drink up :: new york sour

Friends! It’s Friday night. Cheers?

I’m currently drinking some red wine, but often I like to make things a bit more spicy. And you know who else fancies a fancy drink? My mom. In recent years, she’s upped her cocktail game and makes a mean one herself.

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Case in point: the New York Sour.

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Deb’s New York Sour

2oz bourbon
1oz lemon juice
½-1oz simple syrup
½-1oz fruity red wine (such as Malbec or Shiraz)
regular ice cubes + large ice cubes for each drink

1. Shake bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker (or jar!).

2. Pour over large ice cube.

3. Slowly pour red wine onto other ingredients in the glass, using a spoon as a barrier to slow the flow and to keep the wine at the top.

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go-to recipe :: sweet potato tacos

A few times this week, dinnertime has been less than ideal. Kids crying. Short tempers. No fun.

It’s definitely not always that way chez nous, but those hours at the end of the day can frequently be trying. I don’t think it’s necessary to spell it out here; I’m sure lots of you know what I’m talking about.

That time of day can be even harder when I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. Usually, I’m pretty good at meal planning. However, sometimes, it’s 5pm and I realize that I haven’t even thought about what I’ll make for dinner. Oops. So for times like that, it’s good to have a few go-tos in my back pocket. These are my number one. I make them probably twice a month. You should make them too. I mean, if you want.

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Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Pesto

SWEET POTATOES:
2 large sweet potatoes, roughly peeled
olive oil
1T ground cumin
1/4t cayenne pepper
1-2 cups black beans

CILANTRO PESTO:
1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
juice of 1 lime
1 serrano (or jalapeño) chile pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

TO SERVE:
tortillas
feta or jack cheese
lime wedges
green onions
hot sauce

1. Cut sweet potatoes into 1cm cubes. Toss to coat with olive oil, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until they reach the desired softness. About 30 minutes.

2. A few minutes before sweet potatoes are finished, toss the black beans into the pan to warm.

3. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, make the cilantro pesto. Mix all ingredients in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Add more olive oil if needed to reach the desired consistency.

4. If you’re feeling fancy, warm or char your tortillas on the stove or microwave.

5. Assemble tacos with desired accoutrements and enjoy!

spicy pork lettuce wraps

There are many, MANY reasons why I am not and could not be a food blogger. One of them is that I never remember to take pictures of food while I’m making it. Sometimes I strike upon a great dinner by chance/luck/skills and I’m like, “man, if only I’d taken pictures, I could blog about this!” But then again, since my blog has no real specific direction, I can blog about whatever the heck I feel like, pictures or not. Right? Right.

A week or so ago, I made the best (BEST!) pork lettuce cups. I often make some version of stir-fried ground meat with Asian seasonings and serve it in lettuce leaves. But, for years, I’ve never really had a go-to recipe. I’ve made different ones, or just improvised, but I’ve never found a go-to, staple recipe. The wait is over. This one is it. A keeper. It was so good. Easy to make, yet super flavorful. Pretty much what we’re all striving for in the dinner department, no?

And then, icing on the cake, I made it again the other day and remembered to take pictures. So, basically, I am a food blogger?

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Spicy Pork Lettuce Wraps
Serves 2-3. Easily doubled.

1lb ground pork
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1c shredded or sliced carrots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2T minced peeled ginger
1t Siracha
1t sugar
2T fish sauce
2t sesame oil
2T plus 1T grapeseed oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2T oyster sauce
1/4c (large handful) mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4c (large handful) fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4c (large handful) fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
24 Boston or iceberg lettuce leaves

1. Mix the pork, red bell pepper, carrots, garlic, ginger, siracha, sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, and 2T grapeseed oil in a bowl.

2. Heat remaining 1T grapeseed oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the bowl of meat, vegertables and seasonings. Stir-fry until the pork is cooked through. Don’t stir constantly; allow the pork to brown in spots.

