parisian hot chocolate

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In my last post I chatted about the events leading up to Andy and me deciding to take a trip to Paris and I made French meringues. In this post, I’m going to talk about my five favorite things about Paris and make one of my favorites…hot chocolate.

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My Five Favorite Things About Paris:

1. The slowness. It sounds funny that I would be commenting on the slowness, considering that there are millions of people in Paris and it’s one of the most well-known cities in the world. What we noticed, however, was that people much more loved the experience of an event rather than the task of getting the event done. For example, in every restaurant we went in, the people around us had obviously been there a long time. There were multiple glasses on the tables with almost empty bottles of wine scattered about. No one was on a smartphone. Everyone was slightly slouched in their chairs, making eye contact with one another, making conversation with one another, laughing, or simply resting in that silence that so many of us categorize as awkward. Eating dinner was not a task (“let’s eat this and get on to the next thing”); dinner was an experience. An experience to be shared with those around you. With the restaurant. With the city. It was a beautiful thing.

2. Versailles. We made the train ride out to Versailles one morning after very poorly trying to kick each other out of the bed super early (changing time zones will do it to you). It was cold and raining and crowded. But it was perfect. That place was spectacular. The palace itself was breathtaking, but the grounds were immaculate, like seeing Augusta National in a different form. Plus, I’m a history nerd and have a strange fascination with Marie Antoinette, so seeing the Petit Trianon and her hamlet gave me a strange/haunting/longing feeling of being in a nostalgic hot air balloon that floated me back in time.

3. The baguettes. The baguettes. Oh, the baguettes. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Oomph. That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Flea Markets. I’m sort of a flea market/thrift store/yard sale junkie anyway, so experiencing it in Paris was like a dream. We spent a lot of time at the Port de Vanves market, which was quaint and relatively tucked away from the rest of the city (yet still large). I could have strolled all day. Each vendor had tables filled with vintage French treasures that would be way more expensive in the United States. Paintings, posters, flatware, clothing. Gah. Everything was beautiful. We left with a vintage coffee advertisement, a Sharpie drawing of Amsterdam (which at the time I thought was Paris, don’t ask), a cup and saucer, and a wool toy lamb for my niece.

5. Hot Chocolate. I probably had 20 cups of hot chocolate during our 8-day trip. I’m not lying. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to and one of the things I will remember most fondly. There was no powder mix to be found and the presentation of it was, once again, an experience. It was usually brought out on a small tray with a little pot of chocolate and a miniature pitcher of steaming milk, allowing you to mix it to your liking. It was deep and delicious. I never had a bad cup. And it was the perfect way to enjoy a bit of evening resting at a cafe while watching the scooters and people pass by.

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parisian hot chocolate
(this recipe is David Lebovitz’s. honestly, the majority of our trip was planned by using his website. we found the best restaurants, pastries, you name it. if you’re planning a trip to Paris, use his site. seriously.)
serves 4

ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
5 grams high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped

create:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until hot, but not boiling. Whisk in the chocolate and continue whisking until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is hot and steaming. Serve hot.

hot chocolate

french meringues with grapefruit curd

meringue

A little over five years ago I remember sitting in Andy’s old house talking about where we were going on our honeymoon. We had been engaged only a few weeks and we both had pretty drastic ideas of the vacation we wanted (jessa=new york city, andy=riding a donkey to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). Since they were both so different, we started thinking of places that may be a compromise. I remember saying, “What about Paris?” and it sounded so magical and perfect for a honeymoon. Turns out, however, that traveling abroad is rather expensive. So, we didn’t end up going to Europe. We did end up going to NYC (I promise there was no arm twisting on my part) and, since then, we’ve always sort of jokingly said, “Yeah, har har, we’ll go to Paris for our 5 year, har.”

meringue

Fast forward five years. This past summer we spent a lot of time trying to plan our anniversary trip. The destination varied greatly depending on the day: the mountains, LA, Disney World (because we’re dorks), going back to NYC, Alaska, etc. etc. One night we were sitting on the couch and a thought popped into my head. “Hey. Paris. That’s right…Paris!” And I turned my head toward Andy and bit my lip and sorta giggled (a look that can never mean anything good) and said, “Andy…what about Paris?” And we looked at each other for a few seconds and he said, “Yeah, we can think about that.” And my heart spun around in all directions and I floated to my bed for a night of dream-filled slumber.

