Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sunday Night Potluck

Washington, DC has a reputation as a transient city.  People come and go, a quick stop in the long journey of their career.  Luckily, after almost 5 years in the city, I've been on the positive side of this trend and have been fortunate to have loads of friends join me.  When I first moved to DC back in 2008, I had just three acquaintances here, but due to lots of convincing a little luck, I've had a number of good friends relocate here.  In addition to luring friends to DC, I've also made some of my closest friends during my time here.  We have an awesome group and are SO good at making plans for fun activities. 

Unfortunately, last summer began the negative side of this flux of people in my social circle and people began leaving for grad school, campaigns, and to be closer to family.  Everyone is doing such amazing stuff that you can't be anything but happy for them, but it's just not the same in DC without them!

This past week my friend Aubrey was back in DC, on spring break from Oxford.  It was so nice to have everyone back together, so I had everyone over for a potluck dinner.  I made roasted garlic hummus with veggies, Quinoa Sweet Potato Fritters, and Juicy Orange Vanilla Cake. It was a great way to catch up, drink some wine, and share a delicious meal.  We ended with a [rousing] game of Cranium.  The perfect way to end the weekend.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Food Finds

Because thank goodness there are food bloggers that had their shit together this week and actually posted new recipes:

Can't get enough coconut
Moroccan at home
Easter breakfast
All the reasons why I love to entertain
I'd make these wraps with lettuce
Sunshine Spread
Trying to keep her head above water and still blogging more food than I am

Happy weekend!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Food Finds

This has been a crazy week.  The week following the beginning or end of daylight savings time is always difficult for me - although it's only an hour difference, somehow I'm greatly affected.  Thankfully, it's now light out after work, which makes a world of difference.  Based on the buds on some of the trees outside, like this one I found last Saturday, spring really is right around the corner.  I'm so ready for it to be warm.

Actual peppermint patties melted into cake batter
Cheesy Irish Soda Scones for my favorite holiday
Another festive dish that's green AND healthy
{French} Omelets
Because I just can't get enough cake these days

Happy weekending!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Juicy Orange Vanilla Cake

I've been keeping a secret from you.  Ironically, it started right around the time of this post.  It started off as an experiment, so I didn't want to say anything until I got some results.  But after three weeks, it's become pretty obvious that I need to eliminate gluten from my diet.  

The transition hasn't been as difficult as I expected.  It's so different than simply avoiding carbs, because you can still eat things like rice, potatoes, quinoa, and lentils.  Food itself wasn't even the thing I missed the most - it's beer!  Luckily, my favorite DC bar, Churchkey, has an extensive gluten free (GF) beer list, and I've found a couple that actually taste like beer.  I've started to branch out into GF baking as well, having invested in a couple GF flours.    

This weekend I made Summer's Juicy Orange Vanilla Cake, and it was delicious.  It's made with orange zest and soaked in fresh squeezed orange juice, so it's perfect for late winter when fresh fruit options are limited.  It's also tastes rich with plenty of vanilla, and has just a hint of coconut.  Plus, it's sweetened with only honey, so no refined sugar here.  You can make it GF using coconut and brown rice flour, but you could easily sub in regular flour instead.  

This recipe is super easy and can be whipped up in no time.  It's definitely going to be in frequent rotation in my kitchen!

Juicy Orange Vanilla Cake
Adapted from Summer Harms

1/4 cup coconut oil or butter
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
6 tablespoons honey
3 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 oranges, zested and juiced
1/4 cup coconut flour*
1/4 cup brown rice flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

*1/2 cup all-purpose flour can be substituted for coconut and brown rice flour if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the coconut oil or butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Add the coconut milk and honey and stir to combine; remove from heat.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest.  Add the coconut oil/honey mixture and whisk to combine.  Sift the coconut flour through a fine mesh strainer and stir it into the prepared ingredients.  Add the brown rice flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine (a whisk may be necessary to eliminate clumps).  Pour the batter into a greased 8x8 or similar pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack.  Using a fork, poke holes over the surface of the cake and pour the orange juice evenly over it.  Cover and refrigerate; serve cold. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Food Finds

Happy Friday!  I'm sure you're all looking forward to the weekend as much as I am.  Tomorrow I'm running a St. Patrick's Day themed four mile race out in Virginia to help me prepare for this year's Cherry Blossom.  My after work training has given me some great views of the Lincoln Memorial at twilight, but I'm definitely ready to spring forward on Sunday and have a little more sunlight in the evening!  

In the meantime, I'm starting a new series called "Friday Food Finds" in which I share recipes from the blogosphere that caught my eye throughout the week.  Hopefully you'll find some inspiration and treat yourself to a kitchen holiday this weekend!