3. Remove from heat, and add the oyster sauce, scallions, mint, basil, and cilantro. Stir to combine. (Alternatively, allow meat to cool to room temperature, and then add the herbs. This will keep them from wilting as much.)

4. Serve alongside lettuce leaves, with additional Siracha if desired.

palisade peach salad

Over labor day weekend, we were lucky enough to have friends from Seattle in town for a quick visit. They’d been to a wedding up in Breckenridge, and thankfully had some time in Denver before heading back west. They arrived just moments after we got back from our trip to Minnesota, and while I do love to make a fancy dinner on occasion, pregnant post-road trip me did not have much umph to spare. But my dear friend Meg is always able to revive my energy, and so we got ourselves down the street to the grocery to pick up some dinner supplies.

You’ve heard about Palisade peaches, right?

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They’re a thing. I don’t totally know why or what makes them such a thing, but word on the street is they are Colorado’s late summer claim to fame. What I do know is, they’re quite good. Just our luck, they still had them at the store, so we manhandled a few and picked the ones that felt just the right ripeness. I remembered a salad recipe with peaches I’d pinned awhile back, so I figured that would be a good way to go. Although all I really remembered was that I’d pinned it; I had only a faint recollection of what was in it, so I made my best guess and what do you know? We came up with a darn good salad.

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We got all crazy, too, and enjoyed it after Willa went to bed. With a side of sausages. And lots of solid conversation.

So next time you want something fancy that takes minimal forethought or effort, I highly recommend this guy. And I’m sure it would be delightful even if your peaches aren’t Coloradan.

Grilled Palisade Peach Salad with Ricotta and Arugula
Serves 4, but easily increased for more

1 whole peach per person
1 slice prosciutto per person
1c whole milk ricotta cheese
2T lemon juice
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh arugula

1. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Brush non-skin sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a barbeque or grill pan over high heat, cut sides down, just until lightly charred. Let cool and then slice into fourths or sixths or eights, depending on the size of the peaches.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix ricotta with lemon juice, 1T olive oil, 1t balsamic, and salt and pepper.

3. To serve, put a handful of arugula on each plate. Arrange peaches on top. Tear apart one slice of prosciutto into pieces and place on the salad. Top with a few spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture. Serve with additional olive oil and balsamic.

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tofu scramble

I like consuming soy. Soy milk. Tofu. Seitan. Edamame. Soy paper wrapped sushi.

But. I’ve heard a lot recently about some of the potential health drawbacks of processed soy. I get it. It’s pretty processed, and when the trend caught on, companies were making an over abundance of products with some sort of soy. But, as with most things, the jury is still out. There are definitely some health benefits to eating soy, but it also has potential risks. This article is a nice quick read about the scientific research on soy. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at summing up these tricky situations with my usual “all things in moderation” mantra. There was a time I ate a lot of soy. Now I just eat a little.

I just cannot give up tofu. It’s definitely one of my favorite foods. So versatile! So cheap! Such great shelf life! I could go on and on about all the best tofu recipes but today all I want to share is my simple recipe for tofu scramble. It’s one of my go-tos for when we need an easy, healthy, hearty dinner that can come together pretty quickly. Add whatever vegetables you have on hand, and you can of course adjust the spices to your own taste.

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Tofu Scramble
Most measurements are approximate, except the spices (and I know that ½T isn’t a really a “real” measurement, but I don’t always like to dirty a bunch of measuring spoons when I’m making a dinner that’s supposed to be easy. ½T = 1½ teaspoons). Add whatever vegetables you have on hand. I’ve listed my favorite combination, but frozen peas, carrots, and cauliflower would all work well too. Sometimes I add a second block of tofu so that we have leftovers. It’s good for any meal of the day.

firm or extra firm tofu, 1 block
yellow onion, diced
1 head of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
bell pepper, diced
handful of mushrooms, roughly chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 green onions, finely sliced
olive oil
1T dried oregano
1T ground cumin
½T paprika
½T turmeric
dash cayenne or chili pepper

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1. Press your tofu. Wrap the block in a paper towel and then with a dish towel (or just with a dish towel if your towels are cleaner than my towels) and place it under something heavy while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

2. Chop the veggies. Set the tomatoes and green onions aside in your serving bowl.

3. In a large pan or wok, heat a tablespoon or so of oil. When hot, add the onion and cook until softened. Next add the veggies that take longest to cook (peppers, carrots, broccoli, etc.) followed by those that will cook more quickly (mushrooms, peas).

