Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recipe Roundup :: Fall Favorites

Pumpkin bread with chocolate swirl

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, stress levels for most are at an all time high. Last year I spent the holiday solo, and I found it was easier to make myself a small Thanksgiving dinner with just my favorite dishes and save other dishes for later in the weekend. Spread some holiday cheer all weekend long with these easy recipes highlighting favorite Thanksgiving flavors.

I spent Sunday morning baking a loaf of this pumpkin bread from Real Simple. It's a genius recipe for brunch on Thanksgiving morning. It can easily be baked one to two days in advance and reheated while the family watches the Thanksgiving Day parade. The pumpkin flavor is not overpowering, more subtle in combination with the sweetness of the chocolate. And the loaf gets a nice crust while the bread overall is moist. This very well may become my go-to quick bread recipe. 

Fresh cranberry sauce is always better and I was delighted to find this cranberry mostarda on Food & Wine. Mustard is probably my most-used condiment, and the recipe marries a cranberry base with mustard seed, orange zest and spices. A great option to compliment your Thanksgiving feast, this sauce would also pair nicely with pork chops and sausages. 

Make this cornbread for tonight's dinner or tomorrow's snack. With a combination of brown butter, buttermilk and maple syrup, it's not your average cornbread. And since the skillet is sure to give the cornbread a crispy crust, the leftovers will make a great savory cornbread stuffing to accompany that roast turkey on Thursday.

The name sounds long, but that's all the ingredients in this recipe from Food 52. Yes, count them four, and it takes only about 20-25 minutes to cook. With a busy holiday week, what more could you ask for. This dish would make a great Thanksgiving side, a change-up from your traditional potato and sweet potato side-dishes. Or keep this recipe in mind for a light but hearty meal before your Black Friday shopping.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Asparagus and Pancetta Risotto

4 oz. pancetta
1/2 bunch asparagus 
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion 
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef or chicken broth

1. In a large pan, sauté pancetta until crisp. Set aside.
2. Cut asparagus into smaller 1 inch pieces.
3. Sauté chopped onions and rice in 2 tbsp olive oil until lightly browned.
4. Add wine to the pan and let it reduce.
5. Add 1 cup broth and cook off. Continue adding 1 cup of broth at a time and allow it to cook off before adding more.
6. Risotto will be ready when the rice has a slight bite and still flows when scooped.
7. Stir in asparagus and pancetta before serving.

Serves 3-4

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Recipe Roundup

Ultimate Sticky Buns

It's Election Day. I'll be voting this morning, and you should too! Election Day also means a busy night for me, working in the newsroom, but it's always one of the most exciting. No matter how you're spending the remainder of your day, we all need to eat. So I've rounded up some recipes with classic Americana flavors.

Ultimate Sticky Buns
Sticky buns, they're one of my favorite treats. I spent yesterday morning tackling this recipe from one of my old Bon Appétit issues. I love to bake, but these sticky buns were more complex than what I make regularly. But it was definitely worth the extra time and effort. I love how the flaky exterior hides a soft, sticky center, and the toasted pecans and glaze are what really makes these ultimate sticky buns stand out.

Apple Dutch Baby
Some say there's nothing more American than apple pie. Well I can't wait to give apple dutch baby recipe a try. It combines all that cinnamon apple flavor with a fluffy oven-baked pancake and feels like the perfect dish for fall and family gatherings.

Caramelized Vidalia Onion and Potato Gratin
When people ask me my favorite food, I almost always answer potato. It's not an expected answer, but there's so much opportunity to make something amazing with them. And potatoes are a native crop to the Americas so it felt fitting to include them in this list. I like how Bobby Flay's recipe incorporates the sweetness of the onions to balance the otherwise savory dish. It's a little surprise from the traditional potato gratin.

Chocolate Chunk Blondies
I've always enjoyed watching Barefoot Contessa because Ina Garten's show is so inviting and her recipes are easy to follow. Even when the ingredients are unfamiliar or the list is long, I feel confident I can tackle them with ease. Blondies are a dessert bar somewhere between a cookie and a brownie. I am looking forward to trying this richer take on the tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Citrus French Toast

Brunch is the perfect way to start your day. And whether I am cooking for myself or for a crowd, French toast is one of my favorite go-to recipes. Prep is quick and easy enough that you can chat with your guests and be eating in no time. This morning I decided to change it up and added a hint of citrus to my favorite recipe.

