Thursday, January 31, 2013

Asian Purple Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Ok, here's the thing. I hate coleslaw. I want to like it, I really do. It seems like it would be refreshing, crisp and creamy at the same time. Which is a good thing, right? I like cabbage, and I've got no problem with mayo, but put them together and my taste buds can't seem to get on board. Which is a bummer, because coleslaw seems to make an appearance everywhere. Picnics, BBQ restaurants, Super Bowl parties... other kind of parties... I can't think of anywhere else, but you get the picture. 

asian cabbage slaw

But when I made Kalua Pig the other day I thought to myself, self, you know what would go really nice with this... coleslaw. But rather than investing the time in making a traditional coleslaw and then realizing that yep, I still don't like coleslaw, I decided to give it a go with Asian flavors that I know my taste buds can get on board with. AND while I was at it, I made it paleo.

paleo asian cabbage slaw

Colorful, crisp, tangy, and with just a hint of heat, this is the perfect slaw to serve along side my Kalua Pig. You can even make it a day in advance! Since you know Super Bowl is coming up and you might need to feed the masses that gather on your sofa and maybe you just want to kick on the couch also... and possibly curl up with a good book. (Hey, if the Packers aren't in it, I don't have to pretend like I care!)

Asian Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Serves 10 - 12

1/2 head purple cabbage
1 cup whole brussels sprouts
3 large carrots, peeled
1 bunch of green onions (about 10 green onions)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

For the Dressing:
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce - if using soy sauce start with 1/4 cup, taste and add more as needed)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon raw honey (or none if doing Whole30)
1 tablespoon chili oil
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

- Using the shredder blade of your food processor, process your cabbage and carrots. (If you don't have a food processor, cut into small shreds using a knife.) Using a knife cut brussels sprouts into shreds working from head to stem. Slice green onions. Mix shredded cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts, and green onions in a large bowl.

- Toast slivered almonds over medium heat in a dry pan for 3 - 5 minutes. Tossing occasionally. Let cool and add to bowl.

- Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss well to coat. Slaw keeps in fridge for 3-5 days.

Serve with Kalua Pig!

asian cabbage slaw

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kalua Pig

Ok, a little confession. I've been doing this challenge called Whole30 since January 2nd. If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen some references to it. It's basically eating paleo really strict for 30 days. No dairy, no grains, no sugar, no soy, no processed food. The point of the challenge is to re-set your body, adapt to a healthier way of eating, restore your metabolism, and put an end to unhealthy cravings. I hesitated to talk about it on here because I don't want this blog to be a paleo blog, and more importantly because I've cheated quite a bit throughout the 26 of thirty days I've completed. And there is proof. Exhibit A: Beer Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Purée - these came pretty close to fitting into the challenge guidelines except for the dairy in the parsnip purée. Exhibit B: Skillet Pizza Party - this was a complete fail as far as the Whole30 challenge goes, but it was such a success in all other areas that I'm giving it a pass. Exhibit C: Bleu Cheese Crusted Buffalo Drumsticks - dairy once again, makes it a no no for the challenge. (I apparently like cheese and dairy, duh. Remember that one time I ate like 1/2 a pound of cheese on my own?)

kalua pig ingredients

Why then am I now bringing up this crazy challenge thing that you probably don't care about? Because I'm on day 26 and despite all my cheats, I feel great! I'm not craving bad food, I'm no longer stress eating, or binging on pizza and bad stuff when I'm hungry and then feeling bloated and awful after and whining that I'm going to die because I ate too much. I eat when I'm hungry, I feel good after, and that's that. I've noticed a change in the way my body looks as well, which is always a good thing. Hey there were abs hiding under that layer of stomach fat! But overall, I just feel like the food I eat is good for me and makes me feel good.

