Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Better Soon Soup: Spicy Lentil & Kale Soup

It may have been 81 degrees in San Francisco last week, but I was fighting a very nasty cold.

In an effort to kick said cold, I stayed home from work to relax and heal. But anyone who knows me, knows I am horrible at relaxing and sitting around doing nothing. So of course, I decided to cook. But only using ingredients that were already in my kitchen. Because I was too lazy to venture to the grocery store, naturally. Cooking is therapeutic, right?

I threw together a bunch of ingredients I had in my kitchen in order to make this soup. I wasn't planning to document it at all, hence the lack of pictures. However, this soup turned out amazingly flavorful, hearty, and healthy. I might declare it one of the best soups I've ever made. 

So as we enter the Winter season, or as I like to refer to it, the season of too-much sugar, tummy-aches, and flus, remember this soup.

This soup can cure people.

I topped my soup with a dollop of pesto I had left over in the fridge, as well as Siracha. Since we're approaching Turkey Day, you could even substitute the chicken sausage with leftover turkey. Yum!

Consider garnishing outside of the box bowl, with: Siracha, pesto, croutons, grated Parmesan or Pecorino. Did I mention Siracha?

But really, when is Siracha as a garnish not appropriate? 

Spicy Lentil & Kale Soup

2 tablespoons butter, ghee, or extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, sliced finely
1 tablespoon minced garlic or 4 fresh cloves, chopped
1 bunch lacinato/dinosaur kale, leaves torn off of the stem
2 cups lentils (I used the pre-packaged Trader Joes lentils)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth + 2 cups water
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely sliced
2 chicken sausages, cut up into bite-size pieces (I used Trader Joes garlic-chicken sausages)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons basil (I used dried, but you can use fresh leaves)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cheese rind, optional (I used Pecorino)
Sea salt & black pepper, generously, to taste

1. In a large soup pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes or so, til they begin to brown and the shallots nearly caramelize.

2. Add all the rest of the ingredients, except the salt and pepper. Stir everything all together. Place a lid on top of the soup pan and bring to a boil. Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Once the soup is done simmering, turn the heat off. Carefully taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve and enjoy.

*This soup freezes well. I'll often put a serving side in a plastic bag and pop into the freezer for future cravings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Browned Butter Salted Blondies

Ok, lets get a few things straight.

While I must admit that I am normally a dedicated and tireless chocolate-loving gal, there are a few instances in which I must admit that vanilla, often described as yellow or blonde in food terms, is better.

Pour example:

Vanilla bean ice cream. Much better than chocolate.

Yellow cake (with thick chocolate frosting). Tastier than chocolate cake. (I know this is shocking coming from me).

Blonde men > brown haired guys ...huh? What. I can't help it. It's my personal preference.

But always remember that brunette gals are better.

Now that we're on the same page lets talk about these blondies. I made these for a Sunday night dinner I hosted and let me tell you that they were a huge hit! This recipe comes together with just a few ingredients in 10 or 15 minutes. Seriously one of the easiest desserts to make, ever. And the final product tastes so very buttery, rich, and sweet. Kind of how I like my men. Just kidding. That was a really bad joke. Make these blondies and I promise you'll forgive me.

Oh and by the way, I made mine gluten-free, to boot!

They are so delicious, that I barely got to snap a picture. See below for proof. Now, go get your butter on (the stove, duh).

Browned Butter Salted Blondies
Makes about 12 blondie brownies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour of your choice (I used Thomas Keller's Cup4Cup as a gluten-free alternative; just don't use whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt + extra for on top

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch baking dish.

2. Over medium heat, melt the butter, stirring constantly. Once the butter melts and bubbles a bit, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

3. While the butter is cooling, mix together, in a separate dish, the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Once the butter has cooled for 5 to 10 minutes, quickly whisk in the brown sugar and then the eggs. Combine this mixture with the flour mixture and mix everything together until the batter is smooth. Breathe in the buttery deliciousness.

5. Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle the top with a pinch or two of sea salt. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the blondies.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On a 27th Birthday, 27 Things I've Learned

A few things I have learned over the past 27 years....

1. Always have a chocolate bar handy; store in the cupboard, in the freezer, and at work.

2. Good manners will get you far. Especially at restaurants and airports. I'm talking dish-not-on-the-menu or emergency-exit-seat-for-free.

