Holiday Host Gift: Challah Wreath

Challah Wreath Host Gift

Most of the parties I get invited to at this point in my life are accompanied by a case of Bud Light or boxed wine, but there are certain situations that require a host gift that doesn’t come in a cardboard box. And I’m not talking about wine (Let’s all get a little more creative!). Here’s a gift that’s easy to make, under $10, and is guaranteed to be a hit every time.

After the smash success of Challah French Toast and the realization that honey in braided bread might be the best thing since sliced bread, I now present the Challah Wreath. All you do is follow the recipe below to make challah (I doubled the recipe to make a larger wreath), then braid the challah into a circular braid. To do this, braid the challah on a baking sheet, braid the end pieces into each other and tuck them in so that the start and end points are disguised. Also, remember to put a small bowl or other oven-proof object in the middle so the hole doesn’t close up!

Once baked, place fresh rosemary into the challah to look like branches, and add either edible flowers or cranberries for some color. As a final touch, put a soft, round cheese in the middle so that the challah can be shared around the table with some delicious cheese for the perfect hors d’oeuvre!

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Recipe: Four-Ingredient Weeknight Chicken

FourIngredientChicken

If I had all the time in the world, I would cook a four-course spread every night (and probably weigh twenty pounds more than I do), but unfortunately having a 9-6 (which is often more like a 9-7:30) doesn’t lend itself to nightly feasts. To compromise my love of cooking with maintaining my sanity, I keep a few dishes in my arsenal that are incredibly easy and pair well with an after-work beer.

This dish is one that my mom often cooked as part of her weeknight arsenal, and I was amazed to find how easy it is when I asked her for the recipe. While the ingredients are somewhat reminiscent those one might find at a 1950s Tupperware Party (Is Lipton’s Onion Dip Mix actually safe to eat?), it’s undeniably delicious and easy!

Time: 40-60 minutes
Yield: 8 servings of chicken

You will need:

½ pack Lipton’s Onion Dip Mix
Half a jar of apricot jam or preserves
¾-1 cup teriyaki sauce
8 chicken thighs

To make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place roughly four scoops or half a jar of apricot jam in a small mixing bowl with the Onion Dip Mix. Add teriyaki sauce until it has the consistency of molasses.
  3. Place the chicken thighs in an oven-safe dish and pour the sauce over the pieces of chicken, making sure to cover it evenly.
  4. Cook the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower the oven to 350 degrees and cook the chicken for another 15 – 30 minutes, until it is is cooked and still a little pink, and the sauce has become caramelized.

How to Cook an Entire Pumpkin Pt. 3: Pumpkin Bread

Fresh Pumpkin Bread

In honor of my favorite fall food, I’ll be taking apart a pumpkin one piece at a time to show you how to make an entire meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) with one five-pound pumpkin! Here’s how to make the rest of the meat and make a dessert!

My love affair with pumpkin started with pumpkin breads and pies. Every Thanksgiving, I look forward to the pumpkin pies that would come with it, but most often came out of a can, premixed with pumpkin purée, sugar, and nutmeg. After a recent purchase of pumpkin butter, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make pumpkin bread the old fashioned way, and it was much easier than I expected it to be! As long as you have a food processor, the entire preparation shouldn’t take you more than thirty minutes!

Time: 20 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes to cook)
Yield: 1 loaf

You will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded fresh pumpkin
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (I did not like the pumpkin seeds but others did!)

To make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Combine both mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin and pumpkin seeds (at last minute). Once the ingredients are all incorporated pour into a non- stick 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan, coated with butter.
  4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. At this point a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

 

Credit: Adapted from Food Network

 

How to Cook an Entire Pumpkin Pt. 2: Roast Pumpkin With Feta & Honey

Pumpkin with Feta and Honey

In honor of my favorite fall food, I’ll be taking apart a pumpkin one piece at a time to show you how to make an entire meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) with one five-pound pumpkin! Here’s how to make the meat into an entrée!

Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

 

You will need:

2 Lb. Pumpkin, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. Honey
3 Tbsp. Balsamic Glaze
1 Tbsp. Salt
1.7 Oz. Crumbled Feta Cheese
1/2 Tsp. Chili Flakes
Salt and pepper to season

To make:

  1. Preheat oven to 410F.
  2. Toss the pumpkin cubes in the oil and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Drizzle with honey, balsamic glaze, feta and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold. (I served it over an arugula salad and it was delicious!)

Credit: Adapted from Not Quite Nigella

How to Cook an Entire Pumpkin Pt. 1: Prep & Seeds

How to Cook a Pumpkin I love pumpkin-flavored things, and I’m not talking about the latte-variety. Two years ago, during my semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I joined a farming co-op that in the winter months delivered bags of vegetables to my door. The co-op specialized in seasonal vegetables that could withstand the freezing Scandinavian fall, so I ate way too many beets and pumpkins from August through December of 2012. My roommates and I made use of our pumpkins with pastas, soups, and some failed attempts at pumpkin cookies, but the experience made me realize how over-looked actual pumpkins are for the amount of “pumpkin spiced” things stocked in Trader Joe’s this season.

In honor of my favorite fall food, I’ll be taking apart a pumpkin one piece at a time to show you how to make an entire meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) with one five-pound pumpkin, starting with the seeds! [Read more…]

Cauliflower Rotini (AKA The Perfect “One Bowl” Meal)

Cauliflower Rotini

I didn’t realize it until years later (actually this morning), but my mom tricked me growing up. Instead of making macaroni and cheese, she would cook me this vegetable-laden bowl filled with cauliflower and parmesan cheese. Today, this dish is my go-to easy dinner for nights when I want a cut above ramen but don’t feel like cooking an entire meal. It has everything I need in one course, with protein (chicken broth and parmesan), carbs (pasta), and vegetables (cauliflower) and makes the best leftovers!

Time: 35 Minutes
Yield: 4 Servings

You will need: 

2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower rinsed, trimmed from core, and separated into 1-inch pieces
12 oz. dried rotini pasta or another shape about 1 inch long
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

To make: 

  1. Pour oil into a 12-inch frying pan with 2-inch-high sides over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and stir until fragrant but not brown, about 1 minute. Add cauliflower and stir to coat, about 1 minute.
  2. Stir in pasta and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover, reduce heat, and cook, stirring often, until pasta is just tender to bite and liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce, 15 to 20 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick before the pasta is done, add more chicken broth ½ cup at a time. Stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Afternoon Meze Platter

Afternoon Meze Platter

What could be more appetizing than a plate laid out with some lightly steamed asparagus, a poached egg, some radishes with butter, and an aioli dip? Placed on the floor near an open window, and paired with a good book, a meze platter is the ideal late-afternoon meal. But before I go any further, I’ll be honest. The first time this idea occurred to me, it was after watching this scene in Eat, Pray, Love. While the pray and love pieces of the equation only vaguely appealed to me, I could completely relate to the pleasure found in enjoying a simple feast for one. This past weekend, I found myself with an entire afternoon free, so I visited the open-air market by my apartment and stocked up on fresh vegetables, cheeses, and a bottle of rosé to recreate the scene and a perfect afternoon.

Simplicity is key. Part of the appeal of meze is that it is made up of simple components. There’s no need to douse the radishes in dressing, or to make the toast into a croque. Instead, the arrangement should be about the elements themselves. Have butter and salt on hand to put on the radishes, and keep mayonnaise on the side for the artichoke hearts, but add these little enhancements as you go, and don’t let them overpower the flavor of the vegetables themselves.

Meze Platter with Cheese and Tomatoes

Think Mediterranean. Meze platters are traditionally Mediterranean, and are served in countries like Greece and Turkey with fresh dips like hummus, falafel, and grilled fish and meat. While I prefer a simpler meze platter, it can be helpful to look towards these cuisines for inspiration!

