spicy pickled carrots

How are your shoveling muscles feeling?

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Mine are a little sore.

That may also be attributed to Body Pump, though. I taught yesterday at noon to a room of 60 people. No one has been working this week in Baltimore. Except for the front desk staff at the gym, I guess.

This big muscle head guy took my class and came up to me after and said “GIRL! You’re an ass kicker!”

Then he asked me if I was an attorney “in real life.” I’m not sure how that’s related.

Since we’ve been stuck in the house for the better part of the last 5 days, we’ve had to get pretty creative with our dwindling fridge stock.

I knew I wanted to make these pickled carrots after having some on New Year’s Day at Grist Iron Brewery on Seneca Lake. The GS ordered a charcuterie plate, and I was much more interested in these carrots than any of the meat.

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They were so easy to make! I want to pickle everything now.

I ate several straight up this morning as a snack, but I can’t wait to put them on some kind of burger/taco/meaty sandwich. Yuuuuum.

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Spicy Pickled Carrots

4-6 carrots, julienne

3 cups water

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

2 tbs salt

1 tsp sugar

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, and crushed red pepper and bring to a boil. I let mine boil for about 2-3 minutes and then turned off the heat.

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While it’s coming to a boil, peel and chop up the carrots. I had originally planned to spiralize mine, but figured julienne would be easier to eat plain. The shape doesn’t really matter, but I may end up chopping them up into more of a slaw-like consistency if I put them on a taco.

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Place the carrots in an air-tight container. A mason jar would be cuter but I went with a pop-top because it’s what I had.

Slowly pour the pickling liquid over the carrots. It’s okay if you have too much liquid, but make sure you scoop up the crushed red pepper and garlic and get that in the jar.

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Refrigerate and serve cold.

They’re kind of salty and garlicky at first, and then have a slow burn at the end. If you’re not a carrot fan, you could use the same pickling liquid recipe with cucumbers, onions, etc.

I’m finally moving my car out from the igloo this morning for a work trip, so I’ll probably have to stop at the grocery store while I’m out for some taco/burger fixins’ to highlight these.

And more carrots.

 

two DIY gift ideas

Are you about to get snowed in for the rest of your life like we are in Baltimore?!

There’s a reason this isn’t a food post. I’m going on 72 hours with no sense of taste which is the most cruel and unusual punishment I’ve ever experienced. I’m pretty sure I have a sinus infection. I have very little appetite but because I’m such a ritualistic eater, I tried having an afternoon snack the other day. I started slicing some sharp cheddar and… nothing. I was desperately inhaling through my nose trying to catch a taste. I was like someone who recently quit smoking trying to lick their nicotine patch for a quick fix. It was very pathetic.

I bought an incredibly random assortment of groceries today, partially because I’m uninspired if I can’t enjoy food, and partially because a lot of things are all gone because people think they’re going to be snowed in for the next 3 years. One of the ingredients was a pot roast, though, so you may be seeing that here soon.

Gift ideas! One is mine and one was given to me. Both for Christmas, but could work year round for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

The first is personalized coasters. I saw this on Pinterest and did it for the GS’ sister and mom, both of whom are dog lovers. I printed out 4 of my favorite photos of each of their pups, and attached them to 4″x4″ tiles I found at Lowes. (Print the photos 4″x4″ if you can, Target only let me do 5″x5″ and they were a pain to cut perfectly.) If you can find tiles that have sharp edges (not rounded), this is ideal so the edge of the photo fully adheres to the edge of the tile.

I used adhesive spray to attach the photos to the tiles.  Then, using a foam brush, Mod Podge over the top of the photo. I probably did 5 coats for each one, letting it dry completely in between. Then I sprayed the whole thing with the adhesive spray to make it waterproof. I used regular glue to attach cork to the bottom- they sell 4 packs of these at Michael’s. I did a terrible job photographing this process, but it was easy.

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You can really only see the coasters with Mason on them in this picture, but Penny is worth checking out. You can see her golden doodle antics on Instagram (@pennyspage).

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I thought they came out really cute. And not just for dog lovers! You could do places you’ve traveled, or really any pictures you like. I always have extra fabric scraps kicking around, so I wrapped them in fabric with twine. A little high maintenance but it worked.

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The second gift idea was given to me by Penny’s mom, Sydney. She gave me a kit to make a windowsill herb garden!

She gave me 6 mason jars, each with a seed packet from SmartSeedStore.com. (Thyme, cilantro, parsley, basil, sage, and chives- a cook’s dream) The website gives you instructions about what to do with the seeds (some need to soak in water first, etc.)

