December 30, 2012


I frequently get completely totally utterly overwhelmed by all of the choices that live in the pages of my cookbook collection.

And every time that happens, I complain to my mom about it. And every time I complain, she offers up the same piece of advice: "Why don't you pick one book and just cook out of that for a while?"

It's a suggestion I've honestly never been all that enticed by. For starters, that would bring on a whole new challenge--picking the one cookbook I'd follow for a week, a month, a season. And also, there aren't many cookbooks I own that have the right balance of taste appeal and practicality to keep me content for an extended period of time.

Enter The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Now, I can actually imagine cooking out of one cookbook for a while. I'm actually doing it already, despite a pile of new books sitting waiting. I finally like my mom's advice! (Finally like her advice on this front, that is. I often like her other advice. :))

Let's back up a second though so that I can come clean on my relationship with The Smitten Kitchen. I had made a few Smitten Kitchen recipes before the book came out. I checked in on her blog once in a while, was moderately interested in her recipes, mentally hated the blue countertops she shot all of her recipes on, and then forgot about her for a couple of months.

But then this Spring, that Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake happened. And just like that, she had captured my attention.

So, I was intrigued when I heard she had a book coming out. But I also skeptical. Most of the recipes of hers I had made were adaptations of other peoples' recipes. Adaptations of Ina. Adaptations of the Homesick Texan. So, I wondered what she would bring to the table on her own.

Let's just say I have been shocked. Let's say I was very, very wrong in this instance for being a food snob. Let's just say that I should admit defeat and hang my head in shame. For, I almost missed out on the greatness that is this book.

I have been cooking out of it ever since I got it a few weeks ago. And 5 out of the 6 recipes I have made I have *loved.* The sixth recipe was very good. I didn't love it, but I'm guessing I'll make it again. It was good.

Here is what I've made:

Almond Date Breakfast Bars: Those around me who I talk food with know that as of late, I'm obsessed with nutritionally dense (but still delicious) bars. These were addicting. I had no trouble polishing off the pan myself in a week. Dried dates, oats, wheat germ, almonds, almond butter, cinnamon, orange zest, honey. Delicious.

Honey and Harissa Farro Salad: Now that I'm home full-time with Lola, I'm always on the lookout for lunch ideas. This salad was delicious and nutritious, full of sweet roasted carrots and parsnips, nutty farro, a sweet and spicy harissa vinaigrette, and salty feta.

Broccoli Rabe Panini with Mozzarella: We've had this twice. It's shockingly delicious and super comforting. An incredibly easy weeknight meal.

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette: This was so wonderful. My second favorite recipe in the book so far. Not the healthiest in the book for dinner, with a copious amount of butter in the pastry dough. But delicious. Hearty. Rustic but elegant. A perfect dish when feeding a vegetarian.

Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs and Smashed Chickpea Salad: This was the one recipe I didn't *love.* But to be fair, I was missing a few of the ingredients, and I overcooked my meatballs because I was multi-tasking. Still good, but not my favorite.

So, what was my favorite, you ask?

Tonight's Mustard Milanese with Arugula Fennel Salad. Okay, Zach loves chicken. I do not. Or, I did not until I had this tonight. This is delicious chicken. It's perfect chicken. Thin cutlets are pan-fried after being dredged in flour, dunked in a mustard-y mixture, and patted down with panko. Then, the chicken is topped with a zippy and rich arugula and fennel salad. It's appropriately seasoned at each step, and the recipe contains little tidbits that make the dish sing, such as suggesting that you drizzle a little of the leftover vinaigrette over the warm chicken before you top it with the salad. I had two helpings. Of chicken. That never happens.

And just like that, I have a bunch of new sure-bet recipes to add to the arsenal.

I love that the recipes in the book rely heavily on things already in my pantry. It feels different in that way than my other cookbooks. But not in a boring way. In a smart, inventive way.

And I'm also excited about the two tips I've already learned from this book. Tips that should have been in any of my other 100+ cookbooks (shame on them).

