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Healthy Lunch

Hey everyone! Sorry I’ve been offline for a little while – I was basically having all the fun in Disney World. 🙂 I have never

Myself and James in Italy! AKA Epcot

been in my life and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it might just be for kids and not really have much for adults but I was so wrong. IT WAS A BLAST! It was really nice to have James with me as he has been several times with his family and knew the parks like the back of his hand, so I basically had the best tour guide ever. We hit up all the parks and it really is difficult to say which was my actual favorite. They each have their own “main attraction” if you will. Epcot has the whole “walk the world” thing going on where you essentially walk past different countries all lined up around a lagoon. Magic Kingdom has the most rides (and the most iconic ones like It’s a Small World and Splash Mountain). Animal Kingdom was fantastic because of the amazing Safari ride they’ve got going on. Hollywood Studios has Star Wars, which they are adding to as well. Oh yeah, and we stopped over in Universal to tour the Harry Potter world they’ve got going on over there which was also amazing.

Epcot at night

While we were there, we totally indulged in all the food including hibachi, Italian, the iconic dole whip, and literally life

THE Dole whip

changing ice cream from the store in the French section of Epcot. I ate the ice cream too fast to take a picture, but trust me when I say it’s amazeballs. After several days of totally ignoring vegetables, I need a few days to cut the calories and be a little healthier. Enter some easy and healthy pan-roasted vegetables a la Ina Garten. While she does offer this as a healthier side dish, I made a major change to make it even more so. She cooks her vegetables in butter, but I switched it out for olive oil and reduced the amount of fat used from 4 tablespoons to 2.

 

 

This recipe is easy and super-fast. It’s done in less than 20 minutes making it perfect for lunch or dinner. The vegetables essentially both sauté and steam, making it a great healthy side dish. Important tip: before you start, make sure you heat the olive oil up for a few minutes in the pan. This is so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan. If you throw them in cold, it’s going to be a literal hot mess when you remove the lid to stir.

Heating up the pan

Since I swapped out the butter for olive oil, I felt like this recipe needed more flavor added to it. I added some garlic powder to it and it really made the vegetables taste delicious. You could also add fresh garlic and throw it in at the end when you toss in the celery, but I think the garlic powder allows for equal coverage with the vegetables.

Starting up

I didn’t include wine this week from Winc as I’m on the detox right now. I’ve been hitting up the yoga studio as much as possible to sweat out some of the bad stuff I ate. Today, I paired this side dish with some spicy and flavorful sriracha tofu I picked up from Trader Joe’s. You could also serve this with some healthy protein of your choice or use them to top a salad.

Time to chow down


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Pan-Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten, Page 176
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the carrots, parsnips, shallot, brussles sprouts, thyme, garlic powder and some salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a lid or use tin foil and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the celery and stir, recover and cook for 5 more minutes. If the vegetables aren't browned, remove the lid and cook for a few minutes more. Serve hot.
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The Salad for All

This has been an emotional week for all, this whole election cycle has been quite a production and Tuesday was the finale. There seems to be a lot of divide on social media regarding the outcome – however, if there’s one thing I know is that nobody can disagree on good food. The kitchen and table are both places where we can all come together despite our differences. To help you find some solace in your week, I decided to try to find a recipe that I think anyone would like (this included either subbing or leaving out some ingredients, because of special diets and such).

While skimming through Back to Basics, I looked for a recipe this week that would easily appeal to all. I KNOW that some hate the idea of salad but this one is very easy and can be adapted to fit both carnivores and vegetarians alike.  Of course I am referring to the Cape Cod Chopped Salad. It has all the flavors of the season with maple syrup, orange, walnuts, blue cheese and cranberries. For the meat eaters, it has bacon which can easily be left out for a vegetarian option.

It's still healthy if it's still technically a salad, right?

It’s still healthy if it’s still technically a salad, right?