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I’ll never forget the day that Andy told me he wanted to take me to Paris and that we could make it happen. Our trip was magical. In reality, Paris is just a city. Made of buildings. And pedestrians. And vendors. And restaurants. But to two people who had never before experienced it, it was a grand adventure. I’ll post more later on some of our favorite things, but for this first post, I wanted to try my hand at making meringues. We had one in Paris that was the size of my head and it was light and crisp and gooey. These meringues are just that, but they incorporate some citrus curd to make it a little less traditional.

meringue

french meringues with grapefruit curd
recipe adapted from all recipes & zoe bakes

ingredients:
meringue:
4 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/4 cups unrefined powdered sugar, sifted

grapefruit curd:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tbsp grapefruit zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

create:
Preheat oven to 200º. Prep 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
To make the meringue, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until foamy. On medium speed, add the powdered sugar a little at a time until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.
Using 2 spoons, place globs on meringue onto the prepared baking sheets (about 2 tablespoons each). Rinse one of the spoons and use it to make a well in the middle of each meringue (this space will hold the curd once they are cooked). Place in the oven with a wooden spoon in the door so the oven door doesn’t close all the way. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turn off the oven, leave them there, and let them rest for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool completely.
While the meringues are cooking, make the curd. In the top of a double boiler over medium heat (the bottom pan will have an inch of simmering water), whisk together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, grapefruit juice, and zest until well combined. Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken (this can take between 5 and 10 minutes) and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is incorporated and the mixture has thickened enough that it can coat the back of a spoon (coat the spoon and draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger. If the mixture is thick enough, the line will stay put).
Strain the curd through a sieve into another container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming). Put the curd in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool (but not to freeze).
Spoon the cooled curd into the cooled meringues and serve immediately.

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pumpkin muffins

pumpkin muffins

Sometimes I plan on carrying out these elaborate plans that sound perfect when they’re rattling around up there in my head. Most of the plans involve planning a meticulously executed party with my twin (think Downton Abbey costume parties or Marie Antoinette pastry parties) or knocking down some wall in my house or turning my attic into a playroom (keep in mind that I have no children…). The latest plan in my head was inspired by I Love Lucy. Lucy gets up every morning and scrambles eggs or makes waffles or fries bacon for Ricky and she always accompanies it with freshly squeezed orange juice. I thought, “That looks heavenly. I’m going to do that for Andy.” The first morning of the plan began and ended with me drooling on my pillow and covered in blankets and still in the bed when Andy left for work. And I woke up feeling sad. And I had to tell myself:

1. Ricky is a nightclub performer. He works late and gets to sleep until about 10:00 AM; therefore, Lucy doesn’t have to get up super early.
2. Lucy doesn’t have a job outside of the home.
3. It’s a TV show.

pumpkin muffins

I guess my point is this: a lot of times we have big plans to do fantastic things and a lot of times the plans actually work. But a lot of times they just don’t. And that’s okay. I’ve had to practice giving myself grace and realizing that things won’t be perfect all the time.

This fall has been somewhat of a blur. It’s been busy and, well, life. I haven’t gotten my fall wreath on my door and I haven’t even watched the Great Pumpkin yet. And it’s okay. It’s okay. I’m remembering that despite the details and challenges of the day to day, there is beauty each time the sun rises. It’s okay to take things one step at a time. And I’m loving this realization.

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Whoa. Pretty sure this post just turned into a diary session. But right now I’m going to celebrate this season. This season of rest in the midst of unrest. And this season of coolness and Autumn. And, no, I’m not making a gourmet breakfast every morning right now. And I haven’t started my costume for the Downton Abbey party. But I did make these little pumpkin muffins. And they are happy and pumpkiny and spicy and everything you’d expect from a good pumpkin muffin. They’re traditional with no surprises. Sometimes you just want that.

pumpkin muffins

pumpkin muffins
recipe adapted from Lovely Little Kitchen
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 14 minutes yield: 24 mini muffins

ingredients:
1/2 cup + 6 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup roasted pumpkin purée
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

create:
Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly grease 2 12-count miniature muffin pans and set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices and whisk to combine.
In a second medium-sized mixing bowl, add the egg, pumpkin, butter, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is just incorporated (try not to over mix).
Divide the batter evenly in the muffin pans. Each cup will be almost full. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds evenly over the batter.
Bake the muffins for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

pumpkin muffins

garlic chili paste

chili paste

We were sitting in an Asian restaurant here in Columbia. Andy ordered some kind of stir fried concoction with a sauce I’d never heard of and some kind of animal that still had its legs attached and I probably ordered the most basic thing on the menu. We had just started dating and I wasn’t exactly in tune with my Asian food-side yet (I say yet because now I love Asian food). I’m still, however, at a standoff with seafood. That junk is gross. Imagine. A foodie hating seafood. Just imagine it.

