by Ashley Fagan
When Winter approaches, my cooking style instantly shifts to warm, homey, comforting dishes that will warm your belly and your soul. I started making this soup for my Mom about 10 years ago. She is obsessed with Mexican food, but doesn't like to fuss in the kitchen. This entire dish comes together with little hands on time and can be made with mostly pantry staples you already have on hand! It’s a family favorite in our home and I hope it will become one of yours as well!
For the Spice Blend
For the Soup
In a small bowl mix the spice blend together.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, until fragrant. Now, add the can of diced chili and the spice blend and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the Tomatoes and sauté for another minute or two until everything comes together and smells wonderful! Add the chicken stock and hominy and bring the soup to a simmer (slight boil). Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot with the lid. Let it cook for about 30 minutes until the flavors combine and your house smells amazing. While the soup cooks you can shred the meat from the rotisserie chicken. I find it's easiest to use my hands to pick the meat from the bird.
Once the soup has simmered away, add the chicken. Stir and taste for seasoning but, be careful not to burn your mouth... it will ruin your soup eating experience haha! Adjust the seasoning, maybe a touch more salt, maybe more chili pepper if you like it spicy, cumin if you like more zing! It’s up to you!
Serve in big bowls and top with a big squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of cilantro, some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a big handful of tortilla chips! My husband likes to add sliced radishes as well! It’s totally up to you! Add as much or as little as you want! I love mine with lime, sour cream and cilantro! Yum!
Every year around the holidays, my friends and family request this appetizer for every gathering. It's warm, gooey, sweet, savory and the perfect accompaniment to a festive cocktail or glass of wine. I'm always happy to oblige my guests by serving this upon their arrival, mostly because it's crazy, stupid, easy to pull together and looks incredibly sophisticated! Don't skip this during your next holiday party! You and your guests will be so very happy!
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
Cut the top rind of the brie off. Place the brie, cut side up in a small oven proof baking dish large enough to fit the whole wheel with some room around the sides.
In a medium bowl mix together the cranberries, pecans, honey, orange zest and cinnamon.
Pour the cranberry mixture on top of the brie and bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese warms through and begins to melt. The topping will become fragrant but keep a close eye, you don't want to char it.
Serve immediately with some good quality crackers. I like to use a stone ground wheat crackers.
by Andrea Blumenstein
image via Reserve.com. Make your reservation for Vedge Philadelphia here.
Do you remember the Lettuce Turnip the Beet® shirts that made vegetable loving musicians even sexier? I do. (I’m talking to you Questlove.)
My forever love for catchy t-shirts will go on as long as clever people continue to highlight my favorite things (like Notorious RBG). But, in case you want to do more than express your love for vegetables across your chest, some of America’s top chefs are opening up vegetable-centric restaurants for the vegans, vegetarian and omnivores looking to embrace the verdant and chow down on nature’s beautiful bounty.
Philadelphia’s Vedge Restaurant in Center City offers inventive vegetable cooking in an historic brownstone home renovated to serve dinner 7 nights a week, with a full bar with natural wines, craft beers and other elixirs to complement dinner and dessert.
At the helm of Vedge are James Beard nominated Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, restaurateurs committed to shaping the culinary landscape in Philadelphia. They recently brought their modern plant based dining experience to the Washington D.C., were residents and visitors at our nation’s capital can sip cocktails and dine on the freshest of veg at Fancy Radish D.C.
Other spots to check out:
Graze Nashville; 1888 Eastland Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
This plant-based bistro and bar is open for brunch, cocktails and dinner. The same folks that opened up Wild Cow in East Nashville expanded to a second spot to serve delicious healthy and vegan fare.
Vital Root Denver; 3915 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212
Thanks to these guys, Denver has a super tasty fast-casual healthy restaurant with a great happy hour. They are usually closed on Monday, but check out their website for the special Raw Dinner on the first Monday of the month.
Greens; Fort Mason Center, Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123
Chef Annie Somerville leads this world-renowned restaurant that, in true California stye, has been a leader in the “avant-garde” food revolution. They source heavily from Green Gulch Farm, just an hour north of the city, serving sophisticated plates with a hearty wine list.
