Honey Ham & Gruyère Grilled Cheese

If you're anything like us, then you have an entire ham left in your fridge from Easter Sunday. By the time we finally sat down to eat late Sunday afternoon we were so full from popping Cadbury eggs and eating peeps that we barely could eat our honey ham and green beans. At least the ham had a lot of honey on it so we wouldn't crash from our Easter candy sugar high :)

I love any type of leftovers, but ham is the absolute best. Cold ham sandwiches, split pea soup with ham hocks, throwing it in quiches & frittatas, the options are endless! A new recipe I'm adding to our leftover ham repertoire are these Honey Ham & Gruyere Grilled Cheese's. Melty gruyere cheese mixed with the sweet & salty ham and a smear of apricot jam and dijon mustard is the perfect spell for grilled cheese magic. We use THIS RECIPE, but any kind of ham will do! What are some of your favorite leftover ham recipes? 

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Honey Ham & Gruyère Grilled Cheese

Ingredients
-Leftover ham
- Slices of crusty bread
-1/2 pound sliced Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyère
-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
-1/4 cup apricot preserves

What to do
1) Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously butter one side of a slice of bread. Place bread butter-side-down onto skillet. Top with slices of gruyère cheese and ham. Mix the mustard and preserves and spread on the other slice of bread. Close the sandwiches and griddle over moderate heat, turning, until golden, crisp on the outside and melted inside, about 3 minutes. Cut in half and serve right away. 

Easter Egg Cupcakes

I have to be honest about something... I'm not a great baker. But I'm trying nonetheless! Anytime a baked good turns out well for me it's because I've tried very very hard. I love cooking so much because you can transform a dish by tossing in a little of this and a sprinkle of that. Baking on the other hand is a science. Any baking pictures you might see on this blog might look fairly neat and tidy, but in reality there's flour all of my counter, clothes, and face; There's measuring spoons thrown about and vanilla extract dribbled  in various spots; And there's a pile of dishes in the sink covered in batter or bright pink and teal icing. At least that was the case when I made these Easter Egg Cupcakes in spirit of Easter weekend on the horizon.

Thomas and I are making Easter baskets for each other this year (sorry Thomas this is a spoiler alert), but I accidentally already dug into the Cadbury mini eggs that I bought for his basket. After discovering these Cadbury mini's I knew I needed to craft a cute Easter treat. The kitchen wasn't so pretty in the process but thanks to Sally over at Sally's Baking Addiction the cupcakes turned out pretty dang good! I used Sally's recipe for Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes which are so fluffy and moist. Then I just created plain vanilla frosting and used food coloring to make it Easter-y pink and teal. 

Happy Easter Weekend Friends!


Easter egg Cupcakes

Ingredients
-1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour1
-3/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
-1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
-3 large egg whites, at room temperature
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract2
-seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
-1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature3
-1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature3

Vanilla Frosting

-1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
-4 - 5 cups (480-600g) confectioners' sugar
-1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-salt, to taste
-optional: 2 drops red food coloring to tint pink, 1-2 drops of food coloring for teal/light blue

Toppings

-Cadbury mini eggs
- 1 bar of white chocolate, sliced into shards

What to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners - this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners - fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Frost cooled cupcakes. I simply used an icing knife.
  7. Create nests on top of cupcakes with sliced shards of white chocolate and mini Cadbury eggs.

Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

  1. If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  2. For best flavor, pure vanilla extract is strongly recommended. If using imitation, increase to 1 Tablespoon (3 teaspoons).
  3. Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.

Our Staycation in Downtown Portland +A champagne cocktail recipe

Lately it feels like work weeks blur into the weekends and astonishingly we are already to the middle of April. How did that happen?! Many times on the weekends after a long week, it's so good to relax within the four walls of our apartment that it feels like chore to leave and go anywhere. Is that bad? Obviously I love getting out and exploring, but sometimes life and time gets the better of me. Clothes need to be folded and season finales of Big Little Lies needs to be watched. Side note, have you guys seen it yet? Nicole Kidman hasn't changed since Practical Magic! I think she really is a witch :)

Anyways, since Thomas works a lot on the weekends and we haven't been exploring this wonderful city as much as we would like lately, we decided to take a staycation last weekend; It was absolutely perfect. 

A full Portland travel guide is the works that I'm making for you guys, but in the meantime here’s a look at our little staycation experience, including plenty of travel recommendations for eating, drinking, and staying in Downtown Portland.

Hotels Downtown

We stayed at The Nines Hotel downtown. I was so impressed! It's located right in the heart of downtown, so it makes walking to restaurants, bars, and activities around town a breeze. The room was so comfy and luxurious. Tiffany blue accent chairs and couches scattered around the room, flowy white curtains, and a chandelier in the corner makes you feel pretty fancy pants. To top it off, when we arrived there was champagne waiting! My kind of place!

Other great hotels we looked at before landing on The Nines was Hotel Vintage, Ace Hotel, The Heathman, and Hotel Deluxe.