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Anyhow, we were in the restaurant. The waitress brought the food and Andy let out an immediate, “Oh, can I get some red chili paste to go with this?” and she scurried back to the kitchen and came back with a small bowl which she placed on the table. I stared at it like it was a bowl of beaming sunlight that I’d never experienced. Its bright, intensely contrasty red color had me fixated. It was beautiful. But I knew it was hot. Nothing with such a deep, flaming color can be mild. And my suspicions were confirmed when Andy barely dipped the end of his chopsticks into the bowl and stirred the attached paste into his meat and veggies. Hot it may be. Foul it is not.

chili paste

Chili paste like this gives your food a very powerful heat, but it doesn’t give your food an unwelcomed flavor like other hot sauces can. A little goes a long way and it bumps up the flavor (and heat) profile of stir fries, soups, sauces, and whatever else your heart desires. Heck, spread it straight on a cracker if you’ve got the guts to do so.

Note: Do not, I repeat, do not put your face down in the blender and take a big whiff to see how the chili paste is coming along. You may experience a bomb-like experience in your eyes and lungs. Some of us around here know from experience.

chili paste

garlic chili paste
total time: 5 minutes yield: 1/3 cup

ingredients:
1 cup chile peppers (I used cayenne)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp unrefined cane sugar
4 tbsp water
splash of sesame oil

create:
Trim the stems from the chile peppers. Place the peppers in a blender or food processor along with the garlic, salt, sugar, and water. Blend until coarsely chopped. Add the sesame oil and blend until a paste is formed. Store chilled in an airtight container.
You can use a combination of different types of peppers if you’d like. Feel free to change up the amount of water and/or oil to achieve your desired consistency.

chili paste

nashville hot chicken

 

nashville hot chicken

I like hot things. I like to think that I have a tolerance for spicy foods. I like hot sauce. Sweet chili gets on my nerves. I order raw jalapeños on my burritos for crying out loud.

When I approached the counter to order Nashville hot chicken for the first time last summer, I had it under control. Let me back up a little. Nashville is known for a dish called hot chicken. It’s spicy fried chicken. There are lots of restaurants there that serve the staple, but traditionally, the who-created-it-credit is given to Prince’s Hot Chicken. My husband and I were in Nashville last summer and knew we had to try this food we’d heard so much about, so naturally we chose Prince’s.

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We drove up to the humble space within a strip mall, put the car in park, and looked at each other.

“Okay, so, we can order from four choices: mild, medium, hot, or extra hot.”

Knowing we both had the guts for a little spice, I said, “Let’s get hot. Extra hot? …hmm…I don’t know. Let’s just stick with hot for now.”

And we locked eyes for a minute as if we were making a tiny pact, got out of the car, and bolted into the line and stood there firmly like we’d been regulars for years. Remember, we had it under control.

Once it was our turn, we approached the man in the tiny window. I opened my mouth to order. “I…”

“This y’all’s first time here?”

My husband and I looked at each other. “…yeah. Yeah, it is! We’re excited and we’d like to try the…”

“Mild.”

“Well, you see, we actually really like spi…”

“Uhh, no, you gettin’ mild.” Chingggg.

And just like that, the register chimed open and the order was placed.

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We probably owe that man some money, at least our first born child or something, because I’ll tell you this: mild is not mild. Mild is hotter than anything I’ve ever eaten. I can’t even imagine eating medium and I’d bet that extra hot just makes your entire body burst into flame.

They try to make it better for you by serving the chicken with white bread and pickles. The white bread is honestly some what of a tease. In the midst of your sweating and faucet nose, you see that white bread laying there, and think, “RELIEF.” So you grab a chunk of it and shove it in your mouth and immediately realize that that bread has been soaking up all that cayenne-infused oil for about 10 minutes and now your mouth is just numb and you can’t remember how to swallow. The bread is a tease. A delicious tease, but, yeah…a tease.

