Our Favorite Old Fashioned

In lieu of Thomas's birthday weekend I thought I would share our favorite cocktail, the Old Fashioned. I'll never forget one of the first long phone conversations that we had when we had just started dating. You know the kind of conversation that you have when hours go by and it feels like minutes and your cheeks hurt afterwards from smiling so much? Yeah, that kind. He was with his friends on a road trip up heading to North Carolina for a weekend of skiing and I'm almost positive we talked his entire drive there. I'm sure all his friends were annoyed as hell from us two gabbing away! Somewhere in the midst of talking about childhoods, our all-time favorite movies, and what our ultimate vacation destinations would be, we discovered that both of our favorite cocktail is a good Old Fashioned. 

It's our go-to drink whether that's any where we go in Portland or hanging out at home on the weekends. My drink usually has to match my surroundings though. Do you know what I mean? If it's the dead of summer in Florida and I'm sitting on the beach I want a cold margarita, or if I'm having a night with the girls it's all about wine, wine, and more wine. But 9 times out of 10, our surroundings consist of being cozy at home or in a quiet bar and an Old Fashioned is just the ticket. 

We're not cocktail craftsman by any means but we do know that a quality OF takes good bitters, a smooth bourbon or rye, and most importantly, a solid ice cube. There's nothing more disappointing when you go somewhere and you order an Old Fashioned and it comes out with crushed ice (albeit I love the crushed ice at a Sonic drive-thru), and your drink is watered down after a minute. Here in Portland PDX ICE company is the absolute best. It's a perfect 2 inch, crystal clear cube that fits perfectly in your glass. At home I just use a sphere ice mold that's made by Tovolo. We love Bull Run, which is a local distillery in our neighborhood in NW Portland that produces the most amazing whiskey's and bitters. I bought Thomas "The Bitter Housewife" bitters for our Anniversary funnily enough and it's some of the best I've ever tried. Is it weird that I put like 5 dashes? It's liquid gold so I don't want to waste it, but it is GOOOD. 

Our Favorite Old Fashioned

ingredients
-1 teaspoon simple syrup
-2 dashes of bitters (Angostura or whatever other kind you prefer!)
-1 slice of orange peel
-a little squeeze of fresh orange juice (skip this if you don't want it as sweet)
2 ounces (60 ml) good-quality rye or bourbon
1 maraschino cherry (we prefer the Luxardo cocktail cherries)

what to do
-Place simple syrup, bitters, squeeze of orange juice, and whiskey in an Old Fashioned glass, stir well then add your ice cube. Stir 2 to 3 times to chill. Twist the orange peel to release oils and fragrance (is that the fancy way a bartender would say it?) before placing the peel in a glass and adding a fancy cherry. 

Cheers friends! And happy birthday to my hottie of a Fiancé :)

I hope that if you've never tried an Old Fashioned than you'll give it a whirl this weekend! 

    Dungeness Crab Salad // Brunch and Lunch

    Some of my favorite childhood food memories are when we would spread newspaper all over the dining room table and have crab legs by the dozens. There is nothing more satisfying when you crack the leg just right and pull out that huge piece of sweet, meaty flesh in a whole piece. That sounds a little cannibalistic when I say it like that! But hey, who are we kidding? I will eat those meaty legs all day long...

    I was such a brat in restaurants when I was little. I would order crab legs every chance I got, even though I was 5. My poor parents would have to crack and shell all of my crab for me in a little mound before they could even get to their own meals. This is the 101 millionth reason why I love my parents so much. I am so appreciative now that they made me be an adventure eater when I was young and didn't always hold me to the chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese on the menu. But don't get me wrong, I definitely had my fair share of Kraft Mac and Spagetti O's by the bucket full.
     
    In Florida, we would always have either Blue or Stone crabs which are amazing, but now that I live in Oregon the Dungeness crab is the king around here and the Mack Daddy of the crab kingdom! The peak season here is from December- April and you can bet your little fanny that I am constantly eyeing them in the store. I'd love to go crabbing this year. From what I understand, crabbing is just throwing crab traps into the water while you wait in the boat and consume beverages. Sounds like my kind of day! Until we can do the real thing, for now I'll just have to settle for the seafood counter.
     
    Last week we finally decided to splurge and have a crab feast! Thomas did all the work and created a glorious mound of crab meat which I mercilessly kept stealing bites from. We made the creamiest dreamiest crab salad that was perfect for brunch. It was the topper to toasty sourdough bread, smoked salmon, and the softest scrambled eggs you've ever put in your mouth. For the life of me I can't understand why I always wanted my scrambled eggs "dry". I would specifically ask for that in restaurants. Grosssss. Thomas showed me a way to cook scrambled eggs on very low heat, constantly mixing until they are pillowy and perfect, and then adding a small slab off butter at the end with a sprinkle of salt & peppa. 

    With that being said, this should definitely be on your lazy Sunday brunch menu this weekend! And if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, you can make a boring salad SO much better like I did with this spinach salad!
     

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     Dungeness Crab Breakfast Toasts

     Ingredients
    Crab salad

     -2 pounds of Dungeness crab (meat removed, save the shells and make seafood stock if you want!)
     -2 green onions, white and green parts finely chopped
     -3 tablespoons mayonnaise 
     -2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice 
     -a handful of chopped parsley 
     -Salt and pepper to taste
      
    Assembly
     - scrambled eggs
     - smoked salmon
     - good crusty bread
     
    What to do
    1) crack all of the crab legs to get the meat out. Thomas just used the back of a knife, but if you have shell crackers even better! Put all the meat in a large bowl. 
    2) gently mix in the mayo, lemon juice, green onion, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. We wanted the crab to really stand out, but if you want yours a little creamier, add more mayo or sour cream to your liking. 
    3) to make the scrambled eggs, whisk 5 or 6 large eggs in a bowl and then pour into a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Continuously stir the eggs with a wooden spoon or spatula and if you see the eggs cooking too quickly remove from heat and continue to stir until the cooking process has slowed. After 5 or so minutes when the eggs have scrambled, remove from heat and add a small slice of butter and incorporate into the eggs. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and voila! Perfect scrambled eggs :) 
    4) To assemble, make the toasty slice of bread your base and then add the eggs, slices of smoked salmon, and topped with crab salad. 
     
