Thursday, February 6, 2014


I am a woman obsessed. Not with wedding planning (ok, a little bit with wedding planning), but with Brussels sprouts. I seriously cannot get enough of them (or champagne) lately. We're talking "I'll eat them for two plus meals a day" level obsessed.

So when I went to a local restaurant (called Lincoln) with a friend last week, and we couldn't find space at the bar during happy hour, we got a regular table. Downside? No happy hour dishes/prices. Upside? One of my favorite Brussels sprouts dishes to date, which wasn't on their happy hour menu. 

I found myself craving those same sprouts earlier this week, and nothing other than the kind I had at Lincoln would do. While on the metro home, I searched recipe after recipe to try and find something similar to the cranberry apple vinaigrette Lincoln's sprouts were tossed in. I got increasingly frustrated, and realized I wasn't going to find some magical link saying "I'm the recipe Lincoln restaurant used. Click me!"

I did, however, find this recipe for roasted butternut squash with warm cider vinaigrette. I decided that, with some work, it could be tweaked to replicate the taste I wanted. It wasn't spot on, but, it was delicious (at dinner and again as leftovers), and earned SS's "yeah, this is blog-worthy" seal of approval. 

LKTC's Brussels Sprouts with Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 to 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, cut in half length-wise and tossed in olive oil
  • 2 TBS pine nuts
  • 2 TBS thinly sliced shallots
  • 3/4 cup cran-apple juice
  • 2 TBS cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • dash of sugar
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  2. Roast Brussels sprouts for about half an hour on a cookie sheet or in a cake pan, occassionally tossing the pan.
  3. Put pine nuts in a single layer in a shallow dish. Place in the oven and shake every few minutes until pine nuts are lightly toasted. 
  4. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a small saucepan. Saute shallots until soft and translucent.
  5. Add the juice and vinegar, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  6. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. 
  7. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  8. Toss sprouts, pine nuts, and vinaigrette together and serve. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

feeling adult

Listen, I am 27 and a half, and I still feel like a kid. Not because I still get carded nearly every time I belly up to a bar or because I'm irresponsible or anything. I mean, I have a mortgage, I've worked for nearly three years at the same organization, and I'm discussing retirement and future kids' college savings with my fiancĂ©. Had you asked me even a couple years ago, I couldn't say any of those things. But none of them really make me feel grown up. 

You know what does, though? 

The excitement I derive from things like finding a cleaning agent that tackles the soap scum in my neglected shower. And finding a total lifetime keeper of a recipe. I somehow managed to do both this weekend, and was feeling super mature, at least until I walked in to a training class today, and realized everyone had at least 20 years on me. 


Sunday evening, SS and I were wandering the aisles of the Soviet Safeway, patting ourselves on the back for not eating out for the THIRD meal in a row that day, but generally stymied about what we wanted for dinner. 

About halfway down the beverage aisle, "have you ever made jambalaya?" he asked. I had not, and was totally fine with my boring, but easy, plan to make roasted potatoes and steaks, but his investment in the idea of a home cooked meal that wasn't the same thing we'd had a million times won me over. We did a quick google, and settled on the first recipe I found. AND IT WAS DELICIOUS. So, without further rambling, I offer you a slightly tweaked recipe that I suggest you make riiiiiight now, whether you, too, feel like a grown up after success in the kitchen, or you just like a dish with amazing flavor and minimal effort. 

