On March 7, the Capital Weather Gang – the coolest (ha!) gang around – declared winter in DC to be officially over.
The CWG is a really big deal around here. Like when they say tomorrow is a Four Domes day (– that’s four Capitol domes to you, non-DC native) – you KNOW you’re sleeping in late tomorrow, and at the very best, you’ll be “teleworking.” Hello, federal government.
So when they said winter was over, and spring was here, and that there’d be no more snow, and that only sunshine and puppies and rainbows were ahead, we BELIEVED them. The whole CITY believed them. There were discounts at coffee shops and consignment stores to celebrate the arrival of spring.
In other words, I live in Washington, DC, ok? I shouldn’t be waddling to work in my down coat on April 13th. CWG, next time, knock on wood when you make declarative statements like “pronouncing winter over now is really, really safe.”
The only saving grace is that it’s totally acceptable to make really heavy, spicy, ridiculously easy winter curries in our crock pot.
Slow Cooked Chicken Coconut Curry
- 1-2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 can coconut milk (light is fine)
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
- 1 big handful curry powder
- pinch red pepper flakes
- a big pinch salt
- 1 big pinch pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- optional – chopped jalapeno (*note – between the sambal oelek and the red pepper flakes, this dish is one hot wollop of a dish)
- 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
- for serving:
- cooked basmati rice
- chopped cilantro
- coconut flakes
- Put all ingredients from chicken through black pepper in the crock pot and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for four hours.
- At the four hour mark, add the bell pepper and cook for about 20 minutes. Add a bit of cornstarch to thicken up the mixture and cook another 10 minutes or so (don’t let your bell peppers get soggy).
- Serve with rice and your desired toppings. Keep some milk/water nearby because it will light your mouth on fire (in a good way).
Plentiful, spicy-ful, ridiculously easy, and definitely good for making you think about warmer climates, where there are no down coats and no domes looming in your future.
Every so often, you need to get fancy. As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.
Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing. I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets? When are we going to use these things? And you give him a look that says: this is already done. You know what I’m talking about.
Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish. You can even wear red lipstick.
Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella
- olive oil
- two white or yellow onions, chopped
- 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- small handful fennel seeds
- small handful saffron threads
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
- 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
- bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
- small handful smoked paprika
- 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
- other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
- 1 lemon
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
- Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown. Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
- Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone. No really. No stirring. Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice). Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
- Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.
This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5). Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those. Get really fancy.
This past weekend is now officially known as the Epic Weekend of Fun. Just to run some of the numbers quickly:
- One dip in an ice cold river.
- Not one, but two epic cover bands.
- The trifecta of lunches: brisket, burgers, and fried chicken.
- Four amigos.
- Five mile hike somewhere 45 minutes from the city, which felt like it was about 4500 miles from the city.
- (Far too many) bottles of wine. Let’s not put a number on this one.
This week, I’m thinking about atoning for our sins (side note: this seems to be a theme around here). To the Husband’s chagrin, this means hitting up the fish train. Honey: welcome to tonight’s dinner.
Asian-Inspired Grilled Salmon
- about 4-5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha
- 1/2 inch ginger, grated
- salt, pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound salmon fillets, skin on
- 1 bag arugula/baby kale/spinach
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1/2 avocado, sliced
- cilantro, to serve
- In a small bowl, combine soy sauce through garlic and mix well. Set aside about a third of the mixture to act as your dressing later on. In a large flat bottom bowl, pour the soy sauce mixture and lay the salmon, flesh side down (to increase absorption). Let it sit for about 20-30 minutes – any longer and the soy sauce will start to toughen up the protein.
- Heat a grill pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add salmon, flesh side down, and grill about 4-5 minutes. Using tongs, flip to the other side and grill until the middle is no longer pink. The skin will sort of neatly fall away from the fish as you remove it.
- Assemble your salad ingredients (arugula through avocado) and lay your cooked fish on top. Dress with the reserve soy sauce mixture + feel virtuous.
