1/28/15

How To Throw A Soup Swap Party

This past Sunday four of my friends came over to my condo for lunch. The theme was Soup Swap Party.

What is a Soup Swap Party and why/how/where could you have one? Well, I'm about to tell you.

Here's what happened: one of the assignments for Apartment Therapy's January Cure was to throw a little get together and invite a few friends over in order to motivate yourself to keep your house/apartment/condo/whatever clean. This is something I do on regular basis (plus, it is fun to see my friends), so I was fine with this assignment. But what kind of a get together should I have?

While I was trying to decide on a theme for my invitation, I saw a link to a Soup Swap on TheKitchn that my friend K tweeted. I had my plan.

Soup Swap Party {my version}: you make lunch for friends. Friends come over to hang out, eat lunch, and instead of bringing wine or appetizer or dessert, they bring individually portioned and packed soup to give to other attendees. This way, everyone eats together and then gets to take home a bunch of different soups to eat throughout the week {or freeze!}.

Here's what happened and how you can throw your own Soup Swap Party.

1) Look at your calendar and choose a date you'd like to host a soup party. Sunday afternoon was the best option for me because it gave me Saturday to clean, prepare the food, and get flowers. Also, Sunday lunchtime is a good time because no one has to wake up early or stay up late.

2) Send out invitations. I sent out emails: expect that not everyone will be able to come. Expect that some people will cancel. Sent an email to the people who responded with yes, I'd love to come with directions to bring x number of containers filled with soup and also to ask for food allergies/dislikes.

3) Plan the menu. I decided to make two soups, a simple salad, some sort of a bread product and a simple dessert.

4) A day (or two) before the party, clean your house, do grocery shopping, buy flowers, make a plan of action and start cooking

5) The day of the party, make the salad, set the table, and get ready for fun!



I set the table with linen napkins, water glasses I brought back from Italy, wine glasses and a vase with tulips. Keep it simple!

The first soup I made was borsch. This was mainly for my friend Cindy ;) I wasn't sure others would be interested in a beet based soup, so I made an alternative.


The second soup was a chicken meatballs soup with potatoes, carrots, white beans and kale.


The day of the soup swap I made Cheddar Chive Biscuits.



For dessert, I made a simple layered parfait of yogurt, marinated sour cherries in light syrup, pistachios and broken up chocolate pecan cookies. I'll write about those cookies and why they were broken up on Friday ;)


We chatted, drank wine, ate the food and in the end everyone went home with a variety of soups. It was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday!

Thank you Cecilia, Jenn, Cindy and Kaoru for coming over and all the delicious concoctions {salmon chowder, chicken chili, barley stew, and Japanese curry}. This was also a great way for my friends from different circles to meet one another.


Have you ever hosted a Soup Swap?

1/26/15

Cheddar Chive Biscuits Recipe From Pinch My Salt


Yesterday I had four friends come to my condo for a Soup Swap lunch. What's a Soup Swap? Well, you'll have to wait till Wednesday or Friday to find out. I decided to keep things simple and make two soups, a salad, and "bread." When thinking about the menu, I was considering making focaccia, bread, or maybe savory scones. In the end, however, I ended up making Cheddar Chive Biscuits that I very slightly changed up from an AMAZING recipe from Pinch My Salt.

Cheddar Chive Biscuits Recipe From Pinch My Salt

This recipe could not have been easier. It'd probably take you longer to go to your local bakery to pick up a box of biscuits than to make them yourself.

You start by whisking together flour, baking soda, baking powder and dry mustard.

Don't worry: there is no need for salt because you will be adding plenty of cheese in a minute.

Speaking of cheese, I used shredded sharp cheddar.

For the herbs, I used fresh chives, but you can use whichever herbs you want and even dry ones.

These biscuits have no eggs. Instead, they have a bit of butter, milk and one of my favorite ingredients ever: sour cream!

I was a bit worried that my dough looked on a dry side, but it all came together beautifully!


The only change I made from the original recipe was to brush the biscuits with a bit of milk and sprinkle them with flaky salt before putting them into the oven.


How gorgeous are these Cheddar Chive Biscuits?? They rose beautifully and were flaky and tender inside. They went great with the soup and salad and could most likely be frozen...I can't verify that because we at them all ;)



1/22/15

Too Much Broccoli? Make Soup! Cheesy Broccoli And Spinach Soup


Do you have too much broccoli on hand? Are you clueless about what to make for dinner? Are you craving a bowl of hot delicious soup? If you answered yes to these questions, my Cheesy Broccoli And Spinach Soup recipe will be perfect for you!

Last week I had too much broccoli and wasn't sure what to do with it. That's when my friend Megan sent me a recipe for Broccoli Cheese Soup from Cook's Illustrated. Not a member of that website? No worries. I made plenty of changes to be able to call this recipe my own and to share it with you.