True Food Kitchen (TFK); National
Oprah-endorsed and nationwide earns this healthy chain a spot on the list. With locations in King of Prussia, Chicago, Austin, Dallas, Newport Beach and a whole lot more, a nod to the familiar is nice when you are trying to stay healthy while traveling, shopping or generally living. The menu is seasonal and rotates and, I would have to assume, differs slightly from state to state.
by Ashley Fagan
It's snowing here in the North East which calls for a cocktail! This play on the classic Lemon Drop martini is floral and sweet and sure to warm you up on those cold winter nights. Cheers!
Makes 2 cocktails
**To make the honey syrup mix 1-ounce Honey with 1 ounce warm water. Set aside while you gather your cocktail ingredients.
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled 3/4 with ice. Add the vodka through Creme de Violette to the shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into two coupe glasses and garnish with a lemon twist.
Every Fall I start to crave all those delicious comfort food staples I've been avoiding during the warm summer months. Biscuits and Gravy is at the top of my list of perfect comfort foods! I love this version because of its play on sweet and savory flavors and because it's so incredibly simple to make! I think foods like this can appear challenging or unapproachable, but making your own gravy is actually one of the easiest things you can do! Not to mention so, so, so much better than any store-bought abomination you might encounter. I encourage you to not be intimidated by this southern kitchen staple. Give it a try, I promise your brunch guests won’t be disappointed!
In a large Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, crumble to sausage into the pan and let it cook for a few minutes before stirring. You want to get some caramelization going. Continue to brown the sausage until completely cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. While your sausage is cooking, grab a fine mesh sieve and set it over a medium size mixing bowl. Once the sausage is completely cooked, pour the sausage along with any drippings and fat that have rendered into the sieve. Place the pot back on the heat and turn it on low. Let the drippings fall away from the pork and collect in the mixing bowl. You can use a wooden spoon to press the pork into the sieve to help release more fat. This is what you're using to make the roux which will thicken the gravy, so you want to get every drop. You should have roughly a half cup of pork fat to use. If you find yourself short, add butter to make up the difference. You want an equal ratio of fat to flour.
Return the pot to medium low heat, add the pork fat and flour. Using a whisk, mix the four into the fat to create a roux, it should bubble a bit and start to take on some slight color, about 2 minutes, whisking the whole time. You want to cook out the raw flavor of the four. Add the sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the roux and whisk to combine. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Carefully add the milk to the roux, whisking the mixture the entire time. Continue to whisk until the roux and milk have come together. Turn the heat up to medium high to bring the gravy to a simmer, you want little bubbles not a full boil, so play with the heat as you go. This is where you need some patience. You must stir the gravy often to prevent lumps from forming and from the bottom burning. The gravy should take 5-10 minutes to fully come together. If your gravy appears too thick, you can add more milk to loosen it up. At this point you can ditch the whisk for a wooden spoon and stir in the crumbed cooked sausage and maple syrup. Continue to cook for another few minutes and taste for seasoning. You may need more salt and pepper at this point, so adjust carefully.
Serve with warm biscuits (I prefer homemade, but the canned version will work just fine) or over thick toast. Yum!
*Roux: Flour and fat cooked together to thicken sauces and gravy.
So I have a little secret to share.....sometimes I just don't feel like cooking! I know, I know, this is probably completely contradictory to my enthusiasm for encouraging everyone I come into contact with to cook as often as possible, but lets face it, life can be a little overwhelming some days and we all need a fail safe approach to putting a comforting meal on the table for our starving families after a long hard day. This one is hard to pass up with its minimal prep, and set it and forget approach! And lets be honest, who doesn't like tacos! Can I get a "Yum!" ya'll!
4-5 lb Bone in Pork Butt, trimmed of excess fat
1 Onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Bay Leaf
½ Can/bottle of beer, preferably a flavorful beer such as a Pinapple or Mango
Salt and Pepper
For Serving - corn tortillas, sour cream, sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges and cilantro.
Place the pork butt in the slow cooker and season generously with salt and pepper, (about 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper). Place the onion slices, brown sugar, orange half, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf around the pork and pour in half a can of beer. Set to high and cook for 6-8 hours. The pork should be very tender and falling away from the bone.