4. Take the pressed tofu and crumble it on top of the cooked vegetables. Use your cooking utensil to break it up more. Sprinkle the spices over top, and cook until everything is mixed well and the tofu is hot.

5. Transfer to the serving bowl with the tomatoes and green onions. Mix well and serve.

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All things in moderation!

mex-itali tacos

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I don’t typically gravitate towards pre-prepared food options. In fact, I’ve probably been known in the past to scoff at them. But we all know the only constant in life is change, and since having a baby my approach to dinner has definitely morphed a bit. Yet I still think it’s super important to gather around the table for a somewhat homecooked, somewhat healthy, dinner. But I’m now occasionally okay with spending a bit more money on convenience foods to make my life a tad bit easier.

As I was wandering around Costco on Sunday (why I went to Costco on a Sunday, who knows), my cart ended up containing a big bag of “super greens” and a jar of pre-made pesto. Both had caught my eye as delicious and healthy looking items, and I had the inspiration to use them together to make tacos some night this week.

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Dan was a bit skeptical as he saw me prepping dinner, but I must say the end result far exceeded even my own expecations. Apparently there might be some potential for Mexican-Italian fusion?

Mex-Itali Tacos (aka Costco tacos)
Serves 2-4

tortillas (~2 per person, depending on size)
olive oil
20oz prepared “super greens”
1c cannelleni beans
1/2c crumbled queso fresco
pesto
1/4c sliced radishes
lime wedges

1. Sauté greens in a generous glug of olive oil.
2. Meanwhile, char tortillas on an open flame, or warm in oven.
3. Place other ingredients in bowls, and put everything on the table, for everyone to make their own taco.

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pork fried rice + life reminders from a christmas roast

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I’ve never been much of one for resolutions, but the holidays have a way of making you think about life, don’t they? Or maybe it’s just turning 30 that’s finally catching up with me. Either way, I keep thinking about just how necessary it is to do–and try, and feel–new things. The first two decades of my life were definitely characterized by seeking out new challenges and having new experiences. Pushing myself. And while the past five or ten years have certainly not been lacking in the new experiences realm, the focus of my life is no longer all about me. There’s a “we.” An “us.” A “her.” Yet, still, I need to remember the “me.” I need to cultivate my interests and find new ones. I have to encourage myself to try things. Things that might be a little bit scary. (So many clichés I could use here!) I have pork roast to thank for that reminder.

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Yep, pork. I made a pork roast for Christmas. Roasted Pork Loin with Cardamon-Currant Jelly Sauce. It was a giant hunk of meat with six bones sticking out the top (side?). I had to use a meat thermometer. (Well, I actually made my husband use a meat thermometer, and we somehow managed to break two of them.) I should have used a roasting pan, but I don’t have one. A baking dish was a good stand in.

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It was exciting to cook something I’ve never made before. I felt pretty darn accomplished to take an unknown cut of pig all the way from the Whole Foods meat counter to the Christmas dinner table. And guess what? It was delicious. I left my comfort zone and didn’t fail. That was a Christmas joy.

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But you can’t stay out of your comfort zone too long. It’s good to return to what’s easy and known. Fried rice, my friends. Fried rice. The day after Christmas we went out to dinner, but the next night, I used the leftovers in the fridge to feed the crowd. I knew I could make something serviceable. But the fried rice that ended up on the table, steaming hot in the electric wok, was notable. It was a fried rice I’d like to eat over and over again. And a mighty fine way to use up holiday leftovers.