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I planted them a few weeks ago and they’re coming along! Some more than others.

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Once they take off I’m going to put the jars back into the cute burlap bags they came in. I’m worried they’ll block out too much sun at this point, but I think it will look better when they’re all in bags.

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Such a great idea for anyone who loves to cook, or just doesn’t have a yard to do a real in-the-ground herb garden. I’m hoping by summertime they’ll be big enough to move into regular pots on the deck, but I love being able to grow them inside right now.

Hopefully by summer I’ll also be able to enjoy the taste of their homegrown goodness.

zoodle carbonara

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my sadness over Alan Rickman’s passing last week. While I of course feel that the Harry Potter movies never did justice to the books, I’ve always loved Alan Rickman. He loved the books in real life and had such respect for JK Rowling, and I thought he was the perfect Snape. I just finished crying over this video. Do yourself a favor and watch it in private.

Okay now onto food. This is my favorite thing I’ve made in a while.

Equal parts because it’s A) delicious B) healthy and C) so fast and easy.

I guess pasta substitutes are a trend for me lately, because I’ve made this spaghetti squash chicken parm twice in the past week. I thought about blogging it, but the video is simply more impressive than anything I could come up with.

I ordered myself a cheapo version of the spiralizer on Amazon a couple months ago and I love it. So far I’ve only used it on zucchini, but I want to do sweet potatoes, broccoli stems, and carrots with it. I’m thinking some spicy pickled spiralized carrots might be coming your way soon. Stay tuned.

I’ve eaten zoodles a couple of times but usually just with a quick tomato sauce. When I went to the grocery store last week, bacon was BOGO so I immediately thought carbonara. You could be fancy and use pancetta, or be even healthier and use turkey bacon.

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Zoodle Carbonara

makes one serving, easily multiplied

1 1/2 small zucchinis, SPIRALIZED

1-2 slices bacon, chopped

1/2 small sweet onion, finely chopped

1 egg

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Put the bacon into a hot skillet and crisp it up. When it’s almost cooked through, add the onions. If you end up with a lot of bacon fat, you may want to drain some of it off. You don’t want the dish to be greasy, you just want enough to cook the onions.

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Once the onions are soft, add the zoodles and toss for 1-2 minutes. Then quickly add the egg and scramble everything around so that it coats the zoodles. Add Parmesan and quickly toss again to melt it and combine it through. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve!

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I’m so tempted to make some terrible reference to green snake-like noodles and a small part of my heart being Slytherin…

Guess I just did it.

 

 

 

broccoli & cauliflower soup

As promised, SOUP.

Golden Globes Sunday is a holiday in my book, so I wanted to make a great dinner. And by dinner, I mean the meal I eat at 4PM when the Red Carpet pre-show starts.

I intentionally did not call this “broccoli cheddar soup,” because while there is some cheese in it, the veg is the star in this recipe. So many broccoli cheddar soups are basically liquid cheese with a stray floret here and there. I remember trying to make that style soup once in high school, before I really discovered my culinary talents (HA!) and it came out like glue. Literally. We may have had to throw away the pot.

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The cheese in this recipe adds flavor, but isn’t the main texture component. I even paid $1.50 more to get white cheddar instead of yellow to avoid having that signature cheese color.

In other news, why is white cheddar more expensive than yellow? Explain this to me, Harris Teeter.

Anyway, I was really happy with the Globes. Mostly that Brie Larson won for Room, because I loved the book and the movie was incredible. I saw it last week by myself at this cool little pop-up theater in DC.

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I feel like there’s a stigma against going to the movies alone, but I really don’t understand it. The movies aren’t a social event. You’re not supposed to talk during them, and if I’m going to cry 16 times during a movie I would rather be alone.

And if I want to get myself a hot chocolate with some romantic latte art prior to seeing a film by myself, so be it.

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Back to soup! I also made focaccia to go with this. I used Anne Burrell’s recipe. I was underwhelmed. Nothing against Anne, but it was kind of dry. It was great for dipping in the soup, but as someone who likes to eat plain bread on the reg, it wasn’t my favorite. Fun process, but how does it end up being dry? Do you see that oil?!

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Broccoli & Cauliflower Soup

1 head cauliflower

about 1 lb broccoli

3 carrots

1 sweet onion

3-4 cloves garlic

1 tbs Dijon mustard

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock (can be subbed for vegetable stock)

6-8 oz sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

olive oil, salt, pepper

Chop up the cauliflower and broccoli. You want to liberally season the florets for roasting. Olive oil, salt, pepper.

