My Crazy Yummy Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Today I’m posting a Comfort Classic recipe for Monday, since I actually haven’t made a real “one pot meal” in the last week. But I figure my spaghetti and meatballs are so delicious and comforting, which is just as important for a Monday meal. My spaghetti and meatballs recipe is one of my go-to classics dishes I have been whipping up for over 10 years now. After years of practice and perfecting, many a guest can attest that this is one of their favorite meals I’ve produced from my kitchen. It’s one of those comfort classics that I often times crave after a tough day. Or after an easy day. Then again I could eat this pretty much any day actually. I use a smoked cumin in the sauce, which adds a special, savory quality you will LOVE when you make it. Fresh tomatoes are also key to keeping everything fresh and bright. The meatballs are packed with all kinds of spices and even Parmesan cheese that really set them apart from other meatballs. And of course, I recommend using perciatelli instead of plain old spaghetti, for it’s magical sauce-soaking powers.  Give this a try. Trust me. You will NOT be disappointed 🙂

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A Childhood Favorite: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

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It was a chilly, rainy day in Houston circa 1989. My brother and I had just come home from school. We had both forgotten our rain boots that day, and I remember my mom hurriedly pulling off our rain-soaked shoes and providing us with some of her very own luxurious terry-cloth slippers to wear. Propped up on the couch, we didn’t even have to start homework right away that day, and instead got to watch Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats on TV.  “You guys want a leetle snack?” My mom asked in her Greek accent, “How about some greeled cheese and tomato soup?” We had never had this before, but we were served it at a friend’s house last weekend, and I remember coming home and exclaiming that it was my new favorite food. “Oh, reeely?” My mom asked, looking at me through the rearview mirror with a curious yet almost hurt expression. Looking back to that moment, I now know that the competitive side in her that I so obviously adopted when it comes to cooking was up for a challenge. She was not only determined to make this “new favorite food” of mine, but to make it way better than what I had at my friend’s house. As she clamored out of the kitchen, large blue eyes a-twinkle with pride and steamy red bowls of soup in tow, I knew this was going to be one gooood snack. The sandwiches were grilled with a crisp olive oil coating, the cheese was so much cheesier, and the soup was hearty but not overly creamy like at my friend’s house. Even back then, I could tell this was better. And I told her so. My brother’s tomato stained face was his affirmation to her that he liked it, too. Fast forward 20+ years, and today, I have my own recipe that will hopefully bring my future children the same feeling of comfort we were brought on that rainy day all those years back.

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Hump Day review of the Week | My Secret Weapon: Maplewood smoked sea salt

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I looove sea salt. I looove smoked sea salt. But Maplewood smoked sea salt? I adore. It’s one of my “secret weapon” ingredients that I have maybe crazily decided to reveal today. It adds a smoky, bacony, warm flavor to whatever you’re cooking.

For a great version of this sea salt check this one out from Etsy:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/101356083/smoked-bourbon-maple-salt?ref=market

 As an ode to this secret weapon, I have written a Maplewood smoked sea salt haiku. Hope you enjoy:

 

Smoky Sea Crystals

Fold them in with a secret

Of Bacon and warmth

 

I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy writing a haiku about sea salt. But I did it anyway. Happy Wednesday, now go eat some sea salt! Or some bacon. Or both! 

*Photo courtesy of Anna’s Spices on http://www.Etsy.com

One-Pot Monday Recipe of the Week: Mushroom, Bacon and Leek Quiche

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There’s nothing I love more than breakfast for dinner. This quiche recipe is just so glorious and delicious, you will want to make it every week. I was inspired by the Julia Child recipe, and this is based on her recipe for a leek quiche. I decided to add mushrooms and bacon, since I love that trio of ingredients together so much. The bacon adds heartiness and a nostalgia to the quiche, while the mushrooms just tie in  so well I had to add them. Some other amazing combos that I’ve tried are goat cheese, eggplant, and red bell pepper as well as a tomato basil version. You can always get creative with what you decide to put in your quiche, which makes it fun and allows for creativity in the kitchen. Ok so, this isn’t technically one pot, as you will need a few separate pots/bowls to make it, BUT the finished product is in one “pot” or pie pan, soooo I thought I would include this for a one-pot Monday meal. It’s also a great feel-good food that will get you through the week as well. One bite and you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in Paris, sitting on a little bench on the cobble stone Rue De- something or other, rather than at your dining table. I’m thinking that’s what Julia Child was envisioning when she created her version as well.

