Greek Orzo Summer Wedding Salad

For Luke and Val.

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I have been to so many weddings this past month my head is spinning. They’ve all been completely lovely.

There’s one last wedding to complete this season of matrimony, and by an unfortunate twist of fate, I can’t even make it. I’m bummed.

But the good news is, even though I can’t make it, I can send food! One of the more creative touches the happy couple added? Recipe cards for a potluck reception. Super creative, guys!

Also, I’ve never actually met the couple. (Hi, Luke, hi Valerie!) I’ve heard awesome things about them. I can’t wait to hang out with them after they’re married. But in the meanwhile, to conclude this season of holy matrimony, here’s my potluck contribution. It’s one of those make-ahead dishes that travels well and can be as versatile and summery as you like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • lots of fresh dill
  • 1/4 c white vinegar
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 container feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook 8-10 minutes until pasta is thoroughly cooked and al dente.

2. In the meanwhile, quarter the cucumber into bite sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes and roughly chop the dill.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together Dijon and vinegar for dressing. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add the dill, then salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water. (The goal is to cool down the pasta, since this is a chilled pasta salad. Nothing is worse than warm cucumbers.) In a large bowl, combine the vegetables, feta, dressing and orzo.

5. Taste and adjust seasonings. Feel free to brighten with lemon juice, or add your own touch — green onions, shallots, shrimp or anything else!

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Finally, eat, drink and be merry! Or married. Whichever is applicable.

 

 

 

Dumplings & Broth

Sometimes I want to take the ’20 Minute Dinner’ recipes and chuck them down the sink.

Sometimes I need my dinner to take me two hours.

Sometimes it’s not about the food so much as it is the process, about taking mindless eating and turn it into mindful eating.

The best cure? Handmade dumplings in ginger broth. It’s warming, delicious, and it takes an unashamedly long time to make. It’s the perfect meal to eat while reflecting on life.

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Ready to make dinner? Have an evening free? I recommend this dish on a night in when there’s no one to bother you, or when you want to have a leisurely conversation in the kitchen. This meal will keep your hands busy, yes, but the mellow, energizing scent of ginger, turmeric and cilantro will keep you content.

Also, things taste so much better when you give them all the time they deserve to become wonderful.

Without further ado.


 

Chicken Dumplings in Cilantro Ginger Broth with a side of Coconut Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1  1/2 cups Calrose rice
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T turmeric
  • I lime, zested
  • 2 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 shallot, diced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 1/2 daikon radish, diced fine
  • Won ton wrappers
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 fresh bunch cilantro

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Directions:

  1. In a rice cooker (if you have one) add rice and coconut milk. There should be about 1/4 inch of liquid covering the surface of the rice. If you need more liquid, add water.
    1. If you don’t have a rice cooker, bring rice and coconut milk to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer and cover with a lid. Let cook until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Keep warm.
Coconut Cream
As delicious and desireable as this thick coconut separation is, if your coconut milk has divided like this, stir it up with a spoon before dumping it into your rice.

2. In the meanwhile, wash and dice your vegetables. Save all the discarded odds and ends and throw them into a small pot. (This includes knobby chunks of un-grateable ginger, daikon bits, mushroom stems, etc.)

3. Cover the vegetable chunks with enough water to submerge them all. Feel free to add chunks of ginger for stronger flavor. Bring liquid to a simmer and let it happily bubble away in the background while you continue.

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4. Heat oven to 375. Cover chicken breasts with oil, salt and pepper. If desired, also season with dried ginger or turmeric. Bake until cooked through, about 20 – 25 minutes.

5. In a sautee pan, heat coconut oil. Add ginger, shallot, garlic, mushroom, daikon, turmeric, lime zest and any other desired vegetables or seasonings. Cook until tender. Let cool.

6. Around this time, your chicken should be finished cooking. Let cool slightly. Dice into small chunks or shreds, combine with sautéed vegetables.

7. Set out your wonton wrappers. Keep a small bowl of water handy to wet the edges. Place a small amount of filling into the center of the wonton, then fold diagonally to create a triangle. Tuck all the pointy ends into the center and seal with a pinch. Repeat.

Dumping Demo

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8. Strain the vegetable odds and ends out of the broth, discarding the veggies and saving the broth. To the liquid, add 4 cups of chicken stock. Taste, season as desired. Squeeze the lime into the broth.

