PB Vanilla Honey Porridge with Berries and Dark Chocolate

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This is the kind of porridge that makes you want to do something very bad. In my case, it makes me want to put a  captioned gif below this description because words can’t adequately describe my feelings. But I’ll do my best.

As I’ve discussed before, I am OBSESSED with peanut butter and chocolate. I saw a picture of porridge with honey and vanilla the other day on Instagram, so I thought, why not add peanut butter into the mix? I chopped up some sea salt dark chocolate (I’ve been really into Alter Eco lately) and put it on top of the porridge with strawberries.

“This is really good,” I said to no one after I took my first bite. It was so good that I had to stop in the middle of eating it, not so much because I was full but because I had to assess the situation. Salty peanut butter, sweet vanilla and berries, honey, tangy dark chocolate…what. is. happening.

In other news…it’s the weekend! I am very excited about it (in case you can’t tell). It’s supposed to be cold and rainy in St. Louis, so my days will probably be filled with lots of yoga, indoor plant shopping, elaborate breakfasts, and anything else that I can cook up.

Here’s a good song for those activities, or for moments when you can’t breathe because you’ve eaten waaay too much peanut butter porridge.

PB Vanilla Honey Porridge with Berries and Dark Chocolate (from me, to you)

Ingredients

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1-2 Tbsp honey (depending on how sweet you like things)
1 heaping Tbsp of crunchy peanut butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
strawberries and roughly chopped sea salt dark chocolate for topping

Directions

Bring the rolled oats and almond milk to a boil in a pan over high heat. Once it’s boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Stir in the honey, vanilla extract, and peanut butter, adding more milk if the mixture is too thick. Top with berries and dark chocolate. Enjoy!

 

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Chilaquiles

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I had a bunch of corn tortillas leftover from making enchiladas the other night, so I decided to use them to make chilaquiles for dinner yesterday.

I thought that I’d made chilaquiles before, but as it turns out, I hadn’t. I know this because I thought that you baked them in the oven. Then, I realized that the whole process involves frying.

You start by sautéing the tortilla triangles in a pan of oil. You remove them when they’re golden brown and let them rest on a paper-towel lined plate to soak out some of the excess oil. I sprinkled some salt on top for extra flavor and started snacking on the chips. It’s difficult to resist.

Then, you add some salsa to the frying pan and heat it up until it’s simmering. Add the chips back in and flip them over so the sides are evenly coated with sauce. Let them cook until softened and then you’ll be good to go.

I have a confession that pains me a little to admit: I used canned salsa for the sauce. I wanted to make my own, but I didn’t have tomatoes, it was raining, and I didn’t want to go back outside. Plus, using canned salsa is really easy. I bet these chilaquiles would have tasted even better with homemade salsa, though, so I’ll have to try that next time. I’m thinking that a tomatillo variety would work well.

In other news, I’ve been really into Ralph lately. I’m not sure what her background is but her music is BANGIN. I just looked her up and her Twitter bio says: “if Sade & Stevie Nicks & Donna Summer had a love child,” which seems like a pretty bold proclamation but it’s not too far off. I would add a little Allie X, Tove Lo, and HAIM into the mix.

This is a song that I’ve been jamming out to lately.

Chilaquiles (from me, to you)

Ingredients

12 corn tortillas, sliced into triangles
vegetable oil
sea salt for seasoning
1 can salsa
1 avocado, sliced
juice from 1 lime
1/2 red onion, chopped
cilantro leaves
queso fresco, crumbled
1 fried egg
salt and pepper for seasoning

Directions

Heat about 1/8 inch of oil in a deep, wide saucepan on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, start adding the tortilla triangles in batches. Fry until they’re golden brown on each side, then remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to soak off some excess oil. Season with sea salt.

When you’re done frying the chips, clean the brown bits out of the pan and then place it on medium low heat. Add the salsa and heat it up until it’s simmering. Add the chips and flip them until they’re evenly coated with sauce. Cook until the chips are slightly softened, a few minutes.

