Friday Faves: Gathering


In this day and age of social media, it becomes so easy to assume we need special dishes, a theme and countless other things to make a dinner party look pretty. The truth is, once you have the people, everything else is unimportant. We truly mean that. Please don’t worry about the food, the place settings, or making your home perfect. Just invite those people over, plop some sort of food down in front of them, and get going with the good times.
For example, last year, Essie and her husband had moved into their new home and had no furniture and extensive renovations going on in most rooms. It would have been so easy to not let anyone see the mess. But instead they had some of the most fun gatherings, sitting on blankets on the floor with friends and family.
Please don’t be intimidated by other people’s beautiful pictures or the illusion of perfection. If you’re second-guessing your party-throwing abilities, chances are SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. We’ve put together a simple menu below + guide for hosting a gathering of your own this holiday season and hope it may give you a little push to start hosting and partying like the crazy kids you are.
A couple Common Sense tips to Gathering
  • Don’t worry about the table setting. The pictures we took for this post were created with Airbnb dishes, a scrap piece of fabric, and a potted plant we got at Trader Joe’s (have we mentioned that we love TJ’s? Too often, you say?). Use paper plates, your every day dishes, or pull out that wedding china you registered for and never use. It doesn’t matter. We just ask that you try not to buy anything extra for a gathering. A jar of roadside wildflowers or random greenery from in front of your house, a half burned candle, a plant you already have, a pretty scarf, a handful of pine cones, or just about anything can be spread out on your table, floor or counter to create a lovely atmosphere.
  • Keep the food simple. We love cooking, run a food blog, and dream about our kitchen at night (yes, really. We’re a couple nuts.), but neither of us would have an issue serving a salad kit and ordering pizza for a quick and easy gathering. There is nothing wrong with easy and simple. You’ll be happier and more relaxed for your friends, and everyone wins when that happens. Let go of the “supposed to”s and “should”s.
  • If you want to have new friends over for the first time, but you’re worried about it being awkward (something Hannah thinks about on the reg #halp), make dinner interactive! Let your guests help you by mixing the salad, chopping up fruit for a pie, or even have a make-your-own-pizza night!

If you’re feeling up to a bit more cooking, may we recommend this menu:
—- salad
—- good wine
—- something sweet
The brilliant thing about serving two roasted things is that you can cook them at the same time, at the same temperature. We love easy easy recipes. You can find our roasted chicken recipe here and our roasted veggie recipe there. Pop the chicken in at 450 and pop the veg in an hour later, then just leave ’em (don’t just forget about them – baste your chicken and turn your veggies, but you know what we mean). For a salad, we recommend the Veggies + Greens salad kit from TJ, mentioned here.
Good wine doesn’t need to break the bank; most people know what they like and what they don’t like. We love a good, robust red wine, so we recommend the Rodney Strong cabernet. Hannah found it at her local TJ for $14, which is a great price for an even better bottle. Other favorites include Trader Joe’s Coastal syrah, Josh cabernet, or an oaky, buttery chardonnay (try one from Wente!).
To finish the party, haul out some ice cream, a bag of Dove chocolates, or, if you’re like Hannah and Very Into Pie, try your hand at making a galette! We’re coming out with a recipe for a pear + cranberry galette next Monday. #getpumped
PARTY LIKE IT’S 2009. (We’re not sure what we mean by that).
Hannah + Essie

Roasted Root Veggies

This a classic common sense recipe. By that I mean, there really isn’t a recipe and you should probably learn this and add it to your portfolio of skills. It’s easy, delicious and can be adjusted to match many meals.

It’s perfect for daily dinners or if you splurge on some multi-colored carrots it can be fancy enough for gatherings and holiday dinners. I love drizzling this with some balsamic glaze or throwing a handful of leftover veggies on a salad the next day for lunch.

I’ve included rough ingredient estimates because I don’t think I’ve ever measured them.


  • Ingredients:
    • 4ish cups root veggies: carrots, sweet potatoes, red, yellow, purple potatoes, etc.
    • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
    • salt
    • pepper
  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Chop your veggies into 1-2 inch cubes/chunks.
      • Note: The smaller you cut, the faster they cook. If I’m in a big hurry, I chop them tiny to cut the cooking time down as much as possible.
    3. Toss the veggies with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and any additional spices you want.
    4. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake 25-35 minutes,
      • Note: You’re looking for the insides to be soft when poked with a fork and outsides that are slightly shriveled/crisped.
  • Alternate variations:
    • mix it up with some different combos.
      • garlic powder and smoked paprika
      • rosemary and basil
      • apples and onion
      • lemon pepper and chives
      • cayenne and chili powder
      • add some sausage straight to the pan and make it a full pan dinner
      • the variations are endless, go crazy with them!