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Fried Rice with Pork and Brussels Sprouts
Measurements are approximate. The best thing about fried rice is it doesn’t matter if the proportions are a little off; more rice, more veggies, more meat, it’s all good. Use up what you have, and tweak the amounts to your liking. Don’t skimp on the eggs though, they’re key!

peanut or sesame oil, for frying
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1T fresh ginger, minced
2c leftover cooked pork, chopped into cubes
2c brussels sprouts, thinly sliced lengthwise
1c asparagus, chopped
1c shiitake mushrooms (soaked if dry), chopped
5c cooked rice
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2c cilantro, chopped
soy sauce
sesame oil
sriracha or other hot sauce

1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or other large pan. Once hot, add the aromatics and stir for 30 seconds or so. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.
2. Add brussels sprouts and asparagus. Stir-fry until vegetables are cooked through and starting to brown.
3. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add rice and stir to combine.
5. Once rice is incorporated, move the entire mixture to side and pour in the eggs. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes. Once they begin to set, use a spoon or spatula to scramble them on the side. When they are almost cooked through, stir them into the rice mixture. Mix well.
6. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Season to taste with soy sauce and sesame oil.

party punch

Hello! I’m just back from a fantastic trip to Boston. More about that another day, because I’ve been needing to write down the recipe for the most delicious punch I made for a party we had a couple weekends ago. It was a party with a bit of an identity crisis: part housewarming, part birthday party, part holiday party. It was mostly a housewarming; we hadn’t yet had a chance to have a big hurrah in the new place, and my 30th birthday seemed like a good reason to celebrate (although I’d already had a night out on the town as well as a trip to Sonoma, but when you turn 30 you have to do it up, right?). Whatever kind of party it was, it was a lot of fun. We’re so lucky to have met so many wonderful people in Denver in such a short time.

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So yes, punch. A week or so before the party I sent an email to my friend Rob, a cocktail connoisseur, asking for suggestions for a punch recipe. Rob knows these things. I was thinking I wanted to make one with vodka or rum, since those seem to be spirits that the masses enjoy. But Rob made a good pitch for using some rye whiskey, and I had to admit, it sounded amazing. Thanks to his guidance, this punch was a smashing success. People who claimed they hated whiskey were enjoying it. Barely any of our wine was consumed. It was all about punch. We made several batches, and it wasn’t even an extraordinarily boisterous evening.

You must have some festive gathering coming up in the next few weeks, no? I’ve heard there’s a few big holidays. This punch is an easy way to please the crowd. I’m going to try out something different for Christmas, but this punch is definitely going to play a role in many of my future parties.

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Party Punch
2 bottles Champagne or other sparkling wine (1.5L total)
10 oz. rye whiskey (we used Old Overholt)
8 oz. strawberry syrup
4 oz. simple syrup
juice from one lemon
Ice ring

Night before party:
Freeze water in a bundt pan or other awesome pan. Add fruit if you’d like for decoration.

Morning of the party:
Make strawberry syrup. Put 1 cup of quartered strawberries in a heat-proof bowl. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 cup of water. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour hot syrup over the strawberries and let sit for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Thirty minutes before the party:
Place ice ring in punch bowl (or other large bowl, no one really focuses on the bowl!). Add whiskey, strawberry syrup, lemon juice, simple syrup, and some strawberries to garnish.

As soon as your first guest arrives:
Pop the champagne and pour it into the bowl. Ladle into glasses of your choice!

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carrot and pineapple muffins

When it rains it pours.
Things get worse before they get better.
Misery loves company.
Bad things come in threes.

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Turns out I shouldn’t have been complaining about my bad week on Friday night. My week actually got bad 24 hours later when I woke up sick in the middle of the night. All our Sunday Halloween plans had to be cancelled. A dinner date with friends we’d planned for weeks was postponed. All things besides getting through each moment seemed unimportant.

