Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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Let me tell you about Thanksgiving… it is my favorite holiday! Two of my favorite things in the world are food and family, and Thanksgiving combines both of those. I love just sitting around, visiting with all of my extended family, while simultaneously grazing on heaping plates of carbs. And since both my mom and my dad have equally large families, we get to repeat this exercise in over-indulgence twice in the day! I like to stuff my plate with all the delicious things – turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, all of the vegetables, buttered rolls, and ladles full of gravy over top of it all! But you know what I’ve never been a huge fan of…? The sweet potato casserole. I think I feel like it doesn’t quite belong with the rest of the savory stuff and you don’t put gravy on top, so it really just doesn’t fit on my plate.

But this dish? This trades the extra sweetness of marshmallows for a more savory topping. If you’re more of a savory kind of person like me, you could substitute this out for the traditional sweet potato casserole for your Thanksgiving celebration. I certainly would prefer it… although I’m not going to lie, you might get some push-back from the traditionalists. These are easy to make (and quick compared to a lot of the rest of your Thanksgiving dinner), so tell the traditionalists to relax and take a bite! They’ll be converted by the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the potatoes combined with the slightly crispy topping.

Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃🦃🦃

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Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 4 small-medium sweet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the sweet potato, trying to maintain uniform thickness of ~1/4 inch.
  3. Lay them out on a foil-line cookie sheet.
  4. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients. Brush the mixture over top all of the sweet potatoes.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve topped with a bit more Parmesan if you’re feeling greedy 🙂
Side dish for 4-6

Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes

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We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!

Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!

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Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes

(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
Ingredients: 
  • 3lb boneless pork loin
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • ~1lb black or red grapes (~3 cups)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups vegetable or poultry stock
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary
Instructions: 
  1. Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
  3. Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
  4. After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
  7. Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
  8. Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
  9. Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
  10. Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
  11. Serve the pork sliced, topped with sauce.
Serves 8-12

Spicy Feta Dip

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Ok y’all, I know I say things like this all the time, but… This dip is SO easy to make and SO worth it. Bring this to your next family gathering, book club, or just make it for tomorrow’s dinner! It’s spicy without being overpowering. And everyone loves feta cheese!

On that note, now is a good time to talk about feta again. There is feta cheese and then there is feta cheese. If you bring someone from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Israel, France, or, you know, basically anywhere else in the world, to the United States and show them the crumbly stuff that we sell in our grocery stores as feta – prepare to be laughed at. It is just nowhere near as good as what they have. But fear not! We Americans now have access to much better qualities of feta (usually imported from Europe or the Middle East) pretty easily here. Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods will always have some, your local grocery store might in some areas, and if those all fail, it’ll give you the opportunity to check out your nearest Middle Eastern market or international food shop! Look for feta in blocks, usually in brine. It’ll be wet and have some holes in it. While it crumbles easily between your fingers, it shouldn’t be dry and pre-crumbled for you. Believe me, I was a lover of American grocery store feta for years, so I’m not judging. But do yourself a favor and upgrade! Mmmmmm… feta 🙂

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Also, you may have noticed if you read our blog semi-regularly (heyyy Baba, Aunt Suzanne, Mom 🙋🙋🙋), that we share recipes that make a wide variety of serving sizes. For example our Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese basically feeds an army, while this dip was easily eaten by the two of us tonight. This just goes to show you that we only share what we’re actually making for ourselves at any given time. We ate this dip with crudites to accompany some lahmacun tonight (perfect combo in case you were wondering!).

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Spicy Feta Dip

(Recipe adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Özcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 6oz feta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Juice from a lemon wedge
Instructions: 
  1. Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until serving.
  3. Top with a drizzle of olive oil when serving, if desired.
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Zoodles in Mediterranean Tomato Sauce

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Gosh, it’s been awhile since we’ve made zoodles. For awhile there we were making, eating, and sharing zoodle recipes every week it seems like. We took a little bit of a hiatus it seems, but don’t worry – the zoodles are back! This time, they’re topped with a deliciously spicy sauce that makes you think you’re on the Mediterranean coast.

Even better news? This meal is simple to make – it only takes a few minutes of active preparation. Even more better news? This vegetarian dish is healthy and pretty darn low calorie. A great meal to sneak in to your weekly meal rotation.