Hawaiian Sea Salt

BUT, before you start clicking unsubscribe, let me be clear. I'm not making this blog a Paleo blog, I believe in moderation and like to eat that way. I love to try out new recipes of all kinds. Desserts full of sugar included! I just wanted to share my experience with you since it affects my daily life and the things I've been cooking. I love a good challenge and I'm always interested in learning about how food affects my body and how to make my relationship with food the best it can be. Sounds cheesy, I know, so let me get to the point - I have two great Super Bowl recipes for you this week and both are Paleo (and as far as I know Whole30 friendly*)!

Hawaiian Sea Salt

The first of these recipes is Kalua Pig. My mother in law gave me this recipe, oh, about two years ago. It took me a while to get to it. But when I did, I was sad I waited so long! This is so easy and so tasty. This recipe is great for Super Bowl because it makes a lot of pork and requires very little time in the kitchen! You know, in case you actually want to watch the game. It does require a few specialty ingredients like, liquid smoke (pick up at any grocery store in the condiment aisle) and Hawaiin sea salt - which I found at Whole Foods, but I also noticed that Sprouts carried it as well. But with an ingredient list of 7, it's worth it to pick up a few new things for succulent, delicious, tender Kalua pig at home.
No ticket to Hawaii needed to have a little taste of a luau. So that alone, saves you some money.

kalua pork

Kalua Pig
serves 6 - 8

4 pounds pork shoulder or butt (mine was labeled pork shoulder boston butt)
1/2 an onion, cut in two pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons Hawaiin red gold sea salt
3 large garlic cloves, grated
1 3-4 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 cup coconut aminos (for the paleo eaters out there) or soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a 9x13 baking pan with foil. Make deep slashes in pork with a knife. Place pork in pan. Sprinkle pork with Hawaiin sea salt.

Combine coconut aminos (or soy sauce), grated garlic, grated ginger, and liquid smoke. Rub mixture all over pork, working it into the slashes. 

Place pork fatty side up. Place onion piece on each side of pork. Wrap pork tightly with foil. Folding together two sheets of foil if necessary. Make sure the pork is completely sealed in there. 

Bake at 325 for 5 hours. Shred pork and serve.

*I'm not entirely sure where Liquid Smoke falls in the eyes of the Whole30 challenge, but since it only has one ingredient - smoke, I've decided it's good to go. 

kalua pig

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bleu Cheese Crusted Buffalo Drumsticks

My husband is a steak and potatoes, watch football, wear the same shirt for five days (while sweating in the jungle on our honeymoon) kind of guy. He's a man's man. In all his beer drinking, simple eating, sweating glory. And I love that about him. Well, maybe not the same sweaty shirt for five days thing. But with all that manly-ness I expect a few things to come with it, a few "manly" traits that just seem to come with the territory that my manly man might be missing. And that would be a certain knack for household projects, being handy with tools, and a general basic knowledge of cars...  Sorry honey, you are great at so many other things! Like walking the dog! 

crock pot buffalo wings

But we aren't here to talk about any of those things, we are here to talk about my manly man's unmanly dislike for hot wings and sports bars. That's right. My husband doesn't like buffalo wings. Or watching games at sports bar. And I do. Umm hello, crazy role reversal madness! My brain can't even comprehend.

bleu cheese crusted buffalo drumsticks

So in an effort to right this wrong and put the universe back to normal, I made buffalo drumsticks at home. Then we has to eat them. And not just any old buffalo drumsticks. Bleu cheese crusted buffalo drumsticks! In the crock pot! It's like, tasty, easy, delicious, football food overload! And look at me... being all timely and stuff... isn't there a lil ol' football game coming up soon? Hmmm?

crock pot buffalo drumsticks

Make these. And turn your husband into a real man. Wait, did I just say that out loud? 

Blue Cheese Crusted Buffalo Drumsticks

makes 14 - 16 drumsticks

4 pounds chicken legs
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika (your choice! I used sweet)
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup melted ghee* or butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 1/2 tablespoons milk or cream of your choice (I actually used coconut milk from the can)

In a small bowl mix the salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper. Sprinkle over chicken coating all sides. 

