Cat & Mara Make Food

Jul 09

Seafood Boil 4th of July Birthday Party

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"The turkey fryer isn’t coming."  

As usual, the day before party prep has taken a turn for the worse.  This year we were knee deep in ice cream sandwiches, cocktail sauce, remoulade, an alarmingly increasing guest list, and about $300 worth of top notch seafood.

Oh and those six lobsters also need to be kept alive for at least another 24 hours. So yeah, there’s that….

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 We could just bust out all the stock pots and do it on the stove top.  But the thought of cramming into the tiny, hot kitchen when the weather is sure to be fabulous on the 4th, is not something we are willing to commit to just yet. Not to mention the fact that seafood boils are super exciting and therefore should be executed in front of the party guests. 

We REALLY need that 30 quart Brinkman Turkey Fryer with steamer basket and cast iron burner that connects to the propane tank!

AMAZON PRIME HAS RUINED THE 4TH OF JULY.  

So we turned to our only friend when the going gets rough: Facebook.  And we are in luck, within minutes of our “help, we need a turkey fryer!” status update,  we have a generous friend willing to lend us her fryer.  There is only one problem, we are missing a very important piece of the puzzle: the base.  This would most certainly come in handy when we fill this 30 quart pot with boiling water and put 20 pounds of seafood in it, because right now, it’s dangerously wobbly.

Back to the drawing board.

"Maybe we could build a basket out of chicken wire or mesh?" 

(Home Depot doesn’t sell chicken wire, but perhaps we can buy a screen door, cut the mesh out of it and McGyver the shit out of it?)

"What about a massive cheese cloth sling?"

(We’ll need a LOT of cheese cloth, but still a viable option.”

"What if we buy a 50 quart tamale steamer pot and steam everything?"

(LAST RESORT. We don’t want to steam EVERYTHING…”)

In the end, we settled on mesh lingere bags.  And mind you, this decision was arrived at while madly circling the home section at Macy’s, talking to our mothers, friends, and asking the internet things like “home made 30 quart steamer basket?” Sounds crazy, but we imagined it would work like giant seafood tea bags steeping in hot Zatarain’s  seasoned water.

And then we got the call.  A dear friend (and AMAZING chef/home entertainer/actor) had a turkey fryer. With a steamer basket. And a base. And was also kind enough to drop it off at the house. Problem solved.

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The only thing left to do was keep the mussels, clams and lobsters alive until tomorrow…  

The lobsters were kept in a cooler in the kitchen wrapped in damp LA Express newspaper sheets.  The anxiety of a slow death due to lack of proper storage on our part was a real fear. They were rotated from top to bottom and the temperature of their temporary holding cell was constantly monitered.  If we were going to sentence them to their death in the name of a party (and blog post), we might as well treat them like pets.  

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When party day arrived, we spent most of the morning setting up the back yard, assembling ice cream sandwiches and cleaning.  The long folding tables were covered in craft paper and littered with seafood picks, lobster crackers, cornbread baskets and plenty of tiny flags.  We were worried there wouldn’t be enough chairs or enough food.  Par for the course. 

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And when folks started arriving around five, we decided it was time to get cooking.  We had three stations set up: A grill station (for sugar milk corn and andouille sausage grilling) A fryer station (for clams, mussels, prawns and potatoes), and the electric chair (i.e. the kitchen, where the lobsters would be steamed and those that have a moral conflict about watching lobsters die wouldn’t have a meltdown). 

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Everything went off without a hitch! There were some butterflies before sending the lobsters to their death, but when you have a small army of hungry people waiting for food, getting the goods on the table takes a slight precedence over wanting to keep the lobsters as pets.

Plus they were paid for and we were ready for the kitchen to stop smelling like a damn fish market. 

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We sat down at the 22 foot communal table and admired the piles of beautiful seafood in front of everyone.  No plates for this shin-dig, we just dumped everything out and let the party people fend for themselves.  

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About 5 minutes in, we realized there were no prawns on the table.  Thankfully, Cat left the propane burner on so the water was still hot (super safe) and the prawns only took about 3 minutes to cook.  Yet another crisis averted.  

We throw a lot of parties.  And one thing we have come to expect (and more importantly, embrace) are the road blocks that pop up along the way.  Because no matter how much preparation goes into an event beforehand, the party gods will make sure to throw you a curveball, just to see if you’re paying attention.  They don’t do this to be cruel, they do this to remind you that while the food is important, the company is what most folks will remember.  