4 slices french bread, sliced thick
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 tbsp agave syrup
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange peel
Powdered Sugar

1. Whisk milk, eggs, agave syrup, orange juice and vanilla extract together.
2. Add cinnamon and orange peel. Mix until evenly distributed in batter.
3. Soak french bread in mixture for 5 minutes, or overnight.
4. Preheat a griddle to medium-high heat.
5. Place French toast on griddle for 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue for 2-3 minutes until both sides are golden.
6. Serve with a drizzle of agave syrup and dusting of powdered sugar.

Serves 2

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three to Try :: LA and Orange County

An overcast run along the Santa Monica boardwalk

I have often considered myself a California girl. I wasn't born there, but Southern California is a place I visited frequently growing up, before my family called it home. And after attending high school in south Orange County, I moved to Westwood to attend my dream school and my parents' alma mater, UCLA. Going to school in a big city gave me ample opportunity to explore, including dining at restaurants across the culinary spectrum. Los Angeles serves up everything from the neighborhood doughnut shop to hole-in-the-wall bar to the critically acclaimed restaurants of top chefs. And because of the diversity of the city itself, you can take a culinary tour of the world without ever leaving the the Southland. In fact, it was during my senior year at UCLA that the idea for Chasing Crumbs was born out of these experiences and my love of writing.

In the past month I returned to my beloved Southern California twice, first to spend time with my grandmother and parents in Newport Beach and then again to visit some of my closest friends in Santa Monica. And as is often the case, I discovered some new gems that I am excited to share.

Two-scoop upside-down cone, Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw
Ever since I heard Salt & Straw was expanding to L.A., it moved to the top of my list for an upcoming visit. The vaunted Portland ice cream shop is known for out-the-door lines and collaborating with local farmers, chefs and artisans on flavors that range from the traditional to what some might call bizarre. Take the menu at the the new Larchmont shop, which includes California-inspired avocado and strawberry sherbet, tomato water and ojai olive oil sherbet and black olive brittle and goat cheese ice cream.

So, when I met my friend Brittany for the afternoon, I told her that the only thing I planned was an ice cream trip. Luckily she's accustomed to and flexible enough to follow along with all my foodie whims. True to form, there was a line out the door at the L.A. Salt & Straw, but it took us little time at all to reach the counter to sample some flavors before ordering double scoops.

I could've walked away with far more than two scoops because every other flavor screamed "try me." When I return, not if, I think I'll be ordering the sampler, which allows you to get smaller scoops of four flavors. My first scoop was the seasonal California peaches with lemon crumble, basically my favorite dessert turned into ice cream. Fresh peaches were caramelized with brown sugar to create a thick jam running through the vanilla ice cream studded with lemon cobbler. For my second, I wanted something that would be a good pairing and opted for the sea salt with caramel ribbons. The ice cream uses a house-made burnt caramel and salt from Mark Bitterman's Portland salt shop. It's one of Salt & Straw's signature flavors and I can see why it's their most popular. It's definitely my favorite of all the salted caramel ice creams I've tried.

Sidecar Doughnuts
Sidecar is not your ordinary doughnut shop in Costa Mesa. I first tried a bite of their wonderful treats in the cinnamon apple donuts ice cream at Salt & Straw and couldn't resist a detour to try sidecar doughnuts from the source. Sidecar specializes in doughnuts made with fresh ingredients and fried in small batches. I opted to try two of the monthly doughnuts. Huckleberries are a favorite of mine (it's probably my northwest roots), so I had to try the huckleberry cake doughnut. It wasn't too heavy, and studded with plenty of sweet whole berries. Malasadas are a treat that are hard to find, so when I spotted a malasada with apple jam, I had to give it a try. It was airy with just the right amount of filling, and a light dusting of sugar on top. All in all, it made for a perfect afternoon treat.

