Friday Faves, Seahawks Edition

12th man

Happy Super Bowl Weekend, everyone! I don’t know about you, but this Seahawks fan is pretty excited about the game. As much as I wish I could be in the stands in East Rutherford on Sunday, it turns out that’s a hard ticket to come by (sad face), so I’ll be cheering on my Hawks from Seattle. True story: the last time the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl (incidentally, also the first time they went to the Super Bowl), I went to a game-watch party at a friend’s house in Seattle.  I had purchased a Hasselbeck jersey that year, but although I tried to look the part, I wasn’t really a true fan.  Some girlfriends and I somehow got the idea that we’d have a better chance of getting a pizza delivered to our house rather than delivered to the party, so we left at halftime under the guise of – wait for it – going to Sunday night mass. No wonder the Hawks lost – that had to have been some pretty bad karma. Although we did watch the second half (bad calls and all) from the comforts of our own couch, with an entire Papa John’s delivery to ourselves.

all photos from martha stewart

all photos from martha stewart

Fast forward eight years later, and I take my game day menus a lot more seriously. I don’t have a jersey this time, but I’m going to attempt the entire spread from this month’s Martha Stewart Living, along with a couple other staples. I’m not really a chicken wings kind of person, but apparently they’re a must-have for any football event, so I thought Martha’s tequila-lime drumettes looked relatively simple and healthy. I also don’t eat hot dogs (barf!), but I loved the look of these “pigs in a blanket” with sausage and frozen pastry dough, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and poppy seeds. And just so that I can have something to eat too, her “love dip” and chocolate pretzel bark.

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The next question then becomes, what to do for dessert (apparently I’m not counting the pretzel bark as dessert). The cookie and cupcake possibilities are endless, but in the interests of time I’ll probably just do some basic blue and green cupcakes and then decorate them with the toppers I bought off Etsy last year right before our ill-fated game against Atlanta (multiple options here).   If you want to get really fancy with either your cupcake decorating, or just decorating in general, check out these tips from Seattle’s resident cupcake and party guru, Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes & Party (I guess I’ll be making a trip to Home Depot for some Astro Turf tomorrow!).   A tip if you’re planning on decorating your “Beast Mode” cupcakes with Skittles (as I hope you are): don’t put the skittles on the cupcakes until right before you put them out, as the candy coating will bleed all over your frosting.  Same goes for brown Peanut M&M’s on cupcakes with green frosting (you know the ones where you pipe frosting “laces” onto the M&M’s so they look like footballs? So cute, but they also bleed).  I learned that lesson the hard way last season, although my candy-bleeding tragedy paled in comparison to the tragedy of the game itself.

my favorite way to decorate

my favorite way to decorate

Some of my other game day favorites and inspirations include:

If anyone has any favorite Super Bowl party recipes, I would love to hear them in the comments. I’m also always open to fun games or prop bets for anyone who’s watching the game more for the commercials and/or halftime show.  Wishing everyone a wonderful Super Bowl Weekend – Go Hawks!!

mani

A “Comfort Food” Themed Meal: Chicken Pot Pie and Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding

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I should begin this post by telling you all that I don’t actually eat these pot pies. One of the best things about cooking really unhealthy things is that you have much less interest in eating them after you see how much butter is used. But the people that eat them don’t know, so they can enjoy their meal, and you can feel good about making them happy (and salvaging your own arteries at the same time).

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My grandparents are both 93 years old (they’ll be 93 and a half in a couple weeks!!), and as it’s getting to be more and more work for my grandma to prepare meals, whenever I’m in town I try to make a couple things for their freezer. Last fall, as I was putting together some soups and casserole-type dishes that I thought would freeze well, I asked my grandpa if there was anything in particular he would like me to make. I’ll never forget his response – it was as though he had literally been waiting a full 93 years for someone to ask him that very question.  Without skipping a beat: “I’d like an old-fashioned chicken pot pie, the kind with the lard in the crust like my mother used to make.” (Very emphatic about the lard). It seemed like a reasonable enough request, and I had recently seen an episode of the Barefoot Contessa’s show on the Food Network where she made them, so I had a place to start. I looked up her recipe and saw that the crust did indeed call for Crisco – yum.  Three stores later – Pier One for the perfect-sized ramekins, New Seasons for an organic, free range chicken, and Trader Joe’s for everything else – I was back in the kitchen and ready to get to work. The fact that they turned out to be such a big hit is both good news and bad news – good news, obviously, because if you go to that much work you want people to really LOVE what you’ve made; bad news because now I feel like I need to constantly have their freezer stocked with pot pies. If I haven’t been down to see my grandparents in a while, I’ll often get a lovely card from my grandpa, casually mentioning that it’s been a while since they’ve seen me, and boy, they sure do enjoy those pot pies. He’ll usually include a check – not for groceries, just because. No pressure or anything.