Best Bars in Downtown Portland 

On the rooftop of the Nines is Departure  where we kicked our weekend off. Departure has such a fun vibe, especially if it's happy hour on Friday and the sun is out shining! You can take in amazing views of the city and the mountains if it's a clear day. Even though Departure has the city's largest sake list, champagne was definitely our drink of choice all weekend. At the end of this post I'll share a link to some of my favorite champagne cocktails right now. 
After enjoying the patio for a bit, we made our way inside to experience chef Gregory Gourdet's 11 item tasting menu. Asian flare with a modern spin, dishes like Vietnamese Duck Curry and spicy Chili Prawns came to the table one-after-one. We finished with dessert of course; Dark Chocolate Brownie Cake with peanut brittle, miso caramel, and banana ice cream. Perfection. 

Other cool bars Downtown: 
Pepe Le Moko // This cozy and cute speakeasy only has 42 seats and makes a killer grasshopper. Go here for your night cap, or day cap, or any cap really.
Multnomah Whiskey Library // Well it's a library of whiskey...what more could you ask for. 
Bailey's Taproom // We can't talk about Portland bars without mentioning beer! Bailey's Taproom is a convenient walk anywhere from downtown and they have 26 rotating taps to keep your heart happy. 

Must-Try Downtown Portland Food Spots

Obviously this list would be too long if I put all of the must-try's, but for now here's the stops we went to and some other of our favorites downtown.
Tasty n Alder //  Tasty n Alder has been on our food bucket list forever. We usually never want to wait in the 2-hour brunch line, but GUYS, IT IS SO WORTH IT. We put in our name and then meandered over to Powell's bookstore until they called us 2 hours later to get our grub on. First we ate the best radicchio salad of our lives with bacon lardons, manchego, and a six minute egg. Then we shared the cutest homemade buttermilk mini biscuits smothered in sausage gravy. I would have literally licked the plate if Thomas would have looked away. Next we split a Boudin Blanc Sausage Omelette with parsnip, celery root, dijon, and gruyere. And last but certainly not least we split a Pork Schnitzel with a sunny side up egg, ham, havarti, and mustard braised cabbage. Washed down with perfectly brewed coffee, it was definitely the best brunch I've had in Portland. Almost in a food coma we headed back to The Nine's and took a much needed nap. 

Grassa // It's definitely not pasta crafted by Massimo Bottura, but if you want a fast-service handmade pasta in downtown then Grassa is the place to go. We ordered take-out and sat-in our hotel room watching the NCAA Championship. I swear we're cool.

Urban Farmer // Located in the Nine's Hotel, Urban Farmer is all about locally sourced organic meat and is primarily known as a steakhouse, but we tried out their brunch. I got the spicy shrimp and grits with pulled pork and a perfectly poached egg on top. Never would I have thought to add pork to shrimp and grits, but I'm definitely going to replicate it at home. Thomas had the not-so-pretty-to-photograph-steak and eggs. He said it was delicious though which is all that matters! 

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Other Must-Try Food Spots Downtown

Clyde Common // European-inspired small plates and great cocktails
Nong's Khao Man Gai Food Cart // Lunch spot that has the best Thai style chicken and rice
Q Restaurant // Cozy restaurant with seasonal dishes like "Short Ribs Braised in Rhubarb Gastrique"
Boxer Ramen // Cute space and great ramen
Lardo // If you want epic sandwiches and the best "dirty fries" of your life
Chizu // Calling all cheese lovers! It's a sushi-bar style cheese bar!
Mother's Bistro // Classic brunch spot. Where I take any family any-time they visit!

Cutest Downtown Portland Shops

The Union Way Shops // Down a little alley way in downtown Portland Near Powell's books lies Union Way. Shops include Will Leather Goods, Quin candy, an apothecary shop, a couple clothing stores among others.
Tender Loving Empire // Cutesy, quirky store with a lot of handmade goods and products from local artisans
Radish Underground // Gifts and clothing by local designers
Canoe // Trendy home goods


French 75 - Recipe and photo by Bon Appetite

Like you can see from our weekend photos, I've been obsessed with champagne cocktails. This French 75 is the perfect combination of gin and bubbly!
 

ngredients

MAKES 1 SERVING

  • 2 ounces London dry gin
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces Champagne
  • Long spiral lemon twist (for serving)

What to do

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain cocktail through a Hawthorne strainer or a slotted spoon into a large flute. Top with Champagne; garnish with lemon twist.

Lamb Shanks with Basil Mint Pesto

Easter Sunday has always been special in my household growing up. While we were sleeping, our parents would sneakily deliver Easter baskets overflowing with peeps, chocolate bunnies, and an abundance of Cadbury eggs. Waking up at 5 AM we would scarf as much chocolate down before heading to sunrise service, belly-ache and all.

After church it was custom to always have a big Easter lunch at home with family. I can't remember a year that we've ever not had lamb on our menu. Easter was pretty much the only time we would have lamb except on occasion, so it was always such a treat. You can't forget about the mint jelly! I don't know why the combination of mint and lamb is so good, but it's perfect together. 