Allrecipes' Jambalaya (tweaked where noted below)

  • 2 TBS peanut or olive oil divided (I used 1 TBS "smokin' chipotle" olive oil and 1 TBS regular) 
  • 1 TBS cajun seasoning
  • 10 oz andouille sausage sliced into rounds (I used 2 links of Johnsonville's pre-packaged, pre-cooked stuff)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken cut in to 1 inch pieces (I skipped this and threw in about half a pound of pre-cooked shrimp at the very end)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I used more like 4 and chopped them in to bigger pieces than you'd associate with "minced")
  • 1 can (16 oz) crushed Italian tomatoes (SS and I turned up our noses and this line item, because we are jambalaya newbies, so instead we bought a 28 oz can of petite diced tomatoes, used about half the tomatoes, poured some water in the can, mushed up the lingering tomatoes, and poured about a cup of the tomato-y juice that resulted in to the skillet)
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt (I'd say go light on the salt, wish I had)
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (our Tabasco had gone bad, I used siracha) 
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp file powder (Allrecipes says file powder is: a seasoning made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It's an integral part of Creole cooking, and is used to thicken and flavor Gumbos and other Creole dishes. Soviet Safeway carries no such thing. Our jambalaya was fine without it. I suspect yours will be, too). 
  • 1 1/4 cup uncooked white rice (ok, so, we bought brown rice, and I didn't look at the package, this becomes relevant later, but, spoiler alert, it means you need to increase your estimated cooking time)
  • 2 1/2 C chicken broth (I used 2 cups broth, 1/2 cup water, because, well, cans of broth come in 2 cup cup quantities, and I didn't want to waste)
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat (this is where I used the smokin' chipotle olive oil). Season the sausage and chicken pieces with Cajun seasoning. Saute sausage until browned. Remove with slotted spoon, and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil, and saute chicken pieces until lightly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside. (I skipped the chicken, and just threw the plain olive oil in after I took out the sausage).
  2. In the same pot, saute onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in crushed tomatoes, and season with red pepper, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce and file powder. Stir in chicken and sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Stir in the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. (Ok, so, our brown rice package says 40 to 50 minutes, covered, in terms of how much time the rice needs to cook, and that it did. Just check what the package of rice you buy says, you may need to adjust {expectations and cooking time} accordingly. Just throw more liquid {tomato juice, water, broth...your choice} in if the liquid is absorbed but the rice is still crunchy.) 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

the recipe black hole

Oh hey look, five months just passed and I didn't annoy the interwebs with my rambling. Just when you thought you were safe, I'm back! You can blame Martha Stewart and my piss-poor organization skills, not me, though. 

This whole blogging thing all started (again) last night. I thought I might need to whip up an impromptu appetizer for a group of hungry boys, and figured spinach dip would do the trick. A few months back, I made my first ever spinach artichoke dip, and wanted to replicate that. Clearly I didn't write about it, and apparently I didn't bookmark or save the recipe, because I spent a frustrating 30 minutes on the train home opening recipe after recipe and thinking "NOPE," "EW," and "HECK NO." I never did find the recipe, and we all ended up going out to happy hour instead. 

But, the more frustrating recipe black-hole situation was actually when I up and decided I like chili. I made it over a year ago, back when SS and I first met, and thought to myself "hey, where has THIS been all my life?" And again, promptly lost the recipe, the results of which SS had just deemed "the best thing ever." Again, I searched recipe after recipe, and not a single one seemed right. The closest I could come was Martha Stewart's 30-minute chili recipe. But I definitely didn't use tomato paste, beer, or beef in mine, and I like a variety of beans. So, I kinda made up my own, and I love it. Thanks for almost nothing, Martha!

LKTC Smoky 3 Bean Turkey Chili   
  • splash of olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • about 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 to 2 TBS chili powder
  • about 2 TBS chipotle in adobo (I open the can, and use scissors to cut up the chiles, then scoop out 1 to 2 tablespoons of the juices and peppers; be careful, this stuff will sting your eyes, so make sure to keep your hands clean!)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 14-oz. can each of kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans, rinsed and drained   

1. Heat oil over medium-high in a large, heavy pot. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are nearly translucent. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and let cook for another few minutes. 

2.  Stir in chili powder, chipotles, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon and stirring it around until it's no longer pink. 

