6.17.2016

brunchin' all day err day

Hi my name is Morgan and I want to have brunch every day of the week. Sadly there’s this thing called work that gets in my way. Ugh, reality.


The reason I love brunch so much is because I’m not a big morning eater. I love food, don’t get me wrong. But I need to be up a solid 1-2 hours before I can even think about putting something into my body. 

Which is means brunch is my ideal time. Because any meal before 10a on a weekend is called BREAKFAST. I also believe that brunch without booze is just breakfast. Amiright?!


So can I tell you about my latest brunch obsession? Chilaquiles verde. I legit make these at least once a week and have been doing so for 6 months now. I blame my best friend for getting me hooked. I don’t know how I made it 30+ years without these but she changed my life that day. I’ve been making up for lost time ever since.

This dish is such a perfect thing to improvise. At it’s core, you need eggs, salsa and tortilla chips. The best news?! If you have stale chips, you can use those. It's kind of like the bread pudding of brunch (or breakfast for dinner, I'm not judging).

I like to fancy it up because more toppings = more flavah. I also like mine to have a little texture in the chips, not crunchy but not a saucy mess either. Everyone has their own preference and method but I’m sharing my perfect version with you. How would you change the recipe and make it yours?

chilaquiles 
yields 2 servings

ingredients:
1 TBSP oil (canola or olive oil)
4 c. corn tortilla chips
4 eggs
c. salsa verde
¾ c. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

to garnish:
cilantro, chopped
green onion, sliced thin
tomatoes, diced 
radish, sliced thin
sour cream
avocado
hot sauce #swag (tapatio is my fav for this dish)

Before you start cooking, I like to shred my cheese and crack all of my eggs into a small bowl. This dish comes together really quickly so mise en place is key. Don’t forget to prep your garnishes too!

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add in the tortilla chips and toss around until they’re golden brown and toasted in some places. Dump in your eggs and gently fold them together until they’ve coated the chips and the eggs are 90% cooked. You want to be careful not to break your chips too much at this part (not the end of the world if you do though so don’t panic). 

Next, add in your salsa and again, fold the chips until it coats your chips. You’ll see them start to soften. This is where you might want to adjust the quantity. If you like a crunchier chip, start with less and if you want them softer, add more salsa - it’s up to you! Once the chips are as soft as you like, add in the shredded cheese and turn off the heat. Let the cheese melt a bit, stir and then serve!

I like to make a little toppings buffet and people can dress theirs how they like. Add your favorite toppings and devour. 

improv style:
i’ve made these a million ways. every tortilla chip is slightly different. some are thicker, some are better tasting. my ideal is whole foods tortilla chips but at $7/bag, they’re quite the treat. i’ve used blue corn chips, yellow and white corn - they all work. if it’s a thicker chip, you’ll need more salsa and thinner, less salsa.

speaking of salsa… use your favorite type. i love salsa verde so i use that but you can do red salsa, chipotle salsa, etc… the options are endless. you can also use enchilada sauce or a combo of things.

cheese is another one that is completely flexible. i usually always have white sharp cheddar on hand but you could use pepper jack, monterey, mozzarella, cheddar, honestly, anything besides the blue or swiss family cheese. you can also leave it out if you’re dairy free or not into cheese. if you’re going to do goat i would recommend sprinkling it on as a garnish instead. same thing with cotija if you’re going for a more authentic approach

ok, on to the fun stuff. garnishes are limitless. just trust your gut and use your favs. last week i had leftover kale and some corn salsa so i threw those into the pan with the salsa and it turned out delish. you can add chipotle in adobo for extra smokey flavor.

if you’re vegan you can leave out the eggs and add more salsa. similarly, you can cook it that way and then top it with fried eggs instead. i like it all mixed. probably because that’s how it was introduced to me and it’s SO GOOD.

now that we've gotten ingredients out of the way, let's talk about improv cooking. i like the chips to still have texture but others like them more saturated or more crunchy. this is where you'll have to experiment and figure out how much liquid to add to your chips to make them perfect for you.

can’t wait to hear how you’d change it up! if you try this recipe, be sure to tag @improvkitchen or #improvkitchen so i can see what you're up to. happy brunching.