1. Deb (the woman behind The Smitten Kitchen is Deb Perelman in case you didn't catch on) seems to have cracked the code on roasting vegetables. Like she described in the book, I also fell victim to my veggies sticking to my baking sheets despite liberal amounts of olive oil. The answer? Smear a slick of olive oil on the sheet first, then throw on the veggies. Season them. Put in oven. It's that simple. And it totally works. I'm still scratching my head on that one. Why it doesn't work to toss the veggies in oil and then put on sheet, I don't know.

2. If you're breading chicken, put it in the fridge for an hour after you've dredged, soaked, coated. She says it helps the coating stick. And judging by what we had tonight, she's totally right.

So smart, that Deb.

I am in love with this book.

December 10, 2012

The Perfect Christmas Cookie

We had a holiday day yesterday at our house. Since Zach celebrates Hanukkah, and I celebrate Christmas, I was feeling the need to create a bridge between the two. A common ground. A day for both of us (and Lola, of course).

So, as part of our little family holiday extravaganza yesterday, I decided everyone in the household would get to pick a cookie for me to make. Lola included. Because three kinds of cookies is better than two kinds of cookies, right?

And since Lola can't really pick herself this year, I picked for her. 

And as it turns out, I think I picked the perfect holiday cookie for Lola's special cookie. 

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookie Squirrels.

Why were these chosen as Lola's cookie? Well, we know the girl loves songs about birds. "Little Bird, Little Bird," "Three Birds," "Blackbird." If the song has a bird in it, she'll light up when it's playing. So, I've decided if she loves songs about birds, she must love real birds too. Or bird-shaped cookies, at least.

So, my original plan was to make sugar cookie bird cut-outs in honor of her. But with the snowstorm yesterday, I didn't make it to the store to get a bird cookie cutter. So, I rummaged around through what I already had and found a cute squirrel. And since her nursery is woodland themed, boom.

Why were these the perfect holiday cookie? Because they are classic. But different.

Every year when it comes time to make holiday cookies, I crave the usual suspects but am intrigued by all sorts of new recipes (is this sounding somewhat similar to my last post?). This recipe achieved both. Sugar cookies are a holiday cookie staple. The cardamom and orange made them feel special--and taste amazing.

I love these cookies. They'll become one of our regulars. I think I'll have to make them every year for Lola and tell her the story of how they became her cookie. 

I hope she actually likes them one day... :)

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies
Adapted very slightly from December 2009 issue of Bon Appetit

2 1/2 c flour
1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
Sanding sugar, to decorate

Whisk dry ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

Using mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter until creamy. Slowly add the sugar; beat until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Mix in orange zest and vanilla. Beat in egg. Add flour in 3 parts. Mix until just blended. 

Refrigerate dough for 1 hour until cool enough to be formed into balls.

Form dough into two balls. Refrigerate overnight. (I found that this dough needed to be very cool to work with easily).

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll out each ball of dough on well-floured surface until 1/8 inch thick. Cut out using cookie cutters.

Place on greased baking sheet, leaving room in between for spreading. Decorate with sanding sugar.

Bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

November 7, 2012

My Would-Be Thanksgiving

I can still taste last year's Thanksgiving dinner. And I don't want it again this year.

Don't get me wrong. Thanksgiving dinner was plenty delicious last year, as always. As always. That's the thing.

We have the same thing every year. The same delicious line-up every year. And I guess now that I've had it about 30 times, I'm getting sick of it. It's only to be expected, right? Except for some reason, my dad isn't sick of it. And he's had it twice as many times. Hmm.

My mom and I are always finding great new recipes. We pin them. We save them. We make mental notes. We discuss.

So this year, by god, we thought we'd actually make some new things for Thanksgiving.

And we didn't want to simply add these things onto the usual suspects. We wanted to make them instead of the usual recipes.

Well, apparently that is just asking too much.