In the meantime, make the fried egg and prepare your toppings. When the chilaquiles are done cooking, top with red onion, avocado, lime juice, cilantro, queso, fried egg, and more salt and pepper. Enjoy!

 

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Chia Pudding Jar with Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 7.50.43 AMI’ve been really into breakfasts that involve layers. I also like the kind that involve overnight prep so there’s less for me to do in the morning. I started this jar last night so today, all I had to do was make the smoothie and put the kiwi slices and granola inside.

My favorite part about this jar is dunking my spoon to the bottom and mixing the layers together. My perfect spoonful had some of the chunky chia pudding from the bottom, the slightly sweet, tangy strawberry banana smoothie, and some crunchy ginger papaya granola. I thought of the random kiwis that surfaced as life rafts, just waaaay better tasting.

Anyway. This is the ultimate digging for buried treasure breakfast. I would recommend making it if you want something quick and easy to eat in the morning, or if you’ve never *quite* grown up and love playing with your food as much as I do.

In other news, the French election is STRESSING ME OUT. Everyone is saying that Marine Le Pen won’t win because she can’t win, but that reminds me of back in November when everyone was saying that about Trump. I feel sort of powerless because I can’t vote (I’m not a citizen of France, as much as I’d like to be), but I hope that I can at least spread some awareness about what’s going on.

Here’s an article I read recently about the election. And here’s a video that is, while satirical, a pretty good summary of each candidate and the issues.

And here’s a completely unrelated song that I sang along to in the car this morning.

Chia Pudding Jar with Strawberry Banana Smoothie (from me, to you)

Ingredients

for the chia pudding:
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

for the smoothie:
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 banana
1/2 cup plain Kefir
kiwis, skinned and sliced, for layering
ginger papaya granola, coconut, and blueberries for topping

Directions

Make the pudding the night before. Combine the almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a jar, whisk together and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, make the smoothie. Combine the strawberries, banana, and Kefir in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Place the kiwi slices around the inside of the jar, pressing gently so they adhere to the sides.

Pour the smoothie into the jar with the chia pudding and kiwi. Layer with granola. Top with more granola, blueberries, and coconut. Enjoy!

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Roasted Corn Enchiladas

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Every year around this time, I crave roasted corn enchiladas. I can trace it back to spring 2013, when I first made this dish. My friend Stephanie and I wanted a study break during grad school so we decided to try the recipe.

I could make this dish any time during the year, but for some reason, it tastes better in late April to early May. I guess it’s the same with any food that becomes a tradition. Latkes don’t taste as good in July, and watermelon mint feta salad would be pretty gross in December (depending on where you live).

A lot has changed since I first made these enchiladas, including myself. I realized this while I was cooking the other night. The first time I made this dish, I was measuring every ingredient precisely and *slightly* freaking out about the number of steps in the recipe. Stephanie was there, though, so that helped.

When I made these enchiladas in D.C., I had just moved to the city and I was still settling in. These enchiladas were a constant amidst the newness. I remember making them alone in my new apartment because my roommate was away. I talked to my sisters on FaceTime while I cooked.

This past weekend, I was driving home and a lightbulb went off in my head. It was kind of like the scene from Stranger Things when Will talks to Winona Ryder through the Christmas lights, except my brain was pulsing “must make enchiladas.” I went to the store and got the ingredients.

When I got home, I put on some music and started cooking. I was alone in my house but it didn’t matter because I was completely immersed in what I was doing. I almost didn’t hear the music. I was in enchilada nirvana.

I came out of it for a second, though. Something felt weird. I checked the corn roasting in the oven and it wasn’t burning. I looked at the tomatoes cooking down on the stove and they seemed to be doing fine. I realized that the difference was that everything felt *easy.* I wasn’t struggling with the steps anymore. I’d mastered the recipe.

I’ve recopied the recipe for you below, but feel free to deviate from it. When I made it on Saturday, I eyeballed the spices and added more tomato. I would recommend erring on the side of too many tomatoes rather than too few, because you’ll want A LOT of sauce.

Here’s a song that I played while I was cooking. It’s good for quiet moments with enchiladas (what does that even mean?) or, you know, whenever.

