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.

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.

Bolsa Mercado

7c8474060d53ede52bac0ad967e95533Kyla, Laura, and I met at Bolsa Mercado for dinner a few weeks ago. It was a Monday night and it felt right to kick off the week with a cozy BFFs dinner. I had grabbed lunch at Bolsa Mercado a few years ago but hadn’t been back to check out their new menu. The Mercado is owned by Bolsa, the delicious new American restaurant located down the block. The market is the more casual version of the romantic, dimly-lit restaurant, a place where patrons can come for a delicious bite to eat, something lovely to drink (ranging from Topo Chico and fresh squeezed juices to wine and beer), and lots of goodies and treats to peruse through while relaxing on vintage furniture.

Laura frequents Bolsa Mercado often, as it’s located a stone’s throw from her office, so she recommended that I try the pulled pork sandwich. It seemed like an interesting choice, considering that the menu focuses more on deli-style bites and delicious salads. But I’m so glad I trusted her selection because it was absolutely fantastic – my mouth watered just now as I’m thinking about it! I chose a green salad as my side dish, which was a nice complement to the flavorful barbecued treat. Based on some reading I’d done on the blogosphere prior to our besties date, I knew that I wanted to have a booze-infused juice to go along with my dinner. I had such a good cocktail – kale, pineapple, orange, lime, jalapeño + tequila. It was like nature’s margarita – so good!

The three of us lingered at the table long after our meals were over, laughing and chatting all the while. This is such a sweet place to post up with cherished friends – it’s comfy, cozy, and there are delectable treats galore. What’s not to love?

P.S. There were no good photos online of Bolsa Mercado and I forgot to snap one while we were there, so this gorgeous image from pharmacie_la’s Instagram account will have to suffice!

Fara Coffee

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It’s not news that I love coffee (and tacos, too), so when the kind people at Fara Coffee offered me the opportunity to review their product for my blog, I jumped at the chance. Not only did their coffee selections sound right up my alley, but also they are a cause-oriented company, which really made me stoked to learn more about their Austin-based brand.

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The coffee itself was delicious. I tried the French Roast, which is a departure from my usual coffee preference, but this particular roast was delicious and robust without being overly rich – I didn’t even have to add almond milk or sweetener like I usually do because the taste of the coffee easily stood on its own. I’d love to try the Breakfast Blend next, as that’s the type of coffee (light and mild but still super flavorful) that I typically gravitate towards. I have no doubt that it will be equally as tasty.

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Perhaps even more delicious than the coffee itself is the fact that Fara prides itself on being socially responsible. The coffee is roasted in Austin but the beans are grown and harvested on family-owned farms in Nicaragua. I think this blurb from their marketing materials really sums up the company’s mission:

“Not only do we pride ourselves on our high quality, small batch roasted coffee, but the proceeds help fund the Fara Foundation, which supports the Fara Clinic in Matagalpa, Nicaragua; an elementary school [in the same area]; scholarships for promising youth in Nicaragua; an elderly care facility; and food assistance programs.”

How great is that? Additionally, Fara Coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified, which means that they comply with standards set in place to conserve ecosystems, protect wildlife, and provide fair and safe working conditions for workers (all of whom receive free health care at the Fara Clinic!). This is definitely a cup of coffee that you can feel good about drinking.

Dallas folks can buy Fara Coffee at Central Market, Sprouts, and Whole Foods, and those of you who live outside of Texas can shop for your beans (or Keurig pods) online. This coffee is definitely going to become part of our morning caffeination routine!

P.S. My favorite mug, pictured alongside the coffee, was a birthday gift from Karli via Lindsay Letters – I love it!

404 Kitchen

404 Kitchen

While I was in Nashville last week, I enjoyed so many tasty treats at so many delicious places – crispy brussels sprouts with apples and bacon vinaigrette at Silo, pork tacos with yogurt dill sauce at Mas Tacos Por Favor, bourbon vanilla lattes and homemade Pop-Tarts at Barista Parlor, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and coffee at Pinewood Social, sweet cream biscuits & peach jam ice cream at Jeni’s, sweet potato buttermilk pie at Husk, fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese & pepper jelly at the Oak Bar, and barbecued brisket sandwiches at Edley’s. Nashville is a southern epicenter of good food, that’s for sure. If forced to choose a favorite, though, I would have to select 404 Kitchen, the tiny restaurant nestled in the corner of an even tinier hotel.

Becca had to make reservations two weeks in advance and we were still only able to score a table at 5:15 p.m. This speaks both to 404 Kitchen’s popularity and to its very small, intimate size. The space, though small, is beautiful, complete with plenty of natural light and a picturesque bar. We settled into our teeny table and began poring over the menu. We already knew that we wanted to start with the burrata cheese, which was served alongside the most diverse and delicious accompaniments that I have ever seen. The cheese was laid delicately over salty anasazi beans, crispy brussels sprouts slaw, and a piece of corn pone, the latter of which I can only describe as cornbread’s saltier, more flavorful cousin. It was intensely delicious. We each drank a glass of the best chardonnay we’ve ever had while deciding what to enjoy as our entrees. I settled on the tri-tip, and it was perfection. The meat was seasoned wonderfully and it was complemented by a tasty mustard green pesto. But the show-stopper was the side of farroto served alongside the tri-tip. This dish is 404’s take on risotto, substituting the common arborio rice with farro, a longer, heartier grain. It was creamy and rich and flavorful and studded with hazelnuts and dried cherries. It was, in a word, heavenly.

