happy thanksgiving

oh, ok. Here's the "before":


colorful salad

I started out with the intention of just having a simple salad with greens, walnuts and dried cranberries, but then started adding a bunch of other stuff that looked good.

Here, we have greens (bagged spinach-radicchio mix), dried cranberries, walnuts, mandarin oranges, crimini mushrooms, pomegranate seeds, and crumbled feta. The dressing is a bottled raspberry walnut vinaigrette.

A note about pomegranate seeds...

I've always been perplexed by the pomegranate. Really, all I knew about it was:

-The juice is supposed to have magical health benefits.
-The juice is tasty, if not a tad intense (like cranberry juice on crack).
-The juice is extremely expensive.
-The Pom Wonderful brand has adorable packaging design.

But, as far as what a pomegranate actually is, I really had no idea.
Is it fruit? Is it seeds? (turns out, it's both)

So I bought one, on a whim, to do a little investigating. Basically, it's made of these pithy chambers that contain tons (hundreds?) of these plump, red seeds. They're kind of like jumbo versions of the little pulp sacs that make up a citrus fruit, except each one has a seed in the middle of it (which is fully edible, and delightfully crunchy).

The method I used to get the seeds out is to score the fruit in quarters so it pries apart easily. Take a piece in your hand (with the skin facing up), hold it over a bowl, then just whack it repeatedly with a wooden spoon. The seeds fall right out into the bowl (pick out any pieces of pith that fall into the bowl). Word to the wise: do not wear white when you do this. Though not incredibly messy, there was a tiny bit of splatter involved— and that pomegranate juice will stain (like red wine).


buttermilk waffles

(topped with banana, pomegranate seeds, honey & cinnamon)

The recipe (if you are health-conscious, shield your eyes):

2 cups flour
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Looking at that recipe, you might think these waffles would be terribly dense, but actually, they come out remarkably light and fluffy (just don't over-mix the batter).


buttermilk mashed potatoes

I don't have an exact recipe for this, but here's what I did... cut 4 red potatoes into small (1"-ish) cubes, put them in a pot of salted water (enough to cover the potatoes), and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are nice and tender.

Drain the water out, and mash with a potato masher. If you don't have one, use a whisk, fork, or anything else that passes for a mashing device (besides your fist, you'll burn yourself).

Add a few pats of butter and a little bit of milk (maybe about 1/4 cup). Mix around to combine. Then add a little bit of buttermilk, to the desired consistency. Season with salt & pepper, and add some fresh chopped parsley.

(If you don't have buttermilk, you could just substitute more milk. I just happen to have some buttermilk on hand that I have to use up.)


my goodness... my guinness!

Can anyone guess the theme of my cooking this weekend?

Guinness beef stew:

Guinness-chocolate cupcakes:

I found the cupcake recipe here (which has become one of my new favorite sites!)

The stew recipe came from
Everyday Food mag, but I tweaked some of the amounts to this:

4 lbs beef chuck (in 1-1/2 inch cubes)
1/4 c flour
2 cans tomato paste (6 oz. each)
2 lbs new potatoes
1-1/2 medium onions (cut into 1 inch pieces)
10 garlic cloves (sliced)
almost all of a 32 oz. carton of beef stock (or two 14.5 oz cans)
1-1/2 bottles of Guinness stout (you'll just have to drink the leftovers)
1 box frozen baby peas (thawed)

Basically, put all of that (except the peas!) into a 5-quart dutch oven pot, season with salt & pepper, cover, and bring to a boil on the stove (stir occasionally). Then move it into a 350-degree oven and cook for about 2-1/2 hours. After you take it out, stir in the peas and season again with salt & pepper.

This recipe will make a giant 5-quart vat of stew, so cut it down if you want to. I made the full recipe, and now have several containers of leftovers in my freezer, that will come in handy on a cold night when I don't want to cook.



I do the majority of my baking from scratch, however, I prefer to make brownies from a box mix. They're all good in my book, but the one above was made from the Ghirardelli mix, which has recently become my new favorite. The mix includes a packet of chocolate sauce, which I think contributes to the intense chocolatey-ness of the brownie.


cinnamon... in a meat sauce?

This is a nice little twist on your standard pasta with meat sauce— cinnamon & cayenne give it a bit of a Moroccan vibe.

1 lb ground meat (I used beef)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 minced garlic cloves (I love garlic)
one 6-oz can of tomato paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TBSP red wine vinegar

Cook the meat until it's cooked through. Then add the onion & garlic, season w/salt & pepper, and cook about 5 min, until onion is tender.

Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon & cayenne, and mix around for a couple minutes. Then add 1-1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until it's as thick as you want it. Add the vinegar and season with salt & pepper (I ended up adding quite a bit of salt to get the flavor I wanted—just be sure to add it gradually and taste along the way so you don't go overboard).

Toss the sauce with pasta (rigatoni is a good choice, because its large tubes hold the meat sauce well).

This was another recipe from Everyday Food Magazine, which I tweaked a little.
(what can I say, I love this magazine)


snacky dinner

Sometimes when I'm not up for a big meal, I like to just make a nice plate of snacks. Here, we have artichokes, olives, tomato, mozzarella, and salami. A friend-of-a-friend turned me on to this little trick: squeeze a little fresh lime juice over the salami. It's delicious.

Don't forget a nice glass of red wine.


new orleans

Possibly one of the best food destinations in the world. I've never eaten such delicious food at every single meal, than during my trips there. I've been to New Orleans twice within the past 3 years, most recently in April '07  (my boyfriend, Tony flew me down for a weekend as a birthday present—and we managed to eat a LOT of great food in those 48 hours).

A friend of mine went to New Orleans last weekend (and brought me back some Café Du Monde coffee—thanks, Amanda!), and it got me reminiscing about my trips (and obsessing about all of the great food), so I pulled some photos from my archives...

Beignets and café au lait at Café Du Monde:

Pulled pork sandwich and mac & cheese at The Joint, an unassuming little BBQ place in the Bywater, just east of the French Quarter (not pictured are the amazing baked beans and cole slaw that also accompanied this meal). Out of this world. If you go to New Orleans, you MUST go here.

At the opposite end of the dining spectrum is the fabulous Galatoire's. Here, we have pompano amandine:

And of course, Bananas Foster—NOLA's signature dessert. Surprisingly few restaurants actually have it on their menu. Your best bet is to get it at its birthplace, Brennan's.