    Note on the salad: My favorite quick salad is to use spinach or arugala and then coat the leaves with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, grated Parmesan, and salt and pepper! 

    Enjoy!
     
    Participating in https://www.midlifecroissant.com/saucy-saturdays-blog-hop-84/ 

    Chocolate Rose Cake for Two

    I've said it myself in the past so I can't judge too harshly, but I've learned to dispise when people say that Valentine's Day is just another day. I agree that you should treat your partner special every day, but February 14th should not go un-celebrated. I mean come on, who doesn't love heart shaped foods, chocolates with surprises in the middle, and guiltlessly eating box after box of Sweethearts? Oh yeah and the best part, spending quality time with your valentine :)

    Do you remember what a big deal v-day was when you were a kid? I would work tirelessly the night before making a cute card for every person in my class. And when I say "I", I really mean my mom or stepmom. Heart shaped pancakes were always a must in the morning and my uniform would include a giant red bow in my hair. Maybe I should bring that look back for work on the 14th. 

    Whatever your Love Day traditions consist of, our favorite is to make an amazing meal at home, drink entirely too much red wine, ban all technology, and eat chocolate until we burst! Since it's on a Tuesday this year, I wanted to make good meal over the weekend. Thomas worked all day on Saturday, so I cooked up a storm and jammed out to all the best love tunes. I'm talking I Do (Cherish you) by 98 Degrees kind of tunes. I made crab bisque, beef wellington, roasted potatoes, arugula salad, and finished the meal off with this amazing chocolate rose cake for two! The frosting is to dieeee for. I'm not going lie, I still have a bowl of it in the fridge and I keep sneaking spoonfuls. I got this recipe from Adrianna over at A Cozy Kitchen. It's the perfect, full proof chocolate cake recipe and can be made in a snap for a special day!

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    Chocolate Rose Cake for Two
     Recipe by Adrianna - A Cozy Kitchen


     Ingredients
     Cake
     -3/4 cups all-purpose flour
     -3/4 cups white granulated sugar
     -1/3 cup Dutch cocoa powder
     -1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
     -3/4 teaspoon baking soda
     -1/2 teaspoon baking powder
     -1/2 teaspoon salt
     -1 large egg 
     -1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, buttermilk 
     -1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, warm water
     -1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 
     - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     Frosting
     -3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
     -2 cups powdered sugar, sifted 
     -3 ounces dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled 
     -1 1/2 tablespoons cream or milk 
     -3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
     -Flaked sea salt, for topping
     
    What to do
    1) To make the cake: preheat over to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 6-inch cake pans. This batter is sticky so I also lined the bottoms with parchment. I highly recommend this. You don't want to bake the whole thing up and have it stick. Set the pans aside. 
    2) In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand-up mixer (with the paddle attachment), add the all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Next, crack in the egg, pour in the buttermilk, warm water, olive oil and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth, about 1 minute. The batter will be thinner than cake batter that you’re probably used to—that’s ok!
    3) Divide the cake batter amongst the two cake pans and transfer to the oven to bake for 27 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. If you want it a little fudgier, check it around 25 minutes! Clean out the bowl you used to make the cake and dry it thoroughly. While the cake is cooling, use it to make the frosting,
    4) To make the frosting: add all of the ingredients to the the cleaned large bowl or the bowl of the stand-up mixer (with the paddle attachment), add the butter, powdered sugar, melted chocolate, cream or milk and vanilla extract. Beat until thoroughly combined and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix one last time, just to ensure everything is combined.
    5) Decorating: Add a few tablespoons of frosting to the center of one of the rounds of cake. Smooth it around, until it reaches the edges. Add a pinch of salt all around. Place the second layer on top. Since I was going for a “naked cake” look, I added more frosting to the seam of the two cakes and smoothed it all around. Neat is not the goal! Add the remaining frosting to piping bag with a star tip attached. In the center of the top layer of cake, pipe out a rose by starting in the center and going all the way around twice. Complete the cake by adding smaller roses around the center rose. Don’t be shy to practice on a piece of parchment first and then simply add the frosting back to the piping bag—no waste!
    6) Top the cake with a sprinkling of flaked sea salt!
     
    Happy v-day lovebirds!!

    Chicken Quinoa Bowls with Avocado Dressing

    Happy Hump Day!  

    Wednesday's are so good because you're SO CLOSE to Friday, yet bad because you're SO FAR from Friday. You've gotten through two days of early alarms, sleepy cups of coffee, wobbling ankles in heels at 6:30am (me every morning), and early work calls that just make you want to crawl back into bed with the covers over your head.

    I make jokes, but there's something so gratifying about having a routine. Once I've gotten out of bed in the morning and I've watched the morning news with a strong cup of joe, I am ready to rock! From Monday-Wednesday Thomas and I are usually pretty good about working out. After that it's on the steady decline and barbells turn to beer bottles. Since we've been trying different classes at studios around Portland with ClassPass, we have definitely had some laughs. I honestly wish someone would secretly film us one day (actually just film Thomas) doing things like "pigeon pose" in yoga, trying to function on a pyrolates machine, and doing push-n-pulls in spin class! I seriously can't look at him sometimes or else I burst out in uncontrollable laughter! Is their any fun workouts you guys like to do?!