Seasonal blackberry and bourbon cocktail, SideDoor 

SideDoor is nestled inside one of my favorite restaurants, Five Crowns in Newport Beach, known for great prime rib and charming inn setting. The bar at Five Crowns was long styled like a traditional English pub, but in 2009 the bar was reopened as an English-style gastropub with it's own entrance and menu.The menu focuses on seasonal ingredients, small plates, cheese and charcuterie and artisanal cocktails. However, you'll still find some signature Five Crowns dishes re-envisioned on the SideDoor menu.

I went with my Mom, Nana and I went to SideDoor on a Monday evening and it was packed. Lively conversation flowed through the relaxed atmosphere of the pub. We opted to get a few items to share among the three of us. I enjoyed the smoked bacon and addition of egg in the wedge salad. We watched as the chef at the charcuterie stand assembled our french onion press. As it sounds, it was essentially eating french onion soup in sandwich form, and it was delicious. The onions burst with flavor and balanced perfectly with the sourness of the fresh bread. And of course, one couldn't ignore prime rib, so we ordered the prime rib chili cheese fries, a popular choice at tables around us as well. The chili was rich with generous amounts of prime rib and the fries perfectly crispy underneath. After all that food, I still couldn't turn down dessert. The espresso creme anglaise that accompanied their doughnuts was perfection, in fact I took home the leftover sauce to add to my coffee because I didn't want to waste one drop of it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Recipe Roundup

Before long, it'll be rainy day, gray skies and cooler weather. There's just something about curling up on the couch with a good book and a bowl mac and cheese. Comfort foods are called so for a reason, but I'm always on the hunt for an interesting twist. Here's a few of my recent finds.

I recently learned about a new trend "waffling," essentially putting unexpected foods into a waffle iron to see what happens. I'll admit I was skeptical at first, but then the idea actually intrigued me. However while waffles are a brunch staple, I'll order in a restaurant, a waffle iron is one of the few gadgets missing from my kitchen. I've never really been able to justify it, knowing it would probably gather more dust than oil. But this recipe from FWx has me wanting to run to the store right now. It throws some of my favorite flavors into the same dish, ones I might never have put together. Cheddar and beer are perfect compliments, I don't know why I never considered using them together in a biscuit batter or waffles as FWx did. And the honey and sriracha, perhaps unexpected, sound like a great spicy-sweet glaze for fried chicken.

My breakfast staple. I could eat eggs over easy day in day out, even with all the talk that eggs can lead to bad cholesterol. I loved this roundup from Food 52 because it speaks to one of my favorite aspects of cooking. No two cooks are the same, give them the same recipe and every person will put their own spin. Even with a simple fried egg, there are endless ways to make it. My preferred technique is similar to Emily Vikre's -- a frying pan on medium-high heat and a pad of butter, and I remove the pan from the heat when I flip my egg. It's been fun trying these other methodologies to see how the end result differs.

Mac and cheese, I've been known to make lists of restaurants to try based on hearing they have a great macaroni and cheese, I've got one entire cookbook devoted entirely to the dish, and I will constantly experiment with different cheeses and mix-ins. I made these macaroni and cheese muffins for a going-away potluck a while back, and they're much easier to eat while mingling carrying around a bowl and spoon. What's great about this recipe is the addition of the Dijon mustard and butternut squash puree.

I immediately cut out the recipe card for this from the back of this past month's Real Simple magazine. Of course, it's got bourbon, apple and vanilla, an absolutely delightful combination of flavors. But what really intrigued me was the use of grits in the cake batter. This is definitely on my "Must Bake" list, and I can't wait to share with you how it turns out. 

Bourbon has been my spirit of choice now for a while. While I usually drink it neat or with one or two ice cubes, I do enjoy finding creative cocktails that utilize it. The bourbon brulé from NY Times Cooking combines some flavors I wouldn't have imagined trying together all at once -- bourbon, orange, ginger and sherry. If it tastes as good as it looks in the picture, it'll make a worthy drink for holiday celebrations.

I love sweet potato fries. What I really need to find is a place that serves endless baskets. But let's be serious, they're really not that difficult to make at home, I've just never tried. I found this great recipe on NY Times Cooking, just six ingredients and barely any time at all. What took me so long?