Well, that and all the illegal fireworks going off in the neighborhood ;)   

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xoxoxoxoxo.

Jun 02

Lazy Sunday Buttermilk Ice Cream

Making good use of leftover buttermilk is something we feel is an indispensable talent in the kitchen.  It was originally purchased to start testing a buttermilk pie, something that has intrigued us for several months now. But of course the recipe didn’t call for a whole quart of buttermilk so here we are, with a bowl full of delicious buttermilk ice cream topped with crushed graham crackers. No big deal. 

And as for the buttermilk pie, that will remain in the test kitchen vault until we can make it 100% Cat and Mara tested and approved ;)

Ice cream is fairly easy to make, especially since we recently invested in the ice cream attachment for the Kitchen Aid.  However, there are millions of different ice cream recipes and we are currently wading our way through this mountain of frozen treats to find the best ones.  

This recipe is the first real winner, but the title of this blog post is slightly misleading.  If you want to have a lazy Sunday eating buttermilk ice cream, you should make this on Saturday so that the frozen custard has ample time to ripen in the freezer.  

Pairs well with Game of Thrones or new Arrested Development episodes on Netflix. 

Buttermilk Ice Cream 

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 C heavy cream

1 1/4 C sugar

8-12 egg yolks*

2 C buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla

pinch of salt

Combine heavy cream and 1 cup sugar in heavy bottomed pot or saucepan. bring to simmer over medium heat.

Whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and egg yolks.  

Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly drizzle in egg yolks, whisking constantly to avoid curdling. Transfer the whole mixture back to the sauce pan and cook over low heat until mixture coats the back of a spoon.

Strain mixture into another bowl then whisk in buttermilk, salt and vanilla. Cool completely then freeze according to your ice cream makers directions.  

*The original recipe uses 12 egg yolks, but you can use whatever you have on hand. If you use all 12 yolks the result will indeed be creamier, richer and more luscious….but using 6-8 will taste damn good. Actually more than damn good.  But if you eat egg white omelettes every morning, then go for it.   

May 14

Mother’s Day Brunch Spread at Cat’s place!

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Did you take your mother to some crowded restaurant yesterday?  Was there a long wait, even though you made reservations? Did you almost wring the necks of the idiot children running rampant throughout the patio seating area? Could you feel the tension between family members who only see their mothers twice a year?  Did you end up getting drunk and telling your brother that it’s about time he gets a real job?  Did you leave your poor mother in tears at the end of that awful meal?

Shame on you!

Next time skip the restaurant and make your mom a bad ass brunch!  

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This was the first time in 9 years where I haven’t had to work on Mother’s Day.  I was always showing up late to the party after having worked the dreaded lunch shifts on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and all the other appreciation days the candy/flower/power tool/greeting card companies deem essential celebrations for any human. 

And truth be told, i’ve never really been a brunch person, but it’s an excellent excuse to day drink and isn’t that what Mom really wants on her special day?  

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On the Menu:

Blood Orange Mimosas

Strawberry Lemonade

Egg Souflee

Overnight French Toast Casserole

Caprese Salad

Grilled Asparagus

Roasted Potatoes

Bacon

Nap time

Movie watching

***

Overnight French Toast Casserole (adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients

1/4 C butter at room temperature

1 large loaf Challah bread

6 eggs

1 1/2 C whole milk

1/4 C sugar

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

Additional maple syrup for serving

Blueberries

Powdered sugar

Instructions

Spread butter over bottom and sides of a 9x13x2 baking pan.  Cube or tear the Challah bread into 1”- 1 1/2” pieces.  

Beat eggs, milk, sugar, syrup, vanilla and salt to blend in large bowl.

Pour mixture over bread. Make sure all the pieces are moist with egg mixture.  Use your hands to do this.  Place bread in prepared dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake for 10 minutes, stir mixture with a wooden spoon so the bread on the bottom gets a chance to be on top.  Bake for about 5 minutes longer, or until top is golden.  

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and blueberries.  Serve with warm maple syrup.

***

Here is a photo of my mother in laws recipe for the Egg and Ham Soufflé, she made it the night before and after several mimosas, I had completely forgotten to ask her how she did it.

I found this hand written recipe more endearing. Happy Mother’s Day to all.

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May 11

Run. Don’t Walk.

Because you will need some decent cardio after making (and very likely devouring) this chocolate covered crack. Yeah, yeah I said crack. I thought it was weird too, but there’s something strangely addictive about these things. I’m thinking it could very possibly have something to do with the two sticks of butter. Just maybe.