    In spirit of Wednesday's and being half way to fri-yay, here is a healthy-ish salad that satisfies all of your "almost weekend" cravings.
     
    Speaking of healthy-ish, have you read bon appétit's January issue?! Perfection.
     
    This salad is on our menu at least a few times a month because it's so quick and easy to throw together. I could slurp this avocado dressing with a straw and it's just creamy and decadent enough to feel like a sinful Friday night meal. 

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    Chicken Quinoa Bowls with Avocado Dressing  
    serves 4

    Ingredients
     
    -2 cups quinoa
     -big bag of spinach
     -2-4 chicken breasts (depending if you want to do half or a whole breast per person) 
     -2 tsp cumin
     -2 tsp chili powder
     -1/2 tsp salt
     -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
     -2 avocados, thinly sliced or cubed
     -grape tomatoes, halved
     -1 red onion, thinly sliced
     -Chopped cilantro for serving

     Dressing
     - 1/2 cup sour cream
     - 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
     -1/2 cup olive oil
     -1 ripe avocado
     -1/3 cup lime juice
     -2 cloves of garlic
     -handful of cilantro (we like a lot!) 
     -1/2 cup of milk or water, use more or less depending on how thick you want it  
     -1/2 tsp salt
     

    What to do
     -Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a pot. Add a spoonful of chicken stock or just salt the water before adding the quinoa. Give a quick stir before turning the water to a low boil and putting the lid on. Let simmer until the quinoa has soaked up all the water and tender. 
     -While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  
     -Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper and rub all of the chicken breasts. On a baking sheet, wrap the chicken breasts in foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until their done. Slice chicken into strips to serve. 
     -To assemble, place large handfuls of spinach in individual serving bowls. Top with quinoa, sliced chicken, grape tomaotoes, red onion, sliced or cubed avocado, drizzle generously with avocado dressing and finish the salad with chopped cilantro. 

    Happy Friday Eve Eve Friends! 

    Super Bowl Sliders: 3 Ways

    Is it sad that I just had to double check with Thomas who is playing in the Super Bowl?! That is actually quite sad being that I won 2nd in my fantasy league this year...lol. It probably eats everyone alive in my league that some how I won the whole thing last year and 2nd this year and I have no clue how. I must just be a drafting wizard ;) Cheers to working smarter not harder!
     
    In other sporting news, did you know the Handball World Championship was this past weekend?! I always thought handball was just the game we played in elementary school! Who knew it is actually a huge sport, and Norway just won their first medal ever! 

    Anywho, regardless of who's playing, Super Bowl Sunday is always a winner in my books. Who doesn't like a great sporting event with even greater company, gorging on burgers, and other cute hand-held things, and geeking out on all the amazing commercials? I'M IN. 

    I wish I could say I'm a big fan for a team this year who has proudly worn their jersey every Sunday since the season started. But since I'm not, you can find me with my bandwagon jersey on hanging by the bar where all the snackies are. 

    Since there's so many yummy things to munch on at a SB party, you probably don't want to eat a whole burger, That's why little mini burgers are so perfect! 
     
    The lineup includes:

    -A chipotle guac slider with honey roasted jalapeños
     -A pear & blue cheese slider with arugula 
     -and last but not least, the MVP, throwing the Hail Mary of all Hail Mary's, "THE CLASSIC" with candied bacon.
     
    Cue the trumpets!!!!

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    Chipotle Guac Sliders

     Ingredients
     Chipotle Cream:
     -2 large chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 3 tablespoons of adobo sauce
     -1 garlic clove, minced
     -1/2 cup of sour cream
     -1/3 cup of mayo 

    Guac
      -2 ripe avocados
     -juice of 1/2 a lime 
     -1 garlic clove, minced
     -handful of chopped cilantro 
     -salt & pepper to taste

    Burgers
     -1 pound of ground beef (I bought 83% lean, 17% fat)
     -1 large chipotle pepper, finely chopped, about a tablespoon of reserved adobo sauce
     -1/2 tsp cumin
     -1/2 tsp garlic powder
     -1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
     -Pepper jack cheese
     -Red onion, thinly sliced into rings
     -3 jalapeños, sliced
     -honey
     -Slider buns
     

    What to do:  

    -Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the jalapeños and place in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and honey. Stir to coat. Place in the preheated oven and roast until soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally. 
     -While the jalapeños roast, for the chipotle cream, mix the finely chopped chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, minced garlic, sour cream, and mayonnaise all together. Add more peppers if you want it spicier and add salt & pepper to taste.  
     -For the guac, mix the smashed avocado together with juice of 1/2 a lime, handful of chopped cilantro, 1 minced garlic clove, and salt & pepper to taste. 
     -For the burgers, mix the beef with the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, spices, and salt pepper and form into 2 inch patties of equal size and thickness.
     -If you have a grill, GREAT! But if not, heat a large oven proof skillet over medium heat until hot. With a little olive oil in the pan, place the patties down and sear until brown on each side. Place in the oven at 350 degrees to finish cooking through to your liking, about 10 more minutes.
     -When you think the burgers are about done, take them out and place small slices of pepper jack over each patty. Turn the oven to broil and melt the cheese until bubbly. 
     -With the oven still on broil, place buns brushed with olive oil on a baking sheet and broil until buns are toasty and golden.
     -To assemble: Place a layer of guac on the bottom bun. Top with burger, sliced red onion and roasted jalapeños. On the top bun, smear a layer of chipotle cream. Voila! Guac-y slider magic. 