9. Bring broth to a simmer. Gently poach a few dumplings at a time until tender, about 6 minutes.

10. Serve dumplings in broth with a side of coconut rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro. (Tip: don’t add cilantro until the very end to keep the flavor fresh and the color bright.)

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Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Scones

This is a recipe for savory scones, and if I am being totally honest with you, the ‘scone’ part is jargon for ‘something to hold cheese and caramelized onions together.’

I won’t lie. If you like cheesy, buttery, savory things then you are in the right place. If you like low-carb, diet-friendly snacks… definitely the wrong place to be.

There’s no shame in a few pictures, though, is there?

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Enjoy with your afternoon coffee, hunched over a desk or kicked back with a book. These babies go with everything.


 

Ingredients:

1/2 c butter, cold, cubed IMG_0609

1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, also cubed

1/2 t salt

2 c flour

1 t baking powder

3/4 c milk

1/2 onion, sliced

Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of butter or oil. Raise heat to medium, add sliced onions and sauté until golden and caramelized.
  2. Drain onions using paper towel. (Remove excess oil.)

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3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, butter, cheese and onions. Coat all butter/cheese/onion pieces with flour.

4. Add milk and knead gently to combine. Add more milk if mix is too dry, but avoid over-mixing the dough. (The less you manipulate the dough, the softer and flakier it will be.)

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5. Separate into scone shapes, brush with egg wash if desired.

6. Bake at 375 until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool, serve.

7. Enjoy!

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Doodle Cookies

There are few things more comforting than combining sugar, flour and butter, knowing that together they will create something pretty and filling. Even while the outside world may be exhausting, tumultuous, frustrating, and tiring, cookies puffing up in the oven are tangible. Predictable.

Butter. Sugar. Flour. Eggs. Certainty.

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I’ve been in dire need of some recovery cookies. I handle stress through a few creative methods, mostly baking and the occasional doodle or two.

Today I needed a double-dose of cookie power, so I caved and bought myself some edible markers. Two birds, one stone, I figured.

And thank heavens! It was about time. How have I lived life without these little guys?

I used a basic shortbread cookie recipe (since I am slightly more fond of shortbread cookies than sugar cookies) and gave a new royal icing recipe a try.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you make whatever cookies you feel like while recovery baking. Peace of mind through butter is the entire point.

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The royal icing is courtesy of Bon Appetite, who specify 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 egg whites. Mix until thoroughly smooth and silky, thinning with a few tablespoons of water until it reaches your desired texture.

I covered my cookies by squeezing a tiny dollop of icing the center, spreading evenly with a knife and letting dry at least half an hour. Rock-hard icing is crucial, otherwise it makes doodling a messy affair.

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Then, of course, the fun is to let loose and be creative.

I listened to all of my favorite, mushiest Fifties Love Songs playlist, then let the Portland rainfall take over the soundtrack. My cookies may have been heavily influenced by a late Valentine’s persuasion.

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And, to clear you of all doubts and hesitations, recovery cookies do not contain any calories. Take my word for it.

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Happy Wednesday!

 

 

Mandarin Coconut Cake (& A Happy Lunar New Year!)

I’m going to be totally honest: I don’t remember how I made this cake.

Seriously, the whole experience is a blur. Luckily, there are photographs to piece it together.

But, to preface, happy Chinese New Year! It’s a glorious event. This is my first year experiencing the celebration of Lunar New Years and, to be honest, the event I attended was mostly just an Asian food fest accompanied with red envelopes and lots of cheer.

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I was invited to a family gathering, a room full of people eating dishes I can’t pronounce alongside crab puffs, mandarins and mochi.Our entry fee was an Asian contribution, so I brought with me a Mandarin Coconut Cake thrown together earlier that afternoon. My roommate brought a bottle of Sriracha.

The photos of this mandarin cake were awesome, but when I tried to piece my recipe back together I found I couldn’t even remember turning the oven on.

Cooking like the wind, in a blur of flour and orange sugar.

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I will tell you this. I started with a basic cake recipe, a standard flour-egg-sugar white cake platform. I added fresh-squeezed mandarin juice, a few tablespoons of mandarin and lemon zest.

I then baked the cakes at 375 until golden.

In the meanwhile (I do recall this part vividly) I boiled down the mandarin peels, sliced thin, with water and sugar until they were syrupy and tender. I coated them in sugar and used them as garnish.Voila! Candied mandarin peel.