Don’t judge. Don’t get all bent out of shape because you’re on a gluten-free-juice-and-babyfood-diet. Oh, I don’t feel bad. Ok well, sort of bad. But there’s also a point in life when you say, sure I could get up at 6am to go to spin class before I work a 16 hour day. Suuuuuuuuuure. OR, I can stay in bed for another two hours, soaking up some desperately needed Zzz’s and snuggling with my boo. I usually choose the latter and also choose the slightly jiggly but lovingly appreciated bum.

That being said, I made these indulgent suckers because after depriving myself of sleep, fun, and carbohydrates for several weeks, I now have the shingles. (Carbs actually have nothing to do with it. Stress does.) I’m not sure it’s even the chocolate I’m craving; I’m more of a savory girl than a sweets girl. I’m more craving time alone in my own kitchen cooking what I want to cook, and generally being at home performing in my favorite role: domestic goddess.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t get the shingles. Sleep in. Snuggle with your boo. Eat the chocolate. Feel better, even if it’s just temporary.

But seriously though. You probably shouldn’t eat too many of these chocolate caramel crackers.

I’ve heard about these things everywhere and the inter-web is abound with recipes. Ours is slightly adapted from David Leibovitz.

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Line the bottom of the sheet with the saltines.

3. In a 3-4 quart saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over the crackers, spreading with a heatproof or offset spatula.

4. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while.

5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.

6. If you’re feeling wild, sprinkle with toasted almonds or toasted coconut or smoked salt or pistachios or something of the like. I did a toasted almond/smoked salt version and a toasted coconut version.

Let cool completely (in the freezer if you’re human and just can’t wait), then break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

May 07

Mascarpone Tart with Strawberries and the Mystery of Mitt Romney

Yesterday was one of those rare Sundays when I have the time and energy to be in the kitchen all day. One of the highlights was a Strawberry Mascarpone Tart.  I also made lemon bars, and if you scroll back to January 28th you can make those too!

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Mascarpone Tart with Strawberries via Sunset magazine

This tart is more like a cheesecake, but since it’s half the volume of a regular cheesecake, you won’t feel like you just went to Cheesecake Factory and made a really bad decision by polishing off one of their slices.

Ingredients

9 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (couldn’t find them at the grocery store and substituted CHOCOLATE TEDDY GRAHAMS. Don’t judge me.)

1/2 C melted butter

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1 pound softened mascarpone or cream cheese

1/3 C honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons AP flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 C strawberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Finely crush cookies using either a food process or a rolling pin and a ziploc bag.  Pour 2 cups of crumbs into bowl and mix with melted butter, sugar, salt and espresso powder.  Press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. 

In a mixing bowl, beat mascarpone, honey and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and salt.

Pour filling into chocolate crust and set it on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until pale golden and barely set in the center when you gently shake the pan, about 30-35 minutes.  

Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then chill until set, at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

Remove rim from pan and decorate with sliced strawberries.

So here’s the party about Mitt Romney.

Right before dinner was served, I ran into the son of the woman who abandoned my dog, Mitt Romney (yes that’s his name if you’re late to the party. We found him on election day and thought it would be funny to temporarily name him the losing candidates name and it stuck)….

So the story goes like this, they had this dog for about 8 or 9 years.  During that time he exhibited aggression toward other dogs, but nothing serious came of it.  One day he bit some lady’s dog and she threatened to call the cops. So the owner decided to get rid of him. How did she get rid of the dog? She apparently gave it to someone else and that person tied him up to a fence, a few blocks down from our house.  And they made sure to remove his tags so no one would call the contact number and find the original owners.  I should also mention that he was fat, dirty, covered in fleas and his teeth we’re almost black from never having been cleaned. 

Now this made me a pretty grumpy girl as I was putting the finishing touches on our spring vegetable pasta (recipe not included, don’t be pissed), and it continued to bug me for the rest of the night.

I have always wondered what Mitt’s life was like before he came into ours. To be honest I wonder if maybe it would have been better for his previous life to remain a mystery.  I know things could have been a lot worse for him, but it still rubs me the wrong way.  

A friend of ours told us that in his experience, dogs come to you, not the other way around. Mitt is apart of our family now, and I would have given him that whole damn tart to eat if he wasn’t on a major diet because his former family made him super fat.  

