Tapas Night!

tapasnight

This isn’t so much about a recipe, rather, an idea. Snack night has been a weekly occurrence in our household for just a couple months. I got the idea from Ben’s mother, Haynes, who used to do this for Ben & his sister when they were growing up. One evening over the summer when we were living with them before our trip to Thailand, her and I shared a tapas night very similar to this–with hummus, pita chips, fresh summer tomatoes and cucumbers. This time, I used hummus, carrots, chorizo-stuffed olives, grapes, salami, Vermont sharp cheddar, toasted pita and sourdough crostini. Combine this with a movie or game night and you’ve got a fun and easy evening for two or the whole family!

ผัดกะเพรา (Pad Kaprao) aka Stir-Fried Holy Basil

kaprao

Disclaimer: there seems to be a lot of talk on blogs about the authentic or traditional way of making a recipe when that recipe is outside of your cultural or ethnic “home”. This recipe has been constructed based on my own experiences in Thailand and nothing more. Despite the fact that the dish is named after Thai holy basil (bai kaprao), it can also be made with Thai sweet basil (bai horapa) which I experienced myself in Thailand, as it is very difficult to find Thai holy basil. Either way, this dish is full of amazing flavors and easy for first-timers to make!

So, which type of Thai basil do you have?

basil                Thai Holy basil (bai kaprao)                                                         Thai sweet basil (bai horapa)

Now…moving on to the recipe! This was the very first dish we ate in Thailand. We had just traveled for 33 hours with very little sleep. After 3 flight changes, a 3 hour bus ride, and a short taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel ready to just sleep. So, we settled for eating at our hotel, which was really outside of my idea of a culturally immersive trip. However, sleep deprivation and hunger will certainly cause you to adjust your plans 😉 Luckily, our hotel had a fantastic chef who cooked authentic Thai cuisine (minus the peanut satay pizza lol.) They served the meals family-style, and we ordered three small dishes to share. I only remember two of them: the Thai larb salad, which inspired my own recipe, and the Pad Kaprao.

kapraocollage

Ingredients:
-1lb ground meat (I prefer pork or chicken)
-7-9 cloves of garlic, chopped
-7-9 Thai chilies, sliced at an angle
-1 large shallot or 1/4 red onion, fine chopped
-1 cup (about 20-30 whole leaves) of Thai basil
-3 tbsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp oyster sauce
-2 tbsp fish sauce
-3 tbsp peanut oil
-jasmine rice
-1 egg for each person

Directions:

  1. Cook rice according to directions and set aside.
  2. Add 3 tbsp of peanut oil to wok or skillet (less if using fatty meat like pork or beef) and heat to medium. Add garlic, chilies and shallot; stir fry for 2 minutes. Add ground meat; crumble and stir fry until no longer pink.
  3. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce & fish sauce; stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add basil and stir fry for another minute, until leaves are barely wilted. Keep warm while you fry or poach an egg for each person. The most important thing about cooking the egg is that its yoke should remain runny.
  4. Serve the pad kaprao by placing a mound of rice on a plate. Top the rice with the egg. Spoon the pad kaprao beside the rice and egg.

Cinnamon-Chili Mashed Sweet Potatoes

sweetpotato2

I have completely fallen in love with mashed sweet potatoes. I discovered the idea a bit late in the sweet potato season, sometime in January. This recipe is simple and easy, but produces such an interesting flavor with the chili & cinnamon. A little cream cheese & butter turn them into pure whipped goodness without even using a mixer. Because of the recipe’s sweetness, I like to pair it with a bitter veggie like sauteed kale or asparagus.  I have served this with grilled chicken, pork tenderloin, and venison cube steak in the past–but it could really go with just about anything! I have also considered just demolishing the entire bowl for dinner without bothering to make a whole meal. o.O

howsweetpotato

Ingredients:
-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
-1/3 block of cream cheese, softened
-2 tbsp butter, softened
-2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
-1 tbsp chili powder
-1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Boil cubed sweet potatoes until tender, drain.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, add all remaining ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  3. Add boiled potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes & mix the other ingredients in.

Serves 2-4.

French Onion Soup with Gruyère-Sourdough Bites

frenchonionsoup

I recently endeavored to learn how to make French onion soup before the winter was complete. Apparently I didn’t need to rush because we just had an ice storm yesterday. Yes, this is weird for North Carolina. Proof: today it is 65 degrees. So, I decided it wasn’t too late to post this delicious recipe, in case those of you with extended winters (unusual or not) would like to make French onion soup before it warms up too much outside.