3. You probably will never regret a workout. So just do it. The endorphins are really worth it.

4. Go to the Farmers Market. Talk to a farmer. Thank him or her for growing your food.

5. Don't let saving money get in the way of traveling. The travel will make you richer.

6. Always be nice to your Mom and make her homemade cards for Mothers Day.

7. When in doubt, put a fried egg on it.

8. Take care of your best friends. Cook for them (Kacey). Let them borrow your stuff (Julie). Listen. Because they will in turn, take care of you, when you really need it (Lindsey, Jaqui, Kelsey, Julie, Miri, Kacey, Bethany, Tan, all my Katies, Kimbo, and the list goes on, and on...and on).

9. Be a good sister. Big or little. Realize that if you are the little sister, you have it way easier.

10. Don't write the nice guy off.

11. When you are stressed, bake. Bake it off!

12. It's totally okay and acceptable to wear nothing but yoga pants and spandex all weekend long. Drown in the comfort. I'm right there with you.

13. Despite being made fun of by...98% of the people in my life, I have accepted that I am a cat-loving lady. Get over it. Cats are cool.

14. Good Will Hunting never gets old. When you need a good cry, just watch Robin Williams and Matty D in that one scene, where Robin talks about his wife who passed away. Gets me. Every time.

15. Just because you can't drink a pitcher doesn't mean you can't join in on the fun...right? Right. (Guess which drink is mine...?)

16.When your friends force you to wear red lipstick, listen to them. It's fun! And it looks pretty!

17. If you want to listen to Broadway music every day on your way to work, do it. I highly recommend The Phantom of the Opera original cast, with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford.

18. Try really, really hard to not hold grudges. They are so unhealthy. Mentally and physically.

19. Yoga will change your life.

20. Don't forget to strike a pose.

21. New Years is so overrated. The best way to spend it is with close friends and/or family; those you love.

22. You can never have too many Christmas decorations. I don't care if my apartment looks like Walmart at Christmas. Get in the spirit, yo!

23. It really isn't always your fault. Truly.

24. Sometimes you have to act like the adult. Even when you should be the kid.

25. For all my fellow San Franciscans: order the Black Cod at The House. Go on a date at Hotel Biron. Unami Burger IS worth the wait and order the bacon-wrapped scallop burger. The Thrice Cooked Bacon is worth it at Mission Chinese Food and will burn your mouth off, so make sure to wash it down with a beer.

26. Don't forget to tell someone when you are proud of him or her.

27. Remember to laugh. It's so much more fun that way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How I Ate (and ran) My Way Through Portland

It's official. I love Portland.

I knew this would happen. I just knew it. I've read and heard all about the food scene in Portland for years, but it really did surpass my expectations this past weekend.

Since I had never been to the City of Roses, and always wanted to go, I decided to run the Portland Marathon with a few friends from my local running group.

The run was good.

The food was better. Here's how I ate my way through Portland, just as I intended!

Upon arriving Saturday morning, my friend Zoe and I checked into our downtown hotel (in the Southwest area) and set out on an exploratory walk on a gorgeous Summer weathered-Fall day. We were surrounded by wide, clean streets, large brick buildings, and trees with their leaves turning bright oranges and reds. Heavenly.

We stumbled upon the end of the Saturday Farmers Market. I picked up a gluten-free treat from Lisa, the owner of Petunia's Pies & Pastries. She was the sweetest young gal...and her gluten-free (and vegan) Pumpkin whoopie pie was calling my name. Eaten under a tree, on a park bench, while leaves fell getting caught in my hair, in 75 degree weather. Perfection I think.

Pumpkin whoopie pie with lemon zest frosting

For our pre-race dinner that evening, we ventured nearby to The Picnic House. I wanted plenty of protein. We ordered a few dishes, but the stand out for me was the Farmers Market Salad with a maple duck drumette. I die for duck. Also, in case you were wondering, I don't believe in carbo-loading. Seriously. I believe in protein-loading. With duck. And bacon.

Farmers Market Salad with Summer tomatoes, avocado, sugar snap peas, almonds, and a maple duck drumette

And to prove I ran the marathon...

Well. This was the before picture. I'll spare you the after.

After I iced my legs for 30 minutes and took 4 IB Profens  showered, I went to brunch with some friends at Tasty n' Sons. No words.

Summer cast iron vegetable frittata with caramelized onions

Maple glazed yams (horrible to photograph, but literally maple-covered goodness)

Bacon wrapped dates with almonds and maple syrup (almost as good as when stuffed I make mine with chorizo)

For dinner that evening, I ventured to Andinas, a Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl District, recommended by my Mother. I was dining alone and sat at the bar, which was kind of lovely. Before dinner, my Mom insisted, via phone: "You have to get the drink called the Sexy Lady." I purposely ignored this recommendation and opted for a glass of Willamette Pinot Noir; my first drink in over a week! (I try to eat and drink especially clean the week before a race.) It tasted...mind blowing. Also mind blowing?

