Portobello Burgers with Fresh Garlic Aioli

You know how just a faint smell can trigger your memory, transporting you back to a previous place and time? It turns out that an old recipe can have much the same effect. The first time I made this meal, I was living in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago and just beginning to build a life with my would-be husband. It was before we were engaged, before we were married, and before we became parents to a beautiful baby girl.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles

This is probably going to take all the glamour out of it, but....this is mom food. As in, I'm-starving-but-my-baby's-crying-and-I-just-need-one-bite-of-something!-food. That's how its felt for me lately. And so I made these, and now everyone is happy. I'm happy because I can pop one of these in my mouth and get a little lift from the protein and sugar. The baby girl is happy because I can tend to her instead of preparing an elaborate snack. And even the dog is happy, because its an unwritten rule around here that when there is peanut butter on a utensil, that utensil must be licked clean by a canine tongue.


Bi Bim Bop

I've been making bi bim bop at home since I was first introduced to Korean food my senior year in college. It's not authentic; not in the least. A Korean person, I'm sure, would be aghast at the stunning lack of pickled accoutrements in my bi bim bop. But it works for me. In fact, the great appeal of this dish is that it can be thrown together using just about anything you've got in your fridge. There are, however, three essential ingredients that no respectable bi bim bop can exist without.


Vegetarian Pot Pies: Mushroom Edition

Here we go again....I'm slowly but surely scratching recipes off my running to-do list! I made this one because--isn't it obvious?--pot pies are just amazingly delicious. Alas, being vegeterian for several years, it was next to impossible to find a good pot pie that was meat free. And so I set out to create my own vegetarian pot pie. I made it mushroom based, of course, because I'm obsessed with mushrooms. I'm pretty sure about 50% of my meals contain mushrooms, and that seems unhealthily low, so I'm trying to up that number. So in addition to allowing me to enjoy pot pies guilt-free, this recipe adds to my mushroom repertoire. Even my husband, an avowed pot pie skeptic, admitted that it was delicious. (Nevermind that his pot pie aversion has only to do with the name, which he says sounds creepy....really, husband?? I love him anyway.)


Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Caramelized Onion Empanadas with Salsa Verde

Do you have a running list of recipes you plan to tackle at some point in your life? I'm talking about things you'd love to make, but that have always seemed a bit daunting, so you keep putting them off for a day when you have just a little more time or are feeling just a little more ambitious. Croissants top that list for me--I'd love to have homemade croissants, and I'd love even more to be able to brag that I know how to make homemade croissants, but I just haven't worked up the energy yet. Up until this last week, empanadas were on that list too. But folks, no longer! I'm happy to say that I finally tackled homemade empanadas and have put a big mental strikethrough to another recipe on my bucket list. Really, they weren't that hard. I wasn't about to purchase a deep fryer, so this version is baked. They still tasted great (and were a bit healthier as a bonus).


Irish Whiskey Cake

Are you ready for St. Patrick's Day? I'm not. St. Patty's is my absolute least favorite holiday. I spent the last 7 years in Chicago, where its HUGE.....and the pressure to get up early and go to a bar with sticky floors, interact with rowdy Irish or pretending-to-be-Irish people, and take shots before noon on what is usually a bitterly cold, gray day never quite appealed to me. I know, I'm a killjoy. But I do get in the Irish spirit in a different way--I bake a cake. Its become a tradition of ours now to bake a bundt cake every St. Patty's Day with some sort of Irish alcoholic beverage. Yes, I prefer to take my alcohol in the baked good form. Though if I'm offered a black and tan and its past noon, I certainly won't say no.


Sweet and Salty Granola

Life has changed. And no, its not because of this granola, although the granola is pretty darn good. The change I'm referring to is the beautiful and tiny addition to our family that arrived on February 4th, late at night, greeting an exhausted mom, excited father and happy grandmother. Yep, I'm officially a mom, and our little girl is the best thing I've ever cooked up. Surprisingly, welcoming her into our life has been a completely natural and only occasionally challenging endeavor. We feel like she's always been here.