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The glaze was easy, just powdered sugar and coconut milk stirred into a lovely, loose consistency.

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Once the cakes were cooled, glazed and garnished, it was party time.

(Which just goes to show, sometimes the best party tricks are spontaneous and totally unplanned. Piece of cake! Pun intended.)

Happy Chinese New Years! May this year bring you plenty of luck.

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Main & Vine

When my alarm pierced the air at 4:00 am on Wednesday morning, I was fairly unprepared for a long, two-hour haul to the grocery store.

I can now tell you with the utmost enthusiasm, it was worth it.

Now before you wonder why I was out of my mind enough to hit the highway before sunrise for the sake of a shopping cart, let me set the stage. This Wednesday, February 3rd, was the grand opening of the flagship grocery store, Main & Vine.

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In the heart of Gig Harbor, Washington, in a beautifully repurposed QFC, is now a bright, friendly neighborhood grocery boasting local artisan products alongside recognizable brands. Hoping to bring a warm community center to the town, Main & Vine brings everyone together around the thing we all love most: food.

Unlike traditional store layouts, fresh produce and prepared foods took center stage, anchored by the store’s ‘sweet spot’ – an operating kitchen demoing a meal, highlighting what’s for dinner.

It was busy. Bustling with eager local shoppers and a veritable army of excited executives and employees, it was easy to see that this was a project of time, effort and love that the team was thrilled to share. And there were plenty of happy folks to share it with. Navigating the parking lot alone was like playing Tetris in a minivan. Shoppers pushed full carts up and down the aisles and cars tucked into parking spots in rapid succession.

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Big balloons and swinging jazz lit up the entrance. Immediately my sleepy, drive-tired mood was replaced with a tingle of excitement. Is there anything more fun than watching a community light up over food culture?

(Of course, I’m sure the coffee played a good part in my excitement. Cutter’s Point, a local Washington roaster and coffee company, is featured here, slingin’ lattes to the happy, hungry masses.)

To be truthful, I didn’t know where to begin. Everything had the enchantment of new, charming excitement to it. I had an empty shopping cart in front of me, begging to be filled.

Drawn to the breads, pastries and gleaming deli counter, I forayed into the fray. I was impressed—although there was approachable familiarity to all of the store’s features, there were unique and intriguing displays that made me grin. The bagel display, for instance, had me at hello.

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The deli counter was also impressive. I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised at how knowledgeable those behind the counter were.

I was handed sample upon sample of paper-thin prosciutto and hearty salami, courtesy of local charcuterie purveyor Olympia Provisions (of which I am already a huge fan.)

The prosciutto pictured below, by the way, was awesome. Sliced as thinly as possible on razor-sharp equipment, it only proved that early morning is a very acceptable time to enjoy cured meats.

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Maybe I’m in the small percentile of crazy gastronomes, but brand-new food features always suit my fancy. (I woke up before dawn to drive to a grand opening of a grocery store. Take it for what it’s worth.) But let me impress my excitement upon you once more for what ultimately was my favorite experience.

Side note: if you’re not in the Pacific Northwest and can only envision what I’m talking about, cross your fingers that someday a Main & Vine will open near you. If you are a PNW local, next time you’re hitting up Seattle, make a slight southern detour.

But I digress.

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The seafood counter was busy and brimming with smiling people, customers and employees alike. But as far as I’m concerned, it was the feature just a yard or two away from the iced glass of the fresh seafood that caught my eye.

A large, waist-high cooler, slotted with sliding handles, held an assortment of flash-frozen seafood and sides. Small bay scallops, shrimp in pesto, creamy risotto, and five-grain sides all stood at perfect attention, equipped with small scoops to fill the waiting pile of plastic to-go containers. Essentially a frozen bulk-foods style approach to premade meals, these seafood options were nitro-frozen, eliminating the need to add the usual frozen food preservatives.

It is, in my opinion, an awesome way to stock up on dinners (or sides) for the week, ready to eat in forward, cook-from-frozen simplicity.

Even better, they taste really good. As a premade food skeptic, I reserved all judgement until I could prove their worth over my stove later that night and was actually incredibly surprised.

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By the time I made my way through the massive lines, my cart was laden with all of my favorite things.

Prosciutto, thin and silky.

Salami (several kinds.)

Cheese. Lots of cheese, most of it local.