This is a super easy, super quick way to feel super virtuous and healthy. Of course, we’ll be taking our nightly trip to Mr. Yogato right after this. We finally have enough stamps for a free fro-yo! #theepicweekendcontinues
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the epic bridal shower my mom threw for one of her BFF’s daughters. She made lobster paella and smoked salmon canapes. We drank champagne and rose. I left home feeling happy, full, and totally in awe.
So, it was sort of a hubris-filled idea to host a bridal shower for one of my BFFs this past weekend. You will note from the picture below what was not on the menu: lobster paella or smoked salmon canapes. (Obvi on the champagne and rose, though).
For everyone’s benefit (and so that I’d actually have something to feed 15 people), I stuck to some tried and true standards. These are truly the go-tos in our house: I realized as I was posting this that every single item is something I’ve already posted about here. Which tells you I’m either really uncreative, or just totally confident in these recipes. Probably both.
(I think) it turned out beautifully. And most important, my friend Sasha seemed really touched.
I hope everyone went home happy and full. Unfortunately, I was already home, which means I was also in charge of cleaning up.
Good thing I had lots of leftover champagne and rose. And basil vodka lemonade. (Main idea: create a basil-infused simple syrup by boiling 1 part water, 1 part sugar and 1 big handful basil. Add to lemonade, another handful basil and a big old splash of vodka. Start showering/TPing the bride/asking the embarrassing “how well do you know your future spouse” questions.)
Tomorrow, Husband and I are jetting off on a very big vacation. For me, vacation means eating, drinking, and eating some more. Husband is a little more taken with hiking and outdoor things.
However. This vacation is my kind of vacation. Destination: London and Paris. In other words, by this time tomorrow, I will be chowing SO MANY baguettes. (OK, to be technical, by this time tomorrow I will be drinking wine courtesy of Virgin Airlines. But I digress).
Of course, we had to practice our eating, so last night, I made these calzones. Just to forewarn: this is quite an endeavor – almost two hours. But this recipe makes so many that unless you’re a member of the Duggar clan (YIKES), you’ll have leftovers, which you can freeze. Which we have, and will eat the second we get off our return flight to DC.
Sausage and Veggie Calzones
- 2 pounds premade pizza dough, brought to room temperature
- olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped and divided in half
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- large handful fresh basil
- 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
- about a pound (4 or so links) hot Italian sausage
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- about half a pre-washed bag of arugula
- Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add half of the diced onion, cook down a few minutes before adding garlic and tomato paste. Cook down another few minutes and add tomato, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and sugar. Stir together and cook for about ten minutes. Add basil and thyme and keep the sauce warm over low heat.
- As the sauce cooks, prepare your filling. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and the other half of your diced onion. Cook down a few minutes and add bell pepper, salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper (after all, we like it spicy around here). Cook for a few minutes before removing sausage from casings; make sure to break it up in the pan. Cook until the meat is completely brown.
- Divide your (room temp!) dough into eight sections and roll each out on a lightly floured surface – so they’re about 6 inches across and as close to round as they’ll get. Let’s be honest: this is the hardest step. Because my kitchen is tiny, I found it helpful to layer the rolled out rounds on a plate between sheets of parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and assemble the calzones: top each pizza dough round with a layer of sauce, sausage mixture, a sprinkling of mozzarella, and a small pinch of arugula. Fold over and crimp the edges of the calzone together.
- Bake at 450 degrees F for 25 minutes and serve with an additional spoonful of sauce (and some salad, let’s keep it healthy!). If you want to freeze any calzones – pull them out at the 15 minute mark, let them cool completely, and then wrap in aluminum foil before placing in a ziplock bag in your freezer. To reheat, bake the frozen calzones at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.
We love our calzones/stromboli around here – the Husband is a pro. But as he carefully admitted last night, “these gave [his calzones] a run for his money, and that money is still running.”
PS: I won’t be posting for the next week or so. There are just TOO MANY baguettes to chow!