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    Pear & Blue Cheese Sliders 
     Ingredients
     Lemon garlic aioli
     -1/2 cup of mayo 
     -Juice of 1/2 lemon
     -2 garlic cloves 
     -pinch of salt 
     
     Burgers
     - 1 pound of ground beef ( I used 83% lean 17% fat)
     -Good blue cheese. The stinkier the better :) 
     -1 pear thinly sliced
     -arugula 
     -slider buns
     
     What to do:
     -Mix all the ingredients for your aioli. Add more salt or lemon juice to your liking. 
     -For the burgers, season meat with salt and pepper and form into 2 inch patties of equal size and thickness.
     -If you have a grill, GREAT! But if not, heat a large oven proof skillet over medium heat until hot. With a little olive oil in the pan, place the patties down and sear until brown on each side. Place in the oven at 350 degrees to finish cooking through to your liking, about 10 more minutes.
     -When you think the burgers are about done, take them out and place the crumbled blue cheese over each patty. Turn the oven to broil and melt the cheese until bubbly.
    -With the oven still on broil, place buns brushed with olive oil on a baking sheet and broil until buns are toasty and golden.
    -To assemble: Smear the aioli on the bottom bun. Then place a small bunch of arugula and place the patty on top. Place thin slices of pear over the burger and then the top bun.

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    "The Classic" Slider

     Ingredients 
     Lemon garlic aioli
     -1/2 cup of mayo
     -Juice of 1/2 lemon
     -2 garlic cloves
     -pinch of salt

    Burgers
     - 1 pound of ground beef ( I used 83% lean 17% fat)
     -thick, center cut bacon
     -brown sugar
     -Roma Tomatoes, sliced 
     -Red onion, thinly sliced into rings
     -cheddar cheese
     -Slider buns 
     
      What to do
     -to candy the bacon, toss bacon with 1/3 cup of brown sugar in the large bowl. On a foil lined baking sheet, place bacon in an even layer and season with pepper. Bake at 350 until crispy, turning halfway though. Total baking time should be around 25 minutes! If it needs longer, just watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. 
     -If you have a grill, GREAT! But if not, heat a large oven proof skillet over medium heat until hot. With a little olive oil in the pan, place the patties down and sear until brown on each side. Place in the oven at 350 degrees to finish cooking through to your liking, about 10 more minutes.  
     -When you think the burgers are about done, take them out and place slices of cheddar over each patty. Turn the oven to broil and melt the cheese until bubbly.
    -With the oven still on broil, place buns brushed with olive oil on a baking sheet and broil until buns are toasty and golden.
    -To assemble: Smear the aioli on the bottom bun. Then place the candied bacon and patty on top of the bacon. Top with tomato and onion. 

    Happy Super Bowling folks!!!

    Beet, Avocado, and Pea Salad

    I made a whoopsie...

    I told you that I'm a sucker for guacamole in an earlier post. What I should have told you is that I'm a sucker for guacamole, nachos, and beer. Anything smothered in oozing cheese, sour cream, and guac on guac on guac, and I'm onboard!

    Last week we went to Orlando for my company's annual National Sales Meeting, where thousands of Insight Globalites congregate for a cult-like meeting where we all chant how great IG is, drink more alcoholic beverages than necessary, and eat entirely too much junk food. That last beer, nachos swimming in cheese, and loaded tater tots always sound so good at the time...

    So now I'm cleansing my soul and my body with wholesome and healthy meals and lots of H2O. This salad out of Ottolenghi's cookbook Plenty More, is fresh and bursting with flavor between the beets, marinated onions, avocado, peas, and tons of fresh herbs. However I'm a complete ditz and got so excited to eat the salad that I forgot to add the peas to it! So after finishing our meal I walked into the kitchen to find a bowl full of fresh peas. Very disappointing, so make sure you add them to yours!

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    Beet, Avocado, and Pea Salad

    Ingredients

    -2 medium beets, peeled and cut into paper thin slices
     -1 small red onion, thinly sliced
     -3 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
     -1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra to finish
     -1 tsp sugar
     -1 - 3 tsp chili sauce or Tabasco
     -2 medium avocados, pitted and thinly sliced
     -micro greens, about a cup
     - mint and cilantro, about 1/4 cup of each roughly chopped
     -1 cup fresh or frozen peas, quickly blanched and refreshed
     -salt and black pepper to season

    What to do
     
    1) Boil some water in a pot and add the beets. Blanch for 3 - 5 minutes until semi cooked but still retaining a bite
    2) Refresh under cold water, pat dry and transfer to a large bowl
    3) Add the onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, chili sauce, salt and black pepper
    4) Toss gently, taste the dressing for acidity and seasoning. If you like it sweeter, add more sugar or honey, or more vinegar if you want it tangier. This is all you! Set aside for 15 minutes
    5) When ready to serve, spread half the beet mixture onto a large plate or shallow bowl
    6) Top with micro greens, chopped herbs, avocado, peas, and the more of the beet mixture.
    7) Finish with a drizzle of olive oil! 
     
    Happy Monday every one!

    Blanquette de Porc // Cookbook Love

    It's officially 2017. I can't believe it's been 17 years since my 8 year-old-self was ringing in the millennium thinking I was so cool because I would dress in full jean outfits like my idols, Britney & Justin, and listened to Genie in a Bottle on repeat. Ahh those were the days.. you think I could still pull off a full jean dress? I think I could ;)

    I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, ate great food with even greater company, and had somewhat of manageable hangover after NYE. Never before have I hung black sheets over every window in order to watch movies in our cave-like apartment, but that's what we did to "observe" the New Year and it was much needed.

    Now we're back in our daily routine - back to work, attempting to exercise more, and not having a primarily cheese, wine, and cookie diet. I've spent my nights trying to write more and flipping through a number of amazing cookbooks that I got for Christmas. When Thomas and I go to Powell's Bookstore, we immediately head straight to the cookbook section. I can spend hours flipping through and looking at the delicious and decadent pictures and reading cooking wizardry, but I usually always end up walking away and never buying anything. So for Christmas, Thomas bought me three amazing books and I'm obsessed. Plenty More, Bountiful, and A Kitchen in France. And to make it even better, he put little "coupons" throughout the books! So when I go to make a recipe I get an extra surprise as well! Babe, can I get a hint which book and page you put the "back rub" coupon? :)

    The first dish I made was out of A Kitchen in France, which was Blanquette de Veau. To cook something en blanquette means that the meat is not browned in the cooking process which I didn't know! The recipe called for a veal (veau) shoulder, so I called every butcher in our area but there wasn't veal anywhere to be found. So I substituted a pork shoulder which was delicious and probably much cheaper.