Place chicken in crock pot.

In a measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the Frank's Red Hot, melted butter or ghee, and 1/4 cup chicken broth. Pour over the chicken taking care to coat all the chicken legs.

Cover crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.

When drumsticks are done cooking, pre-heat broiler. Line a baking pan with tinfoil. Carefully pull drumsticks out of crock pot, they will be meat falling off the bone tender, and place on the tinfoil lined pan. 

Mix the bleu cheese crumbles and milk in a small bowl still they become a little "gluey". This will help the bleu cheese stick to the drumsticks. Spread about a teaspoon of bleu cheese mixture on to each drumstick. 

Place pan of drumsticks in the broiler and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until cheese is melted and skin is crispy. 

Enjoy with more bleu cheese, carrots, celery, or raw zucchini in my case since I don't like celery. 

*ghee is clarified butter, the milk fat is rendered from the butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat. I happen to have ghee in my fridge, so I used it. It has a higher smoke point so it is better for frying or sautéing at higher temperatures. It is not at all necessary in this recipe and feel free to substitute regular butter. 

crock pot hot wings

P.S. Make these Paleo Buffalo Drumsticks by skipping the bleu cheese crust, but still broiling them for 3 to 4 minutes to get crispy skin.

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Wedding Part 4: The Dessert Bar - How To

I know, I know, at this point you're probably about as sick of hearing about my wedding as my husband is of hearing my mother and I talk about it. BUT there is a "How To" tutorial involved in this post, and let's be real, it wouldn't be a proper wedding series without discussing the cake. Or in this case, the cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, and doughnut holes.
Oh my!

wedding dessert bar

I knew from the get go that I didn't want a three or five layered cake. Not knocking them, just the idea didn't appeal to me. We're not big cake people to begin with, so doing something a little different felt right to us. Plus I love having options. It's an indecisive girl's dream.

cutting the cake

But we did pick one cake to be our main cake. We choose the flavor strawberries and cream because Adam doesn't like chocolate (weirdo, I know!) and because we both like strawberries. And strawberries translate into pink, so I could have pretty pink ombre layers inside. That was the main reason. I mean look how pretty it is!

pink ombre wedding cake

 I loved our "official" wedding cake. It was simple, yet beautiful and was insanely good. It was vanilla and strawberry cake with fresh strawberries in between the layers, and a buttercream frosting that was not deathly sweet. It was perfect. And pretty. Oh, have I already said that it was pretty? Well it was.

pink ombre wedding cake

I really loved my cake toppers as well. They are from Ready Go Wedding Co. on Etsy. You can customize the coloring and outfits. They also offer pets! We of course had to get a little Penny with a pink bow. And they donate $10 of the purchase of a pet animal topper to a local animal shelter. How great is that?!

custom drawn cake toppers

But like I said it was dessert bar and here I am going on and on about just one cake. I get a little carried away when it comes to wedding stuff. (As if you hadn't already noticed.) So here are the other cast of characters at the dessert bar.

chocolate rosette cake

 A gorgeous Chocolate Bavarian Cream cake that I unfortunately did not get to taste. But I heard it was good. How you could bring yourself to cut into those pretty rosettes, I don't know.

fancy pumpkin cheesecake

The most AMAZING brown sugar salted caramel cupcakes EVER!! So insane. Believe me when I tell you brown sugar cake with a creamy salted caramel center and some kind of subtle salted caramel frosting will make your knees buckle and have you begging for more. Unfortunately for me, my knees really did buckle, I missed sitting down in my chair and dropped half my cupcake. THE. LAST. ONE. Luckily, my dress offered lots of padding for my behind on the concrete landing, and I don't think too many people saw... BUT, back to the desserts. Also we had a pumpkin cheesecake! Pumpkin pie is Adam's favorite dessert, so we decided to class it up a little for the wedding with this snazzy pumpkin cheesecake with a caramel drizzle and walnuts. Sadly though, I don't think Adam got a piece. Oh the woes of having a wedding.