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This recipe really isn’t hard – it’s a bit time consuming, but I take shortcuts by buying the pre-chopped onions (honestly, what did people do before Trader Joe’s?) and rotisserie chicken. That means the only prep work you really have to do is chopping and blanching the carrots (a mildly annoying but apparently necessary step), cubing the chicken and then chopping up a bit of parsley. I love just opening the bags of frozen peas and pearl onions and dumping them all in the pot. You could use store-bought pie crust for a real time saver, but this crust comes together pretty easily, especially if you have a food processor. Without the food processor, however, a pastry blender (the little handheld one you can get for $10) works just fine.

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I recently tried to mix it up a little (and skip the crust altogether) by trying this recipe from Joy the Baker. While it received good reviews, it was made pretty clear that going forward people would prefer the original. I love Joy but I guess it’s pretty hard to beat Ina. I do love the casserole idea though if you needed to feed a large crowd – whether you use Ina’s filling recipe or Joy’s. And don’t the chive biscuits look so pretty? My dad was a fan of the biscuit topping, so when I made the Barefoot Contessa version for the millionth time this past weekend I did half with the crust like usual, and then threw together a quick batch of these biscuits and topped a couple of the pot pies with them instead. The best part is now we have unbaked biscuits in the freezer for the next time we need topping for a pot pie, or strawberry shortcake. (It is worth noting that Ina’s recipe says it makes four pot pies, but depending on the size of your ramekins it will actually make double to triple that amount – this time mine filled five normal sized ramekins and four of what I call the “hungry man” sized, giant ones – but there’s usually only enough pie crust for about 6.  So you can double the crust recipe, or do some with biscuit topping). I usually bake and then freeze them, but I’m pretty sure you could freeze them assembled but unbaked – it takes so long to defrost and then reheat them in the oven, you may as well defrost and then bake.

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And since this weekend was so rainy and miserable – and going with my theme of comfort (or 70s-era) food – I whipped up some chocolate pudding too. I love Cup of Jo’s blog and her “best of” series – once anyone calls anything the “best _____” I pretty much have to make it (even if, as in the case of chocolate pudding, it isn’t something I would think to make otherwise). This really did only take 8 ingredients (plus toppings), most of which you probably already have in your fridge/pantry.  It was so simple and easy, I might now be really into making pudding (which is pretty much the last thing I need to start doing).

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If anyone has any freezer-friendly ideas, for grandparents or otherwise (I’m bringing dinner to some “new parents” tomorrow), please feel free to share in the comments. And if you’re all of the sudden craving a pot pie after reading this, I won’t judge you – every once in awhile I think you’re allowed to splurge. And the closer you are to 93, the more often!

Split Pea Soup and Blueberry Muffins, Yum!

There are a million recipes out there claiming to be the best chocolate chip cookie or the best macaroni and cheese – split pea soup isn’t quite as sexy, but if there was a contest for best split pea soup, I would enter this recipe and I’m pretty sure I would win. This is another recipe from Cook This Now, which we all know by now is my favorite cookbook (and this recipe is from March, so I’m still on schedule!). It’s vegetarian, as am I, so I suppose I can’t really say if it’s better than a split pea soup with ham – but I’m guessing that it is. Or just as good, at least – there are so many delicious flavors happening that you won’t miss any meat. The coriander and ginger make it taste almost like an Indian dish, while the lemon brightens it up. It’s easy and savory and filling and really just so, so good that I want you all to make it for dinner tonight. And for the economically-minded of us, I bought all of the ingredients for under $15, and have lunches for the week. Turns out split peas are very budget-friendly.

My time saving notes: in lieu of chopping all the veggies, you could use the pre-chopped mirepoix from Trader Joes (or Met Market if you’re in Seattle, New Seasons if you’re in Portland). I chopped most of the veggies myself this time, but I did use the bag of chopped onion from Trader Joe’s, and my little secret jar of minced garlic (so un-gourmet, please don’t tell). I will jump at the chance to grate fresh ginger for any recipe, but if you’re really into time-saving tricks you can get minced ginger in the little jars as well, which leaves you with essentially zero prep work and zero excuse not to make this soup.

A note from Melissa: both she and I think even split-pea-soup-haters will love this soup, but if peas really aren’t your thing, you could do this with red lentils in lieu of the split peas and I bet it would be delicious as well.