The dressing is very easy to make ahead has tons of flavor – orange zest & juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, vinegar and olive oil. I’ve noticed that Ina is super into using dijon mustard in her vinaigrette recipes. I know that it has great flavor, but I’ve learned that the mustard helps the dressing emulsify. When you mix vinegar and oil alone, they never incorporate into one homogeneous mixture. The mustard helps to bind it all together and give it some creaminess that helps the dressing coat the salad just right.  I mixed it all up in a mason jar and I think I’m going to save it to have for lunches or dinner next week.

Using a jar makes me feel so hipster!

Using a jar makes me feel so hipster!

For the maple syrup, you’re going to want to choose the real stuff. This isn’t the time to use pancake syrup which is honestly just corn syrup with maple flavorings and dye. Real maple syrup is actually the sap of the maple trees. It is less viscous – kinda like a sugar water mixture and has much more sweetness and flavor over the generic version. I have some stocked in my fridge that I had picked up a few weeks ago from a local farm. You can find it in most supermarkets these days, however it is relatively pricier. Totally worth it though. Go ahead, splurge.

 

So pure

So pure

So this month in my Winc wine shipment, I was surprised to see something new. A Winc Journal. Typically they would send a card with each wine you received that told you about it with a recipe. This is a full on wine magazine with all kinds of interesting articles.

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This month includes several articles some of which are: the different kinds of reds wines that are good for drinking in the fall, a nice chart with pictures describing the different kinds of grapes used to make wine, some fantastic recipes and a listing of their wines they have to offer with a little bit of information about each. I enjoyed sitting down and reading it with the salad and a glass of wine to go with. 🙂

So pretty!

So pretty!

I paired the salad with a special Winc wine this week. They recently released a collaboration wine with a new up-and-coming clothing line, Baja East based in NYC. You can check out their website and clothing at: http://www.baja-east.com/. According to Winc, the designers of the brand wanted to make a wine that was perfect for the fall season. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, both are pretty full bodied wine which means that this is quite hefty with the tannins and will do well with some time to mingle with the air. It pairs well with this salad especially with the smokiness and meatiness of the bacon which mirror the flavors of the wine.

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The sweetness of the dressing contrasts the heft of the wine and brings out the fruit flavors. Honestly, this is a fantastic wine to save for a special occasion, I mean the bottle is pretty cool looking right? It features one of Baja East’s signature prints from their clothing line. I figured an election week is a pretty special occasion and putting recipe number 19 in the books is cause for a celebration, even if it is by myself, in the middle of the day, on a Thursday. Don’t judge. 😀 Check out Winc’s new website and get a discount on your first order of wine using my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Stay thirsty, friends!

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Print Recipe
Cape Cod Chopped Salad
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 78.
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Salad
For the Dressing
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Salad
For the Dressing
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan (or line the sheet pan with aluminum foil) and lay the bacon slices on the rack. Roast the bacon for about 20 minutes, until nicely browned. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss together the arugala, apple, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese.
  4. For the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, mustard, maple syrup, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper in a bowl (or mason jar). Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  5. Chop the bacon in large pieces and add it to the salad. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat it lightly. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss well. Serve immediately.
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A New Kind of Soup

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I’ve been hanging low this week as it has gotten colder out and I’ve been pretty busy between work and play. That hasn’t kept me from once again hitting up the Farmer’s Market here in Arlington. It seems as though no matter what, the market always draws a crowd which is really nice to see. I love supporting locally owned farms and businesses because I think that it builds a sense of community and it gives back to people who are working hard at something they believe in. One could just as easily go to a chain grocery store and pick up whatever, but you don’t really know where it is coming from. Shopping local gives you the opportunity to talk to the owners of the farms or coffee shop and get to know what you are purchasing. Most times, the owner has a real passion for what they are selling because they are the ones who either made it or tended to it as it grew versus a worker at a store. I could go on for days but I think that if you have the opportunity to shop local, go for it. The quality is usually better and you’ll be helping out your community.