The only real relief comes from eating one of the pickles and it only lasts about .7 seconds. The pickles are only there to give you a little encouragement. They’re like miniature cheerleaders when you feel like your entire body is turning into a giant ball of capsaicin.

Basically, Nashville hot chicken is hot. It’s dang hot. But it’s also dang good. I squealed when I saw the cover of the newest Bon Appétit magazine: “The Hottest Fried Chicken”. If you can’t make it to Nashville, this’ll do just fine.

nashville hot chicken

nashville-style hot chicken
recipe from Bon Appétit, June 2014
active time: 1 1/2 hours total time: 4 1/2 hours

ingredients
(2) 3 1/2 to 4 lb. chickens, each cut into 10 pieces (breasts halved)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp plus 4 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
2 tbsp vinegar-based hot sauce
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying (about 10 cups)
6 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
bread and sliced pickles (for serving)

create
Toss chicken with black pepper and 2 tbsp salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.
Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Whisk flour and remaining 4 tsp salt in another large bowl.
Fit a Dutch oven with a deep-fry thermometer; pour in oil to measure 2″. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 325º. Pat chicken dry. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl. Dredge again in flour mixture and place on a baking sheet.
Working in 4 batches and returning oil to 325º between batches, fry chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of pieces registers 160º for white meat and 165º for dark, 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a clean wire rack set inside a baking sheet. Let oil cool slightly.
Whisk cayenne, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium bowl; carefully whisk in 1 cup of the frying oil. Brush fried chicken with spicy oil. Serve with bread and pickles.

nashville hot chicken

homemade applesauce

apples5The smallest things can inspire me. A bulbous lamp base cast between an omelet maker from the 80s and a Guitar Hero guitar missing the first and third buttons at Goodwill. The stale smell and wide plank hardwood floor creaks from a house built in the 1700s. Lorde’s “Tennis Court” on repeat.  And, yes, as you may imagine, food inspires me, too.

homemade applesaucehomemade applesauceapples4But I can’t say that it’s always the food itself that inspires me. While pink macarons and bubble gum themselves possess an ability to make me squeal, other foods require a little more foundation. A lot of my food inspiration/motivation comes from the stories that accompany a particular dish. Biscuits (you may remember me confessing my obsession over them in a previous post), for example, are basically blobs of flour and butter. But because they are so deeply rooted in Southern culture, I find myself yearning for them so I can feel connected to the mamas in the 1800s who got up with the sun to cook all day long or the grandma over in Georgia patiently teaching her granddaughter to push the biscuit cutter straight down or the little boy spreading home-canned summer-strawberry preserves on freshly torn buttery layers. You see, food is not simply nourishment. It’s resonance.

apples3Gowie used to give us a little glass bowl filled with applesauce as a dessert when we’d spend our weekends with her. She’d always ask, “Do you want some sugar sprinkled on that?” while my sister and I made no audible noise, but violently nodded our heads, mouths agape, like we’d never heard of such a grand idea. And then (probably with no chewing involved) we’d finish the sweet applesauce, slip into some PJs, and shove a rented episode of The Little Rascals into the VCR. This dear and comforting story was the backbone in my desire to create my own applesauce.

apples6homemade applesauce
recipe from Simply Recipes
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 25 minutes yield: about 1 1/2 quarts
ingredients:
3 to 4 pounds of peeled, cored, and quartered apples
4 strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler)
juice of 1 lemon, about 3-4 tbsp
3 inches of cinnamon stick
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
up to 1/4 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

create
Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peels. Mash with potato masher. The applesauce is now ready to serve, hot or refrigerated.

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grilled chicken wings with citrusy and spicy honey soy sauce

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With its cultural events, historical significance, and small-town, big-city balance, Columbia, South Carolina is always a special place to experience. Aside from the iconic statehouse and governmental and political rants, the backbone of Columbia is arguably rooted in the Gamecocks. Not one person glances twice at a pedestrian sporting a Carolina tee shirt or a grown man wearing an Under Armour football jersey in the middle of baseball season. There is no question as to what that chicken foot sticker is doing on the back of that SUV. And I love that. The Gamecocks are so ingrained in Columbia that we Carolina fans have come to know it as part of our city surrounding and coming across garnet and black on a daily basis is like drinking visual water.