Roasted Corn Enchiladas (slightly adapted from Naturally Ella)

Ingredients

for the filling:
3 large ears sweet corn
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup part-skim ricotta
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro

for the sauce:
3 large slicing tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 corn tortillas
1/2 cup queso fresco

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚. Carefully remove corn from cob by placing the cob perpendicular to the bottom of a large bowl. Cut downward on the cob. Toss kernels with ½ tablespoon olive oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Roast, stirring occasionally, until soft, 15-20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whip together ricotta, honey, lime juice, and cilantro. Once corn is done, stir into ricotta mixture.

To make sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium low heat. Add in minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Roughly dice tomatoes and add into pot along with chipotle powder and salt. Cook until tomatoes are starting to break down. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or in a regular blender.

Layer tortillas in between a damp paper towel and microwave for a couple minutes until soft, or place them in the oven for a couple minutes until pliable.

To assemble enchiladas, use and 8×5 pan (or an 8×8 with extra space). Place ⅓ of the chipotle tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Next, scoop ⅓-1/2 cup corn filling in to the center of the tortillas, roll gently, and place seem side down in the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas, carefully squeezing the last tortillas in. Pour remaining sauce on top and sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake enchiladas until lightly browning and bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Enjoy!

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Pizza Break: Pizzeoli

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 8.48.40 AMEver since I moved back to St. Louis, I’ve been hearing about Pizzeoli. A local food publication ran an article about them semi-recently saying that the owner takes Neapolitan pizza pie-making very seriously. I like people who are dedicated to a craft, and I really like delicious food. So I decided to check out the restaurant this past Friday after work.

I was expecting Pizzeoli to be small, and it is: There’s a small bar out in front, a few tables, and a room in the back to accommodate larger parties. But there’s a warmth that radiates the shop that makes it feel inviting instead of claustrophobic. Maybe it’s the giant, wood fired oven in the back, but I think it’s more than that. Other people must feel the same way, because when I walked in there was a couple on a date nestled into a corner and a family with two young children at a table in the back. There’s a vibe that everyone, as long as they appreciate good pizza, is welcome at Pizzeoli.Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 8.49.03 AMI sat down at the bar and ordered a beer, and when I looked over I saw a bald man sitting a few chairs down. He looked familiar and I realized from pictures I’d seen that he was the owner. I pretended not to realize this though because I wanted to find out more about the restaurant. I also didn’t want to fan girl out too hard.

We exchanged a few pleasantries but I was too excited to talk. I ordered the Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. I watched as the guy in back assembled the pie and packed it into the wood fired oven. A few minutes later, he took it out and put it down. The waitress sliced it expertly and brought it over to the bar. It looked legit, I thought, but would it taste legit?

It did. It was not only the best Neapolitan pizza that I’ve tasted in St. Louis, but maybe the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had. Surely, it was the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve tried west of the Mississippi River.

The crust was chewy and thick and the sauce to cheese and basil ratio was perfect. Sometimes, Neapolitan pizza slices are too thin and the toppings slide off the pizza and everything falls apart. The slices at Pizzeoli were substantial enough to hold toppings but light enough to fold.

“How is it?” the owner asked me. “This is some of the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had,” I said. He looked pleased but embarrassed. He could probably see the tears in my eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I tend to gush about things when they’re really good.”

“No,” he said. “It’s nice to see people who appreciate good food.”

Pizzeoli was more than good, though. It was excellent. The pizza was a reminder that a dedication to craft and a passion for fresh ingredients can elevate food to art. I could tell that everyone who worked at Pizzeoli, including the owner, is passionate about this concept.

When you enjoy a meal at Pizzeoli, you’re not only getting a Friday night pizza dinner. You’re becoming part of the tableaux of exceptional dining. I feel lucky that a place like this exists in the city I grew up in.

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Spinach Salad with Port Salut and Sour Cherries

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I’ve been talking to you a lot about ice cream and hot dogs lately, so I decided to tell you about this salad.