wedding cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, because I wasn't kidding that Adam loves pumpkin. And our wedding was in October so it kept with the theme. We also had pumpkin beer.

white ruffle wedding cake

Finally to round out the cakes and cupcakes, we threw in some cake pops (strawberry and lemon) and some pumpkin doughnut holes for good measure. 

crepe paper streamer backdrop

Creating a dessert bar was a fun and easy project. Maybe one of my favorite of the wedding! If you are feeling conflicted about the kind / flavors / type of dessert you want to offer at your wedding, a dessert bar is a great option. And they are fun! Here are some tips on how to DIY your own dessert bar.

1. Figure out how many guests you think you will have and do the math. One dessert for each guest at the very minimum, meaning one slice of cake, one cupcake, one or two cake pops (or other smaller items). Now add a little to that, or a lot. Remember that when presented with multiple options, most likely your guests are going to grab more than one. Here is what I did for 120 guests. One 10 inch cake (think about 24 slices), one 8 inch cake (about 14 slices), one 10 inch pumpkin cheesecake (about 24 slices), 30 cupcakes, 30 cake pops, and something like 30 - 40 doughnut holes.  How do you determine how many people a cake can feed? Check out this cake serving guide to get an idea. We had enough to feed our guests and a few leftovers, but I wouldn't have minded having more. Particularly of the brown sugar salted caramel cupcakes. Then I could hoard them in the ruffles of my dress and eat them later.

2. Figure out how you are going to procure the desserts. Are you thinking about taking on the baking yourself? (If so, big props to you! But remember that undertaking fresh baked desserts will make the already stressful days before your wedding even more stressful. And yes, those days will be stressful if you are a DIY bride.) Maybe you have friends that each want to contribute something to the dessert bar? This would be a great way to do a dessert bar on a budget. Assign trusted and talented baking buddies to each make a dessert for your big day. Or maybe you just want to hire a professional to do the baking. That's what we did, we hired a professional baker to make the 2 cakes, the pumpkin cheesecake, the cupcakes, and the cake pops. But the doughnut holes, we just went to a grocery store and picked them up the day before the wedding. And guess what? They were a huge hit, and no one was any the wiser. So don't be afraid to think outside the box and remember to work within your budget. You could hire a professional to do the main cake and then maybe just pick up some other treats from a local bakery / grocery store / friend that makes awesome cookies or treats.

3. Plan the look. How do you want to present the desserts? I chose vintage cake stands. I collected various cake stands from friends and relatives and even thrift shopped a few to create a look I loved. I brought them to my venue and my cake guy set them up when he brought the desserts. Check with your venue to see what they can offer or bring in your own supplies. I kept the decorations minimal for my dessert bar. There was suppose to be succulents at the base of the cake stands, but they seemed to never make it to the table. No biggie. It still looked beautiful to me. Especially with the back drop. Which brings me to number four.

4. Create, or select, a great back drop for your dessert bar. You will be photographed in front of it and you want those photos, like all the others, to be beautiful. I made my streamer back drop and it worked perfectly to cover up those hideous pool warning signs, since we had a poolside reception. You can create your own fringy streamer back drop in whatever colors you like by using my tutorial.

5. Label your desserts so your guests know what they are eating. It's no fun biting into a cake pop not knowing it's lemon flavored if you hate lemon. My labels were simple to make. I printed the names on kraft paper that I found at Michael's and then cut and folded them. After that I glued some leftover magnets I had on the inside of them to give them some weight so they wouldn't blow over or move around.

Creating your own dessert bar is easy, fun, and can be very cost effective! 

What are your thoughts on dessert bars at weddings?

**All photos by Jeff Janke Photography
**Cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops by Cake Appétit

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top Your Own Pizza, Pizza Party!