Zoodles in Mediterranean Tomato Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp brine from kalamata olives
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ~10 kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 oz feta cheese
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the zoodles – see our instructions if needed!
  2. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat.
  3. Once heated, add the garlic and cook for just a ~2 minutes until beginning to be fragrant.
  4. Now lower heat to low-medium and stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, olive brine, red pepper flakes, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Stir to combine into a thick, saucy paste.
  5. After a couple minutes of letting the sauce ingredient meld, toss in the zoodles and olives. Stir to coat the zoodle in the sauce, then cover for 5 minutes.
  6. Once the zoodles are heated through, you’re ready to serve, topped with the feta cheese!
Light meal for 2

 

Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits

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We may have mentioned it once or twice, but we’re big fans of wine in general and Virginia wine in particular. We used to live in Charlottesville, the de facto capital of Virginia wine country. There are many perks to living in Charlottesville, but definitely one of them is the proximity to the many wines of the Monticello AVA. There are dozens of wineries and vineyards, as well as breweries and cideries within easy day-trip distance from the center of town.

Sadly, we can’t say the same about SC, but we are lucky enough to remain wine club members at one of our favorites, King Family Vineyards, and receive a shipment of Virginia wine every quarter. In our package of wine from them, there’s always a newsletter with vineyard updates on one side and a seasonal recipe on the other side. When we received our shipment last week, this quarter’s recipe caught our eye! Tonight’s dish, with its fall flavors of cider and apples, is inspired by the one they shared with us.

{Relatedly, hit us up if you want to plan a long weekend or a day trip to Virginia wine country! We have lots of suggestions!}

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Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, sliced & halved
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 2 persimmons, chopped
  • 1 large tart red apple, sliced
  • 1 12oz bottle hard cider
  • 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 bunch of spinach
Instructions: 
  1. In a large, high-sided skillet, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat. As soon as the bacon begin to release its fat, add the onions and garlic to the pan.
  2. Cover and sweat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then remove to the side.
  3. Now increase heat to medium-high, brown the chicken thighs on both sides in the remaining bacon fat. Once browned, remove these to the side as well.
  4. Add the fruit to the pan with the bacon and chicken drippings. Cook for just 2 or 3 minutes, tossing once or twice, to get the fruit slightly browned. And then remove these to the side as well.
  5. Now, deglaze the pan with the cider. Stir in the mustard, fish sauce, herbs, and a few shakes of salt & pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and flip the chicken. Keep the liquid boiling and allow some to cook off for the next few minutes.
  8. Return all of the rest of the ingredients that were sidelined to the dish. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
  9. Serve the chicken, topped with fruit and onions. Spoon some of the cider mixture overtop.
  10. Once the skillet is emptied of these ingredients, place the spinach in with the remaining liquid. Cover and lower heat. The spinach will be ready to serve on the side once wilted, just another two minutes longer.
Serves 6-8

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Chocolate Chip Waffles

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Want to know a secret? I actually don’t prefer chocolate chip waffles. I know this is blasphemy to the American public in general, and my husband in particular, but I really just like a plain ol’ waffle. But today is Selim’s birthday, so breakfast is to his preference, not mine. And let me tell you, that man loves chocolate! He doesn’t just want a handful of chocolate chips in his waffle, he wants several in in every bite, plus more sprinkled on top! So that’s exactly what I made for him this morning.

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I used the basic waffle recipe from our bible of cookbooks, The Cook’s Book, and stuffed the batter with chocolate chips. The result was delicious and overloaded with gooey chocolate! If you love chocolate even half as much as my husband does, give these waffles a try. IMG_20170624_200834.jpg

 

Oh, and… HAPPY BIRTHDAY SELIM!!! 😘🎂🎉💘🎈🥂💕

 

Chocolate Chip Waffles

(Adapted from The Cook’s Book)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Optional toppings: fruit, syrup, honey, whipped cream, more chocolate chips!
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon).
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir together.
  3. Add the melted butter and vanilla to the batter, stir up until all ingredients are well-combined.
  4. Add the chocolate chips, stirring just once or twice so the chocolate chips are well-dispersed.
  5. Using a ladle, scoop batter into your waffle maker and bake per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Number of waffles depends upon the size of your waffle maker – ours made 4 large ones.