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Mini Pavlova Clouds with Blackberry Rose Sauce

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I remember biting into my first ever pavlova while vacationing in London. It was just as much sensory experience as delicious dessert. Cracking into the outer shell, it crumbles like feather light, powdery confetti on your plate and hands. You can smell the egg and sugar and vanilla, intoxicating and heady as you take that first bite. And  as soon as that merengue hits your mouth, the crunchy shell evaporates on your tongue, and the insides are soft and gooey and luxurious. Depending on the sauce, it adds another element of decadence all together. Ever since that first Pavlovian bite, I have wanted to make some of my own.  I guess the whole merengue aspect has been daunting to me, as if  merengue were the stuff clouds were made of. I felt like you had to be some sort of culinary goddess to create it from scratch. But yesterday, with nothing but time on my hands and courage in the kitchen, I decided to brave my first pavlovas. The merengue recipe itself is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe. The sauce is my own rosewater blackberry creation, as is the orange blossom whipped cream, and taste truly heavenly with the merengue. After creating these gorgeous pavlovas, I do feel like I have graduated into another culinary realm of personal success, as my journey goes on in this culinary jam. Or maybe my head is still in the clouds after devouring two of these in one sitting.

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Shortcut Saffron Shrimp Paella

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Happy Friday everyone! Weekend nights are the perfect nights to whip up something festive and flavorful. If you need an idea of what to make that will be just as exciting as going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, you should check out my Saffron Paella recipe. It’s kind of like a vacation on your plate, with vivid colors and bright, bold flavors, so even if you don’t get to go anywhere exciting this weekend, your kitchen can be just as fun! I like saffron for its silky, exotic flavor; remember with saffron, just a small pinch will go a long way. I used Andouille sausage as well, but you can always cut that ingredient out if you want to go a little healthier, OR you could even do a lean turkey sausage! And the best part of this paella dish? It doesn’t take FOREVER to make like most paellas. It’s my quicker version for those of us who don’t necessarily have hours to slave away in the kitchen.

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Happy Hump Day Review of the Week: Local Foods Restaurant | Houston, TX

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When I first found out that my beloved Antone’s original sandwich shop was being thrown out into the cold by some new, hip restaurant, I was pretty bummed. This place was, after all, the original Antone’s sub shop, and was a nearly five decades long-standing staple for those in the museum district and West University areas for a mean po-boy. Then when we discovered the new, hip bully on the block was actually a concept restaurant birthed from owner of the neighbor next door, Benji’s, well, I was feeling far less Atomic-Wedgied by this presumed “bully”. I mean, how much of a meanie could this restaurant be if they were sort of right next door all along? Come opening week, my mama and I decided to just “walk by” and “check it out through the window”.

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One Pot Monday Recipe: Yia Yia’s Lamb and Potatoes

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One of my absolute favorite Greek foods to cook has got to be lamb and potatoes. I remember my yia yia making it early in the mornings at the crack of dawn, as was her ritual every morning when we spent our summers at their home in Cyprus. Whenever I think of that house, I remember chipped celadon blue paint flaking off of the old wooden window panes and the smell of fragrant foods cooking in the kitchen. I can still hear the sound of my grandmother clinking her pots and spoons and hands around making lunch for us every day after we came home from a day at the beach. It was her way of expressing her love for her family, and I’m sure the compliments we always paid her for her tasty creations made her day as well. This lamb recipe is very similar to something she would make, that my mother and I now make our own versions of in our respective kitchens for our own loved ones. It’s more than just a recipe for me, I guess. It’s one of the catalysts that led me down this culinary road towards my very own rituals and recipes in my own kitchen.

 

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Happy Hump Day Review of the Week: Mongoose versus Cobra | Houston, TX

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A few weeks back when we were in Houston visiting the fam, we ventured out looking for a place to grab a drink with friends. We wanted to try somewhere hip and new. Somewhere with some good bar snacks. Somewhere that has a great cocktail and some interesting beers on tap. Somewhere with an industrial, hip vibe. What bar in Houston encompasses all these qualities and more? Mongoose versus Cobra, of course! 

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One-Pot Monday Recipe of the Week: Chicken Mushroom Quinoa with Tomato Basil Sauce

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Happy One-pot Monday! Today, after a weekend of inhaling brownies and strawberry pie, I feel like something a little more on the healthy side. Since my last coconut shrimp quinoa was such a success, I decided to go ahead and post another of my favorite quinoa recipes. This is just such a hearty, flavorful little quinoa dish, and of course you’ll feel like you started off the week on the right, healthy foot! I guess technically this is a 2-pot, since the quinoa has to be cooked separately, but I promise it’s so simple, it’s definitely one-pot-worthy.  I’m also a hug fan of all things tomato basil, and why not health-ify it with some quinoa? I promise you won’t be mad at that second pot, especially if it contains fluffy, yummy quinoa inside.

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