For dessert, we enjoyed more wine and a deconstructed apple pie, a caramel-y, rich, autumnal treat that rounded out the meal so well. The whole dining experience was exploding with flavor. If you find yourself in Nashville soon, see if you can snag a reservation at 404 Kithen – and if you can, consider ordering an extra helping of farroto along with your meal.

Image via 404 Kitchen

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

The Commissary at The Line Hotel

The Commissary

Considering that eating is one of the Johnson family’s favorite hobbies, it should come as no surprise that we consumed so many delicious treats at plenty of wonderful restaurants while in Los Angeles this past weekend – kale salads and Mexican Cokes at Public School 310, baked coconut bites and green juice at Grand Central Market, chicken tinga tacos and limon agua fresca at Guisado’s, tuna tartare with avocado & wonton chips and fresh cucumber mint martinis at The Culver Hotel, polenta cake Eggs benedict and pumpkin spice lattes at Akasha. But if I had to pick a favorite place, my vote would be cast in honor of The Commissary at The Line Hotel.

I noticed photos of the beautiful restaurant on social media outlets recently (it’s designed to look like a gorgeous greenhouse so it’s hard to miss) and was intrigued not only by The Commissary’s space but by The Line Hotel as well, seeing as it’s the newest hipster hang-out in Koreatown (and home to a Poketo outpost, a fantastic shop that sells gifts, home goods, and accessories). Andrew gave us a fantastic tour of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday (including visits to his super cool office, the aforementioned Grand Central Market and Guisado’s, and Perch for rooftop cocktails overlooking the city) and we were preparing to wind down before making a last-minute impromptu stop to peek into The Commissary.

Mom, James, and I all saw (and loved!) Chef, and the visionary behind The Commissary is none other than Roy Choi, the culinary genius who Jon Favreau’s character is loosely based upon in the film. So it was no surprise that the food was at the restaurant was absolutely stellar. We only intended on having a late-afternoon cocktail but we were so drawn in by the menu (which is comprised only of pictures, so you can choose what you’d like to eat but the preparation ultimately ends up being a supremely delicious surprise) that we tried a few snacks…before having a few more drinks…and then eating a few more snacks. Check out the menu below – isn’t the choose-your-own adventure a fantastic concept?

Commissary Menu

We noshed on the corn, French fries, hash browns, deviled eggs, grilled cheese sandwich, and club sandwich (don’t worry, we ate a few extra salads and drank green juice to counterbalance these fabulously carb-laden choices throughout the rest of the trip) and everything was so tasty – if pressed, I would choose all of these selections again, and then on top of that, I’d get the carrots, the fish, and the tomatoes, as well as several more flutes of the delicious sparkling Bordeaux that I drank (that was served icy cold, just the way I like it).

The vibe of the restaurant itself was just mesmerizing. For someone who loves clean lines and plants everywhere you look, The Commissary is heaven. There is seating outside of the greenhouse space as well, and the back section of the restaurant opens up to the hotel’s gorgeous pool. Everything about the restaurant, down to the mismatching glassware and creatively crafted dining chairs, is perfectly curated and lovingly  decorated. It’s basically something that I wish I could recreate in Dallas! (Or just in my backyard so I could be the only patron at all times…because I’m selfish.) If you’re heading to LA soon, I highly recommend that you check out The Commissary. Dare I say it’s my new favorite restaurant…ever?

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.

 

Taco Stop

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This morning was one of the really great ones. I felt invigorated and all sorts of hopped up on endorphins, thanks to an early personal training session with one of my City Surf instructors (who took pity on my measly ankle and offered me some one-on-one time to get me back into action). While on my way to the training site, I spotted a pretty little taco shop that I’d never visited (or heard of) before, and I knew that my post-workout breakfast plans were set. My instructor confirmed that the place was delicious, so after getting my sweat on, I excitedly drove a few blocks to Taco Stop.

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Let’s pause and take a moment to appreciate the fresh, bright decor at this lovely little place. Doesn’t it look pretty in the morning sunlight?

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I ordered two breakfast tacos – one with bacon and eggs, and one with potato, cheese, and eggs – and one of each of the salsas (green and red, of course). I added a bubbly, refreshing Topo Chico to the mix and the kind gentlemen working in the kitchen threw in a fresh black coffee for free (!!!). The tacos were piping hot and, as expected, totally delicious. I liked that the tacos were on the smaller side, too – you know that I love me a beast of a taco like the ones that are served at Good 2 Go but I usually reserve those treats for weekends when I can take a nap afterwards. The smaller tacos are certainly way more conducive to having a productive workday (as is the black coffee, which I am slowly but surely acquiring a taste for) – they’re filling but not so rich that I enter into a food coma immediately after consuming them.

I took a minute to reflect on my morning as a whole while I noshed on my tacos. I felt invigorated by doing something out of the norm, even though it was something as simple as trying a new local spot. I savored the quiet time I had to sit and enjoy my breakfast as the world hurried on by. It’s nice to pause in the middle of the work week to  treat yourself to some peace and quiet (and coffee and tacos) every now and then, isn’t it?

P.S. I am going to continue bookmarking all of these recipe & restaurant-related posts in my Taste & Try folder on the sidebar but I’m going to remove the T & T verbiage from the blog post’s titles (just to keep things simple and clean). I hope you don’t mind! All of the content and foodie goodness and Taste & Try vibes will remain the same, I promise.