    This calls for A LOT of butter...but it also has a butt load of veggies and I used quinoa instead of rice, so that has to count for something right?! I mean come on, you can't eat salad and celery sticks forever. It's frigid in Portland, like most of the country right now, so this is a perfect meal to warm your belly. Right at the end of the cooking process, you combine crème fraîche, egg yolks, lemon juice, a few ladles of broth and add it back in the stew and holyyyy cow. It's the creamiest dreamiest stew you'll taste all year. If you're feeling crazy, go ahead and dip a big slice of french bread in it. Screw the diet!

     :)

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    Blanquette de Porc
     Adapted from Mimi Thorisson- A Kitchen in France
     
     Ingredients
     -2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes
     -2 small shallots
     -4 cloves
     -4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
     -2 leeks, white part only, sliced
     -2 celery stalks, sliced
     -1 small onion, sliced
     -4 garlic cloves, sliced
     -1 bouquet garni (see note) 
     -1/4 cup dry white wine
     -6 tablespoons butter
     -1/3 cup all purpose flower
     -8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
     -Juice of 1 lemon
     -2/3 cup crème fraîche
     -2 large egg yolks
    A handful of chopped fresh parsley
     
     (Mimi used veal instead of pork, she used pearl onions which I omitted since I didn't have any on hand, and I added a little more garlic, carrots and celery than the recipe called for. You can find her original recipe here!

     
    What to do
    1) Bring a large pot of salted water, enough to generously cover the meat, to a boil. Add the pork, return to a boil, and cook for 1 minute. Skim any scum from the surface.
    2) Meanwhile, slice 1 1/2 of the shallots. Stick the cloves into the remaining shallot. Add the carrots, leeks, celery, onion, garlic, all the shallots, and the bouquet garni to the pot, then add the wine, bring to a low boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with 1 tablespoon of salt, cover, and simmer over low heat until the pork is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 
    3) Strain the meat and vegetables from the broth and set aside. Discard the bouquet garni. Reserve the broth in the pot. 
    4) Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking constantly, and cook, stirring until the roux thickens, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the roux into the pot with the broth, whisking constantly, and simmer over low heat until the broth starts to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. 
    5) Return the meat and vegetables to the pot, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. 
    6) Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms until golden, about 6 minutes. Drizzle in half of the lemon juice and simmer 30 seconds. Add to the big pot. 
    7) In a small bowl, mix together the crème fraîche and the remaining lemon juice, then whisk in the egg yolks. Add a ladle or two of the cooking liquid, whisk well, and pour the mixture into the big pot, (Do not boil, or the egg and cream will curdle). 
    7) Remove from heat and serve immediately, garnished with the parsley. 
     
    Note: What is a bouquet garni? 
    A bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs! It traditionally comprises parsley, a few sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf. These herbs may be bundled into a strip of leek or a piece of celery stalk, or tied in a muslin bag or with string, to keep them together during cooking and allows easy removal.
    I didn't have thyme so I bundled rosemary, sage, and a bay leaf and wrapped it with a strip of leek! 

    Cheers to Simple Meals & Resolutions

    Happy last day of the year everyone!
     
    I cannot believe how fast 2016 flew by! It's honestly scary. Everyone keeps saying how bad 2016 was, but why don't we look at the positive?! Thomas and I got engaged, panda bears were taken off the endagered species list, and dunkaroo's from my childhood are making a comeback!
    I'm slightly joking about that last part, but those suckers were so good. I can't believe they were outlawed in the U.S! People are actually smuggling them over from Canada lol
     
    With 2016 behind us, in 2017 I resolve to..
    1) Not eat a whole bowl of guac and chips in one sitting, exercise self control, and just exercise in general. Someone trying to get a wedding bod cannot devour that many avocado's in one sitting! But gawd it's goooddd. Thomas and I have signed up with this thing called Classpass where you can go to different studios around the city like spinning, kickboxing, HIIT training, or whatever your heart desires. So my resolution is to do that at least three times a week and run at least twice! Shoot high ya know. 
    2) Be a tidier person. No longer will there be a pile of clothes mounting on the dresser from the week. Why is it that when I get home from work I think it's absolute torture to hang something up in the closet? It's a mystery to Thomas, but it ends now!
    3) Learn Norwegian. Well at least a little more than I currently know. Last time I was in Norway and we were staying at Mormor's (grandma's) house, Thomas left the room and he said Mormor was talking to me about the weather and I was responding by saying how delicious the food was! Hilarious. Not anymore my friends!! Next time I see her I'll practically be Norwegian ;)
    4) Be more dedicated to blogging. No more nights and weekends of binge watching Grey's, Friends, or whatever flavor of the week it is. My goal is at least two posts a week, preferably three. Hold me to it folks. 
    5) Be a great Fiancée and wedding planner. I vow to be the best Fiancée, not be a procrastinator or a bridezilla. The wedding is not until March 2018, so you would think that would plenty of time to plan. 
    6) And last but not least, I resolve to make more great, simple, healthy meals to support resolution numero uno above. This seared steak with these two salads (sun dried tomato and Greek) go so perfect together. Since it's frigid outside, you can sear these on your stove and make a marg and pretend it's summer! I'll begrudgingly forgo the guac since I'm keeping all of my resolutions. 

    Happy New Year Friends!