Unhomogenized milk from Washington’s Twin Brook Creamery, classically bottled in glass, thick cream waiting on top.

Honeycrisp apples larger than both fists put together.

Marbled steak. Raw local honey. Mandarins with stems. Daisies wrapped in brown paper.

I may have gone a little crazy.

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Of course, putting these things to the test is the true mark of a successful shopping trip. I returned home to fill my kitchen with a bounty of fruits and flowers.

And then, of course, I did what I do best. I started cooking.

Without further ado, let me pass along my sweet and simple takeaway from this excursion!


 

Honey Nectarine & Olive Oil Crumble

Ingredients:

3-5 large stone fruits (In my case, nectarines, although plums and peaches are also great options)

2 T raw honey IMG_0266

1 1/2 t sugar

1/4 c water

1 1/2 c flour

1/4 c sugar

1/2 c olive oil

dash vanilla

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil and vanilla. Mix (preferably by hand or in a food processor) until it all comes together. The result should be crumbly and slightly sandy, but able to form a nice crumbled texture. If you’re having trouble getting the dough to stick together, add a few IMG_0273tablespoons of water at a time until desired texture is reached.
  2. In a small saucepan heat diced fruit, honey, sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and let thicken until fruit is soft and syrupy.
  3. Remove from heat. Pour fruit mix evenly into one large pan (a pie dish will do nicely) or several small tins.
  4. Top evenly with crumble.
  5. Bake at 375 for 8-15 minutes until crumble has turned golden. Remove, let cool.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

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Interested in checking it out? Visit Main & Vine here:

5010 Point Fosdick Dr NW, Gig Harbor, WA, 98335

mainandvineshop.com

or on Instagram

 

And check out the full gallery experience here!

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Pear Pop Tarts

Pear Pop-tarts.

Was it the alliteration that drew me to the recipe? The craving for pop-tarts in general? The fresh red pears waiting to be crafted into something great?

Perhaps it was all of the above.

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Either way, there was nothing standing between me and a tartfull afternoon. (Is that a word? Does that sound weird? I’m going to use it anyway.)

The recipe is ridiculously simple. You can use any kind of fruit — apples, strawberries, other kinds of berries — provided they can cook down into syrupy goodness. Frozen fruits work great.

The pop-tart shell is a modified pie dough. A dash more sugar than usual, a small hit of vanilla and an egg provide a fragrant, well-sealed casing for the filling.

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I’m lucky enough to live with a few (occasionally loud) roommates who like to sing Adele at the top of their lungs. I like to think that all the enthusiasm bouncing around the kitchen made a positive impact on these pop-tarts. They’ve been infused with the soulful strains of …hello….it’s me….  

(You’re welcome. It’s stuck in your head now.)

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The result is a delicious little pop-tart full of character and crooked edges. It is healthier than a traditional store-bough pop-tart only in the sense it contains no preservatives. It still a buttery, flaky, sugary delight, which means they are only part of a nutritious breakfast. Pair with some real, fresh fruit.

Ready to get your breakfast baking game on?


Pear Pop Tarts

Ingredients:

Roughly 1 1/2 c fresh fruit, diced small

1/4 c sugar

1 t vanilla

1 T cornstarch, mixed with 2 T cold water

1/4 c water

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2 c flour

1/4 c butter, cold, diced into cubes

1 egg

3 T sugar

Water

Powdered sugar (for icing)

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, bring fruit, sugar, vanilla and water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until thick and syrupy. If you’re having a hard time reaching desired thickness, add cornstarch and mix well. (Don’t worry about fruit getting mushy or losing shape! It should be that way.)
  2. Transfer fruit mixture into a small bowl and chill. It must be cold. Warm filling will melt the butter in your dough and create leaky holes. IMG_9704
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter and egg. Mix together, drizzling in water until the dough has come together in one large mass. Knead lightly until the entire dough ball has come together without any flakes — the goal is to get a tight seal, so don’t be afraid of over mixing.
  4. Roll the dough out as thin as you can, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into pop-tart sized rectangles.
  5. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of a rectangle. Lay another rectangle of dough directly over top and pinch the edges closed with a fork.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden. Let cool.
  7. Meanwhile, make the icing. Combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with a tablespoon of milk, mixing until thoroughly combined and glossy.
  8. Once cooled, drizzle with icing, let set.
  9. Enjoy!

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