3. Add tomatoes with their juices and beans. Note: I normally add one can of the tomatoes/juice all at once, then strain the juice out from the other two cans of tomatoes. I don't like a lot of tomato chunks in my chili. I then leave the remaining diced tomatoes in the cans, add about half a cup of water to each, and mush up the tomatoes with a spoon (to create enough extra tomato juice to cover all the beans and turkey). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

You really only need to let this simmer until the beans are soft, but, the longer you simmer it, the thicker and smokier the chili becomes. It freezes really well, evidenced by the Armageddon-ish stockpile of little bags of it I have in my house right now.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

beyond trader joe's

I blame two things for the fact that I rarely cook from a recipe now: 1) the heat wave, which makes cooking in my tiny  kitchen practically a death sentence, and 2) the discovery of all sorts of "short cut" food at Trader Joe's. I've gotten spoiled over the summer, because SS has had time to go to TJ's at off hours, thereby being able to browse freely and avoid the checkout lines that often (no joke) wrap around the entire store. And while my main purchases at TJ's tend to be the $4 La Finca wine or the $5 bubbly, SS has delved beyond the booze section, and come away with amazing things like pre-marinated curry chicken and frozen fried rice. So, when it's 98 degrees outside, and we're both tired, it's a lot more appealing to fall back on those options than to try something new that requires prep work and time in front of an open flame in a 3' x 8' room.

But, with a slight respite from the crazy temperatures, and a desire to enjoy the fruits of my rampant recipe-Pinning spree a few weeks ago, I insisted that we try this bistro steak with red wine sauce recipe.  

(photo from recipe)

I somehow managed to totally overcook our steaks, and start the sauce too late, making us wait on that to finish before we could eat. Despite those snafus, I really enjoyed the sauce. The only thing I'd potentially do differently next time is cut down on the shallot quantity, potentially by half. There were just too many in the sauce, and it was kind of distracting. 

By the way, in the interest of making your lives easier, I'm going to start copying the recipes into the posts (at least when I remember), in addition to adding them to the LKTC-tested recipes page. So, here goes...

Bistro Steak with Red Wine Sauce (Cooking Light)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 (8-ounce) top sirloin steaks, trimmed
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup full-bodied red wine (such as cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted beef stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle steaks evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add steaks to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from pan. Let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add shallots and thyme to pan; sauté 1 minute or until lightly browned. Add wine; cook 2 1/2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Add stock; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half and mixture is slightly thickened. Remove pan from heat. Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, butter, and mustard; stir with a whisk.
  3. Cut steak across the grain into thin slices; serve with sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

conference room cred

On my way into work yesterday, I grabbed not one, but two, vanilla-frosted donuts (my favorite flavor since childhood). It is possibly the worst thing I can think of (in the realm of diet) to have a donut shop right by the metro. That delicious smell wafting at you before you even walk in the building is practically impossible to resist, especially when you're starving and sleep deprived. 

Anyways, as I was inhaling the donuts, I apparently got icing on my face. Which no one told me. Of course this was right before I went in to a meeting full of people twice my age and triple my importance. I don't think it did much for my conference room cred, although it does explain why everyone watched with intent when I spoke.

The messy breakfast did as little for my expanding girth as it did for my credibility, which is a shame, because SS and I have really been focusing on cooking healthy stuff instead of spending money eating out (which is usually synonymous with eating poorly, at least for me). But in the past week or two, I've been resisting that culinary pursuit not just because I'm a bit lazy (although I am), but also because the LKTC is sweltering in the dead of winter, so you can imagine what it feels like during a 100 degree heat wave (which we are currently in the midst of in DC). 

Luckily, this smoky Spanish-style roasted shrimp dish requires a mere 30 to 45 minutes in the oven, and you only have to dart back in to the boiling-hot kitchen twice to throw things into the pan. If you do all your (easy) prep work before you turn on the oven, you can actually emerge with a tasty, quick meal, and no need to take a pre-dinner shower. And it tastes great with cold beer, which will go a long way in helping you forget frosting-face debacles.  

