Asparagus Tart

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Last Sunday, Korena and Ian came over to celebrate the arrival of spring in Texas with a backyard barbecue. James used his Big Green Egg grill to smoke some heavenly ribs while I whipped up some icy margaritas for cocktail hour. Korena brought a yummy potato salad studded with poblano peppers and corn and, as a starter, an asparagus tart from our mutually favorite cookbook, The Forest Feast. The appetizer was beyond delicious. The asparagus was tender and the capers, pine nuts, herbs, and garlic packed such a flavorful punch. Korena used goat cheese instead of the recommended brie as the base of the tart and it added the perfect hint of decadency. Find the recipe here and if you try it out, let me know if you enjoyed it as much as we did. It would pair perfectly with a cold glass of rosé and a salad full of spring produce. And check out these gorgeous photos that Korena snapped during our barbecue and posted on her blog – aren’t they beautiful? (Sneak a peek at more of her pretty pictures here.)

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The Forest Feast

FF_printed_cookbook_001One of my favorite birthday presents was a beautiful copy of The Forest Feast, a cookbook that features deliciously easy vegetarian recipes, all of which are accompanied by whimsical watercolor illustrations and gorgeous photographs. The book itself was so lovely to receive, so pretty, in fact, that it was easy to leave propped up in a prominent place in our kitchen…and then left untouched. Until yesterday, when I realized what a travesty it was to leave the gorgeous book on the counter by its lonesome and proceeded to read the entire thing cover to cover, earmarking each delicious recipe that I want to try (essentially all of them). Everything looks so mouthwateringly-delicious, and each recipe contains just a few uncomplicated steps, illustrated brilliantly and clearly, which is perfect for visual learners like myself. Nearly every recipe contains basic ingredients that are typically on hand, paired with a few items from the produce section. It’s the perfect cookbook.

tumblr_m2nqa8k9AX1r4p2epo2_1280Coincidentally, Korena got the cookbook for a gift, too, so for the past 24 hours, we’ve been sending each other a flurry of text messages about the treats we want to try. I gave the Red Roasted Vegetables a whirl last night (using asparagus and tomatoes instead of carrots), and they were delicious – the cinnamon added such an unexpected kick. Korena raved about the Corn & Cauliflower Tacos, which I can’t wait to cook next, and tonight she made the Butternut Caprese, which looks unreal.

tumblr_m72nuht6qh1r4p2epo1_1280 tumblr_m72nuht6qh1r4p2epo2_1280 tumblr_m72nuht6qh1r4p2epo3_1280I can’t recommend this cookbook enough. The simple recipes, pretty illustrations, and the chapter devoted solely to cocktails make it absolutely worth adding to your collection!

Photos via The Forest Feast

The Best Bruschetta

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetKyla, Laura, and I had a blast at Kyla’s parents’ house in Fort Worth this weekend. We invited ourselves over for a slumber party and were treated like the back home ballers that we envision ourselves to be. Kyla’s parents, Denise and Kyle, are so much fun to be around, and Denise is an insanely talented cook to boot (she used to manage her own catering company). She made a delicious dinner of chicken scallopini, a simple green salad, and individual berry crumbles a la mode. Before dinner, we made Denise’s bruschetta recipe, which we had all unanimously requested because it is so seriously delicious (especially when paired with a lovely glass of wine and your jammies). Though bruschetta is typically reserved for the summertime when tomatoes are in season, I find it delectable all year round. There’s something comforting about enjoying a warm slice of tomato-topped bread with salty parmesan cheese and just a hint of sweetness. While I admittedly haven’t tried many bruschetta recipes, I think I have a good reason: Denise’s recipe is so perfect that I don’t want to try anyone else’s.