 

Fresh, natural, local ingredients

Fresh, natural, local ingredients

This week I picked up some baby butternut squash and decided to make Ina’s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I actually bought an extra one because they were so small I wasn’t sure how much I’d need. So, I need to figure out what to do with the extra one. If you’ve never had butternut squash, you should definitely try it. I think of it as having the same texture as a potato and an earthy flavor. It does well with seasonings taking on whatever you top it with. One of my favorite things to do with it is roast it with olive oil, salt and cinnamon. Then towards the end of baking I sprinkle brown sugar on it and allow it to melt then top it with dried cranberries. It’s SO good and a good alternative to sweet potatoes as a side (especially for the holidays coming up).

The recipe also called for apples – McIntosh specifically. I couldn’t find any of that variety at the market, but I did see some Winesap apples which I thought would be different and picked those up. I think the apples add some natural sweetness to the soup versus adding sugar. Use whatever kind of apples you like because you’re essentially baking all the ingredients then blending it up. I had some carrots left in the fridge and decided to use those as well, I just peeled them, chopped them up and roasted them along with the squash. You can’t taste them but they give the soup an even more orange color and you can claim that it is a health conscious option. Haha.

The the squash in half like so and peel with a vegetable peeler

The the squash in half like so and peel with a vegetable peeler

One word about butternut squash…they are VERY dense and quite difficult to cut. I recommend cutting it in half like so and then using a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off. This is why roasting the squash is a great option. It softens the squash so that it can be processed into soup but it also concentrates the flavor versus boiling it. Also, you’ll want to remove the seeds from the bulb part. You can totally clean them and roast them like pumpkin seeds.

My kind of blender!

My kind of blender!

Ina always likes to use a food mill to process her soups or potatoes. I’ve personally never used one because I don’t have one so I don’t know if it really makes a huge difference, but I think they look difficult to store and clean. I decided to use my mini hand blender or an immersion blender as it’s called. It’s great because it is small, lightweight, and you can blend the soup or whatever up in the pot that it is cooking in. No transferring it back and forth between a blender/food processor and back. It’s also very easy to clean. If you want to try the food mill – go for it, but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. The soup is really good without it.

The thing that makes this soup very different from others is that Ina uses curry seasoning in it and tops it with curry condiments. Curry powder is a blend of spices typically found in Indian curry dishes. It is very

Toasted Coconut? Yes, please.

Toasted Coconut? Yes, please.

potent so a little goes a long way and it isn’t spicy in a heat sort of way but it just has a lot of flavor. The toppings for this kind of threw me, I mean the coconut, onions and cashews seem ok, but I’ve never heard of curry having banana in it. It does sound weird to put banana on a savory soup, but it actually is good. I liked it. Plus, the topping provide some texture in the soup which is very creamy.

To go with the spices of the soup, I paired this with Winc’s Upswell Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it is from California, it isn’t an Napa Cab, it is from the Central Coast. I think a lot of great wine is hidden in the Central Coast of California. If you’re into Napa wine, you should definitely branch out because California has a lot to offer and the price tag is typically cheaper than those coming from Napa or Sonoma. I opened it and let it breathe for about 20 minutes before I served the soup. This wine is great for any Cab lover, it has the smokiness from the tannins that are quite typical of a California Cab along with the oak and fruit flavors that come from the grapes and oaking of the wine. For $13 you can’t beat this price on a California wine that is very easy to drink and could be paired with any meal. The boldness of the wine stands up to the flavors of the soup so one doesn’t overpower the other.

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Print Recipe
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup & Curry Condiments
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten: pg. 70
Course Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Soup
Condiments
Course Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Soup
Condiments
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the butternut squash, onions, carrots, and apples into 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss them with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, tossing occasionally, until very tender.
  3. Meanwhile heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with a medium blade. Add some chicken stock and coarsely puree. Alternatively, place the squash mixture into a large pot with some chicken stock and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings. Reheat and serve hot with condiments either on the side or on top of each serving.
Recipe Notes

To toast coconut, spread out onto a single layer on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing every few minutes. Watch it carefully because it will burn in a second!