Baked Diver Scallop with a tamari-brown sugar butter sauce topped with crispy onions (out of the 4 dishes I ordered and consumed all by myself, this was by far my favorite)

A Hershey bar eaten in bed later that night may or may not have occurred.

My friend and I both took Monday off to recover from the marathon and further explore Portland. We started our morning (after icing our legs, naturally) at Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

Stumptown rice milk latte with a gluten-free Morning Glory Muffin, courtesy of the lovely Petunia's

We then ventured to a Vinyasa Flow class at Yoga Pearl nearby. Although the class was not nearly as good as my favorite Tom Lee yoga class (obsessed) in San Francisco, it did the stretching trick. And the space was absolutely gorgeous; 2 beautiful, spacious yoga rooms with an organic, gluten-free, vegan-friendly cafe inside. Love it. If you like yoga and are in Portland, stop by.

As you can see, the marathon was my excuse to come to Portland and eat. I think what I appreciated most about this city was that it catered to gluten-free needs everywhere, even at the marathon finish line. I try to eat gluten-free most of the time since I feel better without it. Don't get me wrong, I will indulge though. I am the daughter of the Dessert Queen, after all.

Portland, I'll be seeing you again, real soon, I hope. In the meantime, I absolutely must recreate those maple-glazed yams. I am still dreaming about them.

I may be walking like a peg-legged pirate (seriously) right now, but Portland, you (and your food) were worth it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend in Big Sur

Big Sur, you are beautiful.

I spent this past weekend in Big Sur and I must say, it's officially one of my favorite places. In planning this trip, I knew where I wanted to stay: Treebones. Ever since my dear friend Maura stayed in Treebones years ago and raved about it, I knew I had to experience it myself.

So I packed up my clothes, hiking shoes, swim suit, bottles of wine, granola, and tons of food. And we were on our merry way!

We drove on the 1 Highway. And by drove, I mean, I backseat drove. The 1 is curvy and when you grew up with a Mom who is a pretty bad driver (love you Mom!), you become a grandma-backseat driver. It's not my fault! However, this drive is beyond worth it, as the 1 gives you views, like this, for miles and miles.

And because I am me, of course we had to stop at the Big Sur Bakery for afternoon cookies. We chose the PB & J cookie and Mocha Chocolate cookie (so rich!).

And hours later, we arrived at Treebones. Yurt. Yurt. Yurt. Yurt!

Dropped our stuff off, and went on a Sunset walk.

The next morning, we fueled for our hike at the breakfast bar. Breakfast is complimentary at Treebones. I sipped on coffee outside on this deck, which overlooks the California Coast.

The beginning of our Vincente hike, which ended up being fairly challenging, uphill, and around 8 miles round trip.

Some of my favorite views from the hike:

After the hike, we continued North and stopped by this famous waterfall, recommended by my friend Lauren. Stunning.

Then, back to Treebones for some pool time in the sun.

We also ventured on a walk through Treebone's organic garden. It was full of many different types of kale, lettuce, apple trees, strawberries, squash blossoms, and so much more! The staff uses the produce in the restaurant.

Then, we sipped some wine on our Yurt porch.

For dinner, we decided to go sit at the Sushi Bar at Treebones.f The Sushi Bar is tiny and has 8 seats along a bar; you can watch Carlos, the Sushi Chef, make your rolls fresh, while overlooking the amazing Big Sur view. As you can imagine, at Sunset, it was stunning and the light pierced through the Sushi Bar. Truly unforgettable. Not to mention, the sushi was darn good.

The next morning, we hopped back on the road and stopped at Deetjen's, which my Mom had recommended for brunch. Deetjen's is a charming little ole place, serving a very delicious and traditional brunch. Dining at Deetjen's is truly like eating in a log cabin.

What can I say? I love me a good brunch and can never ever resist chicken apple sausage.

It was a really lovely weekend. One of those trips that kind of forces you to re-examine things in life, breathe it all in, and acknowledge that life is pretty good. So much and so many people to be grateful for.

As for our experience at Treebones, I cannot recommend it enough. The yurts were spacious and clean, the staff was down to earth and knowledgeable about Big Sur adventures, and the location was ideal.

I'm really missing that Big Sur sunset.

PS, I'm not really that short. Am I?