cooking, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

Cozy Meals for a Crazy Year

Is it just me, or is it hard to eat healthy when the weather cools down? I don’t know about you, but when it’s 25 degrees outside, I find it difficult to eat a salad.

Cooler temps call for warm, comforting meals. And in year when we’ve been dressing for comfort, there’s not reason we shouldn’t be eating for comfort, too.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite comfort food recipes for the upcoming winter season.

KK’s Top 5 Comfort Foods

Ina’s Penne Vodka

I’ve shared this recipe before by Ina Garten, but it’s worth sharing again. This pasta is rich and creamy – with a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes – and hard to eat just one serving. You will overeat this pasta, but it will be worth it.

Get the recipe here.

Beef, Tomato and Acini de Pepe Soup

Photo from skinnytaste.com

There are days when I just crave a big bowl of steaming, satisfying soup. I found this recipe in a Skinnytaste cookbook I bought after I received my Instant Pot. The meat and pasta make it hearty, and the half pound of parmesan cheese I put on top makes it’s kk-worthy.

Get the recipe here.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Image courtesy of Food Network.

I know it’s bad for you, but it’s SO SO SO good. Tyler Florence’s version of spaghetti carbonara is a lighter version, the “sauce” coming from the egg and the pasta water. It is velvety and creamy and perfect on a cold night with a glass of red wine. Sometimes, when I’m feeling crazy, I’ll make this recipe with bucatini.

Get the recipe here.

Sous Vide Ribeye

When I think of winter date night’s in, I immediately picture a juicy ribeye steak, onion rings and roasted broccolini and a full bodied cabernet. When it’s too cold to go outside and grill, I’ll prepare the steaks with the sous vide, and then sear them in a hot cast iron skillet with butter until there’s a crust. There is no recipe here. I simply vacuum seal the steaks in a bag with fresh herbs, salt and pepper and garlic, then sous vide them until the perfect medium rare. I then heat a cast iron pan until it’s screaming hot and I sear the steaks on each side for no more than a minute or two, and finish by basting with melted butter. OMG, heaven.

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich

I know fried chicken seems like a summertime dinner, enjoyed outside on a picnic table with a checkered tablecloth, but if you have the means to fry inside, fried chicken is one of those foods that just hits the spot and makes you feel good all over.

This recipe for fried chicken sandwiches is my girl crush Ina’s. And it was delicious. Don’t skimp on the pickles; I used homemade bread and butter quick pickles I made earlier in the day. Goes wonderfully with a hoppy IPA.

Get the recipe here.

Hopefully this provided some much-needed comfort food inspiration because honestly, vegetables aren’t cutting it right now.

cooking, Entertaining, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

The Only Appetizer Recipe You’ll Need

Mr. KK and I have always been big fans of visiting Portland, Maine. Aside from the fact that it reminds us a bit of Boston with it’s cobblestone ankle-breaking sidewalks and amazing restaurants (can you say lobstah rolls?), but the beer scene is top notch.

Trips to Portland became a little harder when the Little Mister came along, and as much as we were raising a bar baby, it was getting hard to ignore the stink eye we’d get from the hipsters.

One summer we rented a beach house for the three of us in South Portland, a 10-minute drive over the bridge. We were just close enough to enjoy an afternoon in our favorite city, with the luxury of being walking distance to a great little beach. Our house was conveniently located next to a Scratch Baking Company, a bakery that had somewhat of a cult following. Every morning at 6am people would start lining up waiting for the bakery to open, just to get their hands on their famous bagels. With the line of people came chit chat, so every morning we were up at the crack of dawn listening to everyone in line.

Now, having a husband with a sweet tooth and a toddler who loved all things cake and cookie, being next to the bakery was a very convenient spot for us. I could literally roll out of bed, walk out the front door, and be in line in my pajamas. Not being much a bagel person myself, they had a coffee cake that was to die for.

My favorite item from this bakery, however, was not a baked good at all. Tucked into the cooler with the cream cheese were containers of homemade pimento cheese spread.

Now, if you’re from the south, you are well aware of how life-changing pimento cheese is. If you don’t know what pimento cheese spread is, well, I’m sorry. You’ve barely enjoyed life up until this point.

First off, it’s made with cheese. If you’re a cheese whore like I am, that should be enough of a selling point. Second, it’s cheese mixed with cream cheese. (I mean, COME ON.) But perhaps the best selling point, is that you can eat it on almost anything. Crackers? Sure. Pita chips? My favorite. As a grilled cheese. Woah. Spread on a chicken cutlet on a roll? Shut the front door.

The day I discovered the pimento cheese spread at Scratch Baking Company, my entire vacation changed. I bought a container every single day, and ate the entire thing throughout the day. I had dreams about this pimento cheese. We went back to South Portland a second summer and the first thing I did was go to this bakery and secure pimento cheese for the week.

But you don’t have to live in the south or visit South Portland in order to enjoy pimento cheese. In fact, I have made pimento cheese spread many times (is there anything better to enjoy at a Kentucky Derby Party?). However, I have discovered the best of the best pimento cheese recipe; the créme de le cream cheese, if you will.