We knew we couldn't get too crazy on the boys (my dad, my brother, Zach). Turkey and gravy, a must.   Better keep stuffing on the menu. Cranberry sauce, a keeper. And potatoes of some sort would be included, make no mistake.

So, this was what we proposed:

Turkey & Gravy
Bon Appetit's Simple is Best Dressing
Martha's Sweet Potato and Sage-Butter Casserole
Bon Appetit's Slow Roasted Green Beans with Sage
Bon Appetit's Parker House Rolls
Bon Appetit's Cranberry-Orange Relish with Mint
Martha's Pumpkin Carrot Cake with Citrus Glaze

ERRRRRRRR, back the car up. What?!

"Thanksgiving is all about tradition," said my dad. This came after I calmly and patiently explained that my mom and I were hoping to try some new recipes this year and streamline. He put his foot down when it came to the corn pudding we always have. And the pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving just couldn't happen without those. In his mind, anyway.

"No mashed potatoes?" asked Zach sadly. "But I really love all three pies," he continued. (Apple, pumpkin, French silk)

My brother made sure to tweet me his must-have when he caught wind of this shake-up: creamed spinach.

Blurg. That sure doesn't leave much room for anything new. Those boring ritual-ridden boys.

My mom's approach has been to offer to make these must-haves at other points during that week when we're all together. That doesn't seem very streamlined to me.

My approach to date? To tell them "too bad, so sad." After all, my mom and I are the ones cooking. And I'm certain those boys will not be deprived of good food.

What we'll actually do? TBD.

I have a feeling I'll soften a bit. But I'm not giving up my Pinterest board either.

I have a feeling this year's Thanksgiving will not be streamlined. There are worse things, right?

October 28, 2012

The Half-Eaten Cake Project

Whoever said that if you breastfeed your baby you'll lose tons of weight was a big fat liar. They do not deserve any cake.

I breastfeed my baby. I have not lost a ton of weight post-baby.

To be fair, I eat cake. And cookies, and pastries, and candy, and other sweet stuff.

I happen to LOVE cake. I love chewing on layers of moist cake with silky smooth frosting.

But it doesn't help me lose any baby weight.

So, I have a new project. It's called The Half-Eaten Cake Project. It's just what it sounds like. I will make delicious cakes (I have dozens of them ear-marked, ready to be baked.). I will cut a slice out for me. I will cut a slice out for Zach. And then I will pass along the rest of the cake to whoever wants it. That way, I won't eat slices for breakfast, slivers for mid-morning snacks, chunks as an afternoon pick-me-up, or wedges for dessert.

Because that is what I do when I have cake around. Or cookies, or pastries, or candy, or other sweet stuff.

I have no control.

I still think whoever said that if you breastfeed your baby you will lose tons of weight was a big fat liar. But I will be the first to admit that eating cake doesn't help.

So, I'm doing my part. :)

Person who started the rumor that if you breastfeed your baby you will lose tons of weight, please stop saying that.

Do you want some cake? Leave a comment on this post saying so, and I'll add you to the list of possible half-eaten cake recipients. You have to live in the TC. I have to be able to reasonably give this cake to you. I have to know you already. Sorry, but those are the rules.

My brother was the recipient of the first cake, a cake with three layers of banana cake, a peanut butter filling, and chocolate ganache from the Baked Elements cookbook.

The layers of banana cake were delicious and moist. The peanut butter filling was good. The ganache was a hot mess. It was slick, and it slid. I have some theories about why this might have been (I used chocolate chips to make it, I really helped the butter become softened). So for now I won't share the recipe. It's not fool-proof in my eyes.

The concept is a brilliant one, though. Who wouldn't love those three flavors together in a cake?

Again, want in? Comment, please.

October 19, 2012

The Difference a Day Makes: Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I'm loving the new Baked Elements cookbook.

Divided into different flavor sections, like Banana, Chocolate, Booze, Pumpkin, and Peanut Butter, their recipes are just what I love to bake. Homey but aspirational, comforting but a little bit interesting, almost always yielding great results.