I was having a bad day earlier this week and I realized that, on top of everything else, I didn’t have anything in my refrigerator for dinner. So I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and played one of my favorite games: Wandering through every aisle and creating an impromptu dinner.

I was craving sprouts and Port Salut cheese, so I knew that would make it into the salad. I remembered that I had sour cherries at home from when I made trail mix for my hike last weekend. I also had sliced almonds and lemon.

I combined all the ingredients over a bed of spinach and topped it with some olive oil and lemon juice. It was simple dinner but a gratifying one. I love the way the creamy Port Salut tastes with the tart cherries, crispy greens and almonds.

For those of you who haven’t tried or heard of Port Salut, it’s kind of like Brie except better (in my humble opinion). It isn’t as creamy as Brie but it has a similar consistency. It pairs well with sweet and tart things. One of my favorite things to eat it with is Granny Smith apples.

In other news…it’s the weekend! I’m pretty excited about it. Here is a song that I was jamming out to on the way into work this morning. It’s good for long slogs to the office, car karaoke sessions, or, you know, whenever.

Spinach Salad with Port Salut and Sour Cherries (from me, to you)

Ingredients

2 cups baby spinach leaves
Port Salut cheese, sliced into rectangles
1 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup red clover (or other microgreens/sprouts)
juice from one lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

Put the spinach leaves in a large bowl and top with the Port Salut cheese, sour cherries, almonds, and red clover. Squeeze some lemon juice on top and drizzle on some olive oil. Enjoy!

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Hot Dogs: It’s Complicated

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I have a complicated relationship to hot dogs. It all started about twenty five years ago when I ate one for the first time. I immediately fell in love.

I loved the way the skin on the hot dog snapped when you bit into it, the rush of salt and meat juice, and the tangy mustard on top. I loved the fact that the dog was between two pieces of bread. I even loved when the hot dogs turned to charcoal on the grill. The meat underneath the casing was still tender. At barbecues, I barely looked at the hamburgers.

Then, for some reason, I decided to become a vegetarian. I’m not sure why. I think it started in France when I felt weird about walking into butcher shops to buy meat or poultry. Maybe it began in grad school, when my friend and I decided to do an in-depth reporting project on factory farms. Regardless, I didn’t eat meat, including hot dogs, for about three years.

During this time, my sisters would give me trouble about not eating hot dogs. “How can give up something you love this much?” they’d say when I’d come home to visit during the summer and refuse to eat one.

Then, about two years ago after I moved to D.C., I found myself craving a hot dog. It wasn’t a passing fancy. It wasn’t a subtle yearning for days gone by. It was a full-on NEED for hot dogs.

I wanted to eat one again, but I didn’t want it to be just any hot dog. It had to be good. I wasn’t going to end almost three years of deprivation with a shoddy dog.

I wish I could tell you that I waited for the right one. Instead, I got very drunk at a New Year’s party in D.C. that year and succumbed to a pastry-wrapped mini dog, the kind that you buy frozen at the grocery store to serve as hors d’oeuvres. It was, as my friend Nat called it recently, an “anticlimactic secret hot dog.”

Since then, though, I’ve made progress. I’ve stopped being a vegetarian and I’m back on meat. I love hot dogs, even though I don’t eat them as frequently as I did when I was little. Yesterday, I went and got one for lunch.

Steve’s Hot Dogs is the place to go in St. Louis if you want a legit dog. I ordered the “St. Louis-Chicago Dog Huh?” as an homage to two places I’ve lived and loved.

When I took a bite of the dog, it brought back a flood of memories. I was a little kid again, standing outside in the scorching St. Louis heat, wiping mustard away from the side of my mouth with the back of my hand.

Two years ago when I was getting ready to eat a hot dog again, I was telling my coworker about my dilemma. “How sad that you would deny yourself for no reason,” he said.

His words have stuck with me. Now, if I don’t have a good reason for giving something up, I don’t. Self-restraint and moderation are good to a certain extent. But when it comes to the things we love, indulgence is key. Call me a hedonist, but food, as in life, is better when it’s savored.

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