5.27.2016

burgers all day every day

HALLELUJAH it’s finally grilling season!! 


To me, there’s no better way to kick off Memorial Day Weekend than with a proper grilled burger. I love all types of burgers but there’s something about a classic cheeseburger with special sauce, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions on a brioche bun, mmmmmm. 

Over the years I’ve perfected my secret sauce and well, I’m going to make it not so secret because it’s too good not to be shared! 

I like to make a batch of this and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge so I can have it on hand whenever I get a hankering for a burger. It tends to last about a month but I’m not an expert on these things. I go by the rule of is there mold? No? Does it smell funky? No? Then you’re probably safe. You do what feels right to you but definitely make this sauce for your burgers this weekend.

On an important side note, thank you to everyone who has served or is serving our country. I don't take my freedom lightly and have the most respect to people who have and continue to defend our country. I'm proud to say both of my grandfathers served, one of them even earned a purple heart. This weekend I will be toasting to their memory with a juicy burger in hand. 

secret sauce
yields about 1½ c.

ingredients:
c. mayonaise 
c. ketchup
¼ c. yellow mustard
2 TBSP dill relish
1 TBSP cognac
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients until fully incorporated. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use. It gets better with time but I let it sit at least 20 minutes before using it. 

improv style:
i’m a fan of creamy things. some people like it less. if you’re one of those people, up your ketchup and minus your mayo game.

i’m also a BIG dill pickle fan, i don’t mess around with the sweet stuff. you can easily swap for sweet relish if that’s more your thing.

no cognac? this my friends is something i highly recommend. it adds such depth of flavor a touch of sweetness. you could leave it out but you could also sub for brandy - just don’t use a flavored one. you could also try a dry sherry. 

onion and garlic powder are often my secret weapon when cooking. they pack a one two flavor punch. you could also try fresh garlic and onion but it will make your sauce chunkier and it won’t last as long in the fridge. if you do the fresh route, i would recommend going easy on the garlic, it can be quite dominant.

i like yellow mustard. there’s something intense about grainy mustard for me. dijon is good but in this it tends to take over a little much. i go more for that creamy background flavor that compliments the beef. you can easily use your favorite mustard here though.

fresh cracked pepper would be a nice addition to the sauce if you’re into it. what do you put in your secret sauce? 


4.15.2016

liquid courage



You guys, I have a confession to make. I’m obsessed. Obsessed with this indie magazine called Cherry Bombe and everything it stands for. It combines two things I’m passionate about, food and feminism. So when I found out they host an annual conference called the Jubilee, I knew I had to go. So I booked a ticket to the conference and went by myself.

 

It was a full day of inspiring women speaking about some really interesting and powerful stuff in a room filled with 300 bad ass women from all walks of life. And something weird happened.

I totally froze up. I walked in like a new girl on the first day of school completely overwhelmed, looking around all doe-eyed hoping someone, anyone would come up and want to be my friend. It was terrifying. Logically it made no sense. I knew that at the core, everyone was here because we have a common interest – A LOVE OF FOOD and this amazing magazine.

It didn’t matter, my brain when into super shy, reserved mode. Which if you know me is not really my style at all. Has this ever happened to you? 

By lunch time I finally grew the courage to walk up to a group of strangers and asked if I could sit with them. I put my big girl panties on and just broke the ice. Shocker, I didn’t die and I met 3 incredible ladies and I’m so glad I pushed past that fear.

If you find yourself in a similar situation soon, try to push past it and conquer that fear. And if you need a little extra push, you can always grab a little liquid courage with this cocktail.