 

Prost! Mahlzeit!
Esther

Roasted Chicken

Everyone should know how to roast a chicken.

This is a staple of good home cooking and the base of so many good meals. I use my leftover roasted chicken for curry and use the carcass for homemade chicken bone broth. You can get at least 3 meals out of one whole chicken, which is incredible.

We thought we’d create a super-simple recipe for you all, just so you get the basics down. Once you’ve tried one flavor combination, you can try many more and just find one that fits your kitchen and your tastes. We like garlic and garlic and vampire kryptonite here so obvs that’s in our recipe. If that’s not your jam, sorry ’bout it and find another food blerg to read. (actually plz don’t – stay and be our friend).

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to roast the chicken, about 2 hours, and enough time to let it rest before serving it. I baked mine in my blue Le Creuset, which is just so pretty that you can even use it as a serving dish as well. If you have leftovers, just pop the lid on and put the whole thing in the fridge. Remember to cool it down, ya dingbat!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3lbs chicken
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved or quartered
  • 1 head of garlic (not a clove, folks, this is serious business)
  • twine or unflavored dental floss (to tie the chicken legs together)

Preheat your oven to 450. Make sure you dry the chicken well with a paper towel. Dry chicken skin = crispy chicken skin, and who doesn’t want that?

Next, place the chicken in your baking dish, whether that be a Le Creuset or a roasting dish. Make sure you place it breast-side-up. Rub the butter underneath the skin of the chicken. We have pictures of this, but it looks like I’m man-handling the chicken and that’s just not a good look for us. (NB: If raw chicken grosses you out, please, please talk to someone about it. You can’t live that way forever.) This recipe calls for kind of a lot of butter, but I don’t think butter has ever made anything worse, so use it all. Once you get all the butter you can under the skin, use what you have left inside the cavity of the chicken and on the legs and the back.

Fill the cavity of the chicken with rosemary sprigs, lemon slices, and garlic. With the garlic, I just slice the whole thing in half width-wise. You can also crush all of the garlic cloves for a bolder garlic flavor.

Place the chicken in the oven with the cover or tin foil on it for the next hour. Make sure you check on it every 15 minutes and spoon the melted butter and rendering chicken fat over the top of the chicken. Remove the lid or tin foil for the second hour and keep checking on it. Your chicken will be done when the skin is brown and crispy and the juice runs clear when you slice into it. The chicken in the feature picture isn’t actually cooked all the way – we were running out of daylight and oh wow you already stopped caring, didn’t you.

Serve with roasted veggies, salad, and a good, oaky chardonnay for a hearty dinner.

Egészségedre!

Hannah

Chicken Curry

We tried Whole30. Really, we did. It ended with a wimper, not a bang, at day 6 as I realized on a bench in Monterey, CA that we couldn’t eat at any of the restaurants in the area. (ok ok maybe we could have, but I didn’t have enough blood sugar to figure out which ones had food we could eat and which ones didn’t.) So Whole6, it is. Bless all you people who actually manage to get through those 30 days. (I did come to many realizations during these fated Whole6 – we hardly ever eat enough veggies and my default is pasta dishes.) In all my recipe research for Whole30, one of the meals people kept talking about on Whole30 was CURRY.

I love curry. Any kind of curry. I will sweat and cry through it because it’s just so good and my spice tolerance is just that bad. During these days of Whole6 I was determined to make a good curry, with whatever we were allowed to have, and thus was this curry recipe born. The first time I made it, I didn’t understand the conversions from grams to teaspoons, so I added almost half the jar. My husband sat across from me laughing as I cried my way through that bowl of curry. (His spice tolerance is significantly higher than mine.)

First, you’ve got to find a curry paste you like – I can’t do a *ton* of spice, but I do like a little heat in my curry, so I went with the Yellow Curry Paste from Mae Ploy, which we found at our local Safeway. It has no weird additives or preservatives or MSG, so it’s my jam. And the taste is fantastic. Try to find one that was made with kaffir leaves – it makes a world of difference in the taste. (There was a little diner in my college town that served – and still serves – the best curry I know, so this recipe is inspired by that).