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But this time of year, the city changes. Windows in storefronts don gamecock-spotted khakis and feather boas wrapped around almost-formal black dresses. Cheers and parties can be heard for blocks. And Williams-Brice stadium becomes the living host from which the Gamecock union races together to feed.

That sounded gross.

What I mean to say is that football season is upon us, y’all. Our fellow Gamecock-ingrained Columbia citizens are finally getting together once again for this multiple months long party we call college football. And I’m jumpin’ outta my boots. Actually, right now, I’m barefoot. So, I’m jumpin’ outta my skin. Gross again.

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And if we’re talkin’ football, tailgatin’ can’t be a subject too far away. In fact, I believe they go together like love and marriage (and in the SEC, tailgating is a whole other animal. Another time, another post). Y’all know the best way to watch football is to eat. And eat. And eat. And eat, more specifically, food that sticks to your fingers, drips down your shirt, and, more practically, is somewhat portable. Cue wings.

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grilled chicken wings with citrusy and spicy honey soy sauce
cook time: 40 minutes yield: 4 servings 
ingredients
2 pounds chicken wings
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp peeled and grated ginger
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Sriracha
1 tsp orange zest
a splash of rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped green onion

create
In a large bowl, toss together the chicken wings, black pepper (your preferred amount), red pepper flakes, and olive oil until the wings are evenly coated.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute. Whisk in the soy sauce, honey, and Sriracha and continue whisking until the mixture beings to slowly simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add the orange zest and vinegar. At this point, remove about 1/2 cup of the sauce and reserve for basting. Add half of the green onions to the sauce mixture still in the saucepan and keep on low heat until thickened slightly.
On a charcoal grill set at an average temperature of 300º, sear the wings on direct heat for one minute on each side. Transfer the wings to indirect heat and cook for 10 minutes. With the sauce set aside for basting, baste the topside of the wings with a light layer. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Flip the wings, baste, and cook, covered, for 15 more minutes or until the wings are slightly charred and crispy.
Transfer the wings to a bowl, pour the sauce in the saucepan over the chicken, and toss to evenly coat. Serve sprinkled with green onions and, if desired, red pepper flakes and mommy’s ranch dressing.

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That title is a mouthful! Also, I won’t pretend to be a grill master. Andy knows all the ooos and ahhs of grilling and made this recipe possible.
And to my fellow football friends across the nation, whatever your team, have fun this season! This is such a special time for bonding over food and for sharing fun memories with friends and strangers alike. I’m getting sappy again. I love you guys. Sniff.

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frittata with bell peppers, bacon, and tomatoes

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Several weekends ago I woke up with a start (I do this sometimes) because my belly was trying to tell me something: I was hungry.  It was already like eleven o’clock in the morning (Don’t tell my dad. He’s always made fun of my incessant sleeping. In college, it was not a rare occurrence for me to take three or more naps in any given 24 hour period.) and my husband and I had spent the entire day before moving mounds of chunked granite from our backyard to our front yard. Cereal wasn’t gonna cut it. Plus, our newly purchased house was so still and quiet when I awoke and the sunshine was trying so hard to beam through the little cracks in the window blinds that I felt like I needed to turn into a storybook princess and twirl around while opening the windows and sing while the little birds helped me pop the tablecloth and lay it gently on the tabletop. This was no morning for an ordinary breakfast.

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A frittata seemed obviously perfect. I didn’t have much in our refrigerator (the unpacked boxes lying around the house demanded more of my attention at this point), but we did have eggs and a handful of random vegetables. And a frittata is one of those pretty foods, not even counting the fancy name, that you would expect to see on a brunch menu at a bistro. It’s hearty, but simple. And perfect for princess mornings with a not-so-stocked fridge.

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frittata with bell peppers, bacon, and tomatoes
prep time: 10 minutes cook time: 15 minutes yield: 6 servings
ingredients
3 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced bell pepper
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cheese, shredded (use whichever kind you prefer)

create
Preheat the oven to the low broil setting.
In a cast iron skillet (or an oven safe sauté pan), cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Add the tomato, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, beat together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and cheese in a medium bowl.
When the vegetables have turned soft, add the egg mixture and quickly combine the ingredients using a rubber spatula. Cook for 5 minutes or until the bottom is set and the top begins to set.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until the top is set and begins to look fluffy.
Serve immediately.