For the past two years living in Portland, I've tried to make Easter feel as much like home as possible, so lamb is most definitely going to be on our menu this year. I had never had lamb shanks until Thomas first made it for me and I am hooked! Growing up we always had a roasted leg of lamb, which is to die for, but I love how slow-braised shanks fall off the bone and literally the meat just melts in your mouth. For special occasions we always go to Phil's Uptown Meat Market off of Burnside and 23rd. Their meat is always great and sourced by local farmer's and rancher's. 

These shanks are braised in a dutch oven in beef stock, red wine, and lots of herbs and other goodies. Once the meat is super tender, we take the shanks out and reduce the liquid into a mind-blowing sauce. No joke, you'll want to drench EVERYTHING in it. 

An ode to my beloved mint jelly, we also made a fresh basil mint pesto. It was the perfect pop of color and complimented the lamb perfectly. I would recommend making a double batch of pesto since it keeps well in the fridge and is ahmazzinggg on eggs in the morning. 

Happy egg hunting, peep snacking, and lamb eating friends!

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We use this IKEA dutch oven which works great! I'm really looking forward to putting Le Creuset and  dutch ovens and products on our wedding registry!


Lamb Shanks with Basil Mint Pesto 

Ingredients
Shanks
-lamb shanks (1 for each person)
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- a few springs of thyme
- 1 tablespoon of beef base ( we used Better than Buillon)
- 3/4 bottle of red wine

Pesto
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sides
- fingerling potatoes
- honey roasted mini carrots

What to do

1) In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once hot, sear the lamb shanks on all sides and then remove from heat.
2) In a large dutch oven, sauté chopped onions and carrots in a little olive oil over medium high heat until they start to soften about 5 minutes. Add in the 6 minced garlic cloves and sauté another minute or two until fragrant. Then add the springs of thyme and place the seared lamb shanks on top. 
3) Put in a tablespoon of beef base and then fill the dutch oven with 3/4 of a bottle of red wine and water until the lamb shanks are submerged. 
4) Bring to a boil and then turn down to a medium-low simmer and cook until the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone, about 3 1/2 hours. 
5) While the meat is cooking you can make the pesto. In a hot skilled with a drizzle of oil, toast the pine nuts until golden brown and season with salt and pepper. Add the pine nuts and garlic to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add half of the herbs and chop for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the herbs and chop. Add in the Parmesan and salt and pepper, pulse briefly until combined. While machine is running, squeeze in the lemon juice and slowly add the oil in a steady stream and process to desired thickness. Depending on how basil-y or mint-y you want to have your pesto, adjust the quantities accordingly. 
6) At the 3 hour mark when the shanks only have about 1/2 hour left to cook, roast the potatoes and carrots. Place the potatoes whole on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and are tender when pierced with a fork.
7) For the mini carrots, we skimmed a couple tablespoons of the lamb fat from the top while the shanks were cooking and drizzled all over the carrots (super healthy I know). Season with salt and pepper and roast until slightly golden and tender.  Drizzle with honey after the are out of the oven. 
8) Once the meat is very tender, remove the shanks and set in a warm place. Crank the heat up to high and let the liquid reduce in the dutch oven until desired thickness. Hint: if you want to thicken it a little more you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch in about a tablespoon of water and add to the sauce. Continue boiling the sauce for a 5-10 minutes after you put in the cornstarch. 
9) Plate your dish with the potatoes, carrots, and the shank. Give yourself a generous helping of the sauce all over the shank and top with a little of the pesto. 

How to Make French Onion Soup // Appreciating what you have in the moment

One day I'll take a picture of our little kitchen in Portland and share it with you all. I haven't done so yet because it usually looks like a tornado has just whizzed through. You wouldn't be able to tell from the photos but our kitchen is basically a small walk-in closet. Add-in a fridge, a stove, minimal counter space, a few cute plants, and creaky wooden cabinets built in the 60's, and that's it folks. We fuss all the time about having to wash dishes by hand because we don't have a dishwasher, or how much we can't wait for the day when we have a humongous kitchen with all the room you could ever need. 
But you know what? 
Time goes by way too fast. Before we know it, 10 years will fly by and we'll have a mortgage, kids running around, and a million things going on at once. We always want the next best thing. Instead of just reveling in the moment that we're in and soaking in every experience. I'm flawed in this way as well - of always wanting more. But I know Thomas and I will look back when we're turning grey and think of our life in Portland and say "we really had it made". Being young and in love, struggling to save money but still feeling like we're on top of the world, dancing to oldies in our little kitchen, making dinner at any-time of night because we can, crumb-y kisses after devouring a fresh batch of cookies -those are experiences that I want to soak in as much as possible and not take for granted. 

Something else I'll always appreciate no matter how old we are, is how Thomas will forever be the onion cutter of the family. Maybe I'm just a baby, but I swear I cry more than anyone else when I slice into an onion. But you know what's totally worth the misery  and tears? THIS FRENCH ONION SOUP.
It's a glorious mix of buttery, golden, caramelized onions; slow-simmered, rich, broth; and crisp baguette topped with melted swiss and parmesan that creates the most epic cheese pull of all time. This is a super easy recipe and as an added bonus I tossed in half of a porter that I had in the fridge. So wipe your onion tears, drink the other half of your porter, and dive into this perfect bowl of soup.