Here are the ingredients (because I used yellow curry paste, I thought I might as well use ingredients that are largely yellow, but you can add pretty much any veggies and it’ll probably by good. I’m going to try adding green beans this week):

  • 2 cans coconut cream (you can also use canned coconut milk — I like the texture of the cream better)
  • 1 C chicken stock
  • 3 red potatoes, chopped
  • 5 small carrots, chopped (don’t peel them!)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ginger, grated (you can use more… I’m a total sucker for fresh ginger so I over-ginger it. This is me being temperate)
  • 2 tsp Mae Ploy Yellow Curry Paste (or another curry paste of your choice)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 C fresh spinach
  • Jasmine rice, for serving
  • Peanuts (optional)

**I haven’t actually measured anything before, so this is my best guesstimate. Essie and I really like emphasizing cooking by instinct here, so just go with your gut. If your gut lies to you, don’t blame me. You figure out what amount of each item you want in your curry – just make sure you give it time to cook. If it’s over cooked, that’s ok! Trying again is always a good thing.

Start with a deep pan (I use my Le Creuset, but you can use a deep pot or a really big frying pan) – add enough olive oil to grease the pan. Add diced yellow onion, minced garlic, and grated fresh ginger. The fresh ginger here is key — the dried stuff just doesn’t have the same kind of sweetness or spice to it. Cook until the onions are soft, but not brown. If you see or smell that the garlic is burning, turn down the heat and move your pan off the burner for a bit. You can slow down the cooking of it simply by moving the pan off the heat.

Add in diced carrots (I use the organic rainbow carrots from Trader Joe’s because they’ve got just such good flavor in them) and diced potatoes. About the not peeling them note above: peeling carrots takes away all of their natural sweetness. Make sure you scrub them really well so most of the dirt in the wrinkles is gone, but do.not.peel.them. Cook until they start to soften. Add in 2 tsp of the curry paste and stir until everything is thoroughly coated.

Add 1 C of chicken stock and 2 cans of coconut cream. Salt to taste. Add in shredded, cooked chicken. (When I make roasted chicken or am making chicken stock, I keep the chicken from that for meals like this. You can also just use an unseasoned/lightly seasoned rotisserie chicken). Add in 2 handfuls (or more!) of fresh spinach and let it wilt (alternate between covering the pan and stirring it into the curry).

Simmer on low until potatoes are soft. Serve over Jasmine rice & garnish with peanuts for some extra crunch.

I’d love your feedback your curry adventures!

Egészségedre!

Hannah

Basic Quiche

Bonjour, ma cher!

This is how my grandmother almost always begins a voicemail. Just imagine it spoken in a way where “bonjour” is “bonjouuuuuuuuur” and “ma cher” has a long “eeeee” sound on the end of it and the woman saying it is wearing cashmere and hot pink lipstick. It’s quirky and adorable and *so* Patricia. She loves everything French: French food, French fashion, French interior design. All of it. She firmly believes she can speak French and moved to Paris for a year to study at the Sorbonne when she was 70.

My grandmother loved to cook anything and everything that had way too many steps. If a recipe didn’t have many steps, she’d add some. But her food was always delicious. (I’m speaking in past tense because she just doesn’t cook anymore, which is really a tragedy.)

This quiche recipe is an homage to her, since she is Very Picky About Quiche. And quiche is, well, very French. We made this very often growing up and my mom developed this recipe. It’s where I started getting really into making pie crust. I’ll give you the basic recipe here with some of my favorite add-ins, but you can really add anything you want.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 C milk
  • handful of grated parmesan
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 patties of breakfast sausage OR  handful of bulk sausage
  • 1/2 of 1 leek, finely sliced
  • grated cheddar cheese, about 1 C

Pie Crust:

  • 1 C flour
  • heaping 1/3 C shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • very cold/ice water

Preheat the oven to 350.

Filling:

Mix the eggs, milk, parmesan, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Brown the sausage until it’s crispy. Make sure you chop it up in the pan into at least bit-sized pieces, if not smaller. Scrape into a bowl lined with paper towel to absorb some of the drippings.

Slice the leek thinly – leeks are most beautiful this way, as they end up as a beautiful transparent circle of light green. NB: make sure you wash them thoroughly and peel some of the top layers off, as dirt inevitable gets really jammed in there and no one wants that kind of crunch in their quiche. Set aside.