Too Much Broccoli? Make Soup! Cheesy Broccoli And Spinach Soup
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 pounds broccoli: coarsely chop the tops and slice the stems into coins
1 onion, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons dried mustard
ancho chile pepper to taste
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of water {more if needed}
1/4 teaspoon baking soda {apparently it helps to tenderize the broccoli}
2 cups chicken stock
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, extra liquid squeezed out
3/4 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar
3/4 cups shredded Parmesan, plus more as a topping
fresh basil for garnish
toasted bread for serving

Directions
1. Heat olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add broccoli, onion, potato, garlic, mustard, ancho chile pepper and salt and sauté for 10 minutes.
2. Add the water and baking soda, bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add chicken stock and spinach and simmer for 10 more minutes.
4. Add the cheese.
5. Puree the soup using an immersion blender. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and ancho chile pepper if needed. This is also the point where you can add a bit more water depending on the consistency you desire.
6. Serve topped with grated Parmesan and fresh basil and a side of toasted bread.




First of all, this soup was incredibly easy to make.
Second of all, it tasted awesome and was great as leftovers.
Thirdly, look at that color!!!



I hope you make this soup tonight or sometime soon.

What do YOU like to do with broccoli?

1/20/15

What To Do With Chickpeas? Roasted Chickpeas With Parmesan And Basil


I love chickpeas. You can add chickpeas to soups or salads, make hummus from them, stir them into pasta sauces or eat them simply drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. You can also mash them and spread them onto a crostini with some herbs. Whether you buy chickpeas in a can or cook them from scratch, they are an incredibly versatile food to have on hand.

This past weekend I cooked a large pot of chickpeas (simply cover dry chickpeas with enough water, season with salt, bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 2 hours) and decided to roast some of them. The end result isn't as crunchy as the prepared snacks you'd find at your grocery store, but I still loved them. Adding a bit of Parmesan cheese at the end really made these chickpeas special.

What To Do With Chickpeas? Roasted Chickpeas With Parmesan And Basil
Ingredients
2 cups cooked chickpeas, dried on a paper towel
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon dried basil
2-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
chiffonade of 3 fresh basil leaves


Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 with a large cookie sheet inside.
2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients other than grated Parmesan and fresh basil.
3. Once the oven is preheated, pour the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer onto the cookie sheet that was inside the oven. You'll hear a great sizzle sound.
4. Roast the chickpeas for 25 minutes occasionally shaking the pan.
5. Top the chickpeas with grated Parmesan and continue to roast for 3 more minutes.
6. Serve drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh basil.


 
It's best if you eat these roasted chickpeas immediately. They are great as a snack or added to a salad.


What's your favorite way to eat chickpeas?

1/15/15

Easy Hot & Sour Soup Recipe: My Take on Food52


When I saw Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup on Food52, I knew I wanted to try it. Unlike a bunch of other recipes that I pin or print out or bookmark, I actually went to my grocery store, picked up the ingredients and MADE IT!

The soup starts by sautéing garlic, ginger, scallions and ground pork in vegetable oil. I used all 16 ounces of ground pork instead of 8 as the recipe called for because the package of ground pork I bought had 16 ounces. My condo started to smell incredible as soon as the ginger and garlic hit the oil.


Then you add a bunch of liquids: chicken stock, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha as well as tofu and mushrooms.

A word on tofu: it tastes like nothing. After making the soup, I would recommend you leave it out and increase the amount of mushrooms or maybe try sautéing the tofu before adding it to the soup.



One of the changes I made to Joanne Chang's recipe was adding snow peas and water chestnuts. The soup definitely needed some crunch (from both) and color (from snow peas). Add these ingredients in the last minute: you just need to heat them through as they don't require any cooking.




And finally: the eggs. You whisk those in a separate container and then whisk them into the soup. Look: I got a double yolk!!!


I served the soup topped with cilantro and a bit more sriracha. This was such an easy recipe to make and it made great leftovers. I will definitely make it again.



1/12/15

Roasted Radicchio & Pear Salad With Barley & Blue Cheese


This Roasted Radicchio & Pear Salad With Barley & Blue Cheese is not only perfect for Meatless Monday, but is also a great filling salad to have for lunch or dinner any time of the week.

Here's what happened: I received a small head of radicchio and a few pears in my latest Washington Green Grocer shipment and thought it'd be great in a salad with blue cheese. I also happened to have some hazelnuts in the freezer and decided to make this salad over the weekend.

THEN my friends Cecilia and Kaoru came over for arts & crafts get together at my condo this past Saturday and Cecilia suggested we make Barley and Arugula Salad with Pork and Mushrooms from Bon Appetit. The salad was absolutely delicious and I topped mine with the blue cheese I picked up at the store. I decided to use the leftover barley mixed with arugula and a lovely dressing as the base for my original radicchio, pear and blue cheese salad.

Roasted Radicchio & Pear Salad With Barley & Blue Cheese
Ingredients
olive oil
1 small radicchio, outer leaves removed, cut into 8 wedges
1 pear, quartered, core removed, then halved again
salt
barley
arugula
dressing
blue cheese
hazelnuts, toasted, chopped

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly coat radicchio and pears with olive oil, season with salt and roast for 10 minutes on each side.
2. Serve the roasted radicchio and pears on top of a barley and arugula mixed with the dressing and top with blue cheese and hazelnuts.