Bruschetta

Recipe via Denise Kiser

Ingredients:
  • Olive oil, heavy splash
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 roma tomatoes, diced
  • Balsamic vinegar, heavy splash
  • Brown sugar, heavy pinch
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Grated parmesan for topping
  • Baguette
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush baguette slices with olive oil on both sides and bake until crisp.
  2. Heat a heavy splash of olive oil in a skillet. Add the minced shallot and stir until coated in oil, then turn down the heat to medium.
  3. Add the garlic and stir continuously, ensuring that the garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Add in the diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and salt & pepper. Stir everything together to ensure that the ingredients are mixed well.
  5. Take the mixture off heat and stir in the fresh basil.
  6. Top baguette slices with tomato mixture and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Pumpkin Chili

Whew, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things after Christmas, isn’t it? Especially when New Year’s Eve lurks just around the corner. James and I spent Christmas at the ranch with his parents, siblings, aunt, nieces, and nephew (12 of us in total!), and we had an absolute blast. Our five days in Cross Plains were filled with lots of runs and walks on long dirt roads, snuggles with our 11-month old niece, playtime with all of the ranch puppies (Callie included!), many stolen naps, several game nights (have you ever played Telephone Pictionary? holy fun!), a triple date with James’s sisters and their husbands, and, of course, plenty of delicious food. We celebrated my birthday on Saturday and I got to pick out the menu, so I chose some of my favorite dishes from James’s mom’s repertoire – breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes with white gravy, beet & citrus salad, and spiced green apples. For dessert we had another one of my favorites, the rhubarb-strawberry crisp that James’s mom served at our rehearsal lunch. It was heavenly!

When we got home, James tended to some chores around the house (namely taking down the Christmas tree, le sigh) while I tossed in a load of dusty laundry and got to work on a super basic pumpkin chili that Becca passed my way. I tweaked the recipe slightly, adding in some grass-fed ground beef from the ranch as well as our favorite ranch-style beans. Don’t get turned off by the idea that there’s pumpkin in the chili – it just adds a good richness, no sweetness (as long as you don’t mistakenly buy pumpkin pie filling!). The cumin and chili powder in this dish are the stand-out flavors, and I love them. You can use any kind of beans that you like. I think this would be delicious served alongside some cornbread and topped with green onions and sour cream.

Pumpkin Chili

Recipe adapted from Julia’s Album (photo from Julia’s Album as well)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes with diced chiles
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 can ranch-style beans with jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season beef with whatever you like – we prefer onion powder, hot salt, and pepper. Place ground beef in the skillet and cook until brown.
  2. In a large pot or second skillet, cook chopped onion and minced garlic in remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat until soft.
  3. Add pumpkin, canned tomatoes & chiles, vegetable broth, black beans, garbanzo beans, and ranch-style beans. Add ground beef.
  4. Add half the cumin and half the chili powder, stir everything well, and season with salt and pepper. Taste your chili and season if needed. If desired (and yes, we do desire it!), add the remaining cumin and chili powder.
  5. Bring to a boil. Make sure to stir all ingredients together well to combine flavors and spices. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes longer.
  6. Top with green onions and sour cream and serve with cornbread.

Harvest Salad + Basic Vinaigrette

Since we’re in the height of the holiday season, our calendars filled with parties and treats and goodness galore, I’m seeking some balance as I plan out my meals, especially as I chart out my workday lunches. To counter all of the delicious holiday treats that I’m consuming (and loving), I’ve been guzzling green juice and noshing on lots of fresh salads, ensuring that I’m still absorbing loads of good nutrients. I’ve come up with a leafy concoction that mirrors a salad that Korena makes every year for the harvest, and, as a result, there are very few exact calculations for the amount of each ingredient required. So I’d just use however much of each item that fits your palette best. I love this salad because every bite is a little surprise – you may get a burst of tomato or creamy avocado, a bite of tangy cheese or wholesome quinoa, or a taste of tart cranberries or crunchy pecans. The vinaigrette I use with this salad is my very favorite because it’s so versatile, and it comes from a recipe in Bread & Wine (of course). It’s super basic yet hugely flavorful and it goes with everything (including last week’s White Bean Soup). Enjoy!

Harvest Salad

Ingredients for Salad:

  • Mixed greens
  • Spinach
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • Grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • Broccoli, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • Mediterranean feta cheese (regular feta will suffice but I love the added kick from the Mediterranean flavors – I use Président brand)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Pecan pieces (toasted if you have time!)