You know how in grade school you would get rewarded with a pizza party for working extra hard at something or earning a certain number of stars during the school year? What if I told you that you could have a pizza party even without earning a single gold star. Like, look at me I washed the dishes! Call everyone over, pizza party time! Or, wow I just finished a Homeland marathon and that was hard work sitting there riveted to my TV, I deserve a pizza party! Because, honestly you really don't need a reason to have the most delicious, and did I mention homemade, pizza party of your life. And luckily, with this method you don't even need a lot of time.

individual pizza

But I do recommend inviting some friends over to share in this joyous occasion. Because not only is pizza meant to be shared (that is if you can agree on the toppings), this is an everyone-gets-their-own-pizza-pick-your-toppings kind of party. And that's the best kind of pizza party for a pepperoni hating mushroom loving kind of girl. No more debating for a half hour about meat choices and can we please just get mushrooms? No? Ok fine how about pineapple? No, to that also? What kind of pizza loving person are you Adam?! His response: The normal one who likes pepperoni and believes that fungi and fruit have no place on a pizza pie. Phppph. What does he know, really?

pizza topping bar

So just how is it possible to make multiple individual pizzas for you and your friends without spending hours in the kitchen shoveling pizzas in and out of the oven, tapping your feet while you wait for them to bake?
Build a GIANT wood burning stove!

{a little wonky on one side*}

Kidding, kidding. Put your bricks and mortar down. There is a much easier solution. Pull out your trusty cast iron skillet. Please tell me you have one! And heat up your broiler. These pizzas cook in 3 to 4 minutes! Using this method you could churn pizzas out like it was your job. And I guess, if you are throwing a pizza party it kinda is your job. But at least you won't be waiting 30 minutes between each pizza you serve your guests. And that means each guest can have their own individual pizza with their choice of toppings! Oh, the freedom!! Oh, the choices!!

choose your topping

Here's how it works. You locate your broiler. Mine is a drawer at the bottom of my oven, just in case, like me, you had no idea where to find your broiler and what that strange drawer was for. But in newer ovens the broiler is often located at the top of the oven, so position your rack at the highest level. You pop your cast iron skillet in the oven if you're broiler is located in a drawer below your oven. If your broiler is located inside the actual oven, then place your skillet on the stove over high heat.  Crank up the oven to broil. Prepare a topping bar with all your favorites and then some. (I was told I had to add pepperoni.) Grab some dough and roll out your pizzas. I did a bunch in advance before the guests arrived. Then give your guests their uncooked crust, preferably on a floured wood cutting board, and let them go to work. Once your oven has had time to get all warm and toasty like the fiery depths of hell, use oven mitts to pull your cast iron skillet out (if you have placed it in the oven). Carefully slide the pizza (with all it's toppings) from the cutting board and into the skillet. This takes a little bit of skill, but if you don't get it right just go with it. See my photo above.* Stick that hot skillet in your broiler, in the actual drawer if that is where your broiler is located. Broil for a minute thirty and then rotate skillet. Continue to broil for another  minute and a half. Watch carefully towards the end. Your looking for golden gooey cheese and a crust that is starting to brown, maybe even char. My pizzas took 3 to 4 minutes. When it's done, carefully slide it out of the skillet and continue with your next pizza. Keep the skillet hot in the oven if you have down time between the pizzas or over a high flame on the stove.

skillet pizza
{iphone photo of one of my guest's pizza from my pizza party}

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza Party
method adapted from Bev Cooks

- Trader Joe's pizza dough (or make your own) - you'll need about 8 ounces of dough per pizza. One ball of Trader Joe's dough makes 2 pizzas
- 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet. Mine is 12.
- olive oil to coat bottom of pan.
- enough sauce for the amount of pizzas you are making - I used 1 jar Trader Joe's pizza sauce for about 6 pizzas
- desired toppings for your topping bar 
 I had:
roasted red pepper
sliced cherry tomatoes
cooked bacon
cooked bbq chicken
onions (pour boiling water over them to take the "bite" off)
cheddar cheese
mozzarella cheese
feta cheese
parmesan cheese
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
crushed red pepper

Locate your broiler. If you have an older oven it could be in a drawer at the bottom of your oven. If you have no drawer at the bottom of your oven, then your broiler is most likely located on the ceiling of the oven. Position a rack at the highest level, making sure you have enough room to slide your skillet in and out with a few inches above it.