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sweet strawberry buttermilk biscuits

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My name is Jessa. I have an infatuation with the American South. With grandmas sitting on porches. With surprise sercies. With sunrises hitting flour-dusted wooden tables. And, perhaps most notably, I have an infatuation turned obsession with biscuits.

This is the time I made strawberry ones.

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sweet strawberry buttermilk biscuits
prep time: 15 minutes cook time: 20 minutes yield: 4-8 biscuits (depending on how big you cut them)
ingredients
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup smashed, stemmed strawberries (about 5 berries)
2 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
honey

create
Preheat oven to 400º. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and  salt. Use your fingers to crumble the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
In another bowl, use a potato masher or fork to mash the strawberries until they are mostly liquified (leave a few small chunks). Mix the sugar into the smashed strawberries and let sit for five minutes. Add the buttermilk to the strawberries and stir to combine.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the strawberry mixture. Mix with a spoon until just combined and use your hands to gather all of the flour.
Onto a floured surface, turn the dough out and knead (gently) until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Press the dough into a 1 inch thick circle and use a a biscuit cutter or something circular to press straight down into the dough and twist out the biscuits. Reshape the scraps to make more biscuits.
Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment so they just touch each other. Bake until they are lightly golden and tall, about 20 minutes.
Serve warm with a drizzle of honey.

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crunchy vietnamese salad

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Sometimes for dinner you eat steamed vegetables and grilled proteins and brothy soups. Sometimes you eat roasted sweet potatoes and a handful of legumes. Sometimes you eat an egg white omelet and sautéed spinach. But sometimes you eat French fries or a chocolate bar or manicotti swimming in a full-on, no-cutting-it-down-with-milk, gob-up-the-spoon cream sauce. I’ll admit. The manicotti happened last night. C’mon, though. It was Andy’s birthday and my metabolism can totally tell the difference in special occasion days and regular days.

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…and then you realize the Calories Don’t Count During Celebrations/On the Weekends/Outside of Your Zip Code theories are actually myths and the next day you’re left reaching for something that doesn’t make your toes feel like a thousand pounds by the time you leave the table.

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Andy has a very foodie (foodie is now an adjective?) aunt who always takes us on food adventures when we visit her in Atlanta. My first dim sum experience was with her. My first authentic Cuban meal was with her. Our last visit consisted of a relaxing visit to a (distinctively comforting) local Vietnamese restaurant, where we were quickly prompted to order the recommended green papaya salad. And, of course, I ordered pho to go along because, whoa. Spiced broth and noodles? Cant’ get enough of that stuff. The salad was very characteristic of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, famous for using fresh herbs and vegetables. It was bright, sweet, and crunchy, accompanied with an almost thirst-quenching quality.

This salad on HTF differs slightly from the restaurant salad I had (Let’s be honest. I was too lazy to hunt Columbia for green papaya. Also, this salad is a bit spicy), but it still stays true to the fresh brightness of its inspiration. So, if you feel like you’ve been eating too many chili cheese burgers or potato chips or handfuls of hamster feed, this may help perk you up a bit.

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crunchy vietnamese salad
adapted from Food and Wine’s Crunchy Vietnamese Chicken Salad
yield: 4 servings total time: 15 minutes

ingredients
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 serrano chile with seeds, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 cups finely shredded green cabbage (from 1/2 small head)
2 carrots, finely shredded
1 daikon radish, finely shredded
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

create
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, water, chile and garlic and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let the dressing stand for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, carrots, radish, red onion, cilantro, and mint. Add the olive oil and the dressing and toss. Sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

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After Andy and I had had our fill, we rolled the leftover salad up with some rice paper wrappers, served it alongside some homemade peanut sauce, and BAM! we had a whole other meal going on. And afterward, we didn’t feel like someone had pumped us full of greasy air, waiting in the wings to paint us with shortness of breath, all the while trying to plop a baby elephant on our vulnerable, slouching-down-in-the-chair stomachs. Whoa. I’m dramatic. But sometimes, in the midst of that, we just need a Vietnamese salad to come along and lift us up a little bit.