And who other to give us this amazing recipe than my girl crush: Ina Garten.

In her latest cookbook Modern Comfort Food, Ina shares her take on this amazing appetizer. In fact, once you make this and serve it, you’ll never need another appetizer recipe again.

Ina’s Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread

Recipe and photos courtesy of Ina Garten.

Click here for the recipe and a video.

Ingredients

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise 
1 1/2 tsp granulated onion (not onion powder)
2 large garlic gloves
1 teaspoon celery seed 
Kosher salt
3/4 cup pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped 
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 to 4 scallions)
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained (4 ounces)
4 cups shredded sharp while cheddar (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon Sriracha

Crackers and/or crudités for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, garlic, celery seed and 1/2 tsp salt with a wooden spoon. Add the pickled jalapenos, scallions and red peppers and grated Cheddar. Add the Sriracha and combine. Taste for seasonings and serve with crackers, corn chips or crudités. (Or with my favorite: pita chips).

I highly recommend you make a double batch: one batch for your guests, and the other to hide in the back of your fridge so you can shame it any time no one is looking.

You’re welcome.

NaBloPoMo

Not bad for a Tuesday.

I woke up at 4:30am this morning, because I had to get ready to drive to Boston. I was going to work for the day, and then meet my very, very good friend J for dinner and…our night with Ina Garten!

It was raining, which meant everyone forgot how to drive, so my 2 hour drive took 3 hours and 15 minutes. I listened to the final episode in the Serial season 3 podcast, and started listening to Jennifer Weiner’s memoir, “Hungry Heart”.

A night with Ina Garten.

I was antsy all day, anticipating my delicious dinner with J (whom I hadn’t seen in almost 6 months) and our night with our soon to be BFF, Ina.

IMG_2573

We met for dinner at Eataly Boston, nabbing 2 bar stools and ordering a board of charcuterie that could have fed 6 people (though that didn’t stop us from ordering a pasta dish to share as well. Or wine.)

Ina was speaking at Boston’s Symphony Hall. A gorgeous, ornate building, that was casting a golden glow onto the cold, wet streets.

IMG_2577
Best I could do from row KK, taking an illegal photo.

Ina was her welcoming, wonderful self. She was honest and open, funny and warm. She talked about Jeffrey (whom she married when she was 20), revealed some little-known facts (she has her pilot’s license, and Jeffrey discovered he was dyslexic when he went to get his), shared the recipe she’s been working on for 8 years and hasn’t mastered yet (Boston cream pie) and let everyone in on her secret for success: “follow your dreams, and jump in the pond. Find something you love, and figure out how to make a living doing it.”

Ina Nerds that we are, J and I had our cookbooks with us, ready for her to sign. Unfortunately, there was no signing event this time around (she DID sign my cookbook the last time I saw her on tour).

I’m staying in Boston tonight, at a hotel. I used to travel quite a bit for work in my last job, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in a hotel room by myself. Will I be able to sleep without the beacon of light from the monitor in my face? (Hopefully) Will I remember how to barricade the door? (Yes) Will I wake up at 3:30am like I used to do when I traveled alone, not being able to go back to sleep? (Probably)

I’m up early tomorrow to beat the holiday traffic and start Thanksgiving prep. Because Thursday is the day that REALLY kicks off the holiday season…and I can’t wait.

Uncategorized

The day Ina Garten and I become BFFs

This post is written in the future tense because it hasn’t happened yet…but it will.

My girl crush just published a new cookbook (I already have mine!) and is currently on tour, promoting the book, sharing stories, answering questions and just being all-around awesome. My favorite cook in my favorite city.

And guess who’s going to see her? THIS GIRL.

Ina Garten book tour Boston
I’m even sitting in row KK – talk about fate!

Why I love Ina Garten

Back in my younger, pre-child days, when I would spend hours on the weekends cooking special dinners, or prepping meals for the week, the Food Network was always on. And my favorite television chef to watch was always Ina.

There’s just something open and honest and real about Ina. From the way she talks about her marriage to Jeffrey (who works at Yale down the street from me…Hey, Jeffrey, can I hitch a ride to the Hamptons with you??) to her friendships with other chefs and celebrities (I mean, Taylor Swift and Ina together? COME ON, PEOPLE, it doesn’t get much better than that.) And her recipes are easy to follow, and her food is just plain good.

When Little Mister came along, he developed a crush on Ina almost immediately. He would sit and stare at her on TV mesmerized. There was this one issue of Food Network Magazine that he would always pull off the shelf with Ina on the cover. When I would ask who that was on the cover, his little voice would answer, “Ina!”

Ina Garten's biggest fan

There’s a good chance she will see me, our eyes will lock, and she will invite me to the barn to cook alongside of her. I’m hoping she does a book signing after the event, because I will be there clutching my cookbook like a crazed groupie.

But in a cool way.

My top 5 favorite Ina recipes that you need to make right now:

Pan fried onion dip

Penne vodka

White beans and escarole

Skillet lemon chicken

Blondies

Happy cooking!