These guys aren't new to me. Their earlier book contains the recipe for my favorite pumpkin whoopee pies and some killer brownies.

There are many recipes I have mentally earmarked in this new book. But I started with the Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

I'm somewhat obsessed with banana bread these days. My mom said I must be missing something in my diet (sugar? white carb-y goodness?), but I know that isn't the case. But I'm drooling over recipes for Nutella Banana Bread, Chocolate Banana Bread, Tropical Banana Bread...

My friend Jessica told me she wanted this recipe. But the night I made it, I messaged her back and told her I didn't love the recipe, that it was way too peanut buttery at the expense of the poor bananas. I was sad about it. Warm, it tasted overwhelmingly like cooked peanut butter. And not in a great way. It was fine, don't get me wrong. But I was missing the banana. And I was not digging the peanut bits (you use crunchy peanut butter).

I had pretty much rejected the recipe.

Until the next morning.

Did I love the bread the night I made it? No. Did that stop me from eating a rather thick slice for breakfast the next morning anyway? Yea, right.

And you know what? It's a good thing.

Overnight as the bread cooled, the flavors readjusted themselves. The peanut butter tamed itself and the bananas woke up. The balance was nice. And the chocolate chips...well, they did their yummy chocolate chip thing.

The peanut chunks? Still wasn't a huge fan. Next time, I'll make this with smooth peanut butter, much to the dismay of Matt & Renato.

Mmm, peanut butter, banana, chocolate.

Stay tuned for more of these flavors from me. They're exactly what I'm craving these days. And there are chapters in this book on each. Watch out.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread (which would just be Peanut Butter Banana Bread if you take my suggestion), adapted slightly from Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Ronato Poliafito

1 1/2 c flour, plus 1 tbsp to coat chips
1 c sugar, plus 1 tbsp
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 c whole milk
1 c crunchy peanut butter (I'd use smooth next time)
2/3 c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan and dust with flour.

Whisk together 1 1/2 c flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together bananas, oil, eggs, milk, peanut butter. Mix together remaining tablespoon of flour with chocolate chips in small bowl. Add chips to banana mixture.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients gently until just combined. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Then cool completely on rack.

Serve after cooled completely in big thick slices.

October 13, 2012

The Pie-Oli is Born

So, making things easier is what's hot right now.

My mom and I did the opposite this week. Why, you ask? Because we love to take on food projects when she visits. Because we had too much time on our hands. Because, why not?

We rattled through the typical seasonal flavors as we tried to decide on a project. Then we tried to figure out how we could turn the usual form on its head. There was some discussion about a kitchen tool I brought back from Rome 4 years ago and have yet to use.

And the pie-oli was born.

The apple pie-oli to be exact, with 3 glazes: calvados, maple, and lemon.

We shopped for the ingredients. And then the project sadly sat idle for a few days as we tended to a baby.

But finally, the night of the vice presidential debates (a fitting night for apple pie of some format, no?), we cranked it out.

As dinner cooked, we sautéed the apples. Tiny diced Granny Smiths, sautéed in butter and brown sugar. A pinch of salt and a splash of calvados added at the end.

Then we whipped up 3 different glazes. Again, because, why not? Glazes are easier than easy. We used 1/3 cup of confectioners' sugar as the base for each and added enough of each of the three liquids to get to the right consistency. For maple (our favorite because it added exactly the right does of sweetness against the pie crust), we used 2 tablespoons.

After dinner, we rolled some pie crust dough out super thin, laid it on top of the ravioli mold. Filled. Topped with another thin layer of pie crust dough. Rolled with the rolling pin. Pulled from the molds (which was surprisingly and thankfully easy). We brushed the sweet little pillows with egg wash, slitted the tops for venting. And in the 400 degree oven they went.

We pretty much stood in front of the oven watching them puff to perfect golden brownness. We pulled them out of the oven, lamented over how long they would take to cool, and stuck them in the cold porch to speed up the process.