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Weekend Brunch

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With the weather cooling down and the mornings being a bit brisk, I kind of just want to stay inside in the mornings and enjoy a drink and something warm to eat. This weekend I turned to Ina’s Country French Omelet. In Back

Country French Omelet

Country French Omelet

to Basics, she states that when she travels to France, it isn’t the posh Michelin star restaurants that she loves to go to, it’s the small cafes where she can have some casual food and enjoy the bustling of the busy streets. Though I’ve never been, I can understand how she feels. Sometimes the fancier restaurants can be quite pretentious and the food doesn’t live up to the hype or the price plus keeping things causal can be relaxing especially after a long flight.

 

It's BACON!

It’s BACON!

The recipe starts off delicious enough…with bacon. Hahaha. Then once you cook the bacon and render the fat, you remove it and cook the potatoes. This actually reminds me of how my mom used to make potatoes for my brother and I when we were children. She’d save the bacon fat in a jar after frying some up on the weekends then use that to fry up potatoes with salt and pepper as a side dish for dinner. While it isn’t healthy at all, it is very delicious. The potatoes get brown and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Perfection.

I decided to add some fresh thyme to the eggs in addition to the chives. I had some fresh in the fridge leftover and I thought it would make a great addition. I also think some dried thyme or even oregano would be good as well. I think the extra herbaciousness gives the omelet more of a country feel. Also, lets talk for a second about this “omelet”. That is what the recipe is called, but this is actually more like the Italian fritatta. An omelet is typically folded over on itself in the pan and cooked very gently on the stove. However, this recipe calls for you to pour all the ingredients into the hot skillet and transfer it to the oven which is exactly what you do with a fritatta. Maybe this is how they serve them in Paris…guess I’ll have to go one day and check it out for myself.

Fried Potato Heaven

Fried Potato Heaven

Eggs in the pan

Eggs in the pan

A non-stick pan would work really, really well here as long as it is oven-safe. A trick that I’ve used before has been to wrap the handle of a non-stick pan with a couple of layers of aluminum foil tightly. I was really worried that the eggs would stick to the pan, but I made sure to swirl the butter around so that the pan was totally covered and surprisingly, it didn’t stick at all. Also – when you take the pan out of the oven, keep a kitchen towel over the handle at all times. This will help you remember that the handle is extremely hot and if you accidentally touch it, it won’t sear your hand. Trust me on this, several years ago I wrapped my hand around a searing hot handle and suffered for a while. Be careful! Also, I’d like to point out that this recipe serves 2 people. However, this makes A LOT. I think it could serve 4 with something else served on the side, like some fruit or toast. If you have a healthy appetite, then it could feed 2.

PYT - Pretty Young Thang!

PYT – Pretty Young Thang!

Soooooooooo just because it is morning doesn’t mean it is too early for some Winc wine. I received some bubbly in my last shipment and decided to break it open this morning. This is the PYT (Pretty Young Thing – go ahead, sing it, you know you want to) Malvasa Bianca. This was a limited edition offered by Winc with only 165 cases made. It is unfiltered, meaning there is some sediment in the glass and is has some honey and wheat flavors to it. While it is absolutely good on its own, I decided to make a mimosa with it. This sparkling wine is very bubbly and fizzes up a lot. In fact I didn’t read the card sent with it that says to open over a sink and opened it right in front of me and was soaked.

 

Anyway, I decided to make an apple cinnamon mimosa to get the most out of fall. I got some honeycrisp apple cider from the Farmer’s Market and decided to use it. Now, apple cider is typically sweet as is, but honeycrisp apple cider is even

img_0409sweeter due to the natural sweetness of the apple. It also has a golden color versus the typical brown and is more transparent than its counterpart. I dipped the rim of the glasses in lemon juice then cinnamon sugar, then I added about 1/4 cup of the apple cider and filled up the glass with the sparkling wine and added a cinnamon stick as garnish. The sweetness of the cider and the dryness of the wine really do balance each other well and the cinnamon from the rim adds a little bit of warmth. You could also use regular apple cider and it will still taste good, it will just have that signature apple cider cloudiness to it.