Oh yeah... and most importantly enjoy the moment.


French Onion Soup
 

Ingredients
-3 tablespoons of butter
-5 cups of thinly sliced onions
-1 tablespoon of sugar
-1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tablespoon, chopped fresh thyme leaves
-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1 cup of porter, stout, or any dark beer that you have
-6 cups of chicken stock
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1 baguette, sliced
-equal parts of grated parmesan and Swiss cheese. I would even pile it higher than I did in the picture above! You want plenty of cheese so it melts over the side and gets extra crispy. 

What to do
1) In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. 
2) Add the onions and cook them for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until golden in color. If they start sticking to the pot, you can add a little water a scrape with a wooden spoon. 
3)Add in the sugar, vinegar, garlic, and thyme, stir and let cook a minute until fragrant
4) Add the flour in, stirring and scraping the pot with a wooden spoon
5) Mix in your beer of choice and let simmer for a few minutes before adding in the chicken stock. Once the stock is in, let it simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper at the end if necessary. 
6) Ladle the soup into oven safe bowls, cover with sliced baguette, and sprinkle generously with parmesan and Swiss. 
7) Broil in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden, bubbly, and delicious. 

-Recipe was adapted from Marilou & Alexandre Champagne's cookbook, 3 times a day.

Enjoy!

Asparagus & Poached Egg Toasts with Hollandaise

The first time I ever made breakfast for Thomas I made Eggs Benedict. I think I acted like it was my specialty, but in actuality it was the first time I had ever made it and I just wanted to seem cool. I was nervous as hell lol. I mean dropping a raw egg into water hoping it comes out looking pretty and whipping eggs yolks into a glorious sauce is not a joke. From my recollection I think it turned out pretty darn good! And I impressed him which is always a bonus ;)

Traditional Eggs Benedict calls for Canadian bacon and an English muffin. But I prefer to keep it simple with crunchy asparagus, a runny poached egg, creamy hollandaise perched on a good piece of toast. It's the PERFECT way to start a weekend morning or afternoon for that matter. We've even made this for dinner before! There's nothing better than finding a sunny spot by the window, strong coffee in hand, and diving into a tasty breakfast like this one. 


Asparagus & Poached Egg Toasts with Hollandaise
Hollandaise recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 4 large eggs (for poaching)
- a dash of vinegar for poaching the eggs
- 4 egg yolks (for hollandaise) 
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
- pinch of salt
- Good piece of bread for toast! We love sourdough but anything will do.
- chives for garnishing

(Note- These recipes are always for two people, so if you're feeding more just double accordingly)

what to do

1) If the asparagus are big stalks then I like to blanch them first. If they are small then you can just sauté them right away. To blanch the asparagus, trim the stalks before putting them into a pot of boiling salted water. Let them boil only 2-3 minutes before draining and placing in an ice bath. If you want to skip the ice bath that's fine, and just put them straight in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until they are slightly golden and then remove from heat.
2) To poach the eggs: Make sure your eggs are really fresh. Add a small dash of vinegar to a pot of steadily simmering water. Crack eggs individually into a ramekin or cup. Create a gentle whirlpool with a spoon in the water to help the egg white wrap around the yolk. Slowly tip the egg into the water. Leave to cook for three minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, cutting off any wispy edges using the edge of the spoon. Drain onto kitchen paper – nobody wants eggy poaching water making their toast soggy!
3) For the hollandaise: vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture is thickened and doubled in volume.
4) Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler,) the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble.
5) Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in salt.
6) Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use for the eggs benedict. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.
7) Toast your bread and then place your asparagus, poached eggs, hollandaise on top, and garnish with snipped fresh chives. 

Happy brunching friends :)

Homemade Ravioli Carbonara

When I first started learning my way around the kitchen I thought the best way to see if spaghetti was cooked was to give it a good sling across the room. If it stuck to the wall then you knew it was ready to eat! Mind you I was 10 and I thought using Bertolli's Garlic Alfredo Sauce out of a jar and Olive Garden was fancy. No matter what, when making pasta it was obligatory to stand at least 15 feet from the wall and hurl a noodle as hard as you could. To this day every time I cook boxed spaghetti I do the "wall test" out of tradition. Plus, sometimes it just feels good to throw something at the wall after a long week.

There are those busy days when you need a quick box of pasta and a jar of marinara to get you through dinnertime- I get it. No judgement here. But if you have the time and you want your soul to sing, then homemade pasta is the way to go. I've been hooked ever since I first tried fresh pasta in Italy. It's silky, slightly chewy texture combined with slow-braised meats, or just simple lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan and pepper will haunt your dreams. As much as I love it, I had never given much thought to making pasta myself until Thomas had the glorious idea last weekend. I thought it would be a lot more difficult than it was! My favorite part was making a little flour mountain/egg volcano on our countertop and diving in hands first! If you were to make pasta several times a week I can promise you'd be on your way to having arms like Arnold. Kneading the dough for 10-12 minutes may be a workout but it's well worth it. We made a creamy ricotta, spinach and mushroom filling for the ravioli and made it extra fun turning it into a carbonara dish with lots of grilled chicken, peas and crispy bacon. Does it make it spring yet because I used peas?