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    Seared Steak with sundried tomato and Greek salad
      

    Ingredients
     For the steak 
     -whichever cut of steak you prefer (We used filet's) 
     -fresh rosemary sprigs
     -one whole garlic, halved 
    -tablespoon of butter (or olive oil since it's the new year and we're dieting and all) 
     -salt & pepper
     Sundried Tomato Salad
     -3 oz sundried tomatoes
     -3 tablespoons of olive oil 
     -1 cup halved sugar plum or cherry tomatoes
     -1/4 cup fresh chopped basil 
     -2 garlic cloves minced 
     -1/3 cup grated Parmesan 
     -1/4 tsp salt, pinch of pepper
     Greek Salad 
     -1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped 
     -1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced 
     -1 cup halved sugar plum or cherry tomatoes 
     -1/4 cup Greek olives, pitted 
     -3 tablespoons olive oil 
     -handleful of chopped parsley 
     -1 block of feta in water, use a little of the water!
     -Salt and pepper to taste
     

    What to do
    1) In a large skillet, heat butter or olive oil over high heat until very hot. Season steak with salt and pepper on both sides before placing in the skillet. Place halved garlic in the skillet along with a couple spring of rosemary. Sear steak on all sides until brown and remove from heat when it reaches and internal temperature of 155 degrees. 
    2) for the salads, combine all ingredients! Easy peasy. In the Greek salad, I like to add a little of the feta water to give it some saltiness. 
     
    Enjoy!

    Oxtail Ragu Pappardelle // Fiancée Life

    Hi Friends. Sorry for the lack of posts the last few weeks. I've been so distracted with... BEING ENGAGED!!!!!! My little cutie of a Norwegian popped the question over Thanksgiving while we were surrounded with both of our families and closest friends. It couldn't have been more perfect. I should have suspected something when the day before he proposed, him and his mom bought like 50 bottles of champagne- I just thought to myself "welp, that's a sign we drink too much!"

    The night he proposed, we had over 50 people at my childhood home in Florida for a big dinner party. We ate Norwegian snacks like Pølse i lompe, rakfisk, and fenalår (I'll make those in a post one day!) and to finish off we had low country boil! It was so fun for everyone on both sides to eat food from our different cultures.

    After dinner, when he got up to make a toast around the fire I had a feeling it was about to happen! I started crying immediately, you know me. After the sweetest toast and his perfect proposal we spent the night laughing and celebrating with the people we love the most. Besides the night that I met him, it was the best night of my life.

    We're heading back to Florida for Christmas and I couldn't be more thrilled to get a little vitamin D in my bloodstream. We've had two major snow days in Portland in the month of December. The town turns apocalyptic when it snows - not even kidding. The roads shut down since there's no snow management, and we're forced to stay inside and snuggle all day and eat comfort food. Darn, don't you hate that? :)

    This oxtail ragu is so good I can't even begin to tell you. Thomas made this at his cabin in Norway two winters ago and I've been dreaming of it ever since.  To make it even better, we loaded the ragu on top of buttery pappardelle noodles and topped it with wine-y caramelized onions. It's slow braised, it's comfort food, it's good people.

    A bottle of red, the twinkling tree, this ragu, and Scrooged (Bill Murray version) are all you need in this last week before Christmas to get you in the spirit.

    P.s. Is it a little weird that Bill Murray's Scrooged is the first movie that popped in my head?!

    Happy Holidays Everyone!


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    Oxtail Ragu Pappardelle 
     (Adapted from Jaime Oliver's Oxtail Stew)
    Ingredients
     
    For the Ragu
     - 5 pounds oxtail
     -2 medium leeks
     -3 sticks of celery
     -4 carrots
     -a few sprigs of fresh thyme
     -6 garlic cloves, minced
     -2 dried bay leaves
     -3 cloves
     -2 tablespoons of tomato paste
     -2 28 oz cans of plum tomatoes (use whatever you have on hand, crushed tomatoes work too!)
     -2 bottles of Guinness beer
     -2 tablespoons of concentrated beef stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)
     -Pappardelle noodles (homemade is best)
     
     

     For the onions
     -1 large onion, thinly sliced
     -granulated sugar
     -1/2 bottle red wine
     -1 cup of water/spoonful of beef concentrate
      

    What to do
     
    1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle oxtail with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 or so minutes until golden brown. 
    2) meanwhile, trim the leeks and celery and chop into rough pieces. Peel and chop the carrots and place all the vegetables in a large pot and sauté over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Pick and roughly chop the thyme leaves and add that to the mix along with the minced garlic when the veggies are starting to soften. 
    3) Stir the tomato paste into the mix and cook it off for 2 minutes.
    4) Add in the oxtails, and pour in the tomatoes, 1 Guinness beer, bay leaves, cloves, and 2 tablespoons of beef stock.
     5) Turn the heat down and simmer the mixture for 5-6 hours. The key is to reduce, reduce, reduce. I have to be honest, thomas and I typically taste and adjust as we go but this is as accurate as possible.
    6) When you can tell the meat is falling off the bone, remove the oxtail pieces onto a plate and shred the meat and put back into the pot. This is the best part because you can eat the meat off the bone! 
    7) prepare the Pappardelle noodles. After ours were boiled, we tossed them in a little hot milk and butter to make it even more delicious and to prevent them from sticking. 
    8) While the noodles are cooking, thinly slice one onion. 
    9) Heat a skillet over medium heat, pour an even, thin layer of sugar and let it sit until it caramelizes. Do not stir it! Be careful though, because this step happens fast! Then, add the sliced onion, wine, water, and beef stock. Let it simmer until it reduces into a thick sauce. 
     
     Plate: Twirl a mound of pappardelle on a plate, top with ragu, caramelized onions, and drizzle with a little of the reduced sauce. Enjoy!