Turn your oven on to broil. Place a cast iron skillet in the oven if your oven has the broiler in the drawer at the bottom. If your broiler is located on the ceiling of your oven, then place your skillet over high heat on the stove. Lightly brush olive oil over bottom of pan, to ensure a nonstick surface. Let broiler and skillet get nice and hot, at least 10 minutes.

On a floured wood cutting board, roll out 8 oz of dough to fit the size of your pan. You can make the pizzas smaller also if you would like a thicker crust. Top pizza with desired sauce and toppings.

Using an oven mitt take skillet out of the oven, if you placed it in the oven to heat, if it is on the stove heating up just leave it there. Carefully slide the pizza from the cutting board into the skillet. This takes a little practice. If it's not perfect you can use a spatula to try and even it out, but I wouldn't fuss with it for more than 15 seconds or so, it's already starting to cook and you need to get in under the broiler.

Place pan under broiler. Cook for 1 minute 30 seconds then rotate pan 180 degrees. Cook for another minute and half. Check after 3 minutes. Cook for another minute if desired, depends on the heat of your broiler. Mine needed about 4 minutes. You are looking for golden gooey cheese and a crust that is starting to brown or char.

Using oven mitts remove pan from broiler, carefully slide pizza on to cutting board or use spatula to remove pizza. Cut and serve!

Start your next pizza! Keep pan hot over stovetop or in oven in between pizzas.

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Wedding Part 3: Favorite Moments and Advice

I've said it before and I'll say it again, planning a wedding is one of the most stressful, but more importantly, FUN things I've ever done. Nothing can prepare you for the day of your wedding. It's a whirlwind of emotions, anticipation, and adrenaline. It's the best day ever, and it goes by in a blink of an eye. Advice from friends who had recently gotten married really helped me know what to expect and how to keep my head on straight. So I figured while it's still fresh in my mind I'd pass on some of what I learned along with a few of my favorite moments.

Refuge Golf Course Wedding

1. Savor your first look. Put all the schedules aside for a moment and take time to soak in his reaction, your reaction, and any sweet words. Enjoy this peaceful moment between you and your almost husband before you are whisked off to do more photos and running around.

Refuge Golf Course Wedding

I know not everyone does photos before the ceremony so this doesn't apply to every bride. But if you do plan on doing a first look and photos before the ceremony, remember to really take your time with the first look. This is the start of your wedding journey. I enjoyed seeing Adam before the ceremony because, well, the day is about us and I wanted to spend time with him. It was one of my favorite moments because it was one of the few moments that we were alone, just us, ready to embark on our special day. Of course, the photographers were there, but they were far enough off to allow us to have a private moment.

desert wedding

2. Take advantage of your location and the scenery. You have chosen to get married at this particular place / venue / spot for a certain reason. Capture the essence of what made you fall in love with the place.

Lake Havasu Wedding
{Yes, my husband is grabbing my butt. He's a romantic}

For us, it was the beauty of the Arizona desert and the lake that we loved. Don't get me wrong, we loved our venue and it was breathtaking as well, but I became obsessed with the idea of us all decked out in wedding attire standing in the middle of the desert - in the dirt. But getting these shots was no easy task, especially since we decided to take the whole wedding party out there with us.

