Holiday Series: Thank the Host

I plan on posting gift guides, holiday decorating tips, and festive recipes in the next few weeks (’tis the season and all…) but before we tuck into presents and fun, let’s not forget the hosts who put everything together. If you’ve ever hosted a large gathering, then you know every bit counts–whether it’s the people who stay to help clean, pitch in on the cooking, or come early to help set up–any and all help makes a world of difference.
This holiday season, however, I hope to go beyond helping in the cleaning and cooking realm, and make sure every host I encounter knows how much I appreciate their effort with a little token of my gratitude. Holiday Series: Thank the Host
As I think about a hostess present, I consider several things. Is this a family member or friend? Do I know their hobbies, tastes, and interests? Is this my first time at their home? All of these factors collide and provide insight as to what might make an perfect present. Nonetheless, it should ideally be something the host would not normally buy for themselves (perhaps it seems too frivolous a lá a Jo Malone candle) but fits their tastes to the extent of your knowledge. If I know someone who loves cheese, or simply entertains a ton, a fancy cheese plate and/or knives would make a meaningful and useful gift they’re sure to remember. Cool and eclectic tokens of gratitude, like rose gold playing cards, will certainly stand out from the pack with a hint of luxury and cool. Fun, festive barware always works for someone who entertains–from fun glasses to unique coasters, and beyond to copper pieces. If all else fails, finding food items that are part decadent, part interesting, is always appreciated.

There’s something for everyone out there. As you brave the cold and crowds, may your holidays be full of fun and love this year, and may your hosts always know the bounds of your gratitude!

Get Cooking

As a product of my generation, it’s safe to assume that I am dependent on the internet for a lot of information. There is just no substitute for the google machine. Despite the awesome powers of the world wide web, sometimes you really can’t beat the feel and experience of a good, old-fashioned, paper-and-ink, tangible, book. This applies to the heaping piles of  books I’ve read and enjoyed over the years and refuse to get rid of–our movers can testify to the truth in that statement. However, everyone has different taste in literature, so I’m not sure it’s my place to dictate what novels or biographies you should delve into and add to your shelves. Conveniently though, we all do have tastebuds, which means we can all enjoy a good cookbook or twelve. Get Cooking
Cookbooks make a great addition to your recipe repertoire, as well as to stylish bookshelves, counter-tops, and coffee tables everywhere. I picked the books shown above based on certain criteria:
  1. Accessibility: By this I mean you have a fighting chance of finding the ingredients near you. This seems like a low bar to set the standard for cookbooks, but check out The French Laundry Cookbook for a head-scratching experience. Also, the skill-level required to make these recipes is not unrealistic.
  2. Deliciousness: All the books listed offer truly epic recipes on a scale of one to omnomnomnomnomnomnom.
  3. Photography: A good cookbook needs to have pretty pictures, even if you can’t replicate the product perfectly, it’s inspiring to see how beautiful food can look!
  4. Informative: You can learn a lot from these cookbooks. Jason Vale is the master of juices and offers a ton of advice regarding nutrition and overall wellness, while Jose Garces gives a history of Spanish cuisine as well as meal planning advice to appreciate the flavors of various Spanish cultures.
I hope you invest in some of these books, I know I love Garces’s recipe for yuca bread and can’t wait to make all the juice recipes from Vale’s book. Not to mention all the desserts in the Bouchon bakery cookbook! So in the spirit of learning and eating, pick up a book and page through until you land on a picture of something truly wonderful looking, and get cooking!
P.S. Not everything you read on the internet (or in books, admittedly) is true (SURPRISE!), but at least you have a fighting chance of honest writing with cookbooks. An editor, or two, did have to page through those recipes before publication. Plus, let’s be honest, there is no such guarantee with Pinterest recipes.

Let’s Eat: Moroccan

Under the heading of things you already know: food is pretty great . There is enormous variety in terms of cuisine types, which makes it all the more fun in my opinion. I love going out to eat as much as the next person, but I really do enjoy making a meal to savor at home with just Jordan, a hefty group of  friends, for a special occasion, or with our families back home. Having said that, I want to introduce one of my favorite recipes with the hopes that you enjoy it just as much as I do.
Let's Eat: Moroccan
Tagines (or tajines) are a traditional North African Stew, cooked low and slow (in a earthenware pot of the same name) for a super tender and rich result. The flavor is a sweet/savory/spicy mix that tastes much more complicated than it is to make. Don’t worry though–you don’t actually need a traditional tagine to make this Moroccan meal, but you have to admit that the traditional Moroccan cooking dish is pretty eye-catching. Instead what you’ll need is:
  • A slow-cooker: any size will do, just adjust the recipe if your slow-cooker is on the smaller side or if you have an enormous one and are feeding a crowd. This recipe makes enough for four hungry people, with leftovers (which get better overnight anyways).
  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 medium sized yellow onions, thinly diced
  • 3 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 (15 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 generous teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • pinch of ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all the above ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low setting for approximately 6 hours. After 6 hours, add dried apricots, raisins and dates to your liking and taste tagine to see if you want it spicier (add more cayenne pepper) sweeter (more honey) or richer (more tomato paste).  I usually end up adding two generous fistfuls of apricots and one of dates. Cook for another hour-hour and a half. This dish is best served over cous cous, but it’s also nice with quinoa/rice and with hummus and pita or a salad on the side.

Maybe not the prettiest product when it’s all said and done, but it is so damned delicious I forgot to even take a picture until I was on helping number two. Do yourself a favor and give it to go–with winter still rearing its ugly, cold head this is the perfectly comforting pick me up. 20140211-150612.jpg