Friday, June 13, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Beet and Arugula Salad

Wow, it's already June. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you're busy. I'm feeling a bit guilty that my last post was in March, especially since I have plenty of content to share with you all. Over the past few months, I've shifted roles in my day job, helped friends prepare to move cross-country and have rediscovered my love of reading. More relevant to this blog, I've taken a few day and long-weekend trips that have left me with some great restaurant finds to pass along. I've found one of my true food loves is Southern cuisine, met one of my favorite chefs and experimented with a lot of seasonal produce. I've literally filled my fridge with produce in no less than a half dozen grocery trips this year. I've participated in 5-10k races and an 11-mile hike for charity, and while I've always been active, the running in particular has pushed me to pay more attention to how my body responds to different foods. There's really no comparison to a meal that's rooted in fresh fruit and vegetables, whether it's the side dish or an entire meal. Well maybe a meal rooted in mac & cheese ... but then, what can I say it's all about balance. 

I managed a 6-mile walk this past weekend in 95 degree weather to make a trip to the farmer's market. It was hard work as it got warmer, but well worth it when I made that evening out of all my market finds. This simple three-ingredient salad is perfect for summer and makes a perfect compliment to a heartier pasta or steak. 

2 beets
2 cups arugula
1 cup sunflower shoots (These can be found at most farmer's markets and some specialty grocery stores, but other sprouts and shoots could easily be substituted)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and dice beets into small chunks. 
3.  In a baking dish, toss in just enough olive oil to coat and lightly season with pepper.
4. Roast beets for 35-45 minutes, until just soft. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes.
5. Rinse arugula and sunflower shoots, pat dry. Combine in a serving bowl. 
6. Add beets to serving bowl, toss and drizzle lightly with 1 1/2 tbsp each balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Depending on your taste, you can add more vinegar or less. 

Serves 2

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Lemon poppyseed muffins are one of my favorite treats. I found that many of the recipes I tried from cookbooks resulted in a heavier or cake-like muffin. After a bit of experimentation, I developed this recipe that I'm really happy with. The results are airy muffins with great lemon flavor. 

1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
zest from 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
1/4 cup oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. 
4. To the eggs, add milk, sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon extract and oil. Mix well.
5. All at once, fold egg mixture into dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, but do not overmix.
6. Scoop 1/4 of muffin dough into lined muffin tins.
7. Bake muffins for 12-14 minutes until golden on top. 
Makes 15 muffins

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Hashbrown Enchilada Casserole

Nothing is better than sharing a great meal with friends, so it seemed only fitting to celebrate my birthday with a brunch. What's more I spent more time planning what to serve than actually cooking, but that's as it should be. Most of my menu consisted of baked goods, that I could prepare ahead of time. But I wanted something heartier for the table, yet still easy so I wouldn't spend my entire morning cooking. Anyone who knows me know how much I love potatoes, and southwestern flavors. Thus, the inspiration for my hashbrown enchilada casserole. The recipe went over really well with my brunch guests, and what I really love about this recipe that you can set it and forget it. All the ingredients go in a slow-cooker overnight and in the morning, it's ready to serve.

1 bag frozen cubed hashbrowns
2 bell peppers
1 onion
2-3 medium-size tomatoes
1 can green chiles
2 cups cheddar jack or jalapeño jack cheese
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried jalapeño 

1. Dice bell peppers, onion and tomatoes.
2. Combine sour cream, milk, eggs and spices. Beat well.
3. In a slow-cooker on low heat, layer half of the hashbrowns, then half of the bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and green chiles. Lastly add a layer of cheese. Repeat with the remaining half of the hashbrowns, vegetables and cheese. 
4. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the hashbrown casserole. 
5. Cook for 6.5 hours, then lower the slow-cooker to warm until you're ready to serve. 

Serves 8-10

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: French Toast Casserole

Thanks to my loyal readers, I know it's been a while. I've been busy traveling and working, but my recent adventures have given me some new restaurants and ideas. Stay tuned! 

Recently I've been fascinated with finding new ways to re-purpose my leftovers. Working a night shift, I tend to make a few meals on my weekend that I can eat throughout the week. But who wants to eat the same thing twice in one week if you don't have to. I've had great luck turning my pulled pork into a sweet potato and pulled pork hash for breakfast. But today, I've got something really simple for my favorite meal of the day -- brunch! I took my tried and true mix for my french toast, and combined it with some leftover baguette overnight. All in all it takes about 10-15 minutes the night before and 25-30 minutes in the morning, while you're getting ready for your day. 

1/2 leftover baguette (or a fresh demi baguette)
1 1/2 cups milk
4 eggs
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 stick butter

1. Cut or break leftover baguette into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces.
2. Grease a baking dish and arrange baguette pieces in an even layer.
3. Combine milk, eggs, honey, vanilla and cinnamon and beat well. 
4. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover and let rest in the fridge overnight. 
5. In the morning, heat oven to 350 degrees. 
6. Melt butter. Add brown sugar and mix well. Spread over the top of the french toast mixture.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. 
8. Serve with fresh fruit, syrup or powdered sugar.