Apple Cinnamon Mimosa

Apple Cinnamon Mimosa


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Print Recipe
Country French Omelet
From Page 227 in Ina Garten's Back to Basics Cookbook
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and has rendered its fat. Take the bacon out of the pan and put aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  3. Place the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned on the outside, tossing occasionally to brown evenly. Remove with a spoon and set aside with the bacon.
  4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper together with a fork or whisk. After the potatoes are removed, pour the fat out of the pan and discard (or save in a jar for later). Add the butter, lower the heat to low and coat the entire pan with the melted butter. Pour the eggs into the pan, right in the middle. Sprinkle the bacon, potatoes, chives and thyme evenly over the top and place the pan in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, just until the eggs are set in the middle. Slide onto a plate and serve hot.
Recipe Notes

The bacon fat can be saved in a jar in the fridge for like almost forever and can be used to fry potatoes or Brussels sprouts, honestly just about anything.

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In Season Salad

So apparently THE Ina Garten was in DC this week. I must have missed her invite for lunch this week 😀 hahaha. One can dream. I’m not sure what she was up to as she used to live in the area before she bought the Barefoot Contessa, so maybe she was visiting for old times’ sake or maybe she was here for her show. DC could be on the map on her next season of Barefoot Contessa! That’s exciting!  DC is really becoming a foodie paradise and is very up-and-coming with new restaurants, stores and bars popping up all over the place. One thing I love about DC is the weekly Farmer’s Market that they hold at City Center every Tuesday. This allows me to get out and see what seasonal items are available from local stores and farms mid-week so that I can pick up something to make versus having to plan it on the weekend.

All the pears

All the pears

Today I stopped by at lunch and noticed tons of pears. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is also mentioned in Back to Basics and is stated by Ina many, many times in her shows. In season fruits and veggies are always the best. Sure you can get them from a store any time of year and they are good, but they are REALLY good when they are from a local farm when the season is ripe. When I saw this plethora of semi-ripe pears available, I knew that I’d have to find a recipe to utilize them. Luckily, in Back to Basics, Ina included a recipe that takes a simple pear and turns it over the top into a simple, arguably elegant and extremely delicious lunch or dinner.

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I feel like pear, blue cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberry salads are a staple at many restaurants. In fact, I feel like it is a very British thing – possibly because of the blue cheese? Don’t get me wrong, the flavors are delicious, but this is not your typical salad. The pears are halved and hulled and filled with a mixture of dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese. When I was shopping around for blue cheese, I spotted some Roquefort from France at the store and though I’ve never had it, I knew I had to try it. It’s definitely better than any other blue cheese I’ve had. It still had the signature pungency that is well known throughout the blue cheese family. However this had a more fresh and sharp flavor, similar to cheddar to me. Note: If you can’t stand blue cheese, you could easily sub it out for some diced sharp white cheddar cheese. It’s more to balance out the sweet from the pear and cranberries.

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Once filled, the pears are basted with a syrup made of apple cider, port and brown sugar. I’m using a port that I got from a local Virginia Winery, Barrel Oak. This port is aged in whiskey barrels so it has an extra depth of flavor. Also, if you’re wondering how to open a wine bottle with a wax coating, it’s extremely simple. Just open it like you would a normal wine bottle and the cork will pop right through the wax coating. It does make a little bit of a mess though.

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While baking, I basted the pears with the liquid a few times to make sure they absorbed all the delicious flavor from the port and apple cider. Once finished and cooled, don’t throw away that basting syrup in the bottom of the pan. It gets used for the dressing of the salad, which is just some simple arugula. This is probably my favorite part of the salad. A mixture of the port basting liquid, lemon juice and olive oil with some salt and pepper is FANTASTIC on basically any salad. In fact, I used it all week for lunches at work.