Inspired by Cherry Bombe Magazine, I came up with the idea for this drink. I’ve been super into bourbon & whiskey lately and I wanted to create a strong drink for a bad ass lady. It’s perfectly balanced, not too sweet and not too tart. And it packs quite the punch. The best part? It’s super easy to make.


cherry bombe cocktail
Yields 1 drink

ingredients:
1 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Wild Turkey Rye)
1 oz sweet vermouth
¼ tsp tart cherry juice concentrate
4 – 5 dashes grapefruit bitters
ice
boozy cherry for garnish

In a large mixing glass, combine the whiskey, vermouth and tart cherry juice. Add about ½ c. crushed ice and stir for 30 seconds so that the ice slightly dilutes the drink. Pour over a large rock (ice cube) or crushed ice and toss in a few cherries. Sip, mix and repeat – responsibly of course.

improv style:
don’t like rye? You can use your favorite type of whiskey. Don’t like whiskey, use white rum, vodka or gin. It will be a totally different drink but still a delish cocktail!

Can’t find tart cherry juice or don’t like it? This is a cherry bombe but you could substitute for pomegranate juice concentrate or even acai juice.

Grapefruit bitters is a specialty bitter I have in my cocktail kit. I do believe they make all the difference in this drink. If you don’t want to buy an obscure ingredient like this, try squeezing the peel of a fresh grapefruit into the drink. You’ll get some of the bitter and floral notes that the grapefruit bitters imparts.

Sometimes I like to squeeze an orange peel and drop it into this drink. It’s like a cherry old fashioned without the sugar cube.

If this drink is too stiff for you, try adding in some sparkling water. Lacroix makes a cherry lime flavor that would be so good with this drink. You could also try adding a sugar cube, a splash of honey or maple syrup to sweeten the cocktail if you like your drinks a little less strong/tart.

 

Make it the way you like it! How would you improvise the cocktail?


3.17.2016

carrot cake pancakes

with cream cheese frosting. 

for breakfast.




i mean, does it get any better than that?! 




recipe for this amazing brunch dish is over on tara teaspoon's blog, check it out.

2.12.2016

a taste of home


I’m starting to reach that point in Winter where I’m constantly seeking comfort. Even though it’s been mild compared to years past, it’s still cold. Call me a baby, I don’t care - winter and I aren’t the best of friends.


This recipe is comforting on so many levels. First, carbs. Especially when I can slather butter onto said carbs and eat my feelings. Anyone who knows me knows that this layer of butter wasn’t for a pretty picture. My three favorite food groups are carbs, butter and cream. I blame my mom for raising me on the good stuff.

Speaking of my mom, this is her recipe. It’s the pumpkin bread I grew up on. Living so far from home, I’m instantly transported to my mom’s kitchen and that’s one of my favorite things about the power of food. Sometimes you just need to feel like your mom is hugging you from a far and this recipe is exactly that for me.

This pumpkin bread is the definition of the dreaded “m” word… MOIST. Ugh. But in this case, It’s a necessary evil. This is the kind of bread that when you pick it up, you know it’s legitimate comfort food because it’s HEAVY. It’s studded with crunchy pecans and while I’m typically team no nuts (did I just type that?!) this is one of those exceptions. It adds a nice texture to the dense yet ultra tender and slightly sticky bread. It’s comfort food but It’s not overly rich or heavy at the same time. You can eat one slice and savor the loaf or do like me and devour a mini loaf all to yourself for breakfast - portion control has never been my strong suit. If you do have that skill, consider making pumpkin bread french toast w/ bourbon salted caramel "syrup".

I hope you enjoy my mom’s recipe as much as I do.


PUMPKIN BREAD
yields 2 large 9”x5” loaves 
or 6 small 6”x3” loaves

ingredients:
3 c. sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3 ½ c. flour
2 t. baking soda

1 c. oil
c. water
15 oz can pumpkin puree
2  tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

2/3 c. chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 350º F. 

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (sugar through baking soda listed above). In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients (oil through eggs listed above).

Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. Sprinkle in chopped nuts or any add in you like (see improv suggestions below).

Grease your loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray or a light coating of butter. I like used parchment paper to get perfect pictures of the loaf but the bread will come out of your pan very easily so it’s not necessary. Fill your pans about ⅔ of the way full*.