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Don’t waste the broccoli stems! They’re going in the soup.

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Roast the florets at 375. You want to get some color on the broccoli and cauliflower, but they don’t need to be completely cooked through because they’ll finish in the soup. Maybe like 20-25 minutes in the oven.

Saute the broccoli stems, onion, garlic, and carrots in more olive oil, salt, and pepper. We’re seasoning every layer! This is also where we add our secret ingredient- the one tablespoon of Dijon mustard. This is a must- trust me. Cook this combo for 10-15 minutes, then add in your roasted broccoli and cauliflower. Reserve a few florets for presentation!

Add chicken stock. I did one full quart and then about half of the second. You want just enough liquid to cover all the veggies, but keep in mind that we’re going to blend it and you don’t want the end result to be too watery. Add your grated cheese and bring to a simmer, allowing it to cook for another 15 minutes or so. The veggies should be tender by now.

Then we blend! I seriously love the immersion blender because it’s so easy, but you could go old-school and transfer it all to your food processor or blender in batches.

After blending, I added the cream because the GS said it tasted “healthy.” I don’t have a problem with this which is why I deemed it optional in the ingredients list. But of course it tasted better with the cream added. This is how the world works.

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FYI, this makes a lot of soup. You could easily lessen the quantity of broccoli and cauliflower, keep it to one box of stock, etc.

But personally, I can’t wait to eat the leftovers all week. Maybe I’ll sneak a thermos of it into a theater so I can catch up on more movies before the Oscars.

whipped butternut & goat cheese dip

I forgot to tell you about one of my most exciting gifts from Santa.

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AN IMMERSION BLENDER.

I want to go on an all-soup diet so that I can use it every day.

I’m sure over the holidays you ate your fair share of apps. There’s pretty much nothing better than an array of dips/spreads/shrimp cocktail laid out in front of you. Oh and your family and friends, too. They’re cool. But THE FOOD.

But now it’s January which means everyone has resolutions to eat less and move more, right? My gym has been insanely crowded. As an instructor, it’s so much fun to have a packed class. As a participant, I want to tell people to get out of my personal space.

I’m not sure how much partying you’re doing over the next few weeks, but if you want a healthy(er) snack or a fancy dip to share with friends, this is your answer. I made this a few days after Christmas, after putting a big dent into a 5 lb bag of peanut M&Ms. They are my kryptonite. Literally one of my gifts was the 5 lb bag, and my mom had just written ERIN on it with a Sharpie. She gets me.

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Whipped Butternut & Goat Cheese Dip

slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

3 lbs chopped butternut squash

1 head garlic

4 oz goat cheese

1 bunch chives, chopped

olive oil

salt & pepper

crushed red pepper flakes

Shockingly, the pre-chopped butternut squash was cheaper than buying the whole squash at Wegmans. I’m so glad I checked, because chopping up butternut squash is a gigantic pain in my ass and makes my hands orange and squeaky. Does this happen to anyone else?!

Toss the squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Slice the garlic head in half and brush with olive oil, then put it back together and wrap in foil. Roast the squash and garlic at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes until soft.

You can definitely do the garlic ahead of time, but you want the squash to be freshly cooked and still warm.

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Put the squash in a bowl and squeeze in your roasted garlic cloves. I only used half of the head because my mom was looking at me like I was crazy and describing my dip as “exotic.” You can use the whole thing. Roasted garlic is sweeter and much less potent.

Add your goat cheese and WHIP IT REAL GOOD.

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If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can do this in a food processor or traditional blender.

Top with chopped chives, and serve with bagel chips, crackers, pretzels, etc. It’s actually rich enough that you could serve it as a side dish in place of mashed potatoes. SO MUCH HEALTHIER. I ate some of the leftovers with steak one night and loved it.

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You can expect my next post to be soup.

easy at-home pho

I’m so excited to share this as my first recipe of 2016.

Remember in the 60s when fondue parties were a big thing? I mean, I don’t. Because I wasn’t alive. But I’ve heard this was the case. I also imagine these to be swinger parties for some reason.

I’m convinced that pho parties are now going to be the fondue party of 2016. I’m certainly going to throw one. You’re all invited! No swinging, though. I promise.

If you’ve never had pho (pronounced ‘fuh’), it’s a Vietnamese noodle soup. Typically when you order it, you get broth with some kind of meat and then a bunch of add-ins. I’m all about the add-ins.

Admittedly, this is likely not an “authentic” pho recipe. And when I say “likely” I mean “definitely.” It’s fake. A faux pho, if you will. But it does the job.