Those people are idiots.  And while it doesn’t excuse their mistreatment and misunderstanding of Mitt Romney, it’s time to let go of the anger we have toward them.  But if those idiots didn’t do what they did, we wouldn’t have the coolest dog in the world. Now we just need to work on those dog aggression problems…

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Apr 15

Salted Caramel Brownies

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Remember our unremarkable picnic?  Probably not.  The best decision we made that day was to make these brownies courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.  Seriously, these brownies are amazing and super easy to make. 

And even is your chocolate is chalky (ours was), they’ll still turn out incredible.  

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To fill the centers, use a teaspoon to scoop out a ditch in the middle of the brownie and fill ‘er up.  Put them in the fridge for a bit so the caramel sets up a bit.  

Brownies (Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 stick unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon flakey sea salt

2/3 cup flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8X8 pan with a parchment or foil sling. Grease that sling.

Melt chocolate and butter over medium heat in a double boiler. Let cool slightly.

Whisk in sugar, followed by one egg, then the other, then vanilla, then salt, then flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spatula to spread out to an even layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brownies are cracked on top and cake tester comes out clean.  

Once brownies are cool, or however long you can stand to wait, scoop the centers out with teaspoon and fill with caramel.  Sprinkle with additional sea salt.  

I am just going to direct you here for the dry caramel recipe. It’s David Lebovitz so you can’t go wrong.  Feeling a little lazy today as Mara is still in Mexico and I’m just pacing around my house until she gets back.    

Apr 11

Apr 02

Epic Picnic Fail

It all started with this super sweet Hunger Games picnic basket.  

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Cat’s sister scored this from someone who worked on the film and gave it to us since she has no use for such a ridiculous item taking up valuable closet space.

We were stoked, especially since we have been dreaming about an extreme picnicking post for almost a year. We decided to set up our sweet spread at the Silverlake Meadow.  We arrived early and the sun was a bit too high in the sky for good pictures, so we waited. We soaked up some rays, talked about Catherine’s impending nuptials, and scoped out all the hot Silverlake bros running shirtless with their dogs. 

And somewhere during all that, we decided what we were doing was really stupid so we packed up and went home.

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 But first we took some pictures that we thought we be in keeping with the Hunger Games theme.  Spoiler Alert: they don’t really have anything to do with HG other than the fact that we were outdoors.

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We tried to set up the picnic in the front yard.

imageAnd then looking at this ridiculous spread and feeling completely uninspired, we just kind of gave up and started eating.

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You see, the day had been kind of half assed already.  The pasta salad was made on Sunday. The quiche was made the day before (and who the fuck wants to eat quiche on a picnic anyway) and the brownies were a total last minute decision made in the cheese store.  

We just kind of weren’t feeling it today.  And while there is a certain amount of staging that goes into our posts, this just felt like it went a bit over the top.  

But we did learn some very important lessons:

1.  Rose water is best used sparingly.  (We made a Rose Lemonade that had quite a floral kick to the face.)

2.  Sometimes it’s important to be honest with oneself: if it feels stupid it probably looks stupid and therefore should not be written about like it’s anything worth doing.

3.  Filling brownies with salted caramel is always a good idea, but not if you’re on an exercise kick.  

4. The Hunger Games are kind of last year. ‘Nuf said.

Stay tuned for something more inspired (and maybe a recipe or two! what a novel idea!) when we are relieved of our pre-bikini season diets.

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Mar 21

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARA!

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Welcome to our desert road trip photo album.

To celebrate Mara’s 21st birthday we hit the road and headed east to Palm Springs.  There was Sun! Booze! Wind! Old People! Knives! A Mild Sickness! Hot Tubs! Cocktails! Danish People! And SO MUCH MORE.  

Below are some pics of what we did and made.  

Author’s Note: We get by with a little help from our friends, which means every meal was a group effort.  We have an amazing circle of friends that are very kitchen savvy and for that we are thankful! Enjoy :) :) image

Mara did this all by herself and it didn’t fall off. Hooray.

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I always forget to buy a card so I scrawled a love note on this Christmas wrapping paper I had lying around. 

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imageMmmm….real steel.  

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Mara copped some ‘roons from work.

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THEY WERE AMAZING.

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Taro Macaroon.  Murr knows they’re my favorite.

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Mara telling Abe it’s 10PM and we should probably start the fried chicken.

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Zen in the Art of Frying.