Ingredients for Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the salad ingredients together. That’s it!
  2. For the vinaigrette, combine the ingredients in a jar (I use a rinsed out salsa jar – it works perfectly). Shake, shake, shake until you achieve your desired consistency. Add more oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste.

White Bean Soup

I swear that I crave soup on a weekly basis in the wintertime. It’s not even very cold here in Dallas (I think it’s supposed to be 70 degrees on Saturday!) but there’s something about the combination of soup and December and the holidays that is nostalgic for me, so I find myself making tons of different kinds over the course of the month (continuing on into January and February, too). Since I’m cooking through Bread & Wine, I decided to try author Shauna Niequist’s White Bean Soup, a hearty mix loaded with delicious beans and vegetables. It is safe to say that I am now obsessed with this soup – it was so easy to make and it is extremely tasty. It thickens over time and gets better and better each day, almost chili-like in texture and so flavorful and robust. I add vinaigrette to my steaming bowl of soup, and James liked his with prosciutto. Both of us agree that parmesan cheese a must. And here’s an important note – I couldn’t find fennel at the store when I was shopping so I made the soup without it, and I think it turned out delicious. I’m sure it tastes wonderful with fennel included, as the recipe suggests.

White Bean Soup

Recipe via Shauna Niequist

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced into thin coins on a diagonal
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced on a diagonal
  • 6 cans white beans in liquid
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, soften two sliced shallots in olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, fennel, and celery, and allow to soften for 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. Add beans in their liquid and chopped rosemary.
  4. Cover and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.
  5. Taste, add salt & pepper, taste again – and keep in mind that you’ll get a good amount of salt from the toppings.
  6. Cook for 20 more minutes, or longer if you have time. Off heat, mash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic chunky texture. If you’d like a smoother texture, run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the pot.
  7. For the balsamic vinaigrette, mix a spoonful of Dijon, a few tablespoons of balsamic, a quarter cup or so of olive oil, some salt and pepper in a glass jar, then shake well. Adjust to taste.
  8. Serve with a small pitcher of vinaigrette, and bowls of prosciutto torn into ribbons, grated Parmesan, and chopped rosemary.

Cooking Through Bread & Wine

lindsay-letters-betweenus-canvas-navy_1024x1024As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I reread Bread & Wine recently and it inspired me to get creative in the kitchen. When life gets chaotic and full, I tend to fall back on the recipes I know and love – enchiladas, quinoa bowls, breakfast for dinner, tortilla soup – instead of foraging into the land of the unknown. Shauna Niequist, the author of Bread & Wine, shares loads of delicious recipes in her book, which is part memoir, part cookbook, and they got me excited about trying out some new dishes. Shauna uses good wholesome ingredients and her instructions aren’t a mile long; instead of using complicated, fussy verbiage, her recipes are straightforward and easy to understand. So I thought it might be fun to work my way through the book, chopping and dicing and sautéing, stirring and tasting and trying, and then reporting the results to you here on the blog.

I’m already a fan of several of the recipes in the book – the blueberry crisp, the basic vinaigrette (which I make once a week and pour on just about everything), the goat cheese scrambled eggs, the lentil soup – so I may post about them here, or I may just venture into uncharted territory…we’ll see. Either way, it will be fun (and delicious). Stay tuned!

Image & canvas via Lindsay Letters

Tortilla Soup

IMG_2141The Arctic cold front is blowing through Dallas today and it’s making me crave warm, autumnal things – cozy blankets, fall-scented candles, toasty beverages, and tortilla soup. My boss, Pam, passed on this recipe to me, and while I’ve made so many other delicious soups and chilis, this is the one I always revert back to, my very favorite. It’s so yummy and so dang easy. It’s the perfect workweek meal because James and I never get tired of serving up a hearty bowl of leftovers, and it’s a great dish to give to friends who have just had a baby/are going through a rough time/need their fridges stocked. Paired with tortilla chips and sour cream (and sometimes red wine or a Blood & Honey beer), it can’t be beat. I’ll admit that I like this soup so much that I’ll even make it in the summertime – gasp. It’s that good, y’all.