My mom's biscuits

I consider myself a decent cook, but there are just some things that I will always feel my mom does better. Biscuits are one of those things. Hers are light, buttery, flaky, and always perfectly browned. Heck, she even won the best biscuit prize from 4H when she was a teenager. I live in the shadow of those biscuits. I'm getting better, but every time I make them I always have an inauspicious feeling that something will go wrong. And actually, occasionally something does: when I made these biscuits, for example, I forgot to use self--rising flour like in my mom's recipe, and had to go back and add baking powder after I'd already cut in the butter and milk. Amazingly, it all turned out ok! I've made them again since, and they are getting better all the time--my last batch was as flaky and peelable as a Pillsbury biscuit--but much tastier, of course. Really, there's nothing like a homemade biscuit. They just make you feel like life is good....like your mom could be right around the corner in the kitchen, serving up your favorite meal like when you were a kid.


2nd Annual Christmas Beer Taste-Off

It's the 2nd annual Christmas beer taste-off! We started this tradition last year with a couple of fellow beer lovers and enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it an annual tradition. So here's the deal: every year we scout out several stores to find new and exciting holiday craft brews. There are usually at least a couple of local breweries represented: last year in Chicago it was Goose Island and Great Lakes, and this year we've honored our new home (Portland) with the Session Fest from Full Sail. The winner from 2011--Anchor Steam's Our Special Ale (aka Merry Christmas Happy New Year)--was brought back to see how it would hold up against a new crop of contenders. We had 7 people do a blind taste test of six beers and rate their favorite. We had a unanimous (and surprise) winner....read on for the results and reviews of all six beers.


DIY Christmas Gifts: Keeping it Local (+ a recipe for marionberry jam!)

I always love doing handmade gifts. The time and love that go into making something yourself make the gift that much more special. I also love custom gift baskets. It lets you tailor the gift perfectly to your loved one's taste and preferences. Combine the two ideas and -- wala! -- you've got a handmade custom gift basket! Since we're celebrating our first Christmas together in Portland this year, my theme was Portland-made. The gift package above is for my dad--he's a big breakfast guy, so I included homemade marionberry jam, coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and, to satisfy his sweet tooth, chocolate bars from Moonstruck Chocolate Company. Each item has a special connection to Portland: the marionberries are Oregon-grown, and Moonstruck and Stumptown are Portland-based companies.


Festive Quinoa Salad

It occurred to me after I made this that it features a pretty awesome color combo: red + green! And so I decided to name it Festive Quinoa Salad. I started with a base of quinoa and added dried cranberries, orange zest, goat cheese, pecans, and asparagus spears. The cranberry and orange combo also give it a very holiday feel for me. It's good served either hot or cold, so we usually pack the leftovers for a lunch. The dressing, which uses olive oil, white wine, and orange juice, adds a nice punch of flavor. (Oh, and I promise, this is the start of more regular postings for me--at least until the baby arrives!)


Salted Caramel Macarons

It's been awhile, hasn't it? We've had an eventful summer filled with big....or I should say HUGE life changes. Number one among these changes is a beautiful, exciting little miracle that made me sick for three months and unable to cook or even smell food, forcing the blog to take a long hiatus. You guessed it, we are expecting a baby! In 3 months our daughter will arrive and we could not be more thrilled. In addition, our family has moved from the fabulous city of Chicago to the fabulous town of Portland. Now that we're settled I expect to be back in the kitchen creating and capturing recipes to share with you once again. This one for salted caramel macarons was inspired by a little restaurant in our new town. Since I wasn't able to be at the restaurant to enjoy them, my husband generously decided to recreate them with me at home. After making these I have to say that fresh-baked macarons are the only way to go! The salted caramel was a bit tricky, but this is a great recipe to practice on because its fairly forgiving--ultimately the caramel gets mixed with butter and confectioner's sugar to make the buttercream filling, covering up any mistakes in consistency.