While I searched and searched for the best French onion soup recipe, I noted the major differences between most recipes. Some use one type of onion, while others use 2-3 types. Also, some use either white wine & chicken stock or red wine & beef stock. I decided to opt for a hearty flavor in my French onion soup: 3 types of onions, red wine & beef stock it is! I also noticed that the traditional way of serving it was topped with French bread and Swiss cheese. I altered these to fit my tastes–Gruyère cheese and  sourdough bread.

onions

Ingredients:

-2 tbsp butter
-2 large Vidalia sweet onions, chopped
-2 medium yellow onions, chopped
-2 leeks, white parts only, chopped
-48 oz beef stock (1 1/2 boxes if using Swanson; homemade preferred)
-1 cup red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
-2 bay leaves
-1 tbsp thyme
-fresh parsley
-salt & pepper
-sourdough bread (not sandwich bread; in the store bakery section)
-shredded Gruyère cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat Dutch oven to medium and melt butter. Add in the onions and sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper. Do not stir the onions too often. You want them to stick to the bottom and make yummy brown bits. It takes at least 30 minutes to caramelize onions–don’t try to rush this step!
  2. Scraping up the brown bits, pour in the red wine and stock. Add the bay leaves & thyme. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. While simmering, place the sourdough slices topped with Gruyère into the broiler to toast. Once finished, remove from oven & cut into bite-sized cubes.
  4. Remove the bay leaves from the soup. Pour soup into bowl, topping with cheesy sourdough bites & fresh parsley.

Cucumber-Lox Tea Sandwiches

CucLoxSammies

I have recently introduced “Snack Night” into our dinner repertoire, much to the satisfaction of Ben. For me, the joy of snack night is that I can throw together something easy and get away with cooking very little. I normally serve 2-3 different items to make it a filling meal. Consider these Cucumber-Lox Tea Sandwiches, which require no cooking at all!

CucLoxAssembly

Ingredients:
– 1 English cucumber, sliced
-1 block of cream cheese, softened
-2 tbsp mayonnaise
-1 package of Italian dressing mix (like Good Seasons)
-dill
-pumpernickel bread
-Lox

Directions:

  1. Mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, and Italian dressing mix.
  2. Slice pumpernickel into small slices (enough room to fit two pieces of cucumber). Toast in oven or toaster.
  3. Spread cream cheese mixture onto each slice of pumpernickel. Top each with two pieces of cucumber. Sprinkle cucumber with dill. Top each piece with lox.

Steakhouse Dinner Salad aka “Man Salad”

mansalad

I have fallen in love with making dinner salads. I used to believe that a salad could not be dinner. Alas, I was wrong. My first indication of this was with the Thai Larb Salad. I love coming up with new salads that are man-friendly and filling enough to get away with eating a ton of veggies for dinner 😉 When developing a man-friendly salad, the key is in the meat and the dressing. Are you craving a steak dinner with baked potato and salad? Enter: the Steakhouse Dinner Salad.

mansaladsteps

Ingredients:

For the Steak
-1 large ribeye
-steak seasoning

For the salad
-salad greens (butter lettuces are great for this one)
-cucumber
-tomatoes
-red onion
-1 large potato, peeled & cubed

For the dressing
-Ranch dressing
-A1 &/or Heinz 57 steak sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cubed potatoes with a little olive oil and season (I love Jane’s Krazy Salt or Cavender’s Greek Season; you could always just use salt & pepper). Spread the potatoes onto a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25minutes or until golden brown.
  2. While the potatoes are roasting, season the steak and let sit at room temperature. Prepare your grill or broiler.
  3. Assemble the salad with greens, cucumber, tomatoes and red onion.
  4. Mix together dressing. I used about 3 parts ranch to 1 part steak sauce. Just test it and change to your tastes.
  5. Grill/broil/however you like to cook your steak and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into strips.
  6. Place steak & potatoes onto salad. Serve with dressing.

Serves 2

Simple Beer Roast

snowday

This is the scene in the courtyard of my apartment building. Yes, this amount of snow shuts down towns in North Carolina. We’re “stuck” at home, with work closed. Ironically, our tax refunds came in yesterday with the NC-style blizzard and we can’t even leave to go shopping! 😛

While everyone else is at home enjoying their milk and bread (milk-bread sandwich, anyone?), Ben and I will be enjoying the most delicious beer roast ever. Yes, I mean Ever. The best part? There are only 5 ingredients! Say whaaa?!

thelineupThis recipe is super simple–you just throw it all in the crock pot, come back in 8 hours and devour its lovely goodness. You can use any beer you wish; I just happened to have Highland Gaelic Ale in my fridge, so that’s what I used. Previously, I used a breakfast stout which was also amazing. Please, however, step it up and don’t pour a Bud Light over this delicious meat. I’ve served this with a cauliflower casserole before, but tonight I’m serving this with mashed sweet potatoes. Get at me, “snowday”.

roast

Ingredients:
-2 to 4lb chuck roast
-1 large sweet onion
-8 to 10 cloves garlic
-12oz GOOD bottled beer
-Worcestershire sauce 
Directions:
Chop onion in large half-rings and place in bottom of crock pot. Place chuck roast on top. Throw garlic on top of roast, and give a few shakes (or five) of Worcestershire over the roast. Pour entire beer in and cook on low for 8 hours.