Bake for about 45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

note: 
you might have a little leftover batter but make sure you’re not overfilling the pans. when in doubt, be a little shy with how much you fill them. there’s nothing worse than the mess of cake/bread batter covering the bottom of your oven.

improv style:
this is baking so it’s a little more complicated because you need to keep your wet to dry ratios the same. BUT… you can get creative with add-ins. Not a nut fan? Leave them out or substitute for your favorite nut - walnut, pistachio or even hazelnuts would be fun. 

you could add pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) for a fun play on pumpkin - sprinkle some over the top too so you get that pretty exterior crunch. bonus, this would probably also make the loaf seem healthier because pepitas are totally health food. similarly, you could try adding sesame seeds on the top before baking or even sunflower seeds (shelled of course). i lovingly call those types of ingredients “bird seed” because, well… it looks like it.

you could add chocolate chips, dried cherries, cranberries or raisins. or even better, booze soaked raisins. if you did the boozy raisins I would add in an extra tablespoon or so of flour to the mix to compensate for the added moisture. candied ginger more your speed? or any kind of candied fruit? see where i’m going here… the options are endless!

want to effect the flavah even more? try adding ground cardamom, ginger, nutmeg or all spice to the mix. 


how would you improvise the dish to make it your own?!


1.15.2016

tip: how to save dried out baguettes



I've bought a baguette and had it turn rock hard more times than I'd like to admit. As someone who hates waste, it killed me throwing them out. And since you all seem to love my bacon hack so much, I thought you might get some use out of this simple kitchen hack too.

The way I see it is you have two options... resurrect this sucker and make it soft and edible again OR turn it into bread crumbs. The latter might seem more obvious to some of you.

I realized I could do this when I accidentally dropped an english muffin INTO my kitchen sink while cutting it, UGH. It dunked right into a half filled water glass from the night before. While I can't believe I'm admitting this to you, being the waste hater that I am, I pulled it out, gave it a few good shakes to get off as much of the water as I could and I threw that sucker into the toaster anyway. 

I mean... it's not like it went into gross soapy or germy sink contamination. It dropped into my water glass from the night before. Anyway, to my surprise, the english muffin was great and extra fluffy. So the next time my store bought baguette went hard on me, I ran it through the faucet and threw it into some aluminum foil and into a 350º F oven it went. 10 minutes later my baguette came back to life - GENIUS! 

I find depending on how far gone your baguette is, you may need more or less water - you'll get the sense of it after a few tries. Most of the time if you take some paper towel and completely soak it in water and then lightly ring it out, wrap it around the baguette and completely cover it in aluminum foil, it should do the trick. You have to make sure you completely seal the foil around the bread because it turns into a little sauna for the baguette. Basically you're schvitzing the bread back to life.

The paper towel is optional. If you don't do that method, you can simply put a few good splashes of water onto the baguette and put it into the aluminum foil by itself (no paper towel). Usually I'll cup my hand under the running faucet, let most of the water run off and splash the baguette by flicking my fingers at it in the foil. Then seal it up nice and tight.

Sometimes the bread will stick to the paper towel or the aluminum foil in a few places - don't panic, just pull it off. And if you add too much water, sometimes the bread can get a little rubbery in the oven. If that's the case, just pop it into the oven uncovered for a few minutes to dry up some of the moisture you added in.

If you don't want to heat up your oven, you can do a similar treatment in the microwave (sans foil). I find the microwave alters the texture of the bread a bit - it becomes a little rubbery. But hey, it works in a pinch!


To make homemade bread crumbs, hack your baguette into manageable pieces for your food processor. I found 2-3" chunks were fine. It doesn't have to be perfect, just saw it/break it any way you can. Crumbs will go flying but they're easy to clean up. 

Give the bread chunks a few good pulses until the crumbs are the size you like. If you find that your bread is still a little soft inside (ie not 100% dried out) that's ok. You can pour your crumbs into a  350º F oven and toast them a few minutes until they're fully dry. If you find your food processor is struggling because that sucker is DRIED OUT, don't fear. Try to help your food processor out a little bit by cutting it into smaller pieces. It will eventually turn to bread crumbs. 

If you want to get fancy, you can season your breadcrumbs in any way you like. I prefer putting them plain, in an air tight container so that you can use them in a number of dishes - sweet or savory. 