Then we got to the fun part: drizzling on the glazes and evaluating which was best.

So, were these putzy? Yea, a little. Will we be making these for Thanksgiving instead of the standard pie? No. We'd have to make too many, and that could evolve beyond putzy to something close to tedious.

But making 24 of these was no sweat. And we'd argue they are pretty darn cute.

October 4, 2012

New Mama Eggs

I was about to tell you how it's hard to cook with a baby in the house. Well, that it's hard to do anything with a baby in the house other than have 5 pm show up wearing the same thing you woke up in (ok, that hasn't happened in a while, but it did at one point during newborn life). But Lola just woke up from her nap crying. Now I don't have to come up with a creative way to tell you that it's hard to accomplish anything (blog post, for example) with a baby in the house. She did it for me. Thank you, Lola. I'll be back...

Back. It's seven hours later.

In that seven hours, I changed a few diapers, got the darling girl back down for another nap, made some banana bread during that nap, supervised tummy time, took some photos, and made New Mama Eggs for dinner.

What are New Mama Eggs, you ask? They are a breakthrough in my post-baby dinner world. They are really Ina Garten's Herb-Baked Eggs from Barefoot in Paris, but to me, they are something that I can easily pull off with Lola and they feel like something special. Whoa.

Look at them. They are pretty. They look delicious (and are!).

And best of all, they take 15 minutes (if even) from start to finish.  There is some herb chopping and cheese and garlic grating. Then you throw the gratin dishes under the broiler for 3 minutes with a dash of heavy cream and a small pat of butter in them. You add the eggs; top with the herbs, garlic, and parmesan. And pop under the broiler for another few minutes. That is seriously it.

Oh, and I guess you have to toast some bread and throw together a salad. But whatevs to that.

These New Mama Eggs were perfect for tonight as we struggled getting Lola to go to bed for the night--a task that happens right smack in the middle of dinnertime. Everything was prepped so I knew there were only 8 minutes in between go-time (Lola asleep) and us eating. Thanks to New Mama Eggs, we got to eat a hot dinner as soon as it was ready. At a reasonable hour. At the table. Together.

A rarity.

Don't skimp on the bread. Use good stuff, like a good baguette or even thick strips of good whole grain bread. Drizzle the bread with olive oil or give it a once-over with butter. Toast it. Good toast is a must for this dish, to sop up the runny yolks and scrape the browned bits of butter and garlic off the side of the gratin dish.

These are particularly for my new mama friends (the ones who like eggs, anyway). But I think anyone would be egg-stra happy to eat them.

Boo to the bad joke.

Herb-Baked Eggs, adapted slightly from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

1 small clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp minced thyme
1/4 tsp minced rosemary
1 tbsp minced Italian parsley
1 tbsp grated parmesan
6 large eggs
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat broiler. Prep garlic, herbs, and cheese, and mix them together.

Grab 2 individual gratin dishes.

Place 1 tbsp of heavy cream and 1/2 tbsp of butter into each gratin dish. Place on baking sheet about 6 inches under broiler for 2-3 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

In the meantime, crack 3 eggs gently into 2 bowls (3 eggs in each bowl for total of 6 eggs).

Add eggs to gratin dishes. Top with garlic, herb, and cheese mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place under broiler for about 5 minutes until egg whites are almost cooked (will continue cooking after removed from oven).

Serve. Eat.

Serves 2 new parents.

September 26, 2012

I'm Baaaaack

Woo, it's been a long time.

In May I became preoccupied with bedrest and the constant monitoring and impending arrival of my little nut. And then the craziness that is getting to know and taking care of a newborn happened. And then eventually I thought I was ready to be back to the blog. But then, sleep issues (for little nut) happened and I no longer had naps to do my thing.

But, now, I think I can be back. Although naps are still elusive...

Have no fear, I have not been on any sort of food hiatus since we last spoke. There were plenty of things I should have / could have shared while I was taking a hiatus. Let me get you caught up (with a detour first)...

