don't YUCK my YUM!

Before I start this post, I'd like to state that I am not a foodie, I'm a food lover. There's a big difference in my book. There's a certain stigma that goes along with the term foodie. In my opinion, it's a stuffy word for people who like gourmet food and turn their noses to dishes that don't meet these standards. And while I love "gourmet foods", I also believe there's a time and a place for all foods that I equally enjoy... hot dogs, shitty pizza, Kraft mac-n-cheese, buttered noodles (my dad's specialty), and SPAM.

Yes, SPAM! Spam was always a bit of a joke in my family. It's not something that would even be consumed if the zombie apocalypse happened. This all changed one random spring day in Seattle.

It all started when someone from work came back from lunch with a big ass grin on his face. There may have even been a little dance involved (he loves food like I do). I quickly learned that his favorite food truck was 3 blocks away from our office. A special treat indeed! I had never heard of Marination but I'm so glad my colleague shared his knowledge with me.

Off I was to wait in the block long line to get my lunch. It was hard to choose so I of course got one of everything to split with my boyfriend for lunch. That is, one of everything BUT the SPAM slider, yuck! I'm definitely the one who knows food in our relationship and when my boyfriend ordered 2 SPAM sliders I thought he was out of his mind. He looked at me and said, "What? Why not?". UM, BECAUSE IT'S SPAM, GROSS! 25 minutes later (it was a long line) we walked away with our hands full of tasty treats. I seriously felt like a crazed woman walking with hands and arms full of food, everyone staring, jealous. Marination is a Korean Hawaiian fusion cart that serves tacos, kimchi, and sliders with rotating specials. If you're visiting Seattle or live there I highly recommend you find them and eat there.

Halfway through my tacos, Matt got to the SPAM slider. One bite in when his eyes almost bulged out of his head, I knew I needed to try it. I swooped up his other slider and was instantly convinced that SPAM was indeed a worthy food. The Hawaiians know what's up!

Living in Chicago, I find myself missing Marination. I decided to try my hand at my own version of their SPAM sliders. This is a perfect dish to serve on Super Bowl Sunday! It can be served as an appetizer, lunch or dinner. Give SPAM a try, you might just be pleasantly surprised!

SPAM Sliders with Asian Slaw
1 can SPAM
Asian Slaw (see recipe below)
24 Hawaiian sweet bread rolls
6 T. butter

Yields 24 sliders

Slice SPAM into ¼ inch thin slices and then cut rectangle in half to make perfect little squares. The key to making these sliders extra tasty is to keep the SPAM on the thin side.
you ever have those instant cravings, no matter where or when, you just NEED chocolate immediately? I have them fairly often. My sisters and I share that same need. We love our chocolate, especially molten chocolate cakes. One of our favorite steak houses has an amazing Valrhona molten chocolate cake. We always order our own because sharing chocolate is not an option when you have this need.

In a skillet place butter over medium heat. Once melted and hot, place SPAM slices in pan. Meanwhile, in another skillet, toast your rolls to golden perfection. Once SPAM is browned on both sides, place one square on each roll. Top with slaw and you're ready to eat!

improv style:
Asian slaw sliders are delicious but so are regular coleslaw sliders. Not convinced on SPAM? It's ok, make it with fresh ham. Don't eat ham? Make it with ground turkey instead. Try putting some of the slaw flavors into the ground meat before browning them up.

Asian Slaw
3 c. shredded cabbage
2 whole carrots
3-4 scallions (green + white parts)
⅛ c. rice wine vinegar
¼ t. grated fresh ginger
2 pieces of pickled ginger
½ t. pickled ginger juice (from jar)
1 t. toasted sesame oil
1 t. soy sauce

In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Cut your carrots into thin slices, mince the scallions, and combine with shredded cabbage. Place veggie mixture in bowl and toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes until the vinegar has slightly wilted the cabbage and worked its magical flavors into the slaw.

improv style:
you can add your favorite asian flavors here. You can add some purple cabbage for a nice color and slightly different flavor. Try putting in a little hoisin sauce with the mix for a slight sweetness or siracha for a bit of spicy.


Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a dish that combined all of your favorite things in a way you never thought to try before? I will never forget the day my friend Helena took me to my now favorite, well, tied for favorite breakfast place in San Francisco. Brenda's French Soul Food is a tiny little gem hidden on Polk street. Helena took me here for breakfast on my last day living in SF. I didn't want to leave! Helena loves food like I do and we both did our happy dances as we ate breakfast.

This place is soul food with a gourmet twist. The menu is fantastic and they have a rotating menu with seasonal specials. This is the kind of place where you want to order one of everything on the menu including the watermelon sweet tea and beignet flight.

On to the moment that BLEW. MY. MIND... one of the specials for the day was a pumpkin bread french toast with maple syrup and chantilly cream. I love french toast but I had never thought to play around with the bread outside of french, challah, and your standard white bread. I know, it seems obvious to use flavored breads or other variations but I had never given it much thought until I experienced BFS. Life changing to say the least.

I re-created this dish with my own take of course. What goes better with pumpkin than bourbon?! I decided to take this dish to another level and add a bourbon vanilla bean caramel syrup, and to keep the chantilly cream because who doesn't love chantilly cream?! It sounds so much more fabulous than whipped cream. We eat with our eyes and that starts with the visual description of a dish!

I wish I could take credit for the bourbon caramel syrup but it's 100% Martha. I'll give it to her, she knows her shit! I don't think there's a way to make this sauce any better than it already is (unless you add salt, obvi). This sauce is good all by itself but it gets even better when you put it on things. I first made it with a pumpkin brioche bread pudding (yes, pumpkin again... do you not remember that post titled "obsessions"?! I wasn't exaggerating).

This dish is not for the light stomached. It is incredibly rich. Honestly, its more like dessert than breakfast but I'd eat this any time of day. The first time I had pumpkin bread french toast I was dancing throughout my meal. When I re-created the dish, the dance got even more intense. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

Pumpkin Bread French Toast with Bourbon Caramel Syrup and Chantilly Cream


for the french toast:
1 small loaf pumpkin bread (see recipe: i didn't use nuts)
2 eggs
¾ c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

for the bourbon caramel:
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon

for the chantilly cream (fancy name for whip cream):
½ c. heavy whipping cream
1 T. powdered sugar
½ vanilla bean
1 t. vanilla extract

Start with the Bourbon caramel. You can make this a day in advance or a week in advance. I wish I could somehow tweak this recipe to make it better but martha NAILED it. This sauce is good by itself and great on everything, mmmmmmm...

Start by combining the sugar and ½ cup water in a saucepan on medium heat. Without stirring (don't even think about giving it a little help, let it do it's thing). Let the sugar and water do it's thing until it turns a dark amber color. This will take about 20 minutes, no joke.

When the mixture is a deep amber color, reduce the heat to low. Slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Don't get scared if it turns into a hard ball. Give it a minute and keep stirring. It will slowly melt into a rich caramel. Next, scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan and add the bean too. Add lemon juice, butter, and bourbon. Stir to combine. Your heavenly sauce is now ready to be devoured. You can let it cool and put it in a jar or tupperware container and into the fridge. To reheat, place in the microwave for about 2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.

When you're ready to blow your mind and assemble the dish, make the chantilly cream first. Beat heavy whipping cream, vanilla beans and powdered sugar on high until light, fluffy medium peaks form. TRICK: if you freeze your bowl and beaters for 5 minutes before it will whip up faster!

For the french toast: Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla extract in a shallow bowl. Slice pumpkin bread to your desired thickness and dip in egg mixture. Slap that baby on a griddle or in a frying pan over medium - medium high heat depending on your stove. Brown on both sides and get ready to assemble!