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Mmmmmm…..the recipe is from Bon Appetit, and it’s amazing.  Good job, Abe. I did find one of your chest hairs in my food though. I didn’t want to say anything because I like to blast people online so the shame will last longer. 

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Franco German Potato Salad

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Sriracha Slaw

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Yes.

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Breakfast. Ebelskivers with blueberry jam, lemon cream and I believe there were some cheese ones in there as well….courtesy of Chef Chase.

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Beautiful Dercks, our personal trainer, cocktail mixer and salad maker.  And no matter how much fried chicken she eats you can still see her rock hard abs.

 Let’s look at that salad close up.

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See, we do healthy stuff sometimes.

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Jesus Christ my arms got really burned.  And also the look on Abe’s face.

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Ummm…..someone else can clean that kitchen up.

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Happy Birthday Mara!!!! XOXOXO.

Mar 13

Best Trip Home Ever.

Before I left for a long over due trip to South Carolina to visit the family, I stopped by the local Barnes and Noble on a mission to buy Vegan Cookbooks.

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Let’s all just calm down and take a breath.

My parents have recently gone vegan, a move mostly inspired by reading The China Study and Ultra Metabolism. I am very proud they’ve made a serious commitment to this new lifestyle, I need them to be around as long as possible because I’m sure I’ll have a lot of questions about married life.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT PARAGRAPH, I GOT ENGAGED! AND IT WAS THE BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE! BUT BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT THAT LET ME TELL YOU WHAT THIS POST WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT!!!

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I had been planning Vegan Post #2 for a few months, and had hoped to post something as marvelous as Mara’s experience back in Baltimore. While I did not get to slaughter a rabbit, I did cook a big vegan dinner for my family (sadly, no blood was involved.) My intention was to craft a “vegan food isn’t that bad but I still ate a shitload of ice cream afterwards with my sister” post.

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I didn’t get very far because the next night my boyfriend of six years finally proposed! It was a big surprise that everyone had been holding in for weeks. So the whole family said screw the vegan diet, and we ate cake for the remainder of my trip. (Because I sure as shit ain’t celebrating my engagement with a vegan chocolate chip cookie.)

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So you see this post kind of fell apart. And I’m sorry about that. I do have two recipes for you though so don’t fret. I made broccoli potato soup with whole grain croutons and bell peppers stuffed with mediterranean barley salad.

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If you are someone who flirts with a vegan diet from time to time then pick up a copy of Veganomicon, it is an excellent cookbook and will impress all your hipster friends if you display it prominently on top of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.

I was pretty impressed with my vegan feast, but when we look back on this trip, no one is going to remember the food, and for once, that’s completely fine with me.

Broccoli Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Onion diced

3 Garlic Cloves

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (use more if you like)

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups vegetable broth (I’m not going to lie, I used chicken broth. Don’t judge me)

2 pounds russet potatoes cubed

4 cups broccoli, chopped into small florets

1/4 cup fresh dill

1/4 cup fresh mint (I didn’t use mint because the grocery store didn’t have it.)

Ancho Chile Oil for a spicy finish if you’re into that

Saute onion in olive oil until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tarragon, pepper and salt. Cook for 1 minuted longer. Add stock and potatoes. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add broccoli and cook for 10-15 more minutes.

Either using an immersion blender, food processor or blender blender, puree the soup in batches. Now, I chose to puree the whole batch of soup, but you can also puree 1/3 of it or 1/2 of it to preserve some of the chunkiness. You can even strain the soup to get an even smoother consistency. Whatever floats your boat.

I finished the soup with a drizzle of chile oil and some big homemade croutons.

Mediterranean Barely Stuffed Peppers

(I made this up, so bear with me.)

For Dijon Shallot Dressing:

4 Tablespoons Sherry VInegar

1 Tablespoon Minced Shallot

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

2/3 Cup Olive Oil

Salt and Peppar to taste.

Combine ingredients in tupperware container, shake it all around to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For Peppers:

Rub 6 multi colored peppers with a little bit of oil, wrap in foil and place in 350 degree over for about 15 minutes. Unwrap and let cool.

For Barley.

4 cups barely, cooked in vegetable broth.

1/2 Cup Sliced Roasted Red Peppers

1/2 Cup 1” diced cucumbers

1/2 Cup pitted kalamata olives

1/2 red onion, diced

Chopped Parsley

Let barely cool after cooking. Toss with vegetables and dressing, add dressing in two parts to avoid over dressing. Sprinkle with plenty of chopped parsley. Stuff into peppers.