Another good thing about finally cooking? Getting to use one of my beautiful birthday platters from Sophie!

Monday, July 15, 2013

keeping the flame alive

I haven't written for a while, and then last night I nearly burned down the LKTC, so I figured I'd share my stupidity with the interwebs for an afternoon laugh at my own expense. Don't feel too badly if you catch yourself laughing literally out loud--I couldn't contain my own laughter (after the fact, of course) last night. 

When I got home from work (yes, work, on a Sunday), SS and I were debating what to have for dinner. He wanted pesto pasta with a side of ground beef. I, exhausted from a day of ordering interns about, couldn't disguise my confusion over why someone would want to eat just ground beef. Because I wasn't all that hungry, and I'm the ultimate pragmatist (unless you are chewing gum noisily in my vicinity), I told him it was fine. SS, knowing the universal language of women (shout out to his three sisters for that), realized it was not, in fact, "fine," and that I wouldn't touch the ground beef. So, he gamely acquiesced to my desire to try a new meatball recipe, even though he was starving, and we didn't have all the necessary ingredients. 

photo from the recipe

In the midst of frying the meatballs, and pre-emptively congratulating myself on successfully tending to three different pans on the stove, I didn't notice that the paper plates I'd set out to drain the meatballs on were too close to one of the lit burners. At least, I didn't notice it until one of the paper towels set on top of one of the plates was suddenly covered in one corner with bright orange flames.

Being the level-headed genius that I am, of course my response was to start shouting "oh my God, oh my God," and blow on the corner of the paper towel (which meant I was also blowing in the direction of the open flame on the stove). Unsurprisingly, this didn't extinguish the rapidly spreading paper towel torch. After letting me flail briefly, SS calmly leaned in, took the paper towel out of my hand, and dropped it in the sink, which, wouldn't you know it, sits less than a foot away from the stove. I sheepishly told him "there's a fire extinguisher under the sink, just FYI." I'm not sure if I was trying to make him feel better ("look! I'm prepared for crises!") or worse ("I'm trying to distract you from the fact that I nearly burned up the kitchen!"). 

In case you're wondering, the meatballs turned out just fine, despite the excitement. I approached the recipe with some trepidation, because I didn't take the time to make my own breadcrumbs, as was suggested, nor was I totally confident that adding water to raw meat was a good strategy. But, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly everything came together and how tender they were. And I didn't hear SS complain once about the change in the dinner plans (or the fact that I'm useless in a crisis). Then again we may have his sisters to thank for that, too.   

Thursday, June 13, 2013

a different take on throwback thursday

So, I've been on Instagram since December 2011, but have only used it regularly for the past nine months or so. Somehow, though, I didn't realize "Throwback Thursday" was a thing until, oh, I don't know, the past couple months. I don't often post old pictures, mostly because a) my sister threatened to disown me if I broadcast any more baby pics of us, and b) I'm one of the rare people who was pudgier in late high school/college than I am now. And while "chubby cheeks" was a cute nick name when I was pre-school aged, trust me when I tell you it wasn't a good look in my late teens/early twenties. 

Anyways, nostalgia is something I can clearly get behind, so, I'm going to indulge in a little throwback Thursday to something more recent, namely my birthday/trip home to NC.

When I was home, we had a cookout on the Sunday of Memorial Day. To go with the grilled steak, we made a smoky Spanish-style pan roast that I still daydream about. It was super easy to make, took no more than 40ish minutes total, and had this great spicy-sweet-smoky flavor to it. It was kind of like a twist on the classic shrimp boil, and I love me some shrimp boil. 

We followed the directions practically to the letter, except that I threw in a combination of regular olive oil and "smokin' chipotle" flavored (yes, that is a thing). Also, we couldn't find regular chorizo, and ended up using chicken chorizo, which was AMAZING. 

All of this has me sitting here it too early for lunch?

(photo from recipe)