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!

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