Who am I kidding?! 

This is as cozy, wintery, and comfort-food-y as you get and I will happily push back spring a few more weeks to have a couple more belly-warming dishes like this guy. 


Homemade Ravioli Carbonara 

Ingredients
Pasta Dough (Recipe from  All Recipes) Double the below recipe if cooking for more than 2

-1 cup (128 g) all purpose flour
-1 cup (128 g) semolina flour
-3 large eggs
-1 tablespoon of olive oil

Mushroom Filling
-olive oil
-8 oz of mushrooms (230g) white or crimini mushrooms work fine
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 big handfuls of spinach leaves
-1/2 cup (250 ml) of heavy cream
-salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup (128g) of ricotta

Carbonara
- 2 chicken breasts
-1 cup of blanched peas
-4-6 slices of crispy bacon
-grated parmesan  
-2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
-1 egg (at room temperature)
-1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup (75g) parmesan cheese, finely grated

what to do
1) First make the pasta dough: Thoroughly sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. On a clean surface, make a mountain out of flour mixture then make a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands.
2) Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3) While the dough is resting, make the spinach mushroom filling. Place mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. In a pan over medium-high heat, sauté mushrooms in a tablespoon of olive oil. Let the mushrooms bits brown and release as much water as possible, about 5 minutes. Then, add 4 minced cloves of garlic to the mushrooms and stir until fragrant. Then add in 2 big handfuls of spinach and another drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and give a couple of stirs before pouring in heavy cream. Simmer down on medium-low until cream is reduced and the mixture becomes thick. Give a quick taste test to make sure it's seasoned to your liking before transferring to a bowl. Add in as much ricotta cheese as you would like. Just make sure the mixture is thick enough to fill ravioli. 
4) Roll out dough with a pasta machine or a rolling pin. For ravioli, you want the pasta sheet to be thin enough to see the shadow of your hand when you place it behind. For this dish, make sure you roll the dough out thin enough to cut the piece in half. (There's a picture above for a reference). On the bottom half, evenly space one spoonful of filling for each individual ravioli. We used a small metal ramekin to cut each individual ravioli, but if you have a special ravioli cutter even better! 
5) Cook bacon crisp in a pan and let cool on a paper towel lined plate. With a little of the bacon drippings reserved, brown chicken. Once browned and fully cooked, remove chicken to cutting board to cool before slicing in strips.
6) Bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add 4 teaspoons salt. Cook pasta until tender but not mushy, 3-6 minutes depending on thickness. 
7) While the pasta cooks, whisk egg yolks, egg, cream and three-quarters of the parmesan together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add mixture to the pan on low and heat up before adding the cooked ravioli, peas, and chicken. Toss to coat a few times and simmer on low until the mixture thickens a little.
8) To serve, top with chopped bacon bits and the rest of the parmesan cheese. 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

In true Portland Fashion, some of the best pizza in the city is served up on gluten free/healthy-ish crusts. This is a fairly new concept for me and to be honest it took me a little while to be comfortable with the idea. You're talking to a girl who would have a personal pan pizza after school most days of the week, whose favorite lunchable was the mini pizza's, and whose first job was at Luigi's, the local pizza parlor. Point being, I'm obsessed with pizza. However now that I'm older and a little more health conscious I love that you can use alternative ingredients to make some of your favorite junk foods a little more healthy. 

The first time I went to Dove Vivi in NE Portland I was blown away. Not only did they have amazing toppings like house-made fennel sausage and roasted eggplant, but they also use stone ground cornmeal for the crust which leaves you feeling less bloated than normal crust made with bleached flour. It got my wheels turning on how we could make a healthy-ish pizza at home and that's how our cauliflower crust was born! I know there's a ton of different recipes floating around on the internet for cauliflower crust, but we wanted one that would be sturdy enough to be picked up just like a normal slice of pizza. Now we can indulge guilt free on a Friday night and feel a little better about grabbing that last beer out of the fridge. It's all about the balance ;)


Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Ingredients 
Crust
-1 large head of cauliflower
-1/2 cup almond meal
-1/2 cup gluten free all purpose flour
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(it would be great to add in herbs into the crust like fresh rosemary and thyme! we just kept it plain this time) 

Toppings
-Whatever your little heart desires! We did the first pizza with Ricotta, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, topped with arugula and balsamic glaze. The second pizza had traditional pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil, baked in the oven and then topped with thinly slice prosciutto, arugula, red onion, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. 

what to do
1) Heat oven to 350°F. Start with cleaning a head of cauliflower. Toss the florets into a blender and pulse to create cauliflower rice. You might have to work in batches for this. 
2) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the cauliflower until al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes. Line a strainer with a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel and pour the cauliflower into the strainer. Rinse with cold water, then press out all of the water. Spin the cheesecloth or towel and hold tight just above the cauliflower. Make sure you squeeze all of the water out. This step is super important for a good crust.
3) In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower with the almond meal, flour, olive oil, salt, baking powder, and pepper mixing well with your hands to combine.
4) Spread the dough onto a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper. Form the crust with your fingers, shaping the dough. Then toss it in the oven and let it bake for about 20 minutes. Flip it over at the half-way mark that way you can get it crispy on both sides. 