I highly recommend this salad and play around with the ingredients. You could use apples instead of pears, any kind of dried fruit for the cranberries, cheddar or even gouda for the blue cheese, and if you don’t have port or wish to not use it, use all apple cider. I think that food and recipes should be easy and stress-free and I certainly don’t believe in making a special trip to a wine store to get a whole bottle of port if you know that you’ll never use it again. Cook to taste and personal preference and don’t be afraid to deviate from the recipes a little.

I hope you all enjoy and have a great week!

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Print Recipe
Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
From Back to Basics, by Ina Garten, page 96
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel the pears (or not if you wish to leave the skins on like I did) and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small knife or melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the founded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with some lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, well side up, in a baking dish.
  3. Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it in the well.
  4. In the same bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside for about 30 minutes until warm or room temp.
  5. Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid into a bowl with some salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the arugula and divide among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid and serve.
Recipe Notes

You can honestly swap out the cheese in this recipe with some sharp cheddar or leave it out. I also tried this recipe with some apples instead of pears and it works perfectly!

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“Healthier” Fries

So this has been a fun week – sarcasm intended – between it being both long and busy, it is safe to say that I’m glad it is the weekend! It is also the start of Fall, meaning the holidays are creeping ever closer and a trip to Thailand is in my future. I need to get my life together and start planning for it! If anyone knows of some good Pinterest boards or articles on traveling to Thailand, please let me know. I could greatly use it. 🙂

Since this was a busy week, I didn’t have much time to invest in dinner so I needed a recipe that would be quick, easy, and somewhat healthy. Enter Ina Garten’s Baked Sweet Potato Fries. Who doesn’t love fries? Potatoes are always delicious no matter how they are cooked. Carby, starchy goodness just waiting to be mashed, baked, fried, you name it. This recipe utilizes sweet potatoes which I’m sure everyone has seen or had before.

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The orange-toned flesh cousin of the common baking potato. It definitely has more flavor on its own than the regular baking potato which makes it perfect for light seasoning.

These aren’t your regular french fries. The common fry is peeled, sliced thin, and fried…twice. Once to cook it and the second to crisp it. Consequently they absorb quite a bit of the fat from which they are fried. That’s one reason they have come to be a no-no for diets everywhere (that and the simple carbohydrates they contain and the tons of salt typically poured on them). In order to minimize the fat absorption – these are sliced thicker and coated with a little bit of olive oil. These don’t get as crispy as regular fries but the brown sugar does caramelize and help out a bit.

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One important item to remember before starting this – please make sure your oven is clean! You’ll be turning up the oven to a rather high temperature of 450 degrees. Even though I did manage to clean out the oven before starting, I still managed to set off the fire alarm for a few seconds in the apartment. I cranked the temperature down for a brief moment then turned it back up after it stopped. 😀 Even if we had to evacuate – it would have been worth it. Fries are worth it. Don’t let that deter you from making these though. Another option is to only turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake them for about 5-7 minutes longer or until they are crisp.

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I paired these with some simple grilled chicken and a kale salad to complete the meal. Also, that is sriracha mayo I’ve got to dip it in. It’s just some mayonnaise with sriracha and garlic powder. The ratio of mayonnaise to sriracha I use is about 1 Tablespoon of mayo to 1/2 teaspoon of sriracha. I recommend starting maybe with 1/4 teaspoon and working your way up. Then I sprinkle in a little bit of garlic powder and done. The spiciness of the sriracha goes well with the sweetness of the fries and the brown sugar.

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Of course I needed some Winc wine to go with it so I went with a favorite of mine. Pinot Noir is a varietal of grape that usually is originally from France but is widely grown in California.