Plan ahead. While part of the appeal of meze is that it can take as little as 10 minutes to create the entire meal, you might want to add some make-ahead elements, like this anchovy dip, or home-made wine jam to pair with the brie.

Location, location, location. While an Italian apartment or an open-air Greek home is not always immediately accessible (qu’elle domage), it’s possible to make a few changes at your house or apartment to at least feel like you’re at an Italian villa. Put a throw or blanket on the floor and arrange your meze (and wine!) around it, place some candles nearby (this one’s my personal go-to), and play some music (either Carla Bruni or this Spotify playlist will do!).

Have a variety of options. While fresh vegetables and proteins (like salmon lox and zucchini blossoms) should be the centerpiece of the platter, there should be a balance between the fresh and light and the heavier foods. So that every bite feels like your first, alternate between bites of cheese on bread (with fig or wine jam) and lightly steamed asparagus with lemon rind.

What’s on my platter.

Cheese {Brie or goat cheese}
Protein {Poached egg, smoked salmon}
Vegetables {Radishes, artichokes, asparagus}
Beverage {Rosé or an herb-based cocktail}
Carb {Freshly baked bread}
Condiments {Jam, pear mustard, aioli}

 

10-Minute Summer Pasta with Sun Gold Tomatoes

Pasta with Sun Gold Tomatoes and Burrata

One of my favorite parts of summer is the abundance of fresh beautiful tomatoes, so as the summer is ending, I’ve tried to incorporate them into most of my dinners. This recipe is a perfect late summer meal that’s incredibly easy. The entire process takes about ten minutes so it’s ideal for after work, and the combination of burrata and tomatoes is delicious! I paired it with a kale and arugula salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes on top.

Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

You will need:

1/2 lb. fresh Tagliatelle pasta
1 c. sun gold cherry tomatoes
1/4 lb. burrata cheese
2 tbsp. butter (I use “Plugra” or “European Style” for its high fat content)
A few leaves of basil
Olive oil

To Make:

  1. Cook pasta (keep in mind that fresh pasta takes only 2-3 minutes!), drain and return to pot.
  2. While cooking the pasta, place the tomatoes in a hot frying pan with olive oil and cook until charred or burst.
  3. Add butter to the pasta and salt to taste.
  4. Plate the pasta, and add the burrata, tomatoes, and basil on top!

Super-Food Me (Oatmeal Edition)

Super Food Oatmeal with Blueberries

I’m all about a high-calorie, high-sugar breakfast in the morning, and often it’s the quickest thing to reach for: a power bar, yogurt and honey, oatmeal with brown sugar. Unfortunately, these foods don’t lend themselves to an active, high-power day. And since I usually run in the morning, I’m usually looking for a meal that’s satisfying, easy to make, and quick. Taking a hint from the ever-reliable “instant” classic, I’ve started making Oatmeal Superfood Bowls. All I do is cook a bowl of instant oatmeal and add in my favorite “super foods” and fruit. The whole endeavor takes about five minutes to make.

Once you’ve cooked the oatmeal, add any of the following (I usually add three Super Foods then one from each additional category)…

Super Foods:

  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Local Bee Pollen (Good for allergies!)
  • Coconut oil

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Shrimp Pizza: My Favorite Summer Meal

Shrimp-Pizza-White-Wine-Summer-Meal

As a graduate and member of the “real world,” many of my favorite past summer traditions are no longer applicable – no more Lake Tahoe sunburns, mid-morning wake boarding adventures, or barefoot traverses up my street to my best friend’s house. This is why I’ve held on tight to the summer traditions that are accessible no matter what new city or situation I’m in – like eating this Shrimp Summer Pizza outside with a bottle of white wine.

Served alone or with a lemon and olive oil arugula salad, this pizza is surprisingly easy to make for how delicious it is. My only advice: Enjoy it outside while the weather’s still hot!

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