Plop 2 pieces down if you're really hungry, 1 if you have a normal appetite and drizzle that baby with caramel and plop a bit of whipping cream on top. This dish is incredibly rich. Enjoy!

improv style:
you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder or your favorite spice or flavored extract to the egg mixture before dipping the bread. not a huge pumpkin fan? banana bread french toast with a rum caramel would be fantastic! or zucchini bread, chocolate chip loaf, take your favorite and try it here! you can leave the booze out of the caramel sauce if you don't have it or substitute it for rum, brandy or a flavored liquor. try adding some pecans or walnuts for a nice crunch. you can add your favorite flavors easily to this dish!

chocolate, NOW!

Do you ever have those instant cravings, no matter where or when, you just NEED chocolate immediately? I have them fairly often. My sisters and I share that same need. We love our chocolate, especially molten chocolate cakes. One of our favorite steak houses has an amazing Valrhona molten chocolate cake. We always order our own because sharing chocolate is not an option when you have this need.

One night a few months back I was in need of a quick chocolate fix. I didn't have my mom's recipe or the time to call her and get it and all the ingredients. I hit the internet and started my search for a quick fix. I stumbled upon this fabulous recipe. With a few tweaks, I perfected it into my delicious, QUICK chocolate molten cakes. In less than 15 minutes, your chocolate fix can be ready for the oven too.

This gooey chocolate cake looks very modest. It comes out hot from the oven looking like it might even be a little overdone or dry. Don't be fooled by this cake - it will ooze and gooze and deliver on your NEED of chocolate. I recommend using the best quality chocolate you can find. Don't bother with that Hershey stuff, go for the real deal (unless that's what you love, then by all means Hershey-away)! I usually make it with Ghiradelli 60% dark chocolate but if you can get your hands on Valrhona, Guittard, Domori, or Berger - they are fantastic brands for chocolate purists and enthusiasts!

This recipe would be perfect to make for Valentines Day. If you don't have a Valentine, this cake is perfect treat to celebrate being single. It's chocolate, there's a million reasons to make this molten cake!

Quick Chocolate Molten Cake

4 oz 60% dark chocolate
2 oz semi sweet chocolate
6 oz butter (diced)
1 t. vanilla extract
3 eggs
½ c. sugar
⅓ c. flour
butter for ramekins

serves 4

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease 4 ramekins and place on a cookie sheet, set aside.

In a double boiler (glass bowl inside a sauce pan with boiling water) place chocolate chunks. Meanwhile, mix eggs and sugar together with a hand mixer until it thickens and turns a light yellow color. Check back on your melting chocolate. Keep a close eye on it, you wouldn't want to waste all that good chocolate by scorching it! When chocolate is completely melted, add butter cubes. Stir until butter is melted and the chocolate has a nice glossy sheen. It's like these two were made for each other! Finally add vanilla.

Slowly add warm chocolate mixture to egg and sugar mixture. I turn the egg beaters on and slowly drizzle the chocolate in so that the eggs don't scramble. You could also temper the batter by adding a small amount of the chocolate first and then add the remaining batter. Finally add the flower and you are all set for ramekinville!

Pour batter equally into the 4 buttered ramekins. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. DON'T PEEK, you'll cause your cakes to deflate before they become cakey-goodness! If you like your cakes really gooey, like me, pull them out now. If you like them a little more cake like and less gooey, leave them in for another 3-5 minutes. Skim a butter knife around the outside of the ramekin, flip upside down, and place in shallow bowl or dish. Top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and brace yourself for chocolate heaven!

It's not as pretty when you see it all oozy, but I have to share it with you because no matter how ugly it photographs, it is INSANELY delicious!
improv style:
Try substituting the vanilla extract for raspberry or almond extract or even orange liquor. You can add 1 t. cinnamon or espresso powder to add flavor too. Serve it with raspberry sauce, bourbon caramel, or a creme anglaise in addition to or instead of the ice cream. Not a huge dark chocolate fan? Make it with milk or semi sweet.

greek yogurt is the new sour cream

I will never forget the first time I had tikka masala. My boyfriend and I use restaurant.com to find new places to eat at a great price. They do deals where for $2 you get a $25 gift card to a restaurant, all you have to spend is $35 at said restaurant and you're good to go. Heck yes I'll pay $12 for dinner for 2! One of these restaurants we decided to try was Navya Lounge. Talk about a unique restaurant, it's like they combined 3 restaurants into 1. This place was Indian, Thai, and Russian all segregated but served in one place. Yes there are 3 separate menus.