Do you have any other great kitchen hacks or tricks? Leave them in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

Waste not want not, amiright?!

12.30.2015

secret health


I’m back from a way long overdue hiatus and since we're coming out of the holidays and the season of indulgence, I thought this was the perfect time to share a bit of healthy new years inspiration with you. 4 ingredient Gluten free sweet potato waffles.

Before I lose you, hear me out... I’m obsessed. Seriously, I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you.

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes about the gluten free recipe, let me explain! I’ve been trying to eat more clean the past year. I've been working a lot and feeling gross. I knew the one thing I could change was my diet. I’ve felt so much better since making that change. And the best part about it?! I’ve found some seriously amazing recipes that don’t taste like they’re health food.



And don't worry, this blog isn't going to change. I still plan on sharing my favorite recipes and latest experiments from my kitchen - healthy, indulgent and sometimes a combo of both. This new lifestyle still has room for gluten, dairy and all the yummy things, just more sparingly.

When I first made this waffle, it blew my mind. I can’t shut up about it. You would never know that it has no flour in it, let alone the fact that it’s gluten free. Best part? It’s only FOUR ingredients. FOUR. Ok, 5 if you count the pinch of salt. Who counts salt?! This waffle isn't the super crispy kind, it's more pillowy and cake like. I would swear it had flour in it if I didn't make it myself. It’s really great. Seriously, look at that texture!


You can prep the sweet potatoes a day or two in advance too. And there’s tons of things you can add to the mix to improvise it and make it your own, see the suggestions at the bottom of the recipe.

I posted the recipe measurements and process for both a spiralizer and a box grater if you don't have a spiralizer. The pictures are of the shredded waffle but I found the spiralizer a lot more efficient and it makes a prettier waffle.

I haven't tried this batter as "pancakes" but if you don't have a waffle maker, that would probably work too.

sweet potato waffles
slightly adapted from inspiralized
yields 1 waffle (4 triangles)

ingredients:
2 c. shredded sweet potatoes, packed 
1 egg
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
coconut oil or nonstick cooking spray

garnishes: 
fresh fruit
maple syrup
slivered or chopped nuts
granola
whipped cream or coconut whipped cream (see, small indulgence)

Peel and shred about 1 medium sweet potato. It should fill a 2 c. measuring cup. Make sure you pack it tight like you would brown sugar. You can also use a spiralizer instead. The spiraled noodles should fill a 2.5 c. measuring cup, just don't pack it tight or you'll break the spirals.

In a medium skillet with a lid, heat your pan over medium and add in ½ TBSP coconut oil or cooking spray. Add in your sweet potato and cover with the lid. After 2-3 minutes, toss your sweet potato so that it cooks slightly on all sides. Cook with the lid for another 2-3 minutes until the sweet potato becomes slightly tender but not fully cooked. Shredded will take less time than spiralized. *The cooking step is necessary, trust me, I tried putting raw sweet potato into my waffle iron and had to deal with the consequences.*

You can prep your recipe up to this point 1-2 days in advance of making the waffles if you want. 

Add cooked sweet potato to a medium bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. While you wait, preheat your waffle iron. Add remaining ingredients to your bowl and stir gently until the mixture is fully combined.

Coat your waffle iron in non stick cooking spray and pour your batter in. Cook based on your waffle irons instructions.

improv style:
you can use whatever spices you like in these waffles. not a fan of cinnamon? leave it out. i actually hate cinnamon but it works in this waffle. you can use more if you're really into cinnamon. other great spices would be pumpkin pie spice, star anise, cardamom, cloves, or allspice.


you could add in ¼ c. fresh blueberries, raspberries or strawberries into the batter. i’m not really into cooked berries so i prefer to top my waffle with it but go nuts if that’s your thing!

not a fan of maple syrup? me either. i actually prefer this waffle naked. but you could also top it with butter, jam or even peanut butter or your favorite nut butter.

i'm never one to turn down whipped cream or if you're being healthier, you could do coconut whipped cream.

the next thing i want to try with this batter is adding in almond flour to see if i can get a slightly crunchy texture on the outside. would love to know your improv ideas in the comments below!