festive feasts and everyday eats

Earlier this year I resolved, among other things, to try and cook one new recipe a week.  With three months down, I’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping up.  (Some of my other resolutions have already been not-so-successful, but that’s another story…)  In actuality, it’s been more than a recipe-per-week on average, with some of those newbies occurring within the same week, and some weeks of no new recipes, depending on everything else happening in life.  But in terms of the spirit of the resolution, I’m feeling pretty accomplished thus far.

I started January off with a roasted red pepper risotto recipe that I was planning on making for our New Year’s Eve feast, but scrapped at the last minute when I realized we already had plenty of food on the menu.  While I’ve made a few different types of risotto before, this particular variation was new to me.  I’m always a fan of roasted red pepper anything, and the combination of the bite from the arugula and the tangy flavor of the goat cheese was a nice contrast to the sweet, creamy risotto.  Served with a side of roasted brussels sprouts with hazelnuts (inspired by this pasta recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod), this meal was definitely a keeper.

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto and Hazelnut Brussels Sprouts


A few days later, I made good use of leftover, no-longer-fizzy champagne as the base in this French onion soup recipe.  Tragically, we had about half a bottle that we didn’t drink on NYE, so I cut the beef broth base in half and subbed champagne for the second quart.  It was a tasty addition, and I was happy to find that it wasn’t too difficult to recreate French onion soup at home, which I’d never tried before.  The only downside was that I didn’t have Gruyère on hand, so I’m looking forward to recreating this more authentically in the future.

Gruyere-less, but still tasty

Gruyere-less, but gooooood

As the person who does most of the shopping and cooking in our little household of two, and as a person who loves planning, I tend to generate most of the answers to the question, “what should we have for dinner tonight?”  And by “tonight” I mean “this month” because I get a special kind of type-A joy from making a monthly meal calendar.  When Chris has something specific he’s been craving or a recipe he wants to add to the rotation, it’s an extra happy occurrence for me, because it usually is something that I wouldn’t stumble upon on my own.  In January, he was craving  St. Louis Slingers – something he used gobble up in cold St. Louis winters after working swing shifts at a freight shipping company.  The meal is a mess of eggs, hash browns, hamburger with a healthy dose of chili, cheese, and onions on top.  (Rochester has a similar claim-to-fame meal, the Garbage Plate, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be educated in the ways of the Garbage Plate by one of my closest friends, Joanna, and her family.)  The slingers hit the spot, and I assure you they’re far tastier than they sound.

St. Louis Slingers

St. Louis Slinger craving satisfied!

Another January keeper was this chicken with rice and Swiss chard recipe.  I neglected to take photo evidence, but it was all kinds of tasty and a one-pot recipe – a double win!  Plus, it’s a Martha recipe, so you know it’s going to be a good thing.  We get lots of chard from our Tanaka Farms CSA, so this is a great weeknight recipe that I’m happy to have in our rotation.

February was a month of festive feasting.  (So alliterative!) On the 1st, we rang in the Year of the Horse with a slightly belated Lunar New Year Feast.  I’m very much indebted to Jeanette’s Healthy Living blog, which was a wealth of information for menu planning, as well as learning more about the Chinese New Year.   Our meal featured shrimp and vegetable lo mein for good fortune and longevity, stir-fried bok choy for close family ties, and Kung Pao chicken with walnuts for prosperity and happiness.

Lunar Feast Prep

There was a lot of prep, but it was well-worth it for the end result.  The Kung  Pao chicken was my favorite recipe, and I’ve already made the stir-fried bok choy a few more times since our CSA gives us an abundance of bok choy, too.  The shrimp recipe was just okay, but I’m certain this was an ingredient fail;  we had some frozen shrimp that need to get used up, and it made a difference.

Lunar Feast

Lunar Feast

Later that week I made Vietnamese chicken and cabbage salad, as browsing through recipes for our New Year feast triggered a serious craving for Vietnamese flavors – basil, cilantro, mint, lime, carrots, and green onions all tossed together in fish sauce. (Even now as I’m writing this, I’ve got the urge to drop everything and go find a big bowl of  phở.)  I also tried my hand at home-made spring rolls, which were an epic fail.  Fortunately, some pre-made dumplings and Thai sweet potato soup came to the rescue and rounded out the meal.  I think Chris was most excited about the dumplings, but for me, the salad was the star.    

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Vietnamese cabbage chicken slaw

The weekend after our Lunar Feast marked the kick off of the Winter Olympics, which clearly called for a Russian menu.  My mom came over to join in the festivities and, very much in the spirit of the evening, brought along caviar and all the fixings for Moscow mules.

Caviar hors d'oeuvres

Caviar hors d’oeuvres

I spent the day making borscht, one of my absolute favorite foods, and baked piroshki, which I’d never had but was very excited to try.  The borscht was everything I was hoping for, and since I made enough to feed 8 people, I was able to freeze the leftovers and enjoy it several more times throughout the month.  The filling in the piroshki – braised cabbage with beef – was also delicious; I could eat bowls and bowls of that stuffing on its own.  It’s hearty and savory with a touch of sweetness and makes a perfect comfort food when served with bread. My piroshki rolls left a lot to be desired in terms of their appearance; my rolling technique needs some serious work, and the inconsistent size led to inconsistent rising.  Fortunately, the flavor was spot on.  Like the borscht, we had plenty of leftover pirorshki, so we lived off this meal for days and days.  For dessert, I made apple sharlotka, which was another completely-new-to-me food.  The recipe was quick and simple, but we all agreed it could have used a touch more sweetness – maybe a little extra sugar, or ice cream on top.  Of course, that could just be our overly-sugared American palates not appreciating the subtlety of this dish, since all the recipes for sharlotka that I’ve found only call for about a cup of sugar.   (As an aside, if you’re looking for any Russian or Ukrainian recipes, I highly recommend Natasha’s Kitchen.)

Russian Feast

Clockwise from top left: apple sharlotka, braised beef and cabbage piroshki, BORSCHT!

In mid-February, I tried out a whole slew of new recipes around Valentine’s Day, but for sentimental reasons, that warrants a separate post. =)  And so the last February kitchen experiment for this post was a blackened chicken with avocado recipe that I sought out in the hopes of using up some avocados before they went bad.  It was super easy, quick, and delicious; I promise you won’t be disappointed if you try this one out.  Pair it with a glass of wine, and I’ll bet you like it even more.

Blackened chicken with avocado

Blackened chicken with avocado

March cooking adventures will be detailed at a later date, but in the meantime, if you give any of these a try in your own kitchen, or if you’ve got some recipe recommendations, I’d love to know!



2 responses to “festive feasts and everyday eats

  1. Loved reading about all the food you’ve been cooking – you’re making me very hungry! I’m so impressed with all your cooking for the Lunar New Year – thanks so much for trying my recipes.

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