Her Name is Lola
This is the reason for the hiatus. Sweet Baby Lola. Despite what some think, she was not named after my favorite pizza haunt. But it's a lovely coincidence. And she has dined there. She came a little more than 2 weeks early. And she's perfect. She loves: smiling, loud chewing sounds, art cards, her stuffed chicken, her mom and dad, books, when her dad tells her she has stinky feet (she doesn't), and songs about birds. She doesn't like: taking naps, the sun, or her hat falling into her eyes. I'm already hard at work turning her into a foodie. She watches me make dinner every night as I narrate. She has a cool kid red high chair. And I've already started scoping out recipes for her (and researching alternates to rice cereal).

Food Love
I wasn't allowed to cook while on bedrest. And I wasn't allowed to go out to eat while on bedrest. So, what was a girl to eat for a month? All of the fabulous food my friends bestowed upon me. I was spoiled. Completely spoiled. I was sent a dozen (yes, 12) cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes from dear Alexa one sunny afternoon. I was brought numerous lunches from many different friends. I received a ton of freezer ready dinners and breakfasts (and even a pitcher of mock sangria) from my friends Pooja and Carrie. My brother brought me Pizzeria Lola. My friends EHG and Melissa also brought me Pizzeria Lola (and mini cheesecakes). My monthly dining buddies Lauren and Lizzie brought me Brasa, Salty Tart, and fancy sodas all in the same night. And my bestie Jenni made me a bunch of meals from Let's Dish. I know I'm forgetting lots of folks...but you get the point. I received a lot of food love.

Post-Delivery Food
Remember the madness I created over what I'd eat right after I delivered? I have had a lot of people ask me what I ended up having. It should come as no surprise to those who have already had babies, but I didn't really care that night. I was hungry. But I was too tired and in another stratosphere to care. But my brother came through and brought me a meatball sub from Broder's. And it was just what I needed.

New Restaurant Finds
I have managed to escape the house on numerous occasions to seek out delicious food. My favorite would probably have to be The Left Handed Cook at Midtown Global Market. They have a bop bowl that I love. The popcorn is off the hook and addicting. And the brussels sprouts with shards of parm and diced orange and other yummies are fantastic. I also tried neighbor Sonora Grill since last you heard from me and love that too. All of the tacos I've had have been solid but the rice and beans are my favorite. They cook the rice in coconut milk. Uh, hello good idea. I also am embarrassed to admit that I hadn't been to the France 44 Cheese Shop until recently. I stopped in one day on my way home from running errands with Lola after realizing it was 2pm and I hadn't had lunch. Their sandwiches are awesome.

New Food Finds
I have 2 here to report. First, Fentiman's Rose Lemonade, introduced to me by my friend Carrie. It's so perfectly rose-y, sweet, and fizzy. And comes in a beautiful bottle. Second, Ines Rosales Sweet Olive Oil Tortas (orange flavor). I have known about these tortas for a while, but I didn't know until recently that there was an orange flavor. Think subtly sweet thick crackers with little pops of orange flavor. They are dusted in sugar, have caramelized edges, and are perfect to serve with cocktails. Or to eat as a snack while on maternity leave.

A New Favorite Apple Orchard
So, Apple Jack's is usually our go-to orchard every Fall. It's got the typical orchard necessities: apples, pumpkins, apple doughnuts and brats, a river, haystacks. But a few weeks ago we decided to try out the orchard that supplied apples at the Fulton Market last summer: Sweetland Orchard out in Webster. We were so glad we took the drive out there. The orchard is beautiful and peaceful, and the owners couldn't be friendlier. We loved the short walk to the Honeycrisps, up a hill, until we ended up in a small clearing with a yellow picnic table in front of us and a couple of rows of apples to our left. And chickens roaming.