Lake Havasu Wedding

To get to our photo shoot location we went off roading into the desert. Like hardcore off roading. I had to hoist myself into a lifted truck, in the process, loosing one of the hoops of my underskirt and then we went on a 10 minute, very bumpy, but fun ride. Some of the groomsmen got to ride out in this:

bride with groomsmen picture

We were in a crazy rush to get the pictures done and get back and start the ceremony on time. (For the record I don't believe the ceremony started on time.) All of our feet got dirty, my dress probably got dirty, it was hot, and I had red ants crawling up the layers of my bodice minutes before I walked down the aisle. Did I mention I have a phobia of ants? But in the end, it was worth it. Not just for the photos, but for the adventure of it all, and the memories.

Coral Bridesmaid Dresses

3. Have fun in the photos with your bridal party! Some of my favorite photos are the ones where we got a little goofy. Above is our lost in the desert look.

Refuge Golf Course Wedding

Here we have falling off a ledge.

Bridesmaid poster wedding photo

And our attempt at the Bridesmaids poster.

succulent bouquet
{Succulent, Dahlia, Rose, Pincushion Protea, and Millet Bouquet}

4. Get a photo of your bouquet. If all goes as planned it will be the prettiest bouquet of flowers you've ever seen in your life. You'll want to look at it later. AND, one tip I wish someone gave to me: if you take photos before your ceremony, just wear your rings, it will make the photos look more married.


5. Have dinner at your wedding. With your husband. Talk. Look around. Soak it all in. This was my favorite moment.

dessert bar

6. Let your husband smash cake in your face. It's fun.

cake smashing

Although, I told him to absolutely NOT smash cake in my face, it turns out to be one of my favorite moments of the wedding. And it was one of the few bites of cake I got to eat.

cutting the cake

dance floor

7. Dance with your husband like no one is looking.


Even though, everyone is. 


8. Lastly, just remember to breathe and take time to soak it all in. When people tell you it will go by fast, they aren't joking.

Refuge Golf Course Pool

 What wedding advice do you have? Or what are you most looking forward to about your own wedding?

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs and Parsnip Purée

The new year means eating healthy, right? Well, once you get over that silly little notion you can go ahead and make these short ribs. Because these bad boys are so rich and decadent I can't imagine putting them in the health food category. That would be like putting Baby in a corner. And nobody puts Baby in a corner. (Look at me! I came up with a pop culture reference! It doesn't happen very often, so soak it in my friends.)

Beer Braised Short Ribs

Unfortunately, these little ribs of happiness are not the brain child of yours truly. They are from my all time favorite blogger turned cookbook author Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I freaking love her. Every recipe I have ever made of hers has turned out perfect. She turned a first time pie maker into a baker extraordinaire. Or at least the one pie I made led people to believe that I'm a baker extraordinaire, and who am I to tell them otherwise? 

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

So when I got her cookbook for Christmas, first thing I did was read it cover to cover. Literally. Like it was a novel, not a book of recipes. It's that good. It's basically my favorite present. (But if Adam asks, those gold earrings I bugged him about relentlessly are my favorite present.) 

Seasoned Beef Short Ribs

I gravitated towards this short rib recipe right off the bat, because, well, it sounded delicious.

Browned Short Ribs

But let's be honest, every recipe in this cookbook sounds delicious. But the story that came along with this particular recipe hit home for me. Deb tells how when making short ribs for the first time she freaked out because the meat was falling off the bone, until her mother in law told her that meat falling off the bone is a good thing. For me, cooking is a constant learning experience. Especially since it wasn't long ago that I thought making a quesadilla fancied up with some onions and tomatoes was the height of cooking. Everyday I get in the kitchen I learn something new, and some of it is as terribly obvious as meat falling off the bone being a good thing.


 Like always, I pretty much followed Deb's recipe word for word, step by step. She takes a lot of the guess work out of cooking. But of course, when the recipe called for a dark beer, I couldn't just use any old dark beer. No siree, I had to use the good stuff, the limited release Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. Much to Adam's dismay. You used that expensive beer to COOK?! Yep, I did. Then I drank the rest.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

It was well worth it. The sauce on these short ribs was somewhere between divine and is this sh*t for real?! I wanted to drink it straight. But I'm told that that is generally socially unacceptable, so I didn't. Until I was in the kitchen by myself. 

