breakfast diet. I’m not much of a toast person. This tends to shock most people considering that I could easily devour half of a crusty French baguette if you let me. I think it comes down to my abhorrence of sliced bread. One loaf will actually languish for months in the freezer–at which point it’s developed a severe case of freezer burn, and I’ve decided that it’s disgusting to keep bread in one’s freezer for that long and chuck it.

But back to the tortilla. The tortilla has become my go-to breakfast vessel on days when I actually manage to eat breakfast. I am a big fan of eggs, and tortillas just make eating them on the go so much nicer. They just taste more delicious when all rolled up in burrito form. Ever slathered a tortilla in cream cheese and just eaten that? No. Well, get to it, people! Totally unhealthy and totally delicious. These are the things that dorm life taught me.

Plus, the handmade tortillas from Trader Joe’s are just so freaking soft and delicious…

Anyway, I was hangry yesterday morning. Yes, that is an “a” not an “u.” I was ravenous, tired, and cranky, and  desperately wanted either a quesadilla or some eggs (both of which are very legitimate things to want at 8.30am).  This is the result of my cravings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy eating!

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Buttermilk Chicken Biscuits

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It was FREEZING yesterday.

For those of you living outside of the U.S./not obsessed with American politics, yesterday was kind of a big day. First of all, it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is always a wonderful reminder of how far our country has come and the incredible efforts of people like Dr. King to get us where we are today. On top of that, it was the Inauguration–a.k.a. the one day every four years that D.C. shuts down and really celebrates. There are serious benefits to living in this city.

First of all, the Obamas are awesome. Second of all, Michelle's bangs looked fantastic.

First of all, the Obamas are awesome. Second of all, Michelle’s bangs looked fantastic.

Also, I love Joe. And Jill's boots blew my mind. Total props to her for wearing and walking in those.

Also, I love Joe. And Jill’s boots blew my mind. Total props to her for wearing and walking in those.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Inaugural Parade from a good friend of mine, so my friends Travis, Christina, Andrew, and I made the quick walk to the White House from the law school around 7.30am in the hopes of getting good seats. Which we did. We also proceeded to freeze for the next 8 hours until the parade finally got underway. What we discovered was that (a) the presence of direct sunlight can instantly improve one’s body temperature, (b) we all need to invest in thicker socks, and (c) the chicken and waffles truck may be the greatest invention known to man. That truck was actually a lifesaver, and it just goes to show how fried chicken can really hit the spot sometimes.

We were super cold. This, however, was before I lost sensation in my toes.

A rare moment of sunshine! This, however, was before Travis and I lost sensation in our toes and wandered off to find the waffle truck.

This past weekend, I made a mini appetizer involving fried chicken for a dinner that I attended. It was a “mini foods” themed potluck, with everyone contributing their favorite bite size foods. There were taquitos, taco-filled pastries, pigs in a blanket, bacon-wrapped poppers, toasty sandwiches, lil smokies, and my little biscuits. While these may seem highly involved, they were actually very easy to make. The marinade is simple and keeps the chicken incredibly tender. Using buttermilk as your base, add your preferred herb (I like thyme) and some spices (in my case, cayenne and garlic). I bet this would taste delicious with a cajun-inspired blend or even with some Mexican seasoning thrown in!

Happy eating!

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Brunching: Lavagna

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Brunch Buddies

You’d be hard-pressed to find people who love brunch as much as my friends and I do. My love of brunch fits perfectly with my love of almost all breakfast foods and bubbly drinks. So when my friend Jocelyn and I were trying to come up with a time to meet up, brunch seemed like a natural solution. We invited my friends Amanda and Christina along for the ride and wound up at Lavagna over by Eastern Market.

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Budget Meal: Tortellini Soup

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Confession: I really really really wanted carbonara last night. I knew that I had cream in the fridge, a bit of a pecorino, eggs, and a couple slices of bacon in the freezer, so I trekked home with high hopes of a totally unhealthy meal. Well, folks, I apparently had other uses for that bacon because it was MIA. Honestly, I don’t have a clue what I did with it. I’m sure it got used in some pasta or as the base for a hearty tomato sauce, but the bacon mystery totally foiled my artery-clogging plans for dinner.