The highlight of dinner was the amazing pink colored cream sauce that came on the side with the tikka masala. Yes, I now know what it is but I didn't then... When the waiter came by to ask how everything was, I said I'm gonna need more of this stuff (pointing to the sauce). I couldn't eat enough naan that night. I was in heaven and forever changed. Who knew I liked Indian? I had never tried it and I was sure glad I did! Since then I've had many tikka masalas, but none as buttery and rich as that sauce.

I decided to try my hand at making my own tikka masala. After searching tons of sites, I decided to make a version of this recipe. After making it the first time, I definitely changed it up to my tastes. The second and third times I made it I worked on tweaking it until I had it just right. While this is not the buttery and rich version I had at Navya, it's my tasty and healthy version of it. Which brings me to the title of this post. Many tikka masala recipes call for heavy cream. I LOVE heavy cream but I wanted to try my hand at greek yogurt instead. I thought the tang of the yogurt would add nice flavors in addition to it's cool, creaminess. I was right! For my lac-tarded boyfriend, it's much easier to digest than heavy cream too, which was an added plus!

I've been using a lot of greek yogurt in my cooking lately. It has 0 fat, TONS of protein and it adds really great flavor to food. I find myself substituting heavy cream and sour cream and using greek yogurt in it's place. I am a big heavy cream, sour cream girl so greek yogurt is like a miracle food to me! Greek yogurt has all the things I love about my not so ass friendly foods without all the guilt! Try topping it on soups, in tacos, and in your mashed potatoes, YUM!

Back to the task at hand... I know the list of ingredients sounds incredibly intimidating, but never fear, your regular grocer caries them all! It's quite the investment to make it the first time but you'll be able to make this dish tons of times after and you'll be happy you bought all those spices! I buy a lot of my spices from here. If for some reason you can't find them at your local grocer, you can definitely find them on that site. They're super fresh and they usually throw in 3-4 free samples. Like 8 free vanilla beans with every order!

I was surprised how easy this recipe is to make. Aside from needing a ton of spices, it's really similar to making a big batch of spaghetti sauce. Plop a bunch of ingredients into a pot and let it simmer away! It's THAT simple! Indian isn't just for dining out anymore, you can easily make it at home, I promise!

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from allrecipes.com


yields 6-7 servings

for the Chicken marinade:
4-5 medium sized chicken breast
1 c. plain greek yogurt
3 garlic cloves
1 T. fresh ginger
1 ½ t. ground cumin
1 ½ t. ground corriander
¼ t. ground cardamom
¼ t. ground turmeric
¼ t. cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

for the sauce:
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion
2 large carrots
3 garlic cloves
¼ c. blanched almonds ground
1 t. fresh ginger
1 ½ T. garam masala (see above for store information)
1 ½ t. chili powder
½ t. cayenne (optional)
2 T. brown sugar
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
½ c. frozen peas
1 c. greek yogurt or heavy cream

Day before: the chicken needs to marinade overnight. In a large plastic bag or tupperware container, place the chicken breasts. In a separate bowl, chop the garlic and grate the ginger. Add the spices, and yogurt and pour the mixture over the chicken. Rub or stir the marinade so that the chicken is thoroughly covered. Let it sit overnight. The greek yogurt does something fantastic to the chicken. I've never had such JUICY and tender chicken breast until I marinaded it in the yogurt! The enzymes break down the proteins and get absorbed, trust me, it's fantastic!

Day of: preheat oven to 350º. In the food processor, blend almonds until a fine powder is formed, set aside. In a large deep skillet, sauté onion until just tender, add garlic and carrots and cook for an additional minute. Add both cans of tomatoes and stir. Next add the ginger, garam masala, chili powder, cayenne, ground almonds, and brown sugar. If you're not a big spicy person, LEAVE out the cayenne. As is, this dish turns out medium-spicy. If you can't handle the heat, leave it out! Simmer the sauce for 20-30 minutes. Just before serving, add yogurt (or cream) and frozen peas. Stir and in 1 minute you're all set! Meanwhile...