A note from me: once everything is in your pot, you’ll need to let it simmer for about an hour and a half – this is coincidentally the same length of time as the Beyonce documentary on HBO. So that’s what I watched last night while I waited for dinner to be ready (in lieu of laundry and other household chores, as planned) – it is SO good and I’m now completely obsessed with her. I feel so bad for ever thinking she used a surrogate. Also, I wish I looked as good on my laptop-cam as she does – if I did, I would make this soup on camera, just for fun.

Gingery Split Pea Soup with Toasted Coriander (from Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark)

Serves 4

1 teaspoon whole coriander seed, crushed with the flat side of a knife (or use 1 teaspoon ground coriander)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-inch-thick piece of gingerroot, peeled and grated
1 pound split peas, picked over and rinsed
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 rosemary branches, plus additional chopped leaves for garnish
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
Good olive oil, for drizzling

1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, toast the coriander until fragrant, 1-2 minutes, then pour in the oil. Stir in the carrots, celery, onion, leek, garlic, and ginger. Reduce the heat to medium; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the peas, 4 cups water, the stock, salt, and pepper. Drop in the rosemary and bay leaf (you can tie them up in kitchen string if you like; this makes them easier to remove later). Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer until the peas are tender and falling apart and the soup is thick, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove and discard the rosemary and bay leaf. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.

3. Thin with water to the desired consistency. Warm over medium-low heat if need be. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with oil and garnish with chopped rosemary.

I’ve been thinking lately that, due to the name of this blog, I should perhaps start making things with blueberries (and/or basil). They had blueberries at the market yesterday (although obviously not local), and on Friday a coworker had asked me why I hadn’t brought any treats in lately, so while watching Beyonce last night I tried a new recipe from my Joy the Baker cookbook (she also has a great blog, for anyone who’s interested – apparently she was in a blueberry mood yesterday too!). These are super simple and delicious, albeit not super healthy (the subtitle of her book is “a celebration of butter and sugar,” so I’m not sure what I was expecting). I thought about making these with coconut oil rather than butter, but seeing as how the title is “brown butter” blueberry muffins I thought maybe I should try them her way, at least at first. They were a big hit at the office this morning, but next time I make them I’m going to try to “health” them up a little – stay tuned.

Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins (from the Joy the Baker Cookbook, by Joy Wilson)

Makes 12 muffins

For the muffins:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain before using)

For the topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on the butter – it will melt, froth, and begin to crackle. That’s the water cooking out of the butter. The crackling will subside and butter will begin to brown fairly quickly. Remove from heat when butter solids become a medium brown color and butter smells slightly nutty. Immediately pour hot butter into a small bowl to stop the cooking.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add brown butter once it’s cooled a bit.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture and stir gently to combine. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups (I use an ice-cream scooper for uniform size).

5. To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, and butter in a small bowl and rub together with clean fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over the muffin batter in the cups.

6. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden and crisp and a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for 15 minutes before removing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Muffins will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but are best on the day they’re made.

Friday Faves

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Somehow it feels like it’s been the longest week ever, even though Monday was a holiday (I worked, but I went into the office in a sweatshirt and yoga pants, so it still felt kind of like a holiday). The past few days of rain and 37 degree temperatures have me SO excited for my trip to Scottsdale tomorrow – despite the fact that I have to leave for the airport at 5 am. I can’t wait to park myself in a chaise lounge and soak up some much needed Vitamin D. But in the meantime, some highlights from the week:

We all know the right jewelry can add interest or personality to an outfit, especially when your wardrobe mainly consists of black, like mine does. I’ve never been much of an accessorizer, but lately I’ve been trying to be better about it. As a general rule, I don’t like to pay full price at J. Crew, but three of these bracelets were on final sale (40% off the already-reduced sale price), and the fourth was on “promotion” – somehow different than “sale,” a J. Crew “promotion” means an item is 25% off, yet still returnable. Woop! I wore these to work the day after I bought them and, even though I had to take them off in order to actually do any work (who can wear a bracelet and type?), I like to think that for the 10 minutes they were actually on my wrist, I looked like a whole new person.

Flywheel is a hip new(ish) spin/barre studio in Seattle, and on top of the great classes and free towels/lockers/hair powder, one of the things I love about it is that so many of my friends work out there. As much as I don’t love getting out of bed early on the weekends, it’s much easier to do so when you’ve made plans to meet your girlfriends for a class and then get breakfast afterwards. I had a fun barre-and-croissant date with my friends Lindsay and Meredith this past Saturday, and Meredith made Lindsay and me homemade hairbands and headbands for the occasion. You know the super cute colorful elastics that don’t tear your hair? I’ve been paying $5 for a pack of three – Mer is so crafty and economical, she orders the elastic online and makes her own (check out her blog here and you’ll see she’s a serious DIY-er). And if you ever want to get really crafty, I stumbled upon this blog when I was google-searching how to buy the elastic to do it myself – if only I owned a “silhouette machine” I would totally do this.