Pam’s Slow-Cooker Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, chopped
  • 1 box of chicken broth
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 2 cans of ranch-style beans – I’ve learned that this is a regional treat that can’t be found everywhere. I will mail you some ranch-style beans if you ask me to because I think they make a huge impact on the flavor of this soup. If you can’t find them, pinto beans are a great substitute.
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 bag of frozen corn

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in the crock pot. Yep, that’s it.
  2. Simmer on low for six hours or on high for four hours.
  3. Top with tortilla chips, grated cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, avocado – whatever you prefer – and serve.

Spicy Green Juice

I have had such a great excuse to eat so much good food over the past couple of weeks, what with our trip to Los Angeles and our friends visiting over the weekend. After indulging in so much goodness, though, I’m ready to lighten up my meals a bit, and the perfect addition to any clean eating diet is green juice. I do enjoy salads and grilled vegetables but I must admit that I tire of them quickly, so drinking green juice not only fills me up but it also ensures that I get my daily serving of veggies. This juice is a variation of the Green Glow drink that I love from our local juice bar, The Gem, and I’ve started making it nearly every day – it is so tasty and nutritious. There’s a sweetness to it because of the apples and lemon, and there’s an added spicy kick from the combination of the ginger and jalapeños. James, a notorious meat-and-poatotes sort of dude, even requests this juice on the regular – he’ll drink it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Impressive, right?

James and I bought this juicer from Costco when it was majorly on sale, so tweak this recipe depending on what you’re using to blend up your fruit and vegetables – I’m sure this would be easy to make in all kinds of juicers/blenders/Vitamixes.

Spicy Green Juice

Fresh vegetable juices on wooden table, on green background

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale (about 3 – 4 large leaves), stems removed
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon, peel removed
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeds removed
  • 1-inch piece ginger

Directions:

  • Cut and prepare the produce. My juicer does best when I remove the kale stems, slice the apple into quarters, cut the cucumber in half, and remove the lemon peel, but do what works for you and your machinery.
  • Shove all of your produce through your juicer and watch the magic happen!
  • Stir the drink thoroughly before enjoying – otherwise you might get a gulp that’s just a pinch too spicy.

Image via Lean it Up

Homemade Funfetti Cake

In college my girlfriends and I loved to whip up a Funfetti cake on a moment’s notice, using any and every excuse (from birthdays and good test scores to the completion of Rush week and Tuesday nights in general) to justify our cravings. Once the cake was cooled and frosted, we would all dive in to the pan with forks, no plates needed. As a result, Funfetti became our ubiquitous celebratory treat – it was festive and delicious and easy and cheap, which meant that it appeared on our kitchen tables on a weekly basis.

While we still do love treating ourselves to some out-of-the-box Funfetti cake, our tastes have certainly evolved and, along with them, our desire to bake from scratch has increased, too. Erin came up with this Homemade Funfetti Cake recipe, which she served at my bachelorette party (paying the perfect homage to our college days). It was an absolute hit, to say the least, and she passed the recipe on to me so I could recreate it forever and ever. So now I impart her glorious creation on to you, friends. Enjoy.

Homemade Funfetti Cake

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Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup yogurt (E recommends using Greek yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup milk (organic 2% is recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sprinkles (not nonpareils; and, duh, rainbow sprinkles are preferable)

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Salt, as needed
  • Sprinkles!

Cake Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform or baking pan (round or square) with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in the sugars vigorously, getting out any brown sugar lumps (the mixture should be gritty).
  4. Whisk in the egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract until combined.
  5. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  6. Slowly stir in sprinkles, but do not over mix because the sprinkles will bleed their color.
  7. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 13 – 17 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Frosting Directions:

  1. As the cake bakes, prepare the frosting. Beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 3 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract with the mixer running. Add salt to taste. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes.
  3. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin, or add more butter if mixture is too thick. Add 1/4 teaspoon (or more) of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  4. Frost cooled cake as desired and top with sprinkles.

P.S. To recreate the cake pictured above, just double this recipe to create a layered effect.