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This particular brand is called Local Flavor, and for every sale of the Local Flavor brand of wine, Winc donates a portion of the funds to help promote the arts in schools in California. It’s a great cause and the wine is delicious. To me, most Pinot Noir is an easy-drinking red wine. It’s not too tannic and has a lot of fruit flavors with some oak flavors as well. The flavors I picked up are cherry, licorice, vanilla, and cinnamon right off the bat. You really don’t need to aerate this wine at all and it will go well with literally any dinner option you can think of. Or you could simply pair it with some popcorn and a movie for one of those nights when you just can’t even.

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B2B #11: Baked Sweet Potato Fries
From Ina Garten's Back to Basics pg. 180.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into 3 to 4 long spears. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle Lightly with salt and serve hot.
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Get Your Grill On

Happy September everyone! Even though it isn’t officially fall yet, the beginning signs are starting to emerge…that’s right – pumpkin spice. Everything from lattes to cereal, pumpkin spice is the poster child for the days shortening and getting cooler.

The first PSL of the season

The first PSL of the season

However, that doesn’t mean it is a total end to grilling season. We’ve still got some time to get our grills on and make the most of what warmer weather we have left. To be quite honest, I know plenty of people out there who will fire up their grills in the middle of winter, and why not? Grilling gives food so much flavor and is actually quite healthy as it doesn’t require any additional fat for cooking (#bonuspoints).

Ina Garten’s Herb-Marinated Loin of Pork is a recipe that I have made in the past and it is definitely one that is a great go-to especially during the week.  Pork loin is naturally tender, relatively cheap, and goes pretty far for feeding a crowd. The marinade is very similar to the Tuscan Lemon Chicken from last week, but I think it has more flavor. From a Back to Basics perspective this recipe highlights the meaning of basics.

Herb-Marinated Loin of Pork

The marinade is highly flavorful and extremely easy to make and marinading food is a great way to infuse flavor into an otherwise semi-tasteless piece of meat. You don’t need to spend hours cooking the pork, the marinade does all that work for you. Just about 20 minutes on the grill and it’s done! For a weeknight meal, just make your marinade the night before and place into a smaller container, in the morning, put the pork loin into a plastic bag and pour in the marinade and let it sit in the fridge all day. Then just throw it on the grill and make a quick side (salad or some sauteed zucchini like I did).

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Simple sauteed zucchini with Parmesan cheese

For this dish, I paired the pork with Winc’s 2015 The Bluffer Valdiguié. This wine has an interesting story, Valdiguié is a grape varietal that is not widely known. According to Winc, the farmers that were growing it in California didn’t even know that it was actually Valdiguié (they thought it was Gamay – a totally different grape). The farmers were corrected by a Frenchman who knew of the grape as France is its native country. In fact, the grape is only grown in France and California. The Valdiguié grapes for this particular wine were sourced from a vineyard in Paso Robles, California, and are the oldest in the state! If you love Pinot Noir you will love this, trust me!

The Bluffer Valdiguié is a perfect pairing for this grilled pork

It is a very fruity red wine with lots of cherry and strawberry flavors on the palate and the finish is very fresh and almost juicy. There isn’t a lot of tannin action going on with this wine so it is also perfect for those who are new to drinking red wine. If you want to try this wine or any other of Winc’s wine at a discount, use my link for a discount and take your palate profile: https://www.clubw.com/2lhy61q4ll7. If you have any reservations, fear not! You can cancel or you can postpone your account at any time.

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B2B #8: Herb-Marinated Loin of Pork
An easy main dish for weeknight/weekend grilling. Either marinade overnight or all day but at least for 3 hours to allow the flavors to get into the pork. Adapted from Ina Garten's Back to Basics book - page 126.
Servings
people
Ingredients
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.
  2. When you're ready to cook, build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the residual marinade. Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper. Grill the tenderloins, turning a few times to brown on all sides for 15 to 25 minutes until the meat registers 140 degrees at the thickest part. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch thick slices. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be pink (this is ok!). Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

If the whole meat being pink thing scares you, just grill for about 5 more minutes before removing from the grill.

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