And The Most Amazing Cake EVER
Now, I'm a huge supporter of the Yates Family Chocolate Cake. You know this. And if you've asked, you know I won't share the recipe. But, this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from Smitten Kitchen...I hate to say it...but...maybe it's even more amazing? This cake. I can't articulate it's deliciousness. It's composed of 3 layers of moist chocolate cake. Those layers are surrounded by peanut butter cream cheese frosting. And then the whole thing gets a bath of peanut butter chocolate ganache. Smitten Kitchen says it's best served in skinny slices. But I disagree. I think it's best served in generous slices. It's out of this world. When I need to pull out the big guns, I will be making this cake.

May 15, 2012

Meat Lovers and Non Meat Lovers Unite: Butcher and the Boar

I was supposed to be at Butcher and the Boar this Sunday with some of our other expecting friends--a semi Mother's Day, if you will, for 2 prego ladies and their meat-loving husbands.

But, bedrest and a weekly OB appt with no field trips granted prevented that.

It's okay, I guess.

I'll just consider myself lucky that I got to go twice already.

This place is going to be a good thing. I know it. It possesses the ability to please meat lovers and people that aren't so obsessed with meat alike. That is rare.

I first went with Zach for a little Friday date night weeks ago. I loved it. He loved it. They made me a "prego cocktail," an interesting one, no less. We ordered wisely. We liked everything we got. All was good. We were so happily full that we didn't really care at all that we had paid to have the valet park our car in the first parking spot immediately next to the door--and that they handed us our keys when we picked it up after dinner instead of backing the car out for us. (Nice, valet guys, nice.)

There aren't many times when I would pass up a lobster grilled cheese on a menu--so we started with that as an app. Delicious and rich as expected, crispy and buttery, oozy and lobstery. It was pretty special. And something to definitely share.

We cleansed our palettes after that with a salad. It felt like the sensible thing to do in between a lobster grilled cheese and meat feasting. I don't usually get too hyped up about salads, but this one was solid. Cornbread croutons and bacon jazzed it up. Not sure cornbread croutons and bacon can be considered a palette cleanser, but cut us a break.

For our entree we split the cheddar sausage, which came with uber mustardy broccoli and some fresh crisp apples. Really good stuff. I've since had some of the other sausages, and I would say by far the cheddar one has been my favorite. We we ordered some grits on the side--creamy and decadent, per usual as far as grits go.

I've had their gingerbread banana pudding twice now for dessert--I love the pudding. Can take or leave the gingerbread. But I actually think the real dessert start at B and the B is the homemade s'more plate that my friends and I got for free the last time we were there thanks to some sub-par service (first visit, service was great; second visit, not so much).

Spotty service and bad valet service, aside, the food is delish. We'll be back after BGC makes her appearance into the world and frees me from bedrest--when she is 2 and I'm good leaving her with a sitter, that is. (Although this place is loud enough to probably sneak in a newborn--and I have a feeling I won't be beyond that.) Life is about to change!

April 24, 2012

Cheap Date

This is one of my entertaining tricks. Everyone loves sangria. But serving alcohol can be expensive when entertaining.

Enter $3 buck chuck from Trader Joe's.

And this recipe, which also calls for Ginger Ale to round out the drink.

This is an insanely cheap way to serve drinks while entertaining. You end up with a whole pitcher FULL with 1 bottle of $3 buck chuck, 1/2 a bottle of ginger ale, some OJ, triple sec (if you have it on hand), and lemon and orange slices.

I think if you have the triple sec on hand, it helps stretch it even more. Because it makes it a lot stronger. 

Okay, so it's cheap. I've proven that. But it's also delicious. I promise.

As Alexa kindly said earlier this week, "You make the best sangria. I love your recipe." Aww, thanks Alexa! :)

Sangria, Adapted slightly from Williams-Sonoma Cocktail Parties

1 bottle Trader Joes' $3 buck chuck red wine
24 oz ginger ale
3 cups orange juice
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup triple sec (optional)

Mix it all together--that's it! (I make mine a couple hours in advance and put it in the refrigerator to let the flavors develop.)