Serves 3-4

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Easy for Everyday :: Cookie Brittle

While prepping for a brunch party, I stumbled upon a few recipes for cookie brittle. Both however used quite a bit of butter, 2 sticks! Don't get me wrong, I love to bake and I know butter is a key ingredient in many treats. But I'm all for finding ways to make a recipe just a bit healthier if I can manage it. So I adjusted, and came up with this recipe that I was very pleased with. It's perfectly crunchy, and you'll never miss the extra butter. I used a silicon baking sheet liner, it made breaking up the brittle a breeze after it had cooled and also made for an easy clean-up. Enjoy!

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat together butter and sugar. (To speed along the process, melt the butter first)
3. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix well. 
4. Stir in chocolate chips, so they're evenly distributed in batter. 
5. Spread the batter evenly over baking sheet, about 1/4 inch thick. 
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
7. Let cool, then break brittle into pieces.

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Two to try :: Washington, D.C.

On a recent trip to D.C., I made it a point to meet up with some good friends, during what little free time I had. Luckily a lot of my friends share my fondness for adventure, especially when it comes to food. They definitely did not steer me wrong, as I found two new favorites in D.C.!

Ahead of my trip, I got a list via email of potential spots where I could meet one of my favorite couples for lunch. And one of the great things about Chris and Dani is that they share my love of great food, eclectic décor and locally sourced ingredients. With that in mind, it took me about two minutes tops, after reading their recommendations and doing a quick Google search, to decide upon Lincoln in Northwest D.C.  (It also didn’t hurt that the choice took me back to my old neighborhood, from when I spent a summer in D.C. in college.)

Before I even got to D.C. or tasted the food, I had a feeling I’d be writing about Lincoln. They post six menus on their website, not including the bar menus, and they market themselves as highlighting seasonal small plates. There’s two check marks for restaurants I want to check out.

As we walked into the restaurant, Chris pointed not to the dining room or bar as you might expect, but to the floor. The floor at Lincoln is completely tiled in pennies (keeping true to the namesake, of course). It has to be the most unique floor I’ve seen anywhere. And the décor throughout the restaurant lives up to that same standard of unique and contemporary interior design. It varies from room to room – everything from what I’d describe as urban chic to more rustic home, with pop art, luxe chairs, reclaimed barnwood and a wall to wall hutch. For all the sophistication and amazing interior design, the atmosphere had the feel of a neighborhood coffee shop, with a light chatter echoing throughout the dining room. It felt more like the place where all the locals know to go for good food, good drink and great company.

In contrast to the décor, the food was presented with simplistic plating, but sophisticated combinations of flavors. We asked our waiter for some recommendations when we had trouble making up our minds, and proceeded to hear a list of about a half-dozen dishes – that says something to me, when there’s not one favorite, especially on an oft-changing seasonal menu. Despite my adventurous nature when it comes to dining, I am a grilled cheese fiend, so on the recommendation of our waiter (and because I may on some level tend to judge restaurants by how well they can execute it), I ordered their seasonal grilled cheese. And it was no unassuming grilled cheese, instead it was an absolutely divine combination of brie, arugula, and grilled onions on a hearty rustic bread. From all our meals, it was immediately apparent the attention given to each ingredient as well as the entire dish. I didn’t partake in midday cocktails, but I’m told the bartenders make some delicious drinks. If the fresh, fruit-infused lemonade was any indication, I can only imagine. While I only dined there once, I am sure to return on any future visit to D.C. because Lincoln not only had great food, it epitomized some of the things I love about D.C. – art, culture, and adventure.

Le Diplomate
Later that week, I met up with an old friend Millie to catch up over cocktails and appetizers at Le Diplomate. With Millie I've tried unique tea lounges and a previous Chasing Crumbs pick, Tropisueno (review), so I trust her to lead my taste buds in the right direction. Little did I know that her pick, Le Dipomate, is one of the hippest spots in town and fairly difficult to get a reservation. The restaurant pays deference to French café culture, with a lively, welcoming ambience, marbled countertops and windows onto the surrounding neighborhood. The menu filled with classic French dishes, and an extensive cocktail and wine list accompany it. Next to the bar oysters were piled high, and fresh bread awaited us soon after we sat down. Since it was early, I ordered sautéed spinach to accompany my cocktail, the pompidou plombier. This unique bourbon cocktail combines crème de cacao and dark Italian vermouth for a smooth drink that’s perfect for sipping.  The spinach was great, just enough garlic and not overdone. Millie ordered the onion soup gratinée, which was expertly prepared with caramelized cheese on top and a rich broth. I can see why this spot is so popular, it offers a welcome relaxed dining experience – in spite of a bustling crowd, we didn’t feel rushed – and well-execute European comfort food.