Crust:

In a large bowl combine the flour, shortening, and salt. Combine them using a pastry tool or a fork until it resembles a really course kinda chunky flour. SLOWLY add in a TINY bit of cold water and keep mixing. You want to add *just* enough cold water that the dough starts to form a ball. Once it’s at that stage, STOP with the water and use your hands.

Work the dough quickly into a ball. Place it on a well-floured countertop and start rolling it out. Personally, I love the rolling pins that are just one giant stick that gradually taper at the ends, so you never end up with lines in your dough from the edge of the rolling pin. If you’re in a jam and you don’t have a rolling pin, a bottle of wine works fairly well. If it’s chilled wine, though, best of luck. Make sure you flour the rolling pin/wine bottle, so it doesn’t stick to your dough. As I roll mine out, I flip the circle of dough so that both sides are well-floured and so that it doesn’t stick to the countertop. Once it’s rolled out to where it’s about 1/8″ thick, fold it into quarters.

Place the dough into your pie dish and unfold it. Smooth out any creases & fill any holes. Roll the edge of the dough under itself along the edge of your pie dish and crimp it/decorate it in anyway that really gets you going.

Fill the pie shell with the sausage and leeks then pour the egg mixture over it. Sprinkle the top with cheddar cheese and ever so gently place it in the oven. Bake it until it smells like breakfast and the middle of the quiche has stopped jiggling. Usually the cheese also gets a little brown and crispy on top, which is just delightful.

Serves: *technically* 6, but, like, who doesn’t want an entire quarter of a quiche?

NB: a word of warning before adding tomatoes into quiche – make sure they’re deseeded and roasted otherwise the water content in them will ruin the texture of your quiche. The same goes for spinach, except please don’t roast spinach. Just cook it down and drain it and squeeze it with paper towel or cheesecloth.

Bon appetite and egészségedre!

Hannah

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Spoicy Italian Sausage + Orzo

The other day as I was perusing Instagram stories for the 592,094,701-th time that day, one of my fave mom ‘grammers posted about her healthy lunch with orzo and greens and I don’t even remember what else. It looked amazing, but she kept apologizing for talking about food and giving us a demo. NEVER APOLOGIZE. We all want to know how and what you moms feed yourselves. (Lookin’ at you, Sarah Hart)

When I got to Trader Joe’s yesterday and spotted the orzo I got all *praise hands emoji* and super-inspired.

And thus was this recipe was born. It’s currently in the running for my husband’s favorite dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. spoicy* Italian sausage (all I had was pre-cooked, so I diced it up. I would have much preferred raw spicy Italian sausage, so that’s how I’m writing this recipe.)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini (all you people who grow your own zucchini, medium does NOT mean the size of your entire arm, even though I know that’s your medium-sized zucchini)
  • 2 C raw spinach (can you tell I’m desperately trying to add more veg into my recipes?)
  • 1 ½ C chopped artichoke hearts (if you don’t like these as much as I do, you can pare it down, but DON’T.)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (a real lemon, not the juice in the bottle, y’all.)
  • 3 C cooked orzo (save some of the pasta water!)
  • 1 C grated fresh parmagiano

*spoicy was a typo we accidentally used once in college and I just like it better than the original. Say it out loud. You won’t regret it.

Add the raw Italian sausage to a heated pan and cook it halfway. Make sure your pan is large enough so the meal has room to grow. A sauté pan with tall sides would be ideal, but since we live in an Airbnb, I used an extra-big frying pan that was in our kitchen. At halfway, the sausage should still be pink with a little bit of browning. At this point add the chopped zucchini and a generous salting. Cook until the sausage is completely cooked and the zucchini is tender.

Add the spinach and cover the pan until it’s wilted. If you don’t have a pan with a lid, use the line cook’s trick and cover it with a cookie sheet. Add a little water if it needs more steam in there. This will also help cook the zucchini.

Stir in the chopped artichoke hearts. This adds that delightful acidity that recipes like this always need. Squeeze in half the lemon juice.

Add cooked orzo. NB: DO NOT over-cook the orzo, otherwise this ends up being a tasteless mush of gluten glue and no one likes that.

Add fresh parmigiano and a little of the pasta water that you saved because you’re a Nice Person who knows how Pasta likes to be treated. Stir. Squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over it. Voila!

Serves: 2-ish

Next time I make this, I’d like to add some roasted cherry tomatoes and a little feta. I’ll add a note to the bottom of this post if I like it.

Egészségedre!

Hannah