A month or so ago an old trainer of mine posted a blog link on facebook, with the caption that the blog listed a few “small changes” people could make to improve their overall health and fitness. Always looking for self improvement tips, I clicked onto the link and discovered Sarah Adler’s blog Simply Real Health, which I would encourage anyone to read if they’re interested (healthy recipes, etc). The “small” changes, however, seemed pretty big to me – but one was “drink more green tea than coffee.” Seeing as how two of my goals were already “drink green tea” and “spend less money at Starbucks,” I’ve been attempting to do this over the past few weeks. While it hasn’t been easy – old habits die hard, especially when you have a boring job and there’s a Starbucks in your building – this TAZO tea is really helping me stay on track. I think the orange-y flavor (remember the original Starbucks flavor “wild sweet orange” that they don’t have any more?) makes it taste less “green” and bitter. And it has jasmine in it too, yum. Just one cup of this in the morning and I feel like I’m totally sticking to my New Years Resolutions, even if I did eat an entire basket of chips and have two cocktails at Cactus last night.

My friend Courteney is in town from Boston this week, and she brought her adorable two month old baby Charlie with her. Her sister (and also my friend) Kyle is hosting all of Court’s Seattle girlfriends at her house tonight so that we can all see Court and meet Charlie. Kyle pretty much has the whole entertaining thing down these days so she doesn’t need my help at all, but obviously I can’t show up empty handed. As these girls both have better taste in wine than I do, I thought it would be fun to bring a sweet treat instead. I saw these on one of my favorite blogs earlier in the week and decided this would be the perfect excuse to try them. I couldn’t find black sprinkles, so Court is such a colorful person that I decided to use multicolored sprinkles instead. Good friends, a sweet new baby to cuddle, wine, and a sweet and salty treat – perfect Friday night!

I really love both the Sprouted Kitchen blog and cookbook – it’s so much more fun to cook and eat healthy with fun new recipes, rather than just eating green salads with grilled chicken ad nauseam. The following kale “chopped” salad is from the cookbook, and it’s my new go-to for packing lunches on the weekdays. Kale (especially Tuscan kale) is perfect for packing lunches because you can toss the leaves with the dressing, and they don’t wilt – and for anyone who isn’t sold on raw kale yet, the dressing almost serves as a marinade to soften it up and take some of the bitterness away. On weeks when I really have my act together, I’ll buy a couple bunches of kale on Sunday, and then prep it (wash, cut out center rib, chop into bite sized pieces) when I get home. Then each morning before work (or night before, even) I’ll do one tupperware with kale and dressing, and another with the remainder of the salad ingredients (I don’t like them to get soggy in the dressing) and I have a delicious lunch to bring into work. Also worth noting: I am typically a salad-dressing-hater, but this vinaigrette recipe is delicious – I suspect it has something to do with the cheese.

Tuscan Kale Chopped Salad (from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook, by Sara Forte)

Serves 4

Parmesan Vinaigrette
1 small shallot, chopped (I roast mine first)
Juice of 1 meyer lemon (or regular lemon if you can’t find meyer)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad
2 slices rustic whole-grain bread, torn into bite size pieces (I usually omit this)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
1 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale
1 apple, such as Braeburn, Gala, or Pink Lady (I’ve been using Honeycrisp, yummm)
1 cup cooked chickpeas, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped

To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot, lemon juice, parmesan, and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth, then add a pinch of salt and pepper and give one last pulse. Set aside.

Toss the bread with the olive oil and salt. Toast in a toaster oven or in a sauté pan over medium heat until the exterior of the bread is crispy, about 10 minutes.

To assemble the salad, cut the tough stems out of the kale and finally chop the leaves. Put the chopped kale in a large bowl. Core and dice the apple and add to the kale along with the chickpeas, pecans and cherries. Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing if you like. Divide among four salad plates and garnish each serving with crispy croutons immediately before serving.

Happy Friday, everyone! Did I mention I’m off to Scottsdale tomorrow? The forecast isn’t quite what I’d hoped for (high 70s), but at least it’s going to be sunny. Hopefully I’ll have some fun pics and stories to share when I get back! XOXO