Cover baking sheet in aluminum foil (this will save you so much time in clean up). Pull out chicken and place on baking sheet. It's ok if some of the marinade is still on the chicken. You don't want them drowning in the sauce but a little is just fine. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes depending on how big/thick the breasts are. Flip them half way through for even baking. Once they're cooked through, pull them out and let them sit for 5 minutes. Then cut into bite sized chunks.

Serve with basmati rice, naan or if you're trying to be healthy like me, serve with brown rice and whole wheat naan.

improv style:
It's not traditional to put carrots and peas into tikka masala. Try adding your favorite veggies like potatoes or red peppers and mushrooms instead. You can leave them out if you're trying to be a purist. If you like it really spicy, add more cayenne. Vegetarian? Try browning up some tofu or paneer (an indian firm cheese with a tofu like consistency) instead.


sunday is for football

I grew up in a family that, no matter what, always had Sunday dinner together. It was one day a week that we weren't running off to this game or that practice. If my dad had it his way, we'd have dinner at 4pm on Sundays. While my mom says she "tries" to have dinner on the table this early, I think we all try to delay this - it never happens, sorry dad.

Since we moved to Chicago, I've had to do my own version of Sunday dinner. And while I miss having dinner with my sisters and parents each Sunday, I keep the tradition going and honor them in our absence. My boyfriend loves turkey loaf, LOVES it. It's his favorite thing his mom makes. While I'm not a loaf kind of a girl, I can stand eating turkey loaf every now and then. Especially since it's one of his favorites.

This Sunday dinner is a mix of my families tradition with his favorite comfort food from home. I have to say, as a non-loaf lover, this one is pretty darn good. Matt happens to be a big football fan and sport fan in general. Sadly, I'm more of a fare-weather sport fan. I get excited when my teams are in the playoffs or if there's a lot of hype over a game. Since the Seahawks are in the playoffs and Matt loves football, I decided to make football shaped turkey loaves. GO HAWKS!

Turkey Loaf

1 package ground turkey breast (1.25 lbs)
1 yellow or sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 eggs
½ c. chopped fresh baby spinach
½ c. can diced tomatoes (drained)
3-4 squirts worcestershire
2 t. italian seasoning
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. ground mustard powder
2 T. grated parmesan cheese
⅓ c. bread crumbs
salt + pepper to taste
Ketchup (for the top)

yield 4-5 servings

Preheat oven to 350º

Dice onion and place in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil. Cook until just opaque. Add in the 2 chopped cloves of garlic and continue
sautéing for 1 minute. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, place turkey, eggs, spinach, tomatoes and mix with hands (or spoon). Once incorporated, add onion mixture, worcestershire, herbs + seasonings, parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. mix until it comes together. Add more breadcrumbs if it seems too loose. The mixture should still be "wet". You don't want to add too many bread crumbs so it's a sticky paste, you want it to come together just enough that it will hold a shape.

Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Place mixture onto covered baking sheet and form into a loaf shape. In this case I made 4 mini-loaves in the shapes of footballs. Top loaves with ketchup. I put mine in the design of football laces but you can just blob it on top and evenly spread it. Bake for about 30-45 minutes depending on loaf sizes and your oven. When the juices run clear and the loaf has a slight spring when you press it, you know it's done.

I served mine with a salad and smashed red skin potatoes. Serve it with your favorite side dishes!

improv style:
Use ground turkey instead of turkey breast for a more flavorful loaf. Not a fan of spinach or tomatoes? Substitute it for basil leaves or carrots. You can leave them out if you're not a big veggie eater. Don't have ground mustard? You can substitute it for 1 T. of your favorite stone ground or dijon mustard. Turkey loaf is like a hodgepodge of flavors so add your favorites, experiment, go crazy!