-Pizza 1: Spread a layer of ricotta cheese on the top of the crust, top with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and ricotta cheese. Pop in the oven to heat through and once it's out of the oven then top with arugula and drizzle with balsamic glaze. 
-Pizza 2: Spread a layer of pizza sauce on top of the crust, top with shredded mozzarella and fresh basil. Bake in the over until cheese is starting to brown and bubble. Top with arugula, thinly sliced prosciutto, red onion and parmesan cheese. 

Guinness & Bailey's Ice-Cream Floats

My fam came into town last weekend and it was perfect. The Floridians braved the gloomy weather for a long weekend filled with exploring the city, eating copious amounts of food, frequenting Trader Joe's at least three times a day, long car rides over the mountain singing songs and quoting movies, taking windy walks on the coast, watching silly seals in Astoria, helicopter rides, and most importantly spending much needed time together. I'll blame it on winter and lack of sunshine, but I've been exceptionally homesick lately so It was so wonderful to spend five days with the fam. To make the weekend even better, I FOUND MY WEDDING DRESS!!!! I wasn't expecting to find it this early since we're still a year out, but when you find "the one" you just have to go for it :) On their last day in Portland, my mom and I had a girls morning (minus my little sister because she wanted to sleep in. I swear she's 12 going on 16!) and went wedding dress shopping, brunchin', and mimosa drinkin' and the day couldn't have been more perfect. 

Now the weekend is back and I'm ready to put my big girl pants for consuming large quantities of corned beef & cabbage, green beer, and these yummy Guinness & Bailey's ice cream floats. Honestly this is the easiest dessert ever to get in the St. Patty's day mood. I just happened to have vanilla ice cream in the freezer, Guinness in the fridge, these cute bottles of Bailey's in the liquor cabinet, and a bottle of Magic Shell that brings back more slumber-ice-cream party memories than I can count. If you're not going to the pub and you're a grandma like me, do yourself a favor and make one of these bad boys and turn on Boondocks Saints. Or, you can just sip on Bailey's and call it good ;)

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Guinness & Bailey's Ice Cream Floats

Ingredients
-vanilla or chocolate ice-cream
-bottle or can of Guinness beer
-bailey's Irish cream
-chocolate sauce or syrup (I used Magic Shell)

What to do
1) place a scoop or two of ice-cream in individual serving dishes
2) pour 1 oz of Bailey's over ice-cream
3) top with Guinness beer
4) drizzle with chocolate sauce
5) eat with a spoon, drink with a straw, and go to bed fat & happy and feeling like an Irishman!
 


Weekend in Carlton // Esther's Granola

Tucked away in the Willamette Valley in Oregon lies the quaint little town of Carlton. Depending on the time of year, in the short one-hour drive for Portland, you'll find yourself passing anything from lavender and tulip farms, fruit orchards, fields of berries, and of course world renowned pinot noir vineyards. The Willamette Valley has a long history of producing some of the best pinots in the world second to Burgundy. Tbh, although I like to think I have a exquisite tastebuds, you can give me a glass of anything that has been fermenting in barrels and I'll be a happy girl. I say that but once I tried a great Oregon Pinot Noir I didn't want to go back to Two Buck Chuck! (living a stones throw from Trader Joe's makes that difficult )

Once you're getting close to Carlton you'll really start getting into vacay mode, and it's just far enough away from the city to feel like the perfect weekend getaway. Thomas planned this trip as a gift last year and it has been one of the most memorable weekends that we've had so far in Oregon. I have been a huge fan of Airbnb since we first tried it in Copenhagen two years ago and then in Seattle. For our Carlton trip, Thomas chose the sweetest little house for us to stay in. If you're not familiar with Airbnb, you can either rent an entire house or apartment to yourself (preferred), or you can just rent out a room within someone's house. Although I was skeptical at first to stay in someone's house with them, it ended up being an incredible experience. Esther had just lost her husband a few months prior and wanted companionship and a little extra money to help out with their farm so she decided to start doing Airbnb. After we were first greeted by Geese and free-range chickens in the yard, we met Esther at the door and she showed us our quaint room overlooking her orchards and garden. 

We then then proceeded to spend the first day wine tasting at Anne Amie Vineyards, which I should mention was a 5 minute walk from Esther's. (double bonus points for Thomas for finding a winery and airbnb in walking distance :) ) Anne Amie was a perfect start to the day with a $15 wine tasting and of course we had to have a charcuterie board for a quick snack before we headed into town.