It was a nasty GI bug. I really hope you don’t get it. It was a doozy. I felt the absolute worst for at least 24 hours. And not so great for another 36 hours after that. We’re finally all better (knock on wood) but appetites have been slow to return.

Whenever recovering from an illness, I always feel inclined to make breakfast for dinner. This time was no different. Monday night brought us Joy the Baker’s Lemon Ricotta Waffles. (Stop reading and go make them now! So good. No wait, read on about my muffins, then go make one of the two!) Yesterday, I took a break from baking but bought a bunch of baking supplies so today I could make carrot muffins. I needed to use up more carrots from our farm trip earlier this month. I also needed to use up some canned pineapple tidbits I bought on a whim thinking Willa would like them (she doesn’t). I would usually throw raisins and nuts into a carrot muffin, but I had those pineapples, and nuts are kind of a chocking hazard for lil W. Soooo, below is what I made. And I surprisingly really dig the pineapple. You should definitely give it a go.

Happy Halloween!

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Carrot and Pineapple Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature
½ cup maple syrup (or any combination of honey, maple syrup, or sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup shredded carrot
½ cup pineapple pieces (from a can)

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, spices, and salt.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a bowl with a hand mixer or using your brute arm strength) cream the butter, sweetener, egg, and vanilla. Once combined, stir in the applesauce.
3. Using a spatula, fold in the shredded carrots and pineapple.
4. Grease a regular-sized muffin tin (or use paper liners) and scoop approximately 1/4 cup of the batter into each muffin.
5. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and a toothpick comes out clean.

khao soi

A few months ago, I discovered the Burmese-influenced Thai dish khao soi (khao soy / kaw soy). It would be a much cooler story if I could say I ate it on our trip to Southeast Asia in 2011, like Char Kuih Kak, but that’d be a lie. I discovered khao soi at the Denver Thai restaurant, Swing Thai. I was sick of our usual orders and wanted to try something new. Kaw soy sounded promising. It’s now pretty much the only thing we order.

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Once I enjoy a dish out in the world, I feel compelled to figure out how to recreate it at home. Sometimes, it’s a total flop. Some things just don’t taste as good when they’re made at home. Khao soi is not one of them. It’s even better made at home. Because here’s the thing: you simmer the protein in the sauce. Think about it. When you go to your favorite Thai or Indian or Chinese restaurant, every dish can be ordered with the choice of chicken, beef, or tofu. And maybe shrimp or pork too. How does that meat get incorporated into the dish? It gets thrown in at the last minute. So what does it taste like? Not much. Even the delicious Swing Thai is guilty of this. Their kaw soy sauce is superb, but the protein? Lackluster.

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So go on, try and make your favorite curry dish at home. Maybe it’s not khao soi. But you should still make it. It’s good. And easy. Someday I’ll eat it in Thailand. Gotta get to Chiang Mai. I bet I can find a place where the meat is simmered in the sauce. Right?

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Khao Soi
Adapted from The Kitchn

4T peanut oil
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 shallots, chopped
3-4T Thai red curry paste
2T yellow curry powder (see recipe below)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2t fish sauce
3t sugar
15 ounces fresh egg noodles (don’t read the ingredients, a little yellow 5 won’t hurt you now and then!)

Cilantro
Chopped peanuts
Lime wedges
Chopped green onion
Pickled cabbage

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook until fragrant; about 30 seconds. Add the curry paste and powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Add coconut milk, broth, chicken, fish sauce, and sugar.

2. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more broth if desired.

3. Meanwhile, boil water and cook noodles according to package directions. If fresh, noodles shouldn’t take more than 1 minute to cook.

4. Put noodles in individual bowls and top with curry. Add garnishes.

Yellow Curry Powder
4t ground coriander
2t turmeric
2t yellow mustard powder
1.5t adobo chile powder (use any chili powder, but just make sure it’s just ground up chiles, no other spices)
1.5t cayenne pepper
1t ground cumin
1t cardamon