Well, I couldn’t really justify spending more money on ingredients from Whole Foods when I have a well-stocked pantry (and I may have already changed into pajama pants by this point…). Since it’s been pretty chilly this week, I settled on this low calorie soup. Because I used tortellini, it was quite filling and wound up being the perfect solution to my Italian comfort food craving.

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A quick note on ingredients: the above are my favorite type of sun dried tomatoes. They’re not packed in anything, so you just get some concentrated tomato flavor; plus, they rehydrate beautifully. I get them at the Korean grocery store by my mom’s. I’m sure you can make them yourself, but these cost me just under $2 and they last forever if you keep them in the fridge. I highly suggest scouring your local ethnic grocery stores for some.

And, with that, happy eating!

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Zesty Pork Loin

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So it appears that my meat thermometer is out of whack. I suppose I should just cough up the twenty bucks or so to get a fancy instant read, but I’m being cheap. Don’t worry, I’ll cave before I bake any chickens or make another large piece of meat. In any case, it made making this pork loin a bit more difficult than I would have liked.

Pork is tricky. It’s one of those meats that, if cooked beyond a certain point, can’t really be salvaged–or at least not in my books. While a rare steak can just become a medium to medium-well one, you’ve got a small margin of error for things like pork. So, when I realized my thermometer could not possibly be reading the right temp, I decided it was time to intervene and watch this baby like a hawk. I’ve also never made a pork loin before (bizarre, I know). Apparently, I’m less daunted by a giant turkey than I am by a 1 lb piece of meat. Go figure.

Anyway, the results were well worth my OCD meat-monitoring tendencies. This was flavorful and incredibly tender–even if it was just a teensy bit more cooked than what I was aiming for. Take that, meat thermometer!

So, with that, I’m taking recommendations for meat thermometers. And you should betake yourself to the store and get yourself some pork tenderloin.

Happy eating.

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Cheesy Garlic Bread

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All right folks, I’m going to let you in on a secret. This is probably the one recipe that I make which always gets compliments, and I’ve long suspected that it’s the primary reason I get invited back to dinner parties. I have never made this bread and not witnessed it be entirely devoured before the meal is halfway over. Seriously, it is that good.

As you’ve probably noticed, I have a thing for Italian food. Having studied in Florence, my appreciation for Italian cuisine grew exponentially, and I love the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients and simple take on food. Italians don’t make garlic bread like Americans do. For them, it’s a simple piece of toast, rubbed with a piece of raw garlic that accompanies soups. It’s fresh. It’s healthy. And it really showcases the garlic.

But, sometimes. . .well, sometimes you need some good ol’ cheesy “American-style” garlic bread. And that is where this recipe comes in. It’s from America’s Test Kitchen. I haven’t a clue if the recipe is still available online somewhere, but I have made this so many times that I no longer look it up–and I’m fairly certain the measurements are quite different at this point. It’s cheesy. It’s buttery. It’s so bad for you that it’s good. It’s basically the polar opposite of actual Italian garlic bread.

But you know what? Sometimes. . . sometimes I’m ok with that.

I hope this scores you many dinner party invites and provides you endless happiness as you lament the fact that Ben Affleck didn’t receive an Oscar nod for directing Argo (I’m bitter). Happy eating.

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Tortellini Pesto Salad

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Remember that time I had a food blog that got put on the back burner first during exams and then while I let my mother feed me over break? Yeah, I do. Sorry ’bout that. Blogger fail. BUT one of resolutions this year is to be better about blogging. That and keeping my “to do” lists organized in a Moleskine journal. Oh, and to pack my lunch more often. Don’t worry, I have already put all of these on a “to do” list.

Anyway, let’s work on two of those, shall we? Today, I bring you a tortellini salad that takes about as long to make as it does to boil some pasta. It features some colorful vegetables–which I think is what most people are hoping to add to their diet around this time of year. The best part, however, is that this salad incorporates my favorite condiment at the moment: red pesto. Made from sun-dried tomatoes, cashews, and some quality olive oil, I first fell in love with it while studying abroad and rediscovered it after picking up a jar from Eataly this past summer. My friend Amanda was kind enough to replenish my stock and to grab a jar of my favorite brand on her last trip to NYC (I have the greatest friends ever). I have yet to make my own, but something tells me that attempt is right down the road.

Happy Eating!

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