After we were fuzzy headed and full of brie and salami from Anne Amie, we headed to downtown to wine-bar hop along the strip. The "strip" does have 22 tasting rooms which is impressive but don't be fooled - It's no Las Vegas and that's exactly why I like it. After several hours of hanging with locals at tasting counters we found ourselves in a little gem called The Horse Radish. We boogied down to jazzy country and oldies and were most definitely the youngest two by about 40 years and that's perfectly alright with me. 

We ended with a relaxing dinner at Cuvée which is the cutest little French bistro in town. We got back around 10:30 that night, with purple teeth and wide grins, and found Esther in the kitchen cleaning up from the day's work and preparing snacks for the morning. We stayed up what felt like hours talking about life, reminding me the beauty of traveling to new places and meeting new people- even if it is only an hour from home. 

In the morning we woke up to quiche, fresh eggs, tomatoes from her garden, and the most amazing homemade granola I've ever had. It was the perfect ending to our stay on the farm. With a copy of Esther's granola recipe in tow we said our goodbyes and made our way back to Portland.  Every-time I pull out that honey-stained piece of paper it puts a little smile on my face and makes me think of Esher. Scroll-down for her recipe and a link to her listing on Airbnb!

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Here is the listing if you want to stay at Esther's farm and spend a weekend in wine country!



Esther's Granola
(Original recipe uses 20 cups of oats! you can tell Esther feeds a crowd. I cut this down a lot, and I also can never find wheat germ or soy granules, so the recipe below is a little modified) 
ingredients
-5 cups of oats
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 1/2 cup pecans
-1/2 cup sunflower seeds (I used pumpkin seeds)
-1/2 cup coconut flakes
-1/2 cup powdered milk (I use powdered coconut milk) 

Heat following ingredients in pan until incorporated and heated through.
-1/2 cup of honey
-1/2 cup of coconut oil
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon salt

what to do
-Preheat oven to 250-275 degrees (130-140 c)
- In a large bowl mix oats, peanuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, and powdered milk and stir
-pour in honey mixture and stir until combined
-spread out in an even layer on a cookie sheet (use two sheets if needed) and bake until golden brown about 20-25 minutes. Stir at the halfway mark to prevent burning. 
-Let cool and then top with your favorite fruit, or just eat it as a snack on the go!

Kjøttboller // Norway and Meatballs

Okay, enough is enough, Winter!

I am normally all about cozying up in the dark and stormy weather, but it's carried on far too long this year in the PNW. I'm impatiently waiting for picnics in the park, blooming flowers, bustling streets of people who are ecstatic that the sun is shining, and laying out in my bathing suit (or shorts I should say since my legs are translucent from living in Oregon). Someone who is also more than ready for sunshine is Thomas. Since he can't fly in bad weather, he's had to spend a lot of days at home. Normally I am the one that takes pictures of anything we make, but I told him when he's home on a day that I am working he should make something Norwegian to feature on the blog. 

I thought this post would be fitting since we are starting to plan our big family trip to Norway in July! Which is another big reason why I am aching for it to be summer. My entire family will be heading to Oslo at the end of July and I CANNOT WAIT. Thomas and I will be meeting them there since we're coming from Portland (we have an 18 hour layover beforehand in Reykjavik Iceland and you have no idea how excited I am to float in the blue lagoons!)  

Being on vacation, having long summer days and the midnight sun, spending time on the lake at Thomas's family cabin, all while having my whole family there will be absolutely perfect. As always, I'm most excited for sitting around talking, eating good food and having libations with the people I love the most. I'm sure we'll be BBQing every night, having obligatory ventepølse and lots of akevitt to accompany our meals  :) 

Even though I'm dreaming of all the seafood, grilled meat, and akevitt that we'll be consuming in July, it's only March and we're still stuck in the Arctic in Portland (people who are actually dealing with snow around the world, think I'm the biggest baby for saying that!) 
The cold and rainy weather always makes me crave something hearty that sticks to my ribs!  I came home from work the other day and Thomas had made kjøttboller (meatballs) and had taken pictures for the blog :) so cute. From my understanding, these are a little more Swedish since they're meatballs. In Norway it's typical to make kjøttkaker which is meat cakes, or what my family likes to call shit cakes lol. They're always served with boiled potatoes with melted butter and a little parsley on top! A healthy helping of meatball gravy on top of the potatoes makes you do a little food dance from happiness. Do you ever do that in your kitchen? Do a little dance because you're so excited to eat something? Whether I'm a weirdo or not, go put your dancin' shoes on and make these meatballs because you're in for a treat!