    Note on the ragu: We started with one bottle of beer, but as it reduced over several hours it needed another beer, so just adjust as you go. If it suits you to add more beef stock, do it. If you want to drink a Guinness or two while you're cooking, do it. :)

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    Mini Apple Pies

    People, 14 more days until it's acceptable to cover every item on your dinner plate in turkey gravy. Don't even act like you don't do it. In all the days of the year, Thanksgiving is the one day that it's appropriate for you to have a mound of potatoes and squash casserole on your plate the size of ant hills, to wear the loosest pants possible, and to nap at least two different times on the same day. At least those are all examples of a Harper Thanksgiving. Words can't express how excited I am to head back to Florida for nine days of sunshine (hopefully), family & friends, and all the turkey my little heart desires. 

    To make things even more fun and memorable this year, Thomas's family is coming to Florida from Norway for Thanksgiving! This is their first American holiday experience, so I think it will be really cool for them to see what it's all about. I hope they brace for Chinet plates that are so heavy with turkey they start sagging! It's a hilarious/mildly disgusting competition between the men in my family every year to see who can eat the most. Do you remember that episode of Friend's when Joey eats the entire turkey and gets the meat sweats? Yep...that's my fam. Thomas was a contender last year, but I don't think he had prepared himself for what was in store. 

    Tryptophan aside, this year with Thomas's family I foresee an epic corn hole competition, boat rides, good conversation, lots of laughs, and wine. Lots of it. My mom told me today that she bought 24 bottles of wine from her favorite winery just for Thanksgiving...ha. 

    We obviously can't talk about giving thanks without pie being in the picture. I give thanks to the human who came up with the idea of mixing butter, sugar and apples into a serendipitous blend of sticky deliciousness. I mean come on. How does it get better than that?!

    Thomas and I took a drive to Douglas farms last weekend and got the last of the Golden Delicious apples of the season. It's sad to say, but that was my first time picking apples. It was so fun! It's the perfect day date. I also found the cutest mini pie pans the day before, so of course I wanted to practice making pies for Thanksgiving. The pies turned out so cute! If you want to make this even easier, buy frozen pie crust. I know that´s cheating, but it´s still super tasty I promise. For these, I thawed the pie crust and ended up re-rolling it out so I could make the lattice. Obviously, homemade crust is best but if your short on time I would recommend frozen pie crust that you can roll out yourself.

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    Mini Apple Pies

    Ingredients
    -4 pounds of Golden Delicious apples (honey crisp, gala, or any other variety would do as well)
    -2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    -3 tablespoons bourbon
    -1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    -4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    -1/3 cup white granulated sugar
    -1/3 cup brown sugar
    -1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    -1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    -2 rolled out pie crusts (I just needed enough for 4 mini pie pans)
    -1 egg (for the egg wash)

    What to do
    1) peel the apples and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Toss with the lemon juice, bourbon, and vanilla extract.
    2) melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and sugars. Cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the liquid starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the apples soften and the mixture thickens, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.


                                                                                        

     

     

    For the Crust:
    1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
     2) Rub butter on the insides of the pie pans. Roll out the 2 dough pieces on a floured surface until it's about a 12 inch round. Place the mini pan pans face down and cut around the edges, leaving a little room. Flip the pans over and either crimp the sides using your thumb and forefinger or use a fork to press down the sides.
    3) Fill with the cooled apple mixture.
    4) Follow this article by Saveur on how to make lattice for the tops of the pies
    -OR-
    Cut out a little top and fit and pinch into the sides. Cut slits to let out the steam.
    5) Brush the tops with the whisked egg wash and bake roughly 45 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
    HAPPY BAKING!

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    Boozy Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate

    Since I was little, Halloween has been such a fun holiday for me. My mom would throw amazing parties and our garage would be turned into a scary haunted house donned with webs, fake spiders and bats, and scary creatures hiding in every corner. In the days aproaching the party, we would carve intricate pumpkins (she would end up doing all of it) and watching scary movies. It's obligatory to watch Hocus Pocus at least 3 times every October.

    15 years later not much has changed :)

    It's the day before Halloween and I feel like i've milked everything out of the month of October that I can. We've carved pumpkins, went to the corn maze, drank pumpkin beer, ate pumpkin treats, watched a scary movie pretty much every day, and to top it off we went to a halloween party Friday. Halloween isn't a big holiday in Norway, so I've turned Thomas into a little ghoul and he loves it now too! At least he pretends he does and amuses me. 

    Normally I do elaborate halloween costumes, but this year I decided to just create a cool look with makeup and wear normal clothes. Let me tell you, last year was quite the sight trying to go to the bathroom in my costume. I was Dexter's victim completely wrapped in plastic wrap so you can only imagine what that looked like. This year we decided to do skeletons and it ended up turning out pretty good! I was a little worried in the beginning when I was doing Thomas's make-up because he started out lookng like a giant panda and for a minute I couldn't stop laughing. After some shadowing and details it came out great. We danced our bones off all night and had such a good time! 

    Since Friday we've been so lazy and that's perfectly alright with me. Bundled up watching scary movies, nothing seems more fitting than hot chocolate. Better yet...BOOZY hot chocolate. It's the perfect sweet treat made with white chocolate, milk, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, bourbon and topped with whipped cream, caramel, and in our case black and orange sprinkles. The bourbon we used is by Bull Run Distillery here in Portland. You can also use Kalua or whatever you fancy instead of bourbon!

    I hope all of you ghosts, ghouls, and goblins have a spooktacular Halloween!

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    Boozy Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate  
    Adapted from Minimalist Baker

     Ingredients
     -1/2 cup white chocolate (I prefer to use a higher quality white chocolate like Giradelli's) 
     -2.5 cups milk (I used 2%)
     -1/4 cup pumpkin puree
     -1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
     -1 oz of Bourbon 
    -whipped cream and caramel as toppings (orange and black sprinkles are fun as well!) 