I bought some beef stock and doctored it up with fish sauce, thinly sliced onion, and garlic. Let it simmer for a bit to cook down the onions. It’s one quart of beef stock, 3 cloves of garlic, half a sweet onion, and just a few drops of fish oil- maybe 1/2 a teaspoon. You can always put this out so that people can add more to their soup. I also added a little bit of water (like 2 cups) because I was worried it would be overly salty, but it wasn’t.

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Then, and this is the cool part, you actually cook the meat by pouring the broth over it!!

I can’t wait to throw this pho party and observe all my guests’ faces as I present them with bowls of raw meat.

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You have to slice it suuuuuper thin. Like shave it almost. You need a really sharp knife (looking at you, Nell!) and cut against the grain. I used sirloin filet because it was on sale, but I think it’s traditionally done with flank steak. You want about the amount of a small hamburger per serving.

So you pour the broth over the meat, and then dump in a bunch of delicious toppings. Lots of green things! Chopped scallions, cilantro, jalapenos, and lime wedges.

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Also bean sprouts and rice noodles. The GS and I debated for far too long in the international foods section about which style of rice noodles to get. I was leaning toward the skinny vermicelli style (and preferably the brown rice variety) whereas he wanted a more traditional, thicker rice noodle. We compromised with these- relatively similar in thickness to linguine. Get whatever you want.

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Make sure you stir the noodles frequently when they’re cooking- some of ours got stuck together and didn’t cook through all the way.

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Look how pretty!

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It ended up being really spicy with the jalapenos and the sriracha we dumped on. But this is why it’s perfect for a party- the crazy spice lovers can add as much as they want, or you can leave one or both out.

You can also change up your broth- I thought about adding some ginger to it (after we left the grocery store), or you could do a completely vegetarian version. Vegetable broth with all the toppings, but maybe swap out the meat for mushrooms. The possibilities are endless. I hope it goes without saying that if you use chicken, you need to cook it ahead of time. No salmonella. Please and thank you.

Now I just have to pick an occasion. Here’s some ideas I’ve come up with:

SuperBOWL of PHO Party

MemPHOrial Day Party

CincPHO de Mayo Party

PHOlag Day Party

It’s the PHOreakin’ Weekend Party

or maybe we don’t need an occasion, and it’s just PHO Fun! Okay I’m done.

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You can RSVP right here.

favorite recipes of 2015

Happy New Year’s Eve!

I’ll be heading out today to the lake to ring in 2016, but I wanted to quickly share my favorite recipes of this year. I just got my stats from WordPress, and it looks like I posted 52 times this year and had 33,000 views!

I bet only about 28,000 of those were from my immediate family.

This year I traveled to 23 cities (at least?!), wrote 5 Kindle posts, bashed or boasted about the 8 weddings I attended, and wrote 1700 words on grocery shopping.

I scanned through all the posts from this year and decided on my 5 favorite recipes that I plan to make again/recommend you make in 2016!

I’ll make this a dramatic countdown and start with #5.

5. Forbidden Rice

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This dish is just elegant. It’s a little fussy, which is why it isn’t higher on the list. But if you’re entertaining and you want to impress someone, this is a good one.

4. Chicken Burrito Bowl

This makes the list because I remember how much I loved it both freshly made and as cold leftovers (eaten in the car with a plastic fork). Also I’m pretty sure I got a kick out of myself being an idiot while writing that post. I’ve reached a point where sometimes when I make mistakes or something annoying or stressful happens I think to myself- “At least I can blog about this!” I guess that’s a version of positivity in my world.

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3. Corn & Poblano Wrap

I think this is my favorite food photo that I took this year. I edited it with VSCO Cam, which I would like to start using more. It’s similar to Instagram, but you can just save the photos with the edits without needing to publish them.

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This is probably a little high maintenance for a casual lunch, but so worth it. One of my favorite vegetarian recipes I’ve ever made, I would say.

2. Eggplant Burrata Bruschetta

The GS still talks about this one.

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You could serve burrata to me on cardboard and I would probably eat it, but the eggplant and tomatoes here just take it over the top. Plus BREAD.

1. Shrimp Tacos

These earned the number one spot because I’ve made them at least 3 times since Mother’s Day.

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They are super easy, you can prep them in advance, and they’re a crowd pleaser for sure. I always think of fish tacos as being a summer thing, but these would work any season. You could always saute the shrimp instead of grilling if there’s snow on the ground. And I would eat the broccoli slaw on its own.

Here’s to a 2016 full of good eats and good reads. Have a safe and happy New Year!