Kjøttboller

Ingredients
Meatballs
2 lbs (900 g) minced beef 80/20 (80% lean and 20% fat)
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg (Buy whole nutmeg and zest. Much better flavor when you use whole! If not pre-ground nutmeg will do)

Brown Sauce
-1/2 cup (113 g) butter
-1 cup (128 g) flour
-8 cups (2 l) beef stock
-1/2 cup (113 g) sour creme
-Salt and pepper

Potatoes
-1-2 potatoes per person
-2 tablespoons of melted butter
-Chopped parsley

Carrots
2 carrots per. person
1 tsp honey

How to do it like a Norwegian 

  1. For the meatballs: In a large bowl, whisk in the eggs and spices (salt, pepper, nutmeg). Mix until incorporated. Then add the ground meat and mix all together with your hands.
  2. Form the meat into 2-oz (60 g) balls (about the size of golf balls). Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt half the butter (1-2 tbsp) and lightly brown the meatballs, turning until they are browned on all sides, but not cooked through. You may need to work in two batches. Once all the meatballs have been browned remove them from pan and set aside while you prepare the gravy.
  3. In the same skillet or Dutch oven you cooked the meatballs in, add 1/2 cup (113 g) butter over medium-low heat. When melted but now browned, stir in the flour to make a roux and allow to cook for a minute - the roux will still be blonde in color. Then slowly whisk the broth into the roux. Make sure you whisk out any lumps before continue to adding the broth. Once the roux is incorporated into the broth, turn the heat up to a boil to get out the flavor of the flour. If the gravy is too thick, add a little more broth (or water) to thin it to your desired consistency. If the gravy is too thin you can cook a little longer allowing the sauce to reduce to your desired consistency. Add the meatballs back into the pan and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat until the meatballs are cooked through. 
  4. When the meatballs are done, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sour cream. if you add the sour creme when the sauce is too hot it will curdle! Taste the sauce and adjust your seasonings to your desired tastes.
  5. While the meatballs are simmering, boil the potatoes and sauté the carrots. When the potatoes are done drizzle 1-2 tbsp of melted butter over them and sprinkle with parsley. When sautéing the carrots you want to keep the crunch in them so be careful. Add the honey and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with Lingonberry jam (found in your local IKEA if not in your local grocery store). You can also use cranberry jam if you are unable to find lingonberry jam.

Written by Thomas :) 

Eggs en Cocotte

I've only just begun practicing my hand at French cooking. I'm no Julia child, but I do know one thing...If I have to spend the rest of my days practicing the craft by eating butter-smeared baguette, dipping the crusty parts in slow-simmered boeuf bourguignon, sipping Côtes du Rhône, and eating éclair's with cream that's been whipped into submission than I will be the happiest little dame there ever was. 

I'll never forget my first meal in Paris. My fellow study abroader's and I thought we were instantly distinguished and sophisticated the second our feet hit French soil, so for our first meal we weren't going to put up with eating cheap "touristy" food. We wandered down a little cobblestone alleyway, just like you would imagine in a movie, and came up to La Butte Aux Piafs. The cutest little restaurant that you ever did see. We ate escargot on top of warm baguette, lamb shanks that practically melted in your mouth, and we polished it off with crème brûlée. After that night we quickly realized that our wallets couldn't handle our stomach's desires. But for those three short blissful hours sitting in that restaurant, you probably never saw a brood quite as fat and happy as us. You can read more about it in this post!

I yearn for the day Thomas and I can travel back to France together. I picture lounging on a airy balcony looking over the French Riviera, eating so much cheese and drinking more wine than our little hearts could ever desire. Or sitting outside at a bistro in Paris sipping on espresso's and swooning over pain au chocolat's. At least that's the way I picture it in my head...but until that day I will happily keep practicing the art of French cooking out of our kitchen in whatever part of the world we are in. 

Eggs en cocotte. Let me tell you about this little dish of heaven. "En cocotte" means to steam in a small dish or ramekin! How cute is that?! Eggs are a huge part of French Cuisine. Chef Jacques Pepin actually judges up-and-comers on how well they can make an omelette! 
Shallots, mushrooms, and spinach sautéed with butter and garlic and then reduced down with cream makes up the base of this dreamy breakfast. If you're like us, you'll want to keep the yolks oh-so-runny and soak up every drop with toasted baguette. Feelin' French yet?

Eggs en Cocotte
serves 2
ingredients
- 8 oz (227 g) of mushrooms, sliced (whichever variety you prefer)
-1 tablespoon of butter
-1 shallot, finely chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 big handfuls of spinach
-1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
-4 large eggs
-fresh grated parmesan
-salt & pepper to taste
-Toasted sliced baguette

what to do
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 celsius) 
2)Heat up a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Wait until the pan is hot before adding the mushrooms. Let them cook without stirring too often until they are brown and have sweat out a majority of their water. Do not add the butter until after the mushrooms have browned!
3) Turn the heat down to medium and add a tablespoon of butter to the browned mushrooms. Add the shallots and cook down until softened, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook just until fragrant. 
4) Add in your handfuls of spinach and drizzle with a little olive oil and sauté until they wilt down a little. Pour in the cream and reduce the mixture down until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cream has thickened. 
5) In individual ramekins or oven-proof dishes, scoop the mushroom mixture into each. Top each dish with two large eggs and sprinkle with salt and pepper and grated cheese. 
6) Place ramekins in a baking dish and transfer to oven. Carefully pour enough boiling water into baking dish to submerge ramekins 3/4 of the way. Bake eggs en cocotte until whites are just set and yolks are still jiggly, about 12-15 minutes depending on how runny you like your yolks! 
7) Slice baguette and brush slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toast under the broiler until golden brown.  

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Linking up this week with Buns in my Oven for What's Cookin' Wednesday!

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!