Beer Braised Short Ribs

But before drinking the sauce, or eating it with your ribs if that is the route you choose to go,  I do recommend taking the time to do the extra step of separating the fat out. I let my pot cool then popped it in the freezer for a bit until the fat hardened on top and I could easily spoon it off. But if you are pressed for time a fat separator would easily do the trick. 


Serve short ribs with parsnip purée and plenty of gravy and be prepared to fall in love. For the parsnip purée I used Deb's general recipe but made it my own. I love to sub in greek yogurt for heavy cream or sour cream. I like the creamy-ness it imparts for a fraction of the calories. It also has a nice tang that pairs well with starchy foods. I also ditched the horseradish (not a fan) that she calls for in her recipe in favor of cayenne pepper. Creamy, sweet, and spicy these parsnips are a great pairing with the ribs. Adam actually thought they were mashed potatoes, so I'm counting that as a win.

Beer Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Purée
short rib recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
parsnip purée adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 4 to 6*

Beer Braised Short Ribs

3 to 5 pounds beef bone in short ribs (English Style -i.e., separated), trimmed of excess fat
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (no need to use your best)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
24 ounces dark beer (preferably a dark coffee stout or porter)
2 to 3 cups beef stock

Bring short ribs to room temperature. Season generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.

Once the oil is hot, brown the short ribs on all sides. In batches if needed. Take your time and get a nice brown sear on each side. 3 to 4 minutes per side. Place browned ribs aside on a plate. If doing ribs in batches, add more oil as needed.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Once all ribs are browned and removed from pot turn heat down to medium high. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil and fat left in the pot. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened and a little brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and sauté for 3 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for another few minutes. Then add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and beer, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom. Return browned ribs to the pot. If you can, arrange them all with their meatiest sides facedown. If you have too many ribs stand them up on their sides with the bones vertical. Add enough beef stock to cover the ribs. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot tightly with foil (to keep the liquid in) then with a lid. 

Bake for 3 hours or until the meat is tender and can easily be pierced with a knife and is starting to become flaky. Remove pot from oven. 

Here I variated from Deb's instructions. She recommends skimming as much fat off the top as you can and either serving the ribs as is or removing ribs from sauce and spreading them out on a baking sheet and browning them in a preheated 420 degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile strain the sauce and reduce in a saucepan for 15 minutes.

What I did was, I removed the ribs from the pot and set them aside. Then I let my pot cool and then placed it in the freezer for an hour or 2**. The fat hardened on top and I spooned it off. Then I strained the sauce into a large saucepan and simmered for 15 minutes. My sauce never really reduced much, but that didn't end up being a problem. I then added back the ribs and cooked for another 5 to 10 minutes to warm them back up.

Serve ribs on a bed of parsnip purée with plenty of gravy to accompany them.

Parsnip Purée
I "healthied" up my parsnip purée by replacing the heavy cream with greek yogurt and milk. The result: a heavenly creamy mix that doesn't bring the word "healthy" to mind.

2 pounds of parsnips
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons of greek yogurt
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper to taste

Peel parsnips and cut into medium sized chunks. Place parsnip chunks in a large pot and cover with cold water. Place over moderately high heat, cover pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until parsnips are fork tender.

Drain cooked parsnips. In a food processor combine parsnips, butter, greek yogurt, and seasonings. Pureé, adding in milk as needed until desired consistency is reached. Serve with short ribs.

*I made 3 pounds of short ribs and it made 3 big servings for us, which would easily be 4 servings if Adam and I didn't eat like bears. So 5 pounds of meat should be enough for 6 servings.

**If you don't have time to place the pot in the freezer and wait for the fat to harden, you can remove the ribs from the sauce and strain the liquid into a fat separator then pour the juice minus the fat straight into your saucepan and reduce.

Beer Braised Short Ribs with Parsnip Purée

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