Grains are a great way to beef up winter salads
A great way to satisfy a sweet tooth, in a healthy way
Good bacon good....salad?
Coco Banana Date Shake
A tex-mex meat fix
Deb's french onion tart

Happy weekending!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Perfect Pot Roast

I was never a huge fan of red meat.  My dad is a meat and potatoes guy, and growing up I remember him being so excited to grill up steaks for dinner.  My mom was awesome at making us a homemade dinner each and every night, and you could always rely on it being some combination of meat, starch, and vegetable.  Once I ventured out on my own, I found that I ate meat much less frequently - my diet focuses mainly on other sources of protein, like fish, beans, nuts, quinoa, and lentils. I think it was a combination of price, ethical and environmental concerns, and a lack of understanding of how to cook red meat that kept me away.   

A few years ago a friend told me about the blood-type diet, in which your blood type determines the types of foods your body needs.  According to my blood type, I should be a vegetarian, so I embarked on a month long experiment to eliminate meat from my diet.  I only lasted three weeks, at which point I was craving meat so much I would have done anything for a burger.  I hadn't noticed any benefit to avoiding meat, and my body was very clearly telling me that it wanted it.  Instead of cutting meat out completely, I decided that it was better to incorporate meat into my diet in a healthy, responsible way.  I primarily eat chicken or fish and enjoy red meat only occasionally.  When I do buy meat, I make sure it's ethical, humane, and environmentally responsible, even if it means spending a bit (or, let's face it, a lot) more.  

Since I've embraced meat as a legitimate part of my diet, I've branched out a bit more in ways to prepare it.  Appropriately, I've gone to The Pioneer Woman for many of these ideas, since she does live on a ranch and all.  After seeing her episode where she makes pot roast for her family's Sunday dinner, I knew I had to make it right away.  I had always thought of pot roast as an inedible meal from the 1950s, but Ree's version was so moist and tender that I was converted.  This dish cooks in the oven at a very low temperature for several hours, so when it's done you can literally flake the meat away with a fork.  

When you go to the grocery store, the cut of meat you need to look for is chuck roast.  For reasons that I will probably never understand, they're not labeled as "pot roast."  According to Ree, you should look for a cut that has lots of fat marbled throughout to get the best flavor.  I repeat, fat is good in this case!  

Another important choice is the pot you're going to use.  It has to be able to go from the stove to the oven, so a dutch oven is your best bet.  But I don't own one, so I used a big stock pot that's oven safe at low temperatures.  It worked, but the high sides made it difficult to flip the roast over.    

To start, liberally salt and pepper your roast on each side, like so:

Pour 2 - 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and heat it on the stove over medium to medium-high heat.  Once it's VERY hot, almost to the point of smoking, place the roast in the pan to sear it.  Let it brown for about one minute, then flip to sear the other side and let that brown for another minute.  It's important to have the heat very high while you do this so that the meat will brown quickly without cooking the middle of the roast.  Remove the roast from the pan and set it on a plate.  It will look something like this:

Now prepare the vegetables.  Halve and peel two onions.

Add more oil to the pan if necessary and add the onions to brown them as well:

Once they're nice and brown, remove the onions and set them aside. 

Do the same for the carrots.  You can use about 6 - 8 whole carrots sliced in large pieces, or one bag of baby carrots.  I used baby carrots, since I forgot to pick up normal ones.  It worked out well, as it meant I didn't have to do any slicing!

Remove the carrots from the pan and set them aside in a bowl.  Take one cup of beef broth and add it to the pan to deglaze it.  Scrape up any brown bits so they can add their delicious flavor.  

Return the roast, carrots, and onions to the pan along with 2-3 cups of beef broth and some rosemary and thyme.  You should really use fresh herbs, but if, like me, you forget to buy them at the store, you can use dry herbs in a pinch.  I used about one tablespoon of each.  The broth should cover the roast about halfway.  


Cover the pan and put it in the oven at 275 degrees.  For a 3 pound roast, cook for about 3 hours, and for a 4 - 5 pound roast, about 4 hours.

Once it's done, the roast will practically fall apart when you pick it up.  Very carefully, place it on a cutting board.  I use one with grooves along the edge, to catch any juices.  

Using two forks, flake the roast into bite size pieces.  You might encounter some areas of fat, which you can just discard.  


Remove the vegetables and broth and set them aside in separate dishes.

Serve the meat and vegetables over mashed potatoes, with the juices poured over everything.  Enjoy!

Perfect Pot Roast
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 3-4 pound chuck roast
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and halved
6-8 carrots or one bag baby carrots
3 - 4 cups beef broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 tablespoon dried
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1 tablespoon dried
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Generously season each side of the roast with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven or oven-safe pan over medium to medium high heat.   Add the roast, and sear each side for 1 minute, then remove and set aside.  Add the onions for 1 minute or until brown, and set aside.  Repeat for carrots.  Pour one cup beef broth into the pan to deglaze it, stirring to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Turn off the heat and return the roast, onions, and carrots to the pan.  Add the thyme and rosemary, and enough beef broth to cover the roast half way.  Cover the pan and bake for 3 hours for a 3 pound roast or 4 hours for a 4-5 pound roast.  Remove roast, carrots, and onion from pan. Serve over mashed potatoes, with broth on the side.  
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