    What to do
    1) In a saucepan over low-medium heat, melt the chocolate chips in the milk, whisking often.
    2) Once melted, stir in the pumpkin pie spice and the pumpkin purée and mix vigorously until incorporated. 
    3) Pour 1 oz of bourbon into each glass and top with the hot chocolate mixture. Stir and then top with whipped cream and your toppings of choice.  

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    Marshmallow Stout Brownies // Feast Portland

    It's officially Fall and I couldn't be more excited! If you know me at all you know that I am completely obsessed with Halloween and the entire month of October. The leaves are bright orange and red here in Portland, the air is crisp, and the rainy season is upon us. We experienced the first rainy day when we attended Feast Portland a couple of weekends ago. The weather was cold and wet, but that didn't stop people from enjoying the 40+ events that were happening all around Portland. Presented by Bob Appétit, Feast is more than just a food and drink festival. It was named the "best food festival in the country" by Thrillist and has raised more than $230,000 for charities like Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. 

    Obviously I was in heaven. We had wine holsters that hung around our necks so you could be hands free (genius!) We got to try little bites from local vendors and restaurants that are scattered across the PNW. Bakeries, breweries, chocolatiers, cheese makers, wineries, and chefs from all across the country were cranking out their best and we most certainly took advantage. We even got the chance to try Langbaan Chef  Earl Ninsom's creation which was amazing since it takes months to get a reservation at the actual restaurant. We practically had to roll ourselves out of the tent at the end of the day!

    At Base Camp's  stand they toasted a mallow on a stick right there in front of you to go with their imperial stout that they had on draft. Roasted ooey-gooey perfection. I wanted to create that same thing in brownie form because... why the heck wouldn't I?! Base Camp S'more stout, brown butter, fudgy brownies, marshmallow fluff - the gangs all here! Make these bad boys on a dreary day when you need a little sweet treat to cheer you up. Cheers to Base Camp for inspiring me and making our tummies happy!

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    Marshmallow Stout Brownies

    What to do
    -Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. 
    -In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
    -Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water.
    -In a small pan over medium heat, melt and brown the butter until it just turns golden, about 5 minutes. Pour the brown butter into the chocolate and stir until combined. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the stout. 
    -In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until thick. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the ingredients are well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
    -Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan before adding a layer or swirl of marshmallow fluff. Add the rest of the batter on top and bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges are firm. I like mine fudgier so bake longer if you like them more cakey. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan before slicing.

    Enjoy! 

    -Hill and Thomas

    Ingredients
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
    1/2 cup stout or any dark beer
    4 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    Marshmallow fluff

    Brie Stuffed Burgers with Grilled Corn and Peach Salsa

    I don't know how I'm writing about burgers after the amount I ate over 4th of July weekend. It's hilarious after we gorge ourselves over a holiday, the following week we are all of a sudden health nuts. I've been downing lemon water by the gallons, not eating carbs, and warding off alcohol. But who am I kidding.. the 4th was on Monday and I'm going to happy hour today. ha!  I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday by surrounding themselves with family and friends, sparklers, flag shaped foods, and all things red, white, and blue. When I think of  the 4th, I think of Flagler Beach in Florida where I've spent every July for most of my life. The day is always spent lounging on the beach and playing in the waves before heading up as the sun is setting with salty hair and sandy toes to eat bbq. It's honestly the best. To keep with the family traditions, Thomas and I made baby backs one night with all sides you can image related to bbqing and burgers the next. Not just any burgers though. They were gooey oozy brie stuffed burgers with grilled corn and peach salsa made from produce from the farmer's market. It doesn't get much more drool worthy than that. I also got the fluffiest and butteriest of buns from the Pearl Bakery stand at the PSU farmer's market. I originally saw this burger made by Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest and I instantly wanted to give them a try. Happy grilling everyone!

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    Brie Stuffed Burgers with Grilled Corn and Peach Salsa

    Recipe from Half Baked Harvest 

    Ingredients
    Burger
    -1½ pounds ground beef
    -6-8 ounces Brie, rind removed if desired + cubed
    -1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    -4 slices cooked bacon (optional)
    -4 hamburger buns, toasted

    Sweet Chili Mayo
    -½ cup good quality mayo
    -1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    -2 tablespoons Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (I added a little extra)
    -2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
    -pinch of salt + pepper

    Grilled Corn Salsa
    -2 ears grilled corn
    -1 peach, diced
    -4-8 cherries, pitted + diced (optional)
    -1 jalapeno, seeded + diced
    -juice of half a lemon
    -1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
    -pinch of salt

    What to do
    For the burgers, Half Baked Harvest uses a burger press, but since i'm sure a lot of people don't have one of those I'll share the good old fashioned way! I put my beef in a large mixing bowl and seasoned with salt and pepper. I grabbed a pretty big handful, split it in two and flattened them each out. On one half, place the brie cheese right in the middle and then put the other half of the patty on top. Crimp the sides and flatten out to make sure the brie is tucked away in there good :) Drizzle each patty with Worcestershire sauce. Cover and place in the fridge while you prepare the mayo and salsa.
    To make the mayo: combine the mayo, lemon juice, sweet Thai chili sauce, basil and a pinch of salt + pepper. Mix to combine. Keep covered in the fridge until ready to serve.
    To make the salsa: add the corn, peach, cherries (if using), jalapeno, lemon, basil and a pinch of salt to a bowl. Toss well to combine.
    When ready to cook the burgers, preheat the grill to medium high heat (Thomas is always the grill master, so I don't partake in this part much). Once hot, grill your        burgers until they reach your desired doneness. To serve, spread a little mayo on the bottom of your toasted buns, top with the patty, and then the salsa! Enjoy :)