Isn't this pretty!? I loved this salad!


I have more cooked barley leftover: what shall I do with it?

1/9/15

Cafe Forte in Brooklyn: Have a Sweet Weekend



Have a sweet weekend!!!

What is that amazingness above? It's a doughnut with a HIBISCUS glaze from Cafe Forte in Brooklyn. My friend Jenny and I stumbled upon this café by accident after a fun day in Brooklyn, and I want to tell all of you to visit it if you live in NYC or are planning to visit.

The place is welcoming, has a great selection of sweet and savory treats and has great friendly owners. So, GO!

If you know me, you know I love anything and everything hibiscus. This doughnut was no exception. The tart flavor of the hibiscus glaze offset the sweetness of the doughnut....but equally important: THE COLOR!!!

What do you have planned for this weekend?

1/7/15

Banana And Almond Butter Smoothie With Dates And Nutella


I'm not a huge smoothie person: I like to chew my food. I'm also not a fan of bananas. Something about the smell, the texture and even the taste turns me off. But this post is about a smoothie made with bananas! See, I'm full of surprises!

I accidentally got a bunch of bananas in my latest produce delivery and instead of forcing myself to eat them as is or trashing them, I decided to make a few smoothies. The one below was by far my favorite because it had the added natural sweetness from dates and the lovely "let's kill the banana flavor" addition of Nutella!

Banana And Almond Butter Smoothie With Dates And Nutella
Makes 1
Ingredients
1 banana
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon almond butter
3 dates
1 tablespoon Nutella

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth.



Let's talk a bit about paper straws: they are gorgeous, right? Sometimes you can buy really cute paper straws at Target for $1....but they are disgusting to drink from!!!! Do you agree? They tend to disintegrate in whatever you are drinking and feel weird in my mouth....but they do make for cute props.


1/5/15

Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Goat Cheese And Hazelnuts


Welcome to the first blog post of 2015! Hope your year is off to a great start!

Although I've made gnocchi several times in the past, this was the first time I decided to make sweet potato gnocchi. Basically, I had a bunch of sweet potatoes sitting around and after using a few in a soup and a few in a hash, I thought I'll try something new. I did not have a recipe. I did not look for one. I thought I'd just make one up.

Well, these sweet potato gnocchi did not come out perfect. The sweet potatoes "sucked up" so much flour that the final product was somewhat chewy and dense. Why am I sharing this with you then? Well, because I loved the flavor of the final dish and thought maybe you could give me a few pointers for making lighter fluffier sweet potato gnocchi. Please leave your advice in the comments!

Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Goat Cheese And Hazelnuts

Ingredients
3 baked sweet potatoes, skins removed
6 cups of flour, plus extra
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
olive oil
garlic, sliced
hazelnuts, chopped
goat cheese, crumbled
chili oil
salt

Directions
1. To make the gnocchi: in a stand mixer combine sweet potatoes, flour, salt and eggs. You may have to use more than 6 cups of flour depending on how big your potatoes are. Basically, get to the point where the dough is no longer super sticky.
2. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball.
3. Working in manageable sections, roll the dough into sausages using your fingers and palms and then cut into individual gnocchi. If you want, use a fork dipped into flour to make little grooves in the gnocchi.
4. Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. {This "recipe" makes a ton: be ready to freeze a few portions uncooked.}




5. To finish the dish, heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil. Drain the gnocchi and add to the skillet with sliced garlic and chopped hazelnuts (1 garlic clove and 1-2 tablespoons of hazelnuts per person). Sauté until all the ingredients are golden brown, but do not burn the garlic!
6. Serve gnocchi with garlic and hazelnuts topped with crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of chili oil and a bit of salt.



Ok, I'm ready for your "how to make sweet potato gnocchi better" ideas!!!

12/29/14

Best Burger in DC: Brunch at Duke's Grocery

 
It's almost 2015!!! Many people are writing "the best of" lists" which I wasn't planning on doing until I had brunch at Duke's Grocery with my friend Mary and her adorable 3 year old daughter this past Sunday and discovered THE BEST BURGER I've had in a very long time!! So I had to share with you. 


Duke's Grocery is "a neighborhood pub and supper spot located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The idea is simple: create a fun spot that our friends (you!) can come in anytime and have a fulfilling meal, a tasty drink and great time in an atmosphere that is unpretentious and laid back. Tuck in, drink up and enjoy!"

Our waiter recommended we get a Full English Brekkie which you can see below. It had toast, beans, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, arugula and blood sausage. It was a spectacular dish, but the winning order was the burger (scroll down).


What a beauty!!! And trust me, the taste was way better than the looks. This brunch burger included Gouda, house dill pickles, two perfectly medium rare cooked beef patties, grilled onion, garlic mayonnaise, rocket (aka arugula) and house made chili sauce. Mary and I split the burger down the middle and devoured it in minutes. Apparently some people add fried egg or avocado, but I can't imagine fitting those in my mouth. More importantly, those would not even be necessary: the burger was so good as is.


I'll definitely be back! Plus, props to our waiter for being patient and accommodating.