Pre-heat your broiler. Once the pork is cooked, discard the cinnamon stick, orange half, bay leaf and garlic cloves. Remove the pork butt and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Shred the pork and discard any hunks of fat and gristle along with the bone. Spread the pork evenly on the baking sheet and place under the broiler for a few minutes until it starts to crisp up. Stir it around and set it back under the broiler. Do this a few more times, checking the pork after a few minutes each time, careful not to char the pork pieces. Once you receive your desired crispness, place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker with the juices. Serve with corn tortillas, sour cream, radishes, shredded cabbage, lime wedges and cilantro.
Where has this dish been all my life?! Why did it take me so long to create such a simple and elegant supper that I can throw together for my family in 30 minutes and feel confident enough to serve for a last-minute dinner party? This one takes the cake when it comes to versatility and sophistication! I love how the salmon melts into the pasta and the saffron cream coats every noodle so that every bite is a burst of flavors that leaves you wanting, well, a bigger fork! My husband walked in the door after work and looked at me and said "My God! What is that amazing smell!?" he took one bite and melted into his chair! I’ll take that as one of the best compliments I could ever receive!
*This dish uses 3/4 of a bag of dried pasta which can be bit annoying, I know, but I like to use the leftover past for soup. I always have handfuls of different pasta shapes in wrapped up bags lying around my pantry for when I feel the desire to whip together some homemade soup.
Serves 4 hearty bowls or 6 smaller portions
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, season the salmon with a ½ tsp of the salt and some fresh ground pepper and set aside.
In a large skillet (large enough to add the pasta at the end) melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown a bit and smell toasty and nutty. Be careful not to burn the butter, it happens quickly. Add the leeks and the other ½ tsp salt and pepper to taste. Sautee until the leeks start to melt into the butter and brown slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vermouth and the saffron and simmer until the vermouth is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the cream and bring to a simmer. While you are waiting for the sauce to simmer, cube the salmon fillet into 2-inch large chunks.
Add the Salmon cubes to the simmering sauce, cover and cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and turn the salmon cubes. Layer the spinach on top of the salmon and cover for another 3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted a bit. Uncover and stir everything together. Add the pasta and stir, breaking up the salmon a bit as you go. Be gentle, you don’t want to break apart the salmon pieces too much. Cook for a few minutes longer, allowing the flavors to mingle. If the pasta starts to appear dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up. Top with the chopped chives and serve.
While living in Philadelphia, I became very partial to crafted gin cocktails but their list of specialty ingredients and hard to find liquors made the task of creating them at home quite daunting. I came across a very easy gin, grapefruit and sage cocktail that was incredibly simple to make at home and inspired me to continue to create a wide range of cocktails that complimented this herbal and floral booze. This is one of my favorites and adequately named for my favorite word, "Pamplemousse" which is French for grapefruit. Cheers!
Makes 2 Cocktails
2 ounces Premium Gin
1 ounce St. Germain Liquor
2 ounce Fresh Grapefruit Juice
3 dashes Aromatic Bitters
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
Sparkling Water .
Fill two high ball glasses with ice. Fill a shaker 1/3 with ice and add the gin,
St. Germain, grapefruit juice, bitters and one spring of rosemary. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds and strain into the high ball glasses. Top each glass with sparkling water and garnish with a rosemary sprig .
Philly is most commonly known for its cheese steaks and roast pork, but this sandwich takes the two and combines them into a happy marriage of delicious sandwich goodness! Leave it cook in the slow cooker all day and come home to the most amazing smell and dinner on the table with very little effort! This is a winner in everyone’s book because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a sandwich?!
Shredded Beef with Onions
Congee is most commonly known as an Asian rice porridge. Rice is cooked in a lot of liquid until it breaks down and turns velvety and thick. It’s the ultimate comfort food when you feel a cold coming on or if you want something to warm you up on a cold winter night. The addition of chicken turns it into a heartier meal and the scallion gremolata adds a little zing to brighten the Asian inspired flavors.